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"I Am Older"
(February 10, 2009)

There isn't really a lot of news to report this time around. Theron continues to develop, but most of the current changes are fairly subtle. His current focus seems to be on language acquisition, but his enunciation is improving steadily as well. He asks rhetorical questions, and often answers them himself. (Tonight, one of the cats went to bed with him. When the cat left the room, I heard this little-boy voice ask: "Where are you, Astrophe? Come back." Last week it was, "Where is Astrophe? I don't know, I don't see him.")

Sometimes, though, he'll ask rhetorical questions of us. This makes it somewhat difficult to tell when he actually wants to know something, as opposed to when he's just playing. If we open a book, and he points to a snail, and asks: "Is that a spider?" ...Well, he knows it's a snail. He's waiting for me to say, "Nooooo... Is it a butterfly?" At which point he'll respond, "Noooo... It's a (s)nail." Similarly, he'll sometimes point to something and ask, "Mommy, what is that?" Sometimes, he really wants to know; but a lot of the time, he already knows the answer.

So, I guess if there's a defining characteristic of this point in his growth - and right now, we're four months shy of his third birthday - it's that I no longer have any clear idea of what he does and does not know or understand. When I need to know if he understands something, I usually just ask him to do it. If he does it, then he obviously understood.

He's still growing, but it's much more slowly now. On the other hand, for the past forty-eight hours he's been constantly hungry (and consequently grouchy and whiney), so I wouldn't be at all surprised if he were about to hit another growth spurt. Even so, as Terrible Twos go, this isn't so bad.

The Terrible Twos
So far, they haven't been so terrible. I don't know, maybe he's just saving it up, but he's generally a sweet and well-behaved kid. That may have something to do with his ability to communicate his wants and needs; there is some evidence that a lot of the temper tantrums that come with this age are a result of children not being able to make themselves understood.

That's not to say that we've had entirely smooth sailing, of course. A firm "No" will send him right into a full-blown meltdown - but that's more a matter of heartbroken crying than defiant screaming. He does a lot of running around, even when the setting isn't really appropriate for it (restaurants, for instance), and maybe we're not as firm as we should be about making him stay put. On the other hand, it's not that hard for one of us to walk around with him, and he generally doesn't want to do things that disturb other people. I think it's easier to distract him than to turn an inappropriate behavior into a battle of wills... but I'm sure there are people who disagree. And, of course, what works for one kid may be useless or even counterproductive with another.

Re-reading that, it sounds hopelessly wishy-washy. We have a system, and it works for us. Leave it at that.

Learning to Cook
Theron has a great love of scrambled eggs, and since it's nearly impossible to cook with him hanging on you, the Beautiful Woman has enlisted his help in preparing him. He doesn't use the stove, of course, but he helps by cracking the eggs into a bowl and stirring them together. My wife cooks them, and he eats them.

This is not as easy as it sounds. He's very good at cracking the shells, but keeping the bits of eggshell out of the bowl is, frankly, a bit of a challenge. All things considered, he'd rather just crumble the shell in his hand, and let the piece fall where they may. Still, he loves it, and he is getting better.


(Click for video)

The Price We Pay as Parents
I realized something as we finally emerged from the holiday season: having a child has changed my perspective somewhat. I used to detest the season - not the holidays themselves, mind you, but the weeks leading up to them - for a variety of reasons: guilt-based advertising, overplayed Christmas carols, incredibly bad driving, and general stupidity. Having Theron in my life has made me realize that there actually are worse things in the world.

Continuing to watch Elmo's Christmas Countdown well into January is one of them.

Fortunately, we've been able to add some alternatives. Theron will happily watch Monsters, Inc., both Ice Age movies, My Neighbor Totoro, and Shrek I and II - both of which, incidentally, he refers to as "Donkey Movie." Apparently the ogre isn't actually the hero.

Anyway, this gives us a much broader selection of films that Theron will watch, but which don't drive us crazy - and the variety means that we're rather less likely to burn out on any given film.

I note, for the benefit of future generations, that it isn't the first viewing that determines a movie's quality. Ohhhh, no. The true test is whether it still retains its flavor when you watch it for the fifty-seventh time.

And then there was croup
In late January, Theron came down with his second case of croup. Croup, if you aren't familiar with it, is a rather nasty little virus (or, really, family of viruses). In children, it causes inflammation of the upper respiratory system which results in difficulty breathing, and a distinctive "barking seal" cough. In addition, they get the usual flu-like symptoms: fever, runny nose, low energy, etc. As with many viruses, it's usually worse at night.

Adults can get this too, by the way. (We both did.) It's a little harder to tell, because the difference in size and shape of air passages means that adults usually don't have the barking cough or the whistling breath. We just get the rest of the flu-like symptoms, which are more than adequately unpleasant by themselves.

Anyway, this time around we recognized the symptoms, so we did as much as we could: gave him a warm bath in a steamy bathroom, and made sure the vaporizer was making his room as humid as a typical rainforest. There isn't really much else to do. It's a virus, so antibiotics are useless; so are most over-the-counter medications. We checked in with the on-call nurse at his pediatrician's office; her instructions were to take him to the emergency room if he seemed to have trouble with both inhaling and exhaling; otherwise we should bring him to the office the next day.

So we put him to bed, and my wife went to bed, and I stayed up playing video games and occasionally checking in on him.

Naturally, around midnight, he started having trouble with his breathing, in both directions. For someone his size, it was a pretty convincing impression of Darth Vader. So I scooped up the boy, my laptop, and a copy of Shrek, and we headed off to the emergency room. I also picked up several coats; it was bitterly cold outside.

The emergency room was very good to us. Theron did his barking-seal cough, and they immediately agreed that, yes, this was obviously croup. So they gave him a steroid to help relax the tissues in his airway, and a little tylenol for his (fairly mild) fever. Then they stuck us in a room, where he breathed water vapor through a face mask while watching Shrek on my laptop. They even brought him a little stuffed animal - a puppy, whom we later christened ER. They also gave us a prescription for more of the steroid.

After a while, Theron started getting wiggly - a sure sign that he was feeling better. So, when I could no longer keep him on the bed (let alone breathing through the mask), I flagged down a nurse and got us discharged. We returned home around three in the morning.

My wife woke up while I was trying to get Theron back into his bed. Deciding that it was her turn to take care of him, she sent me off to bed. She, of course, had slept through the whole thing; she figured out that we'd gone to the emergency room when she discovered that Theron was playing with the plastic hospital ID bracelets on his arm.

I tell this story mainly because it makes me look good: caring parent, watching over child, ready to keep him entertained in the ER, letting my wife get her sleep, etc. But it's also a cautionary tale: if you decide to have children, you will have nights like this.

And one more cautionary tale
Children have teeny little fingers and toes. They're very cute. They even have teeny little fingernails and toenails. Also very cute.

However, because they're so small and thin, they're also quite sharp. This past weekend, Theron managed to stick one of his fingers in his mother's eye. It wasn't deliberate; he was just sticking his hand out. But he managed to scratch - or, more accurately, gouge - her cornea.

This resulted in a trip to an emergency care place, which gave us prescription for pain pills and antibiotic cream. The cream must, of course, be rubbed into my wife's eye at regular intervals. This, as you might imagine, is no fun at all.

The one good side of this is that we were able to walk in and tell the doctor exactly what was wrong. Why? Because this is the second time Theron has done this to the Beautiful Woman. My father tells me that I once did the same thing to him, too.

So, parents: guard your eyes. I recommend wearing safety glasses at all times.

Potty Training? Already?
We had not actually planned to start potty training until Theron turned three - or until he asked for it. There's no point in rushing things, and certainly no point in trying to start before his body is physically/neurologically ready.

That said, we may be starting a few months earlier than we'd planned. Yesterday morning, when my wife was getting Theron out of bed and dressed for his day with his grandparents, she discovered that he'd made it through the night with a dry diaper. When she asked him about this - "Theron, did you go all night with a dry diaper?" - he answered: "I am older." So, apparently, not wetting your diaper at night means you're older.

So, since the topic seems to have come up, I went ahead and let him watch the Elmo Potty Time DVD last night. The video is, of course, perfectly appalling; but the Beautiful Woman assures me that it's one of the better ones out there. (As a side note, in case anyone from Sesame Street is reading this, I would pay serious money to see a DVD of outtakes from when they were making that thing.) After the video was done, I let Theron try sitting on the toilet before I put him in the bath. He seemed to think that was pretty cool.

So... Apparently we're potty training. This is fine, since it's going to be a nice, slow, low-stress approach to the matter. He seems to be interested in it, and I have no problem with keeping him in diapers and showing him how to use the toilet at the same time. We'll see how it goes.



Eating Ice Cream


Perched on a ladder


Very fond of his new mittens