Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Apple Of My Heart*

*Is that right? Seems sort of off.

I sort of fell in love with NJ all over again this week.

The Wife took an overnighter to Portland. It was the first time the kid and I have been alone for a long time (I started to actually look up the last time The Wife had to go out of town, but I'm lazy and semi-hopped up on cold medicine, so let's just say "a long time" and leave it at that). The time frame was short -- The Wife left mid-afternoon Sunday and returned Monday night, after NJ went to bed -- but NJ and I had a lot of fun. Nothing unusual: playing around the house, trip to the supermarket, kitchen dancing, bath and reading time, etc. What made it stand out from past Super Solo events is NJ's bursting-at-the-seams personality. (And the walking. The walking is definitely a difference. Man, is it a difference.) She's become an irrepressible force of nature who takes no prisoners, knows what she wants and how to get it, yadda yadda insert cliche here etc. etc.

NJ's vocabulary, for instance, seems to be expanding exponentially. "Hat," "bubbles," "moon," "Daddy," "Mama," "doggy" -- these are but a few of the words she has mastered. (And, of course: "Elmo.") The list of words that she's got a 75 percent handle on is even longer -- "quack" is "cack," for example, and "coat" is "co." (Actually, "CO!" is coat. I don't know why she gets so excited about putting her coat on, or watching me put mine on, but apparently it's a Big Deal.)

Now, though, my favorite word of hers is "more."

We were playing upstairs and I gently tossed NJ onto the bed to play Earthquaaaaaake, a favorite thing of hers from months ago that she seemed to outgrow. She lays on the bed, I loom over her and put one hand on either side and shake the mattress until she bounces up and down. Hilarity ensues, I stop, and just when she thinks it's over, another earthquake hits. Rinse, repeat, until my arms get tired or something comes up. So we played Earthquaaaaaaake and NJ loved, loved, loved it -- belly laughs louder than I'd ever heard before, and she actually lost her breath a little bit once. After three tremors I turned around and walked to my dresser for a water bottle, and behind me I heard NJ shouting "More! More!" I turned around and she was giggling and making the "more" hand sign she learned at day care.

I'd heard NJ say "more" plenty of times before, and seen the sign language a lot, but only when she was asking for food -- more yogurt, more cheese, more macaroni. But never in the context of playing, or entertainment, or anything I was doing. And since I'm an incredibly easy mark, I smiled big enough to hurt my face and rushed back to the bed for more horseplay. And for the first time ever, a round of Earthquaaaaaaake ended because I got tired of it, not her.

NJ missed her mom, I'm sure, and even called out for her at bath time Sunday evening, but she also had a great time with me. Sure, I might have cut some corners here and there -- I didn't wash her hair in the bath, which she hates, and her toothbrushing exercise before bedtime was probably the shortest on record -- but I don't care. We had a great time, and any worries I had about Super Soloing with a feisty, always-moving toddler vanished pretty quickly.

Which is good, because The Wife is abandoning us again next week for a couple of days. She'll be missing some pretty awesome Earthquaaaaaaakes, I'll wager.

For a day, at least, it was: Dad's up, Elmo's down.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kayak Kween

Yesterday we went to REI, and NJ decided to forgo watching me try on shoes in favor of playing in the kiddie area. Specifically, the kayak:

Someone get a paddle in my hands and water under this thing so I can get going.
We've made it a habit to get out as much as we can on the weekends, but this weekend ended up being lunch out each day (here yesterday, here earlier this afternoon -- NJ loves their guac, and will be eating her leftover fish taco for dinner in a little while) and yesterday's REI appearance. The weekend weather's been cold/wet/gray for a while now, so outdoor fun opportunities are somewhat limited.

The Wife just left for an overnight in Portland and wasn't too thrilled to be leaving her daughter behind for the first time in many months. It's the first time I'll have NJ all to myself since she's become a walking, almost-talking terror, so we'll see how it goes. Hopefully it goes well, because there The Wife has another trip planned next week.

Time to go.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Was Born With A Plastic Spoon In My Mouth

I wouldn't say that NJ has mastered using a spoon, but she's headed in the right direction.

I like The Who too, Daddy, but this spoon is made of silicone.
Once NJ realizes that she's got to hold the spoon upright on the entire journey from food to mouth, she'll be golden. Last night she dumped as much yogurt on the front of her dress as she managed to deposit into her gob. At bath time, I carried her into her room to change at arm's length. Today things went a lot smoother.

As you can see in the lower right, The Wife stands at the ready to help out -- there's been lots of two-spoon eating lately. NJ'll nail it down yet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Her Latest Flame

NJ has been swooning over a new boy lately. Well, he's not new -- my parents introduced them way back last summer. But it was only about a week ago that NJ looked over at him and said, "That's the man for me."

This little guy gets a thumbs-up from me.
Yes, NJ has a sudden, overwhelming case of Elmo Fever. She is head over heels for the red guy and calls out "Ah-mo Ah-mo Ah-mo" every time her eyes meet those goggly things on his head. She marches around hugging him tight, or maybe with him tucked under her arm. His Tickle-Me feature is a little tough for her -- you have to squeeze his belly surprisingly hard to get the little bastard to chortle, and she hasn't figured that out yet -- so The Wife and I help out sometimes.

NJ, give your little buddy a kiss! Aw, how cute ... oh, uh ... wait ... hey, that's enough. Really. Stop it.
There's even some Classic Toddler exaggerated wailing and flailing-fingers reaching if she sees Elmo and isn't in a position to immediately grab him. And it somehow manages to be both cute and irritating at the same time.

No photos, please. We're just "good friends."
Enjoy the ride while you're on it, Elmo. Soon she'll move on to someone else. There's an alligator, a Texas Longhorn, a meerkat, a six-foot-long caterpillar, three or four teddy bears ... well, you get the idea. They're all just hanging around her room, the basement and the rest of the place, just waiting to be discovered and hugged until their seams pop. Don't forget: Today's news is tomorrow's fish-and-chip paper.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Your Photoshop red-eye removal tool cannot help you now, father.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


NJ apparently has decided that 2011 is the year she'll devote to honing her personality. And, judging by the last week of 2010, so far so good.

Her curious case began last Wednesday night when I was assembling our new kitchen island, an intricate little number that, early on, frustrated me no end. (Frustration at the end, too, when one part didn't work properly, but that's a boring story for another time.) To give you an idea: It took five minutes short of a solid hour just to unpack the thing from its box. Once that was done, there was some shaky assembly time (it called for two people); The Wife was busy with dinner and couldn't hold things upright so screws could be inserted and fastened. I fumed and steamed over this while NJ sat in her high chair watching. Suddenly, over the sound of the iPod buds in my ears, I heard her exclaim "Oh!" and laugh. Then she laughed again, longer and louder. And again. Waving arms, too. I pulled the earbuds out and she did it again -- it was fake laughter. "She's trying to cheer you up!" The Wife said. I smiled weakly at the kid and replied, "It's not working." The Wife chastised me for being a grouch and took NJ out of her chair. The girl immediately toddled over to me, beaming a smile, and latched tight onto my leg with a hug for the ages. Even a practiced sullen dork like me couldn't fight that. I didn't curse or grouse until NJ was fast asleep and we turned our attention back to the kitchen furniture.

Fast-forward to yesterday: NJ grabbed her ridiculously wide-brimmed Worcester Nor'easter rain hat and marched around the house putting it on and pulling it off her head, babbling her babble. Then, the booming, fake laughter again -- I don't know if other young children do this, but I've never seen it before. It's really something -- she does it and looks at you with a grin, and if you laugh back she breaks into the real thing. It looks like this:

Batten down the hatches, matey!
Then, it was on to the Seattle Aquarium. She's been there before, but yesterday she was ready to make the place her own. Once she got over an initial awe-struck phase, NJ was jabbering and pointing and staggering around, pointing at fish and watching enraptured as a diver fed them. We rounded the corner to an exhibit that features a wave simulator (and the requisite explosions of bubbles) and a lot of fish at her eye level. This one we couldn't get her away from for a long time. Finally we were able to convince her to move on, although we stopped there on the way out and she forced her way to the front (right) with the confident aplomb of a groupie at a rock concert (which I hope never, ever, never, never, ever, never ever comes to pass). Lots of other fish exhibits captured her attention, and the high point of the trip for me was when The Wife put her on the floor and she immediately and swiftly toddled toward an aquarium waving her arms and shouting "Ah-pee ah-pee ah-pee" to no one in particular. I think she learned "happy" at day care -- she certainly didn't learn it from me on kitchen island assembly night.*

*UPDATE: I'm reliably informed by The Wife that she taught NJ "happy."

Last night came the clincher. At our New Year's Eve dinner table, I noticed NJ looking at me and squinting her eyes, with her mouth in a weird half-open position. I dimmed the lights a bit, but she did it again and I thought maybe she got a bit of food in her eye or something. "Is she making fun of me?" I asked The Wife, getting a little defensive about my own squinty-eyed visage (although, as the man said, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes). "Maybe so!" she replied, so I made the face back at NJ -- who gave me an approving arm-wave and laughed heartily (not that Ed McMahon overdone stuff, either). We made faces at each other for a little while longer, before I resorted to my usual dinner-is-over routine of juggling three clementine oranges for her before clearing the table.

NJ's always been a charmer, but it's fun to see her kick it up a notch or two. She's also won over Zeus, the timid dog who's scared of his own shadow. She's upstairs with her mom right now, but if she was here she'd want me to wish all of you a Ah-pee New Year!