Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another New York Day

Beautiful Wife did not enjoy her time in Mexico, and she brought back with her an illness, and a tiredness that is beyond any of my attempts to care for her, so, so far it's been a dismal reunion. I'm frustrated only in that I wish that there was more that I could do to help, but BW, to her credit, will have nothing of it. The only upside is that today, Sunday, I took Dear Alex for a very long walk in the cold to keep her from waking BW, which under normal circumstances, is pretty darn funny, involving a poke to the eye, with an ever-so-innocent "are you sleeping. mommy?"
The answer can only be "no, not when you're poking your finger in my eye. " It's funny, but it didn't feel right for today, so out we went. We just headed west, for no particular reason other than it wasn't a direction we often went, and were rewarded with a number of discoveries in our still relatively-new neighborhood (two years and counting)- we live not too far from Carnegie Hall, so that if the guitar thing (or the ballet or the singing) ever works out, it won't be a stretch to go see the debut... Dear Alex and daddy had fun, walking wih the stroller and commenting on the passing cityscape as the neighborhod subtly changed, and the dear girl had to constantly stop and ask "what's this?" as she discovered more and more things that were painted yellow (her favorite color, by the way) as we made our way west. We found a fabulous sculpture just down the alley from Nobu 57 - a place Beautiful Wife and I ate once, a long-ish time ago. A giant bronze frog, about the size of a Volkswagen, that truly amazed and delighted Dear Alex. Despite the cold, we spent nearly 30 minutes examining and touching and pounding on it. After that, there was nothing else to do but finish the walk in the cold and go to the "pizza store" so that Dear Alex and I could have an early dinner together. Sometimes, I really do love living in the city, though I miss being in the country a lot these days - I need to see a clean swath of unsullied snow once more this winter - As Dear Alex put it "Snow is dirty" what's left of the snow of last Friday is black and yellow and rapidly (and thankfully) vanishing.

Home at last

The Perfect Yellow Guitar

The talking plastic fake camera

Beautiful Wife has returned from Mexico City, tired, sick and maybe just a little cranky - but that's okay, she's home. BW brought some very nice things home with her for Dear Alex, some very pretty little clothing items, but the best thing of all - a yellow guitar.
I haven't written much about it, but Dear Alex loves "YELLOW" if you ask her, it's her favorite color. If you don't ask her, she'll tell you. Walking down any street in the city with her has become kind of funny, as every other car is her favorite color - "Look daddy - it's a YELLOW taxi - that's my FAVORITE color!""It's YELLOW!"
The guitar is great, it's yellow and small, made of wood and has strings of green fishing line, but it's authentically shaped - a scaled-down version of a guitar. She's already spent a lot of time strumming it, in imitation of a favorite teacher at one of her day-school-music things, and has had a super time making up songs to atonally sing while plucking away randomly. She made up a song about the wood floor in the apartment, then a song about the carpet that somehow de-volved into Dear Alex's hilarious cover of "close to you". (I think that's her favorite song, though it might have been replaced by the theme from Thomas the tank engine.) It's fascinating watching her invent and make random connections and just go with them.
I love the guitar for a lot of things that I really believe make a huge difference -
Sure, it's a cheap (really) tourist souvenir-type thing, but it's handmade. It's not injection-molded plastic. There's no branding (other than the hand-painted inscription of (" Mexico") or cartoon character tie-in (Dora... would be just right for this one, but it would be plastic and make really annoying sounds, with pre-recorded exhortations to "play" in spanish) It's just a cool thing that Dear Alex already loves. No batteries and sound chips required. I love Beautiful Wife for finding this and seeing it for what it is.

I'm ranting about this because a very nice and very well-intentioned neighbor recently gave Dear Alex some very nice things including a "Diego wildlife camera" which is of course made of plastic and doesn't take pictures. It has a sound chip that alternately exhorts you to "take pictures" and mentions things like llamas and monkeys. I'd be more specific - but I've hidden the camera, and I can't remember where. It was driving me crazy. As an antidote, yesterday I gave Dear Alex one of the many obsolete digital cameras lying around the house, and other than showing her which buttons to push, left her alone with it for a day (the camera was miraculously unharmed). I'll post some of the results when I get around to uploading the chip.
I think I'm coming down in favor of the real. The unbranded, unmerchandised experience of doing things - like playing a wooden guitar and making up her own songs.

BW is asleep as I write - ill, exhausted, and in the getting-over phase of what sounded like a tough shoot. I've been there, so I'll do all I can to make it better.
She's the best.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Keep your pants on daddy

Dear Alex and her bunnies - that's mommy bunny and daddy bunny kissing.
I'm quite sure there's some compensating going on for Beautiful Wife's absence,

but she's having fun, and has been carrying them everywhere lately.

There's another post in this somewhere.

Dinnertime cute attack with Nanny J. Dear Alex is cracking herself up.

Gratuitous bathtime picture, but also, an interesting repeat of the obsessive
ordering and re-ordering of the cups. This went on for a while.

Three nights ago it was the cat in the night-time, two nights ago it was an astonishingly full diaper that woke Dear Alex at two in the morning, this morning she woke up uncharacteristically early for her usual sleepy self at 7:30.
What these three wakings have in common was that each time I went to get her, Dear Alex dropped the immediate complaint and the first thing she had to say was "do you have your pants on daddy? In two of the three cases, I didn't - but it doesn't really matter to her whether you're wearing pants or not. ( I should point out that for better or worse, in no case was I naked...) - It's just some weird fascination with ones state of dress or undress. It started a while ago, but seemed like one of those odd little things that Dear Alex gets obsessed with every once in a while, but this one stuck. It's been going on long enough to become kind of a family joke - It's a salutation and a goodbye that almost always gets a laugh. It's extended to Dear Alex greeting me with an excited "You have pants on!" or a question "Do you have your pants on?" (yes) "You have a shirt on and shoes and socks!" of course, this applies to Beautiful Wife as well. I'm waiting for the day when Dear Alex busts out in public with "Keep your pants on mommy!"

The kid is funny, as though to compensate for the absence of Beautiful Wife, she's been having serious cute attacks for daddy about three times a day - I mean lots of affection, elaborate hugs, punctuated by giggles and conversation about the weirdest things. She excitedly told me a story for about half an hour today, and while she's usually pretty articulate, I have absolutely no idea what she was talking about. It was fun to listen to, though I really couldn't do much but smile and nod. Sure, there's almost always the chance that she'll slip into a whining, cranky two-year-old at any moment, for now she's an angel.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alex and the cat

From the archives: Beautiful Wife and Dear Alex, back when winter was fun.

Dear Alex is "so tired" that she must pretend-nap immediately.

Menacing hairy things, or decorative throw pillows? You decide.

I miss Beautiful Wife something fierce. It was that kind of day for Dear Alex, too, though she's not really talking about it all that much, but you can tell. She alternates between bursts of energy and crankiness, and has added a new thing - bringing her blankets from the crib, and flopping on the floor in a perfect demonstration of ennui. Dear Alex just lays down, as if to say "I'm so tired".
On the upside, I've been getting a lot more attention from the girl, with elaborate hugs and kisses and climbing on daddy - usually as she's asking "Are you happy, daddy?" You can't really say no to that.

I can relate to the tired thing, though, as last night we had "The curious incident of the cat in the night-time" again, as Dear Alex woke me up at 4 in the morning screaming "Daddy daddy daddy! Cat in MY rocking chair! Cat daddy daddy daddy!" There's a lot about this I really don't understand, because it raises so many questions. First of all, because we've had this happen before, we have an elaborate policy that's become part of the bedtime ritual: "Inner door open, outer door closed"
(Dear Alex has a short hallway leading to her room and bath) The door was closed. (Easy answer, cat was in the room at bedtime and I missed her in my usual "do we have two cats?" sweep of the closets and room.) Second, how did she know there was a cat there, and more specifically, that it was Gracie? It's one thing to say that, well, the cat made that cat noise (that Dear Alex loves to imitate - "MEEE-OWWWW, MAO!") But both of them squeak like that. It was dark in the room, so I didn't, couldn't say which one it was until I got a light on - It was indeed Gracie. Third, why did it bother her so much,( she likes the cats and spends good parts of her day chasing them around) and just when did it become her rocking chair? It's not like the cat was trying to climb into her crib and suffocate her, or claw her eyes out or anything like that.(Fortunately, neither one of the cats has anything close to a temper - and they're about as threatening as decorative throw pillows - which they kind of resemble) Dear Alex is just kind of territorial, I guess. I'm still baffled as to how she knew it was Gracie, and why it was important enough to wake me up in the middle of the night. It's one of those unknowable mysteries (that only Dear Alex has the answer to) that she's just not going to tell me.
We removed Gracie, had a diaper change and a hug and I eventually got back to sleep, just in time to wake up.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are you happy, daddy?

From the Dear Alex archives - with the question face.
Yes, that's a big gusher of snot.

Dear Alex has a way of cutting to the heart of things - this is her new question, and it always makes me smile. It's not a philosophical question, and Dear Alex seeks no nuance. The only possible answer to the question is either yes or no.
Usually the answer is "yes, of course I'm happy." It really has to be, because I generally am. In truth, there are many times I'd sincerely like to talk about what might be making me unhappy at the moment she's asked the question. It's because this well-timed question usually has something to do with something that Dear Alex has done or is about to do that she knows annoys the crap out of me. It's her own way of saying that she knows she's doing something wrong, and is doing her best to charm me out of getting mad. I love it.
Every once in a while, though there is a certain seriousness, a directness to the question that gives me pause. Did she really just ask me that? Does she know what sad means beyond the immediate here and now of "Daddy's unhappy because there's trucks and cars and toys and trains and books and puzzle pieces and stickers and clothing strewn from one end of the apartment to the other, and there's Cheerios in daddy's shoe, and daddy went out the other day to get coffee and go to the store with a sticker on his face that he didn't discover until he was on the way home...". That sadness beyond the immediate is something I think that she knows of, but doesn't yet have the words for, and something she's working on, for better or worse. As I've gone on about many times before, she's a smart kid, and very little escapes her.
I know sad. I've been there, and Dear Alex seems to get it, to occasionally rise above her awareness of only her own bad self, to consider the feelings of someone else. I may be reading too much into it, but I think there's a good soul in there.
Someone once said of Dear Alex "She knows the secret of the universe, but she's not telling anyone."

"Alex stand on the blue D and you stand on da udder D"

We had a good day today - Nanny J. came back, and took Dear Alex outside for a long time to play on this oddly-warm February day, at one point the temperature (64ยบ) was the same as Mexico City, where Beautiful Wife is for the next (counting down) 5 days. We played letters, a game invented by BW, that basically consists of Dear Alex telling me which letter to stand on as she does the same. She knows her alphabet, backwards and forwards, and has started to figure out that those letters make words. I swear she's going to be reading before she's potty-trained.

Day One - Alex's cranky day

Dear Alex was fascinated by the shoes. I wonder where she gets it.

Dear Alex liked the red box on the sidewalk.

But the yellow was her favorite.

"Shiny, shiny"

But the yellow was her favorite.

Today was a low-key day. Originally I'd thought that maybe we'd go to the country, to see what was left of the snow - but because of my own low energy and Dear Alex's iffy mood, I let that thought pass. Dear Alex was just a little out of sorts this morning when she woke up screaming for Mommy mommy mmmmooooooommmmy!, and the mood lasted pretty much all day. She was on her own little toddler roller coaster, alternating between sweetness and hugs and terrible rages. I'm as much to blame for that as I really didn't provide sufficient distraction (like a trip to the country or a museum) to divert her attention from mommy. I did manage to get her calmed down, and dressed and changed and hugged and fed - a little bit at a time, as getting her to sit and eat has become a real trial. "Daddy I want to play". No, eat. Then you can play. "Daddy I want to play". No. eat. "Daddy I want to play". No. "I don't want to eat an-y-more". But you haven't eaten anything, and you're going to tell me you're hungry later. "Daddy I want to plaaaaay". Eventually I give up, and turned her loose from the tyranny of the table. Of course, an hour later, she's cranky as hell, throwing things and whining - "daddy I'm hungry. hungry." We got it all sorted out, and Dear Alex spent the day grazing on snacks and fruit, and eventually went out for a walk in the cold. We ended up having a great time, walking, walking, walking. I took my old familiar route down Park Avenue, and we had fun window shopping for shoes ("shoe store") and money ("bank, bank") and fell into a game of finding colors in the city. We found Red and Blue and Green and "shiny" but best of all, "Yellow!" The kid's a freak, but I love her for it. We had to stop, eventually because of the cold and a big wet diaper, but after a little bit we went out again for a run to the grocery store, to restock on the essentials that I'll prepare and Dear Alex won't eat.We ended up having a lot of fun, and a good night and a long bath and a mercifully quick goodnight as Dear Alex was tired from all of the walking and no nap today. Note to self: There's a trade-off here: no nap= easy bedtime, but, no nap also equals full-on attention, and the ever-present edge of crankiness. Ultimately, we had a good day, but it was tinged with a little sadness, and little loneliness, and though Dear Alex and I disagree about some things, (no more Clifford or Caillou or throwing toys or not eating) we have common ground on one thing - we miss Beautiful Wife.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beautiful Wife

Is away again tomorrow. Tonight was tears and a sad goodnight to Dear Alex, who is aready favoring daddy by some instinct, or insight that only she knows. I feel sad tonight, as BW is indeed going away again for a week to produce another spot in exotic Mexico. In other times, it might have been with me, but circumstances change, and with change we grow. The kid has been great, and I'm sure she'll do fine, it's been me that I worry about, and the dear responsibility of bringing Dear Alex through the absence of Mommy, mommy, mommmmmy! yet again, as BW goes and does her thing. This is to begin another minor blog revival, as I will try to write again every day about the progress of Dear Alex, and her astonishing way of cutting to the heart of the matter to ask "Are you happy daddy" when things get tough. "Why yes I am dear girl, but I miss mommy already..." Enough said. Bon Voyage BW, Stay safe.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

To any and all, but especially Beautiful Wife and Dear Alex. It's been a while since I've had much to say, though there's lots of stories to tell. Tonight, though, it's about love and affection for BW who's been nothing but busy lately doing the production thing, and will once again be travelling - this time to Mexico. Another week away, and I'm already starting to miss her.
I've spent the last weeks building my own website for professional reasons, in hopes of winning that just-right job, an amazingly dense learning curve, but I'm happy with the results. It's good to be adaptable, but it's been a bit of a slog. Too much time in front of the computer to fall easily into writing about the relentless progress of a precocious two-year-old. I'll get there - tonight, though, it's all about love. Happy Valentine's Day.