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Arrr, Matey!
October 21, 2009

After last year's Halloween costume debacle, we decided to aim for something more... adjustable. So, unless he objects, Theron will be a pirate for Halloween. This way we can put him in anything from a light shirt and ragged pants (effectively shorts) all the way up to a full coat, and it'll still be good.

Plus, that will give me a chance to dress as a pirate as well. Any costume where I get to wear a sword is a good costume.

Balloon Festival
Shortly after the last entry, Theron went with his mother and his Nana to the local Balloon Festival. This was a great and momentous event for a small boy. He got to see hot air balloons, and he got to see the balloons light up with fire. He also asked for, and received... how to describe this? ...a balloon shaped like a hot air balloon. From top to bottom, it's almost as tall as he is, and it's made of fairly solid plastic. (It was never meant to actually float; there's a ring on the top so that you can hang it from ceiling or some similar arrangement.) In our house, it mainly gets used for bonking things - Theron grabs the basket end, and swings the big 'balloon' end around.

Daddy* missed this particular adventure. Theron went with his mother, and Nana and Pop. I was originally going to have a little down-time at home, and then go pick them up; but they decided to leave a bit early and missed the traffic jam that usually follows the Balloon Festival.

Sick again, Part Whatever
Theron came down with something a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure what it was, exactly, but he was running a fever and feeling completely miserable. After a day of nearly constant tantrums (full-on Nuclear Meltdown tantrums, in which the Beautiful Woman could do absolutely nothing right), he spent fifteen minutes being unbelievably sweet and cute for everyone at my work. When we left, he immediately reverted to his meltdown, and soon after fell asleep in the car.

This being a Thursday night, we were having dinner with my parents. So I carried him into the house and put him down on the bed, and he slept for about three hours. (The adults took the opportunity to eat, talk, and unwind.) When he woke up, I gave him some Tylenol and eventually managed to get some food into him. This was done despite some fairly determined resistance on his part.

With the Tylenol in his system, he suddenly became a bright, happy, bouncy boy. He ran around the living room, jumped on the couch, barked like a puppy dog, and generally had a great time until we tried to put him in bed. He did eventually go to sleep, but not without (again) offering some serious resistance, first.

That was pretty much the pattern for entire weekend, and most of the following week. He's mostly recovered now, though I don't think his energy is quite where it was. Also, the Beautiful Woman caught whatever Theron was suffering from, so they were both sick at the same time. (Quite possibly I was too; it didn't hit me as hard, but I certainly haven't been at my best.)

I mention this mainly for the benefit of anyone who's been reading this journal over the long term. I talked about being sick a lot in the first two years, and not so much lately. It's not that we stopped getting sick; it's just that after a while you get used to it. It's all part of the joy of parenting, really.

The Age of Resistance
Theron has reached a new developmental milestone. He is now refusing, outright, to do things that he doesn't want to do. Some of this may be a result of having been sick, but it doesn't seem to be going away now that he's feeling better. More likely, it's another stage, and we're stuck with it.

Mostly it's manifesting around bedtime. He usually isn't very enthusiastic about heading off to the bathtub, or getting into his bed, but until recently he mostly just asked to do other things: watch another movie, get some apple juice, spin the egg chair around. He was, in other words, bargaining.

Now he's just refusing.
Daddy: "C'mon, Theron. Time to get in the bath."
Theron: "No. It's not time to get in the bathtub." (Then he went and got in the egg chair, and pulled the cover down to make it harder for me to reach him.)

We're dealing with it fairly well, I think - and Theron is pretty good about picking his battles, at least when he feels well - but this is going to get very tiresome, very quickly. On the other hand, it would have been foolish to expect my genetics (and/or my wife's) to produce highly biddable offspring. And I certainly can't complain about having a strong-willed, self-directed child - not when we've done so much to encourage those qualities.

Speech and Interaction
A while back, Theron moved up to the next "grade" in his Mother's Day Out/Preschool program. He didn't have any trouble with the transition, but he is now dealing with a different teacher and a different set of expectations. The new teacher has expressed some concerns about him, mainly focused on the fact that he sometimes doesn't react when she addresses him (or, possibly, that he doesn't always do what she says).

At first, she thought there might be something wrong with his hearing. I'm dubious; it doesn't take much in the way of off-the-cuff tests to demonstrate that he can hear me just fine under most circumstances. We're arranging to have him tested anyway, just in case it's something odd or subtle. They apparently had someone in to do hearing tests on the kids at the school, but the results were inconclusive: they couldn't get Theron to participate. (Apparently, the test involved putting headphones on his ears, which he detests.)

Still, even his teacher seems to be moving away from the idea that he has any trouble hearing. Her current theory is that he has "communications and social" difficulties. Once again, I'm dubious. This is the same child who came up to me in the kitchen a week ago, with his hands cupped around his eyes, and told me: "I have binoculars. Binoculars is like two telescopes."

I will grant, without argument, that his enunciation still leaves a bit to be desired. This sometimes makes it a bit difficult to figure out what he's saying, especially if he offers a comment with no context (and that is, increasingly, the case). For example, the other night he told us that he wanted to watch the movie "Sky High," and it took us five tries to decipher it. (He used to call it "the Super Hero movie", which accounts for part of the confusion.) Still, I don't think this qualifies as a developmental problem; it's just that he talks like a three-year-old.

No, I think the main problem is that this particular teacher just doesn't know how to deal with this sort of child. I don't mean that as any sort of slight to her personal or professional abilities; it's just that she's not as good a fit for him as his last teacher was. I think she's used to dealing with slightly older children, and I think she's better with girls than boys - though I could be wrong about both of those details. The Beautiful Woman, in the course of getting some paperwork, watched this teacher set Theron down at a table, give him a worksheet and a crayon, and tell him: "Okay, trace the shapes. Don't scribble, trace the shapes." Then she went on to the next child. That's not necessarily a bad approach in general, but it's not going to work well for Theron.

Frankly, I suspect he doesn't pay attention to her because he doesn't find her that interesting.

Still, we'll get some testing done; better safe than sorry. Overall, though, I'm just not that worried about the idea that a three-year-old boy doesn't instinctively and immediately take to a structured classroom environment. That's not what they do - and that isn't just my opinion; there's quite a bit of clinical research to back me up.

Daddy's New Game
Recently, I've been playing through Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus. Those of you who know the game will recognize that I am several years behind. For those of you who do not... the game is a sequel to another, even older video game (Final Fantasy VII), which features a collection of interesting characters. In the original game (and the movie that follows it, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), the main protagonist is Cloud, an angsty fellow who spends a fair amount of time riding around on motorcycles and fighting with a ludicrously oversized sword.

In the original game, a small group joins Cloud to help save the world. The main character in Dirge of Cerberus is one of these: Vincent Valentine. Vincent isn't even one of the core group; in fact, he's an optional character. It's possible to play, and win, the original game without ever encountering Vincent Valentine.

The characters in these games have their own distinct clothing styles and weapons. Vincent's a tall, gaunt fellow with long, tangled black hair. He wears an outfit of tight black leather, with a ragged red cloak over it. His feet and left hand are covered by boots and a gauntlet of (what appears to be) golden metal armor. In the original game, you find him in a coffin beneath a sort of haunted house; he's been there for at least a couple of decades. His particular weapon is a pistol. So, the current game involves quite a lot of running around and shooting things, with the option to customize your weapon with new parts and accessories.

Each of the characters also has their own special high-power attack, called a Limit Break. In the original game, you could only perform a Limit Break after the character in question had taken a certain amount of damage. The new game is set up for a very different kind of play, so you use an item to trigger your Limit Break instead. Vincent's Limit Break is a little odd, even for a game where every character's technique is different: when you activate his Limit Break, he turns into a monster. (As he gets more powerful, he turns into new and different monsters. When you unlock his ultimate monster form, he says: "Ahh! I'm becoming less human!")

This is not entirely age-appropriate for Theron. At least, I don't think so. Theron, however, has a very different view of the matter. He wants to watch "Daddy's Scary Game", and doesn't seem especially perturbed to see me shoot things, get shot by things, or even confront some rather large and intimidating monsters. He actually likes watching me turn into a monster. And when my Limit Break runs out, and Vincent returns to human form, he's okay with that, too.

Remember, Vincent wears a long, ragged cloak. And we all know what sort of people wear cloaks, right? With that in mind, here is Theron's summary of the game: "Oh, look. The monster turned back into a superhero!"

Small Boys and Guns
On Friday we went shopping for a birthday present for a young lady who was about to turn five. This involved dragging Theron up and down the toy aisles in Target, which is something of a dangerous activity even if you don't have a child in tow. Theron looked at all manner of interesting toys - including a couple that I wouldn't have minded getting for myself - but what really captured his heart was a Nerf gun.

So we got it for him.

This has turned out to be the triumph of the season. It's a single-shot pistol, and fires little foam nerf-darts with suction cups on the end. To cock it, you grab a ring on the back and pull it out until it clicks. I think that Theron can manage that on his own, but he hasn't quite figured out the angle. Right now, he just brings it to me and says, "I need pull." This has actually worked out pretty well, since it means that he's pretty much only shooting his darts when he's supervised.

Theron has also been pretty good about following rules with his new gun. He's only allowed to shoot it in the living room. (That's mainly so we can keep track of the darts.) Also, he's allowed to shoot Mommy and Daddy, but not in the face or head. We may add other rules as we need them; so far, for example, he hasn't shown any interest in trying to shoot the cats.

In addition, once we figured out where to put the batteries, the gun includes a little light. It's sort of like a laser sight, except it's not a laser; just a narrow red flashlight. So when he's unsupervised, he can still play with it; he just pulls the trigger to flash the light around.

This morning, one of the cats discovered the light, which led to a whole new game - the traditional round of Cat Chases Light - after which Theron brought every single flashlight, spinning light toy, or glowy thing to show to the cat. In a dark room, he sat in front of the rather intimidated cat and instructed, "Watch this, Kitty-cat!" Then he would turn on the light and a mad cat chase would ensue.

All in all, it was a big hit.

I think that covers the high points of the last month, so we'll proceed from here to the usual assortment of pictures and video:

A Balloon shaped like a balloon

Playing with Water in the Back Yard

Bubbles Ate My Arm


Daniel Boone Reborn I

Daniel Boone Reborn II

A Flashlight in the Dark

* who has clearly not gotten over speaking of himself - erm, myself - in the third person.