Newsletter: February 2011

My dear little bugs,

February was a big month for holidays in the Komplexify household. There was February 5, which while not particular noteworthy on the Gregorian Calendar in general, does mark the six-month anniversary of the adoption of the Butterfly (and is also, coincidentally, her Auntie Nicky’s birthday).   It’s hard to believe that its only been a half of a year since we first met that little girl, but she’s definitely part of the family now.

February also hosted this year’s Chinese New Year, which we celebrated by honoring the two cultural heritages of our children: the American tradition of dining at the Chinese Buffet, and the Chinese tradition of giving of the Hongbao.     If you don’t know this last one, on Chinese New Year parents typically give their children each a hongbao, a red envelope with money inside of it for good luck and to ward of evil spirits, which I suppose is an improvement over the American New Year tradition of parents giving their children a glass of champagne and, possibly, a hangover the next morning due to consumption of said spirits.

The original plan was to award the kids each their age in dollars ($1 and $4 respectively), but since there is a second Chinese tradition against numbers divisible by 4 (which is a Chinese homonym of “death,” as I understand it) the Ladybug got an additional $10 boost.*   I tried to explain the intricacies of this bit of her cultural legacy to the Ladybug after she extracted her crisp new funds, but I’m pretty sure the only thing she heard was “Claire’s! Claire’s! Claire’s!

* The Queen B was concerned over this monetary inequality, and so the Butterfly got a $10 boost as well.   Of course, the Butterfly, being one year old, was less interested in the gift than in the packaging, and tossed the money aside with her crumpled napkin in order to play with the shiny red envelope.   Did we learn nothing from Christmas?

The most obvious February holiday, of course, was Valentine’s Day.   As is the preschool tradition, the girls spent the night before signing Valentines cards and taping lollipops to them to hand out the following morning.   The Butterfly couldn’t be bothered to take an interest in the whole affair, and instead spent the day trying to steal pieces of candy when I wasn’t looking. The Ladybug was another story.   Last year she personally signed her name on each of the twenty-four Valentines she handed out, a process that took the better part of an evening to complete.   This year, however, she also wanted to personally address them as well, which owing to her need to have the names spelled out letter by painful letter, took the better part of the day.

Of course, it’s not the signing of cards that makes Valentine’s Day noteworthy for the girls; rather, it is the fact that Valentine’s Day, like Halloween and Easter, is an official Candy HolidayTM, a special day during which the receiving of sugary goodness is a de facto legal tradition.   As a consequence, the day is therefore technically immune to the Queen B’s mandate of “No more candy for you kids!,” which falls under the more general motherly mandate of “OH MY GOD YOU KIDS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY.”

I have to admit that, while I’m not particularly down with the Queen’s “Death to Candy!” mantra (nor do I think burning those M&M guys in effigy on our lawn was really called for), I do tend to agree with her on the more general motherly mandate, to wit, “you two girls never ever ever stop.”   The two of them are already like a pair of speed-addled chipmunks with ADD; adding more sugar to the mix probably doesn’t help.

Let’s take the Ladybug, for example.   I’m pretty sure not a newsletter goes by that I don’t complain that she never stops talking, but this month it’s gotten so bad that even she complains about it too!   Her tachylaiac talkativity is frequently punctuated with observations of the form “omigosh I never stop talking!” (which is completely correct) and “I’m talking so much I’m forgetting to breathe!” (which, regrettably, is not true).   Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for my daughter maintaining her respiratory requirements, but I could manage a brief bout of asphyxia-induced silence every now and then.

Added to this is an unprecedented increase in the Ladybug’s “sassiness,” a curious quality that involves equal measures of attitude and intertrochanteric hip displacement.   She’s sassy when she gets up…

She’s sassy when sits down…

She’s sassy when she goes to bed…

Hell, she’s even sassy when she sleeps…

Apparently all this sass some sort of Pavlovian response to a new girl at preschool called Aspen, a cute little thing with curly brown hair and one heck of a unibrow.   Apparently Aspen competes with the Bug for attention at school and has a habit of declaring that the Ladybug is hardly sassy at all, and consequently Aspen has become the Ladybug’s nemesis.   As a result, my eldest daughter spends every morning trying to guess at what Aspen will be wearing in an effort to outsmart and outsass the competition.   I now live in a perpetual episode of Survivor: Preschool, and (amazingly enough) it makes me miss those days when she was crushing over bad boy Jevon.

On a related note… I don’t get girlie fashion these days.

In those brief moments during which she’s neither talking nor plotting the fashion-oriented downfall of her mortal foe, the Ladybug still finds ways to be busy.   For example, one of her Valentine’s Day presents was a Valentine’s-themed science project (I know, I know… Nerd much?), and every day after February 14 the Ladybug would pester me with “Can we do the science project now?” “How about now?” “Now?” “Now?” “NOW?” until I finally broke down and converted the kitchen into a makeshift laboratory.

The experimental set-up consisted of an over-sized test tube filled with tiny beads.   The experiment was essentially to characterize the beads and make hypotheses as to what would happen to them we water was added, followed by actually adding the water and testing said hypotheses.   The Bug decided to sort the beads by color (they came in red, white, and black), and I, as her diligent lab flunky, recorded her observations:

The experiment she then designed was to add two test tubes of water to each bowl of beads and to check on them every half-hour, adding a test-tube of water to all bowls whenever any one bowl appeared to have gone dry.

What happened?   The Ladybug got three of her four hypotheses correct: they grew, they became Jello-like, and two beads changed color (red beads became pink balls and black beads became purple balls).   Unfortunately there were know heart-shaped objects to be found, her detailed observations notwithstanding.

Lately she’s become fascinated with light, particularly how light can be made to “connect” from one place to another using something shiny (that is, reflection) and how it can be made to form rainbows using transparent things (that is, refraction).   Here she is attempting to explain the former phenomenon:

She’s also taken a keen interest in electricity, although not so much for its day-to-day utility or its amazing interconnectedness with magnetism, but rather because she’s getting tired of getting static-electricity — specifically, getting shocks from her covers when she goes to bed, and having hair that stands up straight when she gets up in the morning — and she’s certain that some kind of ScienceTM will solve it.   (Actually, she’s solved the second problem already.   She knows that the drier sheets in the laundry room get rid of static electricity from clothes, so now she keeps a couple in the bathroom.   In the morning if her hair starts standing up, she just rubs her head with a drier sheet, and her hair obediently lays flat again.)

In short, the Ladybug just doesn’t stop.   Ever.   It’s gotten to the point where she has more energy than both of her parents combined, and so on weekends in particular, she has taken to tucking us in bed rather than the converse.   The first night she did this I thought “How sweet is that little girl?”   It was only until the following morning that I realized she wanted the parents out of the picture so she could make a tent in the living room and have a pretend camp-out without adult interference.

Of course, the Ladybug isn’t the only child in desperate need of a pause button.   In addition to finally mastering both the chair-climbing and stair-sliding activities she started in earnest last month, the Butterfly has now figured out how door knobs and push buttons work as well, which means she now has the means to act on damn-near criminal her motives.   For example, I can no longer hide in the spare bedroom to relax and cyberstalk folks on FaceBook with my iPod, for as soon as the door closes behind me I can hear claw-like scratching on the other side of it, followed by the sight of the knob starting to slowly and spontaneously rotate.   She’s like a little velociraptor and I’m the unlucky shmuck in the Jurassic Park control room.   (Come to think of it, given the ragged and pointy condition of the Butterfly’s mouthful of teeth, the “velociraptor” comparison is actually not too far off.)

She’s also figured out that pressing buttons typically causes interesting things to happen, which now explains why I cannot enter a room in the house anymore without finding a DVD player with its tray stuck out like an insolent tongue,   or an empty microwave oven with its door flapping   open, or the dishwasher in the middle of a cleaning cycle with absolutely no dishes inside of it whatsoever.   I’m amazed how a kid with only one pointer-finger can cause so much chaos.

The Butterfly has also pretty much demanded autonomy in everything she does this month.   For example, when it comes to clothes, she’s taken a significantly more active role in her personal couture, which is a diplomatic way of saying she wants to dress herself and she’ll pummel the living shit out of you if you try to stop her from dressing herself.   Each morning the Butterfly ransacks her dresser until she finds a shirt and pants (she’s not tall enough to see into the drawer, so she just blindly goes about yanking out clothes until she finds what she needs), and then hunkers down on the floor and attempts to put them on.

The emphasis here is on attempt, as I’ve never seen her successfully complete this task yet.   She can kind of slither herself into her pants and, occasionally, manages to not poke both feet through the same leg hole.   Working with a shirt is rather more difficult, what with all those different holes through which to insert a head.   Given that the average shirt has at four such modes of ingress, one might expect from a strict probabilistic standpoint alone that the Butterfly would choose the correct one about a quarter of the time, but I’ve yet to see that happen.   Usually she manages to shoehorn her head into one of the arm holes before becoming stuck, whereupon I’ll hear a her calls of “Pleesh… pleeshh… pleeshh indicating that parental assistance has finally become acceptable.

The Butterfly has also taken to getting her place ready at meal times.   She knows where her plates are stored, and so she’ll grab one or two of them and slide them up onto her high chair.   Next comes the utensils, and this is where things get interesting.   The Butterfly has observed that her parents and older sister typically have more than one piece of silverware at their individual place settings, but she hasn’t quite caught on to the fact that such collections are invariably some subset of the “universal kitchen set”

K = big{ mathrm{fork}, mathrm{spoon}, mathrm{knife} big}.

As such, the Butterfly typically opens her utensil drawer and removes between three and eighteen different plastic animal-shaped sporks and spreaders, which she then liberally deposits on — and in — her high chair.   She invariably drops a bunch on the way as well, leaving behind a trail of bread knives, like Hansel and Gretel as re-envisioned by Clive Barker.

Interestingly enough, when it actually comes to eating dinner, the Butterfly will diligently use her forks and spoons and knives for all of about three minutes before finally just picking up the plate and funneling the food directly into her face… and her clothes… and the chair… and pretty much everything else in a three-foot radius around her.

The only thing that slows the Butterfly down and keeps her in check — the kryptonite to her trouble-making superpowers, as it were — is her Taggie.   This month she seems to have taken a special fondness for one of her Taggies in particular, a fuzzy pink square of fabric with the decapitated head of a teddy bear sewn into the center of it in what I assume is meant to strike a one-year-old as cute but always strikes me as “grisly crime scene.” Like all of her Taggies, the Butterfly uses it as a security blanket, and it has the seemingly magical property of being able to calm her down by just feeling the satiny fabric against her lips.

Seriously, the Butterfly carries the thing around with her everywhere, draped over her face like a Hasbro hajib.   She has it from the moment she gets up…

… until the the moment she goes to bed

…and pretty much all points in between.   As a result, the bear head, which was once as white as freshly fallen snow, is now a sort of salt-and-pepper gray; moreover, the fur, which was once uniformly fluffy, has become matted and crunchy with kid spit.   Indeed, some of the fur is now more or less permanently affixed over the bear’s left eye, which gives it the appearance of furiously squinting at passersby, which only adds to my macabre aversion to it.   Fortunately, the Butterfly is willing to part with Taggie whenever it’s time to go to school, and although it’s the first thing she rushes to get whenever she comes home, she’s not so attached to it that she won’t share its magically healing touch with me whenever I get a little stressed out too.

In fact, that last little bit pretty much sums up my two girls.   They’re frantic and fast and full of way too much energy… but they’re also the sweetest little things on the planet, and I wouldn’t want them any other way.

…well, maybe a little less sugared up.   Just sayin’.

Ba ba

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