2 ½ Years of Cuteness

Hard to believe my baby girl is already halfway through her 3rd year of life. Seems like just yesterday she was smiling all the time, being cute as hell. Oh wait, that hasn’t changed. Well, the incessant smiling is replaced by typical toddler whining and crying semi-often, but otherwise she’s still a bundle of joy.

The biggest complaint we have is her eating…or lack thereof. She eats about 8 things: yogurt, applesauce, bananas, strawberries, peanut butter, cereal bars, French fries, Cheerios, apples, and pretzels/goldfish/chips. Ok that’s 10 things. But that’s it. She used to eat grapes and pineapple, but refuses now. She’ll ask for toast or a bagel, and then promptly eat the butter/cream cheese off of it and announce she’s done. It’s incredibly frustrating – she won’t even try anything else like pasta or chicken or carrots…things her brother would eat at that age (and he’s still very picky). But according to her doctor, she’s very healthy, so I guess we can’t complain from a medical standpoint. I just wish she’d at least attempt to try something else.

Her vocabulary is coming along – she talks in sentences now, and usually we can figure out what she’s saying, even if she has difficulty with several words. And what she does say is usually adorable and/or hysterical. “I wanna see your boobies!” she says to her mommy a lot lately. Then she’ll point at her nipples and say “I have boobies too!” If she hears us getting upset with Damian, she might say, “Damian, go to your room!” But when she’s upset, she resorts to crying and won’t use her words…but that will come with age. She can count to 10 and sing the ABC's, both of which are insanely adorable (yet when I do it, nobody acknowledges it).

She’s been dancing around the house and her school a lot lately – she loves, LOVES putting on ballerina-princess-y skirts and twirling around, singing or just going “La la la!” I think we’ll need to enroll her in ballet classes soon, if she’s still interested. She also enjoys tumbling, so gymnastics may be in the future as well. She’s not really into swimming yet, but her class at school will start lessons at the end of the month, so hopefully she’ll follow the crowd and dive right in.

But the best moments involve her interaction with her brother. It just melts our hearts when they see each other first thing in the morning, or after they get home from school, and cuddle together…she wraps her arms around his neck and they press their faces together…no matter how shitty a mood I’m in, seeing them loving each other is the instant cure-all. She apes everything her brother does (which often is not a good thing, like jumping off furniture or swinging dangerous objects around). But when she joins him in a coloring session, or even if they’re just watching TV together on the couch, it gives me such a burst of parental pride that I momentarily – VERY momentarily – think about having another kid (which is impossible, so don’t read anything into that). And it’s still awesome to listen to him read her a bedtime story.

So aside from the whiny moods and terrible eating habits, my little girl still brings me great amounts of joy and pride. She shouts in delight when I come home from work or pick her up at school: “Daddy, daddy!” She loves climbing on me and poking me and asking what various parts of my body are, all with that ridiculously cute smile on her face. I can’t get enough of her, and I look forward to the several years ahead until she gets sick of my embarrassing behavior.

  • Current Music
    Journey, "Girl Can't Help It"

The Dude is...6!?!?!?

For over half a decade, I have been the proud owner of a boy…a fun, hilarious, incredibly smart, emotional, exasperating little boy, desperately trying to make sense of the world. That boy is 6 years old today, and as his time in kindergarten winds down, I find myself in complete awe of him.

Mostly that’s a good thing. His constant questioning of everything he’s told, his incessant challenging of what his parents tell him certainly gets frustrating after a while. We find ourselves endlessly telling him to just believe what we say, to not argue with us about what we tell him about the world. But part of me is extremely happy that he questions; his need to know the who, what, when, where, how, and why about everything reflects what I think is his math-brain mentality. He has to know how things work; he’d rather study the inner workings of an escalator for 45 minutes than create art. Anything automated instantly grabs his attention; anything that requires some form of engineering to work fascinates him. Not that he doesn’t enjoy art or reading, but he definitely favors his left-brain over the right. He picked up math much quicker than writing. He can add and subtract in his head faster than he can write his name. He does read far above average – FAR above – but he tends to write really quickly instead of focusing on doing it properly, as though it’s not important enough to bother with. But he did recently test above average for letter recognition, and off the charts for letter names and sounds. His teacher has told us more than once that he is by far the academic superior of all his classmates. And we are lucky to have her as his teacher, as she recognizes his advanced intellect and makes sure he’s not held back by the rest of the class.

He has really grown into an amazing big brother. It took a while to adjust – and there are still some issues now and then with not having our constant attention – but for the most part, he shows incredible love and compassion for his little sister. He comforts her when she’s upset (mainly by mimicking what he’s heard us say to her, but still), he plays with her, he reads a book to her at bedtime (the most insanely cute thing you’ll ever see), and while she was sick on a recent trip, he was the one who got her to fall asleep while snuggling her in bed. I’ve told him how proud I am of his big-brotherness, and that while I know as they get older they will fight more and annoy each other, they are forming a bond now that will always be there, and they will always need each other. Seeing them interact is what makes my parental heart swell the most.

His ability to master new technology is amazing. He can figure out a new computer game faster than I can read the directions. We have thus far prevented him from playing mindless games – he thankfully loves the types of games where he has to figure things out in order to advance to the next level, whether it’s building a vehicle correctly, solving a sequence, etc; again, it’s that left-brain mentality. We try to limit his screen time as much as possible, but at least when he does have it, it’s challenging his mind.

His thirst for knowledge and independence definitely clashes with our rules and restrictions at times, usually on a daily basis. He can be very sensitive, and sometimes making a joke at the wrong time sends him into an angry fit. But time-outs calm him down, and usually his behavior is much better afterward. He really only acts out when we’re at home – in public, he’s generally very well behaved and fun. In his social groups, he tends to take on the role of “leader,” assigning tasks to his friends, insisting the project follows his guidelines. That occasionally produces some backlash from his friends, and he’s learning to deal with that, but he definitely likes being in charge.

All of these personality traits fit perfectly with what he wants to be when he grows up – a pilot (which has not changed in at least 2 years). Specifically, a pilot for Southwest Airlines (because that’s the only airline he’s ever known). But the leadership traits, the left-brain mentality, solving problems…they seem to be a big part of a pilot’s job description. How long this ambition will last, who can say? But he’s on the right path!

On our recent trip to Austin, TX for a wedding, he and I spent the entire rehearsal dinner hanging out with each other, and it was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had with him. We talked, we played silly games together, we joked about lots of things…we were like good friends. It was a very special evening for me, and I will do my best to remember the joy of it the next time I’m yelling at him for not listening and/or throwing breakable objects and/or talking back and/or doing one of a hundred things he knows he’s not supposed to do. Because I am in awe of my little boy, who is not little any more. I expect nothing but greatness from him, and I know he will continue to make me proud. Happy 6th, my little buddy. I love you the universe and back again.


22 Hours in Vegas

On December 28th, 2012, the wife and I abandoned our children while vacationing in southern California (ok, we left them with their grandparents), rented a car, and drove to Las Vegas. It was the first time we had been there together in over 7 years (6 ½ years since I’d been there at all), and was the first time in 18 months that we would have a night away from the kids. I have made no secret about my love for Las Vegas, or my depression at not having been there for so long. A few years ago I even had a vivid dream about Sin City, certainly brought on by the aching of my heart for that fabulous town. But on the 28th, my dreams came true and Sin City lived up to its name in marvelous fashion.

Ok, most of what happened was not sinful. But it was deliciously wonderful in so many ways. We arrived at the Mandalay Bay hotel at 1:30pm, and headed straight for lunch at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar. If you’re looking for a really good (albeit overpriced) burger, it’s a good place. Terrible fries, great alcoholic milkshakes, but again, overpriced…but it’s Vegas; overpriced is part of the experience. It almost felt good to pay $20 for that burger. A woman sitting next to us at the bar (no tables available at 1:45pm on a Friday) reaffirmed our location by asking for a plastic cup so she could take her beer “to go.” Man I love Vegas.

We then checked into our spa suite room (I got a good deal online) – nice big bed, couch, big bathroom with dual sinks, and a Jacuzzi bathtub. We had a view of the Luxor next door – it felt so good to be there. I made some phone calls to plan our evening, and then opted to try and nap in anticipation of the late night ahead of us. Meanwhile, my bride checked out the hotel spa and relaxed within.

Around 6:30pm we got ourselves looking fabulous (ok, hot) and decided to wander the hotel, looking for a place to get a drink. Soon we were approached by a man in a suit, asking us if we had been invited to the House of Blues Foundation Room at the top of the hotel. Now I’ve been to Vegas quite a few times, and never – ever – have I been invited to do anything…and certainly not for free. But it was some free membership preview or something they were offering, so we gladly accepted the offer and headed to a private elevator, which brought us to floor 60-something. It was a beautiful room, decorated with Asian flare – Buddha statues, oriental rugs, soft lighting, giant couches, and a fireplace. The female staff was dressed in very tight corsets and revealing legwear. A large balcony offered a view straight down the Las Vegas strip (but it was too cold outside to linger). We grabbed our buy-one, get-one drinks and took a seat, both of us deliriously giddy. We chatted with 3 middle-aged women from Ottawa on vacation from their families – they were fun, telling us they were on their way to see the male review “Thunder from Down Under.” Vegas, baby…Vegas.

After a while we felt a bit peckish, so we headed back downstairs to peruse the multitude of food offerings throughout the hotel. We weren’t looking for a big dinner, just some appetizers and such. We settled on Wolfgang Puck’s Lupo, and were seated on their patio (only in Vegas can you be seated indoors on a patio), which allowed for great people-watching while we dined. Our meal might have been better had our server not been a pissy little jerk, but again, just being there made us ecstatic. Plus we got to see some live entertainment! We heard shouting nearby, and two undercover cops were wrestling a hoodlum to the ground, one of them flashing his badge yelling, “Metro PD!” Then another thug bolted passed us, heading toward the parking garage, with three more cops on his tail, yelling for him to stop. Tourists were taking pictures of the cops handcuffing the other guy. Man I love Vegas.

After our light dinner we sought out more libations, and found our way to one of the casino lounges, where a Sinatra-ish singer was just getting started. We had a drink, listened to a song, and watched drunk people dance. But then it was time to go.

Suffice to say that the 10:15pm to 2:30am time frame falls strictly under the “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” caveat. What I can tell you is that for me…best night EVER.

At about 2:30am we relaxed in our bathroom whirlpool tub, and finally went to bed at 3. Should we have used the opportunity away from the kids to catch up on sleep? If we were in any other city, yes. But not in Vegas, no way. And no regrets, either.

The next morning, we checked out of our room and headed to brunch at the Border Grill. In true Vegas style, we sat outside, overlooking Mandalay’s fake beach, complete with palm trees, swaying in the 45-degree cold. But heaters were abundant, so it was quite comfortable as we enjoyed the fresh fruit and guava empanadas which came with brunch. It was one of the best meals we’d had in a while, and arguably the best brunch ever. Small plates cooked to order, all Latin cuisine-themed, and all so very delicious. If you get nothing else, get the Peruvian shrimp and grits…good god, you can die happy after eating that. It was the perfect way to end our 22-hour sojourn in my favorite city in the world.

The drive back to L.A. was terrible – lots of traffic (in the desert, not in L.A., ironically), with some rain. But it could not penetrate the wall of immense joy and satisfaction in which we were encased. Thank you, Las Vegas. You are truly my “friend with benefits.” I hope it’s not another 7 years before we do it again.

  • Current Music
    Elvis, "Viva Las Vegas"

And Then She Was 2

So I realize I’ve completely neglected what once was a regular blogging occurrence when my children turned various age milestones. I even posted on the Dude’s development monthly! But today my lovely Lucy is 2, and I think it warrants an emergence from the seemingly endless hiatus of blogging.

How my little baby girl got to be 2 so fast is beyond me. I guess when there’s a lightning bolt of a big brother zapping around the house, time tends to fly by faster. Most interesting is that I cannot recall when the Dude reached the milestones that Lucy has (or hasn’t yet) reached. I do remember that his vocabulary exploded around 18 months, whereas Lucy’s is just starting to explode now. In the past month or so, she has really begun talking in sentences and using more words, and she’s repeating words back to us, which is a very new thing. But finally…FINALLY…she has been saying her brother’s name! She said mommy and daddy months ago, and even started calling Cali by name a few weeks or a month ago. But just last week she has been saying “May-meen” when referring to Damian. It’s so cute.

Her curiosity about everything in the world is skyrocketing. She points at anything she doesn’t recognize or know the name of and says, “This?” (That’s her way of saying, “What the fuck is that?”) And then after we tell her what it is, no matter what it is, she asks, “Mine?” It’s just like the seagulls in Finding Nemo. Even this morning, after sneaking into the bathroom as I was getting out of the shower, she pointed to my…er…manhood, and said, “This?” I informed her of what it was, and then predictably she said, “Mine?” Hilarious. I told her no, it wasn’t even mine.

She’s otherwise developing fairly normally. She loves day care – they haven’t really started a preschool curriculum yet, so we’re trying to teach her some colors and shapes at home (but she’ll pick that up much more at school). The one color she knows for sure is pink. It’s hard to tell how much of a “girly-girl” she will be, but she does like pink a lot, and likes her toy tea pot, but she also loves the Dude’s cars and trains, so we’ll see. She’s starting to sit on the potty at school, and sometimes asks to do so at home (she even peed once!), but that will get more focused in the next year. She usually sleeps through most of the night, from 8 to somewhere between 5 and 6. She always takes a good nap at school, but like her brother, naps at home are very infrequent. Occasionally she’ll blast out a 3-hour nap at home, but usually it’s 1-2 hours or not at all…more not at all. I don’t understand why our children hate sleeping so much. Her eating habits are frustrating as well. We expect pickiness, but when she refuses to eat things we know she loves, it’s tough…and she doesn’t love very much. She will always eat yogurt, and she’ll eat well at school (of course). She loves pineapple, apples, grapes, watermelon, strawberries, peanut butter, Goldfish, cheese sticks, juice, and milk. But trying to get her to eat any of that on a given night is difficult to say the least. She looks healthy enough though, so we’ll see what the doctor says tomorrow at her checkup.

Lucy has always been a very happy girl…she was always smiling as a baby, always in a good mood, and for the most part that’s still true, although the typical toddler issues like hitting, not sharing, etc. are coming into play much more rapidly now. She likes to copy whatever the Dude does, and unfortunately he’s often not the best role model (jumping on furniture, not sharing, etc.). But she is very affectionate, loves to give hugs (and kisses to a lesser extent), and that smile is just heart-melting. And when I drop her off at school and she runs off, looks back, smiles and says, “Bye daddy!” I just want to bask in the glory of fatherhood. Until she throws her dinner on the floor again and wakes up at 4:30am.

I saw a documentary on Showtime last week about female sexuality – it focused on a porn star/stripper who was turning 40 and starting a family, a woman who wanted (and then had) a labiaectomy, and a couple of 13-year old friends. Most disturbing and weird was the segment about the teen girls, and how their views about sex are influenced, how they dress, Facebook, etc. I cannot even think about how I’m going to deal with that when my baby girl is that age (or earlier). I always joke that I’m not letting her date until she’s 25, but that may be impractical. So right now I will try and treasure the moments before she stops wanting to hold my hand, wants to text and Facebook with boys (or girls), and starts dressing like a woman instead of a little girl. She’ll always be my angel, even when she starts acting devilish. I just hope that doesn’t happen too fast. Happy birthday, my sweet baby girl.

  • Current Music
    Oingo Boingo, "Little Girls"

5 Years of Fatherhood

No April Foolin’ – it was 5 years ago today that our lives changed beyond anything we could have imagined, due to the birth of a boy known infamously around the world as “The Dude.” Damian Lucas Straus was born at 3:47pm on April 1st, 2007. It was Palm Sunday, and it was opening day for that year’s baseball season. And here we are, 5 years later, with one very funny, entertaining, frustrating, exasperating, kind, caring, lovable, insane little boy.

The past year has definitely been a roller coaster ride with this kid. The more he learns and the more independent he gets, the wider the spectrum of his emotions run. He can go from super happy and polite to a screaming demon with just one poorly-timed word or some other innocuous action on our part. It’s like bi-polar disorder crammed into a 5-year-old brain – but at this age, it’s just called “being 5.” His energy level is seemingly inexhaustible. He plays soccer on Sundays, dance club on Mondays, and he will be starting tee-ball at the end of the month. He loves riding his bike to school, and he can just run and run and run for hours. His biggest passion is still airplanes, and his vision of becoming a pilot one day remains unchanged. His is also fascinated with technology, and can figure it out faster than any adult. His grandpa handed him an iPad yesterday (not to keep), and within seconds he was playing games and looking at apps without any guidance.

His relationship with his little sister continues to evolve. There is definitely a higher level of jealousy now than earlier – with each new milestone and the commencing of walking, more attention is being paid to baby Lucy, and unfortunately we seem to be paying more negative attention to the Dude than usual. At some point his logic and reasoning functions have to kick in – right now he inexplicably demonstrates poor behavior knowing full well what the consequences will be, but still gets extremely upset when we discipline him for that behavior. We are trying very hard to not lose our patience, but he really makes it difficult for us. Most of the poor choices he makes are while at home – usually when we are out somewhere, he behaves very well. He’s also usually better when playing at home with friends instead of just us. And he’s always perfect when a babysitter is present. He has no behavior issues at school whatsoever, so it’s something about being home with just his family that makes him lose his mind (not that I can’t relate).

Speaking of school – his pre-K class is now less than 3 months from graduation, and it couldn’t be going better. He’s made good friends, he learns so much – he sang this long song about Martin Luther King the other day that made us just beam with pride. His teachers have given us progress reports, and they say he is by far the most academically advanced kid in the class. Naturally we chalk that up to his genes. We love that his school is only a few blocks away, and he’ll be there for the next 6 years (providing we don’t leave the neighborhood, which we don’t plan on). That means that Lucy will start pre-K there when he’s in 3rd grade, so they’ll have a few years together in the same school, which we are looking forward to.

If someone had traveled back in time 5 years ago and showed me what the next 5 years with my little boy would look like, I wouldn’t change a thing. There have been many trying times with him for sure, but the fun times have far outweighed the bad. It’s so nice to have someone laugh hysterically at my fart jokes, to snuggle up and watch Charlie Brown Christmas or Toy Story, to gaze with awe at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling, to sing and dance to Phish, moe., the Beatles, Harry Belafonte, and even a song by Finnish death-metal band Korpiklaani, and to soon become a big Star Wars geek too (hopefully). I can’t wait to start teaching him how to play tee-ball, and I really enjoy playing soccer with him. Plus he’s starting to ask more questions about his genitalia, and I’m happy to impart my knowledge unto him about such delicate matters…because he’s my boy, and I’m his daddy, and that’s what we’re supposed to do. And as I will watch him at his bowling birthday party today bowl a higher score than his mommy, I will grin with satisfaction. He may have his issues, but overall he’s a very intelligent, articulate, affectionate, and fun little dude. 5 years ago I would have been happy if I had known he’d turn out half as good.

Happy 5th year, little buddy. I love you with all my heart. No April Fools.

  • Current Music
    Patsy Cline, "Crazy"

The Dudette: One Year Old!

One year ago today, the number of children in our household literally doubled in size. Good thing we aren’t the Duggars. No, we just went from one to two, but it’s been a crazy, life-changing year nonetheless. First of all, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. The first year of the Dudette’s life went by so much faster than the Dude’s first year; I have no idea where the time went. The reason for the perceived acceleration of time is probably due to the fact that we already had another kid, and keeping both of them constantly entertained certainly makes the time fly by…not a lot of “down time,” to say the least.
Developmentally, she is doing very well. She is still small (or petite) for her age, tipping the scales at 17 pounds. People find it hard to believe she’s as old as she is, based on her size. But she’s a Straus, so whaddya gonna do? She started walking a few steps at a time last month, and each day she is trying a little more, but crawling is still her preferred method of transportation. I expect full walking before year’s end. She is quite a chatterbox, but so far the only real word she says is “Hi,” which she’s been saying for a while, but lately she is saying it as an actual greeting…it’s ridiculously cute. She loves playing with toys and reading books – she will take a book, sit on the floor and turn the pages, chattering away. She is still enthralled by her crazy brother, who entertains her by running around, jumping up and down, and sometimes actually just playing nicely with her.
She loves day care – she will reach for her teacher when we take her in the morning, and she has a great time playing. She has become the most popular baby in the place; all the teachers and administrators say she’s their favorite. Her teacher claims she said the name of one of the other babies in her class, but I’m not sure about that. She will be moving up to the 1-year-old room in January, much to the dismay of her current teachers, but right now she’s by far the oldest in her room, and I think having older kids around will hasten her development.
She’s a pretty good eater, but she seems to prefer food with firmer texture as opposed to soft things like pasta or applesauce, but she eats fairly well. Her sleeping is still infuriatingly inconsistent. She’s usually up once a night; sometimes she’ll go back to sleep quickly, sometimes she’ll be up for a while. It’s impossible to predict. Luckily her brother sleeps through her crying spells.
It took me a while to “get” the father-daughter bonding thing, but for the last 9 months or so, she has me wrapped around her cute little finger and I’m perfectly happy with that. This little angel of a person will cure depression faster than Prozac; her smile cuts through any bad feelings and pierces my heart with a spear of warm light and happiness. (Good god that was sappy and terrible, sorry.) As nice as it is with her as a baby, I can’t wait for her to talk more, to walk more, and to become a little girl. I’m so looking forward to seeing her personality develop, to really be able to interact with her the way I interact with the Dude. They say a person’s personality doesn’t change much after being 6 months old or so, and if that’s the case, then my beautiful little sweetheart of a daughter is going to be the happiest and most fun girl around. She is truly my world; when she reaches for me to pick her up and then she hugs me – I mean she actually hugs me – I am in such a state of bliss that I never want to let go of her.
And I won’t…until she’s 25 or so.
  • Current Music
    The Drifters, "There Goes My Baby"

Skool Daze Update, Semester #4, Vol. 2

Today is the final day of the semester for me, and instead of a final exam, our Spanish class is doing presentations in class. The topic? Anything we want, as long as we cover topics and things we learned during the year. So for my final project, I will be discussing Mexican food ingredients, their history and role in Mexican cooking, and then making salsa Mexicana for the small class. Yeah, this is really out of my comfort zone, eh? Not too shabby! The class has been pretty easy all semester long, but being able to do this for my final project is the icing on the taco, so to speak. I expect to receive an A in the class (my 3rd out of 4 classes, thank you), but it's been really good for me to brush up on my conversational Spanish...not that I have much use for it here, but when we go to CA in a few weeks, I'll be using my cunning linguist skills. Hehehe.
So what's up for next semester? Well, it's an English class called Film: Theory and Practice. So it's a film class for English majors. Score! The topic for the semester is Teen Films. I'm hoping for a healthy dose of the Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but I may be subjected to crap like Twilight and other nonsense. Either way, looks like another A in my future. Stay tuned.
  • Current Music
    Wall of Voodoo, "Mexican Radio"

Why People Believe in God...Maybe

I came across an interesting article today that described a study that tried to determine if there was some inner biological reason why people believe in god. You can read the whole article here, but what it boiled down to was that people who used intuitive reasoning as the basis for their decisions were far more likely to believe in a higher power than those who question their instincts and rationalize their decisions. This makes sense, and to me it's not a surprising result of the study, but there was one part that stood out to me, quoted below:

"Shenhav and his colleagues investigated that question in a series of studies. In the first, 882 American adults answered online surveys about their belief in God. Next, the participants took a three-question math test with questions such as, 'A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?'
The intuitive answer to that question is 10 cents, since most people's first impulse is to knock $1 off the total. But people who use 'reflective' reasoning to question their first impulse are more likely to get the correct answer: 5 cents.
Sure enough, people who went with their intuition on the math test were found to be one-and-a-half times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right. The results held even when taking factors such as education and income into account."

Is it me, or is a more simple way of expressing these results that people who used intuition - and therefore are more likely to believe in God - are less intelligent? " times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right." Sounds like getting all wrong answers = not smart = believing in God.
Those of you who know me know whether or not I agree with that simplified statement, but I'm not bringing this up with regard to my own beliefs. I'm curious what you think about the study and my interpretation of the results of that test.

  • Current Music
    Machinehead, "I'm Your God Now"

The Dudette: Quarter #3

Our little girl is 9 months old today - I cannot believe how fast the time is flying by. At this time last year, she was just a little bump in her mom's tummy. Today she is a slightly larger bump - I say that because at her checkup last week, she was still in just the 10th percentile for weight. People have remarked that she looks small for her age...what can I say, she's a Straus. But we are confused because she eats a ton of food...a ton I say. She wolfs down the baby-fied fruits and veggies, crackers, biscuits, etc. And recently she discovered that watermelon is, according to her, the greatest thing ever invented. She will hold a wedge and laugh hysterically as she sucks down the sweet goodness - I've never seen anyone get so happy about a piece of fruit before. 
Developmentally, she's cruising right along. She began crawling pretty much on her 7-month birthday, and she can scooch pretty quickly now, She began pulling herself up about a month ago, and can now slowly maneuver herself around while holding on to things. The other day she stood up, unassisted, for about 3 seconds. She's growing up way too fast. She loves to clap, she giggles incessantly, and she can say "da-da-da" and "ma-ma-ma." She has two bottom teeth that have broken through; her brother didn't get his first tooth until he was over 9 months old. The teething hasn't seem to have bothered her as much as I remember it bothering the Dude...maybe she's just more tolerant of pain. I hope so for her sake.
But the biggest change for her is that last week she started day care. She is going to the same place her brother went, 5 days a week. Her first week went ok - she cried a little at drop-off, she isn't eating from the bottle (but she gets her milk in cereal and just via a spoon), and she's taking short naps, but the teachers say she is pretty content most of the day. They have a million toys and other babies for her to play with, so we know she'll be fine. It's been harder on mommy though - the Dude started day care at 4 1/2 months, so it wasn't quite as hard to let go. But the Dudette has been home for 9 months, so the separation anxiety is affecting both her and her mommy. But they will both settle into a routine and all will be well. Of course.
Her sibling relationships are still great. She continues to be fascinated by everything her brother says and does - she follows him around, and he's been really good about interacting with her, although he has to be reminded to use caution and realize how little she is. And Cali is still so tolerant - the Dudette is getting better about petting instead of grabbing, but she still has a long way to go.
She falls asleep pretty well at night, but gets up anywhere between 2 and 4. Sometimes she goes back to sleep quickly, other times not so much. In fact, if I had written this yesterday, which was my intention, the post would have been clouded by sleep-deprived negativity. But today everyone's more awake and happy.
Speaking of happy, it's utterly remarkable how happy the Dudette is. Her smile is the most beautiful, illuminating, and heartwarming thing I have ever seen. When I get home from work and she turns her head to look at me and her face blossoms into that smile, I feel encased in a cocoon of happiness and love. It's simply amazing. And she is always like that. You've all seen the pictures of her, and in most of them she's smiling; if some of you think that I have to wait a while to get those shots, you're so wrong. That's just how she is almost all the time. Now I don't want to give the impression that she's the most perfect baby and we never get frustrated or anything, but that smile more than makes up for any of the bad stuff.  Way more. As her mommy says, "She's got you, doesn't she?" Oh how right she is. The Dudette will be nursing, her head buried in my wife's chest, and I'll walk into the room and she will detach, lean her head way back and give the widest smile ever imaginable. It should be illegal how adorable she is. I hope this father-daughter lovey dovey crap never ends. If I believed in angels, she would be one.
  • Current Music
    Jimi Hendrix, "Angel"

Skool Daze, Semester #4, Vol. 1

Here we go again. The quest for the English degree continues, and so naturally this semester I will once again NOT be taking an English class. In fact, I won’t be taking a class taught in English at all. I last took a Spanish class 21 years ago, and believe it or not, I’m very excited to be taking another one. It’s a requirement for the English major, despite of my four years of Spanish in high school, but I’m not nearly as upset about it as I was for having to take a computer science class and a math class. I loved Spanish, and living in CA, I was able to speak it conversationally all the time – I worked at a couple of restaurants in Orange County, and so I got to talk to the cooks and the bussers in Spanish quite a bit. Heck, all the street signs and city names are in Spanish, there are Spanish billboards, I loved watching soccer on Spanish television, and you just hear it being spoken all over. But after moving to Upstate NY, my ability to use Spanish has greatly declined. So it was with great zeal that I bounded into the classroom last night to see what the semester will have in store.
And so far, it looks awesome! We will be covering three topics: food, family/parties, and health. We will be learning a lot of words related to those topics, and learning the proper verb conjugations, particularly the preterit and imperfect tenses, which I definitely need to work on. Plus we will be discussing those topics in regard to Latin American culture. The focus is not on grammar, but on communication – practical Spanish, not technical Spanish. Que bueno.
A new concept for me with this class is that a lot of it is done online – all the assignments and two of the exams are all contained in cyberspace. What an age we live in. In class, we will be doing skits and games – yesterday we played Spanish Scrabble, and we broke into groups and came up with a menu for a special event. And we also have to craft a couple of blog posts on different topics, including – get this – a post about food. Yeah. This is so not up my alley at all.
But here’s where my skeptical nature comes into play; I met each of the other classes I’ve taken with hesitation, fear, and general lack of interest. But I fared well in all of them. This one I’m greeting with open arms – I think it will be a fun class. So does that mean I’m going to do poorly? Hopefully not – the professor told us that we would have a lot of fun, because she thinks we won’t learn if we’re not having fun. I can’t disagree with that.
Updates will be forthcoming, I hope. Last fall, I had to drop my class (which was an English class) because I was so busy with work that I had no time to do the readings and write papers. This class looks like it will not require a lot of reading and there are no papers, and hopefully I’ll have a new job soon anyway (oh please please please).
Hasta luego.
  • Current Music
    Rodrigo y Gabriella, "Orion"