Raising Humans…

When I first found out I was going to be a father, I started writing letters to the baby, wanting to share with our future child the joy and excitement I was feeling for their impending arrival. I had so many thoughts about parenting I wanted to share and made sure I wrote to our baby once a week. But once you were born, Arlo, spending time with you became a much higher priority. And just as I was getting the hang of my new roll, we added you, Elliott, into the mix.

Writing these letters is still enjoyable, and I often wonder what you’ll think of them. Will you find them corny, or sweet? Probably a bit of both, and rightfully so. Lately, I’ve fallen behind on writing to you, but it hasn’t completely fallen off my radar. I constantly send myself emails and texts of funny things you’ve said, so I don’t forget.

For example, Arlo, you’ve become a big fan of our mailman, and you call out to him every time you see him, “Awe, you’re so cuuuute! I love you.”

Or you’ll introduce yourself as Dan, and me as Arlo, and then you crack up. At one point you introduced your Mom and me as “Dan and Molly.” The people responded, “Nice, you’re Dad and Mom?” Thinking you had actaully said, “Dad and  Mom.” You immediately corrected her, “No, his name is Dan, and they call her Molly Sparkman.”

You have a goal of being able to wink at me without having to cover one of your eyes by the time you turn five. I think you believe it will help with your joke delivery, since I wink at you to let you know when I’m teasing or trying to be funny. You have some hilarious knock, knock jokes, and when you want to tell me a funny story, you’ll ofter start with, “Dad! Oh. My. Gosh! You’ll never believe…” You’re also the only four-year-old I know who uses the word, “Literally” a lot. “Dad, I literally have to go to pee.” At least you literally use the word correctly more than most adults I know.

We recently had your parent-teacher conferences and they raved about story telling capabilities. They said your vocabulary was amazing for your age, you have great eye-contact when talking to people, you were learning to talk with an indoor voice, and you love to sing songs and rhyme a lot. You’re also learning about people’s comfort zones, and when it’s okay to hug people. All great things. 

You’re also very sweet. You came up with the idea on your own to give your Halloween candy to people without a home. You said, “I’m going to go up to their door and knock, and when they open up, I’ll give them my candy. So tell me when you see a tent.” A few days later you called out, “Look, a house for sale, the homeless people can live there!”

Elliott, you’re constantly cracking me up these days. You have this little inflection at the end of  your sentences that makes you sound perpetually inquisitive and happy at the same time. You’re constantly asking me if you can help me, or feed me, or if it’s okay for you to climb or crawl on whatever is you’ve already climbed or crawled on. “Can I do this, Dada? Is this okay?”

The other day you talked to me about my eating habits, “Not too much in your mouth, one at a time, Dada.” Then shoving a pretzel in my mouth, you added, “Here, I licked the salt off this for you.”

Even when you’re grumpy or throwing a fit, you can often be talked out of it. “That’s enough Elliott,” I’ll say. To which you’ll respond, “Okaaaaay.” You’re also unbelievably polite for you age, sharing your toys with Arlo whenever he asks, and always saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ without having to be prompted.

“Elliott, do you need to go to the bathroom?”

“No tank you,” you’ll respond, in a tone that makes it crystal clear you’re trying your absolute hardest not to drop a deuce.

Although most of the time you’re sweet as can be, you did turn two since I last wrote, and have developed a bit of an attitude. Lately, you’ll walk around with a glass of water and just spit mouthfuls of on the floor. When I take the glass away, you say in the most adorably  bratty voice, “That’s my water! I no like you Dada. I no like you!”

You usually apologize later that evening or the next morning. You’ll pat my beard and say, “I sowwy I say, ‘I no like you Dada. I sowwy.’”

You’re also become incredibly active… Your Mom has a hilarious impression of you trying to sit still during story time, which includes jumping on the couch, crawling across the end table, and then repeatedly launching yourself against the reader, all while holding multiple pacies and a cup of milk.

Your pacies are very important to you, especially the “lellow” one, which is green. You literally go to sleep with one pacie in your mouth, and three to four in your hands.

At dinner or in the car, you’ll all of sudden make a random noise, like, “Ccdrrrrkkkkkk.  Hahahahahahahahah.” Then you’ll call out, “Your turn. You do that Dada, do ‘Ccdrrrrkkkkkk.  Hahahahahahahahah.’” And when I do, you loose your tiny little mind, thrash your head back and forth and cracking up.

These letters are little time capsules for our family. At times I’ll read through the older ones I’ve written and smile at the cute things you used to say or do. I’ll laugh about the different stages of bedtime we’ve gone through over the years… the swaddles, the rocking, the crying it out, the stories, the jumping out of cribs, the move to big kid beds, the coming down stairs and crawling on top of me in the middle of the night, the putting you back in bed and falling asleep with you… I want to remember it all.

But in the end, the only thing that matters is what kind of people we raise you to be. Right now you’re both funny, caring, well-spoken kids who speak your minds but are still willing to say you’re sorry (although at times this takes some prompting or the threat of losing a book at bedtime). At this point, what more could a Dad ask for?

Love,

Dad

11-17-16

That’s Life…

Arlo James,

The other morning while sitting next me all cuddled up and looking through a Star Wars book, you turned to me and said, “Daddy, I don’t want to die.”

It melted my heart, and I responded, “I don’t either, but that isn’t something you need to worry about.” Then I gave you a hug and held you tight.

Death isn’t something we’ve talked a lot about. We had a brief crash course on the topic when our kitty passed away, and you didn’t seem to bat an eye at what were saying. Then a year back you were talking a lot about my 97-year-old Great Aunt Peg. You would pretend to call her on the phone and suggest we call her often; but when she passed away and we told you she was gone, you just stopped talking about her just like that.

We’ve also talked a little bit about death when I’ve shown you pictures of my sister Jenny.

“Have I met her?” You’ll usually ask.

“No,” I respond. “She passed away before you were born.”


The conversation usually ends there, but the last time this exchange happened you became more inquisitive.

“She died?”
“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“Sometimes people just die. Accidents happen.”

“Did her head fall off?”

I burst into laughter, thankful for you unintentionally lighting the mood, “No, buddy, sometimes people just pass away.”

Your most recent comments about death unknowingly came just two days after the 176th and deadliest mass shooting of the year. Just typing that sentence nearly brings me to tears. It’s gotten to the point where the news headlines have become so sad that I’ve had to stop reading them. I’ve had to limit my intake of “the news” since it doesn’t inform me, just depresses, and there are too many things to be happy about—like you and your sister.

I did spend a week filling out every petition I could find to limit the availability of certain types of guns and called and emailed all of our representatives in government. You’re still just a kid, one who hasn’t heard the news and still just wants to play Nerf guns. You’ll get there in time, I promise. But for now, Nerf guns are off limits, especially since you shot your Grandpa in the eye in with a Nerf disc gun, requiring him to have surgery to repair his retina…

You’re also just getting over a rare autoimmune virus which attacked your veins and kidneys. Your legs and belly were covered with spots and rashes, and too much activity caused your ankles and legs to swell up and turn purplish-blue. At the ends of the day you were hobbled over and unable to walk your legs hurt so badly. One morning you woke up and your hand was swollen, and then a few days later your eye ballooned half-way shut. It was scary, but it seems you’ve finally turned the corner.

I think the frequent trips to the doctor to have your kidneys checked got you thinking about your own infant mortality. The other night you asked your Mom, “Mom, do you want to die?”

Not trying to sugar-coat life and death, and trying to help you to accept that death is natural, she responded, “Yes.”

This shocked you.

“Why do you want to die?”

“Well everyone dies,” your Mom responded.

“Everyone dies?”

“So far,” I added.

“So far?” Your mom asked.

“Yes, who knows, next week someone might figure out how we could all live forever”

Little did I know that someone turned out to be our 7-year-old neighbor, Quinn.

“Well, Dad and I don’t want to die, and Quinn is going to build a machine you can crawl into and you would never die. So, daddy, you can come into it with me, and we’ll live forever.”

Sounds fantastic, buddy.

I love you so much,

Dad

6-23-16

Stages of sleep

Elliott Mae,

Your tiny little frame seems totally inadequate to house your larger than life persona. Everything you did is on a major scale: hugs, your open-mouth fish kisses, cuddles, foot-stomping meltdowns over Arlo touching one of your babies… You know nothing of scaling things back. 

Your brother slept in a crib until he was three years old, and not once did he ever crawl out of his crib, even though he could. Once he transitioned to a bed, he never—until this week—got out of his bed and came down the stairs in the morning. At a year and a half, we’ve already had to transition you to a bed.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I woke up to a loud, BOOM! I literally sprang from the bed and ran up the stairs, because I knew that sound could’ve only come from one thing, a child falling out of the crib… Half-way up the stairs you started to wail, but the moment I opened your door and picked you up, you stopped, and instantly cuddled up in my arms. You slept in our bed for the rest of the night. 

The next morning I asked you, “Did you fall out of your crib? Or did you climb out?” For your response, you illustrated the fall by hitting yourself in the forehead with the palm of your hand, and added, “I fall down, go bam, owie.”

The following night I laid cushions under your crib, and just an hour after we put you to bed, we heard a softer commotion, then a pattering of foot-steps, and then the sound of your door opening. We put you back in your crib only to have you repeat the pattern, the next time meeting me at the bottom of the stairs shacking the baby gate like you were trying to tear down the house. You slept in our bed for the rest of the night.

The following night you repeated your escape artist tricks, this time climbing down the stairs as you called out, “I want Bazers! I want Bazers!” You knew Mom and I were staying up to watch the Blazers in the playoffs. You slept in our bed for the rest of the night. 

After that, we transitioned you to a bed on the floor, but we after a few more nights of you ending up in our beds, or us ending up in your bed, we decided to put a baby-proof door handle on the inside of your door. Don’t judge, you’ll understand when and if you have kids and you don’t sleep for a week! You pounded on the door for a handful of minutes on a few different nights, and then have fallen into a routine of going to bed rather easily, and then sleeping through the night. Thank you!

In the mornings, I hear your feet dart from your bed to your door, and I go in to find you with your blanket smushed to your face, pacie in your mouth and usually another in your hand, and your hair looking like an Elvis impersonator after a fast drive in a convertible. You immediately throw you hands up, looking for a lift, and then bury your face and blanket into my chest.

We typically spend the rest of the morning waiting for Arlo to wake up,  laying in Mom and Dad’s bed.  I drink coffee while you drink your bottle, and you beg me to look at pictures of “Baby Elliott”. You lay there and snuggle with me as you point to pictures of yourself and giggle, “So tiny!” You were so tiny, just yesterday, and know you’re in a big girl bed… 


I love you so much,

Dad

5-27-16

You can say that again

Bear and Mouse,

One of my favorite parts of you both grow up, is listening to you speak. At first, it’s just so entertaining to hear you say anything, and then before long, you start to link words together, and then finally form sentences… But the only thing more mind-boggling than hearing your ideas, is the logic that fuels them. It seems so sound when you describe it, but in reality, it is so hilariously misguided. And then there is the topic of pronunciation.

Here are my favorite things you say, or have said recently

Arlo:

It’s completely apparent you’re a bit fan of the ladies, and you especially have an eye for older girls, or “big gills,” as you say.

When you talk about something being really big, you’ll say, “It’s the biggest in the whole wheeled (world).”

Every night when we tuck you in, you always try to stall by asking a series of questions or begging for more stories. You new tag line is, “When will it be the morning?”

One night you woke up with the flu and I crawled into your bed to comfort you. You asked me why I didn’t wear a whig and told me you never wanted to cut your hair. In the morning, you didn’t recall this conversation and found it incredibly funny.

One night I told you it was time for bed, and you said, “Sing me one more song!” I told you I’d already sung you many songs and read you countless books, to which you replied, “You have two choices, you can sing and sing and sing, or I will cry and cry and cry.”

Another night I tucked you in and said goodnight, to which you asked, “Where are you going?” I responded, “Downstairs.” You shrugged, holding your arms out wide and cocked your head to the side and said, “Downstairs? Seriously? You’re going downstairs?” You couldn’t believe anything was more entertaining than hanging out with you.

The other day you told me, “There are two types of cough drops. One is candy and a special treat, the other is for when you have a bad throat.”

You currently don’t have words like, today and tomorrow in your vocabulary. Instead, you say, “This day,” or “On another day I did do that.” The other night you were throwing a complete fit and I threatened to take away your Legos for a week. You snapped out of it and asked if you could get a Buba Fett Lego guy. I said, “I can’t believe you’re asking me for toys with how rude you’re being.” To which you simply responded, “Not this day, another day.”

You only recently learned that dreams are not something visible to everyone in your house. You woke up one morning and immediately started talking to me about pie. When I asked you what you were talking about, you said, “From our dream, remember, we were all eating pie?”

This weekend Dexter met another dog. I told you they got along, to which you immediately asked, “Are they going to get married?”

Elliott:

You are obsessed with the song “You are my Sunshine,” and request it often. Some nights when I think you’re finally crashed out in my arms, as I rock you in my chair, I’ll hear, “Shunshine,” through your pacie-clenched teeth. “You want me to sing you Sunshine?” You’ll push your head back from my chest, respond, “Mm-phmm,” then flop your head back down. Recently I believe someone thought you “Row, row, row your boat,” because you’ve begun demanding, “Boat… boat.” I started singing and asked, “This song?” You responded, “Mm-phmm,” then flop your head back down again.

Unlike your brother, you’ll typically let me sing you any type of songs at bedtime, but you’ve become quite opinionated. The other night I began signing you an Avett Brothers’ song and you shouted, “No!” “No, I asked? Do you want Tear Down the House,” another one of their songs I sing to you, to which you responded, “Mm-phmm.” Other times you’ll simply demand, “Shing songs, Daddy.”

You love you blanket, and will demand, “Acky, acky” whenever you don’t have it, but feel its presence is necessary.

Since my birthday, you’ll smile and sing, “Happy to you. Happy to you.” The way you sing it, there are no spaces, it’s all one big word, “happytoyou.” 

You love your grandparents so much and get so excited to see them. You call them Bammie and Bapa, or Bammie and BigBapa. You ask for them often.

You say “Tank-ew” instead of please, sometimes and it’s absolutely adorable. When we remind you to say please, you throw in a “Peeeaaassss” where a “Thank you” would traditionally go.

When you’re thirsty, you say, “Some waters?” over and over again.

You’re beyond in love with your Mama, and I think you’ve decided in your mind that all mothers must be as amazing as yours. As a result, when you see women you don’t know, you’ll point to them and ask, “Dis a Mama?”

Lately, you’ll start to throw a fit, and fuss “I want Mama!” I’ll tell you, “Mama’s at work,” and prepare myself to hear more whining, but instead, you’ll calmly respond, “Oh, Okay.”

As much as you both talk to great lengths and at great volumes, you do both have very selective hearing. Anytime we ask you to do something, Arlo will respond, “What?” While Elliott adds a “Huh?” Oddly this lapse in hearing often strikes when we’re asking you to clean up a mess, or stop throwing a fit, and your hearing instantly improves when offerings of ice cream or treats are made.

I doubt I’ll ever stop thinking your thoughts are incredibly humorous or adorable, and I think my heart will always melt a little each time you tell me you love me.

I love you so much, my little chatter boxes.

Love,

Dad

4-28-16

Infant daydreams

Arlo James,
Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around the last three-and-a-half years. Everyone says it about their kids, and the reason everyone says it is because it’s absolutely true… you grow up so quickly. 

I remember thinking, last summer, after you’d gotten a really short hair cut, “He looks so big!” But the other day I came across one of those pictures, and I couldn’t believe how tiny and adorable you looked. It’s hard to imagine that in another year, I’ll think the same thing about the photos I snapped of you this morning.

This weekend, as we were playing basketball together on your hoop, I realized it’s already as tall as it can go, and you have no problem slamming the ball. I remember buying it for you when you were much too tiny to shoot, but I put it up anyways, and your mom and I would shoot around with you on our laps, and lift you up to dunk.

As you got bigger, you fell in love with basketball, and the TrailBlazers. It seems like only yesterday we took you to Damian Lillard’s opening game against the LA Lakers, on Halloween night, when you were just two-months-old. But here we are years later, he’s breaking all types of records and has become one of the best players in the league, and you’re now much more interested in the Blazer Dancers and them “Shaking their hair.” 

Taking out the trash the other night, I saw a pair of your worn out rain boots in the bin. I couldn’t believe you’d already grown out of the green pair with monsters on them. We received them at your baby shower as a gift, and at the time I thought, “He’ll never grow into these, they’re huge.” There were also the ladybug boots, which are also gone… And then came the fire engine boots, which according to mom, when you saw them in the store, you absolutely had to have them. You took them down, put them on, and then replaced their empty space on the shelf with your old boots. Those too are gone, after springing leaks during an intense rain puddle stomping session. It didn’t rain much last winter but you wore them all season anyways, and long into the summer. 

I expect that your life will be filled with all types of these little mile markers, for me. Basketball hoops, rain boots, and hobbies, that were once very special to you, will be outgrown in one way or another. You’ll move on to things that will be new and exciting for you, and I will be there to enjoy it, watching, but also remembering the time when you were two, with your new haircut, playing basketball with the hoop on one of the lowest settings, in the backyard, wearing your marker-covered Damian Lillard jersey and your old monster rain boots. 

I love you so much, Arlo James. 

Love,

Dan

3-11-16

It’s the little things…

Elliott Mae,

As you grow up, people will give you all sorts of tips on how to live a happy, healthy life. The advice will start out general and focussed on your health: eat your fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, get at least eight hours of sleep… But as you get older, the advice becomes more concentrated on your personal happiness: do what you love, smile often, don’t let the man get you down…

You’re not even two yet, but you seem like you’re already taking a lot of this advice to heart. You love fruit and salad. You’re constantly stealing my water (and getting me sick from your germs, in the process). And you seem to love sleeping, except when you’re throwing a fit about wanting a bottle in the middle of the night.

When it comes to sleep, I think you take after me. You don’t seem to like too many blankets, or to be too hot when you sleep; unlike your mother and Arlo, who could sleep comfortably in a sauna with two down comforters on them and still ask for a third blanket. I can also sleep anywhere: a bed, the backseat of a car, under a car… doesn’t matter. I’m not sure if you’re the same way, or if your mind is currently triggered to think that anytime you see a pillow, it’s time to sleep.

Lately, you’ll see a pillow, pull it to the ground, and lay down on top of it and close your eyes; it doesn’t matter where you are, or whose pillow it is. Recently you saw a pillow for a doll while at the store with your mom, and you pulled it down and cuddled up with it, right on the store floor. On more that one occasion I’ve seen you try to cozy up with the pillow from your doll house, which is literally smaller than a tea bag, and try to climb on top of the dollhouse bed, which is roughly the size of a grilled-cheese sandwich. You’re small, but you’re not that small.

When it comes to the more whimsical advice on life, I’d say you’re on a good path. You currently have no problem doing whatever you want. You’ll dump over a bucket of toys, only to immediately lose interest and decide you absolutely must spend the next 30 minutes firmly attached to your mother’s leg, while she cooks dinner. If I try to grab you, you’ll simply yell, “No!” But it’s pronounced with such sass and elongation, that it sound like you’re over enunciating, “Know!” When you do want me, or anything else, you simply reply with the world’s most adorable, “Um-hm.”

“Elliott, do you want some milk?”

“Um-hm.”

“Elliott, do you want some cheese?”

“Um-hm.”

“Elliott, do you want to take a bath?”

“Know!”

You do smile often, and giggle just as much. Lately, when I go to leave for work, I ask for a hug and kiss. You give me one of your amazing, arms-around-the-neck hugs, but where you used to give me a kiss, you now lean back and blow me four or five kisses in rapid succession, grinning like you just told a hilarious joke. And then you’ll say, “All done.” Which is typically my cue to set you down and let you carry on with clinging to your mother’s leg.

I miss the kisses, but with your recent track record for being a petri dish of Portland’s current ailments, I don’t mind that much. 

And while there’s no man in your life to keep you down, there is a little man in your world. Arlo James, AKA, little man, has been known to try and knock you down, or block you from your mama at your (constant) time of need, but it never seems to phase you for long. You’ll huff and puff, or rather squeak and stomp, but you typically rebound with a quick snuggle from one of your parents (typically and almost exclusively your mama). You love your brother and are quick to inquire as to his whereabouts if he’s not within view, and to offer him a hug and kiss each night. You love chasing him around the house where you lower your chest to the ground and throw your arms back as if you’re about to take flight.

So at a year-and-a-half, I think you’re living up to all the advice I could ever offer you; but since you never asked, I’ll just say this, “I love you so much, and I’m here for you if you ever need anything.”

Love,

Dad

3-11-15

Oh, Baby…

My little Munchkins,

There is no doubt about it, having kids is tough. Sure, the positives outweigh the negatives, no doubt; but there are they days where it’s tough to remember what your smiling faces look like. The days where your pouting about not getting your way is only put aside long enough for you to throw a fit about not wanting to eat dinner or lunch. On those days, it’s hard to ever imagine adding another baby to the family.

You’ve both been talking about babies a lot lately. At first, Arlo, you were telling us you didn’t want another baby, because you didn’t want to have to share your toys with another sister or brother. You explained how problematic it would be, for you personally, to have to explain to another baby not to put your toys in their mouth. Then you told your mom you did want another baby, and then told me you thought “Millennium Falcon” would make a great baby name.

A few days later, you told us, “When Elliott is a big brother, we can have another baby and I’ll take care of them all. I’ll take care of all the babies. And when Elliott is a big sister (we corrected you this time), she can play with all of my toys.”

On a recent drive, you were asking about growing older, and what happens when you turn four. And then you asked what happens when you’re big. I told you about becoming a teenager, and then about turning into an “adult”, at 18, and that you could move out of our house and out on to your own. You yelled, “Nooooo!”


I explained one day you might want to move out, maybe get married, and possibly have kids. You said no to moving out, negative on getting married, but you were all about having a baby.

“Am I going to have a baby soon?” you asked.

I explained that women where the only ones who could have babies, and that babies came out of their vaginas.

“Really?” you asked, your jaw dropping in complete shock. “Do the babies go right into the toilet?”

You then asked more about when people have babies. I told you it happens when you’re much older, because you have to feed the baby and change its diapers, and take care of it.

“That sounds like a lot,” you responded. “Will you help me?”

I told you I would, and I absolutely will, but I don’t think you’ll need it. At three, you’re already so loving and sweet with your sister—when you’re not trying to take her out. You’ve started reading to her, which is highly entertaining to listen to you summarize books, and you’re teaching her all about your two main loves, Star Wars, and Minions (which Elliott, you call Me-Mes). But if you should ever have children and need additional support, look no further than your little sister, Elliott.

Elliott, I’ve never seen someone more baby crazy than you. You wake up the morning and call for your babies, then run around the house collecting and pilling them up near you. For you, baby is clearly a two syllable word, which you pronounce as, “Bay-be,” or when you’re really excited, “BEE-BEES!” Since both of your grandparents show you pictures of babies on their phones, you’ve taken to grabbing my phone and then demanding pictures of babies, by repeatedly pointing to the screen and chanting, “bay-bees, bay-bees, bay-bees, bee-bees…”

You’re so obsessed with babies, that you’ve been known ti carry around the boxes that diapers or wipes come in, because they have pictures of babies on them. The other day, as Arlo, Mom and I were wrestling on the couch, out of nowhere you called out, “I love bay-bees,” as clear as day.

Only time will tell, if your mom and I decide to have another bay; but either way I can say, you two are the funniest, sweetest, cutest, and most challenging babies on the planet. I can’t imagine life without you (or with another one of you).

I love you so much.

Love,

Dad

1-11-16