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Soon To Be A Brother
(March - April, 2010)

It's the middle of March (or it was when I started writing this), so Theron is now 3.75 years old. He's been attending his new school since January, and seems to really like it. His language use and social skills have really blossomed; I don't know how much of that should be credited to his school, and how much would have happened anyway, but I'm glad to see it. In addition, he's starting to put things together in some really intriguing ways.

Bye-bye, Bouncy Place (March 14, 2010)
Yesterday was Sunday, so I dropped Theron off at church with my parents. This happens every Sunday, and it gives my wife time to grade and me time to relax (or, in this case, do housework). Usually, Theron goes home with my parents, and the Beautiful Woman and I drive down to have dinner with them in the evening. Yesterday, my parents already had dinner plans, so I went down to pick Theron up a bit early.

Since we still had a bit of time to kill, I asked Theron if he wanted to go to the park, or if he'd rather go to the Bouncy Place. He considered, and told me: "Bouncy Place." So, we got in the car and drove there...

Only to find it locked. And not just locked, mind you. It was completely dark, and there was a note on the door suggesting that not only was the place closed, but that anyone who needed more information should call such-and-such attorney. There was another sticker on the door advising them that their uniform-cleaning service still had some of their uniforms.

Theron pulled on the door, found that it was locked, and gave me this heart-wrenching look of disappointment. I said, "Uh oh. It looks like the Bouncy Place is closed."

Theron pulled on the door again, and said: "The Bouncy Place is locked. We have to come back when someone will unlock the door."

I agreed, and we got back in the car and went to the park. The day was beautiful (the only reason I didn't want to be outside was that all of our allergies have gone completely insane), and there were roughly a bajillion and a half kids on the playground. Theron played happily, and even interacted a bit with a slightly older boy whose name appeared to be Xenon.*

Later that night, as I was putting the boy in bed, he looked up at me. "The Bouncy Place was locked," he told me. "We went to the park."

I said, "That's right. The Bouncy Place was locked, so we went to the park - because the park does not have doors."

I could see the gleam in his eyes as he considered that. "That would be funny," he said.

I nodded.

He continued: "That would be funny if the park had doors and they were locked."

I agreed, and we talked a little more, and then he went to sleep. But I was really impressed, because he completely got it.

I may have done too well
Theron holding a Transformer at his school
Theron watches a lot of movies. Actually, let me rephrase that. It's not that he watches movies all the time, it's that when he finds something he likes, he watches it over and over and over... and over. So one of my ongoing projects has been to find things that he will watch which won't make his parents completely crazy.

One of his current obsessions is Transformers. This is funny to me because, well, that was my childhood. I would have thought we'd moved on by now. Theron, however, is in the process of proving Fundamental Law Of Small Boys #607b: Anything which turns into a giant robot is cool. He plays with the toys. He pretends to turn into a plane. He's watched both of the live-action movies, several times.

Let me stop and digress here, because this is actually pretty funny. Periodically, for reasons known only to himself, Theron turns into an airplane. He does this by lying down on his belly, turning his face towards the ground, and spreading out his arms. He points his fingers forward, and voila! he's a plane. He's done this in the house, on the sidewalk, in the middle of a store...

A few nights ago he did this in the shower. When I asked him if he was ready to get out, he transformed back into a boy (i.e. stood up), said "no," and transformed back into a plane.

The boy is definitely playing by his own rules.

Anyway, because of this interest, he was very fond of the (recent, live action) transformers movies. Now, I enjoyed those in the theater. They weren't great, but they were entertaining. For his part, Theron really likes them** - and when a small boy likes something, he will watch it to death. This is unfortunate, because the more I watch these films, the more I start to loathe them.

So, in an effort to save my sanity, I purchased a set of the early episodes of the Transformers cartoon, along with a copy of the animated movie. This has succeeded brilliantly at weaning they boy away from the live action movies. Unfortunately, it may have succeeded a little too well. Theron completely adored the show, to the point where any attempt to turn it off resulted in a Full-Scale Nuclear Meltdown Temper Tantrum From Beyond The Grave.

This made bedtime something of a difficulty. Hell, it made getting him off the couch to go to school the next morning something of a difficulty. We got him into the bathtub the following night with the threat that if he didn't go, he wouldn't get to watch the movie again for at least a week.

Fortunately, now that he's watched the show 3, 479,876 times (but who's counting, right?), he's settling down a bit. He still wants to watch it again as soon as he finishes watching it, but he will at least let us turn it off without throwing a fit. So we're making progress, really.

Late addendum: Since I wrote that, Theron has actually requested the first live action Transformers film twice. Apparently he likes the helicopter that turns into a robot and blows up most of a military base in the opening scene. So I'm not quite rid of it, I've just added some alternatives.

On a related note, the soundtrack for the original (animated) Transformers movie is absolutely hilarious. It's nothing but power ballads - 80s power ballads - all the way. Rock on!

Video Games as a measure of development
Theron has now reached the point where he can play video games - Star Wars: Battlefront, at least - on his own. There are limits, of course; I have to start the game, and make the menu selections. But once we start selecting sides, he's good to go.

It becomes a little trickier when he wants to play my current game, which is Jade Empire. (Yes, I'm a full generation behind the current gaming consoles.) This is problematic for two reasons.

Jade Empire is a one-player game. That means that if I'm trying to play, there's no way Theron can take part... unless he takes over, in which case there's no way I can play. As a result, I'm pretty much limited to playing after he goes to bed, or if he's out of the house.

The second problem is that Jade Empire is actually a roleplaying game. There's a fair amount of martial-arts fighting and magic, but there's also a lot of interacting with other characters in the game. The other characters speak, which is fine; but to choose how you respond, you have to be able to read. Theron can't read yet - though this may prove to be a great motivational tool - so while he's startling good at the fighting bits, he's absolutely stuck at the interactions.

That won't last forever, though. Sooner or later he's going to take over the console completely. My wife says she's looking forward to finding us in the living room, late some Saturday night in the not-too-distant future, so she can watch our son kick my butt in Halo XVII. I think it's more likely that he's going to want to play on his own, without his crotchety old Dad around to complain about how much better the video games were in my day.

And, actually, that day may come sooner than even I expect. We're already closing in on the point where I can't play video games when Theron is in the house. When he reaches the point of complete self-sufficiency with the gaming console, I won't stand a chance. I'll have to buy another console for my own use. And another television. And a bigger house.

Playing in the Snow
It snowed three times this winter, which is probably some sort of record for Texas. Theron has had a great time with this; he's played outside, made snow angels (and "snow machines") and even had snowball fights. The most recent occasion was a Saturday night, so I drove Theron down to church on Sunday morning in the snow. Theron thought all the snow was hilarious; he kept pointing out things that had snow on them, and then giggling.

I don't really have a lot more description to add here, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Look at all the snow!

Testing the Snowcycle

Giant Snowball o' Doom!

Theron makes a Snow Angel

An Imminent Arrival
My wife is pregnant. Really, really pregnant. Ludicrously pregnant. As I type this - March 31, 2010 - we have only two weeks until the due date.

There is not enough whiskey in the world to soften that realization.

Anyway, Secondborn's name will be Roland, and he's due on April 14. (There was a point early in the pregnancy when I held to the hope that he'd be born April 1, which would have resulted in some very interesting birthdays and probably the eventual need for quite a lot of therapy. It's probably best that things didn't work out that way...)

To get things ready for him, weíve done some pretty serious rearranging of our house. When we first moved in, we turned the master bedroom into the library, put our bed in one of the smaller bedrooms, and turned the other bedroom into my office. When Firstbornís arrival was eminent, we sold off the furniture for my office and replaced it with things for his room. As a result, there were still swords on the walls until shortly after he was born. (I was trying to find a sensible way to store them, which took a bit of time; plus, we were pretty safe until he was able to start moving around and reaching for things.) This time, we didnít have any office areas left to sacrifice, so we moved our bed into the library and started setting up our (former) bedroom as Rolandís room. The master bedroom is still the library****, of course, but now itís our bedroom, too.

Anyone who has cats knows what happens when you make a big change in layout. Move a bunch of furniture around - or move to a new location - and they get kind of freaked out. Someone has just rearranged their territory, and nothing will be right with the world until they get it sorted out again. They stalk around, nerves wound tight, investigating the area for possible threats; they growl at each other and generally behave the way they do when theyíre first establishing dominance. It takes them a while to settle in.

Well... apparently that happens to me, too. Rearranging the house stressed me out; I didnít sleep right for a good three weeks after weíd done it. On top of that, the new configuration wasnít ideal; our bed is now in the master bedroom, and all that extra space gives me a weird sort of agoraphobia.*** Plus, on the first attempt, the headboard of the bed was against the kitchen wall, which acted as an amplifier every time someone opened or closed a cabinet at three in the morning. Oh, and all this also coincides with me dropping out of Kung Fu (because my wife it too ludicrously pregnant to get Firstborn down to bed by herself; he is strong in his resistance to the entire concept and process of Bedtime). So Iím also no longer getting my exercise.

Iíve tweaked the bed arrangement, and itís now workable. Once Roland arrives and our activities regain some sense of rhythm and pattern, it will be better still. Iím pretty sure there are some furniture purchases that will help alleviate the sense that Iím sleeping in the middle of an open field, but Iím also pretty sure that his arrival will bring some unexpected changes in the way we use our house. I want to see how those shake out before I start buying furniture. Also, Roland will almost certainly be delivered by C-section, which means that the Beautiful Woman will be recovering from abdominal surgery - and that doesnít lend itself well to anything except a regular bed.

For her part, the Beautiful Woman is trying to get the house in order, and grading like a fiend. She designed her semester so that almost all of the big grading times would be now. Sheís scheduled to be out for the birth and little bit afterwards, and the rest of the semester (after she goes back) should be fairly low stress. Thatís the hope, anyway.

Honestly, Iím really looking forward to the birth. After all this, it should positively relaxing.

Theron seems to ready, too. I'm not sure he's actually looking forward to it - I don't think it'll be real to him until it happens - but he's as prepared as we can get him. Also, he's pretty adaptable. And he's all ready to teach his new brother about Transformers and Legos.

And now it is Easter
Today is April 4. (So much for getting this entry up in March.) Spring is here, which mostly means that the weather is unpredictable from day to day, and weíre getting a lot of rain. This is Easter. Being, as it is, one of the High Holy Days, there was a lot of pressure to get Theron to various sorts of Easter activities.

So, this morning, Theron awoke to discover that the Easter Bunny had brought him a little basket of stuff. As customs go, this was a new one on me; apparently my wifeís family used to do this. We didnít open everything, as we were in a bit of a hurry to get out the door, but Theron latched on to a little green frog-shaped egg-grabber and refused to leave without it.

I brought him down to his Nanaís (and Poppyís) church, where we had a nice breakfast and then a brief egg hunt. It was brief because the children - while well behaved and very nice - descended on the field of eggs like a swarm of locusts, and picked the area clean in a matter of minutes. Theron made good use of his egg-grabber, and pronounced himself satisfied after about five eggs. (Some of the other kids had as much as twenty or thirty, but Theron just wasnít that worried.) Nana and I had him collect a couple more, just to provide us with photo opportunities. Then I took him back to the car, and we drove down to my parentsí church.

They also had an egg hunt ready to go, this time after the service. So Theron had... pardon me... an egg-citing day. I hung around to get more pictures; the results are included below.

Children like a plague of locusts.
Egg-collecting locusts.
Candy-eating locusts.

I think Iím going to wrap this up now. Thereís a lot more I could say - Theronís development in conversations and social interactions are amazing, heís like a different child from week to week - but I think the Path of Wisdom would be to get this entry up, and try for another after Roland is born.

A few people have wondered how long Iím planning to keep this up. Truth is, I donít really know; Iíd have to say, ďAs long as it interests me.Ē Itís a great way to keep friends and family informed, and itís a lot of fun to write; plus, if I ever write a story featuring children, Iíll have a really nice reference to work from. I plan to give Roland equal time, not just out of fairness, but because I think itíll be interesting to see how raising a second child differs from raising the first.

Iím hoping the word ďrelaxedĒ will feature prominently in those descriptions.

Showing off the Frog

Gathering Eggs with Frog

Balancing on the Cannon

Hanging Rail Swing

Cannon Balance

Towel Philosopher in Contemplation
Climbing Without Fingers
(Video - long load time)

* I really hope I was wrong about that, but I don't think so. The boy's father had that science-geek-turned-hipster look about him. I'll admit that I don't have much room to criticize when it comes to choosing non-traditional names for children, but we did at least try to avoid things that would cause a lot of grief in school.

** He has his own ideas about what's age-appropriate.

*** I like sleeping in relatively enclosed spaces; I donít need a bedroom so much as a lair. My ideal bedroom is basically one of those hotel-tubes that they use in Japan.

**** Though our book collection is probably a third of its former size.