Words and Numbers
will be twenty-two months old on April seventh. We're
closing in on his second birthday; I guess we should
start making plans for that.
He's tremendously active, insatiably curious, and very
self-directed. These traits mean he is hardly the
picture of the Obedient Child -- you know, the one who
should be seen but not heard. This would be a tragedy,
if that was the sort of child I wanted to raise. As it
happens, I like active, curious, and self-directed
children. So this is all to the good.
He's also getting bigger. I didn't think that would
really be news, but it keeps requiring us to make new
adjustments. He can reach higher, and stretch farther,
and climb over more things. And, of course, if he
charges headlong into his father, he can head-butt me in
a particularly painful area.
Language and related skills are coming along nicely. The
development is incremental, but those increments seem to
come fairly rapidly. I'll wait until a little closer to
publication time to fill in the details; anything I
write now (middle of March) will be outdated by the time
I'm ready to publish this.
My wife tells me that by the time Theron turns two, he
should have at least fifty words which are
comprehensible to a typical listener. I'm not completely
sure, but I think he's nearly there already. We tried to
count, and got to at least twenty off the top of our
heads. He's also starting to string words together; he
can say "Elmo backpack" or "Da-da Hot Tea" quite
What did they do with the sun?
One of the things which happened this month was the
conversion to Daylight Savings Time. I suppose it's
possible that someone, somewhere, benefits from this;
but for me it basically means a week of jetlag, just
when I'm trying to avoid getting sick.
We were, however, warned in advance. This allowed us to
start moving Theron's bedtime around, so that by the
time DST finally arrived, he was already on the new
I wish I'd been doing the same thing for myself.
Meanwhile, I'm driving to work in the dark, wondering
where the sun has gone.
What is this strange white stuff falling from the
Shortly after the last journal entry went up, it snowed.
Now, I realize there are parts of the country where snow
in March is normal. There are even places where it snows
more often than not -- regardless of the month. We,
however, live in Texas. We get snow about once every
five years. And, just to add to the weirdness, it was
seventy degrees a day or so earlier -- and a few days
after, as well.
Because this was so unusual -- and because nobody in
Texas knows how to deal with any kind of water on the
road, frozen or not -- I was permitted to leave work
early. As a result, I pulled into the driveway just
behind my wife and child, and we all got out at the same
time. Theron came out of the garage and joined me in the
driveway, where the snow was falling. I told him it was
snow, and he just sort of looked around. So I picked
some up and handed it to him.
He looked at it, dropped it, and stomped on it. Then he
grinned. So I scooped up another handful
and offered it to him. He kept grinning but didn't take
it. So I tossed it at his belly. It hit, bounced, and
fell... and he stomped on it. Then he looked at me and
So I scooped up some more and set it on top of his toy
truck. He stomped on it again and asked for more. This
went on for several minutes, until I herded him into the
back yard so I could unload my car. Then I followed the
trail of teeny white footprints until I found him again.
Apparently the Beautiful Woman took him out back again
the next morning, and got some pictures of him in the
I can feed myself, thank you very... say, do I like
We've hit an intriguing stage in Theron's eating habits.
Following the last bout of illness, the Snorkleberry
quit letting me feed him. (This is actually the second
time he's done this; the first time was about a year
ago.) So, he is not only weaned; he is also completely
responsible for feeding himself.
(I don't mean to imply that he's been left to forage; we
still provide food for him. It's just that he won't let
us transfer any of the food from the plate to his
At the same time -- and quite possibly as a result of
the same illness; it was a very nasty tummy bug -- he
has gotten a lot more finicky about what he will and
will not eat. It's not just that he's suddenly become a
picky eater, though that's partly true. It's more a
matter of him not remembering whether or not he likes
particular foods, and being unwilling to sample them in
order to find out. So, for example, at dinner the other
night I offered him some pasta from my plate. He's had
it before, and liked it. This time, he steadfastly
refused it; he fed me the first three pieces instead of
eating them himself. But once I finally got him to
nibble on a piece, he proceed to devour as much pasta as
I put in front of him.
One side effect of this is that he's eating less,
particularly right before bed. As a result, he's woken
up in the wee hours of the morning (on several
occasions) simply because he's hungry. Once fed, he goes
back to sleep. I'm thinking that we should get one of
those gerbil-feeders, fill it with crackers, and hang it
on the side of his crib. Then he could just feed
himself when he wakes up like that.
Anything so I don't have to get out of bed, really.
The joy of baby showers
Theron tries his uncle's horse.
Last weekend, my wife and her mother flew to Georgia to
throw a baby shower for my sister in law (wife's
sister). They took the Boobelly with them, leaving me to
the joyous life of a bachelor.
They returned to find me in bed with the TV and the game
consoles, passed out beneath a drift of junk food
wrappers, stale pizza, DVD cases, and beer bottles. The
cats were out of food, the seat was up on the toilet,
and the television was the only light in the house.
Okay, not really. My weekend was fairly quiet, and
marked by a smorgasbord of Bad Horror Flicks, all of
which I managed to watch in a single sitting.
I'd forgotten what that was like.
Apparently the shower went off very well, and everyone
had a good time. With lots of new adults around, Theron
spent his time eating junk food, not getting much sleep,
and enunciating so he would be understood. What the hey,
it was probably good for him.
I'd like to talk a little more about the baby shower and
the weekend in Georgia, since this journal is supposed
to be about Theron's life rather than mine; but since I
wasn't there, I don't feel qualified to comment.
You never really catch up
One of the things I was told before I became a
parent -- and again shortly after Theron was born -- was
that you never really get settled in to being a parent.
Just about the time you figure out a kid's patterns, he
dumps old ones or picks up new ones or reinvents himself
in some fashion, and you're back to trying to figure out
what he's doing and how to deal with it.
Sometimes this is a new appearance of an old behavior.
Theron, for example, has recently returned to his
delightful quest -- abandoned months ago -- to hunt down
our cats and sit on them. The cats, of course, have
never really revised their policy of fleeing in terror
when Theron approaches, so they were more prepared for
this than I was.
Similarly, Theron is currently trying to climb anything
he can find. This isn't entirely unexpected; I'm pretty
sure that the only reason he wasn't doing this earlier
was lack of skill. He climbed things, but he was limited
by being short and relatively new to climbing. So he
used to climb only a few specific things, and usually in
pursuit of some other goal -- like turning on the tap
water. Now that he's a bit taller and has had more
practice, he's expanded his scope. He'll climb anything.
This morning he climbed onto a chair, then from there
onto our table. He crossed the table and climbed back
down a second chair. "Because it was there," one
Sometimes, however, the behaviors are completely new.
One odd example, though harmless, is that Theron will
now clap his palm to his forehead to display dismay or
disapproval. I have no idea where he gets this; my best
guess is that he picked it up from Mr. Noodle, a
character on Elmo's World (a Sesame Street spinoff).*
And sometimes, of course, he'll combine several
developments into one troublesome package. Our bedtime
routine has, for the past week, been interrupted by the
fact that Theron will no longer sit still while we read
to him. He prefers to climb up on the air filter and
jump off. (And he says "HOP!" while he does it.) We've
coped by reading the books to him anyway, and keeping as
much of the rest of the routine as possible, but it was
a very sudden and unexpected change of habits.
I'm not looking forward to remaining in a constant state
of wary adaptation for the next sixteen years. I
like my routines. I like to establish patterns
that work, and then stick with them.
That pattern, however, is clearly not going to work.
Baby's Second Easter
Theron usually goes to church with my parents. This, as
I've probably mentioned before, works out well for
everyone. The churchfolk are charmed by my son, who is
-- of course -- irresistibly cute. My parents get to
show off their grandson. My wife gets to sleep in and
work on her grading. I, of course, get to nap or write
-- whichever seems most urgent. And Theron gets a chance
to hear music, explore the pews, smile at people, and
possibly visit the nursery, which has toys not available
anywhere else. Afterwards, he gets to play on the
So, really, everybody's good. There is, I suppose, some
possibility that Theron is being introduced to
Christianity in the midst of all this. Frankly, I'm not
sure it matters. He's still working on how to make
words. Learning about the nature of The Word is probably
This year, however, my parents went to Tulsa for the
Easter weekend. (My mom has family up there.) So, on
Sunday, my wife and I gathered up the Juggernaut and
went to church with my mother-in-law instead.
Now, I was raised Episcopalian. This is widely
considered "Catholic Lite", and the services involve a
certain amount of standing, sitting, kneeling, mouthing
responses, and pretending like you're paying attention;
it's all very formal and decorous. The first time I
visited a church where the congregation held their hands
up to pray, I about freaked out.
Fortunately, my wife's side of the family belong to the
Disciples of Christ. This is a bit different from the
Episcopal church. For example, Episcopalians baptize
babies and then confirm 'em when they're old enough to
understand what it means -- usually around age thirteen
-- while Disciples dedicate the babies but don't
actually baptize 'em until they're old enough to
understand what they're doing. (If that sounds like the
difference is mainly a matter of semantics, well, that's
how it sounded to me, too.)
So, yeah, there are some differences, but they aren't
really important. They are not, in other words, the
sorts of things that might send me into some sort of
panicky culture shock. Institutionally, in fact, the
Disciples of Christ are actually a more tolerant
organization than the Episcopal Church is (though
individual churches vary, of course). The Episcopal
Church has official positions on any number of issues,
but acknowledges that individual parishioners may
disagree with them; the Disciples, on the other hand,
have no official position on many of those
same issues. They prefer to leave it up to the
conscience of the individual believer, which I rather
This morning's service began with a couple of hymns, and
a few words on the nature of the holiday. Then everyone
came forward for communion. Immediately beyond the folks
with the bread and wine, there was a collection of
flowers, and the progression continued by picking up a
flower and attaching it to the cross. (This was done by
inserting the stem into a bit of wire netting, which
covered the plain wood cross. It's essentially invisible
at a distance, but really pretty when the flowers are
all in place.) Theron had a good time carrying the
flower up, and squawked loudly when the Beautiful Woman
put his flower on the cross. We gave him a second
flower, and he made us step back so he could put it on
the cross himself. The kid has very definite opinions
about how things should be done...
Anyway, this was followed by another hymn, and then they
turned us loose for a potluck breakfast and an egg hunt.
Theron ate a lot of ham, and had a good time taking the
plastic bunny out of the glass container on our table
(the centerpiece), and putting it back in.
He had a good time hunting for eggs, too. There were
plenty, and he filled his basket. Then he wandered off
towards the play equipment. I stopped him to point out
another egg in the grass nearby. "Hey Theron, what's
that?" He looked up at me, said "Egg," and kept walking.
I guess he was done.
My only real concern with all this is that Theron will
come to view the Episcopal church as "normal" and the
Disciples church as "that funky place with the bunnies
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as applied to parenting
Okay, so this is more of a journal than an advice
column. Yes, it's mainly just an account of the first
years of my Podling's life, and yes, I mainly put it
together for the benefit of friends and family that we
don't get to see in person very often. Granting all
that, I have tried to make one or two
useful points. One of those, of course, is simply that
becoming a parent isn't something to be undertaken
Once you do become a parent, though, there are some very
simple things which can make your life easier or more
difficult. It's surprisingly easy to forget them,
especially when you're stressed out or sick or just
feeling overwhelmed. So consider this a reminder, as
much for myself as anyone else.
But first, one more anecdote. Theron has, like all
babies and small children, suffered through quite a bit
of diaper rash in the course of his young life. When he
was a baby, we used the stuff the hospital had given**
us, which is called Desitin and works fairly well. Later
on -- I think on someone's recommendation -- we picked
up a tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste, which smells funny
but works rather better. Oddly enough, though, the stuff
that works best is a little tube that came in a pack of
Burt's Bees baby stuff -- from the baby shower, I think.
So, a couple of weeks ago, my wife puts some diaper rash
cream on Theron's butt. He's suffering a fairly bad bout
of rash, so she uses the Burt's Bees stuff. I'm watching
this out of the corner of my eye while doing other
things -- activating the vaporizor, or picking out a
book, or something -- when something occurs to me.
There is one small problem with the Burt's Bees items.
They're a matched set: cream, soap, toothpaste, and
something else. They all look alike. More to the point,
I'm fairly certain that the last time I saw that
particular tube, it was in Theron's daypack -- and I
don't remember seeing the Beautiful Woman retrieve it.
So, sensing the potential for trouble with a parent's
well-honed instincts, I ask: "What are the odds that you
just covered our son's butt with toothpaste?"
My wife stops, picks the tube up from the bed, looks at
it... and starts taking the diaper back off.
We washed it off with a wet washcloth, put some cream
from the right tube on in its place, and
gave Theron a fresh diaper. The only noticeable effect
of the toothpaste treatment was that, for one night, my
son's butt was minty fresh.
So, the moral of the story: Parents have needs, too.
There are things you need to take care of, for yourself,
if you're going to be a good parent. Once you get past
the basics -- food, clothing, and shelter -- the next
most important thing is sleep. A well rested-parent is
more alert, healthier, more patient, and more sane. Do
whatever you have to do to get enough rest.
Otherwise, you too could find yourself putting
toothpaste where it never ought to go.
As usual, we'll close the entry with some pictures:
Theron on a playground in Georgia
Theron in the Atlanta Airport
Theron eats rice
* Come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure where he
found his interest in Elmo, either. His mother and I
have been carefully cultivating the Muppet Show and few
other things -- mainly things that don't drive us crazy.
But a few weeks back, the Podling displayed a sudden,
powerful interest in all things Elmo. I guess he just
'picked it up on the street', the way kids do these
** In the sense that hospitals tend to use the word
'given', which can be translated as "handed over with
the firm intention of sliding twice its actual cost onto
our bill as some sort of exorbitant line-item."