Of poop and pizzerias

FADE IN: INT. PIZZERIA

The K and her parents sit in a booth eating pizza. Despite being potty trained, The K is wearing a diaper to assuage her fear of public bathrooms. She turns to her mom.

K: I made a doody.

M: That’s ok, we’ll change you after you finish eating.

The K stands up.

K: Does my doody smell?

The K turns in order to push her bottom into her mom’s face. After only getting stifled laughter as a response, she turns her attention to her dad.

K: Daddy, do you smell my doody?

The K turns around and attempts to push her bottom across the table.

D: K, please just sit down for now.

K: No, I’ll just stand here. Her dad looks at her. Alright, I’ll go down, but I’m not going to sit.

FADE OUT

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 pants-less to 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.

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…

Portrait of the young girl as an artist

It’s difficult for parents not to project every little activity a toddler enjoys into her future life. Humming along to a song on the radio? Future singer. Kicking a ball across the yard? Future soccer player. Petting a cat? Future veterinarian. Painting a picture? Future artist.

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My little girl loves to paint. She loves to color. She loves to stamp ink. She loves music and singing and dancing. Are any of these the future that lay ahead of her? I don’t know. But it seems to me that they will play a part – even if just a small one. And that’s enough to make me smile. If the little scrawls and doodles that adorn our walls at home and even my office are launchpads for nothing more than weekend watercolors in her backyard while taking a break from the daily 9-5, I will still gladly hang up the results.

There is much beauty and creativity in this child and she will learn to express it in whatever terms are best for her.

But sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up in 20 years from now. Beyond projecting adulthood endeavors from such simple childhood fun, parents have a tendency to search out their own aspirations in their little ones. While I will happily encourage her to pursue any dreams that come her way, I’ll make sure not to mistake mine for hers.

In the meantime, it’s lovely to simply watch her begin this self discovery – hopefully just part of a very long journey.

Daddy’s little chick

Since The Woman had to work this evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Kayleigh on the monitor talk herself to sleep all by myself. Perhaps I should explain. Our new nighttime routine – our magical routine that does not involve 45 minutes or more of rocking after 30 minutes of diaper change negotiations – actually ends with Kayleigh still awake in the crib not screaming her head off while we head downstairs.

Amazing, isn’t it?

The little moppet has gotten over her wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth when it’s time to fall asleep. Well, not entirely. She may cry out a little using every trick she can muster to keep us around. And after it may be upwards of an hour before the talking and singing finally quiet. But the end result is that our entire evening is no longer devoted to ensuring a pain free transition to sleep – the process now unfolds rather naturally. Add that to a wake-up time of around 7:30 AM and life is good.

Of course Kayleigh still likes to toss a wrinkle into things now and then. I can’t really blame her for the cold she just caught, but the lack of blame doesn’t stop the snorting and coughing from waking us up. Thankfully tonight was another example of just how far things have come. About an hour or 2 after falling asleep the plaintive cries of “Daddy” came over the monitor – no doubt because I was the one to put her down, not a matter of preference. After hesitating for a minute or so, I finally ventured in.

Rather than being trapped for the next hour or so with multiple failed attempts at putting her back down as was once the norm, the procedure was fairly straightforward. Pick her up with a big hug, rebuff her attempts to go downstairs, let her lay herself back down, and then hold her hand for 30 seconds while she drifts off again. What a wonderful feeling that a little physical contact and some verbal reassurance is enough for me to comfort our little girl.

The return of television

So I’m giving $h*! My Dad Says a try. I’m not sure why… of course I am. It’s William Shatner. He cracks me up just being himself. Regardless, the son is already annoying me and the one-liners from Shatner just aren’t enough to carry it. About the midway point it’s time to switch the channel and see what’s on the DVR. Honestly, there haven’t been any new series that grabbed my attention, so it’s all leftovers:

The Big Bang Theory – Have I mentioned how in love with this show I am? Correction: we am? I only caught a few episodes the first season and found it funny but not very captivating. Sometime during the second season it popped back on my radar and it was clear they had really developed an understanding of geek humor. While Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper steals the show, all 4 of the guys hit on different nerd stereotypes that make me cringe with recognition. While I had initial doubts about Kaley Cuoco’s “normal girl” being anything but a pretty face and object of affection, her regular verbal sparing with Jim Parsons has become a real highlight. Even The Woman looks forward to new episodes. Oh yeah, Wil Wheaton as Sheldon’s nemesis? Possibly the greatest TV idea ever!

Community – IF YOU ARE NOT WATCHING THIS SHOW YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME. Sorry, but it had to be said. Not until we stumbled across an early season mini-marathon did I even know anything about this show. And now it’s like an obsession – honestly it reminds me a bit of Arrested Development. By using the study group as its central “location”, Community avoids the typical pitfall for ensemble casts in which many of the characters fall through cracks having almost no screen time for weeks (see 30 Rock). While not all of them are on equal footing (obviously McHale’s Jeff Winger is the main guy), they all have regular parts that keep the humor just enough off balance. And, of course, the meta-humor is stupendous – driven largely by Abed’s obsession with TV and movies. Heck, they made fun of $h*! My Dad Says before it even premiered.

30 Rock – Sure, it’s not as great as it was the first couple seasons (they really need to get the secondary cast members involved more), but a below average episode of 30 Rock is funnier than 80% of whatever else is on. And the addition of Matt Damon, even if only as an occasional guest star, was a great move.

Medium – This one’s mostly for The Woman, but I enjoy it, too. We’ve only watched it sporadically until last season. Now it gets the full DVR experience. It’s a kooky enough procedural show to take the place of the ones we liked that ended (Monk) or that we lost interest in (House).

Parenthood – I definitely did write about this one before, but my intended follow-up never happened. After a few episodes this quickly vaulted to the status of “must watch” – although the hour long format and 10PM time slot means that we take awhile catching up each week. The show settled down some after the initial torrid pace of crises and allowed each of the characters to grow in their roles of parents, spouses, and kids in different parts of their lives. From the “perfect family” now dealing with a teenage daughter who has become secretive and a son diagnosed with Asperger syndrome to the irresponsible, single brother figuring out how to become a dad to a child he didn’t know existed. It still sometimes feels like Erika Christensen’s character doesn’t belong in he family and that she, her husband and daughter are almost shoehorned in, but that’s probably the weakest point. The family dynamic really developed well over the course of the first season – the first 2 episodes of this season are still on the DVR.

That’s pretty much it for now. The rest of the DVR is filled with Miffy, Maisy and Arthur episode for the little one. Am I missing anything good? Any great premieres to check out?