Hello stranger

After running some errands this afternoon, we decided on an impromptu dinner at Panera. Well, Kayleigh decided. We asked her about going to the local pizzeria, but she insisted on going elsewhere as she had to have mac and cheese from Panera. Oh well, you pick your battles.

Anyway she was well on her way to being overtired thanks to fighting a cold as well as her nap. Lack of her early afternoon downtime leads to crankiness and/or loopiness. Tonight she went for loopiness.

After finishing her dinner she conned her way off her seat by pretending to want to hop on my lap and then maneuvering to the floor. Then I saw a glint in her eyes. That glint said, “I’m going to say hi to everyone in this restaurant.” And sure enough, she set off to do just that. Working her way from one table to the next Kayleigh greeted as many customers as she could and inquired what they might be doing.

Fortunately The Moppet brings out the best in people. Pretty much everyone smiles back and actually puts in effort to join her conversation – although that one guy was not going to give me a hug no matter how many times she suggested it. I worry sometimes that her overly friendly attitude might rub some people the wrong way. But most people respond in a genuinely positive manner – I’ve even noticed a couple here and there waiting for her to swing by their table. My main goal is just to make sure that she doesn’t over stay her welcome, or invite herself to any dinner parties.

Of course there is also the fear of “stranger danger”. But the reality is that abductions like that are few and far between. As long as I can keep an eye on her and teach her to be aware of her surroundings, a little friendliness can go along way to brightening her, and other people’s, day.

The K

While I’ve been prone to calling my little girl The Moppet of late, I never truly settled on a single nickname. Moppet works well because she’s little, precocious and has a wild head of hair. But in the past it’s been a cycle of diminutives from┬ápants-less┬áto naked girl to goober with the occasional scutch thrown in for good measure. There’s also been some less than favorable ones when the day stretches too long, but we’ll ignore those for now.

With this lack of consistency, it seems as though Kayleigh decided to take matters into her own hands. A couple months ago she began referring to herself as “The K” – seriously. As cute as it is to hear her answer questions like “Who wants a cookie?” with an exclamation of “The K”, it does come across as a tad George Costanza-ish. Maybe I should tell her to call me “T-bone”, you know, because I eat a lot of steaks…

Strangely enough I think the moniker did rub off on me. Every so often Kayleigh would call me “Dad” instead of “Daddy” and my typical response was to shorten her name to simply Kay. Between those exchanges, her own nickname and the feeling of formality that the overuse of her full name can brings, I’ve come to find myself calling her Kay with far greater regularity. And that’s despite the fact that she has switched back to the more proper “Kayleigh” when make self-referential statements.

Hopefully this won’t have any negative impact on her impression of her first name. I grew up with great affection for “Thomas” and it took me quite a long time to accept its abridgment – even today refusing to give up the h. Aside from its beauty, one of the main reasons I love the name Kayleigh is the ability to shorten it to a pleasant nickname – two, actually. I really do want The Moppet to be able to enjoy all aspects of her name and to choose whatever form suits her best – preferably one without a definite article attached.

Daddy vs. The Hair

As a dad, dealing with my daughter’s hair can be a bit of a challenge. I didn’t grow up with any need for headbands, barrettes, clips or those mane things that were all the rage. Now I have to learn how to manage the Moppet’s wild and crazy hair. Fortunately even my pitiful attempts at hair styling can’t mask her adorableness.

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Despite the smile, those pigtails don’t last beyond dinner. Maybe half of one does. I may have to move onto braids if I want any of this to last, but that may be too cruel.

The power of choice

Kayleigh has firmly entrenched herself in the “must test every request/instruction/order” phase. That means everything from diaper changes to hand washing has become just that much more of a challenge. Some days it seems as though it’s just not worth the effort. Just let her wade around in a 2 day old diaper with yesterday’s oatmeal still caked to her face. Sadly this whole “responsible parenting” thing gets in the way and we’re forced to deal with the issue.

The Woman made a suggestion the other day. Give her a choice. If she doesn’t want to wash her hands, give her the option of choosing where to wash them. If she doesn’t want to put on clothes, give her a chance to pick out an outfit. Seems a little too simple; The Moppet would have to see through it, right?

But kids actually fall for this stuff. Tonight she kept insisting that we should watch TV before bedtime when I really wanted us to read. “You can pick out a book,” I said. Finally she caved and went for The Tooth Book – not my personal choice, but it did the trick. Next she wouldn’t let me get her dressed for bed. “I”ll sleep in my shirt,” she said. But showing her 2 different pajamas suddenly changed everything. Thirty seconds later she was all zipped up.

I realize we’re not the first parents to figure this out, but just like every little toddler transition feels like a miracle, so does every little “parenting trick” discovery. Next up: bribing your kid with sweets.

Wherein a small child invades NYC

Yesterday I began my extended holiday early by heading into New York City for The Moppet’s first trip into the big, bad city. After a sprint to catch the train, it started like this:

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And ended like this:

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And in between there was stuff like this:

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Overall it was more of a proof of concept than a true holiday excursion. There was no real planning beyond, “Let’s go to the city and see the big tree.” Which was somewhat silly to do so close to Christmas, but miraculously worked out.

We started with a lovely lunch at Le Pain Quotidien (which means The Quotidien Bread – thank you 4 years of high school French!) as The Woman used to frequent there for their decadent hot chocolate. After which we made our way over to one of the most famous toy stores… only 3 days before Christmas. Brilliant, I know. Surprisingly, once past the main entrance and all of the mammoth stuffed animals, the store was “relatively quiet.” Very busy, but certainly not the hectic nightmare of consumerism I had expected.

Once the nonstop parade of toys she can’t play with began to overwhelm Kayleigh, we packed up and headed to see “a really big tree.” Yes, that was enough to convince her that there was more to see outside. Thanks to a little help from Facebook we were able to meet up with a friend in the area who was even kind enough to take a picture of us in front of said tree. Maybe someday I’ll get around to posting it. In the meantime, just picture three people in front of a really huge tree. That’s close enough.

And that was also enough for us. Come spring time I’d like to really walk around with The Moppet and introduce her to the joys of CD shopping in The Village and fighting tourists in Times Square, but 4 hours was enough stress for now. Especially with the regular addition and subtraction of many layers that sort of, but not quite, kept us at decent temperatures. Still, she was quite the trooper throughout the tramping around such a strange environment and was even kind enough to fall asleep in her stroller for the walk back to Penn Station.

Fortunately she woke up in time for her favorite part – staring out the window of a moving train.

She’s warming up to me

As has been pointed out many times in the past, Kayleigh is a mama’s girl. It’s kind of hard to compete with all of the time she spends with The Woman, so I figured it was best to just give up and hope for a boy next time around.

Kidding! I’m only kidding. You know he’d be a mama’s boy anyway…

Lately The Moppet has seemingly taken more of a shine to her old man. Beyond merely accepting me as a substitute for when the preferred personnel is unavailable, she actually appears to desire my company on occasion. First it began with some late mornings. Sleeping in past 8:30 left me with no option but to head off without a hug or kiss or even a demand that I leave the room and get Mommy. Much to my surprise, once awake she asked where I was and wasn’t I joining in all of the festivities.

And here I thought she didn’t even know I existed.

Today the expansion of my role continued, thanks to a half day at work so The Woman could flex her bread winning ways. Who would have guessed that the girl who popularized the phrase “No, mommy will do it” would express joy that I came home early. She even let me hold her after her failed nap, despite The Woman being readily available.

Just to emphasize how buddy-buddy she was acting, the night concluded with a father/daughter dinner at Whole Food listening to a jazz duo. Sure, she was totally bonkers from the lack of a nap, but I had a blast chasing her around the store and dancing with her in front of the crowd. They were clearly jealous of our moves. I’m hoping this becomes our “thing” – a way for us to bond while simultaneously combating the overexposure to Billy Joel courtesy of her mother. Sooner or later she’s got to pick up something more from me then screaming “holy cow” at the TV whenever certain sporting events are on.

Supra Genius

I’m sitting here in front of my computer with some “spare” time thanks to my new morning routine (it’s only sort of working, but much better than before, thank you very much) and can’t think of a single thing to actually write about. So I start diving into the drafts to see if any unfinished thoughts can get themselves finished. And the first one to tickle my fancy is date… JULY OF 2009?!?! Brilliant. Sprucing it up for now would entail a complete rewrite, so I’ll just start with what was here already:

I never want to become the kind of parent that completely blows every little thing their child does out of the water. The kind that insists that their precious baby is the most beautiful or the most athletic or the most intelligent. But the fact that Kayleigh is the most beautiful baby girl makes that a little hard to do. And now I’ve got to deal with the fact that she’s just too frickin’ smart for a 1 year old.

Let’s preface this by saying that all babies are smart. Really smart. Seriously. Just ask any parent. We’re amazed at the level of genius they reach that allows them to pick up a straw and not poke their own eye out. They master the hand-eye coordination necessary to throw their toys without smacking themselves in the face and they deserve mounds of praise. Hell, parents go crazy when they manage to poop – something

Kayleigh hasn’t been that interested in the whole mobility thing. At about a week past her first birthday she’s just now getting frustrated with not being able to reach items on her own. Instead she’s been focused on more intellectual pursuits – such as which words will bend Mommy and Daddy to her will. She’s also learned how to turn and wait for the appropriate praise upon completion of a task as difficult as pointing out a circle. As I said, she’s becoming quite the intellectual.

Her brain has just started moving at a ridiculous pace lately. One day a couple weeks ago I’m watching her play with a wooden puzzle – this typically involves her taking out all of the pieces and tossing them over her shoulder. This time, however, she suddenly decides to start putting them back. In the right place! She matches the blue circle piece with the blues circle hole and the orange square piece with the orange square hole. DO YOU KNOW HOW CRAZY DIFFICULT THAT IS?!?!

Okay, it’s not like she did the whole thing or does it on a regular basis, but these are the minor activities that send parents over the edge. And I totally get that now.

It’s kind of a shame I didn’t just pot it as is. That was a pretty solid entry. My point was that watching babies do things isn’t that exciting – but watching a baby grow up is. Crawling, walking, talking, etc. – pretty much all babies get around to doing this. But that doesn’t change how awesome it is to watch one figure it out.

I remember in those innocent days of my 20s having no clue want parenthood was about listening to people ask questions like “Is he playing peek-a-boo yet?” All I could think was who cares? He’s probably not playing tic-tac-toe either, is that really a big deal? And then one morning on the changing table Kayleigh pulled a cloth over her head and pulled it down to play peek-a-b00 and suddenly… HOLY CRAP, MY BABY’S A GENIUS!

It all came together that these little milestones really show off how newborns, babies and toddlers learn. Realizing that for the first time she was deliberating trying to hide meant way more than simply a new game in her repertoire. It was a demonstration of her understanding the world around her and how it works.

So this post may seem a tad ill-timed considering Kayleigh is now a “fully functional” toddler. But those moments still come. Whether it’s figuring out how to put together a jigsaw puzzle or realizing why we want her to sit on the potty (seriously, peeing elicited a response you might think would be reserved for pony rides or a shower of puppies), there’s still plenty more to discover.

And also, my girl really is a freakin’ genius. But I’ll talk about that later…

Wake me up before you…

I used to be a morning person. Alright, to be fair I was an anytime person. The Woman has said that I’m the only person she knows that you can wake up in the middle of the night and expect to be completely functional and rational within 2 minutes. Some call it a gift, I call it… useful.

But while I could easily stay up until 2 and still be bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7 am for years, that came screeching to a halt at the most inconvenient time. A few months before the little moppet was born sleep started to become an issue for me. And then she was born. And, I don’t know if you know this, but newborns can cause trouble for your sleep habits. My night times went from only needing 5 hours or so to needing 8 hours to only getting 3 hours. Kids sure are inconvenient.

I don’t feel like rehashing the whole sleep progression thing again. Kayleigh has become an excellent nighttime sleeper these days, and that means that we get to sleep in past 7 am 99% of mornings. Of course not much further than that, mind you, since my internal alarm clock is now pretty much permanently wired for 7:15. Initially we were so afraid of this new morning routine not lasting that we packed our evenings with as much TV watching, Internet surfing, time wasting activities we could muster. That started a very bad habit of staying up later than was good simply to maximize the adult time – but without really doing anything beyond clearing the DVR.

So now I’m thinking that I need to re-wire myself back to being a morning person. It’s time for me to get up before Kayleigh and actually accomplish things. When she wakes up I should be sitting at my computer writing and listening to music while already showered, shaved and fed. For this to work some boundaries need to be put in place. Stop watching the umpteenth rerun of Scrubs simply because it’s on TV. Don’t try to start typing up a post at 11:30 with eyelids already drooping. And for goodness sakes, give Angry Birds a rest already!

Seriously, those green pigs can wait ’til tomorrow.