Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ice, ice baby

There's nothing like a cold iced coffee in the summertime. Without it, I'd probably be lying out on the street somewhere. Not hurt or homeless or anything like that... I'd just be asleep. Right in the middle of my walk with Kyle, I'd zonk right out. I know it can happen 'cause I've felt it coming on many times. And if I did doze off, Kyle would be stuck on whatever sidewalk we were on, pointing at flags and not getting any acknowledgement as I lie there snoring for at least an hour. It would be a rather pathetic scene, and that's why I try to avoid it at all costs (well, not all costs... let's say anything under $5... I do have limits on how much I spend on coffee).

Wow, how I've needed coffee lately. We've been hit with a stretch of ugly hot weather that just drains the energy right out of you. That is, unless you're two. On hot days, Kyle's energy level sinks to infinity minus one. Even in our warm apartment, which does not have central air (a window unit and a floor unit keep it half-cool), Kyle still sprints around and plays as if we were experiencing a crisp fall day. I'm beat by 10 a.m., and I still have ten more hours alone with him. If he doesn't nap, which sometimes happens, I'm doomed. So, I have to try to find a way to keep up with him, borrowing energy from who-knows-where, probably from some reserve intended for the future (maybe when I turn 50 I'll just sleep for a whole year). Diaper changes still require a chase around his crib. He still demands that I hold him as I make us lunch or take care of any apartment chores (I'm getting much better at doing these things with only one available arm). Then there's the ongoing "drive Daddy crazy" experiment, in which Kyle does things he knows are wrong but does them anyway because he's two and two-year-olds like livin' on the edge. For example, he stood and wrestled with me throughout last night's bath. How did I stay both sane and awake enough to keep him from slipping in the tub? Iced coffee.

And forget going outside: trying to get Kyle to wear shoes and sunblock is at least a half-hour runaround, rivaling any kind of workout I ever had at the gym. When we go outside, the little guy walks alongside me, demanding that we keep going straight for blocks. Then, just at the point when he could see my feet dragging and the sweat drenching my back, he spins in front of me and begs for me to pick him up and carry him back home. Should I refuse, he'll simply go to the other option: falling to his knees and letting me drag him back. For Kyle, walking is now out of the question. So, do I pick him up? Sure, I do. Why? He has yet to earn enough money to pay the cab fare back. Where do I get the energy to do it? Iced coffee.

While I had long resisted becoming a slave of Juan Valdez and his merciless donkey, I am now a caffeine junkie. I can't go an afternoon without a fix. If I go a little beyond the usual time, I get that awful headache and become irritable or narcoleptic, and the only way to fix that is to get coffee fast. I have a beans dealer on speed-dial. Kyle has noticed my addiction, too, and it has even affected his development. While he still struggles to say the word "yes" clearly, he has no problem saying "Cocoa Bar" over and over again. Cocoa Bar just so happens to be the name of a coffee shop several blocks from our home.

Of course, I don't need iced coffee... hot coffee works, too, and come January I'll be guzzling that stuff, in part to just keep warm. But iced coffee still is the best. It cools me down on a hot day and I don't have to worry about burning my tongue on the first sip. Also, as I hold Kyle, it's lots of fun to press the cold cup on his leg, his stomach, his cheek or the back of his neck and watch him squirm, laugh and say "cold." It doesn't quite work as well with hot coffee, and you might get arrested if anyone sees you try. Finally, this "Cocoa Bar" place makes its coffee with a special ingredient, perhaps one of the greatest innovations in modern food technology: coffee ice cubes. That's right, when the ice made of coffee melts, you get more coffee! These miracle cubes have been a godsend on Fridays, when, after a long week, my energy level is down at zero before Jennifer even heads out the door. And chances are, if we ever do have a second kid, I'll probably start using these coffee cubes to cool everything I drink.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toy story

Kyle's transition into a two-year-old has come with few surprises. As expected, he talking a lot more and he's doing a better job interacting with kids his age. He's also living up to the "terrible twos" reputation by constantly challenging us, seeing if he can get away with doing things he knows are wrong, like standing on furniture or drilling for oil without a working emergency plan. We had received advance warning about these things, and I am not at all shocked to be dealing with them now. Yet there's one thing, something I discovered this past week, that completely caught me by surprise: toys made for two-year-olds... are awesome.

I never had as much fun playing with Kyle's toys as I did this week. Before, I merely tripped over the little guy's playthings, but now I sit down and play with them myself, forgetting that I'm actually supposed to be watching over my kid, who has since left the room to turn on the stove. But who could blame me? With Kyle's new toys, I can build things! Our son now has LEGOS. He still has a year to go before he can play with the small "please choke on me" pieces, but this year he's old enough to play with the larger "Duplo" blocks. While I am awfully proud of my son's ability to use the bricks to build sticks for beating Daddy, I can't resist trying to make things myself. With Kyle sitting beside me, I have created houses, pyramids, and works of art that would rival any other 2-to-3-year old's. Kyle often takes them apart before I complete them, but that's okay: there are other toys to play with.

Like his remote-controlled car. That's right. Kyle now has a remote-controlled car. And it's awesome. It only goes forward and turns, but that's enough to chase Kyle with it. For some reason, he doesn't want to hold the remote control, but that's fine with me. With me in control, the car zips around the living room as the little guy runs away. I can now tire him out without having to use up energy chasing him myself. It's remote-controlled parenting. If only there was a similar device that could change his diapers. For now, the chasing is lots of fun, though it normally ends when the car hits something it can't move past, like Kyle's new pile of Krinkles. For those of you not into children's toys, Krinkles are building blocks that are as much fun as Legos (believe me, I know.) Yes, they too are awesome.

And then there's Play-Doh. Play-Doh! Did you know that 2-year-olds can now play with Play-Doh? I didn't realize that until a couple weeks before his birthday. I became very excited and bought Kyle a pack of four containers. Apparently I wasn't the only one thrilled by this, as Kyle now has 28 containers of the stuff (I'm not kidding).

I opened each of the four containers we bought and marveled at the clay inside. Someday all of Kyle's Play-Doh will be part of a rock-solid purplish blob, but for now each color is separate, and pristine. And, oh, that Play-Doh smell! I still can't get it off my fingers. I went to work right away, creating a yellow figure and a snowman that channel Michelangelo. I showed them off to Jennifer, and she was proud of what I had done. I then tried to show Kyle, but he was in the next room, having fun stacking the containers the Play-Doh had come in. He has yet to play with the clay itself.

Yes, I am having lots of fun with Kyle's new toys, probably more fun than Kyle is having at the moment. But you have to understand - for two years I sat back and watched Kyle play with toys that flashed enough lights to cause seizures, played obnoxious parodies of "This Old Man," and repeated the same recorded phrases over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I think I deserve this. Less than 24 hours after receiving the new toys, we packed up the old ones and shipped them to Tahiti (we hate the people there). As far as we're concerned, those toys never existed. If Kyle asks for one, we act like he's delirious, take his temperature, and put him to bed early. He doesn't ask too often anymore. Jennifer and I don't want him reverting, or even getting nostalgic for his old vtech "move and crawl electronic activity ball" (the name speaks for itself). And, yes, that's right... it's not just the stay-at-home dad who's having fun with the new stuff. Just look at what Jennifer did on Kyle's new magnetic doodling board:

Very impressive, I'd say. There's no doubt that Jennifer's also excited about Kyle's new toys. That's because they're AWESOME.

So, I'd like to thank all our family and friends for being incredibly generous on Kyle's birthday. Jennifer and I love all the gifts. Kyle will eventually, I'm sure. It's just taking him some time. Apparently being a two-year-old is more fun the second time around.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Party time! Excellent!

I now have a two-year-old. Kyle's birthday was on Sunday, and he was spoiled well beyond reasonable measures. After all that attention, it may take weeks before I am able to convince him that he is no longer at the center of the universe. I might have to put him through some sort of "you're not special anymore" treatment, perhaps going as far as pretending that we have another kid, and giving him Kyle's gifts. We'll just wait and see.

As for Kyle's birthday party on Saturday, I would say it was a success, considering that Kyle did not get stuck in a tree, ants did not attack the cake, and our guests were not devoured by a giant sinkhole (as a parent, you often fear the worst). Overall, people seemed to have a good time. Since we have no yard of our own, we had the party in Brooklyn's beautiful Prospect Park, a sprawling natural oasis in the middle of the borough. There are both advantages and disadvantages to using the park. On the plus side, all the trees, grassy fields, and chirping birds make you feel as if you're not in a city's public place. On the other hand, the truth is you are in a city's public place. During the party, a man pushing an Italian ice cart parked himself several yards from the edge of our party. He ignored us, though. Instead he stared at the couple of young adults lying on the ground, under a tree nearby. They were groping each other. But who could blame them? After all, it's common knowledge that children's balloons are a popular aphrodisiac. We should have known better than to put ours within view of the rest of the park.

Other than that, you could say our party was no different than the typical birthday fare. We had cake and gifts. We sat and talked. We all took turns running after Kyle. Then we went back to our apartment, where we all relaxed and enjoyed the aroma of a room crammed with nearly a dozen people who had been sweating out in the sun all day. I miss having a home with air conditioning.

Kyle received a lot of presents at the party, and he opened even more the next day, when he officially turned two. Our friends and family were awfully generous, and I'll be lucky to not trip over something this week. As Kyle opened each gift Sunday, he said "Wooow" as if each gift shot off a barrage of colorful fireworks. He did this even with the cards. Yep, our kid's already learning the necessary skills of gift receiving. This "wow" thing certainly will come in handy during future birthdays, when he starts receiving tube socks and underwear.

Of course Kyle can't complain about this year's gifts. He received a lot of exciting stuff, including Legos, Mr. Potato Head, a remote-controlled car, Play-Doh, a beginner train set, and a do-it-yourself atom smasher. There's only one gift that really drove me crazy on Sunday: the Little Tikes basketball hoop. Upon opening it and watching Kyle slam dunk the ball and nearly bring the hoop to the ground, I learned that its base needed to be filled with sand. So, during Kyle's nap, I walked to a nearby hardware store and picked up some sand, realizing then that a four-block walk feels a lot longer when you're carrying a 50-pound sand bag. I then spent a good chunk of the rest of the evening trying to cram 30-40 pounds of that sand (which was sticky in the humidity) into the base... through a hole the size of a quarter. The whole time I cursed the person who bought him the hoop, which happened to be me. And, with my expert scooping skills, I managed to turn our hallway floor into our own personal beach.

Ah, parenthood. It's a never-ending feast of surprises and back pain. Another birthday down, and countless more to go. Can't wait.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dr. No

I often appreciate the things my parents teach Kyle. They helped him learn how to walk, and these days they often practice the alphabet, numbers, and basic physics. Jennifer and I usually enjoy discovering what new things Kyle has learned after spending some time with his grandparents, but I don't think we can ever forgive my father for what he taught our son this past weekend.

Thanks to my dad, Kyle now has full command of the word "no." For some odd reason, my dad decided it would be fun to practice this word with him, as a way to get him to better express himself, as if his whining, screaming, and flinging things across the room didn't quite get the message across clearly. Now, he also says "no" before doing all those things.

(Above: Kyle says "no" to his books, his shoes, and the entire commonwealth of Massachusetts)

Now, don't get me wrong: I never expected Kyle to somehow miss that word in his vocabulary. I suppose it would have been strange for him to be a full-grown adult and not know what the word "no" means. And learning the word "no" isn't necessarily a bad thing, as no father wants his son to become a "yes" man. Still, I was hoping that maybe we'd get a few more weeks or months before he'd start using the word regularly. I didn't expect it to happen less than a week before his birthday. Now we have a new slew of potential difficulties.

"Kyle, give our guest a hug."
"But she wants a hug."
"Kyle, that's not nice."
"No dan kwo."

Jennifer and I are trying to get him to at least say "no thank you." If he's going to refuse everything under the sun, he might as well be polite about it.

This new development is already affecting our daily routine. Kyle now acts like he's at a restaurant, turning away his meal with a flick of the hand and a "no," as if his Cheerios were somehow undercooked. Just before bedtime yesterday, he refused all the books I picked to read by throwing them out of his crib and into the alligator pit (we're still baby proofing). I then started pulling books out of the book basket to see if there was one he preferred. He said "no" to about ten books before I realized that he didn't want me to read; he just wanted me to empty the entire basket and create the mess he usually makes. With the power of "no," he's learning how to delegate! I soon put an end to that, and Kyle went to bed crying. Thanks, Dad.

To be honest, I suppose I deserve this. There once was a time when Kyle would cry over something I'd try to give him (usually food), and I, being the cruel father that I am, would mock him by saying, "Well, kiddo, if you don't want this, just say so!" I would then laugh menacingly, shoving the food into Kyle's mouth as he would wail. Ah, good times. Now that he says the word "no," I can't do that anymore. Now I have to mock him about something else, like his basketball skills.

This whole "no" thing is really throwing me off. I suppose I will get used to it, as I have done with almost every other phase. I'm sure Kyle will add "yes" to his vocabulary soon, too. Until then, it's going to be another battle. I'll just have to stay strong, fight the refusals, and teach that compromise is much better than stubbornly saying "no" to everything. Of course, if I fail with that, I guess Kyle's next step would be to become a DC politician.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flag day

There was no forgetting what Monday was all about in our household. All you needed to do was take one good look at Kyle, and you'd remember that Memorial Day was more than just a day for roasting weenies.

Kyle proudly hung onto Old Glory throughout the holiday. He would walk with it, run with it, and occasionally put it on the chair to stare at with wonder. He ate from his snack cup in the same way Washington would cross the Delaware. Jennifer said it was the most patriotic Memorial Day she's ever experienced.

Kyle has been a big fan of the flag for a long time. His appreciation predates his obsession for balloons, in fact. Everywhere we go, Kyle points out each and every flag he sees - large and small. If I don't acknowledge that Kyle found a flag, he becomes so upset that I have to stop and turn the stroller so that he's facing the flag again. He then points to the flag again, and I say "Oh, yes, Kyle, there's a flag." We usually have to do this a few times a day. We don't get anywhere fast.

I think Kyle's love of country and the flag is to be commended, even though there are times when it does present a problem. He sometimes gets too excited during what should be somber moments, often whenever we pass by flag displays people put outside their homes to remember a beloved veteran. If we're in a quiet setting and Kyle sees a flag, he won't hesitate for a second to exclaim, "FWAG!," prompting those sitting nearby to shake with surprise and then look at us with disgust. If we're standing behind someone during a parade, that person is likely to be hit in the head as Kyle points and shouts "FWAG" at every star-spangled banner that passes by (we didn't go to a Memorial Day parade out of fear that all the flags would make his head explode). Also, in case you didn't notice, Kyle is still having trouble pronouncing the letter "L." Sometimes when Kyle says "flag," he sounds like he's exclaiming a derogatory word that means "cigarette" in Britain. He's come close to getting us into some trouble.

Jennifer and I do get a huge kick out of Kyle's love of flags, as well as his obsession with apple sauce and balloons. While I'm at it, I'll also mention that he's really into bikes. However, I don't see me writing an entry about that, unless he manages to somehow bring a bike home and carry it around the apartment. As for the other stuff, we just find it funny how a little kid can become so attached to an object, he acts as if he cannot live without it. If you take it away from him or if it becomes lost, he'll panic and throw a fit. I mean, how silly is that? Ahh, kids. Someday he'll learn to break free.

Well, that's all for now. See you next week... and if anyone's looking for me, I'll be on Facebook.