"...I wann bang on these drums all day."

As a parent, I have this pattern starting to develop in my behavior toward Rowan. You know those stories you hear from friends and the media where a parent tries too hard to make their child do things they wish they had done as kids, like play football or be a cheerleader or something? That's how I feel sometimes and I'm afraid of it. I think that if I could teach her something now, early, she could make use of it later in life and not have to spend time learning and relearning skills. A few good examples are hockey and drums. I really like watching hockey, I enjoyed what few times I played hockey, but I became a fan of the game late in life, I didn't skate on a frozen pond when I was 3 years old, so skating and the game weren't second nature. With Rowan I'm tempted to start her in something early and hope that she can carry that through her days.

But with what? Drums? Music in general? Gymnastics? Soccer? Art? It's easy to think that because she likes the sound of a drumstick against a tom drum that she'll be the next John Bonham? Just because she likes furiously scribbling on my sketch pad, should I call Stan Lee and have him open up a position drawing The Silver Surfer? I don't think it'd be a good idea to hold out hope on any of these things. But coming from an artistic family, and having Cheryl's family have such a musical history, I'm constantly looking for some hidding talent that I can nudge ever so slightly, even if it is errantly.

That's not to say she won't decide she likes to do something as she gets older. I'm also not even hazarding the impression that my parents weren't the same way, but I just floundered too much to make any extra curicular activity stick. I often wonder if my parents wanted me to be an artist or a singer or an astronaut or if they had more humble and noble wishes like making sure I was always on time to school and didn't get sick a lot. It's hard having lofty aspirations while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. It's also hard to have your feet on the ground while chasing after a 18 month old with your drum stick.



Yes, yes. Two entries in less than a week, what is the world coming to? But believe me when I say we have big news. Rowan took her first potty in a potty chair! Huzzah!! Now, I realize that this isn't a photo op, and even if it were there wouldn't be many people super keen on viewing any snapshots. However, since this is such a momentous occasion, I feel the need to convey to you how happy we are with the event. I will therefore express the events via interpretive dance...

...4th position...

...and JUMP...

...and relax.

So you can plainly see what a monumental occasion this is. It also marks the beginning of the end as far as what we need to do for Rowan to make sure she grows into a well-balanced human being. Yes it's human invention to sit on a porcelain bowl to vacate waste rather than just let fly in the woods, but hey, do as the Romans do. It's not like we're teaching her the finer points of the Republican party or anything.

I do feel a bit misty eyed, though. Can't help it. As (oddly) excited as we both were last night, I couldn't help thinking immediately of all the things I have left to teach her. All the FEW things left she actually needs from me. I think in terms of "If she were left in a strange part of town, could she survive." Now? Probably not. In 5 months? Maybe. She can ask for things, cry when only hurt or hunger. Walk. Soon she won't need diapers or help changing clothes. She needs us less and less and while today is exciting, it's sad. She's no longer a baby, she's a little girl.

But I have to say, when the day comes that she no longer needs diapers will be a happy day indeed. By choosing cloth diapers, we relegated ourselves to a seeming eternity of wash. It's not as wicked gross as you might think, but it's still a lot of laundry. I can't help but think that what we did was in Rowan's best interest, and it was the right call. The fact still remains that we will be without a major task and that can only mean one thing...

...more time for video games.


User your words.

Just an update. Rowan is almost 18 months old and she's pretty much able to repeat any 1-2 syllabel word you throw at her. She's also got a few 3 syllabyl words under her belt. It's amazing how fast she picks things up, the next trick is to have her use them when she wants something rather than saying "uh huh huh huh huh waaahhh!" Right now her repeating is much like a parrot mimicking speech and I'm waiting for the crisp clear "I love you daddy but you're an idiot" to tumble from her mouth.

Anyway, here's what she knows now.

Words Rowan knows.

Hello (heh o)
Eyes (eyesh)
Blanket (benkie)
Pooh (the bear)
Uh oh
Hot (hot? with waving hands)
Hat (sounds like hot)
Diaper (bahpoo)
Wiggle (wih wih)
Elmo (loudest most clear word she has)
Oscar (awku)
Bert (boit)
Belt (boit)
Bird (boit)
Eat (eat?)
Nite Nite
Happy (happy? to you)
More (more?)
Milk (milk?)
Water (wawa)
Cheerio (chee oh)
Thank you (dih tsew)
Walk (walk?)
Mommy (mommy?)
off (as in the light switch)
I love you (yuv u)

Most of the alphabet

Dog (oo oo)
Bird (bee bee)
Cow (mooo)
Frog (reebeet)
Cat (maow)
Sheep (baa)
Duck (cahk cahK)
Airplane (wssh with arms out)
Sleeping (shh, finger to lips)
Up-side-down (tries to stand on her head)
thank you

can give hugs and kisses, high fives (and gives high fives back)


"...the tooth...the tooth..."

Rowan had her first major bloody accident last night. We're at a local eatery that was low on high chairs so Rowan ended up sitting with us at a booth. Well, sitting is a relative term. Cheryl was sitting, I was sitting, Rowan was climbing. No booster, no chair. She had to stand in order to reach the table to eat. After a few minutes of her coating the vinyl with cottage cheese and peaches, the slick surface caused her to slip and plant her little baby mouth right on the edge of the table. It was horrible. I've never seen a baby crying with a mouth full of blood and I never want to again.

We rushed to bathroom (both of us, ladies room, convention be damned) and proceded to swab her mouth with wet paper towels to see how bad the damage was. No lost teeth, no loose teeth, no major gum damage. We still went to the emergency room, then left after about 45 minutes of sitting there. It boiled down to a split lip on the inside that no one could have done much about anyway, but the desire is to do a head x-ray to make sure nothing is chipped, cracked or fractured.

It's gut wrenching to watch a almost-toddler humbled like that. It really makes you want to hold them forever, lock them in a bubble and not let the world ever EVER touch them. The proprieters of the restaurant we're all talking about giving us a free dinner, seeing if we needed anything, you know, basic CTA so we don't sue. All I wanted to do was remove myself from the situation. The child was already hurt, there's nothing they could do to fix it short of paying for her years of therapy that will undoubtedly result. She'll never be able to eat at a salad bar again, total fear of vegetables, not to mention booth seats. Cheryl turned into, as she called it, The Momma Lion. Even I was fair game when her baby was injured. Teeth were bared, the owners were lucky she was already buckled in or there would have been more than Rowan plasma spilled that day. Not being the conflict seeker that I am, I wanted to get my family away from there as fast as possible. Cheryl asked how I can not be mad at them for not having enough chairs. I am mad at them, incensed even. They should have a high chair for every table in there. If not, say "we don't have a high chair, would you like to wait?"

To be honest, I don't know why I didn't get as animated as society would have allowed. I suppose I'm a coward, I just don't want to be in a fight. When the owner and the staff approached our car as we were leaving, I could feel the blood boil in my ears and all I could think to do was leave before I started punching people. They caused my child pain by their ineptitude and they deserved to feel the same pain. A good bloodied set of teeth oughta do it.


Spare the child, spoil the rod.

I had something pithy to write here, thought of it this weekend, but alas the Monday doldrums have wiped those ideas clean. I'm just going to type until I start boring myself.

As Rowan starts understanding words more and more, less and less of her actions are dictated by instinct. She now reasons, she is starting to understand actions and reactions and consequences. She's testing our limits more and more. She knows what a diaper is, when it needs attention and where to go in the house to get that attention. She knows what up and down is by her physical location and other objects location. She even gets confused by the hallway light switches. You know the kind that you can have in the "on" position but have to push down to get the light to come on because there's two. She'll grab hold of the switch and look at the light, the switch is already on, but the light isn't. She'll sit there and grunt and push with all her might, but she won't be able to get the light to come on. So while she's able to think now, she's not able to think outside the box yet. Everything is still pretty linear.

She's also starting to carry on conversations with you. The words don't mean anything, but you can tell the pattern is there. It starts with dada or mama, you say what, she'll speak in chinese/pig latin for a short burst, you say, oh really, she says "yeah," then bye bye as she closes the door on your face. It's unbearably cute and pretty fantastic from an anthropomorphic stand point. She's evovling to fit inside the only norm she knows, her parents. We're shaping how she talks, walks, and thinks. It really hit home lately that I'm the catalyst for how she ends up in life. I'm sure most people realize this to a certain extent. But I'm talking about something more esoteric, less corporial. I'm talking about paths of thought to conclusion and the lilt of a voice and mannerism of understanding. It's more than just what you say and how you discipline and what music you listen to and what shows you watch and what games you play. It's your posture and your response time and the pressure of your touch and how you hold a fork and what sounds you make when you hug (some people squeek, some grunt, some sigh, you never know.)

Yes your DNA and your partner's DNA make the child look a certain way, and in some cases act a certain way (for instance, my grandma, my dad and his brother, me and my brother and now Rowan, all scratch our arms in our sleep. Only weird because I don't know anyone else who does that.) But if you take that child and put them with a different family, what you have is someone who doesn't look like those people, but acts like those people. It's fairly obvious, but like I said, I had a great idea to write about, but it was lost somewhere.


One Year

Cheryl said something the other day that struck me as odd. Rowan had just looked up at her from under a table, put her head on her knee and said "Hi." Cheryl almost started crying and said, "I don't have enough room in my heart for all the love I have for her." Fair enough. I'm sure a lot of parents say that. Most of us feel that as well. You just look at that little cherub face with those innocent, impressionable eyes and think, "You are a creature of magic and wonder and I'm so happy you chose me." I'm not as vocal about it as my lovely wife, she tends to speak her mind and emotions, and I tend to get ulcers. But it made me think a bit on the word and idea of Love. We were talking about having a 2nd monster this last weekend while traipsing around the Houston Zoo, and later when she said that I started wondering if I'd have enough room in my heart for another? Would it be fair to try to love them as much as Rowan? Is it fair even to think such thoughts? Now I know you're all saying that's heartless and cold and how could I even think that I'd love a second child less that the first. But think about it, if you're the 6th or 7th child, looking back, did it seem you were pretty much left to do whatever you wanted? Did it seem like no one was around? Did it seem like no one cared? I think logically you do throw a lot of your love and emotion and energy into a first child and it degrades after that. Humans just don't have the staying power.

Now I'm not saying I'm going to let our second child run around with a loaded weapon, scissors and an open milk container, swearing as they careen naked around the red light district, but I'm wondering how much actual love I'll be able to give them. I'm sure it will be considerable. I'm afraid of doing the Rowan Comparison Dance, especially if the second is a boy. There will be no end to "Man, Rowan never cried like this." "Rowan was always so happy, why isn't this one?"

It may not seem like it, but we are all capable of doing that now. We have a beagle that no body is really happy with right now. We're trying but it's very hard. Chimaera is very loving and friendly and protective, but she's also crazy and hyper and rambunctious and she sheds all over the place. We're afraid of admitting that she's just not our type and maybe needs a new family. I compare her to Rowan all the time and that's not fair. There's no way Chimaera will ever be able to respond to "What does a cow say" with "Moo." If I asked her that, her little ears would prick up and her head would cock to the side and that'd be it. Then she'd try to jump on me and probably knock something over. Does that mean I don't love her? I don't know. It's hard to admit you don't love something anymore. It's hard to admit you may not love something as much. It's hard to admit that you may in fact not have enough love in your heart for all the things in your life that need it. I'm truly afraid something will get pushed out...


Sick Bags

I wonder how little humans think of traveling? Do they know they are miles and miles from home? Or is home to them just being near mom and dad? Do they feel the passage of time and space like we do and are just unable to communicate it or is it all just pops and buzzes until they get another sippy cup full of milk?

I think of these things when we plan trips to far off lands. It's not like we go on vacation a lot, but even road trips to San Antonio gets me thinking about baby-time and toddler-time and how they relate to adult-time. I also think about how jumping in the car and heading to New Orleans, at one point a grand idea, is now nearly out of the question. It's not that Rowan travels poorly, it's that I have no patience in packing for these excursions. I give Cheryl enough guff for packing 12 pairs of socks for a weekend in Houston. I nearly blow a gasket when I think of all the kid stuff we have to add to it. It's not for the patient or weak of heart. Trips to Houston have evolved from cloth diapers to disposable because lugging around 20 dirty diapers in a grocery sack was starting to get hazardous to our sense of hygene.

It's not to say that all trips are bad, but the reason you go on vacation is to get away from it all. Somehow taking a diaper bag and suitcases and toys and books and toiletries to me isn't really getting away, just taking it somewhere else. I'm just transporting a lot of stuff to another geographic location, and I hope to hell it fits in with the decor and outlets. Getting away would be winning that vacation show that doesn't tell where you're going and you can't take much with you. That's getting away.

But guess what, I can't do that. Cheryl can't do that. Well we could, but only for a short time. It's not like either of us can just pack up and leave the familial unit for two weeks and jaunt about in the Mediterranean. But it's part of being a parent, and sometimes the little trips to Sea World or the zoo is enough to keep you sane while at the same time running around like a crazy person making sure your pride and joy isn't getting her fingers bitten off. Watching a child learn and grow and explore is a kind of vacation. You stop being so clinical and logical and responsible and just open your mind to the wonders that surround you.


Miniature Evolution

People may wonder what it's like always writing about one certain thing, one person. I can hear it now in an email from someone surfing in on a whim, "Don't you get tired of constantly recounting such small events? Don't you do anything else in your life?" The answers of course are No and Yes. Both Cheryl and I have plenty to do. A lot of it isn't fun, but it doesn't necessarily involve Rowan either. We have our hobbies and our interests that we do our best to make time for on a daily basis. Sometimes we have time, sometimes we run out. But if you pause for a moment and think about it, wouldln't you want to be there for every advancement your child takes? I was beside myself when she said "wow," her mouth got really small, then really big, then really small again and this soft timbre poured out of it in a gentle little "wow." Rowan has a whispery voice, almost gravely, like she was a womb-smoker, and to think that I'll miss one new word just terrifies me. Have you ever heard a parent tell another parent that their child just said a new word or did a new task or action? The parent that missed out has this tone of voice and change of posture like they missed the only day of sunshine in 200 years.

Let me tell you, it's worth it. I've never played a video game or read a comic or have seen a movie (with one or two exceptions) that make me feel as good as watching Rowan learn something new. It's like a drug, I want her to evolve and evolve exponentially until she's merely a creature of light, barely existing in our plane of reality. In between the crying and the whining and the tantrums are long periods of laughing and giggling and monkey-see-monkey-do. And from one monkey to another, it's just priceless. Right now she can probably say between 10-15 words and understands what they are. A few of them are crystal clear, others a bit mushy. (We know "schle" means "fish" because that's what she says when she points to a fish. I don't think F's are quite picked up yet.)

So it comes as no surprise then that I find myself spending huge amounts of time talking to, tickling and tormenting Rowan. I don't mean torment like hang in the iron maiden and start pulling chains, but I like testing her boundaries, just like she's starting to test ours. I like to see how much poking she can take before she melts down. I like hiding things from her until she either loses interest or starts swinging. It's only fair. She needs to learn that the world is not about her and when she pushes my envelope, I'm right there to push back. I need to know what I can expect from her as a person, that's how we learn to relate. Some may think I'm mean, but I've got her best interests at heart with most every action I take and I'll pit that against anyone who says they're a good parent but don't know what makes their kids mad.


What did I just say?

It's come to my attention that it's really hard to discipline kids. I'm just as convinced that Mrs. Squiggles is a special case, as she seems to want to laugh when you discipline her. Seriously, Cheryl and I cannot find a way to make her understand that her actions are incorrect according to societal norms. We can't punish her because she thinks it's a game. We've tried time outs, spankings, ear pulling, hand swatting, toy removing, scolding, ignoring, and even stern leanings on with about as much success as Martha Stewart selling IMClone the day before. It's just not working. Frankly we're getting a little concerned that our daughter is a masochist and loves pain. Funny thing to say about a 15 month old but I can't image any other reason.

The bad thing is that she's at the age where she knows that there are reactions to her actions. She knows that hitting a bright orange star makes it beep a tinny rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle" (which I just figured out is the same tune as the Alphabet Song. Just never put the two together, but that's another story...) She’s just not at the stage that she understands that her actions have consequences, not just reactions. She's still at the cause/effect level. So it's hard to teach her this. "Yes when you bite something it makes your teeth and jaw feel good. But you can't bite people because it hurts them." Do you think a 15 month old would understand that? Well don't because she doesn't.

So it's hard to teach them right from wrong, it's also hard to understand when they reach the teachable age. When will they understand these things? Also, will it ever stop making my heart ache when I take a toy away from her and she sticks that bottom lip out and makes that face like "How DARE you remove that object of amusement and pacification. My only recourse now, dear father, is to make you feel like a heel." Commence the barrage of salt water pain.

I'm sure parents have grappled with this for ages; how, when and to what extent you should discipline your child. But why does it seem like we were better kids? Why does it seem like our parents had it easier? We weren't bad kids were we? Did we bite other children? Did we slap our parents in the face then laugh like a clown just farted? Did we collapse in a heap when we didn't get our way?

Of course we did, silly. That's why grandparents are so happy.


Future Perfect

I’ve given a lot of thought to what Rowan might be when she grows up. All parents do. Anthropomorphize the child. (In fact, can we actually do that? Anthropomorphization is specifically for non-humans performing actions that we assign human actions to. A child is a human, but until a certain age they act on instinct like a cat or dog would. Would this be called homogimorphization? And can I add that word to my Word spell check?) At any rate, we do it to kids. They smash a Playskool keyboard and suddenly they’re going to be a concert pianist. They like jumping on the bed, they’re going to be Bella Coroli’s next protégé.

It’s egotistical really. At heart all parents just want their children to be happy and healthy. With that in mind, why do we assign these futures to our kids? Is it to make us feel better about having them? Are we that worried that they’re going to be failures that we have to give them an occupation before they get a full mouth of teeth? As much as Rowan thrills me when I watch her learn to run without falling over, I’m torn over letting my imagination move with thoughts of a famous athlete daughter and being true to her as a small human, just celebrating the small feats. I wish I could ask her. “Do you mind if Daddy trumps up a lifetimes worth of proxy admirations or would you rather I simplify your existence and only focus on the present?” But I can’t. I can’t even guess what the answer would be.

Honestly? I hope she’s an Olympic hockey player. It’s hard thinking of that living in Texas, but we have hockey here too. I’m from a cold climate. I played a little street hockey. I think it’d be neat. Or maybe an artist. There’s really nothing she could be that would upset me. Cheryl has a more beneficent approach; she just wants to see her happy and healthy. It really puts me in my place. There’s no greed there, no misplaced yearnings of past youth. “Just be you, I’ll have to deal with my own childhood in my own way, I won’t force it on you.” That’s nice. A lot of parents should see that. A lot of the parents who get competitive during tee-ball games should be that way. Just because you have an overextended desire to reach back into the past and be something you’re not, don’t use that poisonous nostalgia to shape a life that’s only yours for a while. Children are to be molded, not controlled. Eventually they will become people like us. I can hear all the soccer moms and dads now. “But I’m teaching them teamwork and social skills.” You can get that by being in girl scouts or a church group, it doesn’t have to be sports. Being in these leagues is ok, but I would be afraid that it teaches kids about being TOO competitive, too eager to beat another kid at something, too happy when someone else looses. I’ve nothing against these parents, I just hope my kid would do something a bit more intellectual. Why? Because I was in sports as a kid and I’d rather she didn’t turn out like her old man.

And I’ve officially gone on a rampage of thinking leading to a different point altogether.

I hope Rowan grows older, never grows up. I hope she becomes a happy kid, a decent and smart teenager, a fine young lady, a strong mother, and a fun old bat. And I hope she outlives me.


Where'd the time go?

At some point in the future, my daughter will read this. She’ll read it and know that I didn’t start writing about her until she was almost 15 months old. She’ll know I didn’t chronicle her mother’s trip through pregnancy. She’ll know that all the pictures I took don’t have dates written on the back although they may have modified dates on their files. She won’t know what I was feeling at the time of her birth; she won’t know how many nights I spent on the couch while my wife was carrying her.

Does that bother me? Yes it does. Immeasurably. It’s like knowing you have a favorite cartoon but you can’t remember the theme song or the characters. A watershed event and all the scribes are looking at each other saying “Oh come on, tell me you were taping that!”

Rowan Michelle was born 14 months, 7 days and 22 ½ hours ago. I have a small notebook by my bedside that has some things written down, to keep them for posterity. I have digital and analogue photos of the first year of her life. My wife recorded heartbeats from her belly. We’ve kept the sonograms from Aug 18th when we found out she was pregnant. I have a drawing only loosely put together of my wife at 9 months as a silhouette and a trace of Rowan after she was born to show how small she was.

I don’t have anything committed to paper. No organization. Our “My First” book is very blank. We tried the handprint in plaster and that scared her so we stopped. Most of the attempts I’ve made to chronicle her first year were a good intention, but fell short leaving me to be spurred on and inspired to start no matter the time.

But I wanted her to know, that this last year was all about her. The birth to the learning to the walking to the teething has all been about someone who’s younger than our beagle. Think of the things you have accomplished in the past year. Go ahead. No really, give it a shot. You probably got a raise? Yes, probably. The economy hasn’t been great but surely a cost of living increase. You may have moved somewhere, better apartment perhaps. Good for you. How many people bought an appliance or an electronic item? Ok, a few, and a few had to sell them back again. Ok, how many of you learned to walk?

Big thing, right? Walking. How many of you who got an X-Box also grew some new teeth? Anyone double his or her height? Anyone learn to eat solid food? (A few broken jaws don’t count.)

Here’s a list of things she’s learned to do since she was born, in no particular order. Focus. Scream. Cry. Pee. Poop. Burp. Flex her fingers. Make a fist. Move her arms. Move her head. Follow an object. Roll over. Raise her head. Sit. Crawl. Stand. Pivot. Pull up. Kick. Laugh. Smile. Coo. Gurgle. The letter E. The letter B. The letter M. Grab. Let go. Clap. The word Hi. The word Bye. Wave. Where her nose is. How old she is. Slap. Walk. Run. Push. Pull. Drink. Eat. Use a spoon. Throw. Jump. The word Mama. The word Dada. The word Puppy. The word Baby. What No means. How to “take something to mommy.” How to “find her shoes.” Where her belly is. Where her ears are. Sign language for “more.” Sign for “diaper.” How to give someone love. The words “thank you.” Close her eyes. Dance. Spin in a circle. Say “stinky.”

I’m not even mentioning some things and already she’s out paced the things I’ve learned by about 4000% percent. I learned useless crap, nothing to use for survival. She learned a form of communication, fine motor control and how to manipulate her surroundings. I’m in awe of it. I marvel each time she does something new. Each day is another lifetime.

I just hope that at some point she reads this and understands that I was there while it happened. I want her to understand that her parents love her very much even though she may not realize it for years to come.