June 21, 2013

My Daughter, Hungry and Indifferent

Harper has eaten very little today.  This is a common occurrence, but maybe not for the reasons one might suspect.

Many children are picky with what they will eat.  One of my cousins ate nothing but macaroni and cheese for years because he refused.  Harper doesn't really have this problem.  Occasionally, she will refuse to even try something because Saturn has aligned with Neptune and Mars is moving into Libra.  The conversation goes something like this:

Harper: "Dad, what's for dinner?"
Me: "We're having pasta salad, chicken fingers and broccoli! YUM!"  (Don't judge me)
H: "NOOOOOOO!!!! I don't like pasta salad!!!"
M: "...You ate it and loved it yesterday.  Just try it."
H: "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I don't like pasta salad!  And I won't eat anything else while the offending food is still on my plate!  Cleanse it and return it to me!"
M: "...I'm not doing that.  If you don't want the pasta salad, that's fine.  You don't have to eat it."
H: "It has spread its infection to the remainder of the food items! They, too, offend me now! I shall commence flopping on the floor as though all of the bones have been removed from my body!"
M: "...Why are you doing that?"

...and so on.

The main reason why my child is always hungry in because eating is not nearly as exciting to her and whatever else happens to be going on inside her head.  One of my biggest sources of frustration with her is the fact that she is seemingly incapable of remaining at the table for an entire meal.  I don't mean that she has to sit there until we are all finished and have given a complete rundown of our days.  I mean she can't seem to stay at the table while she eats.  She's turning around, looking out the window, getting something from her room, getting something from the kitchen, getting a different fork, climbing onto Sara's lap, finding a doll, showing us a new dance, putting the finishing touches on her homemade rocketship, solving world peace, solving world hunger (by not eating anything herself) etc.

She will then claim that she's all done and no longer hungry.  This statement will, to my utter bafflement and rage, be immediately followed by "Can I have a snack?"

She has no problem serving food, just putting it into her mouth...
Today for lunch, I heated up some macaroni and cheese to clear some space in the fridge, and cooked some hot dogs at their request.  The girls had a picnic lunch on the living room floor and while Harper was distracted by other things for 25 minutes, Brynn ate both hot dogs and most of the mac and cheese, leaving her sister with nothing.

I would feel badly about it, except that I told Harper no less than 8 times that if she didn't sit and eat, exactly this would happen.

H:  "I'm going to eat in a bit."
M:  "Sweetie, by the time you eat, it will all be gone."
H:  "I know!"

22 minutes later...

H: "Dad, Brynn ate all the hotdogs! Can you make more?"
M: "No.  I told you that if you didn't eat, she would eat it."
H: "But I had to do some stuff."
M: "I'm sorry sweetie."
Brynn: **BUUUUUUUUUUUUURP** "Ate all the hot dog!"

Behind this adorable face is a cavernous black hole containing tears and hot dogs.

I've read and been told that you shouldn't hold food over your kids like a punishment.  You also shouldn't make them sit at the table until they've eaten everything on their plates.  I am curious, however, how long it will take my oh-so-busy daughter to starve herself to death simply out of distraction.

"No, she's not anorexic.  She's just easily distracted."

June 3, 2013

My Daughters, Very Different People

A few weeks ago, I confiscated a laser pointer from one of my students.  He was using it to perform Lasik on strangers from down the hall and, since he was doing so without a license, or patient consent, I felt it in the public interest to relive him of it.

I, like many pet owners, used the laser pointer to lead my children on wild goose chases throughout my house.  The girls would scream "THERE IT IS!!!" and go tearing after the red dot that was magically floating on the wall, on the chair, on mom's leg.  Just as they were about to reach it, it would bolt in another direction, sending the girls running in circles until they pass out.  Childish and inhuman? Maybe.  Effective? Yes.

The second time we did this, Sara showed them how to coax the point of light into their hands.  She knelt on the ground and gently whispered "c'mon, little guy! It's alright.  Come here!" and the light slowly, gingerly moved its way into her hand.

On Saturday, I got the laser pointer out again and had it running around the kitchen.  After the initial screams of excitement, Harper knelt down and gently coaxed the light into her hand.  Brynn watched her carefully, as she usually does, analyzing her movements.  When the spot of light was almost into Harper's palm, having slowly inched its way towards her, Brynn cocked her head to the side and stomped on it with all her little feet could handle.

I think it's safe to say which parent each child takes after.  Harper's loving nature is derived directly from her mother, while Brynn has the sensibilities of her true father, Lucifer Morningstar.
It's hard out there for a thug.
 At what age can you get a child tested for sociopathy?

May 31, 2013

My Daughters, Growing Up By Accident

I know this may come as a shock to those of you who get all of your contact with young children from episodic television, but children actually grow up without the actors being replaced.  Occasionally, you have moments that could be considered episode lessons, where you child has an epiphany about their behavior and they are changed forever, hugging the kid they bullied, repairing Mr. Johnson's fence without being asked, fessing up to smashing the window the baseball and blaming their little brother.  Usually these don't happen.

The epiphanies usually come from the parents, and usually in the form of "Holy crap! This kid is older than they used to be!"

With Harper, it came in the form of complete sentences.  She now says things like "Dad, I don't think I would like some popcorn just yet.  I'll wait a little bit."

For Brynn, It has been more gradual.  Since Harper talks so much, Brynn is much less verbal, allowing her sister to speak for her when they are together.  As a result of this, her growing up has been more in facial expressions and body language, which can be overlooked.

About a year ago, once she was able to pull herself into the chair, I found her sitting with her legs crossed in a way that I would expect from a lady in Victorian England.  I often find her simply watching interactions between myself and Harper, or between Sara and Harper, her head moving back and forth, quietly analyzing the interplay as though remembering what to tell her therapist in 30 years.

In addition to these, watching them develop personalities has been fascinating as well.  I expected that they would pick up many of the traits and preferences that Sara and I have simply through exposure and, to be sure, they have.  They have, however, developed plenty of their own, many of which I cannot explain or even find an origin for.  For example, they both LOOOOOVE to wear dresses.  Anyone who knows my wife knows that she wears dresses when the occasion calls for it, but she's a jeans and t-shirt kind of woman.  As is her mother, my mother, and pretty much every important female figure in their girls lives.

That being said, when we ask the girls what they want to wear, conversations go as follows:
Me: "Good morning, sweetie! What do you want to wear today?"
H: "I want to wear a dress today!"
Me: "I know you do, but there are 4 inches of snow on the ground and a dress isn't warm enough.  Can you pick something with sleeves and legs?"
H: "But I WANT to wear a dress."
Me: "I know, baby, but it's too cold out. We can wear a dress when it gets warmer."
H: "Daddy, I will wear pants and a shirt and THEN a dress."

My children treat normal clothes as though they are the undergarments that allow them to wear dresses in winter.  Brynn is perfectly content wearing nothing but a tutu, where she will walk around and tell anyone who is willing to make eye contact with a half-naked toddler in a tutu that she's a "ballaweena!"

If she likes you, she doesn't care about your skin color, or what material you're made from.

 With the impending end of the school year in the next week, I will begin my stint as stay-at-home-dad for the summer.  Last year was fun, but a little easy since Brynn wasn't walking much.  I could stick her in the stroller and let Harper do what she needed.  This summer, Brynn is much more independent and I have to think much harder about what we can do without them running in opposite directions.  I plan to still take them for a walk every morning that it's not raining and, behavior willing, I'll be taking them out to breakfast as well.

There are lots of playgrounds and parks to explore as well as the zoo and museums for children.  I'm looking forward to the summer.

But I'm not looking forward to my little girls growing up.
More of this, but with less me...
Getting there...


April 15, 2013

My Daughter, The Only Child

My brother is what some might call a "wandering spirit."  He finds homes wherever he is and creates communities around him.  He has backpacked through South America, lived at a yoga center in New England, worked on a medical marijuana farm in California and, most recently, has been working in Colorado.  His next adventure is working with a group learning sustainable habitat construction.

At least I think so.  It's hard to remember the details when I'm listening while playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.

On Saturday, he flew into Philadelphia to spend several days with my mom before tromping off into the woods to build houses designed to leave no carbon footprint.

Since Sara had a bridal shower to attend, I took Harper with me and we made the arduous trek across the wilds of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to spend time with my family before my brother's wanderlust kicked in and he forsook soap for another 3 months.

I know that I have said before that having two children isn't twice as difficult as having one, it's slightly less than twice.  There are many things you don't have to worry about for the second since they are already completed for the first, such as childproofing, getting plates and cups for the kids, clothing is mostly purchased and the learning curve is not nearly as steep.

In much the same way, taking a trip with one child is not half as easy as taking a trip with two.  It's MUCH easier.  Especially if that one is potty trained and semi-autonomous.

Immediately following this picture, the Sidling Hill Rest stop was filled with my anxious cries of "NO HUGS!!  You're covered in ice cream!!!"
She slept for much of the ride, but when she was awake, we had excellent conversations!  She told me all about the mean spiders who came to our house to eat our furniture and how she managed to scare them off.

With the weather as beautiful as it was, we were able to spend a ton of time outside (read: able to wear out the toddler very quickly).  I loaded her up with a backpack full of snacks and water, including my own.  I would have felt badly about turning my three-year-old in a pack mule, but I knew full well that I would be carrying her much of the day, including the 1/3 mile uphill hike from the parking lot to the gardens at Morris Arboretum.  We walked through the entire exhibit, including a special exhibit where a sculptor had placed large wooden insect statues throughout the ground.
I swear!  The egg was THIIIIIIIIS big!

Harper was not interested in hatching the eggs like Grammy wanted her to


"I touched his bum! It's a big big big bum!"

Why yes! She did pick out her own outfit!
She was large and in charge and kept leading us to see new and exciting things.  I figured that allowing her to explore would be the best way to keep her interest in the exhibit.  Because I didn't have to worry about corralling two small children, I was able to let her wander and keep an eye on her to make sure she didn't pick TOO many flowers or dive head first into the swan pond.

Fun for her, minimal stress for me!  There were enough people there that she didn't run off but few enough that she didn't have to stay by my side the whole time.  She loved carrying her backpack with drinks and snacks!

She very politely waited her turn to climb atop the creepy man-frog, even when a kid pushed in front of her.

Relaxing a bit with Grammy

Post outing, we took a nice long nap, followed by a trip to the playground with her uncle to burn off whatever energy had been recovered by lunch and sleeping!

Harper is deceptively heavy.

The ride home was equally nice!  She slept much of the way and we talked for the rest.  All in all it was a delightful weekend with great times had by all involved!

I think my entire weekend could be summed up with the following picture:

Sara's weekend can be summed up with this one:

I totally win!

January 18, 2013

My Daughter, The Future Serial Killer

Disclaimer: The following post is not meant to imply a judgement of people who spank their children

Sara and I do not spank our children.  I am opposed to spanking, not just on moral grounds, but because I have seen no evidence that it's effective.  I was never spanked as a child, but some might argue that that's part of my problem.  I know there are plenty of stories of people who got spanked and turned out just fine, but I mean something more than anecdotal.

If someone presented me with a scientific study that stated that spanking a child had behavioral and emotional benefits, I would accept that premise.  I still would not spank my kids, but I might let go of some of my bias about it.

We teach the girls that hitting is wrong.  You could have the following conversation with H:

"She hit me!"
"That wasn't very nice.  What do we do when people hit us?"
"We hug them!!"

We never hit the girls, either out of anger, frustration or discipline.

So it confuses me greatly that B is so violent.  Her response to everything is to smack it, regardless of whether she likes it or not.

Someone takes your toy?  HIT THEM!!
Someone offers you chips?  HIT THEM!!
Someone asks you what you want for dinner?  SMACK THE HECK OUT OF THEM!!!

Someone had a rough day beating up kids for their mashed peas money.

We put her in time-out and tell her not to hit several times each day.  Very little of her violence is malicious.  She usually commits these acts while smiling the sweetest smile, which means one of two things: Either she doesn't fully comprehend what she's doing and sees hitting as a way to interact with the world around her, or she's a psychopath and I should keep an eye out for her to twist the heads off of puppies.

I hope it's not the latter, but just in case, it's another reason that I'll use when asked why we can't have a dog.

That's why Dexter and Deb couldn't have one growing up.

"Hello, ASPCA? I'd like to adopt a dog!"

I'm not really concerned, just confused.  I don't know where she sees this behavior, other than maybe daycare.  The TV that they watch has nothing like this in it, aside from that one episode of Chloe's Closet where they became professional boxers, or the episode of Caillou where Caillou and Leo join the Bloods and get teardrop tattoos.

Other than spanking, I'm wondering what solutions parents have found to this.

Someone crossed my bridge without answering my riddle?  HIT THEM!!

January 13, 2013

My Daughters, Unoccupied

When I was playing the role of stay-at-home-dad during the summer, I had a semblance of a schedule.  It went as follows:

Feed the girls breakfast (quickly)
Get the girls dressed (quickly)
Throw them in the stroller (quickly)
Go for a walk through town
Get the girls a doughnut to share
Walk home
Watch Caillou (or something equally inane)
Play in the house
Play in the yard
Make dinner
Cry deeply about not getting to clean the house
Go the park

It was shocking to me how slowly the days go when you don't have a plan.  We certainly had days when we didn't go for walks or go to the park.  These were the days when the devil himself complained how hot it was.

They were also the days when it was raining, or looked like it might.

These days were not good.  I'm not really one for arts and crafts with small children.  I'm hoping that this coming summer, it will be different.  Perhaps by then, H won't feel like using sharpie to give herself eye shadow and B won't get such exquisite joy out of smashing pencils and markers point first into the table.

I hope by then that both girls will have forgotten the joyous taste of crayons.

H is already past this stage.  She has been doing very well with coloring and enjoys sitting at the table doing it.  For the most part, she only colors on paper and does so gently.

B finds greater pleasure is swiping her hand through a pile of crayons or markers or pencils and scattering them to the wind, creating chaos for the sake of chaos.  When people tell me that she's a gift from god, I know to which god they refer.

"Gaze upon this child and weep into the void!"
Over the holiday break, I once again took up the mantle of stay-at-home-dad.  I learned very quickly that the challenges of entertaining children during the winter vary greatly from, and in fact hardly resemble, the challenges of entertaining them during the summer.

I remember from my own childhood the hardships and annoyances of dressing in cold weather clothing.  Out of desperate fear of being icing over, we dress the children in a minimum of 14 layers, ensuring a maximum amount of sweat and a minimum amount of movement.  It takes 10 minutes to get them dressed and another 10 to get them undressed.  Total time spent outside before the calls of "I'm cold!"? 3 minutes.

I think my next goal in the house is to make a play room where there is nothing I care about.  A room where the girls can run rampant without my checking on them every three minutes, not out of concern for their safety, but out of concern for my material possessions.

This past week, in lieu of going outside, we had several discussions about what to do with monsters.  B also learned a new skill...

I suppose it's true that adversity fosters ingenuity

January 4, 2013

My Daughters, Preachers Of The Doctrine Of Half

The reason that scientists are able to determine the age of fossils is through the process of radiocarbon dating.  In this process, scientists estimate how much of the unstable isotope carbon 14 should be in a sample based on atmosphere and type of material and compare it with the amount that it actually contains.  Carbon 14 has a half life of approximately 5730 years, give or take 40.  This means that every 5730 years, half of the carbon 14 in a sample will have decayed away.

Parenting is a kind of half life.  Some of this is anticipated, such as the idea that once there are children in the house, the amount of sleep you are able to get decays to about half.  A previous solid 8 hours of sleep will decay to 4 in just the 9 short months between conception and birth.  I realize this is not the perfect analogy because in another 9 months, it will decay to 2 hours.  This is fairly accurate, but not exact.

Other half life aspects could be anticipated if one sat down to think about them.

At dinner, instead of finishing an entire warm meal, a parent will often only consume half of a warm meal, spending much of the time getting up to get napkins, find juice bottles, refill plate for children, return said children to the table, take crayons out of the hands of said children, getting tissues to wipe the noses of said children after said children have a particularly horrendous sneeze giving themselves a nose-based snotbeard that resembles something you would wear to a mucus-themed costume party if you were dressed as Jack Sparrow.
The beads at the bottom would be peas and corn.

By the time you return to the table to finish the second half of your meal, the warm butter has congealed and reminds you enough of your child's recent bout with facial "hair" that you decide not to eat it any more.

A parent is able to watch half of a television show.  What was the final clue that allowed Vince D'onofrio to catch the serial rapist and explain the plan in condescending, quiet disgust?  YOU'LL NEVER KNOW!  Your child needs help with putting diaper cream on her baby-doll.

A parent is able to make half of a recipe because half of the ingredients have gone bad sitting in a fake kitchen and half of the needed utensils are scattered throughout the house.  As much as I love a good scavenger hunt, I usually prefer the prize to be something better than a potato masher.

This meal was prepared entirely with a lighter and two forks!

A parent is able to complete half of the yard work before one of the tiny people in their charge decide they would like to play a game of "Will this fit in my mouth?" or "I can run faster than this car!"

What I never anticipated, what I never even considered, was that my half life would extend to the bathroom.

To clarify, I fully expected that there would be times when I would have to run out of the shower, shampoo still in my luxurious hair, water dripping down my chiseled abs, over my rock hard thighs to leave puddles on the floor as I chased a towel-thief naked through the house.  I haven't experienced those times yet, but I try to hit the gym regularly so that I might soon.

What I did not expect, however, was the feeling of being forced to stop mid-defecation because someone was either screaming in pain, or yelling that if I did not vacate the bathroom in the next 8 seconds, there was going to be a worse mess than I was prepared to clean.

Apparently, wanting to have a complete poop is too much to ask for.



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