Sunday, March 29, 2009

Acting Her Age

Zoe has developed a habit of storing food in her cheeks like a chipmunk. A chunk of apple handed to her at the end of lunch lasted through a long play session and was only reluctantly relinquished at naptime (after drinking her milk). An almond lasted at least three hours before we forced her to give it up, again at naptime. As a child I remember having trouble swallowing raw carrots. I would chew on them for ages but could not get the muscles in my mouth to complete the process. Zoe, however, doesn’t seem to be stuck on a particular food, and doesn’t always store the same foods. I’m not worried about this new habit, since her eating is otherwise normal. And Zoe seems to think it is normal to keep a piece of food tucked away and will happily open her mouth to show us whenever we ask (although she is somewhat reluctant to spit it out when we ask; try explaining the concept of asphyxiation to a two year old). I expect that this will be a short-lived idiosyncrasy, but I will definitely get concerned if she starts storing her toys in there.

I played a little trick on Zoe the other day, and unfortunately it has become a favorite game. It’s called ‘nighty-night’ (her name, not mine). We’ll be in the middle of some activity and suddenly she will announce, “nighty-night’,” and we will have to stop and play the game. Here’s how it goes: one of us will lie down on the floor (or ground, if we are outside) and put our head on something, such as a stuffed animal or ball. Whoever is not lying down will pull the object out from under the others head. We then say, cuckoo, cuckoo. It’s tedious now, but I still chuckle when I think back on the first time I did it to her. Another game we play—and this one has not gotten old yet—is to put her in the basket of her colossal Tonka dump truck, count one, two, three, then push her across the yard. A good push is when she gently hits something, like the shed or a bush without getting hurt. It’s sort of takes finesse, much like curling. Fortunately I have so far avoided accidentally pushing her down the stairs.

Somewhere along the way Zoe has decided that passing gas (a.k.a. farting) is funny. I guess if you has no inhibitions then squeezing a short tuba honk out of your rear end could seem kind of funny and not so much a social faux pas. Every time she lets one rip she gets this big smile, but she has also learned how to pass the blame. Following her joyous grin she will say, “Minnie,” who also gets blamed for all the soiled diapers in the house. I can already see that her younger brother will spend countless hours (after he learns to speak) defending himself against slander.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Preschool Edition, Part II

On a drive recently I handed Zoe a small cup half filled with cereal. After a few minutes she stopped eating and rested her head against the side of her car seat. A couple of minutes later her eyes closed. I reached back and gently removed the cup from her hand. She opened her eyes and reached out for the cup, which I handed back. Her eyes quickly closed, and after waiting a few minutes I again took the cup from her hands, and again she opened her eyes and reached for the cup. It is important to note that a sure sign that Zoe has fallen asleep is her hypnagogic jerk. It happens every time she falls asleep. So, I’m driving and waiting for another chance to grab the cup, when she does her little body jerk. I hear a rain of cereal settling about the car. However, she is still holding the cup, which still has some of its contents. Then her grip releases. Now she’s asleep.

After a difficult search, a dozen or more schools toured, registration fees sent to a handful of schools, and endless discussions with other parents at every conceivable opportunity, Zoe has managed to land one of the five girl spots at a coveted (or so I was led to believe) preschool. The entire process of getting her into a preschool caused me some stress, to the point where on more than one occasion I lay awake at night pondering the choices. My first choice was based on a number of factors, but as I mentioned in a previous post, it was the proximity to a coffee shop with free WiFi that really had me excited about the school. There is also a pizza shop across the street, a butcher that makes decent sandwiches, a cheap Chinese restaurant, a bakery, and a great independent fruit and vegetable grocer. All this and it’s only about a mile from our house, so I can easily walk there and back. I’m sorry, did you just ask me if it’s a good school? Did I mention that it was near pizza and free WiFi?

There are two toys that consume a good portion of Zoe’s attention. The first is her tea set, which I have mentioned numerous times before. I fear the word tea because it is my duty, countless times during the day, to sit down and go through the motions of serving tea. But the tedium of the activity is exacerbated by the second toy, a stuffed Minnie Mouse. Minnie must pour the tea, pour the milk, and spoon out the sugar, and Zoe has come to expect a little dance with each step. But Tea is not all. Minnie has to be included in every single activity we do. When Zoe’s diaper needs to be changed I first have to change Minnie’s diaper. If we travel from one level of our house to another, than Minnie must accompany us. And she can’t just be carried, she has to hop down the stairs. When we act out the book Barnyard Dance—another dreaded activity, performed at least a couple times a day—Minnie has to go through all of the motions. She goes with us in the car and on walks in the stroller. Zoe wanted her to join her in the bath the other day. And when Minnie went missing for a couple of hours all I heard every five minutes was Minnie. The only place that Zoe does not ask for Minnie is in her crib. Maybe she’s afraid that Minnie will hog the blankets.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Best Dad Ever

This blog was written almost a month ago. Between then and now my computer hard drive failed. There were many hoops to jump through (and one moderately sized check to write), but thanks to my good friend Mark my computer ended up in competent hands and not only were my documents saved, but the six thousand (yes, six thousand) photos were saved as well. Enjoy.

Here is a quote from the father of Zoe’s friend Tallulah (passed along by Tallulah’s mom): "I think David is the best Father. He is so terrific with Zoe, he does an amazing job." Now, I’m not sure how he came to this conclusion, but who am I to contradict him? I plan on using this quote frequently.

Speaking of being the best father, from this same couple I often hear about activities that they are doing with their daughter, and I think that I too should be doing those same activities and wonder why I didn’t think of that as well. For example, they are always talking about the art projects their daughter Tallulah is involved in. Now one problem I have is I don’t like a mess, so I have always avoided those activities that are messy, such as painting. Just the thought of a paintbrush, dripping with bright, wet colors in the hands of Zoe gives me chills. But not to deny her an artistic outlet, this week I purchased a batch of Play-Doh. We have a designated area where we play with the dough, but it’s not surprising that there are now squishy specks of color scattered about the room. And I’m not sure how it is improving her artistic skills, since she mostly likes to just take the dough in and out of their little jars.

This week Zoe came down with a twelve-hour virus that had her throwing up about every twenty minutes for the first half of the day. Our house was scattered with various towels to try to catch the offending outflow, which nevertheless usually ended up on one of us. The only positive to come out of this is that by the end of the day, whenever she saw a towel she would say blah, while sticking out her tongue. I’ve taught her how to make fake throw up sounds; my work is done.

Okay, this is old material, but here it is. The other day I could not get Zoe to try some piece of food that I had prepared. She adamantly refused all my tricks to get her to taste it. However, in the last week I’ve caught her licking the kitchen cabinet handles, licking the dishwasher door, eating Play-Doh, picking up and eating food off the playground, and sticking a crayon in her mouth. Am I just serving her the wrong food? I see lots of trendy baby food at the market. Maybe I should star my own line of food that looks like trash. In the instructions I will direct the parents to either leave it on the floor or smear it across a piece of furniture.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Zoe Turns Two

Yesterday Zoe turned two. I looked back (on this blog) about what I had to say on her first birthday and to see how far we’ve come (lack of sleep has caused me to blank out the previous twelve months). With all the changes we’ve seen over the last year the first thing that comes to mind is Zoe’s recent and often repeated phrase, “No, mine.” I commented on her use of this phrase a couple of weeks ago, but beyond being an attestation of the infamous age of two it shows how independent she has become. She uses the phrase when we leave the house; I can’t carry her down the forty steps to the street, she has to walk down herself. I’m not even allowed to hold her hand. She uses the phrase when we get to the car. I am no longer allowed to lift her into the car seat; she has to climb in herself. When it’s diaper changing time she says it as we enter her room, meaning she will climb up onto her changing table herself. Once on top I am not allowed to position her, she will get herself into the proper position by herself, which is actually sort of cute (or ironic), since her independence doesn’t extend as far as using the potty.

There are other indicators of how fast she is growing. A year ago she was just starting to stand and she wasn’t talking. A year ago I could use the bathroom without her needing to join me; and without the additional five minutes it now takes because she has to walk down the stairs herself, stopping every few steps to exam some piece of dirt she finds along the way. I see her changing emotionally as well. When we read her a book with a sad part, she gets sad and sometimes we have to stop for a hug and reassurance that everything will turn out fine in the end (she is allowed that luxury as a two year old). She remembers things—even the smallest things—that happened to her sometimes months earlier, like receiving a bag of peanut M&M’s from a flight attendant on a trip, and pointing up into the air every time she sees a bag at a store. And I don’t know if she does this ironically, but when she sees towel she makes a fake throw up sound (she sticks her tongue out and says, “blah.”) from her experience during an illness, when we kept a pile near us for vomiting episodes.

Zoe’s second birthday party was a huge success; she scored a huge pile of birthday loot. The party started at three and stretched past her bedtime, and this morning was the first time I’ve seen her so absorbed in her toys that she didn’t need to sit on the counter while we prepared coffee, fed the cats, and prepared her morning milk. I’m not always thrilled with the idea of children getting huge piles of gifts (although I’m perfectly fine if people give me huge piles of gifts), but Zoe’s toy box is filled with stuff that dates back to her infancy. Also, this was the first opportunity to give Zoe gifts based on things that she has shown interest in, not just random things we thought she might like. She may cast off these new toys by the end of the week, but for the moment we can enjoy her joy.

There are some changes I am looking forward to, such as not having to change Zoe’s diaper or having her sleep through the night. But like a year ago I will miss the baby that is disappearing. I know that there are a lot of exciting times and plenty of changes still to experience, but I for now I can still get choked up thinking that soon I would be sending her off to school and into the big wide world.