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The Official Post-Christmas Damage Assessment

Theron the Bunny - click for larger imageWe have now reached the middle of January. Christmas and New Year's are over, the Beautiful Woman and I are back at work, and - of course - everyone is sick.

I should point out that this is an improvement over last year. Last year I was sick from the last week of December until the first week of February. Every time I thought I was getting better, I came down with something else. It was miserable.

So the week-long head cold that has afflicted us is actually pretty wimpy, at least by comparison. It's still rough, of course: when Theron gets stuffy, he can't sleep; when he can't sleep, we can't sleep; and when we can't sleep, we don't get better. Plus, we're all sick - hence, cranky and lethargic.

The fact that Theron is a year older gives us some serious advantages, too. His nostrils and sinuses are larger, and drain more easily. Because he's older, we can give him more and better medications (cautiously). He is also a little more willing to sleep in different positions; last year, he would only sleep with his face down and his butt in the air, which meant that all the mucus went straight to his nostrils and kept him from breathing. This year, we can prop him up with pillows and let him drain.

So, in summary: having everyone sick is still horrible, but it's not as bad as it could be. Also, Nyquil is my friend.

Linguistic acquisition
Theron's recent accomplishments have been in the area of language. His language comprehension has been coming along fine for a while now. (A month or so back, I asked him to put my headphones back up on my desk, and he did. This prompted my wife, for the eighth time in as many months, to vow that she would clean up her language. Last night, I asked Theron if he could bring me a dinosaur. He wasn't holding anything, and I was careful not to point. Theron looked around, spotted the toy dinosaur in the middle of the floor, and brought it over to me. So his comprehension-vocabulary {and/or his ability to figure out what we want} is... I was going to say 'fine', but I think the word I want is 'frightening.')

Recently, however, his language use has improved, too. Before Christmas, he would repeat words if prompted, but he used hand signs to ask for things. Shortly after my last journal entry, he started using words in conjunctions with some of the signs: "Mo" together with the sign for 'more', for example. He's also started using words for things that he doesn't have signs for: ball, duck, dog (or doggy), mama, dada.

Most interesting, at least to me, is the fact that he's started babbling. That is, he'll say things that sound like sentences - long, complex streams of syllables with the rhythm and timing of a sentence, but no decipherable words. This is, apparently, fairly typical. Girls tend to acquire larger speaking-vocabularies (and use words earlier, in general; one of the girls from the Moms' Group can greet all the other children by name), and then figure out how to assemble them into sentences. Boys, on the other hand, tend to figure out sentence patterns first, and then slowly find words to plug into them. Obviously, this isn't true for all children, and the two skills do overlap, so take the observation with a grain of salt.

Christmas, New Year's, and the slow return to sanity
In my last entry, I predicted that Theron would probably be at the plays-with-boxes stage this Christmas. This was utterly, completely, ridiculously incorrect.

Theron loved his presents. All of them. With a huge, strong, overwhelming love.

But let me back up, just a little, before I talk about the holidays. Waaaaay back when we first got married, the Beautiful Woman and I set some ground rules to reduce the amount of stress and chaos in our lives. Probably the best of these was rule 486b: "We will not try to visit both sides of the family on any given holiday, unless there is a really, really convenient way to do so." In practice, what this means is that we alternate: one year we spend Christmas day with my parents and Thanksgiving day with her parents, and the next year we reverse that. That doesn't mean that we only see one set of parents; it means that we don't try to see everyone on the same day. This year, for example, we had Christmas with my in-laws, and saw my side of the family the following Saturday.

So, on Christmas Eve, we went to a nice little Disciples of Christ church for their evening service. In an effort to keep Theron on a regular sleep schedule, we didn't try for midnight mass -- and for that matter, we ended up leaving before the service was really over. C'est la guerre. We took him back home and got him into bed just a little later than usual, had a drink, and went to bed ourselves.

Theron on Christmas EveOn Christmas morning we got up, had a light breakfast, and opened our stockings. Theron's stocking included a Sesame Street DVD -- a full hour of music, basically -- which he clutched gleefully. Theron then got his big gift from us -- ahem, from Santa -- which was a sort of plastic parking garage with an elevator and a ramp. The garage included a small plastic tow truck which makes tow-truck noises, a small plastic car, and two small plastic figures to drive them. I showed Theron how to work the elevator, and he practiced sending the cars down the ramp while saying, "Whee!" Theron then opened his next present, which came from some friends; it was a large plastic dump truck with oversized legos in the back. Theron immediately dumped out the legos and started sticking them together.

At this point, I was sitting on the couch and my wife was sitting in the big pink chair beside it. Theron comes wandering over to us, weaving slightly, with wide eyes and a dazed expression on his face. He is, quite literally, stoned on endorphins. He looks up at us, raises his hands to make the sign, and says: "Mo? Mo?" This may possibly have been the cutest thing ever.

So we took him to his grandmother's house, and he got "mo."

Theron on Christmas DayHe actually received quite a lot of stuff, but the big hits were: a ridable plastic zebra (which makes noises when he moves it), from my wife's sister and her husband; a toy cell phone (which makes noises when he opens it), from the Beautiful Woman's mother and father; and a xylophone (which makes noises when he hits it -- notice a theme, here?) from my parents.

By the time we got to New Year's Eve, the three of us were pretty well worn out; we had dinner at a nice Indian restaurant, then went to bed.

January usually marks the beginning of the busy season for me. We have several seasonal festivals whose sites need to be updated, plus the usual stream of changes and updates. This year, however, the season started early: back around the middle of October. We have two major projects, in addition to the usual busy season items. So, the year is off to an interesting start.

Baby's first scar

Theron, with band-aid, eating naan on New Year's Eve

Okay, so this isn't the sort of milestone that parents actually look forward to. In keeping with the basic theme of this journal*, I'm going to talk about it anyway.

About two weeks ago, owing (I think) to a combination of new shoes and his latest growth spurt, Theron tripped and tried to attack the corner of a grandfather clock with his forehead. This produced a sort of triangular puncture wound, which bled a lot. The Beautiful Woman was already taking care of him by the time I got there; we basically just kept direct pressure on the wound until it quit bleeding. Then I put a bandaid on it, and my wife went to the bathroom to throw up.

In retrospect, the most difficult part of all this was getting him to leave the bandaid alone. Once it quit bleeding, Theron was basically okay. (He is, as I may have noted before, pretty good-natured, even when he feels bad. Plus, he's obviously inherited a high pain tolerance.) But, he's going to have a narrow, triangular scar on his forehead.

When he gets older, I'll tell him it makes him look like a pirate. Arr!

Being a Parent means never admitting that you're surprised.
Most of like to think that we live in a sane, orderly world. We may like variety, we may even enjoy danger, but at the end of the day it's nice to be able to kick back without having to worry about whether someone has booby-trapped your chair, or whether there's a bear lurking in your closet.

Sadly, that sense of security - which so many of us take for granted - ends when you become a parent.

I mention this because I just went to fill the tea pot with water, and found that someone -- or some thing -- had filled it with bits of chicken.

I like chicken, but not as a flavoring for my tea.

Toddler Jokes
Theron has an interesting sense of humor. I'm not sure how much of it is typical for a boy of his age, and how much is just him, but either way it's interesting.

Theron fwoops
(Click to see video)

Last night, for example, he fwooped.** He was standing in the living room, watching the television (Muppets, of course), and he just... fwooped. Then he giggled, stood up, and fwooped again -- only this time he fwooped forward. Then backwards, over and over, giggling each time. It was very deliberate, and very silly, and had a certain Vaudeville quality... well, don't take my word for it. Watch the video.

The night before that... no, let me set the scene first. We're getting Theron ready for bed. He's already finished watching his nightly Muppets allotment, and I've just finished feeding him. The next steps in the process are a bath, followed by a few books and brushing his teeth. Then he puts the wombat and the koala into his crib, and I put him in with them.

At this point, however, Theron is still sitting in his chair. His face and hands are covered with mush, as usually happens when I try to feed him. He motions for the water bottle - blue plastic, mostly full, and having one of those tops that you slide up so you can squirt water into your mouth. I hand it to him, and he tilts it up and drinks a bit (without any apparent difficulty), and spills a little on his shirt (also without any apparent difficulty). I take the bottle back, set it on the table, and give him another spoonful of mush.

This is when a sinister and mysterious force*** lifts the water bottle and squirts Theron in the chest with it. Theron thinks this is hilarious. ("Mo!") So the bottle tilts slowly forward, and he gets squirted again -- this time in the shoulder. This repeats through two full refills of the water bottle, until the boy (and much of the floor) is soaking wet, and Theron is laughing so hard he can barely breathe.

It is therefore possible that the chicken bits in the tea pot were some toddlerish attempt at revenge. If so, I can only say that he deserves the opportunity.

And now, more gratuitous pics and video.
As usual, click to see the full-size images:

Theron rides his new Zebra

Theron drives my car

Theron the Telephonist (video)

* "Parenthood Without Romantic Illusions." Or possibly, "Why Sleep Would Be A Wonderful Thing." Or anything else I decide should be the theme, really. "Michael Mock Likes To Rant" is another good possibility.

** Fwoop - v. (Oe. Fwoopen 'to fall down in a humorous fashion' prob. from OHG. Fwupen, to slip on goat droppings - c.f. 'splut'.) 1. To throw oneself onto a soft surface; 2. to fall in a deliberate or premeditated manner, usually for comic effect.

*** Me.