Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What does a Stegosaurus Sound like? A tribute to the "Little Bear"

First off, I would very much like to thank you for reading. My last column in this space set a new record for the site, and I am both grateful and humbled by your support. This column is now being read in 11 countries, and I am moved by that in a manner that I do not have the words to express.

So, I will simply say both Thank you, and Mahalo, as they say here on Oahu. I hope to continue to be worthy of your attention.

For those of you who are new readers, and again, thank you for that, my current situation is that I am a retired educational administrator from New Jersey. I retired from a career as a high school administrator in order to be a stay-at-home-dad for my three kids, and to support the career and ministry of my wife, who works for the government.

I have two pieces I’ve been working on, and while I had considered combining them both for this entry, I decided to focus solely on revisiting a theme from last October, when I wrote “This is what I do now. And my kids are cool,” which you can peruse in the archive by clicking here:

We started calling our youngest “Bear” when she was really little, mostly due to the fact that she seemed to growl like I imagine a snuggly teddy bear would growl, were it inclined to do so. She rarely seemed agitated when she made the noise-we all just figured that she’d chosen that noise to utilize as a stopgap until she’d learned the language. I suppose there were moments that she sounded like a Pirate, but that doesn’t make nearly as amiable a nickname for a little girl.

So, she’s been the Bear for longer than we have lived here. It stuck, and it seems to work.

But she’s growing and learning, and has genuine conversations now. She uses complete sentences and is a real chatterbox of late. She still growls on occasion, but it’s mostly when she’s holding a Dinosaur Chicken Nugget, especially the ones shaped like a Stegosaurus. She growls then in imitation of what she imagines the Stegosaurus would sound like. She likes that one, since it’s Mommy’s favorite Dinosaur.

I don’t know what a Stegosaurus would sound like. I’m certain though that they would appreciate her tribute, being extinct and all.

But, besides the occasional growl, she is really very verbal now, and turning into a big kid right before my eyes. She told me the other day that she “actually like nuggets.”

Yeah, she went there. I think she was imitating her brother, but I wasn’t ready for her to use “actually.”

Now, when her brother and sister got big, it was my first time seeing the kids get bigger, and this was back in Jersey when I was working full time, so I missed quite a bit. And, seeing the kids age for first time, I don’t know that I caught as much as I do now, with the mantle of experience and the stay-at-home-dad life change thing having occurred. I’m seeing it all now. Every new word and new trick. I catch it all these days.

And it still seems at times like I’m moving in slow motion and the kids are on fast forward. Someone once told me that being a stay-at-home-parent meant that the days were long, but the years were short. I think that’s true. The days are really long sometimes, and they are challenging a lot. I can tell you exactly how many days of the last year I prayed for patience: 366. I added the extra day just in case…

But the Bear is really a person now. She likes to go to the store with just me and ride in the cart and has to make sure that we have strapped her in with the “buckles.” She likes to be strapped in until she doesn’t. Then, she really doesn’t want to be strapped in…

She has all sorts of adventures with “Baby Ruff-Ruff.” Ruff-Ruff is a little pink doggie. She, and the Boyo’s “Blue Doggie,” and the Girl’s “Pinky Dog,” have a whole adventuring family of their own. I wish I had their daily imaginations to work with. The way that they make magic happen with these doggies is truly an inspirational study of the joy and power of pure unadulterated love. If I could capture a tenth of what they come up with their dogs, and their other toys and animals, I’d be all set as a writer, I think.

Thursdays I take her to the library, and while she’s often not long for the Storytime, she does well with looking for books for her siblings-she picks them out, and sometimes she gets them movies too. Then we go to one of the two drive-thru Starbucks on the Island and get “Madeline” cookies for her brother and sister after we get them from school. She’s very thoughtful that way. She’s more thoughtful after she’s had her cookie though.

But, in addition to her ongoing case of “I-wanna-be-a-big-kid-it is” she’s really growing to be a very clever and thoughtful kid. And sometimes, she’s just a freakin’ riot.

Like today-we were dropping off the twins at school, and for some reason she fixated on the big Palm Tree outside the classroom. She walked up to the tree, and hugged it, and started singing “shakity-shake…shake the tree…”

It should be noted that she really likes the Disney Channel’s “My Friends Tigger and Pooh,” and in a favorite episode of the aforementioned Bear watched “Darby,” who is the little girl essentially playing a modern-day “Christopher Robin” it would seem, has to solve a mystery all by herself, without the other “Super Sleuths.” So, she and her trusty Doggie “Buster” go off to do some “Sleuth-erin,” as Tigger says.

One of her tasks on this case is to collect fresh lemons for Kanga’s “Cure-a-Cold” remedy, as everyone seems to be sick, and she finds the Lemon tree, and figures out that she has to shake the tree to get the Lemons to fall.

So she sings….and Buster helps.

And so the Bear, out of the blue today starts shaking a palm tree outside of the twins school, that, mind you, she’s walked past all year… and asking,

“Where Lemons, Daddy? Where’s Buster?”

I didn’t have an answer, so she shook the tree again…It was really something to see. She did it again when we picked the twins up at the end of school, only at this point, the twins were looking for lemons too. And Buster. It was genuinely funny.

She’s taken to playing a new game with rather simple but effective rules that she made up all herself. I’m assuming that she calls the game “I Got You!” as that’s what she calls out every time she sneaks up behind me and either grabs my leg or jumps up on my back. She’s undefeated so far, despite my best efforts to “Get” her right back. She’s genuinely crafty, and picks her spots well, when I’m least expecting it. This game is not to be confused with “Hi there” which while it can also break out at any time without warning, tends to be more of a playground game. She’s a grand Champion in both though.

She has a new affection for the Honu (turtles) and as they are a very popular local symbol here, she sees them all the time, taking great pleasure in calling out to them. “Honu, Daddy! Lookit! Hi Honu!” She has a similar reaction to Fishies, Girrafies, and of course, Ruff-Ruffs. She likes her animals.

That, and she’s subtly letting me know that she wants to go to school. Whenever we drop the twins off, it’s another edition of the “I come too!” monologue. I know she wants to go, and we could conceivably try to get her ready for pre-school in the fall, but I’m not sure that she’ll be ready. And I’m even less sure that I’ll be ready. Once she gets to school, as it was with the twins, it will be the first of a series of steps away…and I’m not sure I’m quite done playing with the Bear yet.

Of course, as I typed that last line, I heard a crash of monumental proportions from her room. Apparently Baby Ruff-Ruff couldn’t find her glasses, and pulled out a drawer from the dresser, which then crashed to the floor. The glasses were found. Actually, they aren’t glasses-it is the strap of her brother’s bike helmet, which Ruff-Ruff is riding in. You can see the whole apparatus in the picture above.

As I said, quite the adventures these kids go on with their doggies. When the time comes for the Bear to go to school, I suppose I should be comforted by the fact that it will give me some quality time with the twins, as they will likely go on different days at the start. It’s strange to think of this house being quiet. Kind of eerie actually… Not sure I’m ready for that yet.

As I’ve said in this space before, I blinked and the twins were four. Bear will be three this winter. The days are indeed long, but the years are going by fast. Too fast.