Newsletter: Recapping 2011

My dear little bugs,

It’s been almost an entire year since I last wrote one of these newsletters, and I’m sorry for waiting so long.  It’s not because you haven’t done anything noteworthy this year, but rather precisely the opposite: you both have turned into such dynamic little creatures that I simply don’t have time to write about you.  Let’s face it, when it comes down to a choice between playing with you or writing about playing with you, playing wins hands down.

Nevertheless, when I started writing these things for the Ladybug back in 2007, the purpose behind me documenting all your little milestones was not so much to give you both a head start on your autobiographies as it was to give me the simply joy of remembering them.  Since 2011 was a particularly exhausting year, I think I could do with a little nostalgic joy.

Of course, we’ve got ten months of material to cover here, so the standard month-by-month play-by-play isn’t really suited for this.  Instead, let me break this into two pieces,  one for each of you girls individually. Let’s start with my eldest daughter first.


My dear Ladybug,

You have changed from my little baby girl into your own person, a change might be adequately summarized by a quick conversation I had with you one morning before breakfast:

Me: Why don’t you wear this shirt?

You: Really, Dad?  I’m way past princesses now.

Gone are the mornings of Yo Gabba Gabba or Curious George; in their place iCarly and Wizards of Waverly Place.  Gone are the princess dolls and their animal friends; in their place Barbie and her pink Jeep.  As a four-year-old, you could be easily identified by your standard pinks, princess gowns, and ponytails.  However, nowadays you’re much more likely to be found in black leggings and a peace-sign hoody, with your hair brushed back in a headband.  It’s as if your wardrobe has been transported from Disneyland to nineties-era Seattle.

To be fair, grunge is the wrong theme here.  You have as much an interest in angst-ridden hippie-dom as Kurt Cobain had in the concept of enunciation.  You’re still very much a part of the Disneyverse, it’s just that your focus has shifted from a magical kingdom far far away to Shake It Up Chicago or Waverly Place.  I might note that while your taste in clothes is maturing, your taste in sitcoms remains annoyingly age-appropriate.

Consequently, accessories are key.  You’ve amassed a collection of necklaces and bracelets and rings bedazzled with peace-signs and yin-yangs and mood-stones so staggering that, should you ever chose to wear them all simultaneously, would put Mr. T to shame (or more appropriately, foolish pity?).  You have a bowl of lip glosses in with more fruit flavors than a Jelly Belly warehouse, and a closet-full of headbands with enough combined length to circumnavigate the globe.  Twice.  (And look fabulous while doing it to boot.)

That being said, I can’t really complain about your increasing girlification for three main reasons.

(1) I’m partly to blame for it. In 2010 I got an iPod Touch as part of mobile computing grant, which I lent to you when the school year ended.  By the end of the first day, you’d figured out how to get it to play music; by the second day, you’d found the Disney Radio app and Disney clips on YouTube; by the end of the week, you’d hacked into our NetFlix account and were streaming the entire Disney Channel filmography in an effort to perfect your Selena Gomez accent and your Bella Thorne couture.  My watching you fiddle with the iPod is akin to Oppenheimer watching the Trinity explosion: amazement at the power of technology tempered by the realization of the horror I’ve unleashed upon the world.

On a related note, you’ve also discovered the camera feature of the iPod, and amuse yourself to no end taking pictures of yourself or making music videos of you singing and dancing songs.  However, you only ever bother to make weird faces for the camera, for example,

or

or

or

The reasons for this not entirely clear to me (nor to you, I suspect), but I do appreciate the access to ready-made embarrassing pictures for when you start dating.  You know, when you’re thirty.

(2) While your outside facade is increasingly girlie, inside you remain a nerd through and through.  You’re still a fan of Futurama and Doctor Who, even to the point of actually requesting a toolbox with a sonic screwdriver as a birthday present.

You’ve also inexplicably become hooked on Tron Legacy.  Indeed, Tron Legacy has become this year’s Mama Mia!,* in that I’ve been forced to watch it with you until it megahertz. Of course, saying that you watch the movie is rather incompletely, in that you also routinely recite every line of dialog a half a beat before the characters do (would that be preciting dialog?), and in extreme cases re-enact each fight sequence with me using our plastic identity disk replicas.  In retrospect, the simple fact that you own a Tron identity disk is sufficient evidence for your nerdery.

* A close second would be Lemonade Mouth, a (surprisingly watchable, I’ll admit) Disney movie in which a gaggle of high-school outcasts form a surprisingly popular rock band.  This in itself is not a particularly nerdworthy item of interest, I bring it up in the service of the following anecdote: one of the songs in the movie is called Determinate (which you can watch here), which includes the lyrics

Gotta turn the world into your dance floor!
Determinate! Determinate!

Well, we were watching the movie one night when you suddenly sat upright and said “Dad!  This would be the perfect song for the Daleks!”  Upon failing to envision homicidal metal-encased space-squids rocking out a high school dance, I said “How?” Suddenly she burst out singing in her raspiest Dalek voice

Gotta burn the world and get the Doctor!
Exterminate! Exterminate!

So, yeah.  Nerd.

You also continue to be interested in science.*  Not content to memorize just the planets, the color spectrum, and the elemental constituents of life, you’re now working on the periodic table of elements.   In fact, you’ve gone so far as to build a test-tube rack with which to conduct experiments, and put together a science notebook in which to record the results.  One of our first experiments was to determine, in your words, “how long it takes to go from a white moon to a black moon.”  Each night you would check out the moon and sketch it in your notebook, but over the course of a week, the moon would rise later and later until lunar observations were thwarted by bedtime.  The final results were that it took between 12 and 17 days, and submitted a grant describing how to obtain more definitive results pending a later bedtime.  Your mother was unimpressed by the presentation, but I thought the bar graph was a nice touch.  No word yet from NSF.

* Best evidence that you’ve learned to a balance your girliness and your nerdliness: your two-step plan for the future.  According to you, “When I grow up, in high school I want to be a cheerleader, and then I will be a paleontologist.”

(3) You’re a daddy’s girl.

You are my constant companion anymore, the Gilligan to my Skipper, the Rocky to my CeCe, the Phineas to my Ferb.  Wherever I go, you offer to come along and keep me company, be it to the store or to the office or to the toilet.  (Now might be a good time to talk about boundaries, kiddo.)  For example, this year alone you and I went to the Central States Fair…

…and hiked the entire Crazy Horse Volksmarch together, the latter being especially notable not only because it’s a helluva hike (six rugged miles round trip), but because you also managed to maintain an impressive level of sassiness all the way through it.

Every night after dinner you make sure that we can have at least a half-hour of daddy-daughter time, during which we read books, play games, draw pictures in matching notebooks, go on walks or bike rides, or (much more likely) play kitchen.  “Kitchen” is a game of your own devising which you can play for hours on end.  Although the details vary with each iteration of the game, the basic structure is always the same:

  • The patron (me) enters the restaurant.
  • The hostess (you) seats the patron and offers a menu.
  • The patron selects a meal from the menu.
  • The hostess announces that it is currently unavailable.
  • The patron selects a different meal from the menu.
  • The hostess announces that it, too, is currently unavailable.
  • These two steps are repeated until the patron threatens to leave, after which the hostess brings the “house special.”
  • The patron eats the house special.
  • The hostess brings out the bill, which is usually on the order of 10^4 dollars, and patiently awaits both her tip and a note saying how good the service was.
  • The patron pays, but before he can leave, the game starts all over again.

Occasionally, after several rounds of Kitchen, you actually switch the roles, a game that not coincidentally has become called “Grumpy Daddy’s Kitchen.”

On those occasions when we’re not doing something together (for example, when I need a bit of a break after two hours of Kitchen), you instead leave me guilt-inducing pictures depicting versions of us out playing, usually accompanied by the helpful “From the Ladybug” in the event that I should be confused as to the identity of the artist.

To be fair, although I’m giving you grief for looking like an obnoxious teenager, you act like anything but.  You’re smart and mature and polite and always just a bit silly.  Every person you meet comments on your charm and your intelligence, and I cannot even begin to tell them just how proud I am of (a) your accomplishments and (b) being able to ride on your coattails.

And there has been a lot to be proud of.  For example, after years of performing the in-house one-person Mama Mia! Stage show, this year you had your first on-stage performance: a ballet recital in May as part of the scene-stealing grand finale of Coppelia.*

You had a blast, for which I am eternally grateful, as I wasn’t entirely sure you’d make it to the stage.  See, you’d been in ballet since the middle of 2010, and whilst you have all the beauty and grace of a professional ballerina, you have all the balance of an elephant seal and all the timing of a broken sundial.  Try as you might, you can only cobble together wobbly approximations of first or second position, and attempts at positions 3 or 4 usually end in bruises and a bloodied nose, occasionally (but by no means typically) yours.  Nevertheless, you practiced hard for the recital, and when the big performance came, you danced your way through it without stage fright or seriously injuring your classmates, Madison’s black eye notwithstanding.

* Indeed, you’re performance was so memorable that your grandmother, the Nana B decided that simply giving you a post-performance bouquet of roses was insufficient, and instead opted to take you on vacation for Florida for a month.  On a not unrelated note, I start ballet classes next month.

Another milestone this year: you mastered bike riding in just two days after a fairly shaky start.  Bike riding was part of list of activities you decided you needed to master prior to kindergarten, along with swinging under your own power, mastering the monkey bars, and learning to tie your shoes.  You took quite a few spills on the first day, and I was afraid you might give up, but thankfully the concussion meant you had no recollection of those events, and the second day went much more smoothly.

On the third day, you were zipping up and down the neighborhood on your Tinker Bell bike like miniature Lance Armstrong in Pixie Hollow.  Interestingly enough, although you’ve mastered balancing on two wheels, you still seem to have trouble maintaining balance on your own feet in your dance class.

* As an aside, if we define “tying shoes” as “creating a roughly reproducible knot that holds a shoe together,” then, yes, you’ve mastered the other activities in the list as well.  Rather than use the standard bow-knot, you’ve pioneered an alternative (immensely time-consuming) lacing so convoluted that it doesn’t even count as a granny knot – it’s more of an Australopithecus knot.

Of course, the biggest pride-inducing milestone occurred in September, when you ceased to be an aimless, care-free toddler and instead became… a kindergartener.  (In a related story, I am now officially old.)

It should be surprising to no one that you love the place, during which a typical day’s activities are roughly divided evenly between class activities, learning centers, and chasing boys on the playground.* (This is where all those goofy pictures will come in handy.)

* Interestingly, before you started kindergarten, you had to take a “readiness test,” administered in the gymnasium of your new school, which is interesting in the fact that it’s the only test I didn’t take that I felt nervous about.

The big push is reading and writing.  For example, your penmanship has improved markedly, and you mastered both upper- and lower-case letters.  (Well, their shapes anyway; you sort of alternate their use in words at random intervals.) Every few nights you bring home a little book to read, after which we write a sentence about the story and draw a picture to go with it.  Early on, I’d find that your pictures would include what appeared to be random letters buzzing about them like Times Roman mutated mosquitoes.  It turns out these were “labels,” which helped you sound out words.  Over the semester, the labels have gone from single letters (the initial phoneme) to pairs of letters (the initial/terminal pair of phonemes) to the occasionally completely spelled out word.

Watching you learn to read and write is fascinating, if a little embarrassing at times.  For example, after reading a book about “hiding,” you were asked to explain one of your favorite places to hide.  You drew a picture of yourself inside Mater (my truck) with the sentence

I LIK TO HID IN MY DADDYZ TCOCK.

Yeah, that was a fun one to explain to Officer Williams at the November parent-teacher conference.

Of course, your favorite part about school – outside of the weekly advertisements for books and karate classes and gymnastics-studios-inside-of-buses that accelerate your consumer heart rate – is Mr. Banana, a stuffed anthropomorphic chimpanzee whose name is inexplicably not George.  Mr. Banana is the class mascot, and each week one lucky kid gets to take him home with them while said kid’s unlucky parents must then orchestrate and photographically document an exciting weekend of adventures with the stuffed simian.  We’ve only entertained Mr. Banana once, but the weekend included a mile hike overlooking Rapid City, laying a yard’s worth of sod, visiting a 900-pound pumpkin, and crashing a corporate picnic to hijack their bounce-house.  In hindsight, it was less a fun-filled adventure with a cheeky chimp than the Twelve Labors of Chimpercules, but you sure had a blast.  (I’m not sure I can survive another weekend with Mr. Banana, but that’s another story.)

Of course, you haven’t just been growing up this year into a wonderful big girl… you’ve also become a wonderful big sister.

You watch out after the little Butterfly with care and concern bordering on the obsessive, even when she’s less of a little bug than a little bugger.  Oh, and she can be one too… but that’s the subject of another letter.  Suffice it to say, 2011 started off with you two at each other’s throats, during which not an hour passed uninterrupted by one of you girls screaming at the other girl over the other girl’s touching the first girl’s thing when the first girl had explicitly told the other girl that touching the first girl’s stuff by any person other than the first girl (and therefore especially by the other girl) was explicitly forbidden.  At least, I gather that that was the general gist of these arguments, because I found home life was infinitely more survivable with a pair of ear plugs firmly.

And yes, while you too still do argue not infrequently, things have greatly improved between you to, partly because you’re both maturing and learning to respect each other as individuals, but mostly because you now have separate rooms and stay the hell away from each other as need be.  It’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of this: you have you own room in the new house, and while you love its large Norman window overlooking the lawn or its new big trundle bed, your favorite feature of the room is its lack of little sisters.

Fortunately, adding a little physical distance between your beds paradoxically brought you too closer together, and you spent the summer doing your best to teach the Butterfly everything you knew, from the art of blowing bubbles using an electric fan (since “mouth blowing” is sooooo twentieth century)

to transferring the contents of a swimming pool onto a deck in minimal time (a process you call “swimming”)

to the great and venerable campsite art of two-person wagoneering, through which you girls, like Calvin and Hobbes before you, came to a deep understanding of both philosophic truth and irreparable head trauma.

Yes, little Ladybug, you are an awesome big sister and a remarkable young lady, and I love you.

Alright… we can go play Kitchen now.


And as for you, my little Butterfly,

You’ve blossomed into a delightful and fun-loving little girl, chatty and cuddly, with a playful personality tinged with a decided streak of stubborness.  If I had to sum you up in one word right now, that word would be goofy.

For example, you like to spin around in circles until you fall over dizzy.  You spend an inordinate amount of time learning how to make weird farting noises with your face.  You are especially fond of a particular brand of mixed-media painting wherein you yourself are the canvas, which is a particularly erudite way of saying you like to make messes.

You are quick to smile, a big ear-to-ear grin of pearly-white teeth that’s worth a million dollars.  At least, that’s the current estimate from your dentist, who only sees years of orthodontic misery in your future.*

* Fortunately, that’s the only problem your dentist sees with your teeth, which in all other respects are perfect.  This is probably a consequence of your nearly OCD-like fondness for brushing your teeth, which you do as soon as you get up, and write before you go to bed, and after every meal, during any given commercial break, or upon converting a lungful of oxygen into carbon dioxide.  My only real gripe in this regard is that you typically confuse the word tooth paste with the word butt paste, which leads to some interesting conversations with medical professionals.

You’re even quicker to laugh, and what a laugh it is: an infectious, cavitating “Ha ha ha EEEE Ha ha ha EEE,” like a donkey hopped up on nitrous oxide.

Interestingly enough, although you spend most of typical day smiling, the one activity guaranteed to make you stop is when it comes time to take a picture of you.  It’s not that you don’t like pictures; in fact, you’re something of a ham who likes to pose for the camera*, giving attitudes that range from goofy

to sassy

to coy

to, well, pretty much anything other than your typical smile, which we can only get by surprising you.  (Saying “cheese” doesn’t quite work, since you typically say the word whilst gritting your teeth, which gives you less the impression of a smiling toddler than a rapid animal.)

* Oddly enough, you continue posing long after the camera has gone.  My personal favorite is the “Plate Face,” which you often give upon the completion of a meal.  You’ll announce “I’m done!” stack your dishes on your right hand like a waitress cleaning up a table, and sport a half-grin whilst squinting, as if you’re either trying to see through a bright light or have just suffered a brain aneurism.

When you’re not laughing, you’re talking.  You’ve gone from communicating using only a small set of nouns like Daddy and Mommy and Taggie, punctuated only by varying degrees of lateral slobber and impatience, to conversing in full sentences and colloquialisms.  The most recent ones are Okey and Amiright, which usually conclude sentences and act as indicators that the listener’s assent is desired, as in

This shirt is yellow, amiright?

or

I get candy corn, okey?

Of course, owing to your stubborn streak, it’s worth noting that the two most common expressions in your vocabulary are, in their typical chronological usage, No! followed by Sorry, Daddy.  It’s not used so much as an act of defiance (well, not anymore anyways, but we’ll get to that) as a plead for independence, since you’re quickly becoming able to do many of the tasks previously set aside for your parents.

Take getting dressed, for example.  You’d already showed an interest in putting your clothes on at the start of 2011 (although the typical results spoke more to your ambitions than your actual skillset).  However, over the summer you not only mastered the basic skills of getting a shirt over your noggin or getting your pants past your toes and up to your hips, you’re now at the point where you’re picking out your outfits beforehand.  And not in some haphazard point-and-choose manner either; rather, you’ll simply announce “I wear Minnie Mouse shirt today, okay?  And pants that match, amiright?”  (And after a few more moments when you realize that you still are too short to reach any of these things “Dad, get me Minnie Mouse shirt and matching pants, okay?”)

I must admit to being impressed by your ability to match and coordinate.*  You’ve discovered that I’ll pretty much let you pick anything you like as long as you can tie a common color and/or shape to your various clothing choices, and so you’ve quickly developed a set of pattern matching algorithms that will make you one kick-ass Set player in a few years.

* The day you decided that “stickers” would be the wardrobe theme being a notable outlier.

Pretty much the only article of clothing that gives you consistent trouble is shoes.  It’s not that you can’t get your feet into them; you’ve manage to cobble together a system in which you use your right hand to brace the shoe whilst using your little hand as a shoehorn to cram your foot in it.  Rather, it’s that you simply cannot seem to get the handedness (footedness?) notion down, and you consistently stick your right foot in the left shoe and vice versa.  It’s gotten to the point that you now put on your shoes normally (that is to say, wrong) only so that you can take them off and switch them, which seems to be the only process that yields consistently correct results.  An ordinary dad might be worried about this particularly inefficient procedure and give you grief for it.  Fortunately for you, I’m a pure mathematician, and I’m content that you’ve simply noted A solution exists! and moved on from there.

Another example of your willful independence is book reading.  Your favorite book by far is Oliver’s High Five, about a five-armed octopus (a pentapus?) who puts up with discrimination during his quest for summer employment (really!), but you enjoy having just about any book read to you.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that you really turning the pages, which you attempt at random intervals in the story.  Hence, reading you stories is less about moving the plot along than an exercise in swatting your hand away from the corner of the page, but at least you’re trying.  (Very, very trying.)

Perhaps the best example – at least from my perspective – is going potty, which you’ve now more or less mastered (more in the sense that you’ve figured out the technical aspects of the process; less in the sense that you’re still not tall enough to sit on the potty unassisted, try as you might). As a result, a typical potty interaction goes something like

You: Daddy, I have to tinkle.

Me: Okay, let’s go to the bathroom.

You: No, I’ma do it, okay?

Me: Okay kiddo.

You: [March off to the bathroom.  Struggle for two minutes as you try to figure out how to climb the porcelain bowl with your panties around you ankles].

You:Daddddddddddddy…. Some help, please.

It must be admitted that potty training did not go easily.  We’d been trying with you since the start of January 2011, but usually you’d simply sit on the potty chair until your legs went numb before standing up, announcing you were done, and the peeing over everything.  This time your mother worked with you diligently over the Thanksgiving Break, and by the end of that you were fairly comfortable with the Number One concept.  Her technique was to bribe you with M&Ms – you’d get one if you tinkled.  You quickly figured out how to game this system, and by the end of the weekend you were running into the bathroom every five minutes to squeeze a few drops and eat candy.

Number Two took a bit longer.   I assume that you viewed going tinkle on demand after eleven months of parental begging a suitable compromise, and consequently you simply refused to poop, and no amount of chocolate could prevent you from holding it in until you simply burst.  (One particular occasion in the bathtub gave an uncomfortably vivid representation of the concept of being “up shit creek without a paddle.”  In related news, your sister no longer likes to bathe with you.)

Eventually one night, after you’d been holding it in for two days and couldn’t even walk without a trail of noxious green smoke escaping from behind you, we simply sat you on the potty, crying and sobbing and wailing, and we waited.  And waited.  And waited. For two hours.  And then with shriek that sounded (ironically!) like you had been disemboweled, you pooped and realized it wasn’t all that bad after all.

I have to admit that I’m having a little more trouble than I expected letting you tend to your own devices.  I figured after going through the trauma of losing the Ladybug no longer needing my help, I’d be over it… and, in fact, that’s a fair assessment, actually.  I find myself lingering to help you, not because I feel compelled to be a part of everything, but because I foolishly worry that your disability, your little left hand, will somehow hold you back.  And, of course, I’m completely wrong… Just like your five-footed octopus, it never seems to stop you, and I’m impressed over and over again at how you adapt.

Little butterfly, you’ve grown and matured so much this year that I hardly recognize it as the same little girl from last January.  The fun, delightful, and only occasionally infuriating little girl you are now is such a marked contrast from the, well, demonic hellspawn you were at the start of the year.

The months leading up to April found you being increasingly obnoxious, and a day didn’t go by during which you weren’t sent to the corner for Time Out as punishment for some infraction, be it deliberately ignoring your mother or stealing your older sister’s toys or setting your father’s truck on fire or whatever.  I suppose this was to be expected for two reasons.  First, you turned 2 in April, and there’s a reason they’re not called the Terrible Ones.  The second reason was karma: your older sister was such an easy-going kid that you were more or less destined to be the antichrist in pigtails.

April itself was particularly trying for you, since it coincided with moving into the new house.  As documented earlier, the moving process lasted a full week – the main move occurring on a Saturday, followed by a week’s worth of minor fixes and major cleaning at the old house followed by unpacking at the new each night after work.  Seeing your old home – and more importantly, your own room – empty and echoing unnerved you to no end; but removing you from it and depositing you in a new room – furnished at the time only with your crib – sent you over the edge, and you spent the week sobbing and crying and clinging to the hip of either parent like a terrified barnacle to the side of a ship.

Eventually the boxes in the new house were unpacked and the place started to look like people lived in it, and you distressed a bit (although the dark maze of 2x4s and concrete walls that was the basement still scared the living shit out of you).  Unfortunately, this just meant that you had more energy to embrace the official commencement of the Terrible Twos, and by the end of May your mother and I were seriously considering trading you in for a cowfish.

And then a miracle happened…

Your Nana B took your older sister on vacation to Florida, which meant that for a full month you got to be an only child.  For a month, you didn’t have to share attention with a sister, and you spent it almost entirely by snuggling with us.  Instead of scowls and left hooks, we got smiles and kisses, and by the end of June your routine (and utterly exhausting) schedule of antagonism had crumbled away, revealing the sparkling jewel of a personality underneath.  Your mother theorized that you just needed the extra one-on-one time to cement your family bonding, but I suspect the real reason is that the trauma of suddenly moving followed by the sudden disappearance of your sister was too much for you, and your brain simply crashed and rebooted.

Amazingly enough, your pleasant metamorphosis continued even after your sister came home, which despite providing no compelling evidence in favor of either of your parent’s pet theories is still counted as a major victory for all parties.

Since then, you and your sister have become very close.  Perhaps uncomfortably close, in fact, given that you follow the Ladybug around like a bloodhound tracking its prey or, more accurately, like a leech exsanguinating its victim.  If the Ladybug wants to play with Barbies, so do you (preferably hers).  If the Ladybug wants to watch TV, so do you (preferably in her lap).  If the Ladybug posts a sign on her door reading No Butterflies Allowed, so do you… and then you’ll walk right past both signs into the Ladybug’s room to see what she’s doing next.  You’re like the Ladybug’s temporal echo.*

* Wherever the Ladybug goes, you go.  Of course, since the Ladybug typically follows me around, I guess the Transitive Law asserts that you’re my temporal echo too.

One of the favorite places for you two to go is the park at the end of the block.  You guys both like that it has fun little playset with slides and ladders and spinners and whatnot, although for different reasons: you, because you like to fun to play on; the Ladybug, because it distracts you long enough for her to run away and get some quiet time on the swings.

Actually, that plan only worked for about a month.  At that point, you decided that you wanted to swing like your sister.  I was a little nervous about the idea, since you can only grasp the swing-chain with your right hand, leaving you a little off-center and wobbly.  However, after a several trial and error runs (whereby “trial and error” I mean “mostly error” (and by “error” I mean “concussion”)), you’d finally found a system that worked: you’d coil your left arm round the chain and hug it tight in the crook of your elbow.  And suddenly swinging was the only thing you wanted to do at a park.  Period.*

* As an aside, I figured that once the Ladybug had mastered swinging under her own power, I’d get a little reprieve from pushing daughters around on swings.  Your timing is impeccable.

You’re appreciation for the oscillatory arts is so great that you went so far as to develop your own sign for it: you spread your legs a bit and then swing your pelvis rapidly back and forth.  The fact that this vaguely resembles dry-humping an invisible leg is not helped by you saying “Let’s swing baby” over and over again as you do this.

You’ve also tried to imitate the Ladybug’s other favorite activities, with varying degrees of success.  For example, given the Ladybug’s success with bicycling, you decided to give it a try as well with your Big Wheel.  Unfortunately, you’re legs are not quite long enough to reach the petals, and so what you consider “riding your bike” may be more accurately described as “Daddy pushing you everywhere on it” instead.  Of course, the asymmetry of your arms means that you typically hold the handlebars tilted a little to the left, so most bike rides typically consist of  tight counterclockwise circles, like a PreSchool NASCAR race.

We were able to improve on this slightly by getting a bike-trailer for you, a little nylon-covered rickshaw that attaches to the back of my (and mommy’s) bike, which means that I can now tow you everywhere instead.  You actually quite like “your bike,” and I do too, although I could do without you shouting Mush! Mush! Mush! from back there all the time.

You’ve also noted the Ladybug’s interest in science, and particularly her interest in the moon.  Well after the Ladybug’s “black moon” experiment concluded, you’d still make me to take you outside each night at bedtime just so that you could find the moon.  By the end of summer, you were also keeping an eye out for Jupiter, and now that it’s winter you’ve got your eyes peeled for Venus and Orion as well.  You’ve got quite a future in astronomy or cosmology ahead of you.

This has spilled over into a related aspect of nerdery: Doctor Who.  You love Doctor Who.  You can hum the entire “I am the Doctor” orchestration.  You have a stuffed TARDIS.  Admittedly, while I love this particular geekery, my favorite aspect of your fandom is not actually the show itself, but your almost comical excitement whenever it’s on.  The minute you see that spinning blue box, you shout Doctor Whooooooooooooooooooooooooooo until you run out of breath and nearly pass out from asphyxiation.  Sometimes this shout is followed by several more abbreviated ones of the form Doctor Whooooooah!, which makes the titular Time Lord sound like more a Marine to me.

Of course, not everything in your world is sister-centric: you have a rich tapestry of quirks and idiosyncrasies all your own.  For example, unlike your older sister (who has eschewed the cute and cuddly for the cold plastic of Barbies and Nintedo DSs), you still are pathologically attached to your bear Taggie, which is the first thing you pick up every morning.  However, you’ve also developed something of an obsession with Minnie Mouse, owing to the fact that you seem to get a new such toy sent to you each month by some family member.  As a result, you typically amble around the house with Taggie tucked under one arm and Minnie tucked under another, rendering you incapable of doing anything else (like climbing onto the couch or getting a drink of water) without dropping on of them.  I once showed you how to wrap Taggies around Minnie, thereby freeing up one whole arm.  This delighted you, since you could then use your free arm to carry around another Minnie.  (Maybe that future in science isn’t so bright after all…)

As another example, you and your sister have entirely different morning routines.  The Ladybug doesn’t so much “get up” out of bed as fall catatonic out of it, and she needs a good half-hour of priming with warm apple juice and increasing levels of ambient luminosity to even crudely resemble something like “consciousness.”  You, on the other hand, seem to exist as a pair of quantum states: Asleep and Effing-hyperactive.  Seriously, we you sleep, you sleep dead, but the moment even a few stray solar photons enter your room, you’re awake and bouncing off the walls of your crib like a rubber ball.

And yet, amazingly enough, as soon as I pick you up out of your crib, you’re willing to join me and your groggy sister on the couch, and snuggle up for hugs and kisses and tickles.  I can’t think of a better way to start each morning.

I love you, little Butterfly.  Now let’s go watch some Doctor Who.


There’s so much more to say about you two little girls (and I’m sure your mother will pester me later about all the things I forgot to mention), but this little stroll down memory lane was just the bit of joy I needed. You two are remarkable young bugs, and I can’t wait to see how you grow up in 2012!

Now let’s stop writing, and go out and play!

Ba ba

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2 Responses to Newsletter: Recapping 2011

  1. Mom says:

    Boy how I’ve missed these. Laughed hysterically. Thank you!!!

  2. Travis says:

    You’re welcome, mom.

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