Archive for January, 2013

Ducks, geese, and… rat!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

We had so much fun the day that Gram Nancy took us to feed the ducks at McGovern Lake that a week later (Jan 24), we went back to do it again. But the experience was very different.

First, it was 20 degrees warmer. So instead of being the first humans to come treat a horde of hungry ducks who were eager to see us, we were the Nth group that hour toting plastic bags full of bread. When we arrived, a smallish group of ducks looked up and swam over lazily, as if to say, “More bread? Really? Well, I’m not really hungry, but I am curious what kind of bread you have to offer, so here I am…”

Second, our visit was interrupted by a rat. A Very. Large. Swimming. Rat. Is it a large muskrat? Is it a nutria? You tell me.

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Koosh misgivings

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Up to now, the only thing I can think of that our girls have really been scared of is the vacuum cleaner. They’re occasionally startled by large or fast-moving dogs, but their interest usually overcomes their trepidation.

But tonight, Sam was downright skittish, over a Koosh ball. (You may remember these balls, assembled from thousands of rubber filaments, from the late 1980s.) She didn’t want to touch it. She didn’t want it near her. She flinched repeatedly when I tried to touch/tickle her hand/arm with it. She even drew up her legs – fetal style – and clung to Dad when I approached her with it.

Cate was initially mistrustful but got over it quickly. She walked around with the Koosh for a while and tried unsuccessfully to share it with Sam. It may be the only thing Cate’s ever had that Sam didn’t want.

Eventually, I convinced Sam that one could pet the Koosh the same way one pets the kitty, at least with one finger. But she was only up for that briefly.

I admit that I was totally unprepared for her reaction, and I want to do some homework. I want to understand tactics for helping kids be at ease with things, and make sure I don’t inadvertently turn future misgivings into full-on phobias.

Boats, babies, and role playing games

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Last July, Auntie Em and Claudia started giving the girls “boat rides”. A girl sits in the whale tub, or a laundry basket, or a toy bin (dish tub), or a clothing bin (with or without clothes) and one of the adults present pushes them around the floor:

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Sam and Cate were both pretty quiet during this first ride. A few days later, Sam looked on skeptically while Dad pushed Cate around in a toy bin. But by the end of that weekend, both girls were eager to seek out vessels, maybe empty them of other contents, climb in, sit down, and look up expectantly at the adults as they awaited their next boat ride. We’ve spent a lot of time since then giving boat rides:

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Initially we made “bubble lips” sounds for motor hum. But soon after we switched to saying “zzzsssshhh”, the girls started making their own motor sounds, too.

We tried to teach them the ASL sign for “boat”, with minimal success. But Cate learned pretty quickly to say, “go!”

We’ve also established empirically that some containers, such as diaper cartons and to-go containers, aren’t suitable for boating.

* * *
Back when the girls were still premature and super-sleepy, Cate had a funny expression in which she would open one eye to regard you, while leaving the other one closed. It prompted Daddy Bill to call her “Pirate Cate” for a while. It turns out, as we’ve seen on other occasions, that Cate really is a pirate, insofar as she’s someone who will board your “boat” against your will and take it over:

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* * *
There’s a stage in human development when toddlers start engaging in role playing games that emulate the daily activities they see around them. I can’t remember what it’s called, but we’re there.

Last fall, Auntie Em brought the girls a pair of tiny (8″) twin baby dolls. Their Odale cousins gifted them with a pair of larger soft baby dolls at Christmas. At first, the dolls were just objects of curiosity, but then we started reading, Clifford’s Bedtime / Clifford y la hora de dormir. After hearing a few times that “Clifford necesita su muñeca. Clifford needs his doll.” they got more interested and started asking for their doll babies at bedtime. So we began going through the motions of putting the babies to bed, too.

Last week (more or less?), Auntie Em crafted beds for the dolls. She sewed tiny, fleecy, blue pillows that fit into clear plastic shoe boxes. We managed to put the baby dolls down in the new beds for a naptime or two, but the girls figured out how to disassemble the beds pretty readily. And then something cool happened:

Sam put the clear plastic “bed” on the floor, she put a doll baby inside, and then she pushed what was then quite plainly a “boat” across the carpeted floor toward the bathroom, while making “zzzsssshhh” motor sounds. When I asked out loud, “are you pushing your baby in a boat?”, Cate got the same idea and took off pushing her baby in a boat, too.


Sunday night, half-naked, container play

Monday, January 28th, 2013

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I have delightful video of Cate and Sam sitting in their chairs after dinner, playing with empty plastic containers. They’re putting puffs in one at a time, taking them out again, and eating them. They’re putting lids on and off. They’re trading containers back and forth, and turning them over in their hands. Their wordless interplay is fun to watch.

At the end of the video, when I’m ready to stop recording, they say ‘bye, and wave.

However, you won’t see it here because earlier, during dinner, they worked on undressing. First Sam figured out how to pull the green t-shirt up over her head to go behind her neck. Cate watched her do it, and did the same with her green shirt. I worried that they’d get cold, so I put their shirts back on, at which point they tried again. This time, Cate got her left arm out through the neck hole, and got stuck there, but Sam managed to get her shirt off entirely.

So in this video, Sam is topless and Cate is top-offset. I think it’s utterly adorable. But not knowing who might lurk beyond our internet view, or how privacy laws may change in the future, I have been convinced not to post it here.

That being said, I want to remember to come look at it again:
Sun Jan 13, 2013: P1080617_half_naked_container_play

Ducks! ¡Patos!

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Gram Nancy and her friend (prison pen pal*) Shirley museumed, picnicked, and otherwise played in Houston today. After lunch, we met up with them at Hermann Park, and Nancy brought along a loaf of stale bread for our new friends. (click for larger)

Sam and Cate finally have shades to protect their gray-blue eyes

McGovern Lake in Hermann Park

Ducks! Patos!

I needed a wide-angle shot, this Muscovy duck was so close to us!

Feeding the ducks

Sam was determined to dabble her fingers in the lake

Sam and Claudia

Pekin duck with black-bellied whistler ducks

Note: If you remember when Shawn and I rescued baby ducks in summer 2009, this is what those little guys/gals grow up to be.

Sam and Gram Nancy




Claudia with Cate, who eventually warmed up to the whole experience

We were only out for an hour, but Sam had a ball, and Cate took it all in. It was also the most fun I’ve had in ages. Great idea, Gram!

Finally, I owe huge thanks to Shirley, who took up my camera and snapped nearly all of these shots. I’m delighted with how many good ones I had to choose from!

* Just kidding. To the best of my knowledge, neither Nancy nor Shirley is a felon.

Happy Father’s Day

Friday, January 11th, 2013

When I got home from work today, Robin and the girls were in the middle of dinner. After a quick change and wash of my hands, I was back in Daddy land. However, Cate quickly needed a change of venue. Apparently her new favorite band is Poo Fighters. Not long after I had returned Cate to the fray, it was Sam’s turn for a diaper change. She likes The Poolice. What was interesting was that while I was changing Sam, she reaches up and grabs my hand to bring it to her mouth. She then starts kissing my hand and hugging it closely to her. THAT is a happy father’s day.

Hints of reading

Friday, January 11th, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I found another beautiful Eric Carle board book on Amazon, called Head to Toe. Each page pair includes an animal on the left, moving some body part in some way, and a child on the right, doing the same thing. The dialogue has each animal asking, “Can you do it?”, and the child responding, “I can do it!”

Eric Carle’s giraffe

We read it for the first time a few days before Christmas, and I was surprised by how many of the skills Cate and Sam performed readily: turn my head, bend my neck, clap my hands, beat my chest, stomp my feet, kick my legs. Others — like “I am a buffalo and I raise my shoulders” will require more practice. A week ago, we finally managed to “wiggle our toes” once or twice, though we’re still working on it.

One Friday night (Jan 4), we started getting girls ready for bed. While Bill was changing Cate’s diaper, Sam wandered over to the nightstand, pulled down Head to Toe, toddled back over to the chair, and set the book on the seat. She began poring through the pages slowly, while standing facing the chair. At first, I was struck only by her process: the book was right-side up, and she was progressing left-to-right, turning pages one at a time.

But then, she shifted her weight to her left leg, leaned forward slightly to counterbalance, and stuck her right leg up behind her. I was puzzled at first, but eventually, it dawned on me. She was reading the, “I am a donkey and I kick my legs” page, and she knew just what to do.

How cool is that?!?

Twelve years

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Twelve years ago, by this time, our parents and friends had promised to uphold us, Rev. Helen Havens had declared and blessed our union, the ceremony had segued into the reception, the empanadas and other tasties were eaten, champagne had been toasted, we’d had our first official dance, hundreds of photos had been taken, and we were waiting… waiting and waiting… because the nearsighted pyrotechnics operator had called the fire marshal to the wrong address… five blocks away. Our choice of Rush’s “Time Stand Still” for the fireworks display seemed even more apt, but the fireworks were worth waiting for.

Between the hour-plus wait for fireworks, and the police who arrived shortly afterward, our wedding wasn’t “perfect,” but it was perfect for us. The dozen years of marriage that have unfolded since have been similarly far from perfect, but all the good stuff has been worth waiting for, and I would choose my partner, all over again.

Happy anniversary, Sweetie.

Three days…

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Belatedly, I noticed that there’s a little dial on the top of our diaper pail, under the top flap, next to the inside lid. When you turn it, the inside flap won’t open, and I wondered when that would be useful. When you’re emptying it, maybe? I couldn’t figure it out.

Meanwhile, both girls are working on the concepts of in/out/on. Cate is trying to on/off bottle caps and assemble/disassemble stackable letter blocks. Sam has begun stacking rings on their Fisher Price rock-and-stack ring tower. And both girls enjoy playing with pots, pans, and food storage containers: putting things inside, taking them out, and putting lids on and off.

So sometime last week, it dawned on me: locking the diaper pail may keep things from going missing unexpectedly, via little hands practicing “in” to the diaper pail. I got it! And just in time.

Three days. That’s how far ahead we were to Sam and Cate beginning to play with the top of the diaper pail. This afternoon, they started lifting the top flap, and tonight, they started trying to shove things — like loveys and doll babies — inside. But the lock was locked and they were thwarted.

Hooray! Score one for Team Parents!

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In related news, I have finally installed magnetic safety locks on all but the corner kitchen cabinets. Next up: drawers and bathroom cabinets.


Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

I mentioned previously that we read a cool board book called, Animals. It has an elephant on the front cover, and Bill has been teaching us how to make elephant calls. My attempts are still pretty weak, but Cate’s are absolutely comical, more sputtering than trumpeting. Sam has finally accepted that elephant calls are no cause for alarm, but she hasn’t attempted her own yet.

Meanwhile, Sam and Cate have just started that awkward one-nap-is-too-few-but-two-naps-is-too-many phase. That means I have a growing appreciation for going places after lunch, because sometimes, they will doze off in the car on the way home, and benefit from a brief, but otherwise unattainable, nap.

This afternoon was cloudy and cooler than I might have liked, but we decided to hit the Houston Zoo anyway. I renewed our membership online, and then we hopped in my new car* and dashed over, since it’s only ten minutes away. We arrived close enough to closing time that we scored first row parking, and the gatekeepers only let us in because we were members.

Nonetheless, we hustled across the park just in time to show Sam and Cate their first real, live, elephants. Afterward, Auntie Em asked me, “did they like them?”, and Amy asked, “Any pictures?” Definitely yes and yes:

With temps in the 50s, girls huddled under one of the afghan blankets Baba Jean crocheted for them.

An elephant, and Cate grinning, with Bill

Sam and Bob regarding the elephant

Bob holding 41 pounds of toddler girls

Sam grinning

Bob grinning

I really enjoy showing our daughters new experiences, and there are so, so many things yet to show them. Today’s brief visit to the zoo was just a test run, to establish proof of concept. We will assuredly return. Also, we sprang for the “Supporting” membership which means Bill and I can bring up to 7 guests, in addition to Cate and Sam, who are free for the next year. Fancy a Zoo outing, anyone?

*On Friday (Dec 28), we bought a 2013 Honda Odyssey minivan, which seats 8. More on that in another post, probably.