Monday, May 30, 2011

Parade Time

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Like many others, I have long treated Memorial Day as one of those holidays where I sit back, relax and do whatever. A few years ago, before Nathaniel was born, I got off my duff and witnessed a ceremony in our small town to honor our nation's veterans. I was touched by it all – the solemness of the occasion and the sincere gratitude that those in attendance showed to our military, past and present. I stood next to an elderly gentleman decked out in his World War II uniform, standing stiffly at attention despite an unrelenting sun.

I was really glad I went.

So, this year, I gathered up Nathaniel and Isaiah and wheeled them downtown to see the parade. I had read in the local paper that it would kick off at 9:30, so I hustled on down, only to find out that the parade wouldn't reach the downtown for a while. No problem: A change in plans had us at the bagel shop, where Nathaniel got a blueberry bagel with cream cheese, and I a works with lox spread. And an orange juice. Yum. We picked a spot along the street where the sidewalk runs above the street, and there's a wall that you can sit on and dangle your feet toward the street below. Nathaniel, ever the friendly sort, found another boy, a 3-year-old named Liam, to run around with, which allowed me to down my bagel and play with Isaiah. All was going fine, although the parade took longer to make its way to our area than I imagined, and Nathaniel, bathed in sweat, was on the cusp of being played out. Thankfully, just as he was fidgeting madly in my lap, a police cruiser came by, blue lights flashing, and signaling the start of the parade.

This parade is a short one, about 20 minutes long, and is really like a dress rehearsal for the main event a month later, the famed Fourth of July parade. Still, it was fun – music from the local high school marching band and a team of colonial re-enactors, and blasts from a cannon and a group of musket-wielding gentleman in old time getup. You could hear the cannon blasts from several blocks away. As it approached, I could see a blend of fascination and terror in Nathaniel's eyes. I knew the blast would be loud, and so I told Nathaniel to put his hands over his ears, as I held my hands over Isaiah's. BOOM! The cannon blasted right in front of us, and Nathaniel's eyes widened into beach balls. Then he scrunched up his face and began crying.

He wanted to go home. I thought about it for a second and decided we'd stay, not because I wanted to subject him to more noise, but because I figured he'd enjoy the others parts of the parade. And he did. And when the muskets came round, three times in all, I held Isaiah and Nathaniel hard against my chest, with my hands clasped over each's right ears. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! We survived the blasts and enjoyed the parade.

All in all, I think the boys had a good time. And I feel good that I did something to pay tribute to our men and women in uniform. God bless them for their service.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Woobie timeout

Nathaniel has a favorite blue blanket that he calls "woobie." It appears the name comes from the movie "Mr. Mom," in which a child call his blanket by the same name. Michelle started calling Nathaniel's blanket "woobie," we think, and the name stuck. Just as many people call a pacifier a "binky," do a lot of parents also call children's favorite blankets "woobies?"

In any event, that's not really the point of this tale. In about the last two months, we've introduced Nathaniel to the concept of "timeout," which, as every parent knows, is the equivalent of the nuclear option to disciplining young children, provided you don't include force in your repertoire. Michelle says she's used timeout on Natty Lou about three times, and I'm about the same. So, we haven't employed it often, and I think that's a good thing. Just like the nuclear option, the use of timeout is effective more as a deterrent; the more frequently it is used, the less potent it is. At least that's how I view it.

Nathaniel has become really upset the times we have used timeout on him. One time, Nathaniel was pretty strung out from his day at daycare and took issue with me paying attention to Isaiah, even though all I was doing was carrying the car seat to a spot where I get Isaiah out of it. Natty whapped me on the butt, not hard, mind you, but he did it. When I whirled around, he had this kind of satisfied smirk on his face, like "Now I've got your attention!"

Oh, yes, you did, my boy. I picked him up, told him he was in timeout for hitting, and marched him upstairs. The poor little bugger, already pooped from his day, burst out into a torrent of tears and wailing. It was heartbreaking and comical at the same time.

As I said, this has happened pretty rarely, and we try hard not to use timeout as a threat, either, again because it would dilute it. The message has gotten through, though. We know this, because Nathaniel put his woobie in timeout the other morning.

He came downstairs and told mommy, "Woobie hit me."
Michelle said, "Oh, no!"
Nathaniel then said, "He goes in timeout" and promptly marched the poor blue rag upstairs to his room. He returned without him.

No doubt woobie was crying.

A little later, Michelle asked, "Is woobie still in timeout?"
And Nathaniel said, "No, he's nice," and went upstairs to fetch him.

Woobie had learned his lesson.

After Nathaniel had come back downstairs, he was holding woobie and slapped himself with the blanket. He then said, "Woobie hit me." Then he held woobie and looked at him sternly, and said, "No, woobie, no hitting. You're in timeout." And he marched him back upstairs.

Several hours later, Michelle was in Nathaniel's room and saw woobie.

It was in the hamper.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aunt Rose

Last post I said there would be more about that 94-year-old aunt. Here's the story:

Aunt Rose lives in a garage that's been converted into an apartment in our day care provider's house. Every time we pick up our children, we can smell her cooking. Some days, it's pasta with a meat sauce, or cabbage or other specialties. And the local news was on – always. So, when I pick up the children, I get a whiff of a meal and the brief window into the news of that day.

The first time we visited Sue, or as Nathaniel calls her, "Sue Sue," we met Aunt Rose. When Sue introduced us to her, she said, "This is my aunt Rose. She doens;t have any kids and never got married, and she asked if she could live here when she got older."

Without missing a beat, Aunt Rose said, "Not a lesbian."

Even more interesting than that, at least to us, is Aunt Rose lived in our house when she was a girl. That would be some 80+ years ago in a house that is a little older than 100. We bought this house in 2004 from two sisters, both elderly, one of whom was in her 80s and had lived there since she was married in her 20s. She had raised a family there, and her husband, who tended to a garden in the very spot where we have our largest one, died there.

So, we have a pretty long historical chain to our house that goes beyond a written record. It gives our house more life, in a way, a breathing history of sorts that we are now adding to.

There are more stories to hear about this house. We hope Aunt Rose gets better, so we can hear more from her.

Who's the boss?

A major disruption this morning. Hustled the boys to day care, only to arrive and find out that our provider needed to rush a 94-year-old aunt to the hospital (more on that later). She did call the house, but I never heard the phone in the mayhem that is our morning ritual.

So, I had to turn around and return home with the boys and wait for Michelle to come home to relieve me. Soon after I got home, I called my supervisor to let her know I'd be out this morning.

As I was finishing the conversation, Nathaniel took a break from his yogurt to ask, "Who are you calling, daddy?"

"My boss," I replied.

"That's mommy," he said in a matter-of-fact voice.

Indeed. Michelle's indoctrination of the men and boys in her family is working well!

Monday, May 23, 2011

First word (sort of)

Last week or so, around the time that he turned seven months old, Isaiah said his first word: "Da da."

I didn't hear the first utterance. Michelle did, and so I heard about it when I returned one day from work. I remember Michelle telling me how Isaiah says it over, followed by shrieks of joy, like a rebel yell. I believed that he was uttering his first words but I was less convinced by the vigor behind them.

Until I heard it myself. Many times, Isaiah starts off slowly with a soft string of "da, da, da, da" that kind of floats in the air, at a level a little above the whisper. Once he's warmed up, though, the words get louder, more emphatic, the bursts of "da, da, da" more forceful and staccato-like. Now he's humming along, and he's finishing his "da, da, das" with a screech on the last "da," followed by gleeful, wild yelling. Sometimes, he gets so wound up it's downright scary. He sounds like he's going mad. And then you look at him, and you can see that he's just so pleased with himself.

It's really fun to watch him get all revved up. When he says "da, da," his mouth drops open so violently that he looks like some wooden puppet whose lower jaw has become unhinged, only to snap back shut, before suddenly opening again. His jaw muscles are sure getting a good workout.

I'd like to think that he is talking about his daddy. Advantage father, right? Well, it's hard to know whether he's calling for me. Really, the evidence points otherwise. Isaiah blurts out "da, da, da" when I'm around and when I'm not around. He'll yell it when he's alone in his crib. He's shrieked it in when he's riding in the car. He lets it go when he's twisting around on his blanket on the floor. So, who knows, really, what's going in his head?

The good thing is something is going on in there, enough to propel him to want to let all of us know about it.

I can't wait to hear more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Budding writer?

Nathaniel may be blessed (cursed?) with the writer gene.

Here's my proof:

On a normal weekend day in our household, Nathaniel approached his mother, Michelle, and said to her, "Mommy, you're not cute."

Good sentence. Grammatically correct. Strong. Direct. Introduces suspense. A cliffhanger, introduced.

He actually paused a beat or two and then said, "You're pretty."

What flair, what flourish! What a surprise! What a payoff!

Two sentences rolled into a short story that any writer can appreciate. Well done, young scribe.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Arrested Development

Home with a sick Nathaniel today, so an unexpected opportunity for a quick post, while both are napping.

We'll turn to Isaiah today, who hasn't gotten nearly his fair share of publicity. Unfortunately, he probably won't care much for this story, for it has to do with his latest checkup at the doctor.

Before anyone gets too concerned, our six-month-old is just fine. Healthy and happy. Smiling and waggling. Flopping and rolling. (although he can't roll from his tummy to his back again) Talking and screaming. Delighted whenever his big brother gives him attention. Observing and taking notes of all that's around him. In short, progressing as he should be.

You may recall that Isaiah had shown remarkable growth at his three-month visit, sprouting some 3 1/2 inches since his birth. That, we were told, put him in the 85% percentile for height among his peers. I was overjoyed; Nathaniel had never broken 35% for either height or weight, so I had pinned my hopes that at least one of the boys had inherited my "tallness" gene (if you count 6'1" or so as being tall). Don't get me wrong, we're not fixated on these percentiles; I'd like to think I'm smart enough to realize they are quick and dirty averages for parents to get some sense of their child's development. And each child is different. My father grew something like 5 inches when he was in junior college. I didn't fully develop until my freshman year in college. So, I know these things are relative.

But they are indicators, and so I was heartened (maybe overjoyed is too strong an adverb to use) to hear about Isaiah's height ranking. Then came the six-month checkup: Isaiah had grown just a half-inch – a 1/2 inch! – from three months to six months. His percentile had plummeted from 85% to 35%. He was back in Nathaniel territory. And I was heartbroken. OK, not quite that sad, but let's say mildly dejected.

A little later, our pediatrician walked into the room. Examining the chart, she said, "Your child is a runt."

A runt.
He's not big.
He's not tall.
He's a runt.
And that's the way it is.

When Michelle told me this, I about swooned. Cue the seven stages of grief. Then she told me how her grandfather (on her mother's side) was 5' 2" when he finished high school. He, too, had a growth spurt, and ended somewhere in 5' 9" territory. But he never shook his nickname, Shorty.

Now past denial and into acceptance. Past acceptance and into fantasy-like hope. Isaiah, like my father and I, will have late-stage development, only his growth spurt will be something like 8-9 inches. He'll end up 6' 4" – a strapping, robust chap.

I must be dreaming.

Of course, I also hope that I'm smart enough to realize this doesn't matter in the scheme of things. Isaiah is whole. Isaiah is healthy. Isaiah is (or at least appears to be) normal. Isaiah is perfect.

No matter how tall, or short, he turns out to be.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bossy Pants

Our older boy, Nathaniel, is by all accounts, a big-hearted, kind and energetic soul. On Mondays and Tuesdays at day care, he runs around like a banshee, a smile permanently plastered on his cherubic face. He always waves bye to his day-care friends an usually has hugs for each. He adores his provider, whom he calls Sue Sue, and regularly bursts into tears when it's time to leave.

Everyone thinks he's so nice, and in general they're right. But lately, our little guy has been feeling his oats, a little too sure of himself. While still adorable a large part of the time, he has been slipping more and more into a new role, Mr. Bossy Pants.

What I mean by this is Nathaniel likes to order us all around. Mommy, Daddy, baby brother Isaiah, the animals in his bed, and anyone else who happens to be in his verbal line of fire. They are pawns in his game of Who Can Get the Upper Hand. And it's a game that Nathaniel doesn't like to lose.

Some are pretty innocuous and could be seen pretty much as invitations to interact and play:
Tickle me, Daddy!
You color with me! You draw! Draw Elmo!
Chase me, Mommy! Now, I chase you!
Hide, Daddy! Now I go hide!
Close your eyes, Mommy! Now, open them!

But lately they've entered the realm of outright orders:
Don't sing, Mommy!
Don't speak, Mommy!
Sit down! Sit here! No, don't sit there!
Mommy, get up! You get up now!
Don't pat your stomach, Daddy! (Daddy pats his leg instead.) Now, don't pat your leg!

Even when it's meant to be nice, it still feels akin to an edict:
Play with me! This is said in a sharp, bossy voice, like a commandment My will be done.

Ah, yes, our little preacher from on high. Mostly Michelle and I shrug and just take it. It is pretty amusing, after all. But we are taking mental notes, keeping track of how long this phase lasts and keeping tabs on the type of orders and whether they escalate in quantity or get plain nasty. Then we'll put a stop to it.

And our little general will be back to being a subordinate again.