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Little Brothers Are Cute

It’s been a busy few weeks since the last entry. We’re trying to keep up, and to some extent we’re succeeding; the end of the school year is a very mixed blessing. I took a week off, which time was mainly spent cleaning the house and playing with the boys. (It was the last week of Theron’s school, and also the time when my wife grades finals.) I didn’t accomplish much on my own projects, but then I hadn’t really expected to. The real payoff was in spending a lot of time with the family, and perhaps reassuring Theron that Roland’s arrival wouldn’t steal all his attention.

The Beautiful Woman is teaching an evening class this summer, It runs from June 7 to July 8, so she’s about halfway through it. This means a bit of extra work for me - basically, I run home from work and take over the boys so she can go teach - and a lot of extra work for her. However, this also means a bit of extra income for us, which helps with the summer months. (Summer months are kind of lean anyway, and we have bills coming in from Roland’s birth. I understand that in certain unnamed foreign countries, it’s entirely possible to have a baby without throwing your finances in a state of higgledy-piggledy; unfortunately, the U.S. is not so civilized.)

In addition to all this, we threw a fairly large party for Theron’s fourth birthday. As a party, it was highly successful: we held it at the local pool, which also has a playground and a lot of shady, grassy areas (where we set up slip’n’slides and a kiddy pool). The theme was Robots, though that was mainly reflected by a pair of Transformers balloons and a Transformers toy who stood guard over the drinks. We had, I think, about ninety people all told; maybe thirty-five kids. There were only two problems with the event, and fortunately neither of them affected the guests.

The first issue was simply that the whole thing was a lot of work: getting the supplies to the pool; cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill (which was handled adeptly by my father in law); moving the picnic tables into the shade (done by myself and my brother, with help from several others); inflating the kiddy pool (my brother) and sundry slicing, dicing, preparing, and distributing of condiments, plates, and drinks (my wife and her mother). It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect for an event that size.

The second problem was that Theron, after starting the morning looking oddly unenthused, and finally picking up with the arrival of “The Guys” who live next door to us, managed to bonk the bottom of his chin in the middle of the party. That story deserves its own section, though, so I’ll come back to it.

Theron likes being a big brother
This is, of course, an enormous relief to us: Theron really loves being a big brother. He thinks Roland is “so cute”. He sings songs to the baby when the baby cries (and this actually seems to help!). Once, when I was carrying them both from the back bathroom to Theron’s bedroom, Theron looked at Roland and said, “He likes us.”

Theron may revise this opinion when Roland gets old enough to steal his toys, but for the moment we’re just going to savor it.

Roland at seven weeks: a comparison
Roland is coming up on nine weeks old. A couple of weeks ago (when he was at seven weeks), I went back and looked at the entry I wrote for Theron at seven weeks. Now, first of all, that entry is funny. It’s maybe 1/4 developmental stuff, and 3/4 lamenting the fact that suddenly, I have no life.

The developmental stuff is pretty similar. Roland has grown visibly; he wiggles, he squirms, he looks at things. He can hold his head up independently. If you keep him balanced, the can “stand” or at least hold his body up with his legs. He is, in other words, coming along just fine; if you go back to that earlier entry, you can pretty much repeat those observations verbatim.

And the part where having a newborn has reduced my hobby time to a few stolen moments is equally true this time around. It’s just that this time I knew to expect that, and this time we’re doing a better job of rolling with it.

There are some differences. Roland is sleeping better than Theron did - though that may be partly because we're doing things differently. He cries a little more frequently - I think - but he almost never reaches that horrible, air-raid-siren keening that seemed to be Theron's default setting. He's only made my eardrums cringe once; with Theron, they were building up muscle tone in there.

Roland does have a habit of going into a meltdown at about seven o'clock each evening, and nothing we've tried seems to prevent that. Hopefully he'll grow out of it soon. He's already grown out of a lot of gas trouble.

It's probably also worth noting that what he lacks in noise, Roland makes up in spit-up. He's a veritable fountain of smelly white stuff. We cope by changing clothes frequently and showering as often as possible.

Theron turns four
There’s plenty of interesting developmental stuff going on with Theron, too. It’s a little hard to give specifics, because the changes are subtle, but he’s progressively more sophisticated in his conversations.

For example, he told me this morning that he didn’t like snakes.
“Really?” said I. “‘Cause I like snakes. They eat bugs.”
Theron asked, “They don’t eat people?”
“Not usually.”
“Oh. Well in that case, I like snakes.”

Since he has finally turned four, and since he insists on being called a “big boy” now that Roland is in the house, we’re working on his potty training again. The plan is simple: put Theron in big-boy underpants, take him to the potty every two hours, and cheer when he pees. This is helped by the fact that his underpants have Transformers and superheroes on them, and by the fact that most of the kids he knows aren’t in diapers anymore.

The results of this plan have been, well, mixed. Theron is very good about using the potty when presented with one, but he’s still learning how to tell when he needs to go. We’re making progress, but it’s progress that involves a certain amount of extra laundry.

And then, of course, I came into the living room last week to find that... well, let's back up a bit. Theron's bed-time schedule includes a little "winding down" time in the living room. We used to watch a movie or a TV show, but recently Theron has been utterly obsessed with Lego Star Wars - the video game. He takes one of the living room chairs and puts his head through the back, so he can lean forward and rest his elbows on the seat while he plays. (This looks weirdly uncomfortable, but it works for him.)

So I came into the living room last week to find that Theron had moved up onto the chair... and left a puddle on the floor where he'd been standing. He hadn't allowed this to interrupt his game; he hadn't even called out to let us know it had happened.

So I found this, and I said (in my best Disappointed Parent tone of voice): "Theron, you've made a mess on the the floor."

And Theron, in all innocence, glanced up at me and replied, "That's okay, you can clean it up."

There was a momentary hush. The cats glanced up from their perches, then started strolling casually towards the door. The sky darkened overhead, and thunder rumbled ominously. In the distance, the emergency sirens started to wail.

Well, okay, none of that actually happened. But it should have.

Instead, we paused the game and Theron helped me clean up. Then we had a Conversation, which mainly consisted of me explaining that if he couldn't stop the game when he needed to go to the bathroom, he wasn't going to be able to play the game at all. Theron looked suitably anxious at the prospect, and told me that he understood.

Theron whaps his jaw
So, on Saturday June 5, at his fourth birthday party, Firstborn Son slipped while climbing down from something. He didn't fall far, maybe two feet at most. I really expected him to just bounce right up, as he usually does.

Instead, he cried... and kept crying. Apparently he'd clocked himself on the underside of his chin. So I felt around down there, making sure the bones were all intact. Then I checked his teeth. Then I carried him back to the picnic table, where he steadfastly refused to do anything but lay on the bench.

I sent my dad back to our house for Motrin, and took him into the pool. (We tried both ice cubes and a cold Capri-sun to keep the swelling down, but he wouldn't take either one for more than about five seconds; the pool was the next best option for keeping the area cool.) And, after a bit of swimming and some Motrin, he did seem to feel better. So, after the party, we went home and he spent most of the afternoon playing Lego Star Wars (and opening robot toys).

I checked his jaw and teeth again before I put him to bed. Honestly, I wasn't too worried: he'd been eating with no evident discomfort, so he'd probably just bruised himself. I could even see where some of the bruising was.

Well, by Sunday evening I was starting to reconsider. There was still only a little real bruising, but the bottom of his chin had swollen... badly. Like, all the way up to his cheekbones. That badly. He still wasn't showing any discomfort, and he was still eating without difficulty, so I stood by my initial diagnosis; but man that was uncomfortable to look at.

He'd gone from this:

To this:

It was like someone had snuck in and replaced my son with a tiny clone of Jay Leno. It was creepy. I mean, he spoke like my son, he acted like my son, and he played with the same toys as my son; but every time I looked, I found him wearing a stranger's face. I spent most of Sunday in the grip of a deep, quivering panic that I couldn't do anything about.

My wife, who was understandably upset by the idea that her son was now disfigured, declared that she was taking him to the doctor on Monday. I didn't expect them to find anything, or be able to do anything about this, but I agreed anyway: I hadn't expected the bruising to reach these epic proportions, either. And even if I was right, it would be mightily reassuring to have a professional tell us that our son was still basically okay.

So she took him, and the doctor checked for a long list of possible injuries (including several things I hadn't even considered: damage to the hinge of the jaw, ruptured eardrums, and pockets of scar tissue forming in the swollen area). The doctor then told my wife more or less what I'd expected: the boy just needed time to heal. "Relief" is entirely too mild a word for it; it was like having a massive rock lifted off my genitalia.

So we put him to bed Monday night (along with a couple of the newly-opened robot toys), and eventually went to sleep ourselves.

And then, at three in the morning, my wife came into my room and turned on the lights to inform me that Firstborn had somehow managed to fall out of his bed and bite his lip. Now, first of all, this never happens. The child has been alive for four years, and he's never once rolled out of his bed in the night. We even have a little barrier in place, to keep him from doing that. How in Hell did he manage to do it now?

Second, I was in absolutely no condition to deal with this. The clutch on my brain was broken, and no matter how much I revved it, I couldn't find a gear. I staggered out into the hall with my wife, and looked past her to see Firstborn, who had followed her out of his room. My wife immediately turned and hustled him back to his room, which left me lurching along behind them and making inarticulate grunting sounds that were meant to convey things like, Wait! Come back! I'm supposed to be helping you! I mean, she'd woken me up in order to help him, and now she was herding him away from me.

I finally made it into the boy's room, and found that while he had bitten his lip, he apparently hadn't done much else. (I later found a small bump on the side of his head, but it was barely detectable.) So I wiped up the blood, gave him some ice water to drink, and added another round of Motrin. And, after a while, he went back to sleep. I, of course, didn't.

So, for most of that Tuesday, my one recurring thought was this: Couldn't you at least wait a couple of days before hurting yourself again? This was, as often as not, accompanied by another thought: Arrrgh!

All's well that ends well, I suppose. The swelling is going down, and Firstborn is starting to look like himself again. I'm still short on sleep, but I'm pretty much used to that by now. Give me a few more weeks, and no doubt cognitive dissonance will set in and I'll think that these are the moments that make parenting worthwhile.

Things go back to normal
Generally speaking, we’re doing pretty well. We’re keeping up with the laundry, dishes, and other regular chores; we’re keeping the boys busy and reasonably happy; occasionally we even find time for projects of our own. Even with a second child already occupying the house, parenting a second child is a lot more relaxed... just the way I'd hoped.


Boys Visiting Grandfather
(Picture)

Roland Sleeps On Cat
(Picture)
(Compare to this one)

Theron on Staircase
(Picture)
     

Theron Jousts A Dragon
(Video)

Roland Riding Along
(Video)

My neck would have broken
(Picture)