Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happy birthday Dear Alex

5 years ago you came screaming into the world, a month early and beautiful. It's hard to imagine how different our lives are now, how much bigger we are as people and better as human beings because of your patient instruction in the ways and wonder of watching someone become. It's been an astonishing six months since your sister Princess Maya was born, and you've grown so fast to be the best big sister. You're not the only any more, but you will always be the first. You teach BW and I how to be better parents every day, and someday your sister will thank you for breaking us in and tiring us out. You rock!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I've given up writing. I sleep at the capricious whims of an uncertain-of-her-primacy older sister and her endlessly-needy sidekick. I eat cold take-out standing in the kitchen while waiting for the bottle-warmer to get the formula to that happy just-right temperature for an easy feed. At the moment, we're all sick with some mysterious child-borne illness, yet here we are. It's all our fault - these two souls stuck together one way or another for the rest of their lives, and I couldn't love them more - they're sisters.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Alex and Maya

They don't know it yet, but they're going to be best friends. Dear Alex has been wonderful about welcoming Dear Maya into our lives, as chaotic and unsettling as it has been. The first few days home from the hospital have been easy for me, though I've lost some sleep sympathetically with Beautiful Wife, it hasn't been all that bad - that'll come later, when there's no more baby-nurse, and I take over the middle-of-the-night shift to give BW a break. I remember more of that long grind of feed, burp, change in the weeks and months later once the excitement and charm of the first few days wears off.
Like Dear Alex, I hold the dense little bundle of baby that is Dear Maya, and feel love and wonder and joy without any concept of how much change this new little soul will engender.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Welcome to the world, you feisty little girl. Your cries made me laugh, and made me weep and hold my beautiful wife's hand even harder. You soooo wanted to be out of there, and here you are. This world's a cool place.


A few nights ago I had one of my recurring, mercifully but infrequent "Apocalypse Dreams" in which civilization crumbles to burning ruin, but normal every-day stuff keeps happening anyway - this one ended a little differently, in an operating room with BW and an impressive array of surgical props, including a wall of X-ray plates that looked oddly like ultrasound images. I got a chance to look at them a little bit, and saw a little tag on one of them that said "Male" - Aha, we're having a boy.

Two days ago I was walking up 6th Avenue from my office to get myself a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks. I'd happened to cross to the east side of the avenue because of what looked like a little commotion with some smoke and a firetruck. I happened to look over to see what was going on as the building exploded with a cinematic fireball and the sound of a loud and otherworldly hissing as the windows blew out and shattered glass scattered onto the avenue. The orange and black fireball rolled up into a mushroom cloud of fire as I ran for the corner. Wow. Just like in the movies.*

Last night, Beautiful Wife went to bed as usual, then got up, mentioning that she might be "leaking" uh, as in "honey, my water broke and I'm going into labor". Wow, just like that. That fast, and eerily reminiscent of how it went for the birth of Dear Alex, though this time we were a bit better prepared, with bags packed and plans made, more or less...

*It was a Con-Ed transformer explosion in the basement, no one was hurt - the building had been evacuated.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow day

The look on her face says it all.

A few weekends ago we went to our little house in the country for a quick get away from work and the day-to-day relentless busy-ness of being in Manhattan, and It went pretty much the way it always does - We had a wonderful drive with no traffic and perfect timing, with Dear Alex chatting amiably about everything and anything, and astonishing me with her command of language and it's nuances and potential for fun. We talked, and then suddenly, silence - she was out along with Beautiful Wife, asleep, more or less for the rest of the way. I still love the gentle exhalation of arrival, that turn into the driveway and the quiet at last of turning off the car and the gathering of will to get everyone out and into the house. Beautiful Wife opens the door and I scoop Dear Alex from her car seat all limbs and floppy dead weight as it occurs to me how much she's grown, and how long we've been doing this. I get a tighter hug and a whispered "I love you king daddy" as she falls back to sleep on my shoulder as I carry her up, up, up to her room and to bed. Saturday was a grey and cold lie-on-the-couch-and-watch-movies kind of day, and when the snow started to fall, it came as an endorsement of staying in and doing nothing save cuddling on the couch. It snowed beautifully, all afternoon, at times the world beyond the deck seeming to have disappeared behind the curtains of white. As evening came, I had that feeling that Dear Alex and I should get out a little and play, and decided that it would be good to make it a trip to the store to get us all dinner - good fun to try the car in the snow, and a chance to give BW a little break.

I had the odd thought while driving through the densely falling snow on the unplowed roads that this was a perfect moment, one to be savored for it's rarity. I read somewhere recently about how we don't really think to count and celebrate how many chances we'll get to do these seemingly ordinary things, and it put me in the mind to appreciate the beauty of watching thickly falling snow swirl in the orange-cast of parking lot sodium-vapor streetlights, and then wonder how many times in my lifetime I'll get to experience such a simple unmarked thing again. 5 times? 14 times? More than a hundred? Probably not.

I'm pretty sure that there's something about watching a child grow, and realizing how quickly that seems to happen that makes you stop and think for a moment about how much time - how many favorite experiences you'll be able to count, and count on having again.

On Sunday, the very first order of business was to go outside in the snow and play - Dear Alex had a little checklist: make snow angels, make a little snowman, go sledding.
All morning. Up the septic mound, down the septic mound. Up the septic mound, down the septic mound. Repeat. We had a very good time, and I noted that Alex has grown big enough to climb up and slide down all by herself, over and over again, though it's most fun for her when daddy sleds too. So I did, and I'm counting on doing that again. It makes her laugh to see me slide and fall in the snow, and it makes me happy to see her having so much fun. After a couple of hours of this, she abruptly stops - and runs into the house, having finally realized that she was freezing. Once inside and de-snowsuited and on the couch under a blanket with Beautiful Wife, I make her a warm cider and all is warm and cozy again. We decided then and there to stay in the snow another day. We took Monday off and instead of school for her and work for us, we went sledding again. It's one of those experiences worth counting.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Then and Now and Soon

Just having a sentimental time of things, thinking about how much Dear Alex has grown and what an interesting kid she's become. So far, so fast - and I am still constantly awed and amazed that I have the chance to help this little person become.

I'm thinking about it because Beautiful Wife and I have another on the way, and I've been stuck for weeks, no, months as to how to write about it with the proper expression of the deep wonder (and terror) that I'm feeling. It feels like it's been a long time since Dear Alex was a baby, and she gets farther from that every day - my Dear Lil'screamie isn't so screamie any more, and soon she's going to be a big sister. Big news, and exciting times to come, to be sure. I wax nostalgic, and look back with some curiousity as to how we managed to have such a great kid - at the same time remembering the thousands and thousands of little things that made it so.

I love this girl so much that the thought of having another baby challenges me to imagine loving another child as much, but I'm comforted by the sure knowlege that it is not only possible, but inevitable. It's just a little hard to grasp right now. As I look back, and look at Dear Alex now in her excitement about being a big sister, I'm pretty sure that between the three of us there's going to be plenty of love to go around.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The wind

Tonight the wind blows cold and hard from the northeast, coming off the lake with a roar in the trees, and it rattles the house in the country. It's a though nature has decided to let us know that change is afoot, and that the thin sunlight and gentle approaches to a new season are over - there's a real feeling of change in the air, almost an exclamation that winter is coming whether we're ready or not. There's a bright half-moon tonight, alternately casting stark shadows of the bare trees then disappearing behind wind-driven clouds, then lighting the night again - a scene I wish to wake Dear Alex to come out and see, to feel that quiet awe of the big wide world around us.
It puts me in mind of trips in the car from the city to the country, with Dear Alex awake and talking about the moon, the moon chasing us down the night, and calling out "the moon, daddy, the moon" and her delight with the peek-a-boo passing through the trees and over the hills. Tonight Dear Alex sleeps soundly in her big girl bed surrounded by her bunnies and the deep and sure knowledge of the love of mommy and daddy. She pointed out the moon to us last evening "a half-moon! in the daylight!" as we headed out to Brooklyn for our annual Thanksgiving dinner with aunts and uncles and family, then again later in the night as we left the city, tired and full and happy. We drove from the city and the lights and highways to the narrow two-lane country roads and into fog, an amazing and surprising fog so dense that it actually made me slow down, and take a little more care to get us safely home in the quiet and dripping dark. I will never tire of the routine of arrival - the sudden stillness of turning off the car then the flurry of activity, then quiet as I pick Dear Alex out of her car seat, wrap a blanket around her and carry her up the stairs and into the house and up more stairs to finally plop her unceremoniously into bed, usually with a nuzzle and a little tighter hug. Goodnight sweet girl.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Suspended for a moment in mid-air, a perfect metaphor for how I feel for her right now, and where she is in her young life - suspended between the distant memory of being a toddler and the little girl that she's rapidly becoming. She's a blur of constant motion and I wish sometimes that I could just slow her mad rush to become, and hold her still and hug her for a little bit, while she's still a kid that has no filters and no idea that there's anything else in the world to do but have fun in the here and now. This time feels so fleeting, like that moment of equipoise between rising and falling.

Every day, Dear Alex changes and grows and gets smarter and wiser and funnier, and it is a joy to travel with her as she makes real the promise and joy built into the process of growing up.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

5 Years ago today...

Beautiful Wife became Beautiful Wife. I wouldn't change a thing. We've seen a lot of changes in our brief five years together, and I'm sure there's a lot more to come - I can't wait to see what happens next.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A blog is...

I was in a meeting today, about a large and complicated website that I've been working on, and the subject of blogs came up, as it was desired to incorporate one in this website. There was a lot of conversation around what constituted a blog, and it was generally agreed that it had something to do with a heartfelt interest and knowledge of the subject in question. Some other more telling stipulations were added, including one that made me want to run home and write - A Blog (to be considered a blog) is "published to or updated more than twice a week." That makes me something of a lapsed blogger, and made me stop and think about the whats and whys of lilscreamie, and it occurred to me that I've failed, am failing to keep up with tracking the growth and changes that this whole mess is supposed to celebrate - the wondrous growth and development of my very own child. It's not so much documentation, but a less-than-rigorous celebration of the stuff I'm likely to forget by next week, next month, next year - in short, the telling details that generally go unnoticed or unmentioned, and the profound mixture of responsibility and absurdity that is being daddy. Dear Alex has changed and grown so much through the long months of my silence, and now I'm feeling a mad rush to try to recapture the incredible texture and detail of all that she's becoming - I'm afraid that that effort is doomed to failure, but I can certainly try for my very own benefit to write again to something that was a labor of love and joy, set aside only for the realities of making and keeping a life for me and mine, and my own inertia.

I will have to start writing again, as I've got the terrible assignment to write about Dear Alex for her kindergarten applications - Including the dreaded "Describe your child's personality and interests... including his or her strengths and weaknesses..." As if she had any weaknesses.

The whole NY kindergarten placement thing has been a real surprise to me. I first heard about it when Beautiful Wife and I were shopping around for preschools, and got asked the question about "where we wanted her to go to kindergarten, because certain preschools can get you on the track..." I'd just assumed you picked a school, paid some money, and the kid went there. Buyer's market, so to speak.

I was sadly mistaken, and have been working diligently to recover from that one ever since, going on school tours and fitting in with other parents trying to stand out but not stand out too much to give their kid the best chances at the best schools. I suddenly get it, and am awed by the depth and importance made of Where The Kid Goes To Kindergarten. It's a track, or a trap, but it can materially affect who Dear Alex is and what she might do 10, 15, 20 years from now. Amazing - the right school, well chosen can make a difference. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Dear Alex says: "It's called Scary lightning before the thunder comes - It's really called that."
I say that she's got a sense of design and composition, and it's fun to watch her build things, and take pride in her creations. I love that she gave it a name. She went on to explain that it works by "twisting it this way and that (she demonstrates) to scare away the thunder, after the lightning comes." I love her imagination.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


It's a certainty that objects have inner lives and can do amazing things and feel - and Beautiful Wife and I live with a kind of full-time magical realist, where she controls the show (a little bit) and can make anything happen - "what color do you like daddy?" and I say "blue" and Dear Alex can tell me "I don't have any blue cupcakes, but the wrapper is blue, so you can have pink." And then Dear Alex can give me a little blue cupcake right off of her pajamas, and I can eat it. Magically, she can make me a cup of coffee and a plate of scrambled eggs, and hand them to me as I pretend to eat and genuinely enjoy the joy she takes in my playing along in her world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Snow Day

Last night was one of those beautiful mid-winter nights that close gently and quietly, after seeing Dear Alex, then Beautiful Wife off to bed I got to stay up and think about "the question" and write a post about it and go about my business in this quiet house in the snow. As I looked out, it was snowing gently, an impossibly fine snowfall so light that it seemed that the flakes weren't really falling, so much as suspended like little bits of light. Lovely night and it made me think to check the weather - a call for a dusting to half an inch or so of accumulation overnight. Nothing to get too excited about, so I went to bed.
In the middle of the night, sometime after easy sleep and well before it was time to wake, Dear Alex had a bit of an accident in her bed - this weekend was our first attempt at letting her sleep in underwear for the whole night, instead of those nasty pull-up diapers - a welcome change for all of us, and it's clear that Dear Alex is ready for the change. The first night went just fine, but last night, she didn't quite make it - and it truly upset her terribly. There was a flurry of damage control activity, with me searching the room and her closet for something approximating a sheet to replace the one I'd hastily removed and, of course looking for dry PJs to change her into - all while reassuring her that "it was okay and that accidents happen, and that next time you'll get up sooner and find the potty, and you're such a big girl that you'll be just fine" all while wrapping her in a dry blanket and hugging her because she was so pathetically sad and cold and obviously dejected at her failure. I really felt for her, and tried to make all okay. We got cleaned up and dressed and it occurred to me how grateful I am for how simple it can be to simply take care to make someone, in this case Dear Alex, so much better.

This morning we were up before dawn, and as I was making coffee and heating water for Dear Alex's cup of tea I looked outside and noticed that it was still snowing, and that measly half-inch had turned magically into at least another six inches of fresh snow, and it was still coming down - today was a perfect "snow day" - and we're staying in the country 'til tomorrow. The kid and I went to the hardware store to play with her new car in the snow so that we could get cookie sheets to bake cookies and some screws for me to put up some shelves, and ended up with another sled - so that we could all play outside for the rest of the day on the amazing sled run that I've been building, and we did. We sledded. We baked cookies. We took a long walk in the snow on the frozen lake and had hot chocolate. At the moment, the car is stuck in the driveway (Beautiful Wife will take care of that in the morning - she's good like that) and Dear Alex is sleeping and all is right with the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Big Question

After bedtime tonight, and I'm hanging out with Dear Alex to have our usual wrap-up of the day, and Dear Alex asks: "Daddy, where do we come from?" I'm thinking that I'm going to get off easy on this one, so I answer "mommies. we all come form mommies. everybody has a mommy." Easy.
Dear Alex asks again: "No, where do we come from?" I answer "We are people and we all come from mommies and daddies and we come from love." There - a definitive and right-sounding answer that gives credit to everyone, and adds the magic of love, but that's not what she's looking for. "No, no daddy where do we come from... who made us, who made us?" Oh, that's a different question. A spiritual, cosmological, how-did-we-get-here kind of question. "well," I say, "That's something that a lot of people have a lot of different ideas about, and I don't really know. A lot of people believe that there is a creator, and a lot of people believe that we evolved, but there's a higher power that makes it all work, and some people that believe we just are. That's something called religion, that you kind of sort yourself out by what you believe about that." Alex: "But who made us?" Daddy: "well mommy and daddy made you, and our mommies and daddies made us, so people made us." "Oh," says Dear Alex, "But where did we come from?" (she's not going to give this up)"we just are." I say, "but this is something we can talk about when you get to be a bigger girl, because it's a very good question, and we can talk about it a lot." She asked, I danced, she asked again, and I danced some more - it's a great question, and the directness of her asking it repeatedly was something kind of startling to me - I haven't thought about life and existence from that direct a perspective in a long, long time, and I'm truly not one to dwell on the spiritual - but oh yeah, "Who made us?". I have to give her credit for asking an obvious question that'll make me think for a little while - I haven't really thought about what I believe beyond "we just are" for a very long time. For both of us, I guess it's something to sleep on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rite of passé

A little running around to shake off the pre-performance jitters.
I love her confidence in this picture.

No caption necessary, really.

A moment of repose during the performance, Dear Alex is the one in the middle.

Five years ago, if someone had told me that someday in the hazy future I'd be going to a ballet recital - my own daughter's ballet recital on a cold day in January, I'd have probably gently changed the subject to something about motorcycles or airplanes or the weather.
It is sort of a rite of passage, I guess, for any father of a daughter - both the ballet classes and the inevitable performance of what they've learned. I know Dear Alex really enjoys her ballet class, she's surprised me many times with her dance vocabulary and impromptu performances at home of various moves and leaps accompanied by shouts of "sautée!" (jump up in the air) and "relevé!" (stand on your tippy-toes, arms up) all done with the approximate grace of a forklift - not that I'd do any better. It seems that Dear Alex has inherited my dance gene, or should I say, my lack of one. Not that it matters, of course, and I was relieved to see that she wasn't the only little girl that was - uh, movement-challenged. It's a three-year-old thing, I guess. The mind and the heart yearn for what the body can't yet do, but for some reason, there's real satisfaction in the attempt.
The group of five girls in the class (including Dear Alex) was easily the most disciplined group of toddler/pre-schooler's I've ever seen - they sat quietly, performed on cue with little direction, and stayed pretty well focused on the task at hand. There was a real charm in the collective performance today, the unselfconscious artlessness of the little ballerinas and their clearly heartfelt desire to get it right - it gave me a funny feeling. I think it might be pride for all of them.
Ballet is definitely not my thing, and I don't really think that it's going to be Dear Alex's thing either, but for now it's giving her discipline, a new vocabulary*, and something to be proud of - I saw that in her smile and confidence today, and it's one more thing to add to her list, my firefighter pirate princess ballerina. She may not be the picture of grace, but she's got a lot of heart.

*A lot of very fancy words like allegro and adagio and jete and passé, that I'm learning to love - Dear Alex is learning and using "terms of art". I love that.

King Daddy

I was talking to Dear Alex this afternoon, and she let me know that if I wanted to, I could call her Princess Alex. I think I will for a while, just to see how it goes. Shortly after BW and I put her to bed, Dear Alex called "daddy" back in for another goodnight hug. She reminded me that I could call her Princess Alex, so I said "Goodnight Princess Alex" and she said "Goodnight King Daddy". I'm still smiling.

The very next day

Watching The Little Mermaid for the 37th time

The Tickle Monster's next victim

She actually asked me to take her picture -
probably to prove to mommy that I let her take her hat off...

Sunshine and fresh snow and princess sunglasses

Screaming and spinning all the way down

It snowed all day on Saturday, a fine light snow from a heavy gray sky that made it the perfect kind of winter day to do nothing; We played "tickle monster" and "lump", We looked out the windows and watched the snow fall, and Beautiful Wife and Dear Alex spent a lot of quality time on the couch under blankets, watching "The Little Mermaid".
BW insists that this is an important part of her acculturation, and I'm inclined to agree, though I feel obliged to protest. All the kids are doing it, and if it weren't for mommy's support and guidance, Dear Alex would be hearing about princesses on the street or from her friends at school. It's something that we can be supportive about, and let her make her own choices... Dear Alex and I have had quite a few conversations around what I'll call the taxonomy of princesses, and deep conversations about her favorites, and which princess I like better and why. Dear Alex prefers Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) because she has "yellow hair", while daddy likes Princess Jasmine (Aladdin) because she's kind of spunky and has long black hair like mommy. Dear Alex is a little mixed about Princess Ariel (Little Mermaid) because of her red hair and "big eyes". But she likes all the princesses, just "Sleeping Beauty" best. I can't wait to throw Pocahantas (because she's the spittin' image of BW) and Mulan into the mix.

We did manage to go outside and get all wet and cold, and try out the sled, which was a lot of fun for both of us. Sunday turned out to be a perfect cold clear after-the-snow day, so we spent a lot of time making and using a sled run from the driveway towards the lake - hilarious to hear the girl sliding down the hill giggling to the bottom, only to say "again!" as soon as she got there. I did the daddy thing, and made the run longer, which just made the giggling and screaming go on longer - until Dear Alex decided it was time to go inside. Perfect, her red cheeks, snot running down her face and a smile that wouldn't quit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beautiful night

We tried to leave the city early today, to get a head start on a weekend away at the house in the country, a constant antidote to the mid-winter grimness that seems to have settled in to New York to stay for a while.

There's a promise of snow, real snow this weekend for Dear Alex to see and play in, something that both Beautiful Wife and myself love and encourage, probably for reasons of a certain nostalgia too deeply buried to name. I know I loved snow, snowy days, and the real warmth of returning inside after hours of play, numb and red-cheeked and soaked.

It started off with a good plan, but devolved into a bit of a struggle that ended with a late departure and meeting Dear Alex and Nanny J. uptown at a 'playdate'. Beautiful Wife went in to collect Dear Alex, and returned a few minutes later - we bundled the girl into the carseat, loaded up and set off to get out of town only to come up against that late-Friday-afternoon traffic of others fleeing the city. A few minutes into the drive, BW noted that she might have stepped in dog-poop somewhere along the way, and almost instantly I caught the first whiff of that mournful smell of regret. A great conversation with Dear Alex ensued about the nature of dog poop and it's disposal, and how silly it was that it was on mommy's shoe, and more importantly how mommy should always look out for dog-poopie and you should step over it and not in it. The kid can be really funny. She was in a great and happy mood to be traveling tonight with us, and stayed awake long enough to see and comment on a beautiful full moon on the rise, chasing us as we headed west across the George Washington Bridge and into the night.

This post is about nothing, really, but the beauty of this night and a way to ease myself back into trying to write more regularly and clearly and well about the life and times of Dear Alex, to take notes on her quirks and my various fascinations with them.

Tonight, I wish I could wake her up and show her the biggest full moon of 2009, and take her outside to feel the dead cold and see the magic of this night as bright as day, with the trees sparkling in their coating of ice from the storm of last week. I would say "shhh - listen" and we could share the deep subsonic booming sounds of the frozen lake settling in for the rest of the winter, and the loud crackling of the deer walking through a neighbor's frozen backyard.

For now, Dear Alex sleeps, probably dreaming of princesses and bunnies. We'll get outside and enjoy the snow and the world tomorrow.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


In the context of a blog about a three-year-old, the title could mean almost anything, as change is what Dear Alex is all about these days. I went away for a week and came back to a slightly more Alex version of Dear Alex, a little bigger, a little smarter, a little wiser. It's no single thing that I can put my finger on, but she grew, and there's a bit more personality there. Or maybe I just missed her, and have been watching more closely over the past few days, to see if she'd noticed that I was gone. She's been a little closer and a little more loving around me, so I'm guessing that she noticed - and we've talked about California, and the delights of video chat (that's really fun for a three-year old, by the way - seeing herself and daddy on a computer screen - it stuck with her a little bit.) "Am I in the computer?" "Yes you are, big girl."

One of the first things that Beautiful Wife and I did when I got back was to fulfill another promise that we'd made to Dear Alex - that she would get a real bed. The move from sleeping in a crib to a 'toddler bed' was something that Dear Alex had been looking forward to for a long time, and had even worked for by being reminded that all she had to do was not wake up screaming for mommy and/or daddy in the middle of the night for a few weeks. That worked wonders for us, as she got it and stopped the middle of the night wakings - and it worked for Dear Alex as she'd proved that she was big enough for a bed. She took to it immediately, and is so proud that she has a 'toddler bed' It's great to see how eager she is to show everyone and anyone her bed, and the night table next to it that she built with BW for her night-light candle and her cup of water and her box of tissues. The kid is definitely a Virgo, and has to have a well-ordered place for everything (and everything in it's place) If only I could get her to be that way with the rest of the things in her life. The bed thing has done wonders for her confidence and sense of control, and she mostly stays in it and best of all, actually sleeps. It's a funny thing, how little milestones help you see change so clearly - giving her a bed, and dismantling the crib just confirmed something that I've known for a while - Dear Alex really isn't a baby anymore.

Of course, there's that other Change:

Though lil'screamie is apolitical, I'll out myself and say that I wept with joy over the stunning victory speech of President-Elect Obama. After 8 years of W, I think we the people collectively had enough of the slow erosion of liberty, the dissembling and the lack of a forward-looking vision of the world and how it could be. I'm sincerely hoping that we as a nation have turned our backs on the narrowness of living in fear, and will be open to embrace the changes that will surely be needed to move from where we've been stuck for the last few years.

We need to rejoin the world as leaders and friends, and this election did a little ( I hope) to prove to the world that we're not closing up shop as the last bastion of hope. It's weird to say, but as a parent I want to live in a world that looks forward, is open , and most importantly has the willingness to try. The campaign and election of this new president proved to me that there is still room for hope and optimism in this country, that's what I support, and that's the kind of place I want my kid to live in.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's my turn to travel

Note Knuffle Bunny over Dear Alex's shoulder
-a lilscreamie file photo

Knuffle Bunny buys a computer from MacEnthusiast on Pico Blvd.
It was a tough call.

Knuffle Bunny sees the sunset from Santa Monica

I've been away from Dear Alex and Beautiful Wife for the last few days, on a business trip in L.A. to do some of that creative director thing for a TV spot. It's been a long strange trip so far with incidents and accidents that left me wondering how it would all turn out. It started on an awful Sunday afternoon flight to LA - I'm wedged in the middle seat in the far-back of the plane - tiny seat, passengers on either side. Early in the flight there was a bit of turbulence, and one of my seat-mates accidentally spilled a cup of water on the keyboard of my computer. Moments later, the screen went black.

I spent the next day visiting the Apple store in Beverly Hills, and was floored by the damage done and what it would take to get up and running again - lots of money and a lot more time than I would actually be here. It turned out to be faster and cheaper to simply buy a new laptop, copy over my old hard drive, and just get on with it. 
After the drama and delay, it was a relief to get back to work and email. Even with the business of work and the drama, it's been surprising just how much I miss Dear Alex and Beautiful Wife, and how frequently they come up in the course of my days.

It's occurred to me just how important this thin connection by technology is - and how good even a little of seeing the kid can make me feel. It's been a long few days, made easier by that connection and the little bit of home that Dear Alex put in my bag just before I left - Knuffle Bunny, one of the many in her ever-expanding collection. I found Knuffle as I was unpacking and it made me cry. It's funny how you take the daily connection and simple presence for granted, and I've realized that this has been the longest continuous stretch that I've been away from Beautiful Wife and Dear Alex for three years. I've taken to taking pictures of Knuffle Bunny at various places in my travels here in California, to show my girl and share my stories with her when I return. It's a little thing, but it makes me smile.

One thing that I've noticed is that as Freelance Dad, I've had the joy of nearly constant presence with Dear Alex, and I sort of take it for granted just how special that is, but it robs you of the perspective of time and distance that makes you fully appreciate just how fast they grow. We had an almost-coherent conversation at 5:30 this morning, and it struck me that she somehow got smarter over the past few days - "daddy are you in california? I'm wearing corduroys just like mommy. I love you. Mmmmmwah!" (sound of a kiss)
I've been enjoying the work and this time among adults, but I'll be more than happy to get on the plane tonight and fly east through the night and into the dawn to rejoin my life.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Dingo ate my baby

Last known photo of Baby Kate - Dear Alex was just dumping her on the hood of the car...

Well, actually it was more like a golden retriever ate Dear Alex's baby. It was one of those weird things, that simply confound and amaze. Dear Alex and daddy are playing outside on this first very-fall-like day in the country, with the girl going in and out of the house, each time taking a toy out, then back to be replaced by another toy. this went on for a while, as anything with Dear Alex can these days as she tests and tries her abilities and my patience with her new skills and confidence. We'd been at this game for a while when she brought out Baby Kate, a non-assuming little blonde-haired baby doll, that Dear Alex has no particular attachment to, other than the occasional ministration and imitation of mommy. While we were out Dear Alex put the doll on the hood of the car so that she could go for a ride - at that moment we were surprised by the rush and tumble of a friendly golden retriever that came seemingly out of nowhere through the trees at the edge of the property, all wagging tail and eager- for-play affection. Dear Alex was delighted, though I was just a little bit alarmed by the dog's sudden appearance, so I stepped forward to see the dog turn from Dear Alex and in in a fraction of a second take the doll in it's mouth and run. Just like that it was over - the dog bounding away through the woods with the doll in it's jaws and Dear Alex standing silently with a look on her face that said something like "what the hell just happened?" There weren't any tears, Dear Alex simply said with something like quiet amazement "the doggie took Baby Kate away". That was it. I told her to go inside RIGHT NOW! and find mommy and tell her what happened, so that I could take off in pursuit - of course, by that time, the dog was long gone. Once Dear Alex was safely inside, I went off in luke-warm pursuit, following the path that the dog had taken. After walking through a few lakefront properties, I came to a home with a bit of commotion, and found the owner of the dog with leash in hand desperately trying to corral the wayward animal. She said she'd seen the dog run by with something pink in it's mouth, and had thought that that meant trouble... well, yeah. I'm not really sure what to make of things at this point, as she's no more responsible for the wayward dog's behavior that I am for my own dear girl's occasional missteps.
If I were I more tightly-wound New-York-City parent, there would have been police and counseling and animal control involved, but as it is, there's really no harm done. The woman promised to try to search the dog's usual hiding places, would be more than happy to replace the doll, etc... I left it at "let me know if the doll turns up. We're a couple of houses down the lake." We'll be sending out search parties tomorrow morning, and with any luck, we'll find Baby Kate. I am, of course, wondering how Dear Alex will process this event, but for now and for me, It's just another weird and slightly scary episode in my learning to be daddy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The last few weeks

We had a lot of birthday activity, with a party at her pre-school class, and a trip to the Bronx zoo and little presents every day for the birthday week, but I haven't really had the urge to back up and deal with the deeper emotional aspects of the changes that Dear Alex is growing through - it seemed that we turned a big corner once, that week that Beautiful Wife went to Vancouver for a shoot and came back to a newly-confident and potty-trained little girl. That was a big step, and it seemed to open up a new facet of Dear Alex's personality, with an urge for independence and an astonishing blossoming of her language skills. She not only knows what she wants most of the time, but is now perfectly willing to tell you. "Daddy you stay here, I'm going over here! Nooo - don't come with me!" I look at this, and her turning three and all of the new-found articulations of her personality as great and inevitable growth, but so much of it makes me a little sad, as there isn't quite the unspoken need for daddy to take care, and I've got a profound appreciation for those moments in the middle of the night when she still wakes and calls for mommy or daddy to provide reassurance or change a diaper. As much as I love the underwear, and her sly question - "Daddy, am I wearing underwear?" that she'll use as a way of telling you that she needs the potty, I still appreciate the concrete gratification of changing a diaper and enjoy the moment of sweet intimacy of taking care. As a bit of a balm for my own feelings of daddy-ness, a few days ago while Dear Alex was out, I spent the better part of a day sticking little glow-in-the-dark stars to the walls in her room - a sweep of stars that looks like the milky way from around crib-level in the middle of the night. She loved it in a quiet sort of way, and always remembers to tell me "Daddy, the stars are glowing." It's very calming to me, and I'm hoping it does the same for her.

Dear Alex has started into her third year with fits and rages - as though she's making up for not causing a bit of trouble through the rumored, but never-heard-from terrible twos. She's making up for lost time. She has developed a high-pitched shriek that really will peel paint, and has taken to chasing the cats around the apartment while squeaking at the top of her ever-larger lungs. We called her on that - with BW asking Dear Alex gently how she would like it if a potty chased her around the house yelling "KerFlush!!! - which is the sound of the dreaded loud loud potty. That captured Dear Alex's imagination, and her latest delight is sneaking up behind one of the lazy cats and shouting KERFLUSH! at the top of her lungs. It does make her smile when they jump.

Dear Alex just had her 3-year service at the wonderful doctor L's office, and seems to be doing quite well - all systems are go, and she was noted as being exceptionally bright. As Dr. L put it, "you guys are in big trouble..." That's putting it mildly. When she's not screaming, Dear Alex is hugely entertaining, and a real delight - when she's screaming, all bets are off, and BW and I do what we can to calm the rages and soothe the anger that comes, I think, from being able to think of things that she can't yet do for herself. She'll grow into those things soon enough, and we'll be on to the next stage of trauma and delight, which constantly leaves me in the wistful and curious place of looking forward to the next and waxing nostalgic for the now at the same time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Four years ago tomorrow...

... and it still seems like last week. Beautiful Wife became Beautiful Wife. We've certainly grown and changed and learned a lot over the last few years of life and love and lil'screamie (Dear Alex, not the blog) but the one constant remains - I'd do it again in a heartbeat. As I think I write every year, I'm a very lucky man - and it seems to me that it still can only get better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy birthday Dear Alex

The cupcake on her face says it all. She had a great day.

Dear Alex dances to the blues at pier 54

After all of that, this: it seems like forever, but it also goes by so fast - the screaming lump of bottomless neediness now walks and talks and tells stories and gives the best hugs in the world.

Three years ago today:

Dear Alex was pulled into the world, kicking and screaming. She's been screaming ever since - and our world is a better place for it.

Three years ago tonight:

Beautiful Wife went to bed feeling a little funny, and got up a few minutes later to tell me that her water broke. We weren't quite ready*, thinking that we still had at least a week to go before the big day... At this moment all I can remember is the overwhelming sense of panic, and then forcing myself to be absolutely calm and seemingly ready for anything so as not to panic BW. We managed to get some things together, and out the door and into the late-night lower-east-side Stuy-Town darkness. We lived a good block, one way or another, from any kind of taxi traffic, but we needed to go uptown, fast. There really was only one way to go, heading towards First Avenue and hoping for the best. Providence provided, and I chased down a cab that had just dropped someone off in the loop that winds into the buildings of Stuy-Town, saving us at least a half a block of running. The ride to the hospital was like something out of a bad TV sitcom, with everyone a classic stereotype - anxious father-to-be, stoic cab driver of indeterminate foreign origin, tense and cranky but clear-headed wife, offering advice and commentary between contractions. BW, ever the producer, had a stopwatch with her, and was timing the contractions and grunting while gripping me hard enough to hurt. From what I'd remembered from the classes it seemed that the contractions were close enough together that we weren't going to make it to the hospital - a classic New York story, but one I think no one would actually care to experience for real. We made it to the hospital in what seemed to be the nick of time, then everything went into slow motion... A shot or two and into a hospital bed and then time stood still. The epidural slowed everything down, and the baby** that was seemingly so eager to enter the world suddenly wasn't.
I vaguely remember three shift changes, a lot of holding BW, and a lot of supportive words and the three really great nurses that saw us through the night - coaching, holding and urging BW on, but it was all to no avail - we finally got to that point of full dilation*** and beyond, and then it was over - the good (and I mean it, seriously) doctor determined that there was no way that the baby was going to come out the way it went in, so-to-speak. It was stuck. There was an impressive flurry of activity as arrangements were made for an operating room, and the rest is history...

* No matter what they tell you, there's absolutely nothing you can actually do to be ready, but there are things you can do to make it easier for everyone involved. We weren't quite there.

** The baby was still a baby - we really didn't want to know which kind. We'd sort of talked about names, but... I was genuinely hoping for a girl, but I didn't know.

*** Okay, Yay! it's the top of my baby's head! But seeing your loved one turned practically inside out and covered with gore is nature's way of desensitizing you to anything that baby-to-come can dish out, gross-out-wise.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Another day, another sculpture

A different kind of sculpture, in a very different place - the end of a rail line in Port Jervis, New York, where we went to pick up Beautiful Wife from the train - Dear Alex and I travelled ahead without BW for an early start to the weekend. We found a magnificent piece of industrial art - an artifact from a time when rail was big - parked for the public in the weeds at a once-busy rail yard. I'm a huge fan of big technology and abandoned industry, so we really had no choice but to explore and expose Dear Alex to what a real train engine was like - not quite as cute as Thomas the Tank Engine, but it definitely got her attention. I'm sort of proud of the fact that she was interested in climbing up onto the giant black thing, and walking along the sides and seeing where the wheel was for the driver (there isn't any, by the way - no steering needed) and talking about the tracks (thank you Thomas) and just hanging out with this bit of history. When mommy's train arrived, she was duly impressed to see from ground level a real train with passenger cars arrive with the roar of the diesel and brakes and bell. "THATS A BIG BIG TRAIN!" Indeed.
As before, I love showing the kid the world and all of the magnificent stuff in it. It's fun, and her awe and delight constantly reminds me to appreciate the things we take for granted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why I (still) love the city

Dear Alex is explaining the Giant Hello Kitty to me - She's a little bit excited.

Dear Alex was very comfortable with Hello Kitty's puppy friend.

Dear Alex sneaking up behind "watering bunny"

Despite the obvious and ceaseless density of urban life and it's challenges, there's a lot to be said for bringing up Dear Alex in such a high-energy and wonderfully engaging place. Last week we had a day together that sums it up nicely, with a trip to the Lever House - a building with public art on Park Avenue - the installation by the artist Tom Sachs of giant painted bronze sculptures of Hello Kitty and a few of her crew. Dear Alex was amazed - when we got to the plaza I turned her loose and she ran screaming "IT'S HELLO KITTY! HELLO KITTY!" I didn't know that she was such a big fan. All she wanted to do was run in circles yelling "HELLO KITTY!" until she decided that it would be fun to simply park her little butt on the steps at the base of the sculpture. The other part of the installation had a puppy, (which was a little smaller in scale and didn't blow her mind - as much) a superb sculpture/fountain of Hello Kitty's bunny friend Miffy - with water streaming from her eyes that terrified Dear Alex to the point that she couldn't look at it directly, but had to sneak up on it from behind. After a little while Dear Alex decided that "the bunny isn't crying, she's watering." So, Miffy has become "watering bunny," and the other sculpture/fountain of Hello Kitty shooting streams of water from her eyes is "watering kitty." Funny kid.

We had a great time - and we've been back a few more times since then, because it's an easy walk and Dear Alex wants to see it again, and again and again - and that special part of the walk where you can stand on a certain street corner and look down the Avenue and see her favorite building in the city - the Chrysler building. I didn't tell her to like the Chrysler building - she decided that on her own, and if you ask her, she'll tell you. I want to give her as much of the world as I can, and share the joy of discovery and experience. It's a plus for me that she's a great little kid who will react positively to almost anything. It also gives us something to talk about later at bedtime when Dear Alex wants to "talk about the day..." yet again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What I know about parenting

Baby Olivia and Dear Alex on the sliding board.
It's scary how big Dear Alex has gotten.

(I remember when she was just a peanut...)

This weekend we had guests in the country, a crazy great couple with their sweet Baby Olivia, and we had a fine time with the kids and talking over the joys and trials of parenting. It occurred to me that we were the putative experts, having ourselves survived the early months relatively unscathed, and having Dear Alex alive and well and mostly unharmed by us so far. Looking back, it's a little hard to believe that it's almost three years now that Dear Alex has been with us, and how completely our lives have changed. That really is what kids do - whatever you had planned or thought about changes forever and what we spent the most time talking about was how little that mattered, and how there is really nothing to do but relax and ride it out. After a while you forget the anxieties and terrors of that tiny age. It may be that the sleeplessness and the constant worry about whether you're doing the right thing simply strikes the tough stuff from your memory as it's constantly being replaced by the next challenge and the little triumphs of first steps, laughs and words.

From my own experience, I can recall the feelings of how incredibly one-sided my relationship with Dear Alex felt - she was a black hole of constant neediness, without any emotional return-on-investment, so to speak. Babies don't really care - as long as someone changes the diaper or supplies the bottle there isn't going to be a thank you for a very long time - but the gratification comes later with a smile, or the feel of a tiny hand in yours and the feeling of amazing responsibility and capability for simply keeping them whole and happy. Baby Olivia reminded me of how sturdy and resilient (and cute) little babies are - the better to survive the inept ministrations of parents like me, who are constantly learning on the job, which is all any of us can ever do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just a moment...

Beautiful Wife is with Dear Alex, BW is in the process of entertaining the kid and putting her hair up in a ponytail - Dear Alex asks, "is that a ponytail?" BW says "yes, that's a pony tail." Dear Alex follows quickly and sweetly with "where's the pony?" She makes these knowing little jokes all the time - and she knows what she's doing. She's got a funny and subtle sense of humor, and that's a good thing, I think. A great survival skill that can take her from serious and about to have a meltdown to laughing at some dumb joke that she's making or that I'm trying to make. Of course there are other times when she's unintentionally hilarious, like when she's trying to explain something to you that she's seen or done that she doesn't yet have all of the words for - and it sputters out in a combination of half sentences and randomly strung together words as she thinks a lot faster than she can actually talk. It leads to some great combinations of sentences and analogies that continually make me wish I had that filterless sense of creativity and abandon with the language.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Potty talk

With the relative success of the recent adventures in potty training, there's been a lot of focus lately on the toilet, going to the bathroom, underwear and the like. Dear Alex has lately taken great delight in one story in particular, which has become a staple at bedtime, or actually anytime Dear Alex wants to talk about it: "Tell me about the loud loud potty." Now, I wasn't an eyewitness, Beautiful Wife had that particular joy, but it goes something like this:
"Alex had to go to the bathroom, and the secret quiet potty* was out of order. Brave Alex went to the loud potty with mommy and tried to go. A lady in the next stall got up, and the toilet flushed because it was an automatic toilet. Dear Alex got scared and jumped up and her toilet flushed, which scared Alex even more, because it was an automatic toilet too. But mommy was there to hold her and it was okay, and Dear Alex was so brave that we went to the restaurant and Alex got to have a special treat - She got Dibs!**"
For what it's worth, I'm paraphrasing this just a little bit, because as the story gets told and retold, new details emerge and it gets styled differently. The point here is really that there are things that stick in her mind to the point of mild obsession, which we talk out and talk about until she decides it's time to move on. I am sort of fascinated by this story, it's vividness and her passion for it. ( not to mention the humor in the compound-flush startle reaction) It had occurred to me earlier in the process of potty training that aside from her natural gifts, Dear Alex did have an odd fear of public toilets, those that she was not familiar with.
When she was still a real baby I had the happy occasion to change her many times in some less than nice bathrooms in stores and restaurants, and all went pretty well. That all changed one day when we happened to be at a Target store in Middletown, NY, which for some reason had the loudest automatic toilets (they flushed with a bang and a roar) and the bathroom also featured the loudest hand-dryers (you know, slap the button, hot air comes out) that sounded a little like jets spooling up for takeoff. Once again, I wasn't in the bathroom that time, (thank you, BW) but I heard her screaming from across the store. It kind of spooked her, and me too.
There are things that you do for your kid to protect them, to keep them safe and happy. That stuff is important. Then there are things that you can't really do anything about, and that really aren't that important - Dear Alex's fear of the occasional loud potty or dryer in a public bathroom (while certainly understandable) is something that she's really going to have to get over. I'm thinking about starting a campaign to take her to every public restroom, everywhere we go, hoping to desensitize her to what's really out there in the real world. In the meantime, the girl has definitely learned to hold it and pretty much refuses to go anyplace that's not home. She's still talking about the loud loud potty, and I'm all for it - we'll work this out together and move on to her next fascination.

*At the public beach near our house on the lake there's a clubhouse - it has a few bathroom options. The quiet, secret bathroom was closed, so they had to go to the "Ladies" - which, like the "Mens" is equipped with those toilets that flush automatically, if you so much as twitch in front of them. Startling, sometimes, even if you expect it.

** Crispy crunchy chocolate-coated ice cream treat, the Dear Alex suddenly loves. I'm half convinced that her joy in the retelling of this story is that it always ends with her getting the afore-mentioned treat.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Home at last.

Beautiful Wife returned from Vancouver late on Wednesday night, and got to be the one that greeted Dear Alex first on Thursday morning. Beautiful and nice to see how happy she was to see mommy again. After all of my concerns about the not missing, and not feeling the absence - she certainly felt the reunion. There's been a bit of a love fest between the two of them going on for the last few days, to the point that I sometimes want to say "would you two cut it out?" I'm not jealous, or feeling left out - I certainly had my time with the kid, and it's really gratifying to see how attached and loving Dear Alex can be. She's grown so much over the past few weeks, and I'm deeply feeling the love, and a great deal of pride at her accomplishments. There's something that Beautiful Wife said to Dear Alex a while back that stuck - and Dear Alex has begun repeating on the occassion of a hug or a moment of closeness - "No matter how big I get, I will always be mommy's baby." It's a true and beautiful thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brand Baby

The motorcycle in question, in better days.

A few nights ago, as part of our usual goodnight ritual, where Dear Alex and I talk about our respective days as an interlude before sleepy-time, we got to talking about my weekend, when I left Dear Alex with Grammy and George, to do some business of my own. I told Dear Alex that I had to move one of daddy's old motorcycles from the city to the country, and that it was now in the basement of our house in the country. "just like my tricycle?" yes, just like that. ( her tricycle is indeed in the basement) "can I see it?" Of course. "We'll see it in the country" I said. "What motorcycle? Can I see it?" Dear Alex asked. Oh, she wanted to see a picture of the motorcycle in question. Being the guy that I am, I had that picture, and shared it with Dear Alex - after a moment, she pointed to a small point on the gas tank, and asked "What's this?" She'd pointed out the emblem on the side of the tank of daddy's old motorcycle, the BMW roundel - "That's on Grammy's car!" What's that?" I said It's a logo. "What is it?" It means that this company made this thing. "Low-go?" "It's on Grammy's car, and your old mowterrcycle?" Now, she's really interested. "Can I see it?" I tell her that yes, she can see it, it's right there in the picture, but that my motorcycle is old and very different from Grammy's car, they just happened to have the same logo. "Low-go, like Grammy's car?" We looked at the picture for a while, and Dear Alex asked to see the "low-go" again, and once again, being the guy that I am, I just happened to have one ( literally) lying around the house - a spare to replace the old ones, should the restoration of aforementioned "old motorcycle" get that far. I took it into her room and showed it to her, with the picture - "Yes! That's it!" She held it for a while and the read the letters - "B-M-W" (she knows her letters) What's that word?" It's not a word, it's a name, a brand, a company the makes things like cars and motorcycles and things like that.
"Daddy's red-seat motorcycle has B-M-W!" ( I have an newer R-1100RS, black, with a red seat - weird color combination, but that's BMW)
The logo is right on the side of the tank, prominent in the pictures that she's seen. It completely astonished me that she'd ever noticed any of this, any of these things - Dear Alex likes the blue and white, and enjoyed my explanation of what it represented - the arc of a propeller - "Like on an airplane!" Something that she's seen pictures of, and she's proud to read the letters - B-M-W. "It's a low-go!" I can't predict what her future brand-preferences will be, but it's almost a sure bet that she'll be positively pre-disposed to the BMW brand. This has nothing to do with anything but her astonishing associative abilities, and an amazing awareness of the world around her - who knew that she was paying attention? As a graphic designer and part-time semiotician, I'm fascinated by her attachment to this mark, and can only wonder how it will develop. It occurs to me that I could simply stick my spare roundels to her tricycle, and she'd be very happy, and never know the difference. It'd probably make her insane with joy, knowing that she had BMW like daddy and Grammy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Random and delightfully surreal picture from the archives of a visit to MoMA -
I love the space and the color. Dear Alex loved it too.

Tomorrow night Beautiful Wife returns, and not a moment to soon. It's been a strange week without her, with many distractions, and lots of travel and diversions, mostly to keep me busy and to keep Dear Alex entertained. That's usually really easy, as she doesn't need all that much to entertain herself. But today felt like the longest day - we sort of jumped the gun on talking about mommy's return, and Dear Alex lost patience with the waiting. This afternoon, she had a meltdown of magnificent proportions, threw a tantrum at the dinner table, and generaly gave me a picture of what the terrible-twos must be like. We've been very lucky. Though Dear Alex has her moments, she's generally been really sweet and reasonable (an odd word to use for an almost-three-year-old, but she really is) but today she wasn't. Enough said. We got through the storms, and managed to have a very nice evening, with a long hot shower for Dear Alex, and a few Thomas the Tank Engine books and a hug - a deep, long soul-nourishing hug on the rocking chair in her room. Peace. We had a quiet goodnight, and Dear Alex passed out without tears.
I've looked forward to (and written about) the joy of Dear Alex being able to express what's bothering her, and being able to talk things through, but she's not quite there yet, and she really wanted BW tonight. Nothing I could do about that but give her a hug and reassure her that mommy will be home soon. It'll make all the difference in the world.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Me and my shadow

At the request of Beautiful Wife - a nearly impossible-to-find picture of Dear Alex and daddy together - I'm usually the one taking the pictures, so I'm never in them.

Dear Alex and cousin E, playing in the sprinkler. Astonishing fun.

At home today in an outfit of her own choosing. "...A is for Alex..."
Note the pink rain boots.

I had a long weekend this weekend - it started on Thursday, and went right through Monday. I drove out to the East End of Long Island so that I could drop Dear Alex off with Grammy and George, then on to the house in Pennsylvania to get some things done without the distraction of taking care of the kid - I did a lot of driving. As I finally got there, I realized that I missed Dear Alex and Beautiful Wife. It's funny how much has changed in me, and how weird it was to realize how attached I've become to both of them. It's one thing for BW to be away - we've been there before, but not having Dear Alex with me felt somehow wrong. I've gotten so used to having her around, a constant companion on my journeys. I called Grammy and George a few times, inquiring about Dear Alex and whether she missed me - No, actually she hadn't really noticed I was gone was the answer. It's the same thing with Beautiful Wife - Dear Alex has mentioned her a few times, and she called for mommy once when she got a little boo-boo (she skinned her knee again), but there's no sense of missing or sadness at our absence. One one hand, this is a good thing - Dear Alex takes things as they come, enjoys herself and accepts our comings and goings as a matter of course. On the other hand you want to say "but don't you miss me?" "I feed you and clothe you and change your stinky diapers in the middle of the night, for crying out loud..." "I miss you." Actually, it's really okay - I don't think that she's internalized the abstract notions of love and loss, and she correctly assumes that we'll return. As I've said before, Dear Alex has a certain equanimity.
My Saturday was an interesting one, and a trip down memory lane as I went into the city from Pennsylvania with a friend with a pickup to retrieve an artifact from a chapter in my life that has closed, a motorcycle that I've had for years - that was last registered and run in 2000.
It appalls me that I let it go for so long, and I'm determined to restore it to some shade of it's former glory, but that's something for another time.
Sunday I drove back to the East End, to collect my lovely daughter - my return barely registered. No running to daddy with open arms, just a sweet and welcome "Hi daddy". We had some fun playing in the spray from a lawn sprinkler with cousin Eliza, both little girls were wary of the sprinkler at first, but they soon got that it was a fun thing, and there are few greater delights than watching two little girls giggling like mad and running wild in wet green grass on a hot summer day. It's pretty easy to understand why Dear Alex didn't miss me all that much - she had so many other things to see and do that there wasn't time or bandwidth to process my absence... I'm still thinking about it, though, and still writing about it.
Today, we got it together and got in the car and drove back to the city - Dear Alex didn't really want to go, but she accepted the fact that the weekend was over, and we had to go see Nanny J. - That's how I got her moving. When it came time to get in the car, Dear Alex would not let me put her in a diaper for the ride home. She wanted to wear underwear. No more diapers. I'm thinking about the potential for disaster - the L.I.E.. Traffic. No place to pull over. Dear Alex wailing in the back seat. I had a very tense drive. Guess what? No accident. She held it the whole way, and let me know as soon as we got home that she had to go "pee-pee NOW!".
It's occurred to me that Beautiful Wife will return (in two days or so) to a very different child than when she left - Dear Alex no longer sucks her thumb, is completely potty trained, and for some reason has begun talking a blue streak. She's always been verbal, but for the last few days, she's been talking non-stop. It may be that I'm thinking about it because Dear Alex didn't nap on our trip back to to the city - she chatted. About anything and everything, sometimes to / with me, in her very non-linear style (it takes a while to figure out what she's talking about and where the conversation is going..) and sometimes to Bunny, and sometimes to herself. The kid didn't shut up. She talked about everything from anchors and blimps to zippers. Entertaining for a while, then a little annoying. I turned on the radio (talk radio - WNYC) and she kept on talking. I really believe that there was something about giving up the thumb and mastering the toilet that's given Dear Alex a new confidence in herself. Though she doesn't have the words to express it, I think she's really proud to have left babyhood behind. As she constantly reminds me, she's a big girl now.
Tonight, Dear Alex had the longest shower ever - it's odd to think that not so long ago we bathed her in a tub from Ikea. She wanted to shower by herself, so we did - I set it up, she undressed, climbed in and stood there for almost 45 minutes talking constantly about anything and everything while I sat on her little bathroom stool and read "What to Expect - the Toddler Years", trying to find some reference to what it means when kids don't miss their parents when their parents go away... On the other hand, Dear Alex did ask me to tell her about my day - "the day you went away", so I guess she did notice after all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tiny Pirate

The Tiny Pirate with a peanut butter and jelly eye patch. Arrgh!

It makes me smile just typing it. Tiny Pirate. Tiny Pirate. It's one of those funny little things that Dear Alex says every once in a while, just to make herself laugh, or to make me laugh. It's a pretty random thing, and I never know what will make her do it, but every once in a while Dear Alex just blurts out "Arrgh, Tiny Pirate!" I know where the "Arrgh" came from, (and who doesn't like to talk like a pirate now and then?) but I really don't know where she got "tiny pirate" but it's funny. Usually, it involves her covering one eye with something - could be anything, a piece of tissue, her hand, or even half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's the eye patch. "Arrgh, Tiny Pirate!" I've tried to add a little more to her repertoire, but "scurvy landlubbers" and "ahoy matey" just didn't stick. The best she can do is "Arrgh, Tiny Pirate! Ahoy maybe!" I wonder what she'd make of "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum." She's a funny little girl, and I love her improvisation and the randomness of her little pirate moments. Arrgh!


Lunchtime photo of Dear Alex today - happy girl talking about the "blimp" she saw floating over the city. "it's a balloon! a balloon! a blimp BLIMP!" Completely unrelated to the post, but just amazing that she has a word for what she was seeing. Who taught her that?

...Another day closer to Beautiful Wife's return, and a long strange day for daddy and Dear Alex. We started the day on a grace note - a hangover from our chat the night before, with Dear Alex nothing but sweet and happy as I came into her room to answer that first morning cry. Out of the sodden night-time diaper, and into underwear (!) without a fight. After a few minutes, Dear Alex suggested that she might like to go to the bathroom, and did so without incident. She's getting to be quite good, and I love that if you ask her if she wants a little privacy, she'll say yes - then pee immediately as you leave the room. Much easier than waiting, waiting and suggesting that "it's coming"... good stuff, this potty thing, but we may be taking it too far. It's a potty all the time. A few days ago, Dear Alex was running around the house with one of the many soft toddler toilet seats we've recently accumulated on her head, and I was thinking that she was just about right - potty on the brain. But it works, and it's been amazing to see the difference in her, psychologically speaking. There really is a change, a certain understanding of responsibility that's engendered by suddenly being mostly in command of your bodily functions. I can honestly see a difference in her self-confidence and attitude. She feels like a "big girl" now, and is (mostly) acting like one.

Of course, the other thing from last night that wasn't really resolved came back - that fear (I'm pretty sure) of swim class. She dreaded it all day, decided that she'd much rather take a nice nap in her crib, or have another lunch, or go for a walk or do anything but go to swim class. Dear Alex was so distraught and had worked herself up to the point that as we got to the pool and her into her bathing suit, she threw up (yeah, threw up) all over Dear nanny J. Awful. Stinky. I took Dear Alex into the bathroom to clean up (and go to the potty), and let Nanny J clean herself up, and all was right with the world. Dear Alex had a great time in the water, blew bubbles, went under water, and didn't want to stop at the end. Baffling. Why does she dread something that she enjoys so much? This little quirk is a small thing, but it confirms to me that there's still a lot that I don't know about the mind of this child, and much that I don't know about how she really feels about things. I can't wait until she has the language to explain what she's feeling, and I'm confident that she will.

A little follow-up to the BLIMP! thing: As we were stuck in traffic on the L.I.E. We saw the blimp again, which excited Dear Alex trememdously. She loved that it seemed to be there for her today - a large and freindly giant following her through her day. "Hello blimp!"