A Break from Christmas Past

6 Jan

Arlo James and Elliott Mae,

I saw workers cutting down the giant-downtown Christmas tree today on my way in to work. Normally the end of the holiday season carries with it a bit of depression. There’s so much excitement and build up, you get some vacation time  and a break from work, and then it’s all over and it’s back to life as normal.

But that’s not the way I felt this year. This year the days after Christmas were great. We spent hours of reading new Star Wars books, playing with new toys, and watching the two of you run circles around the house, screaming or making noises like you were space ships or fighting with light sabers.

Arlo, you refer to them as life savers, I did the same when I was your age. Elliott, you love playing with your brother, you squeak with joy and make the most adorable noises when you grab a marker and pretend it’s a light saber; and you have the cutest, “Ho, ho,” anytime anyone mentions Santa or anything Christmas related. 

This year, being stuck at home for a week after the holiday, and not going anywhere—besides a freezing but fun New Year’s Day trip to the coast—was a blast.

This year, when our tree at home was taken out to the curb, and the stockings came down from the mantle, I didn’t feel sad. I guess this year I was just too busy enjoying my time with our family.

You’re both amazing, and I love you so much. May the force always be with you.


Love,

Dad

1-6-16

Big Baby Girl

14 Dec

Elli-ba-jelly,

You are the epitome cheeks, dimples, smiles and giggles. This past year is a blur, and I’m so shocked you’re already 15 months old. At times you’ll say something, or react to something I just said, and I think, ‘No, you could’ve have, you’re not there yet? Are you? You’re not old enough to be sprinting around the house, calling out for your baby?’ But you are, and you do, all day long.

When you’re not looking for, cuddling, changing a diaper, or wrapping up one of your babies in a blanket, you’re usually trying to convince your mother or me to do it for you. You’re baby crazy, and when see real-life babies, you put a hand on each of their cheeks and repeatedly give them kisses on the lips. When you’re not obsessing over babies, you’re usually walking around calling out “Cheese!” Sometimes this is because you saw someone with a camera, but most of the time it’s simply because you want to eat cheese.

Cheese is by far your favorite food, although you’re not a picky eater, and usually will eat anything, and a lot of, what we put in front of you. But anytime we’re eating, you’ll stretch your arms up towards us and stomp your feet, calling out, “Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese.” You’re pretty convinced that’s all we all eat.

While you’ll eat anything, you have a very specific way of letting us know when you’ve had enough. You’ll simply lean over your tray, and use your hands like mini-street cleaners, sweeping every last bit of food on to the floor, as quickly as possible. In related news, Dexter follows you around non-stop, since you’re an endless source of treats, for him.

You’ve also become quite the little chatterbox, shocking, I know, given you’re my daughter and Arlo’s sister. Your favorite word, besides cheese, is Mama. You call for her often, sprinkling in the occasional request for Dada, or Dede (Dexter). You’ve taken to standing by our picture wall and pointing to pictures of Mama, when she’s not home in the morning, calling out “Mama” over and over again.

You can say Thank you (tank ooo) and please (peeeeze), baby, hot (this was a very popular one, for a long while), hi, and bye (at bed time your yell bye, and run around waving at everyone). Of course you still like to point out your socks and shoes, and often make a pile of shoes to sit next to. You still couldn’t, or didn’t, say Arlo’s name for the longest time. When I ask you to say it, you usually respond, “Mama,” or giggle wildly, flashing your dimples and adorably-spaced front teeth. But just this morning your started pointing to pictures of him and saying, “Aaa-ooo.”

While you and your brother have your moments where we both seem intent on driving the other nuts, you’ve had far more positive moments, lately; chasing each other around, and giggling out of control. Occasionally you’re running too fast and you’ll fall pretty hard, but usually you give just a quick scream, and then you’ll stand up, dust of your paci, pick up your blankie, and take off after your brother, again. You’re usually covered in bruises and scraps, but it doesn’t seem to phase you.

You’re very sweet to your brother, and will often go pick up one of his toys and bring it him, or find his glass of water, and carry it over. He’s very sweet to you, too, giving you big hugs, and kisses, and letting you play with his toys, with the agreement that you don’t put them in your mouth—but you always do.

I’m not sure how, but at 15 months old, you give some of the best hugs on the planet. When we ask for a hug, you snuggle your cheek right up to ours, and them stretch your tiny little arms up around our neck. It’s absolutely adorable, and it melts my heart each time you give me one.

You’re already such a strong willed little girl, full of happiness and excitement, and I love watching you grow up, even if it is happening a little too quickly.

Love,

Dad

12-14-15

Mile Markers 1, 3, and 6

16 Oct

Arlo and Elliott,

Sometimes life feels like you’re traveling inside a car, cruising down the highway at 70 miles per hour. Things are going great, you’ve got the windows down, there’s a great breeze, good music, the sun is shinning… Sure you hit the occasional bump in the road, or get turned around and head in the wrong direction from time to time, but all in all, things are rolling along smoothly. Then suddenly, you look down and realize you’re pushing 100 mph. You’re not sure how you got going so fast, and before you know it, you start missing important exits. Lately, my life feels a lot like this.

Since I last wrote to you two, so much has happened, and at each step of the way, I say to myself, ‘I’ve got to write to the kids about this.’ But life keeps moving; heads get bumped and require cuddles, books need to be read, and toys must be distributed evenly amongst the troops to avoid a coup.

At the end of July, we moved out of our first home; the home your mom and I bought shortly after we were married. The house we brought you home from the hospital to, Arlo, and then you, Elliott. It’s the house where you both took your first steps, and muttered your first words, but it was time to move on. When we bought the house, we excited it was in a neighborhood we liked, and walking distance to our favorite bars. Priorities changed and we moved 20 blocks away to a house with more space and better schools.

While we were packing up, Arlo, you would walk around the house pointing to toys or pieces of furniture, “Are we bringing this? What about this? We gonna bring this? What about Dexter? We have to bring Elliott, she’s just a baby.”

Our new neighborhood is filled with kids, and it’s not uncommon for me to come home from work to find our driveway scattered with games of soccer, and story time, sometimes both at the same time. Arlo, you’ve become friends with the boys next door and spend a lot of your time with Milo, discussing the bad words you’re not supposed to say, playing make believe, or chasing the older girls around, roaring at them. Recently you told me, “I only roar at them because I want their attention.”

One night, after our neighbor Scarlet read you many books and played with you for a long time, you told her goodnight, and called after her, “I like you!” She responded, “I like you too!” Ever since then, you ask your mom and me, quite often, “Do you like me?” I told you if you didn’t growl at Scarlet so much, she would probably like that even more, to which you responded, “Yeah, and if I’m nice, maybe she’ll give me a…” You trailed off, deep in thought and I began wondering what you were going to say. “Maybe she’ll give me a… maybe she’ll give me a… a chocolate chip cookie!”

Elliott, you love to chase all the kids around the front yard, squawking at them as the run past. The girls in the neighborhood adore you, and carry you around, showing you all the plant in the yard, most of which you try to put in your mouth. You’re obsessed with eating that strawberries that grow along the side of the house, even the unripe ones.

Just a month after moving in, Arlo, we celebrated you turning three years old. Right around this time, you started requiring three of everything. I would be tucking you in and singing you a song, and you would interrupt, “Daddy. Daddy.” I usually just keep singing, because if I stopped every time you interrupted me, you’d be going to bed just as the sun came up. “Daddy… DAD!”

“Yes, Arlo?”

“I need three songs, because I’m about to turn three. And then three books…”

It blows my mind to think you’re already three. The tiny little baby boy we brought home from the hospital is now walking, talking, running, throwing fits, telling jokes, negotiating, taking showers by himself, and being a great big brother. We now have conversations where you’ll ask me to explain different concepts or words, and you actually listen and chime in with your own hilarious interpretations on life. You’re genuinely funny and so sweet, and know that will never change.

Two weeks later, Elliott, we celebrated your first birthday. How a year went by so quickly, I will never know. A month before you birthday you really mastered walking, and quickly turned that into a steady jog, which you know attempt to turn into a full-on sprint. You run in things, bump your head, crash, and you usually just stand right back up and keep trucking along. You giggle often, and squish your cheeks and squint your eyes when you flash your adorable little smile. Your vocabulary is improving daily, but right now you like to point out everything that is “hot”, which is a good word for you to know, since you’re constantly trying to climb the oven.

When you were just a baby, we didn’t bother trying to put shoes on your tiny feet, what’s the point. But now that we have, you’re a bit obsessed. You run and grab your shoes, each morning, and then hold them over your head and let out a big, “EEEEEKKKK.” This is a similar reaction to when Arlo or one of the neighborhood boys takes something you’re playing with; you’ll bunch up your fists, hold them high above your head, scrunch up your nose, and let out a blood-curdling screech.

You’re such a sweet little girl, Elliott, and people often comment on how you always seem so genuinely happy. I love you so much, and can’t wait to watch your personality blossom. 

And because your mom and I like to stay busy, a month after Ellie’s birthday, we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Life has changed so much in that time. We’re busier, have so much more responsibility, our jobs are more demanding, we’ve both changed in countless ways, we have two kids that require a lot of our attention, yet I love your mom more than ever. All of the moving, planning, birthday parties, daily chores… I couldn’t do any of it without her. The most amazing part of the last six years, has been watching the woman I married become your mother. For her, even though she would never say so, it’s been a flawless transition. You’re so lucky to have such a smart, funny, and dedicated mom. You truly couldn’t have asked for a better one, and I’m so lucky to be on this crazy road trip with her.

I like you both, and love you tons,

Dad

10-16-15

Marching to the beat of your own ukulele

17 Jul

Mr. James,

This week marked a pretty monumental step in your childhood. Just a few days ago, you willingly loaded up all of your pacifiers into a plastic bag, and threw them into the garbage can in exchange for a ukulele.

This was no minor feat, let me assure you, your love for pacies runs deep! I had been urging you to kick the habit for quite some time (because I couldn’t understand you when you had one in your mouth), but I have to admit, when you decided to give them up, part of me wanted to say, “No, not yet! Too soon!” Your pacie is an indication that you’re still a little boy, and if you give it up, it means you’re growing up. I obviously know you’ll grow up, but the age old cliche has never been more true… You’re growing up too quickly!

The past few months have been chaotic as we’ve been looking to move and running around to open houses and swim lessons, and you’ve seemed to sense the changes. You’re taking it all in stride, minus the occasional melt down, so I was pretty shocked you decided to give up your pacie on your own. The first night was a little rough. You tried to change your mind about the agreement as you laid in your crib.

“Daddy, I want to trade my ukulele for a pacie. Is that okay?”

“We don’t have them buddy, we threw them in the trash.”

“But why did we put them in a plastic baggy?”

“So the garbage man can get them out and give them to other little girls and boys who need them.”

“But maybe he hasn’t come and gotten them yet?”

“I think he did, buddy. Besides, it’s too dark out now to look.”

“Let’s get a flash light and just go look for a quick second. Just a real quick second.”

I talked you out of looking, left your room, and was promptly called back in.

Every night, after your mom puts you to bed, you call me in to sing you a few songs. Typically there are two songs you want to hear, the “Sandcastle Song,” which I made up, and “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight,” by the Spaniels (you like to sing this song to Elliott when it’s time for her to go to bed).

The “Sandcastle Song,” like most of the songs I make up for you, is really just lyrics I made up and sing to another song’s melody, in this case, “Little Boxes,” by Malvina Reynolds.

Some nights you’ll request I sing you more songs, but you’re very specific about which songs I can actually sing. Many of the songs I know, or made up, have been listed by you as “Morning songs.” Morning songs cannot be sung at bedtime. I made the mistake of singing you some new songs I’d written for you, during the day, and because it was light out when you first heard them, they were immediately banned from being sung past sundown.

Night time songs, minus the two I already mentioned, are almost all Christmas songs… still… The other night you told me you really love Santa songs, so I sang “Up on the rooftop,” and when I got to the line, “Out jumps good old Santa Claus,” you interjected, sounded very concerned, “Daddy, Santa does not have claws!” I clarified.

A new one, is, you’ll request a song, and when I start to sing it, you’ll interrupt and ask me to make sure Mama hasn’t already sung it. I call down to your mom and get a status update on which songs she sang, while you lay in your crib cracking up.

“I asked Mama, she didn’t sing Frosty,” I say, before breaking into my jumbled up tale of the living snowman. But as soon as I start, you start giggling hysterically and say, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Ask Mama is she already sang this song.” I’ve begun calling down and asking Mama, only to answer myself in a high-pitched “Mama voice.” “No,” I’ll answer myself, “I haven’t sang Frosty, you should totally sing it, Arlo loves that song.” You find this very amusing.

On your first pacie-free night, I sang you all of the songs I had in my evening-song juke box, and was trying to wind you down when you pleaded, “I really want a pacie, Daddy.”

“I’m sorry buddy, but we don’t have them anymore. I checked the garbage, and the garbage man already came and got them.” This was a lie, the pacies are still laying in the bottom of our trash can. Trash day is Tuesday, for future reference.

“I don’t like the garbage man,” you grumbled.

From here, you decided to go another route, “Elliott has extra pacies!” you called out, clearly so proud of yourself for coming up with a solution. “Can I have a baby pacie?”

“No buddy, I’m sorry, she’s using them all.”

“I’m use to having something in my mouth, so I don’t think I can sleep without it. So here’s the thing, I’m not going to sleep.”

I convinced you that you would make it through the night and wake up to a brand new ukulele to play me the song you’d written, “Monsters don’t have scary feet.” When you came up with this song, you were pounding on your drum, screaming, “Monsters don’t have scary feet, monsters don’t have scary feet…” Then you stopped, looked at me with the most serious look on your face, and said, “They really don’t have scary feet, Daddy.”

In the end, you decided going to bed and getting plenty of rest for your morning concert was a pretty good idea.

“I’m going to go to sleep, then wake up and get my ukulele and sing the “Monster song,” then sing “here we go, let’s go, Blazers,” and “Defense.”


So there you have it, your very first set list. I must say, you put on one hell-of-a show, I’m a huge fan!

I love you so much,

Dad

7-17-2015

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

14 Jul

Elliott Mae, my darling baby girl,

When looking at a family, one typically notices similarities between its members. Most commonly they look alike, or have similar mannerisms. With you, for instance, it’s easy to see you have blue eyes and dimples like your dad, your mom’s smile and energy level, and your brother’s knack for getting overly excited at a moment’s notice. But there is one trait you have that no one in your family shares… You, are a morning person.

Each morning, when I go to get you from your crib, you’re standing up, bouncing, with a grin that highlights your adorably squishy cheeks, dimples, and your two bottom teeth. You squawk and giggle when you see me, clearly so happy to have someone else awake to share the morning with. You’ll clap and reach for me, but when I pick you up, you start scrambling to get down on the ground, where you instantly take off, leaving me in your dust.

You were hesitant to start crawling, as I’ve mentioned, but now that you’ve embraced it, you’re incredibly fast. With Arlo, there was no real need to baby-proof the house. We’d simply point him in a different direction, or give him something to distract him, and he’d forget about rummaging through the cupboards. You, however, don’t forget a thing. No matter how many obstacles or distractions we put in your path, you don’t forget about whatever it was we were trying to distract you from.

You spend your mornings quickly crawling around the house, rushing to discover new things, and then promptly seeing how many of the things you find can fit into your mouth. Most of the time it’s your brother’s toys, but lately you’re obsessed with trying to eat our shoes. When you find a closed door, you pull yourself up against it and start banging until someone on opens it for you. If a baby gate is left open, you head right for the stairs and trying to climb the entire flight as quickly as you can.

Based on all of the other little girls we know, we thought for sure that Arlo would be the one who would keep us the busiest, but you’re starting to make us rethink that assumption. You’re so squirmy when we try to change your diaper or dress you, that you nearly make your brother seem calm. Nearly…

Like Arlo, you also seem to have your own name for Dexter. You really seem to enjoy petting him, and will coo, “Doddy,” in a nearly inaudible tone. I believe this is your version of doggy; but your first clear word is undeniably, “Uh-oh.” You’ll intentionally drop a book, and call it out, or poke me in the face, and mutter, “Uh-oh,” before giggling uncontrollably, with your adorable little smile.

While you may be the only one in our family who loves mornings, you definitely have our sarcastic sense of humor down pat. You’re such a happy little girl, and I love you so much!


Love,

Dad

7-14-15

The Lifelong Pursuit of Leisure Hobbies

7 Jul

Hey kids,

The second year your mom and I were dating, she got me a beer brewing kit for Christmas. I’d been talking incessantly about crafting my own delicious IPAs, and had big dreams of becoming a decedent home brewer. But once I had the equipment, I always found myself shy of just an ingredient or two, and I never brewed a single batch. When daydreaming about brewing, I never considered the time commitment, or countless steps required to actual master the process.

One time I got into the idea of pickling, after tasting some unbelievably-delicious pickles a friend of mine made. I got the recipe, got really excited, and then proceeded to never follow through on making my own. After all, store bought pickles are pretty good, and offer a much quicker turn-around time.

I got really into gardening for awhile, too. I killed all the grass in our front yard, and planted as many plants as I could, impatient to let nature take it’s course and allow the plants to fill in the yard on their own. The result, a cramped-floral hodgepodge.

I rearranged, and transplanted, several times, each time adding more ground-cover and plants that loved to spread. It was beautiful, in it’s own way, but soon I became tired with the watering, the sprawl, and the chaos I had created.

The same holds true ever summer, for our vegetable garden. I plant with grand visions of a picture-perfect garden bed, but I end up with arugula that won’t sprout, spinach that too quickly goes to seed, slugs, and more tomatoes than I could ever possibly eat in a lifetime.

When it came to having children, I was always knew I wanted kids, without understanding what that meant. You see, it’s impossible to have kids, without making yourself into a parent. And like those other roles in my life: brewer, gardener, pickler… the big picture looks brilliant, but I never stopped to consider the small details. Thankfully, unlike these other areas of interest in my life, being a dad is one I don’t tire of.

Sure, there are the times that I get so frustrated that you, Arlo, insists on walking by your sister so you can step on her, and then try to play it off like an accident… And Elliott, I wish you didn’t seem so bent on ripping off my ear, and then giggle like crazy when I call out in pain… Of course I wish you would both just sit down at the dinner table and eat with us, instead of spreading food across the table and floor, and screaming for your mom attention… But I wouldn’t trade these times for all of the best brewed beer, perfect pickles, and gorgeous garden space the world has to offer.

To me, there is no better hobby than hanging out with the two of you. I love you both so much, and I can’t wait to dive into, abandon, and possibly fall in love with each and every hobby you both want to explore (or at least as many as we can, without driving your mom nuts. Luckily for all of us, she’s very patient!).

Love,
Dad

7-7-15 (Big-Papa’s 67th Birthday)

Roller Coaster

5 Jun

Hey kids,

Life has been crazy busy, since I last wrote; filled with ups and downs, temper tantrums and sweet gestures… You’re both changing so quickly it’s hard to even track the changes on a day-to-day basis.

Arlo, it seems like you’re taking your terrible two’s in strides. One day you’ll tell me you don’t like me, and moments later you’ll tell me I’m your best friend. The same goes for your sister. One morning you don’t want her around, and the next you’re concerned how much you’ll miss her when you head to big kid school and Elliott heads to Grandma and Grandpa’s.

You also went through a stage of trying to master the eye rake wrestling move anytime we picked you up for a time out. I’m glad we’re over that stage, you’ve been much calmer lately, but Elliott, you’ve unknowingly chosen to carry on the tradition, as you explore our faces with your little razor-sharp nails.

More often than not, Arlo, your terrible twos have been more irrational, than terrible. Often Elliott and I would come to grab you from your crib in the morning, only to have you break down into a screaming fit because I’d accidentally knocked over an imaginary sandcastle you’d built on your blanket. 

Both of your imaginations have grown tremendously in the last few months. Elliott, you are convinced you can walk, even though you’re only nine months old, and haven’t even mastered crawling. The best way I can describe it, is, you’re like someone in physically therapy who is relearning to walk; but you’re completely impatient with where you are in the process, and you just want to return back to your normal, brisk, pace of walking. Except you’ve never walked!

You’re just starting to crawl more, and could’ve been crawling around for months, but instead of using your hands and knees to take you from point A to point B, you spend all of your time trying to stand up, or screaming for us to help you stand up and walk. It seems like 90 percent of the time you spend on the floor, you’re in the downward dog position, trying desperately to shift all of your weight onto your tiny feet.

Setting you down on your butt is an impossible task. When I lower you to the ground you frantically fight for position to make sure your feet hit first. I try to reposition you to get you seated, but your legs lock firmly in place and you squawk until I hold your arms and help you walk around the room.

Arlo, you’ve begun playing a lot of make believe. One day we picked you up from daycare to find your face sticky and covered in dirt. Turns out you covered your face with a glue stick in order to give yourself “A beard like Daddy.”

You’ll play doctor and sit on our chest, pulling our eyelids down to expose our eyeballs, saying, “Ooh, you’re eyes are red, you’re sick.” The other day you told your mom she was sick, and asked her if she needed some kisses. You’re very stingy with kisses these days, so she immediately said, “YES! I do!” To which you responded, “Ok, let me go get my dog.” You jumped off the bed, grabbed Dexter by the collar, steered him to the edge of the bed, and then commanded him to give your mother kisses, without any hint of humor.

We’ve also been playing a lot of trapping, a game you invented. The game essentially teams you up with either me or mommy, and then the other person is trapped with your blanket. Once they’re trapped, you shout, “Let’s POKE ’em!” Or you just want to “Jimmy Snuka” us. This used to consist of you diving onto our bellies, but has evolved into you splashing down onto us with your knees or elbows, as you giggle uncontrollably. 

You’ve both taken to talking to yourself. It’s not uncommon to walk into a room and find either one of you chattering away as if you were discussing politics on the world’s stage. Arlo, you’re usually pretending you’re a scuba diver, talking to fish. Elliott, at this point, we don’t really know what you’re saying, but you have become more and more vocal over the last few months.

The first thing you ever said, sounded like you were trying to call your brother, “ARE-WOO.” You said it over and over for a few days, before moving on to “Mamamamama” and “Dadadadada.” You’ve also started waving, selectively giving high fives, and your smile is brighter than ever. 

For awhile, anytime you saw our cat, you’d scream out loud and flail your arms enthusiastically. Arlo, you also declared your devotion to Sedona, firmly labeling yourself as a cat person. You began chasing the kitty all over the house, using brooms to get her our from under the couch, until you could corner her somewhere. Once you got her, you’d carry her around the house, then climb on the couch to pet her and tell her what a good cat she was.

A few weeks ago, we noticed how easy it was for you to catch her. It became clear to us kitty’s 16-years of life had caught up with her. She was taken in by Mama when she was just born, and lived through your mom getting married, bringing home a dog, and then adding two kids who loved to pet and pull her fur.

In the morning, we had you say goodbye to her, Arlo. You crouched down next to her and pet her gently, saying is a super sweet voice, “Goodbye kitty, I’m sorry you’re sick.”

That night you asked where she was.

“She’s gone,” I replied.

“But where IS she?” You asked.

“She’s dead, baby.” Mom answered.

“But where IS she?” You asked again.

“No one really knows,” I responded. “But she was a good kitty, and we’ll miss her.”
“Yeah,” you said.

A few days later you asked your mom more questions about where she was. Apparently you were looking for more of a physically location, rather than a discussion about where you go when you die. That night you asked me where she was.

“I told you baby, she’s in the ground somewhere.” Your mom said.

“Let’s go dig her up.” You replied, as serious as you’ve ever been.

Life goes on, and we go with it; twisting, turning, watching things speed up and slowdown, changing as we go, together, as a family.

I love you both more than anything.

Love you,
Dad

6-5-15

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