Newsletter: month forty-six

Dear Ladybug,

Last week you turned forty-six months old, just two months shy of becoming a four-year-old.

Once upon a time you were busily counting down the hours until you turned four, largely because your mother promised you that you could start chewing gum at that magic age.   However, nowadays you would probably hardly notice, as you spend every waking moment playing Super Mario Kart.   We got one of those Wii systems for Christmas (thanks, Nana and Papa Shoo!), and given its simple play mechanic, viz. steer the steering wheel, it’s one of the few games you understand well enough to play.

This isn’t to say you play it well, however.   In fact, you like to race on specific courses to purposefully drive silly.   One of your favorite courses is something called Shy Guy Beach, not because you find the sandy racetrack particularly engaging, but rather because you can drive (and subsequently sink) your car into the drink over and over and over again, each time to have your onscreen avatar fetched from Davy Jone’s locker by a floating turtle with a fishing rod.   Another course favorite is Delfino Beach, which features a sort of European-themed neighborhood through which you like to drive at a meandering pace, repeatedly bumping into the doorways and shouting at the screen “Nana… are you in there?”

We also have a Toy Story game that features a lot of carnival-themed mini-games, several of which are shooters.   You’ve become adept at removing the game remote from its plastic sleeve and sliding it into the pistol attachment, and have turned into something of a crack shot.   Part of me is concerned about your growing fascination with video games, partly because I’d rather you not get addicted to them so young (or indeed, at all), but mostly because your two video-game fascinations — shooting guns and manic racing — suggest a burgeoning interest on your part in organized crime.

On a tangentially related note, I’ve been dreading writing this particular newsletter, not because of any particular unpleasantness I need to report with regards to your growth, but rather because you’ve so much growing in the past two months… and I never got around to writing your month 45 letter.   I fear now that when you eventually grow up to be some maladjusted emo teen* destined for a life of crime, it will all be traced back to when you were a toddler and I forgot to write you a digital letter about the time you got that rash.

* Right now, however, you’re developing not into a emo kid, but a valley girl.   In addition to a wide array of scoffing noises and eye rolls, you’ve become addicted to the word “so,” as in “I am so going to see Princess and the Frog” or “I’m am so not interested in eating that.”   Couple that with your similar affection for the phrase “Oh.   My.   Gosh.” and talking to you is like having a Turing Test with a sentient copy of Desperately Seeking Susan.**

** Thankfully, you haven’t yet discovered the audio-filler of “like” (as in, “I’m like going to like go to the like mall, okay?”), although you have coined a variation of it: or like that.   You often tack in on to the end of requests so as to soften its blow, as in “Maybe we can go see a movie, or like that?” or “Can I wear my sparkly shoes, or like that?”   Your lexicography never fails to amuse me.

In point of fact I did not forget about to write your newsletter.   Rather, it coincided with finals week, and by the time I was done grading those it was suddenly Christmas and then it was 2010 and then… well, you get the picture.   Nevertheless, Month 45 does merit some mention as the month of The Rash.

It started at the the day before Thanksgiving, with a couple of raised bumps of reddish skin on your back.   We put a little lotion on them on the assumption of irritated dry skin, but within an hour they spread all over your back, then to your neck and back of your ears, and then down your arms and legs.   It took another hour after that to get you into an emergency visit to urgent care, at which point you’d swelled up like Miss Stay-Puft.   The doctor there looked you over for all of thirty seconds before rendering his differential diagnosis: “She’s got hives.   Here’s a prescription for some antihistamines.”   Noting that I was significantly unmoved by his lightning fast MD reflexes, he added “She looks a lot worse that she feels,” which struck me as a odd attempt to comfort — it was obvious you felt better than you looked, since I think it was physically impossible for you to look worse: by the evening your entire body was covered with swollen red and purple blemishes, giving you the impression of someone who had, say, lost a fight with a belt sander whilst in a burning house.   However, to the doctor’s credit, though it itched a little, you hardly seemed to notice, and after a solid dose of medicine, your rash disappeared completely within another day.

And so it was through the first week of December, when one evening I noticed a little splotch on the back of your arm.   Within a hour you’d swollen up like a fuchsia Hulk again.   This time, however, the swelling went to your ears and eyelids too, which made you look like you’d survived eight rounds with Evander Holyfield… but just barely.   Once again we went back to the doctor, who looked you over for all of fifteen seconds before declaring “Hives.”   She then looked at your chart and added, not particularly helpfully, “It looks like she might be allergic to the medicine we gave her last time for the hives.   Huh.”   She then prescribed a different antihistamine and suggested an “oatmeal bath” to help with the itching.   You found this latter concept particularly amusing for two reasons.   First, you associate oatmeal with breakfast foods, so in effect, the doctor was ordering you to get into a ginormous bowl of warm cereal; that is, you were given a doctor’s note specifically authorizing you to play with your food.   Second, when you finally extricated yourself from the oatmeal, you were covered with the slimy remnants of the oatmeal power that had congealed on you, so that in effect you emerged from the bath dirtier than when you went in.   “That’s silly,” was your assessment, and I agree wholeheartedly.

Fortunately for all concerned, the antihistamines beat the rash away in a day without any adverse effects, so by the end of Month 35 the only thing you were worrying about was Christmas.

You made out pretty good this year.   Including the aforementioned Wii, you got a heap of princess gowns (including a Dorothy Gale costume, who while not a princess exactly, is at least lousy with rubies).   Among them was a Snow White gown, whose existence as a Christmas present was more or less a given, as you had requested it as a gift from me, your mother, your grandmothers, your aunt, your cousin, and, of course, Santa Claus.   On no less than 3 occasions, too.   Consequently, in the weeks immediately following Christmas through the New Year you spent in a constant state of fashion flux, changing from one gown to another to another over the course several minutes, as if you were less a flesh-and-blood child than a quantum superposition of princesses.

Of course, even you can get a little tired of pretending to be 2D royalty, and in Month 46 you’ve decided to try your hand again at several activities I thought you’d given up on.   For example, you’ve taken it upon yourself to help me shovel snow, and to assist you got your very own red snow shovel.   You understand the basic premise — namely, to move snow out of the way to form a walking path — but have yet to connect this concept with the existence of sidewalks and driveways under the snow, so if left to your own devises you end up scooping an exotic Brownian motion across my yard.

You’ve also decided to give sledding another try.   I’d pretty much broken you of the habit when you just turned two, when we went out for our first sledding expedition, wherein you sat in your blue and I pulled you around the park on the snow.   That was all fun and games until I took a turn too quickly and flung you out of the sled, although on a positive note you learn (quite unexpectedly) how to make a snow angle at velocity.   This time out, however, we started by sledding down some gentle slopes together, and you quickly discovered the twin joys of thrilling speed of zipping down the hill, and not having to pull the sled yourself on the trudge back up it.   By the second day you were sledding by yourself; by Day 3 we’d built a small snow ramp so you could get some air; and by Day 4 I made you pull the damn sled yourself.   Perhaps not coincidentally, there was no Day 5.

Speaking of sports, bowling is also experiencing a resurrection.   The last time you bowled was also the last time you sledded, and back then your teeny tiny muscles imparted so little force to the ball that the only reason it moved at all was plate tectonics.   This time, however, you had both moxie and machinery on your side: not only did the bowling alley have lane “bumpers” to keep the ball from falling in the gutter, but they also had “bowling ramps,” a little metal stand that resembled the first drop of a roller-coaster in miniature.   When your turn to bowl came up, you would carefully slide the ramp to the end of the lane, squat, and through one squinting eye gently aim the ramp at the center pin in a comically intense display of meticulous precision.   Then you’d fetch your ball and, in the process of trying to lift it up to the ramp, would knock it all akimbo, so that when you finally pushed the ball down to play, it was rarely aimed at the correct pin or, in some cases, even the correct lane.   Nevertheless, you had a blast, shouting Adios! to the pins every time you’d send the ball on its way to mete out their destruction, and inventing elaborate celebratory dances whenever any of them fell.

And while it’s not nearly as ESPN-worthy of the previous two items of discussion, you’ve also decided to work on improving your pronunciation skills in general, and on the phoneme [L] in particular.   Your whole life you’ve pronounced it as a [W], which given your name can be a source of endless irritation to you.   You’ve learned that the sound requires your tongue to be against the upper part of your mouth, but as yet haven’t quite figured out that phonetic sweet spot’s location, and so your tongue wanders around the front top teeth in what resembles a slow-motion replay of a failed attempt to blow a raspberry.

You’ve also taken to some new activities.   One of your current favorites is the writing of stories and letters to people you know.   You grab a sheet of paper and a convenient pen, and begin recording your elaborate plot-lines and character development or thorough retelling of personal anecdotes in a frantic cursive script.   Well, not English cursive, mind you, nor any other human cursive with which I am familiar, but cursive nonetheless:

Of course, the fact that the characters don’t mean anything — or your inability to read them even if they did — does not deter you from writing them endlessly; moreover, your amazing memory allows you to recall what you’ve written for days after the fact.   In fact, your mom and I are so enamored with this burst of literary creativity (given your flair for story-telling, you mom thinks you have a career ahead of you in literature; given your mastery of arcane and indecipherable symbols, I think you’ve got a future in mathematics) that we’ve bought you a spiral binder to jot your thoughts in — which you promptly filled up within days.

You are amazing, little girl.   I’d give you a big hug and kiss to show you, except that you’re too busy holding up a store on Mario Kart to notice.   Love ya, kid.

Ba ba

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