Goodnight (and Good Riddance)

Today Chloe turns 7.

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I’d sum up her year, as I typically do in these posts and I think I have it nailed:

TL;DR – Comedy.

I’ve known Chloe for 7 years, which is essentially 100% of her life.  At the beginning of her life, I was a summer camp director.  Less than 1.5 months after she was born I moved up to camp for the summer.  As a result, it took me a longer time than I would have liked to really develop a connection with her.  I doubt she felt it the way I did but it wore on me enough that I ultimately left that job and went back into the startup world (which is still very time consuming but generally doesn’t involve me being away for 3 months in a row in a 24/7 job).

Anyhow, in the years since, I feel like we’ve remedied that connection.  I feel like we know each other pretty well at this point.  I frequently discuss, on this blog, how different the girls are which, given how close they are in age (just under 13 months), makes me very happy.  I like that they are their own people and do their own things and have their own interests.

We recently added 2 new members to our family: Willie and Charlie.  They are kittens.  They round out our farm at 2 parents, 2 kids, 1 dog, and 2 cats.  One of the funny things that I’ve always said about Chloe and Julianna, but now have living proof, is how the differences between cats and dogs are similar to the differences between Chloe and Julianna.

Julianna loves unconditionally.  Last night she couldn’t find the book she was reading.  I had a sneaky suspicion I knew where it was (finding their things is my super power), and was able to locate the book.  When I brought it to her, she lit up and gave me a giant hug with a quote like, “YES!  Daddy, you’re the best!  Thanks!”

Chloe, well, she’s the cat. If the situation had been reversed, when I brought her the book, she would have either been reading something else and ignored me, or would have greeted me with a “what took so long?”  With Chloe, you must work for it.  Her love and affection is earned but once you get it, she won’t leave you alone.  I considered it a challenge.  She loves playing with friends but is also incredibly happy to play by herself.  She regularly plays with Lego sets, some that she built a year ago and are still intact, for hours by herself.  At bedtime, she’ll occasionally dismiss me from the room so she can get back to the book she was reading.  Julianna would welcome my company for the entire night.

Some of my favorite times with her are when we are just sitting near each other, quietly doing our own things.  For instance, there are times when she’ll be playing with Legos and I’ll ask if she minds if I sit in the room near her.  I offer to play if she wants but many times, she just seems happy to have to have me nearby.  Sometimes in the car, when its just the two of us, we’ll listen to music without any conversation and we’re both happy about that.

And she’s so funny.  Her sense of humor has really developed in the last year, particularly as it relates to her ability to understand, and occasionally even express, sarcasm. Her wit is sharp.

I hope the people who share a house with me don’t take this the wrong way but I think of everyone here, she might get my sense of humor the most.  She knows exactly when I’m joking and is a willing participant in my nonsense.  She’s my comedic partner in crime.

Julianna has a good sense of humor too but its different. Her comedy doesn’t come quite as naturally, not for lack of trying, but at the ripe of 8, she’s already telling jokes that end with “#dadjoke” and uses air quotes like she’s Matt Foley, motivational speaker.

With Chloe, its effortless and her laugh, the real one, is intoxicating.

Julianna likes to dance, sing, and perform for people.  Chloe is mostly happy to keep it to herself.  She enjoys her quiet.  These are differences I love about them.  It allows them to have their own ways without conflict or competition (most of the time).

Last weekend, we took the girls to a local community theater musical with middle school-aged kids.  There was no food allowed in the auditorium.  This was our first trip to a “big play” as a family.  At intermission, the girls and I went out and got a snack.  Julianna chose Cheetos.  Chloe chose Skittles.  When Julianna finished devouring hers, she went back in to sit with my wife.  Chloe and I sat out in the lobby for 5 more minutes, just people watching.  She had about half the bag of Skittles left when we went back to our seats so I put the bag in my jacket pocket for later.

During the car ride home, after the show, Julianna brought up a story about the time between when she got back to our seats and when Chloe and I got there.  The people sitting in front of us (a mom and a few sons), had a discussion about tasking the son with finding, you guessed it, Skittles, but the concession people were all out.  He came back empty handed.  Apparently, before he went on his failed mission, the mom had told him that even though there was no food allowed in the auditorium, he should just sneak it in.  This was cause for alarm with Julianna (a consummate rule follower).  If only she knew…

Shortly after the second act started, I reached into my pocket and quietly pulled a few Skittles out.  I reached over the armrest and put one in Chloe’s hand.  She didn’t look at me.  She hadn’t asked.  She just closed her fingers around it and then put it in her mouth.  No words exchanged.  For the rest of the second act, I smuggled Skittles to her.

While Julianna was telling her story, I made eye contact with Chloe in the rear-view mirror.  She just barely winked at me.  She just barely smiled.  We both knew what we had gotten away with, together.

We have not spoken about it since.

Occasionally, the girls will write notes to my wife and I while they are in bed.  I usually see them when I go to check on them after they are asleep or the following morning.  Recently, Chloe wrote me a note:

“Dad – I love you and I want to say goodnight. (and good ridance)” [sic]

I basically pissed my pants laughing when I saw this, repeatedly throughout the night. The next morning, I asked what “good riddance” meant.  She said she didn’t know but had heard it before.  I told her that it basically meant, “I don’t want to see you ever again.”  Rather than being mortified about what she had said to me, she started laughing.  It took her no time to understand how funny it was, particularly after saying “I love you and goodnight.”

I drove her to school that morning (Julianna was sick so wasn’t with us).  When she walked off from my car, I waited for her to get a far enough distance away so that people could hear me yell:

“Hey Chloe, I love you and good riddance!”

She turned around, already with a giant smile on her face, understanding exactly what I meant.

Happy Birthday Chloe.

Love,

Daddy

 

 

Goodnight (and good riddance)

Goodnight (and good riddance)

That Flu By

Today Julianna turned 8.

Yesterday she got the flu for the first time in her life so this isn’t the most exciting birthday she’s ever had.  I suppose your actual birthday is just a checkpoint on the road so, whatever, its just a day; a day that marks the end of a great year and the beginning of what will be another.

Each year I feel like I write about how much she and Chloe have grown up in the last 365 days.  I write about all the things they’ve accomplished and maybe the challenges they’ve faced (and hopefully overcome).  This time, its going to be a little different.

Certainly, there were big achievements.  As I’ve written before, Julianna is highly sensitive, highly empathetic.  As a result, its been very difficult for her to experience a lot of things other kids her age experience.  In some regards, “we” are behind on that front.  Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean “behind” in any sort of negative way.  I mean, many children who are 8 years old, have seen lots of movies, in theaters, or at the very least, at home.  Julianna just isn’t there yet, although I can see the cracks forming at the end of the tunnel.  I love that she “feels” so strongly.

Recently, she came home from school on a Friday and told me that her friend, [redacted], was going to see the movie Zootopia this Sunday and could we go too.  Before she even finished the sentence I said yes.  I got in touch with the other parents and found out exactly when they were going and where they were sitting (pre-selected seats in our theater).  I got 2 tickets right next to them.  It was the first time she had ever asked to go to a movie.  I was cautiously optimistic.  The reviews were out and the movie was supposed to be great, although apparently the underlying message in the movie wasn’t so subtle, which I figured might be trouble for Julianna.  Leading up to it, for the next 2 days, I talked up how much fun it was going to be and how excited I was to see it and so on.

We got to the theater, and I was fully ready to completely spoil her in every possible way.  We got popcorn, candy, a slush thing, a bottle of water, and then I even got her something.  We met up with her friend and all went to sit down.  Then she wanted a hot dog.  We went to get that.  No problem.  Then she had to pee.  We went to do that.  Then the movie, and the tears about 4 seconds later, started.

[SPOILER ALERT] The opening scene has our young, main character rabbit getting bullied but what I imagine is a slightly older, teenage fox.  He shoves her to the ground.  She fights back.  He slashes her across the face with his claws.

Waterworks.

We power through to the next scene where the rabbit, against all odds, becomes the first rabbit to attend to the police academy, graduates at the top of her class, and gets a job in the city of Zootopia.  Cut to a scene where she, now post college, or whatever level of education a rabbit must have to be a police office, is going to board a train to Zootopia.  On the boarding platform, she is with her parents; the father rabbit sobbing uncontrollably telling her how much he’ll miss her.  She boards the train.

Julianna looks to me and says (sobs), “can we leave?  I miss mommy and Chloe like her daddy misses her.  I feel like I’m in Zootopia.  Isn’t she going to miss her family?”

So, approximately 13 minutes into the movie, we head out.  I’m not going to torture her (or the other theater patrons who are trying to enjoy the movie).  When we hit the lobby, she starts to immediately calm down, a sense of relief washing over her.

She looks at me and asks: “Daddy, how much did the tickets cost?”

I say, “That’s not important, why?”

She says, “I want to save up my money and pay you back for them.  I know how much you wanted to see the movie.”

I’m sorry, but how often does an almost-8 year old say something like that?  You had to see her eyes when she said it.  I wasn’t angry or anything.  I fully expected (and actually txt’d my wife before the movie with my prediction) that we’d leave early.  I told her that of course, she didn’t need to pay me back but I greatly appreciated the offer and that whenever she was ready to try again, we could do so.

So we went for ice cream instead.

Its this level of emotional depth in her that amazes me.  I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone like her.

All year, she’s been getting more and more daring, relatively.  She used to be afraid of animals.  2 months ago she decided she wanted to try riding a horse.  She’s been a good swimmer but has been afraid of jumping off the diving board.  Over the summer, after a number of false starts and backpedaling off the diving board, she steeled herself, and just did it.  When she came up from under water, she had a fist raised in the air triumphantly.

So she takes her time to get to where she’s going, but she gets there, every time, with dignity and with a sense of humanity that makes me incredibly proud; each day more than the last.

Let’s see what she achieves next.

Happy Birthday Julianna.

Love,

Daddy

A. Brand Name

My Grandfather died today. 

He was 97 years old and I can’t imagine what life would have been like without his influence; without his presence.

We all have starting lines.  We have places where the family tree begins.  Certainly I’m aware that before my grandfather there were his parents and other people but I never knew any of them. For me, he is at my starting line, and while not alone there, he has always represented a huge part of my origin story.

For my kids, he was slightly more out of reach, slightly harder to understand, but they too will likely look back and view him as a presence on their starting line as well.

He is my name.  Abraham Brand.  His initials: A & B.  The beginning.

This blog has been largely about being a dad, and a parent in a more general sense.  To my kids, he has been their dad’s dad’s dad.  That’s pretty far removed from their ability to comprehend the family tree.  When his health took this final turn for the worse, many of the people in our family were going to visit him in the hospital and eventually in hospice.  The kids have known this whole time that he was sick and not doing well but that he was comfortable and had his family around him.  Each morning, for the last few days, in her normal matter-of-fact way, Chloe has asked me if Great Grandpa Abe had died yet.  Julianna listens for the answer intently but doesn’t say much.  One a bit more analytical and one a bit more emotional.  After my previous visit, I got home around 8:30 and the girls were in bed.  I heard Julianna call down the stairs to me right when I came in the house:  “Dad, how is Great Grandpa doing?”

So they knew.  We didn’t hide what was going on and answered any questions they had.  Last night, at dinner, my wife and I were sharing funny stories about times with their Great Grandpa.  She told them about the story of the first time she met him at a family dinner and how legend has it that after, in his car ride home, he expressed that he was in love for her to my father.  Chloe asked, “does that mean he’s going  to marry you mommy?”

Julianna then said, “He was also so kind.”

It’s hard to put my relationship with him into words.  For some people, I perhaps give the impression that I’m loud.  For those who know me well, you know I actually prefer quiet.  Some of my best times with him were quiet ones.  We didn’t need to talk.  It was enough to be near by.  When we were in a conversation, it was often about business.  I’m not sure there are many 97 year olds who were as progressive as he was.  I think my professional life was a pretty foreign concept to him at first.  He started his business 64 years ago and went to work, practically, and literally up until the end.  In the same 64 years, its feasible that I’ll have 32 jobs.  I work in the tech startup space.  Its a different world but one that over the years, Grandpa and I had lots of conversations about.  I think he was troubled by the volatility of it all at first and then later, fascinated by the excitement.  We had many conversations, recently, about my current job, where I’m the CTO and a Co-Founder.  He was always happy to talk about work.

In the picture below, from the most recent Thanksgiving, he was holding court with his 4 great grandchildren.  It might be the only time I’ve seen all four so completely engrossed in a conversation at the same time.  They were discussing what they were going to be when they grew up. I think he was incredibly proud of what he created.  At many of these large-family events, he would hold court in one form or another, often attempting to take credit for “creating” the entire family tree.  This tree of people present would often include friends, in-laws, and a variety of people who were not at all related but it didn’t matter.  The amazing thing is that he was always quiet and humble but he wore his pride on his sleeve.

Its this balance of humility, pride, and ambition, that I think I take as the greatest lesson from him.  Too much pride can lead to too much ego.  Too much ambition can lead to carelessness.  He was the perfect balance.  This balance is where I like to live my life; its where I’d like my kids to live theirs.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had him in my life for as long as I did.  97 is a fantastic run.  I’ve spent a lot of time with him over the last week and a half and while he slept for almost all of it, the last time I said something to him that he responded to, in the hospital, it went like this (which if you know both of us, you might appreciate a bit more):

Me: “Hey Grandpa, I’m going to come back later and take you out drinking.”

Grandpa: [laughing] “Ok.”

Simple and perfect.

There are so many things that aren’t certain about life but here’s one that is:

While he won’t be walking among us any longer, he’ll always walk with us.

Great Grandpa Holding Court

Great Grandpa Holding Court

Kidsplaining #2

Well that didn’t take long.  A day after Julianna wrote her post, Chloe told me that she wanted to try her hand at writing for the blog.

She got the same rules as Julianna:  A keyboard, a topic, and the freedom to write whatever she wanted.

Her topic: How to take care of dogs.

How to take care of a dog.Taking care of a dog is hard work!For instances walking them and feeding them.And SOME dog’s can help people.Like helping them across the street if they are blind.Also they are your BEST friends!Here are some things they like to do.

1.They like to play

2.They like to do tricks Here are some examples. Roll over,Sit,Stay,Down,and Fetch

3.They LOVE to cuddle

Dogs also have awesome names like Ruby,Boaty/ie,Bell,Haley,Patch,Sandy,Boo,Goldy/ie,Georgie/y,Spot.

Since we’re all done with that let me tell you about my life and me.I have a sister named Julianna and a dog named Cassie. let me tell you a little bit about me.About me.My name is Chloe I have brown hair and eyes.My favorite thing to do is Horse back riding.

About Julianna.Julianna’s hair is chestnut and her eyes are hazel.Her favorite thing to do is dancing and cooking.All about Cassie.Cassie’s eyes are brown. Her hair is Gray and she has some black spots.Well that’s it for my story!See you soon blog.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Happy New Year and see you soon blog.

Chloe the Kidsplainer

Chloe the Kidsplainer

Kidsplaining

So I got to thinking: last night while out for dinner with the family, I explained to Julianna and Chloe, really for the first time, about this blog.  I asked them if they would like to help me write for the blog now and then.  They both said they’d like to.  Julianna helped me once before without really knowing she was helping.  I don’t know how this is going to go but I love that they both expressed an interest in writing.  It is a bit of a departure from the typical “dad” post but I figured a look behind the curtain, from the perspective of the subjects of most of the posts, might be fun too.

Here are the rules:

  1. I sit them down with the laptop and give them a text editor.
  2. I give them a topic without any prior warning.
  3. They can explain the topic however they’d like.
  4. I probably won’t edit (I have my occasional reasons).

Julianna is a “kidsplainer”.  She loves to explain how things work to anyone who will listen.  She’ll explain to her sister how dance class works.  She’ll explain to me why it was strange that “Shopkins: Season 4” pricing was discounted because its, “like, brand new and when things are new everyone wants them and they don’t need to be less expensive than other times.”

Without further adieu, I give you Julianna’s first post.  I asked her to explain what it was like to be in the 2nd Grade.

Second grade is my favorite grade because,first my teacher is so nice,funny,and helpful.
Also,after thanksgiving break for five weeks you switch teachers for math class.
Next,you can make AWESOME,new friends that you will have a blast with.
Lastly,when you walk out of school on the last day of school you should be super proud
of yourself because you accomplished lots of learning and work.

 

Julianna the Kidsplainer

Julianna the Kidsplainer

Goodnight My Angel

The following is a post from Corey Jackson – I haven’t had a 9-month old baby for like 6 years.

I don’t remember if I told you about the first time I cried after Milo was born. We were very tired. The kind of tired that no one really ever experiences except for in those first few days you’re home from the hospital with your first child. No nurse to take him for a few hours. Oh, and by the way, he needs to breastfeed constantly (with supplement) so let’s try and get one hour naps in for 72 hours straight, kind of tired. So yeah, the first time I cried for real was on our way to our first pediatrician appointment. I can’t even tell you why. I think it was a mix of exhaustion and delirium.

Fast forward nine months, and I’ve had THE WEEK. Exhaustion and delirium both on the docket again. The week was so difficult I woke up on Friday convinced it was Saturday. I was trying to delete a day so bad. I even asked my wife “why did I set my alarm????” It didn’t work. I got to do one more day of this week and it didn’t let up at all. It also happened to be the week of the first fever and the first stand up in crib and the first crawl. Good lord!! So, that brings us to tonight. I’m standing at my baby’s crib at 8PM on a Friday and I decide to sing him “Goodnight, My Angel” by Billy Joel as a last ditch attempt to get him to fall asleep. Now, this is kind of a morbid lullaby about what happens after I die, but whatever, it’s a pretty song and it has the word “lullaby” in it, so I sing it to him. I got to the part where it says “Someday your child will cry and if you sing this lullaby then in your heart there will always be a part of me” and I started crying. Not a little tear hear, a little tear there, it was an all out cry.  I cried so hard, he woke up and was like, “what’s wrong daddy” as he moved his head directly in front of mine to grasp what was going on. If we were capable of having a conversation about this, what would i have said? “um… I’m just upset thinking about when I’m dead and you’re holding your son and you’re singing this same song. You know, no big deal.” OR “I’m not crying, I think someone’s cutting onions.” OR “You have no idea the kind of week I’ve had. Let me tell you about my job and the kinds of situations children have to deal with in family shelter.” On second thought, it’s probably good we only had non-verbal communication to rely on tonight. It felt crazy to react with a cry like that and at the same time it felt just right. My nine month old in my arms, a hard week, a good cry. It was all kinds of just what I needed.

A nine month old therapist who is now sound asleep. Goodnight, my Angel.

 

Barney Daffodil

On November 11, 2014, one year ago today, the world lost someone it barely had time to know:  Eddie.  He was just 18 months old.

I started writing this post in February.  I normally spend about 15 or 20 minutes writing these but this one has been an exception.

I’ve been friends with Eddie’s parents since before they knew each other (according to me), way back when we were all at summer camp together.  Eddie’s dad and I have known each other coming up on 30 years, give or take.  They live very close to us and our families spend a lot of time together.  Eddie’s older sister who is now 5, is one of the most fun and full of life little girls I know, as well as likely being the most aggressive hugger on the planet.  If not for her dad’s athletic prowess (wink wink, nudge nudge), she would likely get a chance to become the NFL’s first woman linebacker.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent more blog posts than I’d like writing about death recently and believe me when I say, I’d rather write about other topics.  I thought this was important to share.  When my Great Aunt Charlotte passed away last year, there were many conversations with Julianna and Chloe about death.  Obviously those aren’t easy conversations.

When Eddie passed away, it was a completely different type of thing; something I hadn’t thought about how to handle, because frankly, its so relatively uncommon that it isn’t worth planning for.  It is also so difficult to understand, for me, even now, that I couldn’t imagine how to explain it to the girls.

If I compare Aunt Charlotte’s situation with Eddie’s, they are very different.  There is a ton of obvious “distance” between how the girls perceive Charlotte and how they perceive Eddie.  Charlotte was “old” and not anything like them.  She didn’t come over our house and play with their toys with them.  The story with Charlotte was fairly clear:  Don’t worry about it girls, its a very very very long time before you are Charlotte’s age.  With Eddie, not so much.

November 11th was a Tuesday last year.  We didn’t tell the girls for 3 days, on Friday while we tried to wrap our heads around it (something I’m not sure I’ve done yet).  We still don’t know the cause of death and might never know.  My wife and I sat the girls down and told them we had something serious to discuss.  Typically, they do “well” in those moments when they can tell we aren’t joking.  We explained that Eddie had died and we didn’t know how.  We didn’t have the age distance that we had with Charlotte so I think we sort of just held our collective breath and hoped that they didn’t make an immediate connection with his age.  Because he was significantly younger than them, relatively, I think they actually had a similar reaction to that of Charlotte’s news: “That’s not us.”  As a matter of fact, I think they may have even had some sort of “we’re beyond the point where that might be a problem for us” reaction.

They were both quiet when they heard the news.  They had questions but mostly about Eddie’s parents and sister, and all that makes me proud to have thoughtful daughters.  Keep in mind, these are questions from a 6 year old and a 5 year old (at the time) who don’t fully grasp the concept of death, but think that they do.  Chloe, who is normally very loud (and anyone who has met her can attest) and generally unemotional about emotional things, got very pensive.  Julianna, who is extremely emotional about anything, even unemotional things, got quiet as well.

They asked if people were sad (I believe to validate that what they were feeling was correct).  They asked if Eddie’s parents would have another baby (I believe this was their gut reaction on how to make people feel better – which is not about replacing Eddie and more about finding a way to be happy).  We told them that the thing they could do, that would be most helpful, is that even though we didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with Eddie as we wanted, we had a lot of awesome time with him, a lot of laughter, a lot of fun.  We explained that it was important to always remember those times and that because they played with him more closely than we (my wife and I) did, they should absolutely share any stories they remember with Eddie’s mom and dad.

Shortly after, the girls went back to their business.  For a while it seemed that while they weren’t really talking about Eddie, they were thinking about him.  We tried not to push the subject too much but were ready to try and answer questions when asked.  We didn’t want to avoid the subject.  At one point, Julianna told us about a toy we had in our house that she remembered Eddie loved playing with.  I didn’t really know which toy she was talking about and she didn’t remember seeing it recently.  A few days later, the girls were playing and she ran over holding a toy: “Daddy, I found the toy that Eddie loved.  Can we give it to [his parents]?”  She had decided, days later, that she was going to look for this very specific toy and then she found it.

Not too long after, Eddie’s family was over our house.  The girls were off playing with Eddie’s sister and the grownups were chatting.  Earlier, Chloe had decided she would write a card to Eddie’s parents.  We didn’t really coach her on the appropriate thing to say.  Who really knows what the appropriate thing to say is?  When we read what she wrote, we debated on whether or not to give it to them but ultimately decided that the 5 year old was trying to express a real emotion.  It was simple:

“Dear [Eddie’s parents], I’m sorry that Eddie died.  Love, Chloe”

Nobody told her that we say things like “sorry for your loss.” I believe it is how she genuinely felt and it was a very simple and basic way that a little kid, who is otherwise generally not overly empathetic, could tell a grownup, “I don’t know how to say anything else but know that I feel for you.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t write a bit about Eddie himself and explain the title of this post.  Before Eddie was born, his sister was asked by his parents what she thought he should be named.  She said, “Barney Daffodil.”  I remember hearing that before he was born and thinking what a wonderfully happy, hopeful, and cool name.  When he was born, and did not get that super cool name, he and I didn’t hit it off.  His parents liked to call him Fast Eddie.  He was fast at everything…everything, that is, except for liking me.  I’ve generally considered myself to be good with kids (the whole camp counselor thing) but with Eddie, I couldn’t win.  I’m not entirely sure what it was but it became a point of contention between he and I.  I was set on getting him to like me and he was set on not liking me.  We were at a bit of a standstill.  A standstill that ended, I believe, during the spring of 2014, when we brought a puppy home.  You see, Eddie loved animals, and dogs in particular.  Once the puppy came home, I think Eddie had a moment where he may have decided that I wasn’t so bad.  From then on, he seemed to enjoy my company, and the feeling was mutual.  We played together and he even went swimming with me at the pool that summer.

I certainly can’t imagine what it feels like to lose a child.  I knew Eddie for a relatively short period of time and while he and I never shared a nerd conversation or talked sports or played XBox together, I do genuinely feel like I lost a friend, even if he was just 18 months old.

I wish I had the opportunity to watch him grow up and cause trouble when he certainly would have gone out on a date or two with at least one of my daughters.

I wish I had the opportunity to go swimming with him again this summer or bring him with me when I take the dog for a walk.

He wasn’t of our blood but he was, and forever will be, a part of our family.

Once we became friends

Once we became friends

Reading; Their Minds

I don’t remember how old I was when people stopped reading to me at my bedtime.

These days I get read to most nights.  At some point, the girls’ bedtime went from us reading to them to them reading to us.  I find the whole thing fascinating.  Both girls have always enjoyed books.  We went through all the same phases you went through:

Phase 1: Board books with 6 pages and giant colorful shapes and things.

Phase 2: Board books with 12 pages, 2 words on a page, and most of the corners of said pages worn down by drool.

Phase 3: Board books with 27 pages of rhyming “poetry” that we can read each night, sometimes twice, for 6 months straight.  This time, the corners have bite marks on them and many of the pages are “peeling” off of their boards from the drool.

Phase 4: Paper books that are square shaped with stories about our favorite characters.  Many of these pages have rips near the binding because, you know, everyone wants to help turn the pages and turning from the inside half of the page never results in a rip.

Phase 5: Gigantic hard-cover books with pages that fold out and pieces that move and inevitably get ripped out that you later read anyway and just pretend are still there even though Elmo’s body is missing his oscillating head.

Phase 6: Dr. Seuss books which tonight, will hopefully not be “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” because, and I’m not kidding, its like 350 pages long.

Phase 7: “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” for the 8th night in a row where you only read the left pages and don’t get caught.

Phase 8: “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” for the 8th night in a row where you try and only read the left pages but DO get caught.

This is the turning point…

Wait, did you just recognize the words were missing?

And so it goes.

More complicated books with more words leads to pointing my finger at each word as I go so we can all follow along.

Phase 9: We read Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” and harken back to our youth and how wonderful (but sort of sad) a story it is.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

In fact, you love “The Giving Tree” so much, you go for more…and you get something like this:

Happy Birthday by Shel Silverstein

Here we have a story with a beautiful illustration of a kid with lit candles buried in his head and hair that seems to be melting down his face laughing to himself about how much fun it will be when nobody shows up to his birthday party.

Sweet dreams kids.

That’s when you realize that maybe we should take a Shel-break but hey, reading is fun!

Phase 10: Break out some old board books and practice reading again!  You read this page and I’ll read the next page.

Phase 11: You read 2 pages to me and I’ll read 2 pages to you.

Phase 12: You suddenly realize that you can no longer spell words to your spouse when your kid asks “Daddy, where are going to take that shit?”

At this point, reading is underway.  You realize that there’s a very real possibility that one of these days, probably sooner rather than later, your kids will discover and really understand that you write a blog and have been documenting their childhood and want to read it and then roll their eyes at you.

Phase 13: We sit in bed and I listen as the entire book is read to me.  I’m told that we’ll “read and show.”  This means that she reads the page and then turns the book around to show me the pictures like in school.  This is cute but takes about 10x to get through the book and honestly, the plots in these books are not particularly compelling for me.

Phase 14: And here we are.  Now I sit and they read the entire book and just want us to be present.  They don’t need to show the pictures.  They just want the company.  Every now and then I get to read to them and its a pleasure.  Each night I’ll ask, “are you reading to me or am I reading to you?”

Tonight, Chloe wanted to read to me.  She picked out her book and brought it over to bed.  Sometimes its a chapter book and sometimes it is one that has pictures.  Tonight it was the latter…

…And I found myself staring at her, in a sort of awe, truly enjoying watching her enjoy reading.  She turns each page and then takes a few moments to look at the pictures.  She takes her time, really soaking in what’s happening before she starts to read and then gets into it.  In the off chance that she runs into a word she can’t pronounce, she just points at it and waits, knowing/hoping that I’m still watching and can help.  These help requests are starting to be few and far between.

I love reading and while I have always been confident that my kids would enjoy it as well, its so much fun to see it playing out.  I love going in their bedrooms at night to check on them and finding a book on their bed with a bookmark in it that they were reading after bedtime but before they were ready to fall asleep.

I love watching them figure it all out while realizing that there are endless stories to enjoy.

I love this moment:

Reading.

The end.

Independence Day

Today Chloe turns 6.

Hard to believe another year has passed.  Last year I wrote about how Chloe had essentially started to come out of her shell.  I think its safe to say that she obliterated that shell this year.

“Mommy, what do I need to do, right now, to make sure I don’t have a baby?”

I know what you’re thinking.  6 is probably too young to have a conversation about birds and bees.  I agree.  We didn’t.  In case you don’t know her, Chloe isn’t talking about getting pregnant.  She certainly doesn’t understand that concept (as far as I know).  She knows that babies grow in mommies’ bellies and then the doctor takes them out.  She’s not saying she doesn’t want to have babies at some point, just not today.  You get it.  I mean, she’s literally just 6 and has like, 1st grade and stuff coming up.

Chloe is, in my estimation, one of the more introspective and analytical kids I know.  She is a puzzle-solver, but not in the traditional sense as much as that she wants to know how everything works and always be prepared.  If she doesn’t fully understand something, she’s generally fine, but would prefer to hedge bets and play it safe.  No babies for her just yet.  When she asked about not having a baby right now, its her way of saying, “I don’t know what happens to get that baby into my belly, but I think its safe to say that I’m not interested in that right this very decades.”

My wife and I have always known her to be lots of fun but it has only been the last 1.5 years or so that she’s shared that side of herself with anyone.  Like I have mentioned here before, she’s not much of a spotlight seeker but has taken a strong interest recently in dancing.  She and Julianna both, as they get older, find themselves wanting to have their own time & space in the house.  We believe in that independence.  There are times when I will come to check on her and she’ll be by herself, in our living room, playing music in itunes or pandora (like Velociraptors and doorknobs…these kids), and just dancing.  In the past, if spotted, she would “shut it down” almost immediately and maybe even cry because she was embarrassed.  Now, more often than not, she will say something like, “Daddy, sit down and start the song over so I can show you the dance I’m ‘choreographaging’.”  And so I do.  I do start “All Star” by Smash Mouth from the beginning and watch a carefully ‘choreographicated’ dance…all 4.5 minutes of it…over and over again.  She even decided it was ok to teach Julianna the steps.  Then we got to watch it again.  Recently, she asked me if I had the song on my phone (of course), so I could play it so she could show the extended family the dance.  Who is this kid?

Then there’s the issue with the boyfriends.  Sensing a theme here?  Ever since kindergarten started, she’s got these boys lining up, wrapped around her finger.  A few months ago, I was in their school teaching Introduction to Computer Science to some 3rd and 4th graders (don’t judge).  After I was finished, I was on my way out when I ran into the school Principal.  He said, “Kindergarten is having lunch now, you should stop by and say hi.”  K.

I go into the cafetorium or whatever its called and can’t find Chloe.  My nephew, Ben, also a kindergartner, comes running over to help direct me.  I walk over to where he says and find Chloe, sitting 5 or 6 seats down from the other kids at her table, with nobody on her side next to her, directly across from a boy.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this boy is probably some sort of huge asshole.  I mean, BACK OFF.  The two of them, chatting away like my mother used to when this year’s Mah Jong card would arrive in the mail.  She barely gave me the time of day.  There was a time when she wouldn’t let me leave the room.  Now she basically said, “talk to the hand.  I got a boy sitting across from me in the cafetorium.”  This guy…I mean, who does he think he is?  They actively separated themselves from the other kids at the table.

Well, it turns out, according to her, as well as 2 or 3 other kids in kindergarten who told me at lunch that day, Chloe and “Shitlist Entry #1” are in love and will be getting married.  Yada yada yada, great news, a few weeks later, they are no longer in love and they are no longer getting married.  It is probably because he doesn’t put the covers back on the markers.  Jerk.

Anyhow, it wasn’t long before another boy caught her fancy.  She gets all bashful, but confident, when asked.  She’ll happily tell me about how they sat near each other at Music class or that “he was on a swing 3 down from her at recess.”  I mean, give me a break with this.  I don’t need this sort of stress for at least another 30 years right?

Then I got this other kid, who we run into now and then, who is super nice.  When I say nice, I mean, he seems like he might actually be the nicest kid on the planet, genuinely.  He always says hi to me like kissing my ass is gonna win browny points with her or something.  He might be onto something.

But then, 2 weeks ago, she comes home from school and tells me that “#1” from above is back in the picture, literally.  Turns out he drew a picture that had 3 hearts on it and told another kid in the class that the hearts were for Chloe.  Well, believe you me, that kid ran straight to Chloe to tell her.  Whatever, it won’t last, probably.

The sad part is, she’s got it all under control.  She’s got all of us wrapped right around her 6-year-old finger and she knows it.

Last night, she read me a book for her bedtime.  It seems that the days of me reading to her are probably more behind us than in front.  She wants to do the reading.

She’s growing up and gaining confidence and making me prouder each day more than the last.  She’s constantly making us laugh and she always, totally has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on around her.

My baby, you know, the 6-year-old who doesn’t want to have a baby of her own just yet…FYI.

Happy Birthday Chloe.

Love,

Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah… They all do that…

I think there is a conspiracy against all parents amongst medical professionals. Their answer to every question, without fail, is “Yeah…. They all do that…” I actually find it kind of amusing. They all always start with the word “Yeah”, have the same amount of pause, and finish out the phrase with those same four words. “They all do that.”

I’ve never studied a human being more in my life and that’s probably for the best. If I stared at anyone else this much, including my wife, I think it would be a little creepy. The result of staring at someone this much is you notice everything. Things like:

  • He cries after he yawns sometimes
  • His head and face turn bright red
  • He is making noises after every breath
  • His eye has so much “yuckahs” in it.
  • He makes a clicking noise that sounds half goat, half dolphin.
  • He’s sleepy at the breast.
  • He’s cranky at the breast.
  • He has dry skin.
  • His bones pop and crack like I broke something.
  • He gets violent hiccups.
  • He’s only opening one eye.
  • He doesn’t burp all the time.
  • He farts too much.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking… “They all do that.”   It turns out, you’re right.