Category: parenting

When I Need Perspective and Relief from Stress

When I put the kids to bed at night, we listen to about 10 minutes of what they call “rain music.” This is really an album of white-noise tracks of thunderstorms and rain storms. It is very calming, and I often listen to this while writing when there is other noise in the background. The Little Miss does not want to sleep in her room at the moment, so she, the Little Man and I go into the Little Man’s room. He climbs into his bed and I tuck him in.

The Little Miss then points to the beanbag chair on the floor next the Little Man’s bed and said, quite firmly, “You sit, daddy!”

I drop into the beanbag chair and she crawls in beside me with her entourage of stuffed animals and baby dolls. We turn off the lights, I turn on the rain music, and the three of us lay there in the darkness, listening to the sound of rain and the occasional gentle rumble of thunder.

Sometime, the Little Man wants to hold my hand while we do this. So there I am with both of my kids, holding the Little Man’s hand and with the Little Miss nestled in the crook of my left shoulder and it is just wonderful. I’m not sure there is anything that acts as quickly as a stress reliever than laying there for 10 minutes with the kids falling asleep around me.

The Little Miss Turns Two

Happy birthday, Little Miss! It’s hard to believe that the Little Miss was born two years ago today. We have outgrown babies and now have a preschooler and toddler, although technically they are both preschoolers since the Little Miss goes to the same preschool as the Little Man.

As a doting father, it is incumbent upon me to say that she is utterly adorable. And so she is. Mostly. She seems to catch onto things with a quickness that is as scary as it is impressive. She is currently going through a Mommy phase, where Mommy has to do absolutely everything and I am not allowed to do anything, unless, of course, she is desperate and there appears to be no alternative but to ask Daddy for help.

She has been speaking in complete sentences for some time now, but she has an older brother, to say nothing of native intelligence, to help her in this respect. She communicates very clearly, actually, often being very specific about what she wants to tell us, or how she wants things to be.

She dotes on her big brother. She likes watching the shows he watches, and she can name all of the super heroes on sight because the Little Man can do this, and she has learned it from him.  She wants to do everything that he does, and is the perfect little emulator.

Mostly, she is just a little bundle of joy.

Happy birthday, Little Miss! I hope you have a fun day today!

The Little Man’s First Knock-Knock Joke

Last night, while putting the Little Man to bed, I decided to teach him his first Knock-Knock joke. It was such an epic failure that all I can do is attempt to reproduce the transcript of what happened. I felt like I was in a Laurel and Hardy skit, only it was no skit. It was this:

Me: Okay, now let me tell you a joke. It’s called a knock-knock joke and you have to say some things.

Little Man: Okay, Daddy.

Me: I say “Knock-knock” and then you say, “Who’s there?” okay.

LM: (Nods).

Me: Knock-knock.

LM: (Looks at me, slightly confused.)

Me: Now you say, “Who’s there?”

LM: (Still looking confused.)

Me: Knock-knock.

LM: (Staring at me)

Me: (Sotto voce): Who’s there? You say “Who’s there?””

LM: Mommy?

Me: Huh?

LM: Mommy?

Me: No, you say “Who’s there?”

LM: Mommy?

Me: No, you just repeat what I am saying. Who’s there?

LM: (With sudden realization in his eyes): Who’s there, Mommy?

Me: No, buddy, you don’t tell me who’s there. You say who’s there. Wait. No. All you have to do is say “Who’s there” after I say knock-knock, okay?

Me: Knock-knock.

LM: Mommy!

Me: No, Mommy is sleeping. You don’t say Mommy, you say who’s there? Okay. Knock-knock.

LM: Daddy?

Me: Why are you saying Daddy?

LM: Because you’re there. (Pointing).

Me: It’s not who is really there, buddy. It’s just part of a joke. I say knock-knock and you say who’s there.

Me: (Deep breath. Truthfully, I am no longer interested in the joke and just want to go back to my room.)

Me: Knock-knock.

LM: Who’s there?

Me: Oh! Yes! Very good, buddy! Very good. Oh crap. Um, “Little Man!”

LM: What?

Me: No that’s part of the joke. I say knock-knock, then you say Who’s There, and then I say Little Man.

LM: I’m tired.

Me: Knock-knock.

LM: Little Man!

Me: Eh-huh? No, you say “Who’s there.”

LM: Daddy!

There was more, I think, but I blacked out at that point. The next thing I knew Kelly was wiping my face with a damp cloth.

And overnight, my ability to tell knock-knock jokes completely withered away.

“Everything’s Normal Again…”

Last night when I put the Little Man to bed, he asked for an extra hug. While his arms were wrapped around my neck he said, “Daddy, I’m glad everything’s back to normal again, now that you are back from your trip.”


It’s not like things deviated far from normal. Kelly worked like a champion while I was at Launch Pad, maintaining as much normality as could possibly be managed.

But it was still nice to hear the Little Man say that. I think what he meant by it was, “Daddy, I’m glad you are home.” So am I.

Mirrors in the Barber Shop

The Little Man needed a haircut, badly. I’d intended to get him one last week and things got busy and I got too tired. As it happens, I needed a haircut, too, so this morning, both the Little Man and I went and got one. The Little Man has had many haircuts and is beyond being afraid when go to the barber. Usually I will get my hair cut first while he watches, and then he’ll get his hair cut. Today, however, we got our hair cuts at the same time. And it led to a wonderful little bonding moment.

I sat on one side and he on the other. We could see one another reflected in the mirrors and as the stylists clipped away at our hair, we leered into the mirrors, making faces at one another, sticking our tongues out at one another, laughing, and having an absolute blast. I imagine the Little Man thought it was funny at the time and has already forgotten about it, even though not three hours have passed.

But I really thought it was special, a kind of bonding, sharing a joke that was magnified by being bounced around in the mirrors, making it that much bigger. I really just expected to run an errand this morning. It turned out to be a whole lot more.


You Cannot Fool the Little Miss

I‘ve noticed something recently, a kind of harsh mathematical truth about the Little Miss: as she grows increasingly adorable, she also grows increasingly willful. It’s not a direct proportion either. I’d say her willfulness factor increases to the cube of her adorability, which, from an evolutionary point of view, makes a good deal of sense, I suppose.

Take the other night, for instance. We have a pretty solid bedtime routine. It usually ends with Kelly getting the Little Miss into her sleep sack, and then the Little Miss stands on our bed and shouts to me (she shouts because I am usually writing and wearing my noise-cancelling headset), “Daddy, I’m ready!” But on this night, when Kelly said it was time for bed, the Little miss replied, calmly but firmly, “No.”

Various things were tried, various bribes were made, but to no avail. The Little Miss had taken a position and she was not going to give up the high ground. More warnings were given. More bribes were made. Quid pro quo was in full force. Eventually, satisfied she’d gotten what she wanted, the Little Miss acquiesced and I put her in her bed.

Usually, as our routine goes, I lie down next to the Little Miss and we listen to “rain music” on my iPhone for the 10 minutes or so it takes for her to fall asleep. The one significant variation to this routine comes when we listen to rain music for 30 or 40 minutes, not because the Little Miss won’t sleep, but because I have fallen asleep. But this seemed to be an ordinary night. We had figured out some way of getting her into bed quietly, mostly by distracting her from the fact that she was going to bed, and now, we both laid quietly in her room, the Little Miss in her bed, me on the floor, listening to rain music.

I was drowsy, but I kept watching her. Sometimes, I watch her as she falls asleep. On this particularly evening, she lay on her back looking at the ceiling, and I could actually see her mind working. It was eerie. But she didn’t stir. She simply stared at the ceiling, quiet, while the rain music continued to play.

My eyes had closed and I had nearly fallen asleep when I heard her speak suddenly. She didn’t shout or howl. She said, as if in sudden realization, “I am in my bed.” She paused and then followed it up with a vehement, “Oh man!

I am not a mind-reader so I cannot say this with certainty, but I believe that in that moment, the Little Miss realized that, despite her protest, she ended in her bed anyway, and by her own acquiescence, and was expressing her own utter frustration.

The Little Man’s Comments on Yesterday’s Stephen King Interview on NPR

Yesterday evening, while Kelly was working out, the kids were playing and I was in my office listening to a new interview with Stephen King on NPR. I enjoy King’s interviews immensely and this one was no different. But while I was listening, the Little Man kept coming in, interrupting and needing all kinds of attention.

Finally, I said, “Hey buddy, I’m listening to this interview.”

The Little Man frowned. He seemed to search for the right words for a moment, and then said, “But Daddy, this interview makes my ears nervous.”

Well, it was a Stephen King interview.

The Little Man’s Little Thumb

A few weeks ago, the Little Man injured his right thumb. It was by no means a serious injury, just one of those things that happens when 4-year-olds play. He didn’t even cry. We noticed that he couldn’t straighten out his thumb afterward. We visited the urgent care, then his pediatrician, who sent him for x-rays. The x-rays came back normal but he was sent to a orthopedist just to be safe. Turns out, he had what’s known as “trigger finger.” The condition probably existed at the time of his injury, and the injury just brought it to light.

This morning, the Little Man had surgery to correct the condition. This required general anesthesia, which is always a little nerve-wracking. But this was the third time that the Little Man has had general anesthesia and the surgery itself took only 15 minutes. We left the house at 6:30 am and were back home by 11 am. The Little Man was brave and smiling throughout and the surgery corrected the condition. In about 9 days–when the cast comes off–he will have full mobility and functionality of his right thumb once again.

Yes, there is kind of a cast. Lots of padding and wrapping and bandages, which almost seems overkill for an incision that was barely a few millimeters. But the Little Man is nearly four and the cast will help ensure proper healing.

Thumb Cast

At the time of this writing, the Little Man is downstairs, happily playing with the Little Miss (and some new toys). He will miss t-ball for two weeks, but he was going to miss a week anyway as we are taking a road trip on Memorial Day weekend. He is a little trooper, though.

I always get a little nervous before these things and it is a relief to have this behind us.

A Perspective on Priorities

When I picked up the Little Miss from her daycare today, she had a bloody nose. Not a big deal, just a little bloody nose. She has a wonderful daycare and the caretakers told me what had happened that led to the bloody nose. Perfectly normal stuff.

I brought her home. Kelly and the Little Man were already home. The Little Miss had brought a rose for Kelly for Mother’s Day.

“Happy mommy’s day,” the Little Miss said, running into the house to give the rose to Kelly.

“Oh, thank you!” Kelly said. There was a pause. “What happened to–”

“She got a bloody nose at school,” I said.

The Little Man perked up. At nearly four years old, he is fascinated by blood.

I explained what happened. “When so-and-so’s dad came to pick him up, all of the kids suddenly wanted to play with the same toy, or something. I think they said it was a dinosaur. Anyway, in the commotion, whosits threw the dinosaur and it bobbed the Little Miss squarely in the nose.”

“Aww, my poor little girl!” Kelly said. The Little Miss did not seem bothered by this in the least.

The Little Man seemed to consider the story carefully and then asked what he deemed to be the most significant question.

“What kind of dinosaur was it?”

Get Whatever You Want in 12 Easy Steps

This post is brought to you courtesy of the Little Miss, who demonstrated the process this very evening to a small audience. I am merely passing along her methods, which, I should add, are frighteningly effective. Credit where credit is due.

Step 1. Begin nonchalantly. Stand up on your mom and dad’s bed.

Step 2. Release your stored up energy. Jump around on mom and dad’s bed, until mom says, “It’s time to relax, no jumping.”

Step 3. Demonstrate your independence. Continue to jump anyway until mom say, “If you don’t listen you’ll have to go into your own bed.”

Step 4. Call the bluff. Live for the moment. Do it again.

Step 5. Marvel at how quickly your are transported to your own bed.

Step 6. Play along. Lay down quietly, feigning sleep.

Step 7. Wait five minutes.

Step 8. Start yelling for mommy. Throw in a few screams. Turn on the waterworks.

Step 9. When daddy asks why you are crying, say, “I want mommy pick me up.”

Step 10. Surprise your opponent. When daddy says, “You can’t sleep in our bed, you have to sleep in here,” you say in your charming, voluble, 21-month-old voice, “I be good girl!”

Step 11. Puppy-eyes for effect.

Step 12. Marvel at how quickly you are transported to mommy and daddy’s bed.

Game. Set. Match.

The Little Miss Channels… The Terminator?

The nightly routine

We go upstairs. The kids play for a little while, while Kelly and I do various tasks in preparation for the next day. Lay out clothes. Pack bags and backpacks. Then it’s time for a bath or shower. When that is over we read a book. Sometimes, we read two, one for the Little Man and another for the Little Miss. When the book-reading is done, the kids usually climb onto our bed. They each get to watch a show. The Little Miss generally watches Caillou, while the Little Man, obsessed with superheroes as he is1, watches The Avengers cartoon. They both drink their milk.

It is during this brief respite that I squeeze in the my daily fiction-writing. I can generally get as much as 500 words done before the shows are over. At some point, Kelly gets the Little Miss into her sleep-sack, usually with only minor protest. Not long after that, the Little Miss will say, “Daddy, I ready!” Usually she has to yell this, as I wear my noise-canceling headset as I write. Usually, I respond (once I hear her), with “Okay, I just need two minutes.” This is because the Little Miss has chosen the exact wrong moment in my writing to “be ready.” I finish my thoughts, typing feverishly. Then I stand.

“Okay,” I say, taking out my iPhone and holding it up, “should we go listen to rain music?”

The Little Miss waddles across the bed in her sleep sack, a big grin on her face. She practically leaps into my arms.

“Goo-night, mommy,” she says. “Goo-night, Little Man.”

“Goodnight,” Kelly says.

The Little Man generally says nothing, absorbed as he is in what is going on with the Avengers. We prod him and without taking his eyes off the TV he says, “Goodnight!”

“I love you!” the Little Miss says.

“I love you,” Kelly says. “Sweet dreams.”

We start to walk out of the room and this is where the Little Miss channels the Terminator, every night, without fail.

“I be back,” she announces.

And before morning, she almost always is.

  1. I wonder where he gets that from?

Down the Drain

I am on my third reread of Stephen King’s It. (What can I say, I like it that much.) Those who have read the book know that significant portions of it either take place in, or are related to, the canal and drain system beneath the fictional Maine town of Derry.

I was in the house a few evenings ago reading the book, the part where Bev Marsh is in her bathroom and hears the voices in the drain of her sink. Kelly and the kids were outside, playing. I was totally and completely absorbed in the story, but from somewhere, from a distance (like a voice coming from deep within a drain?) I heard crying. I emerged back to consciousness, feeling the same kind of weary connection back to reality that I experience when I’ve spent much of my day heads-down writing code. I saw that just out front, Kelly was holding the Little Man and that he was crying. Curious, I went out to find what had happened.

They’d been playing with a ball. One of those brightly colored, inflatable plastic balls you see stacked in great piles within mesh bins in grocery stores. Giant gumballs filled with air. Kelly had reinflated one of the balls and it bounced really well. Too well. It got away from the Little Man. It got away from Kelly. It rolled slowly across the street, following a track that curved slightly to the left until it dropped into a drain basin. I’d recovered many a lost object from that drain basis, but the thing is, the ball entered the side of the basin closest to our house–dropping straight down into a pipe that resembled, well, a Morlock hole, and was lost in the waterworks deep below our street.

The Little Man was devastated. “Where does it go? Why can’t we get it?” he asked.

“The pipes are too small for us to fit in,” I said, thinking about those pipes running underneath Derry, thinking about the voices.

“But why?”

“Because they are made for water,” I said.

“Where does the water go?”

“Eventually, out to sea–to the ocean.”

“The salt ocean?” the Little Man asked.

“That’s right,” I said.

He burst into tears again, “There’s sharks in the salt ocean and they’ll eat my ball.”

“No they won’t,” I said, “they don’t eat rubber. Or plastic.” I wasn’t sure this was true, but I am, after all, a fiction writer, and it doesn’t have to be true, it just has to make sense to the audience. My audience, in this case, was my three-going-on-four-year-old.

“But the ball will just stay there?”

“Well,” I said, “I think the ball will eventually get used as a house for some small sea animals.”

“But how will they get inside it?”

A gave him a little grin, “The Octonauts will carve some holes in the ball so the animals can get inside.”

He gave me a half-smile, “That’s just a joke, Daddy?”

“Yeah, that’s just a joke.”

We have another ball, just like the one he lost, only orange instead of green. I figured he’d forget about it right away. But he hasn’t. Even as recent as yesterday afternoon, walking home from school, cheerfully telling me about his day, he paused for a moment, silent. Then he said, rather resignedly, “Daddy, my ball is lost down the drain.”

“I know.”

“I’m sad for my ball,” said the Little Man.