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Have we survived December?
(December 30, 2010)

December has been pretty rough. We spent most of it - the beginning of the month until just before Christmas, basically - with both boys and the Beautiful Woman being sick. It started as a head cold and then moved down to the lungs. I had a bit of a cough myself, but never entirely succumbed... which is surprising, since I've been operating on 3-7 hours of sleep for about three and a half weeks, now. This was mainly a result of staying up, or waking up, to make sure everybody was properly medicated.

By a week and half in, the house sounded like a plague ward. (Looked a bit like one, too.) I came this close to just painting a red cross on the door and calling it done.

Funny story, there: early on in this, I came in at midnight to give both boys their medicine. Both were sleeping so deeply as to border on actually comatose. I did the baby first, and Roland swallowed his medicine. Then he opened his eyes and let me know in no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate having his treatment forced so rudely upon his unwilling lips. The Beautiful Woman soothed him back down to sleep, and I went on to Theron's room. Theron also took his medicine without complaint - or, for that matter, without even opening his eyes. Then I gave him his cup of water so he could wash the medicine down. He dutifully took a big sip, swished it around in his mouth...

And spat it out, just like he does after we brush his teeth.

He was sitting in his bed at the time.

He must have been really out, too, because a moment later he woke up enough to realize that something was wrong. He stood up suddenly, took two steps towards the foot of the bed, and sat back down. I called his name, but he didn't react at all - I mean, he eyes didn't even shift from their deathly blankness. I moved him back to his pillow and got him to lie back down, but I'm not at all sure that he actually knew I was there... or even where "there" was.

We're on the upside, though. The kids have quit coughing entirely, while my wife and I have quit coughing mostly. Theron experimented briefly with fake-coughing so he could have a cough drop, but that doesn't count.

Texas Weather
The weather hasn't helped, either. While the Northeast has been buried in the Snowpocalypse, and the rest of the country all the way down to Florida has had their wintry weather, I've been wandering around in jeans (if not shorts) and short-sleeved shirts. So some of this may have been allergies as well. At least, I'm sure they played their part.

We did survive to Christmas, which was a great relief. We had a nice Pre-Christmas with my wife's parents at their house, featuring a lovely dinner and some very nice gifts. (I'd say, "especially for the boys," but they got me a bottle of Bushmills, so I have no complaints.) Shortly after, they went out of town to visit my wife's sister and her husband.

On Christmas day, we got up and let the boys discover what Santa had brought them. Santa had left several items on the hearth, along with two stockings, and Theron had a good time opening them. Roland mostly watched. The real hit of this selection was one of Roland's presents: a little air-powered toy that pops small plastic balls into the air while playing Chopin at us. In theory, the balls land in a sort of bowl, fall through the hole in the bottom, and roll back down into the pipe to be shot up again. In practice, the balls frequently overshoot the bowl and roll all over the living room. Roland finds this mildly interesting, mainly because he can sometimes try to chew on the balls. Theron, on the other hand, found this far more exciting than any of his own toys.

Then we bundled everyone up, and went over to my parents' house, where my mother's side of the family added even more gifts to the pile. Several of them were - and are - quite successful, but I'm drawing a blank on the specifics. My brain sort of overloaded at that point.[1] Then we had another excellent Christmas dinner, and after that most of the family went off to see the latest Narnia movie. I stayed behind to watch Roland (who's just a bit too young for movie theaters), and my mom stayed behind because she wasn't feeling well. Then everyone came back from the movie, and after a bit more congenial chaos, we all went home.

Brothers and Toys
Theron, as I've mentioned, likes a lot of Roland's toys. Some of them used to be his, which makes it kind of understandable, but even the ones that were bought specifically for Roland exercise an unhealthy fascination on his mind. Unfortunately, he's nowhere near so keen on having Roland play with any of his toys. Quite often, if Roland picks up a toy, Theron takes it away from him.

We're working on this.

Among other things, this means that any time I try to get Roland to play with the small, stuffed Cthulhu - the "Octopus Monster" that Theron so enjoyed when he was younger, but hasn't played with in over a year - Theron comes and takes it away from his baby brother. So I started looking for a reasonable substitute that could be given exclusively to Roland. In the process, I discovered the existence of plush reproductions of the Facehugger from the movie Alien. Unfortunately, they were sold out. Instead, I settled on a stuffed Ithaqua - another monster from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.

That wasn't so successful, either. Ithaqua is as tall as Roland. It's not the sort of stuffed critter that the baby can drag around with him. So I'm keeping that one for myself, and Roland received a skeleton beany-baby instead.

Potty Training and Daddy's Toys
Theron has, at long last, begun to use the toilet on his own. He still forgets to go - or, you know, just decides not to - if he's doing something especially interesting. But he's pretty much urinating on his own... and he's finally started pooping on his own, too.[2] To encourage this, we have been rewarding him with small, relatively-inexpensive toys.[3] If he poops in the potty instead of his pants, he gets a toy: the cheapest end of Transformers or Bakugans, or one of the Fisher-Price Imaginext toys.

The Imaginext Toys are really, really cool. They're simple and tough, but they're also interesting. And at least one line of them, a collection of futuristic law-enforcement robots, includes a CD containing a computer game with each robot. With each new robot you purchase, you unlock a robot on the computer - and each robot adds another available game. The games are fairly simple, but well done, and easy enough for a four-year-old to play:

Theron Playing Games (Video)

And, as a result of my admiration for these toys, I got a little plastic lion-with-dragon-wings and his swordsman companion. So now when Theron plays with his guys, I have one to play with, too.

Playground Equipment Inside Our House
The big present that Theron received this year was a new bed. He'd been using a twin bed, but he wasn't terribly enamored of it - about half the time, he'd sleep on the floor. I've been sleeping in his room, mostly for cat-related reasons. So, in an effort to get Theron a bed that he'd actually sleep in, and to provide me with a reliable place to sleep, we got him a bunk bed.

He loves it. We've had to work hard to convince him that it isn't a jungle gym, and he's already gashed his head against the corner of the wall because of it, but he loves it.

I love it, too. I actually get to sleep on a mattress. One that isn't covered with cats who want to fur on me. Since I've finally gotten two full nights of sleep (which, perversely, left me feeling really sore), I have high hopes that I might get my sleep schedule back someday soon.

Apparently, shortly after Roland was born, my wife's sister - who was a pretty big help, if you'll recall - went back to her own doctor and asked for drugs to help her get pregnant. She is now, somewhat predictably, pregnant... with twins. Twin girls, at that.

While we're extremely happy for her and her husband, this has only reinforced our decision to stop at two. And really, with the way Roland's moving around, two is more than enough.

Baby Bruises
Roland is now a toddler. I know this because he toddles. His top two teeth are coming in, and I think a few others are gearing up to follow them. (The arrival of his bottom two teeth were covered in the previous chapter, if you'll recall.)

Two weeks ago, he was walking clumsily. He'd take a couple of steps, fall down, get back up, and repeat the process. He'd gotten quite good at catching himself when he fell, and only hurt himself when some object unexpected intruded on his space (like, say, a chair leg coming between him and the floor).

Now, though, he's got confidence. And bruises. The bruises are a direct result of the confidence. He doesn't stumble a couple of steps and fall down; oh, no. He takes off, and just smacks into things. And then he cries. Loudly.

We do our best to steer him away from danger areas and catch him before he hurts himself, but there's only so much we can manage. The boy is both fast and determined.

I've mentioned before that Roland is a very different baby than Theron was. He's more fastidious; he hates having his diaper dirty. He's also much, much more prone to putting things in his mouth than Theron ever was. And he has a distinct knack for selecting the best choking hazard in his vicinity. He's just as active as his brother was, though. And just as tough, thank the gods.

Real and Not Real
Earlier in the month, while my wife was still sick, we ran into a bit of a problem. She needed to give the last of her final exams, but she didn't want to leave the boys with her mother (their Nana), because she didn't want Nana to get sick, too. So she called me, and I came home to watch the boys.

So my wife leaves to give her final final exam. She comes home to find Firstborn wandering around the house chanting, "Imhotep! Imhotep!" I assure her that I have no idea where he gets this stuff.

One of our recent, ongoing topics of discussion is what sorts of things are real, and what sorts of things are not real. In real life, people don't actually turn into aliens - though it makes for a fun story on television. Mermaids do not exist in real life - though, again, they do exist in stories. Mummies... well, that one threw me for a minute. Because mummies do exist in real life, they just don't get up and walk around and kill people. Why not? Because mummies are dead, and in real life when someone is dead they don't come back to life... but there are plenty of stories where they do.

This is still a recurring conversation, so I'm sure we'll be covering the reality or unreality of various other things over the coming weeks.

And now, finally, pictures and video:

Roland's Pirate Bandana

Theron's Magic Armband

Roland Proto-Walking

The Ice Slide (Theron)

Cabinet Diving (Roland)

[1] My brain does this when there are too many things going on around me.

[2] I had no idea that coprology was such a fundamental element of parenthood. I never in my life expected to know this much detail about someone else's bowel movements.

[3] Because we're desperate.