Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lord, Protect My Child

I have a new favorite among NJ's books -- a slim little volume of genius called "Forever Young." That title sounds familiar, you say? It should -- the book's text is the classic, feel-good Bob Dylan song of the same name. America's greatest songwriter has penned many tunes that could be transformed into novels, but "Forever Young" is more of a hopeful Irish toast of a song, something the man wrote when he wasn't feeling quite his usual cynical, acerbic self. Paul Rogers does a great job of matching illustrations to the lyrics that are relevant, but not on-the-nose visual repeats of the words. Much, much better than some children's book penned by the personal assistant of a celebrity. Perhaps Rogers can come up with some drawings for "Ballad of a Thin Man" next. (Might keep the kids up at night, though.)

Forever Young

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Copyright © 1973 by Ram's Horn Music; renewed 2001 by Ram’s Horn Music

My favorite thing about the book is when I read it to her, I can break into my Dylan impression (mid-'70s Dylan, as seen in "The Last Waltz," for example) whenever I want -- and it's completely relevant. "Foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeverrr yoooooooooooooooooooooong, Foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeverrr yooooooooooooooo-ooo-oooooooooooooooong, may yooooooooooooou staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaay-haaaaaaay, Faaah-ev-ah yuuuuuuuuuuung." I am really, really good at that.

But enough about my favorite children's book, right? What's NJ's favorite book, you ask? Doesn't matter! I'm writing this, not her. Check back in 10 years, maybe she'll have learned to type by then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NJ Has Two Grandmas

We went to Texas last week to visit my parents, who were delighted to get the chance to spoil the little kid rotten. It was quite a time for NJ -- she was pretty discombobulated, but still managed to have some fun. The last time this set of grandparents saw her was way back in June, when our elaborate plot to have them babysit while The Wife and I got our Vertigo on fell through thanks to Bono's back woes. In the past 10 months, of course, NJ has blossomed into a completely different person. A person who didn't recognize Grandma and the man that, for the moment, we'll call "Grandpa."

First things first: On the flight down, NJ was a dream. We waited almost two hours on the plane while a repair crew fixed a dent in some part of a wing, and she was a trooper. Only once, after her lengthy nap, did she squawk, and it didn't last long.

Oh, Daddy, this 'heat and humidity' you keep talking about sounds divine!
At some point not long after we arrived, NJ assumed the role of the Shy Showoff. There was lots of flirting with my parents, but she wouldn't actually, you know, go to them. My father, in particular, was the victim of a lot of teasing -- NJ would watch him intently, and when she caught his eye she'd smile bashfully, cock her head and giggle. If he reached toward her, though, she'd turn her head and pull away. (She eventually turned her back on me, too, and would only consort with her mommy. Me, the guy who attended to her every need for the first year of her life. Sheesh.) NJ remembered that my mom is Grandma, but apparently thought the name applied to both grandparents because that's what she called my gray-bearded, mucho macho father, too. All week.

One day we went across the street to a day care center -- were Dad Solo himself graduated from kindergarten some 358 years ago -- to participate in the annual ritual of picking colored plastic eggs up off the ground and placing them in a basket. NJ and her mom hung around with some kids her age -- kids who were dying for some attention, apparently, because The Wife was overrun with children as soon as she stepped in the room. They waved books until she cracked one open and started reading. I went in next, and likewise was swarmed. By two cute girls in particular, Rain and Kendall. After hanging around for a few minutes, it was time to head outside for Easter egg hunting. NJ ended up with four, I think. Then, it was off for some real fun -- at a Goode Company barbeque joint.

Beautiful, right? Cute kid, too.
The next day we headed to Moody Gardens in Galveston, where NJ took yet another aquarium by storm, backing up and squealing when the giant seal swam right toward her in its glass-sided tank and watching intently as some sort of shark made the rounds in a different tank. She really started to show some travel fatigue here, though. The two-hour time difference, new surroundings, a new bed, a notable decrease in the number of available toys, problems sleeping, the climate -- these things all took their toll on the kid, and when we decided to wait another 15 minutes to see the penguins get fed, she tantrumed up right there on the floor. (There were lots of tantrums on this trip.) We hit a park that afternoon for some slide-and-swing action, one of two we visited that Dad Solo prowled as a youngster. NJ wasn't too impressed by that, though.

Daddy crawled through here decades ago? Who frickin' cares!
NJ had lots of fun on Saturday, when we journeyed an hour-plus to the other side of Houston to see Dad Solo's best-friend-since-first-grade and his family. Best friend's wife and two daughters went above and beyond playing with NJ, and they saved the hides of myself and The Wife by buying swim diapers so the kid could get in their pool. NJ loved it, even though she wouldn't leave her spot sitting on a step next to her mommy.

Go to the jacuzzi and cut sharp to the right, curl pattern in front of the inflatable turtle. On two!
That was her favorite part of the visit. Mine was when she picked up a male doll and said "Daddy," then a little girl doll she called "Baby," then a "Mommy" to round it out. She put Daddy on a dollhouse bed, then Mommy right next to him, then fussed around a bit before adding Baby right between them. Then she moved them all around and shook the bed and knocked all three dolls off of it. I marveled at her dramatic/artistic chops and keen insight into the familial condition.

When we got home we told my father that NJ had identified one of my friend's pieces of artwork as "Grandma." It was supposed to make him feel better (mind you, he took it all in good humor), but I don't think it did.

Sweetheart, that ain't no one's Grandma.
By the time we were ready to come home, NJ's sleeping patterns were completely whacked (the three of us slept in the same room, so I heard it all), and her pre-flight nap didn't do much good. At the airport, as we were saying our goodbyes, my father hugged me and reminded me that they're scheduled to visit us here in Seattle in June. "Every day between now and then," he said, "I want you to show her a picture of me and say 'Granddad' until she gets it." (So far, not so good -- although I think she may be working toward a "Dad-Dad." I hope that'll be OK with him.) Much like our first flying experience with her, one flight went really well and one flight went really not-so-well. And you've already read that the flight to Houston was a good one, so ...

Heat and humidity,' huh? The heck with that! No way!
So bad that I turned my iPod up extra-loud. So bad that we registered our first blatant "shut that kid up" stare from a fellow passenger -- blatant enough that we actually saw it. (Not "we," I guess, just The Wife. I missed it. If I'd seen it, I'd have had a chance to hone my It's My Turn speech.) Halfway through the flight she finally crashed and slept the rest of the way while some other toddlers howled and wailed. (Take that, dirty look-giving woman!)

After a day home Monday, NJ went back to day care today and, now, seems to be her old self again. As I mentioned, my parents are coming up here in about five weeks. Also, there's another trip to Connecticut coming later this year, to see The Wife's folks. At least two more opportunities for NJ to bond with her four grandparents. And to get it straight on the whole Grandma/Grandma thing. I'm working on it, Dad.

Friday, April 15, 2011


It's fun watching as NJ picks up new words and phrases, even when she doesn't quite get it right. Orange, for example -- the fruit and crayon -- is "o-shon." And it's such a very confident, convincing "o-shon" that I've started saying it myself.

Not all of her misfires are as innocently adorable, if you've got a delicate constitution and get a case of the vapors whenever the occasional swear word hits your ears. Take her frog overalls, for example -- she knows that's a frog, but her rendition of "frog" sounds an awful like another four-letter word that starts with an F.

#$%&*!+=@(*#!^&! ... OK?
Similarly, NJ knows what a "clock" is, but she only gets four of those five letters correct when she says it. Which is why we don't ask her what time it is when we're out in public.

At least she's no "Landlord." (Cannot stress this enough: Do NOT click on that if you don't want to hear a foul-mouthed, adorable little girl in a funny comedy bit.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bloodied But Unbowed

NJ came home from day care yesterday with an incident report detailing her fall onto a toy stove. Also, with a fat lip:

You haven't seen the last of me, toy stove. I'll be back!
I'm writing about it a day later because when she got home last night, NJ wasn't too upset about it (anymore, that is -- lately she's really stepped up her game in the tantrum department, so I'm guessing the accident scene was something else) and I couldn't get any decent photos of it. All I got was a bunch like this:

Fat lip? What fat lip? It's all seashells and balloons over here!
I'm sure the first thing you thought of is the first thing I thought of, too: Will NJ have a scar on her lip like Paul McCartney's? You know, the one that popped up after he had a moped accident? The one that was used as evidence by some that the 'real' Paul had died in a car crash and been replaced in the Beatles by a 'fake' Paul? Alas: Although it's on the right side, Macca's scar is on his upper lip, so it's not quite the same.

I want to fill the world with silly love songs, and you can't stop me because I have Beatle Immunity. Go on, look it up.
Even though he's second to last on my list of favorite Beatles (sorry, Ringo), Macca has a special place in my relationship with NJ. The story about why this song is a vitally important cog in our father-daughter relationship is too long, explainy and relentlessly sappy to sum up in a sentence here -- it deserves its own post, at some point. But every time it pops up randomly on the iPod we hold an impromptu Dancing, Smiling, Laughing, Hugging Festival. In fact, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play that video and we're going to have a DSLH Fest right now.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Under The Radar

The Wife's been out of town since Thursday morning -- she had to leave America on business -- and she returns tomorrow (Sunday) morning. I haven't mentioned it yet because nothing extraordinary has happened with NJ and me, other than a full metric ton of adorable cute stuff that, if I listed in full, would go on and on and I'd end up looking like even more of a proud, hopelessly smitten daddy than I actually am.

The Wife was particularly worried about being gone for a weekend day, but NJ and I handled it just fine -- both slept until 8 a.m., took a long walk to a great bakery -- cheddar scone for me, small baked custard cake for NJ -- shopped Costco, napped, shopped the supermarket, ate, bathed (her), and partied. We've had a great time together, although we can't wait for The Wife to return.

Dad Solo misjudged Costco-vs.-naptime a little bit, but everything worked out OK.

Random notes:
  • Other than a couple of expected tantrums -- food not coming fast enough, only one cookie proffered, the dreaded Shampoo Night -- NJ was the absolute picture of sweetness and light. I actually pinched myself once to make sure it all was actually occurring.
  • For the first time in her life, I caught a whiff of bad breath on NJ. Stale, stinky morning breath. Now, if I smell it on her another 578 times, we'll be even.
  • Her mastery of the English language continues to expand exponentially. The latest: She can say her name, and uses it instead of "bay-bee" when I show her a photo of herself.
  • Couscous is her favorite food of the moment. She requested "coo-coos" for dinner last night and ate it with breakfast, lunch and dinner today.
  • The buffalo-and-cheese patty melt I made her for dinner tonight? The dog loved it.
  • When I took a box of Annie's Cheddar Bunnies off the supermarket shelf today and showed it to NJ, she exclaimed "Bunnies!" and pulled the box to her, hugging it and, I think, even kissing it. An elderly woman on the aisle almost fell over with a Cuteness Blackout.
  • I think maybe my favorite thing ever is showing up to get NJ from day care and standing the big picture window, watching her play or read or sit, until she notices me. Then she kicks into action, heading first to the window with open arms and "Daddy!" on her lips, then to the door I'll be coming through. Once I pick her up, she beams and looks at her teachers and the other kids as if to say, "Yeah, I'm happy to see this big doofus because, gosh dang it, I love him." I hurt my face smiling every time it happens.
Daddy's got this single-parenting thing DOWN, suckas!