Life

progression

First day

I view the point of parenting to be getting your kids ready to not need you. Yes, have fun with them, and cherish the time you have with them. Just remember, at some point, they will leave and go out into the world. They need to go out into the world.

So, Brooklynn, go out into the world. Welcome to kindergarten.

We've been taking Brooklynn to daycare since she was a few months old, so it isn't as if we've never had her out of the house without us before. In fact, she will still spend part of her day at a daycare to allow all of us to avoid multiple drop-offs, pick-ups, and varied schedules. And she's fine with it.

Last night, as we reviewed her lunch list and picked out her first day outfit, she took some time to explain to Maddi that she would be going to school during the day but she'll come back in the afternoon so Mom can pick them both up. She explained it with a "Of course this will be fine" tone that showed she was the big sister, more than capable of taking care of herself.

With Brooklynn in daycare, she has been getting to be one of the big kids for a while now, some I'm used to seeing her as a rather mature and capable person. This morning, to help her get into the routine, we took her to daycare and let the shuttle take her to school. I told her that I would see her at school just to make sure she got to her classroom on the first day. At daycare, she was fine - I'll see you there if you want to come. If anything, Maddi was more worked up over the notion that Brooklynn would be leaving without her.

I got to the elementary school ten minutes before the bell rang to line up. It's been a while since I've been to K-5 age setting, and longer still since I was there on the first day. Since I didn't know exactly where Brooklynn would be dropped off, we hadn't set a firm meeting point to give her a "Wait for me here" direction. As I surveyed the mass of kids, parents, and supervisors on the playground, I regretted that.

I didn't think Brooklynn would have abandoned her belongings to play, but I swung by the slides and swings to check. I didn't see her. If nothing else, I knew I could wait by the door and at least wave to her as she went in since I told her I would be there. I was walking back to the school through the people when and opening in the crowd appeared and I spotted her.

She was standing still, clutching her backpack to her chest, looking at all the people swirling around her. Instead of the mature and worldly person we see at home, she seemed very small, timid, and afraid. She saw me as well, came over, and latched on to my leg. I crouch down to be at her level and everything came spilling out. They shuttle dropped her off and there weren't many other kids riding with her today and she didn't know where to go and she couldn't find her teacher and she didn't know where I was but she knew I should be somewhere and she just didn't know.

And so I helped her. With the assistance of a playground monitor, we found the tag where her class will line up. And we looked at the other class tags, and saw how others ones had numbers for the grade levels and hers had a K for kindergarten, and the letter of her teachers name. We put her backpack in the line and went to play for a minute. Brand new playground equipment, yes it's ok to go on it, and yes, I will be here when you're done.

The whistle blew for everyone to line up, so we went back, found her backpack, and got in line. We talked about where the shuttle from daycare dropped her off, and where it would pick her up at the end of the day. We talked about the fact tomorrow morning, she would need to do this herself and that I can't come every day with her. She said that she could handle it, and, since her teacher was starting the headcount of the kids in line, I gave her one last hug, got a tighter squeeze back, and I stepped away.

They waited for a minute while a few other classes went in first. Brooklynn motioned for me to come over to her, but I just told her she would be fine, right? She nodded, and it was her turn to file in. One last wave and she was gone. She didn't even need to look back.

I walked back to my car and headed back to work. The whole point of parenting is to get your kids ready not to need you. We're doing that. Some steps along the path are bigger than others, and I'd say that this morning was a gigantic one.

Good job, Brooklynn.

Enter the building

upwards and onwards

It's hard not compare the children. As much as I try to recognize them for their own unique traits, I reference a lot of my experience to Maddi back to what Brooklynn was like at a similar age. And the more I reference back, the more I find myself thinking, Brooklynn would not have been doing that. The Climber

At the playground near our house, there are a few tall ladders. Brooklynn was cautious around high things that could lead to falls. Maddi is not. I was with Brooklynn at a different part of the playground for a couple minutes and realized that Maddi was no longer on the little kid section of slides. And I couldn't see her.

My initial thought was that she had headed up the sidewalk toward the street, so I briskly walked around to the street side of the equipment and scanned the edge of the road. No Maddi. As I turned back to the mulched play area, there she was, on the chain ladder about three times as tall as herself. She was one rung from the top and trying to figure out what to do since the hand holds were different than the rest of the way up.

I walked over and showed her the handles on the sides of the platform. Away she went.

Unlike Brooklynn, Maddi does not like assistance when she climbs. Into cars. Up ladders. Over the edge of the bath. No, do not touch her. If you do, that constitutes a violation of her do-it-myself attitude and she has to start all over. And then you also get scolded by a toddler, "No Daddy! Mah-SEFF!" If you are really fortunate, she will continue to mutter her version of myself to, well, herself, as is to ward off any unwanted assistance.

Keep that free spirit, Maddi. Just don't look down.

the mighty has fallen

I don't go to the doctor. Since I graduated from high school, I've been to a doctor for one issue. I tore my ACL and had replacement surgery. Not that I don't get sick. No, I think I've taken a half day off because of illness in my almost 9 year career. I've gotten colds and even had a couple rounds of throwing up. Maybe I've been a little hard headed about going in for medical attention, but things have always resolved themselves.

This winter, our first in North Dakota, Rhiannon has been sick. Brooklynn has been sick. Maddi has been cycling through cold after cold and rarely seem to clear one round before she comes down with the next one. And through it all, I've been relatively healthy. A couple days of blowing my nose a little more often, but nothing major. Just a typical winter illness season.

Wednesday night, my throat was sore. Last night, I had a fever of 103, was achy, and didn't have much of an appetite. I passed out around 8pm after we got the girls to bed and slept for 10 hours. Looking at symptoms, they seemed to line up a little bit with influenza.

Of course, with our move this year, this is the first year I haven't gotten a flu shot. At my old office, they would have a group come by and provide flu shots in the first floor conference room. At my new office, they don't bring anyone in. So, since I'm not used to going out to get a shot myself, I never got around to it.

Fearing the worst about illness and the fact she's never seen me get knocked out for 10 hours before, Rhiannon talked me into going to the doctor, and I listened to her. This morning, after sleeping for a long night and taking some medicine, I felt better. I had intended to stop in at work, fill out my time sheet, and take the day off. Three hours later, I finally left work and went to the local walk in clinic.

Having two kids that get sick from time to time and spending a week in the hospital with Brooklynn, I'm used to answering questions from doctors. It's still different answer questions about yourself. And having your ears looked in and neck felt.

The doctor I saw didn't feel like I had influenza. He suggested we test for strep and mono. Negative on both counts. Since there isn't much to do for general viral infections, his prescription was rest and ibuprofen as needed for pain and fever relief.

It's probably not the right attitude, but it doesn't make me think going to the doctor for general illness very soon again.

injury identification

While Maddi is slowly progressing on her speaking vocabulary, her understanding is growing rapidly. At least her decisiveness in answering questions is getting better.

Maddi, would you like to go back to bed?

No!

Maddi, would you like to cuddle in bed for a while with mom and dad in our room?

No!

Maddi, would you like to watch some PBS shows on the TV?

No!

Maddi, would you like eat breakfast out here by yourself?

No!

Maddi, it’s 6:30am on the weekend. No one else in the house is up yet. Would you like me to sit out in the living room with you because you think it’s time to be awake now?

Yeah!

Wonderful…

It’s nice that she can follow directions and answer an expanding repertoire of questions with increasing accuracy. We could do without the stubbornness. She latches on to ideas and won’t let go. Like she needs her pacifier more than we would like. She likes to take care of babies. And she is concerned about owies.

Maddi has a scratch on one of her knuckles, and the last time I asked to see her pretty painted nails, that was the only thing that concerned her. She points to her knuckle – owie, owie! It doesn’t matter how old the scratch or mark it, it’s still an owie.

If she bumps her head or runs into a wall – owie! If I have a scratch or bruise on my leg that she can see, she will walk over, point to it with her finger, and say in her most concerned voice, Owie! Then she will pat it as if to say, Don’t worry Dad, it’s going to be ok.

Last night, we were in the pool for parent/child swimming class. Maddi likes swimming and likes to be in the water, but the class gets over close to 7pm which is close to her bedtime. By the end of the class, she wasn’t happy and wanted to put her toy back in the tub and get out. She reached out to put the frog back and noticed her wrinkled fingers.

She held her hand out toward me and with a small cry, as if she was asking why we were still there so late at night, owie. She grabbed my hand, saw my fingers, point to them and informed that was also an owie. She patted my wrinkled hand with her wrinkled hand, put her head on my shoulder, and sighed a soft owie. It’s late, Dad. Let’s go home and get well.

all grown up

When I first started dating Rhiannon, her youngest sister was six. Today is that little girl's 21st birthday. Sarah and the Kids

Kind of makes a guy feel old, especially when you consider that Sarah's oldest niece is eight and two years older than Sarah was when I first met her. At least now we can send her on a beer run. I knew we were keeping her around for something useful eventually.

Happy birthday, Sarah.

Tree Stripping

When we set up the tree, Maddi was taking a nap. Since it was the first time we were putting up decorations in the new house and didn't know exactly where everything should go, we felt it might be a little easier without the eager helping hands of the little one. Once the tree was up, we had a no touching policy. The ornaments are plastic, so breakage wasn't a huge concern. Rather, we just don't want the kids to get in the habit of rummaging through the indoor foliage. As we've done on more than occasion, we took our tree down on New Year's Day this year. Maddi was not asleep, and she was not going to miss out on the opportunity to finally play with all the ornaments that she's been looking at for the past month.

Where does this go

We made her help sort by color. Pink and purple and red and orange are pretty close together, so there were a few issues there. (I won't go into the fact that more of the issues were probably mine than Maddi's. I'll blame that on the fact that Rhiannon was telling Maddi which pile to place ornaments in and she wasn't offering any hints to me.)

Ornamental

the cold

Happy winter from all of us in North Dakota. Bundled Up Bundled Up

December has had more days with lows below zero than days with lows above zero. In Colorado, lows below zero were considered life threatening. Here, they are just a fact of life.

I'm not saying that we're looking to move again, but I'm less than pleased with the first winter that North Dakota has rolled out to welcome us back.

it's what time again

In talking to a couple on Monday morning, they made the comment that the "fall back" time change is one of the best weekends of the year, mostly due to the fact that on Sunday morning, you get an extra hour of sleep. Unless of course, you are the parent of young children, in which case, it probably means you get to be up at what the clock says is really early on a weekend. In our case, Maddison decided that 5:45 was about as late as she cared to stay in her bed. Maddi is still in a crib, so she needs us to come and get her before she can get out of bed in the morning. She hasn't tried to climb out yet, but that's probably due to the fact that she has us trained to not leave in there too long. At some point, she started to shake the crib when she was awake and wanted out, and we jokingly made the comment that we'd better get in there before she shook the crib apart.

To Maddi, this is how it looked: She wants out, she shakes crib, and we come get her out. That's called positive reinforcement.

Fast forward to today - She wants out, so she shakes the crib. Except now she's getting big and strong enough that her shaking the crib apart feels like much more of a valid concern, so we really do go get her out pretty quickly. This morning, that happened at 6:15. 6:15 on a weekend will not be ok, so she needs to figure out this time change somewhat soon. I fear for the crib's safety if she doesn't.

trick or treat, twice the fun

Halloween 2013 This was our first year of having two kids holding out buckets for candy. While Brooklynn has been excited for trick-or-treating for months since she decided that she would be a princess, Maddi had no idea what was coming. We tried her costume on a couple weeks ago and she didn't like having the hood on her head. We figured that we would let her wear it a few times before hand to get used to it.

And then it was the morning of Halloween and we hadn't put it on her one time. The girls' school had a Halloween party, and I guess seeing the other kids in costume made it ok for Maddi to like hers, because we had no issues.

Brooklynn was also quite happy with her costume of a princess dress. The same dress she wore over the summer for her 4th birthday, except Halloween isn't in June. Brooklynn doesn't like to wear things like pants or sleeves with a dress because then she might be a real princess, and the idea of marring her perfect costume with everyday accouterments like a coat or sweater did not sit well with her. Unfortunately for her, the end of October in North Dakota isn't typically bare-arms weathter; hence, we ended up with the remnants of tears that you might notice in some photos.

Halloween 2013

Once we got going, both girls had a wonderful time. Brooklynn took care of the ringing of doorbells, typically remembering the trick-or-treat's and thank you's. The first couple houses we stopped at let the girls pick out candy from the bowls themselves, which confused Maddi for the rest of the evening. Instead of holding out her bucket, she would grab candy from everyone's hand and put it in the pail herself. Yes, she wants your candy, but no, you can't put your hand near her bucket. Thank you.

Halloween 2013

While Brooklynn didn't want to pose for pictures by herself, Maddi had no such issue. Unless of course, the posing may have prevented her from being up to a front door on time to get more candy.

anything you can do

Bubbles We have a monkey see, monkey see situation in our house. Anything that Maddi sees Brooklynn do, she would like to do as well.

Brooklynn goes downstairs, Maddi goes downstairs.

Brooklynn watches a little TV before bed, Maddi watches a little TV before bed.

Brooklynn hides in her closet, Maddi hides right along side her.

It's cute, it's fun, and someday, Brooklynn is going to have a melt down because she just wants to be left alone.

Pumpkin designing

Someday, but not today.

what month is it

Rhiannon started her new teaching job this week. It came a couple weeks later than she would have started down in Colorado, so we had a little reprieve, but school typically signals the end of summer. Of course, the first day of school this year was also the hottest day of the past three months, so who knows what anything means anymore. I have to admit, even though I work in Bismarck, there are days it still feels like vacation. Like this is just a temporary assignment and at some point it will end and I’ll go back to my real job. Change is hard. It was hard to pack up and leave our first house, the home we brought our girls to from the hospital. Hard to leave the security of established careers and futures.

At the same time, change is exciting. We are within weekend driving distance of grandparents. We can run out and see cousins for an evening. We no longer drive a combined 75 miles and 2 hour per day, 5 days a week, and the alarm doesn't go off before 6 am. Hopefully, in a few years, we'll have a chance to build a custom house on some land we picked out without living 50 miles from our jobs or not spending into the 7-figures to do it.

Brooklynn still talks about her friends from Colorado. Maddi doesn’t, but then, Maddi doesn’t talk. We are still adjusting to a new life. Last year at this time, we would never have predicted this is where we’d be. At times during the process of preparing to move and actually coming up, it seemed like it took forever. Looking back, we didn't finish nearly everything we wanted to do before it was time to leave.

Is there a point to this? No, not at all. But I'm going to start writing more, and I needed to start somewhere.

Here's a picture of Maddi and firetruck that Rhiannon had when she was little. Because let's be honest, with as little as I've been writing, people are just checking to see new pictures of the kids once in a while.

IMG_4629.jpg

bird chasing

Brooklynn was standing by the front window looking out into our yard the other day, bouncing up and down on her toes, nose pressed to the glass. I was getting ready to tell her not to lean on the window so she didn't get it dirty when she turned, saw me, and almost yelled, "Dad, there's a robin in the grass, can I go chase him?" I had no sooner signified my approval when she was out the front door and into the grass. The robin flew away, Brooklynn patrolled the lawn for a moment, and she came back in to announce her triumph.

If this was a one-time occurrence, you might think it odd behavior. It's not. When we are on walks: "Dad, can we go get that Robin?"

"No Brooklynn, that's someone else's yard."

In a park: "Dad, can I chase that bird?"

"Sure." And off she zooms.

Me, seeing a particularly large robin near the back patio: "Brooklynn, do you want to chase that bird out there?"

She looks out, rolls her eyes at me, and sighs, "No Dad. That bird has a baby in her belly. You can't chase those ones." And she walks away as if the weight of constantly having to educate me on the ways of the world and bird chasing sits heavily on her shoulders.

today is the day

Moving By the end of the day, everything should be on the truck[1. If things have been a little quiet recently, we've been busy. I can't promise it will get better soon, but it will get better.].

Wow.

discovering the stash

Unlike Brooklynn, Maddi likes her some pacifier from time to time. Not all the time, but more of than not, she'll take one if offered. She especially likes one when she is just a little tired but not all the way to sleep when we lay her down. We keep her crib at an angle in her room so there is a corner behind it that is both hard to see and hard to get to. When we seem to be missing some of the seven pacifiers we have around the house at any given time, we can normally look behind her bed and find one that has dropped back there at some point during a night.

Or, on a night like tonight, we can find five of them.

Sometimes I hear a story in the news about someone hoarding supplies in case of a natural disaster or government collapse. If a catastrophic event that leads to the breakdown of our society ever does occur, and if one of the supplies in high demand after such an event is a collection of pacifiers, I feel confident I know where to go: Maddi's secret stash behind her bed.

Hoarder

Actually, she'll probably just share them with you.

maddi - month 9

Editor's note: Yes, I haven't posted one of these in a while. Don't worry, the unposted ones are all in relatively complete draft state. It's the pictures that I'm really lacking. So, I posted one without pictures. And yes, we are taking pictures. It's the post-processing that's the tough part to keep up with. Dear Maddi,

You are now nine months old, and it's a little overwhelming to thing that you've now spent as much time with us as it took for you to be ready to join us.

This month, you took your second car trip up to North Dakota, and I'm happy to report to you that it went much better than the first, for several reasons. You are a much better eater than the first time. At that point, you were terrible at burping, so the fact we did not find ourselves on the side of road to burp you was a big help.

Secondly, Mom climbed into the back seat to feed you and sit by you for a good portion of the trip. You like to see people, and having someone right there beside seemed to make being stuck in a car for 10 hours a little more bearable. The only drawback was the fact that you didn't like being put in the car for the drive to and from daycare without Mom back there with you.

You are tearing through pureed food about as fast as we can shovel it in your mouth, at least as long as it consists of meat and veggies. You have shown a distinct displeasure with fruit: applesauce, peaches, and pears. You make a grumpy face and stop eating. I'd say it's sweet that you don't like, but you seem to be ok with a little ice cream now and then, so I'm not sure what your hesitation is.

You may be eating a lot of food, but you are also moving around to burn off that energy. You crawl around with little regard for what might be in your way. A pile of clothes and stuffed animals - who needs to go around? Just crawl right through it.

You like to explore everything, especially the volume knob on the TV receiver and the dirt in the big pot by the steps. If we are sitting in the living room and you suddenly make a bee-line up front, chances are we will have to intercept you before you can get dirty. About halfway there, you will even stop to check if we are coming, and I imagine it's been frustrating to get so close before we grab you. Don't worry, you've managed to get dirty more times than we would like.

You are also pulling yourself up to standing now, so we expect that you will be starting to furniture walk sooner or later. I know that crawling is a great way to get around, but if you want to keep up with your sister, you're going to have to get up on your feet sooner or later. Let's just avoid going down the steps until you get a little more coordinated.

You fell off our bed for the first time (under my watch, as your mom would like me to point out) and landed on your forehead. Between your aunt who works as a neonatal intensive care nurse, a family friend who is a pediatric emergency doctor and the family physician, we called about everyone we could think of that night and no one seemed too worried. A little light bruise that went away was the worst of it, but we were pretty scared for a little bit.

You have also started to prefer Mom over Dad if given the option, so if you managed to associate me with falling, I'll take it. Making those connections at your age would be great. Either way, I still love you very much, just like your mom and sister do too.

Posing

And if you develop an unexplained fear of heights as you grow older, sorry.

Love, Dad

patched up

On Friday evening, as I carried Brooklynn in to the house after getting home from daycare, she told me her tummy hurt. I asked her what about it hurt and she threw up on me. Twice[1. I can verify that she ate all her corn for lunch that day.].

We were a little bummed out because we had planned on going to a pumpkin patch and activity center on Saturday morning with her friend Mason. We had already rescheduled one weekend due to inclement weather a couple weeks ago so this was our last shot before Halloween.

Corn Box

Rhiannon found out that Mason had been sick the weekend before and threw up for three days, so we weren't exactly confident that it would be something she would get over quickly[2. It also explained why Rhiannon was feeling sick for a few nights last week.]. We agreed to push back until Sunday and see how things went.

On Eyeore

Brooklynn didn't throw up at all Friday night or Saturday. Yes, she only ate graham crackers and took a 5 hour nap Saturday afternoon, but we won't complain. Sunday morning, after 36 hours healthy, the pumpkin patch was a go. Between the big slide, wagon rides, pony rides, pyramids, and pumpkin picking, we had about as much activity as we dared put Brooklynn through.

Driver's Seat

She threw up her only food of the day (mini-Oreos) later that afternoon, but she's been fine since then. Kids and their ability to bounce back.

pretty lights

I'd like to say happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Rhiannon. Because I'm a gentleman, I won't say how old she is[1. I imagine everyone who reads this already knows how old she is anyway.].

Sparkler Sundaie

And, because I'm a gentlemen, I also won't tell you that Rhiannon strongly considered blowing out that sparkler, nicely placed in the ice cream sundae at her birthday dinner. The fact that the ice cream is sitting on top of a half pound of cookie was what made the choice of dessert an easy one.

reflection

We came back through the Denver airport on Sunday, September 9th, 2012. I was in the same airport on Sunday, September 9th, 2001. At that time, I was there to visit Rhiannon while she had a layover on a trip home from a volleyball tournament. I went through security without a ticket, without taking off my shoes, and without any full-body scanning. I didn’t know it then, but it was the last time I was at an airport where the atmosphere of the entire place could be described as casual.

Flying out last Friday, we waited for 5 minutes for someone to use a laser to scan our 6 ounces of water in a bottle to mix up formula for Maddi on the plane[1. I don’t feel one bit safer getting on a plane having had this done to “protect” us.].

I have some strong opinions on the state of the security antics associated with flying right now, and I’m just a little saddened by the fact that my kids are growing up in a world where it seems like the default behavior is to assume the worst about people until proven otherwise.

Here’s hoping that 11 years from now, things will be better.

recent conversations

As much as I've been frustrated with Brooklynn on the issue of her sleeping habits as of late, we still manage to see the wonderful little girl in there from time to time. This weekend, we told her that Maddi was going to start going to school with her and we would all have to get up earlier in the mornings coming up soon.

"Why?"

"Well, Mom has to go back to work."

"Why?"

"It's time for her to go teach her students like your teachers help you learn things. Plus, we don't have enough money to keep sending you to school to play with your friends and Mom stay home at the same time."

"You can have some of my money. It's in my piggy bank. I can share it with you."

And last night, as I was pulling the comforter up to tuck her in, she asked about her 'blanket' that we no longer have around.

"This isn't a blanket, right?"

"Nope, it's a comforter."

"My blanket is in the sky, right?"[1. As much as it may sound like we told her that her blanket died, she came up with this completely on her own.]

"Ok."

"Mr. Sun has my blanket."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, Mr. Sun has it, but he doesn't have any arms to cover up. We have to help him!"

"How are we going to do that?"

"We can fly my kite up to him to help. My kite will help him cover up with the blanket."