parenting

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Super Ballerina

Published October 17, 2013 by jay p laughlin

A Ballet Demonstration

She’s ever the little ballerina. From the day she could say the word she’s wanted to be one and she finally got her wish this fall. On the day of her 3rd birthday we had her pose for pictures in her birthday dress. True to her spirit, she decided to demonstrate what she learned in ballet class for the pictures. First position, piqué, plié, arabesque (though she still inverts the “sk” sound so she pronounces it “arabex”)…the big day began in a big way.

Her ballet class has been one of the best things we’ve done for her. She’s the youngest in the class but is undaunted. In fact, her maturity level from the first class to the second rose quite rapidly. She had to learn to stand in line, wait her turn, listen to her teachers instructions, and imitate the teachers actions. The first day she missed more than she hit. But by the second week, she was hitting more than she missed. It was remarkable. Moreover, her maturity level increased at home as well. In that first week she began to express her feelings more and increased sentence structure complexity. We were amazed and delighted. Now, each week she improves her ability to imitate the moves that her teacher demonstrates.

To make things even better, her BGFF, Ella, is in the class as well and she gets to come with me for my class. At home, we practice together a little bit.

I’m very pleased with her…well, our…ballet school. The teachers are fantastic and there’s a good amount of parent involvement. It’s a very welcoming and friendly place. When I first started shopping for ballet schools (over a year ago) I wanted to find the right place for her. Having absolutely no experience with ballet, however, meant I didn’t know what exactly I was looking for. So, I did what any dad would do to find the right place for his little girl, I enrolled in a class myself to see what I thought of the place. I must admit, on my first day I was terrified. Surprisingly, the class was great, the teacher was great, and the amount of discipline and control required to do everything even moderately right was such a mental and physical challenge that I couldn’t imagine not doing it from here on out. And from there, a new ballet family has been born.

First Day of Class

When we decided that I’d be the stay-at-home parent we wondered if ZK would grow up to be tomboyish. Admittedly, she’s an excellent ogre slayer, but in many ways she’s becoming aware of the differences between boys and girls and gravitating towards gender stereotypical things. We had hoped to set the example that everything is open to her and I still think that we do a good job of it. However, kids her age pick up a lot of social cues from their peers and the world around them. Case in point, the other day I asked her if she wanted to read one of her, formerly, favorite books, Dinosailors. “No, I don’t want to read that one,” she said. When I asked why, she replied, “Because I’m a girl.” I was stunned into silence. If you can imagine the sound of a sack of damp sand hitting the ground…that’s about what my jaw sounded like when it hit the floor. Where, exactly, she got that idea we don’t know. It certainly wasn’t from us.

In the meantime, she got a Thomas the Train set for her birthday and is quite pleased with it. “Don’t break it,” (meaning, don’t break it down) she said to me while walking up the stairs to go to bed.

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AND NOW WE ARE 3…ALMOST-ER

Published August 23, 2013 by jay p laughlin
Super Trooper

Super Trooper

This week we saw some significant improvement in ZK’s slayer-training. The water harpies at a nearby fountain were particularly vicious so ZK didn’t get away unscathed. In the midst of a mind-blowing, super joyful, way-fast run, one of the harpies grabbed her by the foot, in true underhanded ne’er-do-well fashion, causing a hard five point landing on ZK’s part. Two knees and one hand injured by cold hard earth, the other hand and her chin injured by the fountain wall. Well played…harpies.

It’s funny how quickly delight turns to tragedy sometimes. The laugh quickly became a cry as she looked at her hands in disbelief. Setting her in my lap, she said, “oh, no!” as she looked at her scraped knees. In little sobs, she said, “is it all better?” (I should point out that this isn’t asking me the question. Instead, ZK has this way of letting us know that she wants us to say something by, well, saying it. Only by the experience of context clues do we know when wants us to repeat what she’s just said in this fashion. The linguistic cues are non-existent).

“Is it all better?” I ask.

<Sniff> “Yeah.”

Fastfoward three days:

“I’m hungry,” she says. “I want sushi.”

Well, ok then. We head to our favorite sushi place to celebrate Jenni’s first day at her (kindofabigdeal) new job. ZK is proudly sitting in the big girl chair while Pat, Jenni, and I are talking.

“<mumble mumble> my bonk,” she says.

“What?” Jenni and I say in unison. ZK has a funny face and looks to be trying to get something out of her mouth.
ZK 34months004“I ate my bonk,” she repeats.

The look on Jenni’s face is of complete, utter disgust. In what I swear to be the last laugh in the fight against the harpies, ZK has employed a little bit of sympathetic magic to defeat them…she ate the scab from her chin.

“Was it yummy?” I ask, eliciting a look from Jenni.

“No.”

And Now We are 3…Almost

Published August 8, 2013 by jay p laughlin

Wow…It’s been many months since my last post! I promise it’s not that I’ve forgotten. I’d like to say that it’s because our days together are so busy that I just cannot find the time for it (ok, it’s partially that) but, if I’m being honest, it’s because ZK is growing up so fast that I’d be sobbing harder than I do at that scene, you know, in….Dirty Dancing. OYG!, <sob> it’s already starting.

The Other side of the Rabbit hole.

The Other side of the Rabbit hole.

She’s rapidly approaching 3 and will soon be in a pre-ballet class. This is great because she loves being a ballerina and loves dancing. Telling her that she was going to be a ballerina, and that ballerinas don’t wear diapers, motivated her to nearly 100% success in potty training…from that day forward. This parenting stuff is a piece.of.cake.

Jenni and I have taken her with us dancing in the past but can’t continue with it because ZK wants to dance between us. That’s great if we’re encouraging her to dance, not so great if we want to dance ourselves. In the meantime, we rely on grandma (pronounced bran-ma) to watch her on the 1-2 nights we go swing dancing/Lindy Hopping. ZK has even started to develop an ear for swing music. When she hears the band that she recognizes she’ll say, in her sweet voice, “ohh, is that Big Bad Voodoo Daddy?” I will never grow tired of hearing her say that. Now, once I get her to say “ohh, is that Reverend Horton Heat?” I’ll have died and gone to heaven (the real one!). I’ll make a lil’Rockabilly girl outta her yet.

For the longest time, ZK’s use of swear words were unintentional stumblings upon the pronunciations of taboo words. However, I recently had to confront my own profuse colorful language when she said “shit!” after dropping her toy while getting in the car. I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly so I asked her what she said. She looked at me very seriously, furrowed her brow, and said with completed intensity and intention…”ShhIT!” Well, ok then. On relating the story to Jenni, she asked what I did in response. “Nothing,” I said, “it was context appropriate.”

Sweety-Peety

Sweety-Peety

ZK loves…loves, loves…frilly and/or flowy skirts and dresses. So I’ve taken up a little bit of sewing and made her a couple of circle skirts. She asks to wear them all the time so they get washed frequently. I’m extremely pleased that she enjoys the effort I put into making them. At the park today, she demonstrated that she’s already grasped the concept of “hiking” her skirt when it gets in the way of climbing the playground equipment. I’ll make every skirt/dress that she’ll ever want/need if she keeps up with the encouragement.

Ok, the <sniff> sobs are sneaking <sniff> up on me again.

© 2013 Jay P Laughlin

Another Bus Trip…and a ZK translator

Published September 21, 2012 by jay p laughlin

There it is.

ZK’s ears are sharp.

“S’ok! S’ok,” she says as she runs towards me, arms outstretched, and jumps into my arms.

The first time it happened I didn’t understand what was wrong. A few seconds later, I heard the wail of the siren approaching. Then I understood.

She hasn’t always been afraid of sirens. Until about two months ago she really liked them. Fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, any thing with flashing lights and sirens caught her in excitement. However, one ambulance turned on its siren to respond to a call while right beside us. The sound was ear shattering for all of us and it scared the jumpin’-Jesus out of ZK. From that day on, when she hears the approach of a siren she seeks the comfort of her parents arms and says reassuringly to herself (or maybe it’s to us) “S’ok! S’ok.”

Holding on.

Other noises now scare her too. The other day when went on a “bus adventure” to visit another area of town. Throughout the walk to the transit station ZK talked about the bus, pointed out buses as they passed on the street, and commented on their color. At the transit center we sat together and waited for ours to arrive. She was eager and awestruck.

When our bus arrived, we stood up to enter but the air brakes released a loud and quick “HSS”. ZK squealed and refused to step on board. So when I picked her up to enter she held on so tightly that it felt like she wanted to pass right through me. She refused to let go for the entire trip. Fortunately, the trip lasted only 15 minutes and we were able to create a new song out of it that was mostly a bunch of “tout va bien, tout va bien bien” with a smattering of “Booboos” thrown in for good measure.

We went to our favorite mall, visited our favorite toystore, and rode the carousel with some other lil’kiddos (ZK liked showing them how it’s done). All the while she was saying Hi to nearly everyone who passed and they, in turn, commented on how lovely her new boots and hat were.

Our favorite table at our favorite watering hole.

We ended our little excursion with a stop in our familiar stomping ground…the good ole S.B. Once again ZK pointed to the mermaid and said “princesse” (pronounced with a French accent…it means princess in English). The highlight for her was the pumpkin bread which, in her still developing vocabulary, she calls either “cookie” (pronounced like “kooky”) in English but not exactly correct in meaning, or “gâteau” in French which is a bit closer in meaning.

It wasn’t such a bad day. The return trip improved when ZK say a little girl her age sitting in front of us on the bus. They smiled at each other, said “hi” a LOT, and did all kindsa bashful smiling with requisite shy-shoulder shrugging.

In other news:

Occasionally there are times when parents must act as translators for their toddlers. This is usually because the kiddos are only just beginning to grasp the whole oral articulation thing and sometimes really mangle the words. One in particular, a linguistic metathesis, is ZK’s pronunciation of music as mikis. I enjoy it so much that I often want to call her “Miss Mikis.”

Here are some of other words from ZK’s idiolect:

fée = fairy, or elf, or mermaid, or young girl

butt = button, or bellybutton

beek = big

beenie = lima bean

day-on (it’s hard to transcribe this one) = dragon

deppy = step

C’est (pronounced ‘say’) = this/that is

 

A Letter to My Daughter: On Mortality

Published May 2, 2012 by jay p laughlin

May 1, 2012

ZK,

You are growing much too fast. Sometimes I just want a few more moments with you at a couple of days or weeks old. Not because I think things were better then, or that you are difficult now. It’s been a thrill experiencing every single one of your milestones with you. And I am eager to experience those to come. In fact, you’ve given me the gift of seeing the world anew.

Instead, it’s because time has passed so quickly since your birth that I must constantly confront my own mortality, and yours. Reflect upon it and embrace it. It’s as sobering and humbling as it is exciting and electrifying. There is not a single night that passes that the enormity of our mortality does not haunt my thoughts. I want just a few more moments of the newness of you to assuage the breath-taking weight of knowing that, someday, we will be apart.

It’s not that I fear what is to come in death. I won’t feel it, or know that it has happened. In the sense of ‘non-existence,’ I was ‘dead’ in the aeons past and suffered not at all for it. Instead, I will return to the nothingness from which we are born, without you and your mom. But if I imagine a future you after I have passed, I miss rather than fear the loss of future experiences with the two of you. I miss, in advance, the loss of sharing our lives and your mother’s embrace. As I struggle with how fast you grow up, and the speed with which you develop into this wonderful person, I miss these things to come in much the same way that I miss those that have past: you as a tiny newborn, your first steps. I miss them, but am thrilled to be a part of you now and throughout our mortal existence.

But comfort comes. At some point in the aeons to come, the substance of our bodies will return, not just to this Earth but, to the cosmos itself. Perhaps we will then participate in the creation of another star, another world, another system of life. Or, perhaps, it will be all of them together. Though we won’t know it when it happens, we can contemplate it now and share that with each other and those around us. This is nothing short of remarkable. It is awe-inspiring, glorious, and beautiful. It is beauty. And, if beauty can be said to endure beyond all consciousness and minds to perceive it, it is a beauty that endures.

You are beautiful. And if I could, I would ensure that you endured as you are now for as long as beauty itself. Though the depth of human ability is profound, this is beyond anyone’s capacity. But know, when you look to the planets and the stars, that this beauty in eternity is our all-too-human destiny.

I love you always,

Papa

(Cross-posted here).

© 2012 Jay P Laughlin

Sucka-punched!

Published April 24, 2012 by jay p laughlin

Mean-muggin' like her Pop. (Well, workin' on it anyway).

It’s not always all fun and games for little kiddos. This is particularly true for lil’ zombie-slayers in training. But sometimes, temporary halts to the fun and games come at unpredictable moments.

Imagine, for example, being a spritely little doodle-hopper, minding your own business, occasionally squealing at new found objects to examine, and generally just basking in your joie de vivre. Then, quite suddenly and out of nowhere, the floor-mounted door stop grabs you by the foot and rips your brand new flowered sandals off of your foot. This is then followed by a double-team potshot: the floor giving you a sucka-punch in the nose. Trip-BAM! Just like that. The result is a crimson fountain from the nasal cavities and a sweater that looks like a murder scene.

Magnifying the insult of this cowardly sneak-attack is the fact that it happens in front of your favorite toy store. Touché, life.

Well, it’s not just a story to imagine but an exact re-telling of ZK’s morning. There were two bright spots to come out of the whole incident, however. First, after teaching her how to stanch a gushing wound, to get rid of the evidence, and to brush off the pain, we shared a warm molasses cookie.  Second, we reviewed the unexpected incident, slayer-style. Because when the Zombie-king returns, as prophesied, and the brain-eating dead ressurect from their graves in the coming Zombie-apocalypse, well, they just might try an underhanded sneak attack starting with a foot-grab while you’re walking past their interred hiding place. Cowards.

I couldn’t have planned the lesson any better. It is one of the marks of a Master-slayer to be able to turn the unexpected into a training moment.

Word-Power!

Published March 19, 2012 by jay p laughlin

ZK was starting to walk but she kept swinging her right leg out. To confirm that nothing was wrong, our pediatrician referred us to a gait specialist. Of course, by the time I took ZK to see the specialist her rightward swing had stopped. ZK still wasn’t walking on her own (at 16 months) and always wanted to hold someone’s hand. The gait specialist reassured us that this was probably just some trepidation on ZK’s part.

I took her to the play area in the mall one day after this visit. It was 7:30am so there were no other kids around. When I placed ZK on the ground something happened. She broke loose from her timid shell and started walking on her own, a lot. And she also started to climb the play equipment. From that point forward, she has been quite a go-getter.

This new and improved, independently mobile ZK also coincided with another upgrade. Word-power. She has, for some time now, been able to comprehend a lot of what we say to her. She even understands a lot of the French that I use. (For example, Ou sont tes singes? Les fées sont cachées dans la boite). But it wasn’t until after her break-out walking moment that she really started trying to say words other than mama, bark-bark, Zat? (What’s that?) and Hi!

The first to arrive was Bye. Shortly after 16 months, she started using it. Though, at first, she sometimes used it in place of Hi we were able to model correct use for her and she caught on by the third day. A week later we were again at the play area in the mall when she pointed to the letter D. I said “Dee, duh” and she responded “Dee, duh.” I was excited and we kept repeating it for a while. Uh-oh followed soon after. But my favorite thus far is that she can now say Papa…okay, so she still calls me mama and she pronounces it a bit more closely to baba (which isn’t too shabby given that the sounds “p” and “b” are articulated the same way but the former is unvoiced while the latter is voiced). So close.

To add to the list, she can sometimes say Z, says baby, and tries to say diaper but really just manages to mimic the cadence. There is too much to cover everything, but the list grows regularly. It’s exciting times because soon I will be able to teach her fire-ball and magic-missile spells of sufficient strength to put a serious wrench in an ogre’s day.

In other news, she had a boyfriend for a day. They met at the play gym in the mall. He walked up to her and gave her a hug. She responded by giving him a kiss. Yup, her first kiss was at 17…months not years. When she’s older and looks fondly upon her life, and reminisces about her first kiss, she’ll have to add the qualification “the first that I can remember” because I doubt this one was impactful (yes, I used that word) enough to have won a place in her long-term memory.