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Elmo Rules Our World

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Theron will be one month short of his second birthday in May. For his growth/accomplishments, you can basically check last month's entry and add "...only more so." He's using words, only more so. He's stringing words together into the beginning of sentences, only more so. ("Eh-mo tee-bee") He's climbing things and jumping back down with great abandon.

Eh-mo Tee-bee
I mentioned in the last entry that Theron has developed a strong love of all things Elmo. This has, if anything, actually gotten worse since then. He is now quite capable of demanding that we turn on Eh-mo tee-bee (Elmo TV). He is capable of demanding that in increasing strident tones, and throwing a fit if we refuse to comply.

This is not an entirely bad thing. If your almost-two year old is going to become intensely obsessed with something, he or she could do a lot worse than Elmo. It is, after all, reasonably educational; and (far more importantly) it has enough little in-jokes and odd references that it won't drive a parent completely nuts... if he or she happens, hypothetically, to be trapped in the living room for an uninterrupted hour of television watching.

Nevertheless, it's starting to get to me. Each Elmo segment follows a very consistent, predictable formula. First Elmo comes on and invites you to guess what he's wondering about today. Things related to the topic will come in the door. Then there's a little video montage of things related to the topic - animals running around, different kinds of weather, things going up and down, whatever. Then Elmo comes back and tells us that Dorothy (his goldfish) has a question. Then he asks Mr. Noodle (or, more often, Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle). Regardless of which Mr. Noodle you get, he will proceed to answer the question incorrectly until the offscreen shouts of Elmo and various children guide him to the right answer. Elmo then announces that Dorothy wants to ask someone else -- unsurprising, since Mr. Noodle is pretty useless. There's a counting segment, then an e-mail from some other Sesame Street character. Elmo then talks to a child or two, and then decides to ask a baby. After that, Elmo announces that he's still curious, and wants to know where he can learn more. The solution? {Today's topic} TV. After a short cartoon segment, usually musical, the TV turns its itself off. Elmo still wants to learn more, so something topical shows up. ("Want to know more about plants? Why don't you talk to a tree?" says the tree.) Then they sing a goodbye song, and the show is mercifully over.

image of Theron looking pensive Also, it's very important to pick episodes where you get the right Mr. Noodle. Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle, is much more annoying than Mr. Noodle is. Episodes with Mr. Noodle are vastly preferable to episodes with the other Mr. Noodle. If you see what I mean.

The fact that I typed the last two paragraphs entirely from memory should tell you everything you need to know about Elmo's World. Please, please get it out of my brain...

Oh, one other thought on the topic of Elmo:

Something has gone horribly wrong
Theron was supposed to be my minion. I was going to raise him and his eventual sibling(s), train them in the mystical arts of the deadly ninja, and equip them with the latest in cutting-edge cybertechnology. They would then lead my army of genetically-engineered bioroids* and conquer all the nations of the world. (If we can work mecha, monsters, and/or Vast Supernatural Powers into this plan somewhere, so much the better.)

image of Theron exploring flowers Right now, though, the Beautiful Woman and I are doing all the work, and Theron is starting to give the orders. That means that we have the minion/supervillain relationship backwards. Worse, since Theron is hopelessly in thrall to Elmo, it means that we have become Elmo's minions.

This cannot be allowed to continue. The little red furry monster will not be allowed to usurp my plans for world domination. Down with Elmo!

I think we've hit the Terrible Twos
Theron has reached a new level of intellectual development: he can now throw an absolute, wall-eyed, crying-on-the-floor fit if we refuse to give in to his desires. This is, apparently, an early sampling of what we can look forward to for the next year or so. I am assured that this is perfectly normal, and that it's a stage that all children go through.

Be that as it may, I'm going to need better earplugs. Or duct tape. Duct tape might work.

Maybe I should err on the side of caution and get both.

Cat hunting: a catch and release sport
We have three cats: Syn, Claire, and Astrophe. Syn and Claire, who originally belonged to my wife, have a relationship with Theron which might best be described as abject terror. When he enters a room, they either head for high ground, or they leave.

Astrophe, on the other hand, is so utterly starved for affection that he's willing to let Theron approach him. 'Approach', in this context, is actually a euphemism for 'maul'.

Here's what happens:

Step 1. Theron spies Astrophe.
Step 2. Theron says, "Cat!"
Step 3. Astrophe runs. It's not, y'know, fast enough to actually get away. He's just playing hard to get.
Step 4. Theron chases Astrophe, and then sort of falls on him. This is what is colloquially referred to as a "tacklepouncehug". He wraps both arms around the cat, holds him still against the ground, and buries his cheek in the cat's fur. Occasionally, for variety, he'll sit on Astrophe instead.
Step 5. Astrophe wriggles free and moves away; but, y'know, not too far.
Step 6. Repeat until one or the other gets bored.

Night Wakings
So, a new horror has entered our lives... Night Wakings. For the last few weeks, Theron has been waking up at erratic times in the small hours of the morning. This has made sleeping at night much less restful for all of us. I'm not entirely sure what's causing it, but it started around the same time as an inner-ear infection. Unfortunately, it continued even after he'd had a full course of antibiotics. We've tried all sorts of solutions -- food, water, patting his back, rubbing his tummy, Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin, Mucinex, extra blankets, more white noise in his room, acidophilus, and Voodoo. Nothing works.

Last night, Theron managed to combine a night waking (2:15 a.m.) with a full-on, scream-the-house-down, stomp-around-the-crib-and-rattle-the-bars fit. My wife and I tag-teamed him, but despite all our efforts he didn't actually go back to sleep until 4:00 a.m.

This morning, the Beautiful Woman took him back to the pediatrician. Apparently his ear infection didn't completely clear up, even after a full ten days of antibiotics. So now he's on a different antibiotic; plus, we have pain-relieving ear drops to try on him.

If that doesn't work, I'm going to see if I can summon the devil. Forget Dominion Over All The Kingdoms Of The Earth, I'd sell my soul for a good night's sleep and a chance to get some writing done. Well, okay, maybe not sell. A simple lend/lease arrangement ought to cover it.

Career Goals for post-toddlers
Theron is basically a good kid. Nevertheless, he's a little boy. Even when he doesn't mean to be, he's kind of destructive. A surprisingly large part of our work as parents involves keeping his fingers away from sharp objects, keeping him from knocking over anything we value, and preventing him from swinging a broom into the screen of the television set.

I think I've figured out his first career goal, though. When he grows up, he wants to be the Tasmanian Devil.

Nothing good will come of this.

Morality is an acquired trait
image of Theron with a Hippo Head on his hand Theron's bedtime routine is fairly well established. It has metamorphosed, on several occasions, to match new behaviors or developments on Theron's part, but we've tried to keep it as consistent as possible. It starts with a little television -- usually Muppets, or (more recently) Elmo -- then a bath, then a couple of books, tooth-brushing, another book or two, the ceremonial reading of Goodnight Moon, turning out the lights (Theron does this) and then Putting The Boy In Bed.

Theron is smart enough that he has long since figured out that Goodnight Moon is basically the last thing that happens before he gets put in bed. As a result, he has been known to object -- strenuously -- to having it read to him.

Last night** he took this to a new level. When I started reading Goodnight Moon, he threw his toothbrush at my head. It was a glancing blow, but it left a toothpaste-y glob of saliva just above my right ear. The toothbrush continued past and disappeared under the crib. I looked up and said, "Theron, no."

Theron's response to this? He ambles around me, crawls under his crib, comes back out with the toothbrush, and sets it gently in my lap. I said, "Thank you, Theron. That's much better." Then we finished the book.

I'm not sure, but I think that this is how kids learn not to do bad things.

More first experiences
image of Theron in a pirate shirt. Arrr! Owing to my wife's desperate*** need to get out of the house, I took everyone to Sandy Lake Park late on a Saturday afternoon. (It's www.sandlylake.com, but I'm not going to create an actual link because their website looks like it was built in 1992 and has a regrettable tendency to play music at online visitors.) This is, basically, a small amusement park on the northwest edge of Dallas. Despite the deficiencies of its website, the park itself is actually a great place to take a small child. (Actually, it's a good 'children of all ages' sort of place; they have an arcade and a pool, and a selection of rides for both younger and older children.) As an added bonus, it's very reasonably priced.

So, the Podling has now been on his first roller coaster (just a little one -- it would nearly fit in our garage -- with three ups and three downs) and his first carousel. His mother and I stood on either side of him during the carousel ride, and he made us go back and do it again after it had finished. Also, midway through the second time, he took his hands off the horse's pole, and grinned at me.

(We could spend a lot of time arguing over where he gets these daredevil tendencies. My wife claims they obviously come from my side of the family, while I hold firmly to the -- obviously correct -- position that it's all very mysterious, really.)

He's ridden the little circling cars ride, and the little circling boats ride. He's gone around the park on their train, and seen the goats and the peacocks. (The rabbit was hiding.) He is, unfortunately, too small to be taken on the paddle-boats, but he had a great time and he wasn't freaked out by any of it. When we left he was yelling "Boat! Boat!" at the top of his lungs (and directly into my ear, to boot). All in all, I'd say it was a hit.

Unfortunately, the battery on our camera seems to be dying, so we don't have any pictures. This is a shame, because the grin on his face was sight to behold.

As usual, here are some more pictures to finish the entry. The first two (where he's beside the kitchen sink) are actually from last month.

image of Theron standing over his mess  image of "Hippo-Hand" Theron

Theron plays with water.

  Small Boys are messy!

Fear my hippo hand!

image of Theron in boximage of Theron at the door to the Boximage of Theron and his parents at a Baby Swim Class
"This is my box.
I can see the TV from in here."
"Don't worry,
I can leave any time."
Swim class...

* "biological androids" - organic robots, basically.

** This is actually a different "last night" than the one mentioned in the Night Waking section, above. I don't actually sit down and write these journals in one day, and I'm too lazy to go back and make the internal timing consistent.

*** Really, really desperate. Desperate in a "if we don't get out of the house, I will do Bad Things to you with the garden shears" sort of way. Desperate in an "imminent danger of fire and chaos" kind of way. Like, "Oops, we just lost Tokyo" -- that kind of desperate.