# Newsletter: December 2010

Dearest Bugs,

It’s now January: the start of a new year, a new semester, new toys, and a bunch of new teeth.   And, of course, a new round of monthly newsletters.   Everyone keeps asking me “How was your Christmas Break?” and the answer I invariably give is “Busy,” and you, dear girls, are the main reason for that.

Part of that business is, of course, the end of the semester and the unavoidable Doric columns’ worth of exams to be graded   Another task was a three-day trip to and from Minneapolis to visit the Shriners Hospital of Children.   You might only know the Shriners as those old dudes who wear fezzes and drive around parades in teeny cars,which, truth be told, was the only way I knew them.   However, it turns out that the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, as they are officially and completely non-humbly called, administer a number of hospitals that treat children for various defects, such as spina bifida, spinal cord injury, and missing limbs, among other things.   The Shriners accepted the Butterfly as a patient, and set up a meeting with her for X-mas Eve Eve, and since the Ancient Arabic Order will cover all the costs any physical therapy or surgeries the little girl might need until she’s eighteen, we hauled serious ass out there to meet them.

The drive there and back was uneventful, in that the girls were well behaved and that we never managed to be beset upon by the blizzards the radio kept saying were just minutes on our tail.   The Ladybug kept herself amused by drawing pictures in her journal* and carrying on endless conversations with, well, with anyone who would respond.   (I’ll say a little bit more about that girl’s chatterboxery in a bit.)   The Butterfly, on the other hand, simply cycled through through the activities

with a frequency of $frac{1}{10800}$ hertz.

* I mentioned last time about the Ladybug’s prolific pace for producing pictures, but the content of such pictures also bears a little mention.     For example, earlier in the month the Ladybug made a picture for her mommy, which included the two of them holding hands and strolling in a grassy field under a shining sun.   Shortly after, the Ladybug churned out a picture for me:

“What’s this?” I asked.

“A spinal column, a heart, and two lungs,” she replied.

“…” said I.

“Well,” said the girl, “You like science, so I thought you’d like this too.”

And then I gave her hugs and kisses and promptly signed her up for therapy.

The actual hospital visit took most of the morning, during which time the Butterfly was examined by an orthopedic specialist, an occupational therapist, and a prosthetic expert, educating the Queen B and I on what we need to do for the Butterfly and what options are available for her   as she grows up.   In the end, the visit was best summed up by our nurse, who said we’re doing everything we need for the Butterfly, that there’s nothing we need to worry about yet, and that they’ll see her again in three years.   Such news about the health of my daughter is good news, if a little bittersweet, as it meant we really didn’t need to risk vehicular death and dismemberment to get there in the middle of December.

Of course, the biggest event of December was X-mas, although the two girls had very different takes on the holiday.   For the Ladybug, having experienced the yuletide four times over, it was time to get serious.   In years past, she had relied on her memory alone to ask for presents, which of course meant that she’d periodically forget something of monumental importance until immediately after she spoke to Santa.   No more!   This year, the Ladybug was took no chances on not getting precisely what she wanted for Christmas, a testament to her burgeoning dual senses of organization prowess and mouth-foaming consumerism.

For example, this was the first year the Ladybug maintained a Christmas list, to which she she continually added things as December progressed:

• A water tribe betrothal necklace from The Last Airbender
• A ladybug pillow pet
• A gift certificate to Claire’s
• A Rapunzel make-up compact
• An Aurora and/or Rapunzel princess dress
• A Barbie guitar
• A panda hat-and-glove set
• A Phineas and Ferb glove and hat for Daddy (thanks, kid!)
• A drum kit

and so on.   Of course, given her fierce sense of independence, the Ladybug also wrote out everything on the list herself, which is cute until you consider the fact that, while she knows how to write all her letters, she doesn’t know how to spell yet.   Hence, a typical evening spent working on her X-mas list would yield at most two items on her list, and would go a little something like this:

Ladybug: Dad, how do you spell PANDA HAT?

Me: P-A-N-D-A space H-A-T.

LB: Okay, that’s too fast.   P?

Me:   P.

LB: [ carefully writing a “P” in her notebook ] Peeeee…   ‘kay.

Me: A.

LB:   Ayyyyy…. ‘kay.

Me: N.

LB: Ennnnn…   ‘kay.

[ Thirty minutes later… ]

Me: T.

LB: Teeeee… ‘kay.

Me: And you’re done.   That’s PANDA HAT.

LB: Okay, good.   Dad, how do you spell TANGLED PURSE WITH LIP GLOSS AND MAKE-UP?

Me: Oh crap.

Of course, every kid writes a Christmas list, but my kid cross-referenced it with precisely where and when she requested them from Santa, so as to not accidentally ask Santa for the same thing twice (that’d be inefficient) or to forgot to ask Santa for something at all (that’d be a tragedy).   Hence, her list has little notes to the effect of

• Item 1 – asked Santa at mall yesternight*
• Item 4, 5 – asked Santa at daycare today
• Item 8 – wrote in letter to Santa at daycare

and so forth.   Comically serious though it was, the Ladybug’s organizational prowess and attention to detail paid off: Santa and his grandparently minions managed to find everything on the list except the panda hat (sigh) and the drum kit (Thank you Thank you THANK YOU).   Interestingly enough, in the days following Christmas, the Ladybug has added one more tool to her gift-getting repertoire: passive-aggression, as in “It’s too bad I didn’t get my drum kit for Christmas.   I guess Santa must have forgotten.   That’s okay…   But you know what?   My birthday is coming up soon…”

It’s gonna be a long three months.

* “Yesternight,” a portmanteau that refers to yesterday at night, is one of the more charming words the Ladybug has coined. It’s a manifestation of her exponentially increasing loquaciousness, which is a diplomatic way of saying the kid won’t shut the hell up.   Really, the Ladybug just talks and talks and talks, and because the stories she wants to share outpace her vocabulary at times, she’s taken to inventing her own words to fill the gaps.**   Most often this just means she conjugates irregular verbs, well, regularly, such as “I goed to the mall to see Santa” or “I buyed this make-up from Claire’s,” but occasionally we get gems like “yesternight” that really ought to be added to common parlance.

** More recently, however, the Ladybug has discovered “Um.”   When the little girl is particularly excitable, she often intersperses the word um between every other word, like a aural indicator of “space bar use,” much to the irritation of her mother.   In fact, the Queen B sometimes takes to refusing to let the Ladybug talk until she can articulate her thoughts without the use of “um,” which is the only successful way we’ve discovered to get a few minutes of blissful silence from the kid.

One additional offshoot of the season bears some discussion: the Ladybug, lovely little nerd that she is, is beginning to suspect that something is a little off with the whole Santa Claus concept.   For example, how can Santa be at our mall, but also at her cousin’s mall in Florida at the same time?   Why does Santa look different in her mall picture and in her daycare picture?   How can he know what everyone is doing all the time every day?   Why does he give coal to bad kids when coal can be compressed into a diamond?   (I kid you not.)   I’m confused as to the best way to handle these queries, torn between my nostalgic hopes to preserve a sense of childhood magic for the little girl on the one hand and my natural inclination not to lie to her on the other.   Fortunately, whenever such questions pop up, the Queen B has ready made answers, such as declaring that the people at the mall are not actually the real Santa, but folks report back to him; or that the comically large “Santa key” we hang outside out house on Christmas Eve to allow Santa entry to our home (we lack a fireplace) fits the lock using elf magic; or whatever.   It’s as if the Queen B has a Santa Claus Conspiracy Theory handbook with all the answers.   My thoughts on the whole thing, however, are best summed up by Penny Arcade.

Now, in contrast to the Ladybug’s cool and calculated approach to X-mas, the little Butterfly was far more delightfully oblivious to the concept.   Technically speaking, this is her second Christmas, but I’m not sure just how seriously the holiday is celebrated in a rural orphanage in a predominantly Buddhist country.   As a result, what with this being the Butterfly’s first “official” X-mas, the Queen B made damn sure it was going to be everything the Butterfly had ever hoped for… ignoring, of course, the fact that the Butterfly was completely unaware of the holiday to begin with.

As a result, we went through all the traditional activities.   For example, early on we decorated the tree.   The Ladybug, of course, wanted to help with the ornaments, but owing to her height, was only able to able to dress the bottom half of the tree:

Of course, the bottom half of the tree is precisely the part of the tree the Butterfly could reach, and so the littlest girl would delight herself by systematically removing each ornament a few minutes after the Ladybug attached it.   This, of course, invariably lead to the Ladybug to re-attaching the ornament and the Butterfly de-attaching it, like a pair of sibling Sisyphi.

We also made cookies for Santa, or, more appropriately, the Queen B and the Ladybug made cookies for Santa, while the Butterfly ate them whenever no one was looking.   Seriously.   The little girl snuck bites of the dough during the baking process.   She snuck warm cookies as they cool on the cooling racks.   She even stole cookies right of Santa’s plate on Christmas Eve.   Either the Butterfly has no concept of Santa’s naughty list, or she just doesn’t care.

As a bit of a digression, I’m actually pretty sure she just doesn’t care.   To say the Butterfly is mischievous is like saying the Titanic had a little trouble its first trip out. The Butterfly has spent this month making good on the karmic threat of balancing our the Ladybug’s lack of Terrible Twos by starting on hers an entire season early.

And let’s be clear: the Butterfly is naughty.   She knows full well the things she’s not allowed to play with (e.g. mommy’s computer, sister’s art supplies, daddy’s TV remote, and so forth), and yet, despite all the toys she has to play with, these are the only things that interest her any more.   Typically she’s caught before she can damage these things, usually with her arm extended and her fingers such millimeters away from the off-limit object.   A typical such confrontation might go like

Me: Butterfly, no!   You can’t play with the computer.

Butterfly: [ Freezes in place, shakes her head “No,” and looks incredibly guilty.   After a moment, while maintaining deliberate eye-contact, she moves her hands even closer to the computer. ]

Me: Butterfly… No.

BF:   [ Freezes again, shakes her head again, and looks even more guilty.   Then, after another moment and maintaining very deliberate eye-contact, actually touches the computer. ]

Me: NO, KID.

BF: [ Freezes again, shakes her head again, and looks even more guilty, if that’s even possible.   Finally, after another moment and continuing her deliberate eye-contact, maniacally starts banging her hand all over the keys. ]

Me: [ Getting up and striding over to her. ] I said NO.

BF: [ Throws her hands in the air, runs to the other corner of the room, and acts as if she’d been academically studying the plush qualities of her security blanket the whole time. ]

Every now and then, of course, she actually sneaks her way to one of the Forbidden Objects before we catch her.   When caught, as she invariably is, the Butterfly’s standard response is to fling said item across the room, followed by displaying a face of wide-eyed innocence coupled with throwing her arms up into the air as if to indicate that there is not now anything in her hands and therefore, through reverse induction, there was never anything in her hands.   Sometimes she even points an accusatory finger at her parents, as if to convey her disappointment in us that we’d even think such a thing about her.

The next few years are gonna be hell.

As for the Big Day itself, with the Butterfly it played like a repeat of the Ladybug four years ago: the initial thrill of being able to cause irreparable damage to box after box after box quickly waned for the Butterfly (I presume under the hypothesis that it ain’t worth doin’ unless there’s a chance of gettin’ in trouble for it), and the only way we made it through the morning is by stapling her pajamas to the carpet and feeding her boxes until the pile diminished to nothing.

Unlike the clerical certainty of her older sister, it’s a littler more difficult to tell if the Butterfly got what she wanted for X-mas.   However, if I had to take a stab it based on the Butterfly’s morphological changes over the month, I’d guess she asked for the rest of her teeth.   She’s doubled them, from eight to sixteen.   Whereas her first eight lined up with periodontal precision, her remaining teeth — four new incisors and four molars — appear to be coming in a random angles.   The upshot is that when she opens her mouth, it looks less like the adorable grin of a one-year-old and more like   the maw of Agrajag, or, for those unfamiliar with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, a toothy version of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

One of the lamentable side effects of the Butterfly’s new toothy grin is that it was accompanied by a week-long bound of diarrhea.   Each day the poor little girl would have “dirty squirty” after “dirty squirty,” invariably culminating in a particularly, shall we say, energetic evacuation that ruined both her clothes and my fragile psyche.   Such events are charmingly called “blow-outs” by the gals at her daycare, but after a week of sifting through them, I think a more appropriate term is “assplosion.”

Thankfully that’s cleared up, and the two little girls are pleased with their toys, just as I’m pleased with their health and happiness.   I can’t wait to share some new adventures with you girls in 2011.

I love you two!

Ba ba

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