Newsletter: month twenty-five

Dear Ladybug,

Yesterday you turned twenty-five months, which means that you you have officially been in the “Terrible Twos” for a full month now. Admittedly, they haven’t been as bad as I feared they’d be, mostly because you’ve made your demands crystal clear: give me all your candy and no one gets hurt.

That’s my little girl.

Yes, you are big on candy, much to your mother’s dismay. You spend all day devising hair-brained schemes to get up into the kitchen cupboard that hides the candy, like a less ursine (albeit better animated) Yogi Bear perpetually questing for pic-a-nic baskets. Admittedly, this is almost entirely your mother’s fault: she’s the one who started giving you candy as a reward for potty trips, and not the crappy stuff either.   Peanut butter M&Ms. I occasionally sneak you a milk-chocolate candy heart or a chocolate-coated Disney princess, not because I fret over you jonesing for candy or because I want to further foster your sweet-tooth, but rather I’m tired of an entire cupboard filled with stale Valentine’s candy I don’t want to eat, and you’re significantly cuter than the garbage disposal.

Still, in an attempt to se-sugar-ify your snacking, I recently picked up a bag of sugar-free Gummi-like bears as your new potty treats.   They’re not particularly appetizing, but they are what you get at daycare, so it’s not without precedent.   Nevertheless, they’re not at the top of your post-elimination snackifaction choices, and most  post-poop conversations now take the form

You: Poop candy?

Me: Sure.   Would you like some Gummi bears?

You: M M candy?

Me: No.   Gummi bears.

You: Disney princess candy?

Me: No. Gummi bears.

You: Heart candy?

Me: How bout no candy?

[ Pause ]

You: Gummi bear candy?

That’s my girl: candy haggler extraordinaire.

So, what else has happened this month, in addition to all the cavities I’m sure you’re busily working on?   Well, since you are now 2, your mother felt it was high time you were professionally photographed again, and so she and you and  sixty-two thousand of your favorite costume changes descended on the good folks at the Sears Portrait Studio.   Here are some of my favorites from each of your costume changes.   First, you in Chinese garb, accessorized with a matching chair and rubber duckie:

Here’s you looking particularly, if not entirely convincingly, angelic (you even appear to be floating!):

This picture was apparently taken during a Barbara-Walters interview:

And possibly my favorite picture of you, ever:

That’s my girl: a devilishly photogenic little angel.

This month you also discovered a deep, unabashed love for hanging out at the mall, a mere decade earlier than I expected.   I knew I was doomed one Saturday when, on a trip to the mall to look for some shoes for your mom, we rounded the corner to the parking lot, whereupon you exploded with comical glee “THE MALL!” and started clapping.   I didn’t even know you knew what that word meant, much less had a working knowledge of the layout of its parking lot.

We’ve actually spent a lot of time at the mall lately, since they’ve recently installed a children’s play area at one end it.   Since it’s been cold and windy, the “park at the mall” is one of the only options for outdoors play for you in Rapid City. (The other is the indoor play-park at Burger King, and by now I’ve learned by lesson.)   Designed after a camping theme, it consists of a waterfall-slide, a bridge, a tent, a campfire, and a freakishly large caterpillar, all made out of a soft, malleable foamy plastic.   Imagine taking any old playground and wrapping all the equipment two-inches thick in bubble-wrap, and you’ve got the basic idea.   While you were initially delighted at the sudden appearance of an whole park in the middle of the otherwise boring mall — and one at which you were required to take off your shoes even! — this glee has dissipated somewhat as you discovered there is very little in the play area off of which you can throw yourself to cause irreversible brain damage, and if you can’t terrify Daddy with that, what’s the point?

As it happens, a Kettle Korn Kiosk has also popped up in the mall.   They always leave a number of free small sample cups filled with the corn o’the day, and so now no trip to the mall is complete without a stop at to get popcorn too.   You also know the exact location of Dipping Dots ice cream stand, and have worked out precisely how quickly to eat your popcorn so that you finish it just as we walk past it, allowing you to demand ice cream without any popcorn in your mouth to weaken your bargaining position.    In fact, some days you’ll walk right up to me, hand me my car keys and walk me to the back door before announcing “Go? The mall?   Park at the mall?   Shoes off.   Then popcorn.   Maybe ice cream.   Let’s go.”

That’s my girl: 2 going on irritating teen.

The other big event this month: your birthday party.   I know that I mentioned last month that we’d decided against one, based largely on the fact that you more or less continuously celebrated your birthday for a week last month.   However, your mother became increasingly convinced that, were you to  grow up to be a clinical nutcase or a  convicted felon or a Bush-style Republican, it would all be traced back to the trauma of missing your second birthday party, so she quickly arranged a shindig at Chuck E. Cheese to prevent you from falling into a life of medication, crime, or politics.

I remember going to Chuck E. Cheese as a kid: a badly-lit, worsely ventilated pizza emporium packed with video games and freakishly anthropomorphized robot rats and dogs and monsters that would suddenly burst out into vaudeville routines for no  readily apparent reason.   It was dank and foul smelling and vaguely disreputable, like Las Vegas for kids.   Very little has changed in two decades, except that the video games are more violent and less fun.

Nevertheless, you and your friends had a good time.   The stale pizza and the Disney princess birthday cake?   You loved them.   The crown and all your presents?   You loved them.   The playground and skee-ball you could play on?   You loved that too.   Meeting the titular rat?   Not so much.

Your favorite thing to do, though, was to ride  the Big Red Car.   I’m not sure what about it you found so fascinating about it.   It was essentially a coin-operated car ride, the kind of thing you see homeless people sleeping in in front of grocery stores.   This one had Chuck E. Cheese in the passenger’s seat, with a steering wheel and a horn in the driver’s seat and a small camera that took grainy black-and-white pictures of each ride.   The ride itself consisted of thirty seconds or so of simulated driving over a sine curve.   I think the main reason you liked the ride was that, unlike every other ride at the  pizzeria,  the token-slot was conveniently within your reach, and so you pretty much rode that car continuously from, oh, 11 AM  to, say, 6 PM, happily plunking in token after token and, at the end of it, collecting approximately 840 grainy black-and-white photos showing you cruising with vermin.

Later that night, after we got home and opened yet more of your presents, you discovered two Chuck E. Cheese tokens you had squirreled away into a pocket from earlier.   With a gasp of delight, you exclaimed “Chuck E. Cheese money!   Go? Ride big red car? Please? Please? Please?”   When I explained that, no, we weren’t going to go back to Chuck E. Cheese to ride the car, that Chuck E. Cheese was a special birthday event, you sighed unhappily, put the two tokens back into your pocket, and walked despondently to your room. Then two seconds later you re-emerged, with a smile.  “Go to the mall?”

That’s my girl.   And  I love ya, kiddo.

Ba ba

Photo album

See more pictures from your twenty-fifth month of existence over at Flickr.

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