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Theron walks in his mother's sandal.

Theron is now fourteen months old. (That's one year and two months, if you count like a non-parent.) He walks - actually, he usually runs - climbs, and plays with mad abandon. I swear he's grown another three inches within the last week. He's shown a few other developments, but I'll cover those a little further down because they're related to the events of the last two months. It's been fairly busy, and unfortunately I haven't managed to update these pages while all these things were going on.

Showing off for the family
In June, we went to a family reunion in Charleston, South Carolina. This is a wonderfully scenic city, and we had a good time wandering around when we weren't actually visiting people (which was also very enjoyable). The combination of Theron's current bedtime and the change in time zones meant that he could stay awake long enough for us to do evening activities without throwing off his sleep schedule. So, he got to meet a whole bunch of extended family. He won't remember them, of course, but that's hardly the point. The point was we got to wave the baby at people who made appreciative noises about him. No, wait... That's not it. The point is that we got a lot of free food. No... that's not it either. In that case... the point is that the rest of the family finally got to meet the youngest member. Yeah. That must be it.

The joys of traveling with a baby are manifold. First, having a baby means hauling more stuff. Once you've checked your luggage, you get to stand in line for security while holding a wiggly toddler. (Airport security does not make me feel any safer, by the way; any sensible terrorist can see that you'd kill way more people by blowing up the security checkpoint than you would by bringing down a plane - and that's assuming the terrorist was stupid enough to target airports at all. There's plenty of equally vulnerable infrastructure that's even less well protected.) So, once you've handed over your liquids, taken off your shoes, removed your laptop from its case, sent everything through the scanner*, and walked through the metal detector while holding your baby in one hand and your boarding pass in the other, you get to your gate. That's where the real fun begins: you get to watch the expressions of dawning horror as your fellow passengers realize that you're bringing a baby onto the plane.

Fortunately, Theron actually flies pretty well (though his arms get awfully tired). He stayed quiet, and even slept a little. He did not scream, and he did not run up and down the aisle. When we got off the plane, people thanked us.**

Theron practices the deadly Dim Mak, using only his forehead.

We brought both the baby leash and the baby backpack, which kept Theron fairly manageable. The only problem with this arrangement came when Theron missed his afternoon nap (which was entirely our fault) and fell asleep on my back. Even that wouldn't have been a problem, but he fell asleep with his head slumped forward, placing his forehead directly against my spine, at a point about halfway up my neck. I'm pretty sure that that's one of the Dim Mak pressure points - the ones that ninjas use to kill with a touch. That made for a rather uncomfortable walk back, especially since I was trying not to wake him up.

We were staying a sort of apartment downtown, above an extremely good barbecue place. The elevator was small, dark, and unbelievably slow. It took a full three minutes to go from the ground floor entry to our hallway on the third floor. This, of course, bothered Theron not at all; he had a good time trying to reach for the lights.

He also made his first attempt at negotiating stairs on this trip. Naturally, he chose a nice, solid set of concrete steps to practice on, but he managed not to injure himself. (In the months since, he's improved his skill dramatically.) Note to any children reading this: if you want to panic your parents, learning to climb on concrete is as good a method as any.

One of my uncles described Theron as "the perfect baby," so overall I'd have to classify this trip as a success.

Theron gets a buddy
In July, one of our old college friends came to stay with us, bringing her husband and son with her. They were taking a vacation, and used our house as a base of operations while they visited people in Dallas. This made for a bit of crowding - we don't really have a guest bedroom - but overall it worked surprisingly well. In the interests of privacy, we'll refer to them as P (our friend) and D (her husband).

Their son Luke is a couple of months older than Theron, and very blond. He is taller than Theron, but (I think) about the same weight. They made a very good match in terms of interests and mobility, and I was extremely pleased that they didn't have any trouble sharing toys.

Shortly after they arrived, Luke went to explore our house. He checked out the kitchen, then went up the hallway to the library. He was deeply annoyed to find that we had a baby gate across the library door, and expressed his displeasure with a little wail of anger and distress. This prompted Theron to go toddling up the back hallway, stick his arms out, and try to give Luke a hug. Luke put his arm out to stop him, and they spent a couple of seconds shuffling around in a little baby dance: Theron with his arms still extended for a hug, Luke stiff-arming Theron's chest to keep him away. I wish I'd had the camera handy; it was quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen.

Luke used sign language to ask for things. I had heard that people were doing this - teaching their young children sign language - but I'd been pretty dubious about it. What's the point of teaching a baby something that I don't understand myself? It turns out (as usual) that I only had half the story. The object isn't to teach children ASL, it's to teach them a handful of simple signs that allow them to communicate until they figure out how to talk. Basically, it's a way of reducing the child's I-can't-talk-yet frustration, and is therefore supposed to cut down on temper tantrums.

Luke appeared to get the most mileage out of the sign for "more," which he used to ask for more crackers. (Luke had an extreme Ritz Cracker fetish.) A few days after he left, we found Theron making the same sign in order to ask for a cracker. So, we're now working on signs. He can do "more," "food," "water," and "milk." My beautiful wife's attempts to get him to use "please" have been a complete failure, but then "please" is a somewhat more abstract concept.

I'm not sure that Theron actually noticed when Luke left. His long term memory is getting better, but it still isn't that good. While P & D were here, though, he had a good time running around with Luke. When one of them cried (usually because he didn't want a nap, and why couldn't we see that he didn't need one!?) the other would go check on him.

Things That Man Was Not Meant To Know
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (if you'll pardon the digression) is considered one of the seminal writers in the modern Horror genre. One of his main contributions was the concept of beings so alien that just knowing about them could make you crazy. Actually seeing them could not only damage your sanity, it might destroy your mind entirely.

As a parent, I consider myself comfortably immune to such dangers. Having a baby means being exposed to all manner of soul-destroying experiences. Just keeping the baby clean requires you to sacrifice any sense of dignity, cleanliness, and propriety. If any Lovecraftian monsters stop by our house, they're in for a disappointment: there's nothing left for them to do to me. The baby has left me completely desensitized. I have no sanity left to damage.

...Or so I thought.

One of the difficulties of having two toddlers in the same house (especially when one of them is visiting from a different time-zone) is that the bedtime rituals tend to bump into each other. Bathing is significant part of putting Theron to bed, and it turns out that this is true for Luke as well. Rather than trying to do two baths in a row (and probably running out of hot water in the process), we bathed them both together. The Beautiful Woman took the first night, and I took the second***.

It is impossible to clean a baby without touching... pretty much everything, including the private bits. I thought I was resigned to this. So I shampooed Theron's hair, and then Luke's. I poured soap on Theron and cleaned everything that needed cleaning. Then I did the same to Luke.

And then I got a rampant case of the heeby-jeebies.

This is totally irrational. I was wearing a bathing suit, I was sitting in the bathtub with the two boys, and P (Luke's mother) was sitting next to bathtub, watching. Neither of the boys was at all disturbed. The situation was perfectly innocuous. I clean Theron's bits all the time. Heck, I clean myself  with great regularity. Logically, there was nothing wrong about it at all; quite the opposite.

And yet, that didn't keep me from spending the next half an hour huddled in the closet with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, clutching a bottle of rum and shivering, all because I'd touched a toddler's... bits.

Feh. Anybody who thinks that human beings are fundamentally rational... is clearly delusional.

Theron and Luke:
(Click for larger images)


The Evil spreads...
Shortly after our guests left, all three of us came down with a particularly nasty head-cold. I'm not sure if they brought it into town with them (something awfully similar was going around my work at the same time), or whether the timing was coincidental. It probably doesn't matter. What did matter is that just at the moment when we needed to be cleaning up and rearranging things, we were almost too sick to move.

Having one of us sick is a problem. Having all three of us sick becomes a horrible, self-reinforcing cycle. It's not that we pass the illness back and forth (though I expect we will, eventually). The problem is that when Theron gets sick, he can't sleep. When Theron can't sleep, my wife can't sleep. When my wife can't sleep, I don't get to sleep. And when nobody sleeps, nobody gets better.

This is why antibiotics are my friend. They may not have helped with the virus, but they kept me from adding a sinus infection to the mix.

Eventually, of course, we did recover, and now we're pretty much back to our normal schedule.

So, we'll end with pictures of Theron being cute at the kids' area of one of our local malls. As usual, click on the thumbnails to see larger images.


 * Important safety tip: do not try to send the baby through the scanner; for some reason, that freaks people out.

** No, I'm not kidding.

*** We bathe the baby by sitting in the tub with him. I mention this mainly because some people apparently don't do it this way. It's the easiest way we've found, though, and Theron really enjoys it.