Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Wrath

Our drive to Colorado was uneventful as usual. We had a delightful few days finishing preparations for Christmas, and then the awaited day arrived. After a well-timed snow storm, Carver was fortunate enough to have his very first Christmas also be white.

As expected, Carver studied the events curiously, and found the wrapping paper to be the most enjoyable part of the day. Avey was thrilled with her spoils, and Kira and I were delighted at all of the thought and hard work put into her gifts.

All was well with us at Christmas this year. Or so we thought...

My mother had been recovering from a stomach bug when all of my siblings arrived from out-of-town, and my sister was smitten with it on Christmas Day. Unbeknownst to three more of us (including me), the illness was hard at work within us as well. Two of my brothers and I were up later that night, ridding our digestive systems of all they contained, one way or another, and spent the rest of the 26th wondering if there really were any peace on earth.

Even now, we are not quite fully recovered. Luckily, Kira and the children were spared from the agony.

At least I got something now while I'm on vacation, rather than during finals or the car ride.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Priorities

Everyone in our little family has been sick at some point over the last few weeks, some more miserably than others. This has led us to review the principle of germs with our children. Carver still does not grasp the idea, as he continues to slobber over everything. Avey, on the other hand, does pretty well with the idea. For example, a few days ago she wanted to let one of us know how cold her water was. She tried to describe it, but naturally, the best thing to do would be to have us test it for ourselves. Faced with this predicament, Avey came to the most reasonable solution. She said to us, "Mom, I don't want to give you my germs. So here, Daddy, you taste my water."

At least now I know where I stand. I guess if one of us has to go, it should be me. 
We are on our way to Colorado for the Holidays! We wish you all a great break too!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Relief

The semester is finally over! All of my finals are in, and all of my students' finals are graded. This was probably the busiest semester I've had so far. I'm looking forward to this holiday break quite a bit, even though it will be mostly eaten up by other projects. If anybody has any good ideas for a doctoral dissertation, send 'em my way!
Our Christmas shopping is also nearly done. Having kids complicates Christmas in several ways. For example, Avey doesn't really have much of a wishlist this year, but the one thing she wants is a giraffe pillow (giraffes are her favorite animal). We had seen animal-like pillows around, and so figured that couldn't be too difficult to find. I went to Walmart to knock out some shopping, and spent about half of the trip trying to hunt down a giraffe pillow. They had horse pillows, bear pillows, dog pillows, cat pillows, unicorn pillows, even fish pillows, and yet nothing that resembled a giraffe! I gave up and stopped at a Walgreens on the way home to pick up a movie at the outdoor machine before heading home, when I noticed through the windows that there was a whole row of plush, pillow-like animals. I ran inside and found a large, plush giraffe, as close to a pillow as I could have imagined (an internet search from home confirmed that there wasn't much better out there). I made the purchase, and we now excitedly await Christmas morning to see if Avey approves.

Carver is easiest to please. We received several infant toys as hand-me-downs from my auntie, and those will easily stand in for the boy's gifts. He's been growing bored with his other toys that he has thoroughly examined and repeatedly confirmed are not food. Of course, he's content with a small scrap of wrapping paper for a few minutes, so he seems like he'll enjoy just about anything.

We can't wait to head back home for a few days, and hope to see some more of our old friends too.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mobility

It must be a liberating feeling for an infant to realize that he or she has the power of movement. After spending around 9 months dependent upon adults to carry them, a little one must feel empowered to cast off the invisible shackles and explore the environment. Carver has finally reached this milestone. Although he has not quite perfected his method, he moved a confirmed 4 feet distance this morning. We've not yet caught it on video, but we're sure to have many more opportunities as he becomes more ambitious.
When Avey Learned to Crawl
With the excitement of this new development comes the worry we parents have that he will get into something he shouldn't, or go places he oughtn't. If my brothers and I are any indication, we should expect that Carver will attempt to sneak into the neighborhood soon, unbeknownst to his loving parents. 
Carver Follows His Sister's Foot- and Handsteps
It is a difficult balance to find; encouraging his progress while hindering what and where he can get. We keep all of the really cool stuff out of reach, and his sister's room (the promised land for little explorers) will no doubt be locked up tight when she's not around.

Luckily, Carver seems to be easily entertained by just about any two things that he can hit against each other, providing they make a noise of some sort.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bi-Annual Freak Out

Finals week is quickly approaching. In fact, I probably should stop typing this right now so that I can start working on all that I have due. 

One of the interesting things about this semester is that, among all that I have due, I also have to write my students' final. The test-taker has become the test-maker. 

Avey is also cramming for her final: the preschool Christmas program. But she's in her element, memorizing songs. 

Kira is in perpetual finals week, what with her church and family obligations, and running her private practice. Unfortunately for her, those things won't end at Christmas break. I suppose I'll take my three 12-15 page papers. 
Carver has been cramming as well. I told him that infants begin crawling around 9 months, and he realized that he turns 9 months this week. He is so close! He gets on all fours, rocks back and forth, and even puts one hand in front of the other. I've seen him take a step with a leg, but he usually then lays down or sits back down. He may be crawling before I'm done with my finals!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving '12

We had a lovely trip to Colorado! I only wish we could have stayed longer, and that I had all of my schoolwork done before we left. Unfortunately, now I am 5 days behind, 5 pounds heavier, severely sleep-deprived, and homesick. These all seem to go along with Thanksgiving celebrations most years.
"Where's the Food Already?!?"
Thanks to Carver's enthusiasm, we left Colorado at 3:45 this morning. It was nice to have the trip over with earlier than usual, but the lack of sleep took a heavy toll on each of us. Suffice it to say that we are home safe, and we plan on sleeping very well tonight.

I will leave you with one gem from the week, however. Yesterday, one of Avey's uncles announced triumphantly that he had invested in a new external hard drive with a capacity of 3 terabytes. As we basked in the grandeur of technology, I pondered aloud about how many books could be contained within 3 terabytes of memory. We ventured some educated guesses about the libraries of text it could hold, but Avey's response put it all in context; She stated plainly, "Well, I can hold about four [books]." 

Ah, I dare say no amount of computer memory will ever be a match for the wit and humor of a 5-year-old.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Red Shirt

 I thought this would be worthy of documenting...

Yesterday, Avey wore a red shirt throughout the day. She got it pretty filthy, and it happened to be laundry day, so when the time came to get into her pajamas, Kira was anxious to track it down. Avey came out of her room, decked out in her sleepwear, and prepared for the night.
 
The Happiest Boy Alive
One Happy Family
Kira went to retrieve the soiled items and, as usual, quickly found them on the floor in plain view... or so she thought. Avey's pants were there, but the whereabouts of her shirt were unclear. Kira checked the obvious places, but to no avail. She checked the less-obvious places, but all in vain. She got Avey in on the hunt. She recruited me to assist. The shirt was simply nowhere to be found.
We finally gave it up, thinking that Kira had perhaps already put the shirt in with the laundry. Avey went to bed, and the night eventually turned to day. When Avey awoke, we finally discovered where her red shirt had been all that time - under her pajama top.

Mystery solved.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

31 Flavors of Misery

Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I enjoyed, and even looked forward to, my birthdays. Those days ended when I turned 27 or so. Now, any time November comes around I try to run and hide. It's difficult being reminded of one's mortality every year. I am no longer the young nerd I once was. Now I'm an old nerd. And where does an old nerd fit in anymore? I suppose that's why I can't seem to stop attending school. 
At least I have wonderful family and friends around who are sympathetic to my plight. I received wonderful gifts, both material and in service. Carver pulled a little less hair out of my head, Avey gave me a little paper Frankenstein she had made from scratch, Kira worked hard to give me a break from the usual stressors of life, and the rest of my family both near and far lifted my spirits with reminders of the simple pleasures of existence. As birthdays go, this one was relatively low on the trauma scale.

In other news, Carver learned to wave at us, but he doesn't do it quite consistently. He also learned to play peek-a-boo where he will hide under something (the video shows when he was almost there). He seems stuck on what to do next toward crawling.

Avey continues to love preschool, and may be involved in a playground romance. She explicitly denies liking this boy, but she talks about him constantly. She's made leaps and bounds in her reading and writing, and we expect a dissertation on quantum physics in the next few weeks.

And I have one year to recover from this birthday before the next one strikes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Hallows' Eve

Add caption
Halloween seemed to sneak up on us this year. Luckily, we made time to enjoy some of the usual festivities. Avey badly wanted to make her pumpkin resemble the Count Dracula from Hotel Transylvania, so with the help of her great uncle got pretty close:
Avey's Jack-O-Lanter (Count Dracula)
She wanted to be Dracula's wife, from the same movie, but wanted it on such short notice and a small enough budget that we had to improvise a little. She decided on this costume, which I think looks more like a goth girl, but she had a great time pretending.
Avey as "Dracula's Wife"

Bloodthirst
 Carver had a blast at the Trunk-or-Treat. He could feel the energy and sense the sugar close by. He was shouting and squirming with delight, and sent more than a few running in terror.
You'd Think He'd Have Some Meat on His Bones With How He Eats!
 We are now slowly chipping away at Avey's candy stash. Maybe it will be gone by next Halloween.
The Terrible Two

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quantification

Ever since Avey got excited about reading, she's spent much of her time sounding out words she finds. They are usually on food boxes at the table, because that is one area where she has to hold still for more than 2 seconds but is bored enough with food that she needs something to occupy her mind. She noticed  on one of the bags an advertisement for a contest to win "$1,000,000". She pondered the number for a while as we began to talk about it. Her idea of infinite these days is "ten thousand ten thousand," so she asked if the number printed on the bag was what ten thousand ten thousand looks like. I explained that it is called one "million," and then attempted to help her understand how much that is. When it seemed like she was beginning to understand, I asked, "Do you know how many things you could get at the dollar store with 1 million dollars?" Avey's jaw dropped as she visualized the treasures she could accumulate with such a sum. After she did the calculations in her head, she excitedly exclaimed, "Like fifty!"
Double Trouble
Carver sprouted a second tooth this week! He also seems very close to crawling. He sits up just fine, and when something is out-of-reach, he will rock forward and lean as far as he can. Just a couple of days ago he learned to then bring his feet under him, but that's about where he gives up. As you can see in the photo, we've started to comb his hair up. He looks like a real geek with it parted or combed forward, so I tried it up one day and we've never looked back.

We'll have Halloween pictures next week. Happy Scaring!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Haunted

You may recall that Avey has long been fascinated with ghouls, goblins, and ghosts. This year has been no exception. For her birthday just a few weeks ago, she had requested a model haunted house, and now wants little monster figures with which to fill it. She even bought a plastic skeleton with her own money to decorate her room!

As all good parents do, we try to encourage her interests by allowing her opportunities to explore. After all, maybe she's destined to make scary films someday, or write a best-seller about zombies, or fall in love with a swamp creature.

So when we learned of a kid-friendly haunted house at a nearby business, we thought Avey would jump at the opportunity. And jump she did. We planned out our day to end with the haunted house as our finale, and worked to make it happen. With everyone bathed, house clean, and errands run, we ventured to the fun.

We spent some time playing the arcade games until the haunted house opened at 6pm. When the time finally came we waited our turn in front of the tent wherein the haunting took place. Avey stood with anticipation and excitement - that is, until she caught a glimpse of what was inside. She had the tiniest peek of a scary head on a table inside and that is where her interest ended. She changed her mind and did not want to go in. We had already forked over quite a bit of money, were certain that she would enjoy other parts of it, and the party could not enter with her playing anchor, so I offered to carry her through the whole thing to help her feel brave. She finally agreed to that.

From the moment we stepped in, she had her hand pressed firmly over her eyes and asked if it was over with every breath. We encouraged her to take a look at some of the more mundane things, but she refused.

I suppose it's a good thing that she knows her limits. At least she didn't wake in the middle of the night with images of plastic spiders in her head. And at least for our lost money's sake, one of the workers is my student and pleased enough with my course that he gave us a free pile of tokens to use in the arcade.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Negativity

I'm the first to admit that I am an unabashedly proud father. Once I start talking about my kids it can be very difficult to stop. While I do often vent about their difficulties in growing up, I especially look forward to that most joyous of parental pastimes: bragging about what they do well. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, for just such an occasion has presented itself.

Last week, Avey approached her mother with a mathematical dilemma. She wondered about this strange number zero and what was to be done therewith. In brief, Kira told Avey about negative numbers. As are most children when introduced to the concept, Avey was rather resistant to it. After all, how could one have less than zero of something? It's a silly idea (maybe I should write a letter to my student loan lender explaining how silly it is.). After a little coaching and some argument, the numbers began to speak to Avey. She tried out several different problems, and appears to have grasped the principle. Even today while she was eating, she announced to me out of the blue, "Dad, four minus six is negative two." I checked it out on my calculator, and could not argue with her conclusion. 
It would be difficult to overstate how impressed we are with her. I honestly do not believe that I understood negative numbers until I was around age 9 or 10. I think in the future I will collaborate with her on my statistics homework.

In other news, Carver has officially budded his first tooth! The little thing finally poked through his gums after a couple of nights waking up to party at 2am. Needless to say, we are very relieved that he is now sleeping longer, and excited that he is moving to a new stage!

He began baby food a few weeks ago, and was on board from the moment the spoon hit his tongue. Although he had some trouble navigating the mechanics of eating with a spoon, he was clearly intrigued by new tastes. You would think we hadn't fed him since birth - he gulps down the spoonfuls, then in between spoonfuls he lifts his bib to his mouth to slurp up any stray drops. After we've scraped the bowl clean and get up to warm his next course, he wails despondently as if every second his mouth is separated from sweet potatoes, life is draining from his body. I estimate he will plump up quite a bit over the next few months.

More news is in the making...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Decisions

Avey was invited to a birthday party that took place yesterday. It was a costume party, which left her in quite a predicament; she had to make a decision. She quickly turned to her bookshelf, looking through any pictures of ghouls or monsters. She located a Halloween-themed book and turned page by page telling me how she would do her costume. "Daddy, I want to wrap my left arm like a mummy, make my right arm look like Frankenstein, make my left leg furry like a werewolf, make my right leg like a zombie, make my middle look like a skeleton, and paint my face green like a witch. Oh, and have vampire teeth!" I'm sure monsters everywhere appreciate her desire to represent them each, but with only a little time and small budget, her plan was less than practical. 

We told her we could try a scarier costume for Halloween proper, but suggested a costume from her current selection of dress-up stuff. She got excited about being a bride (no surprise there), so quickly gathered the accessories and immediately fell into character. Needless to say, Carver made a helpless stand-in groom. Here you see him, resigned to his fate:
The Happy Couple
I was fortunate to visit Avey at school this week for a special "Doughnuts with Daddy" Day. Yes, they know the way to get dads to show up. We were entertained with a song and presented with hand-decorated picture frames. It was a lovely break from the normal routine, and enjoyable to have her as a tour guide to the classroom. 

We hope all is well with you! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stress

Early in the week a classmate handed me a stress ball - a ball that you squeeze to relieve stress. It had a little face on it, so I thought Avey might enjoy it. I gave it to her when I got home and explained its purpose. Avey's face lit up as she took it from my hand and began to squeeze. She exclaimed, "This [stress ball] will be perfect for me pretending to be a mom - like I'm stressed!"
Kira tries not to be so transparent, but I guess it leaks out sometimes. Perhaps more telling of our family dynamics is that Avey then proceeded to chuck the stress ball at me from across the room - apparently a preferred method for her to relieve stress.
Avey with Her Teacher, Ms. Melissa
Avey had the best day of her life this week too. No, I'm not referring to her birthday celebration - I'm talking about when the Border Patrol came to her preschool and gave a presentation with a robot! It was also the day she shared cupcakes with her classmates, but in describing the course of her day, the robot got nearly all of the attention, while the cupcakes got merely a word or two.
"To: Sis, From: Carver"
Avey was thrilled with all of her presents and cards. The theme of the day was Halloween; she requested several presents surrounding scary things, and requested to see the movie Hotel Transylvania with a few friends. She spent most of the afternoon building a foam haunted house Kira had bought in a kit.
Avey's Rainbow Cake Design
She wasn't all spooks and fright though. She requested a "rainbow" cake this year, and insisted that she help decorate. She's been slowly leaning away from pure green as her favorite color, and more toward "rainbow colors, turquoise, and pink". She still loves green, hence the large "5" on her cake, but she and green seem to have agreed to see other people for the time being.

It was a successful birthday, thanks to all the friends and family who helped to make it so. Avey is strutting around in her new dress from her Nana, has been reading books from her great auntie, has worked tirelessly on craft items from Grandma and Papa, loves the movie from her aunt and uncles, and so much more from everyone else. We only wish we could be with everyone to celebrate, but perhaps with the coming holiday season we will. 

Always more to come...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Aging

Again, I am faced with the bittersweet time of year when I must acknowledge that my children are getting older. Avey's birthday is this week. I think perhaps I am less depressed about losing her 4-year-old self than I was about her 3-year-old self. This was a rather tempestuous age. She somehow figured out that she does not, in fact, have to do everything we ask of her. And we realized somewhere among all of the potty training, socializing, basically teaching herself to read, and her love of preschool that we are not the beginning and the end and everything in between. We are a very important part of the framework of her life, but no longer are we as present in all aspects of her life. She is slowly growing more independent with each year. 

I describe the process as "bittersweet" because, while it is difficult in some ways to see her grow, it also has its joys. It's always a joy to gain some insight into how she views the world. For example, this week Avey and I were discussing health and sickness, or something along those lines, when she looked at me, sighed, and said, "I don't want you to die until I don't care about you anymore." 
A few days before that, she was negotiating a dessert with Kira. Kira had set a criterion for Avey to meet in order to earn the treat after dinner. Avey didn't quite make it, and was naturally upset when she learned she had not earned the treat. She argued with Kira until it became clear that Avey had misunderstood the rules. Kira decided that she could offer a compromise. Avey wanted something big, Kira insisted it be small. Kira made her final offer - a chocolate chip - to which Avey tried to counter with her final offer: "Okay, how about this? One chocolate chip and the top of another chocolate chip." We both thought it was so funny, she got her 1.5 chocolate chips. 
Bath Time
And so, even though it is difficult to watch the years slip by, at least it is still endlessly entertaining to watch them get older. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bravery

Avey prides herself in being "brave of scary things". This sometimes comes to an interesting conflict with her love of everything. Conquering fear of something, although in the same direction, is not exactly loving something - at least not immediately. For example, Avey found a snail shell stuck on the wall near her great grandmother's front door. She instinctively fell in love with the snail and asked if she could keep it. I saw no harm in it (except maybe for the snail), so we brought it along. She decided to name it Slimy, and set it on a little shelf in my dashboard, directly in front of her car seat so that she could keep an eye on it. I drove on, paying attention to traffic, when I was surprised by the shrieks of panic from Avey's side of the car. I looked over, and my daughter was screaming bloody murder. She was absolutely terrified. I quickly deduced the cause of her horror when I saw something like this staring at her from the dashboard:

One of Slimy's Relatives
Slimy had come out of his shell to see what was going on. I have never seen my daughter so shaken. If she could have gotten loose of her seat belt, I'm sure she would have jumped out of the moving vehicle to take her chances with the pavement and moving traffic. 

I tried reassuring her that Slimy could not hurt her, and that it would probably take a snail a whole day to even get to her. My attempts to comfort were like casting seed on concrete. The only solution I could see was to pull over and give Slimy a new place to live before we got home. I suggested such to Avey, who I thought would surely jump at the chance to be rid of her new found tormentor. To my surprise, she hesitated. She told me how she still wanted to keep the snail, even though she was scared of it. She explained that if we could just get it into her bug jar at home, she would endure his existence. We pressed forward, and safely contained Slimy in its prison, where it's been ever since. Avey's certainly less paralyzed by fear now that it's in the jar, although she still checks it out from across the room.
Partners in Crime
Avey also had a shot earlier this week, and understandably suffered some trepidation about it. After bearing it successfully, she told me about how there were two kinds of brave; the first is where one has no fear of the stimulus, and the other is where one is afraid, but does what must be done anyway. How right she is.

When I got her to dance class, however, some of the others noticed her bandage and asked about her shot. She explained the situation to them less eloquently, saying, "I was the scared kind of brave."

At least she has great insight.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back to School

Lots going on this week. Firstly, Avey began pre-school this week, and absolutely loves it! When Kira went to pick her up on the first day, Avey didn't want to leave. Just yesterday she asked when she gets to go back because "it's been forever since [she] went!" She counts the days in between, and would probably sleep at school if we'd let her. 
Carver's Rocker Look
Carver has been sitting up all on his own, and drooling like he's got a fire hose on full blast inside of his mouth. Seriously, I had no idea the human body is capable of producing that amount of saliva, especially a body his size. I think if we were to sit him down outside for about an hour, all of Texas would be free of this drought problem.
Avey Pretending to be Squidward
I have been beyond swamped with everything I've got going on. I'm glad I wasn't this busy the semester Carver was born, or I might not have noticed he was even around! Labor Day was a welcome break from the routine. We spent it grabbing naps where we could, taking a failed trip to the mall (their fountain Avey planned to splash in has not been working for a while now), eating at a fast-food place, and most importantly, not going to campus!
Sitting Up
Kira is now officially off the hook as RS secretary! She begins teaching her class today, and is surprised at how excited she is. She's been putting in overtime with her work, but must be used to that because of her other two clients (Avey and Carver).

Avey's birthday is swiftly approaching, as she constantly reminds us. We wish we could be back home to celebrate!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Discernment

We've found something strange happening over the last several weeks in our home. Kira and I often find scraps of paper lying around with odd sequences of letters and numbers, as if encoding some secret message. For example, the other day we discovered this sequence on the computer screen:

"Mi momouz neam iz kira le rix shez goT u fon nobr 2". 

After detailed analysis, we realized this was the first line of a song we've taught Avey, our daughter, to help her learn Kira's phone number in case of emergency: 

"My momma's name is Kira Lee Ricks - she's got a phone number too..."

It's now clear who has been leaving these notes. They appear to be some sort of primitive attempt at communication!

We're very impressed with her progress so far. She's known her letters for some time, and put some effort into reading, but I've not heard of children teaching themselves to write before really reading! I suppose the next logical step is to have her copy the complete works of Shakespeare. That should encourage her and not confuse her in any way, right?

We met her pre-K teacher this week, and toured her classroom. The teacher seems great, and her classmates were polite. She is so excited to start school, she can hardly stand it! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sensation and Perception

In a truly bizarre twist of events this week, we experienced a meteorological phenomenon with which we have become increasingly unfamiliar. If memory serves, it is known in the outside world as "precipitation", or more commonly, "rain". After running about in a panic shouting "The sky is falling!", I calmed down and recalled that this happens with some normalcy in other sections of the globe. Although Avey had just retired to her bedroom, we thought that such a rare occasion deserved her attention. Ergo, we invited her to venture into the "rain". 
When she returned to us, quite satiated (and saturated to boot), she wanted to tell us all about her exploits. She said, with no hidden drama, "You guys will not believe your eyes when you hear this..."
And she was right. Our occipital lobes were unwilling to entertain the stories she was feeding to our respective auditory cortices. In fact, they did not perceive a word she spoke!
In any case, it made for an enjoyable few moments out of the ordinary. Avey was entertained, as were we. Carver, on the other hand, took little notice of the hilarity. More moisture escapes his mouth in one day than all of West Texas's parched soil collects in one year.

In other news, Kira was released from her calling as the RS secretary today, much to her relief. I start yet another semester of school tomorrow, Avey begins pre-k in another week, and Carver has two tiny white buddings of teeth creeping toward the surface of his gums. And the world just keeps on spinning...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Best Buds

As most parents, we were initially worried about how Avey and Carver would get along with each other. I think they were too. We are glad to see that, at least right now, they seem to get along just fine.
They have a wonderful time with each other so far. Avey embraces her role as a big sister, as you can see in the above video. She also has an uncanny ability to get Carver giggling, maybe due to her willingness to act absolutely ridiculous. We're glad to see that both of our children have a good sense of humor.

I'm afraid there's not much other news to report. We are excited/terrified to begin school in a few more weeks!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pre-K Prep

As you may recall, Avey was born in September. That means, among other things, that she will be just too young to begin kindergarten this Fall, and rather on the older side at preschool. After much debate, we decided that we would enroll her in preschool anyway, as she could greatly benefit from socializing with other children her age, if nothing else. We are not horribly worried about her academically, as she can count to 100 unassisted, knows all of her colors and shapes (including turquoise, hexagon, and cylinder), can differentially diagnose between "sad" and "dysthymic", and she can write her name and sounds out words all by herself (e.g., this morning she came up with "slebeg budi" for "Sleeping Beauty").
Carver at 5 Months
 We are, however, a little concerned that she's not had enough time with peers. Although Kira and I enjoy an occasional game of make believe, we are no match for fresh 4- or 5-year-old minds. We mostly just take orders about what to say or do, while someone Avey's age might have a better chance of reciprocating play. We have about 3 weeks left before she starts her new adventures at school, and are all very excited for her to make new friends and try new things.
Carver at 1 Week
We're working hard on training Avey to eat her meal in a shorter amount of time than she's accustomed to, because at school she'll need to finish in about 30 minutes. She may lose some weight in the first few months of school.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Magic Medicine

Thursday night, Kira was off at a meeting while I was on daddy duty. Perhaps that was the main ingredient in the recipe for disaster that was cooking up. After Avey had been "in bed" for about 40 minutes, I could hear her sobbing in her room. I ventured in, prepared to assist with what I was sure must have been another misplaced stuffed animal. To my horror, I instead found Avey's tears were the side effect of a burned finger! As we rushed to the kitchen for some cold water, she explained that she wanted to know what the light bulb feels like in her little desk lamp (we leave it on at night to quite effectively ward off vampires, zombies, mummies, etc.). She, being the audacious young woman she is, surmised that the only way to know would be to make physical contact (I later informed her that, in the future, she should ask an adult).

As I nursed her now blistering finger and assured her all would be well, I wondered how we would make all well. After 10 minutes, her finger still throbbed if it was out of the cool water for more than 30 seconds. We found the same result after 30 minutes; the same after 1 hour. Every topical soothing ointment we had in the house was tried with no success.

After Kira made it home, we decided I should take Avey to an urgent care center. I packed some ice cubes and we headed out. We found the clinic with little difficulty, saw that some lights were on inside, and there was a car parked outside. Unfortunately, the doors were locked. All of them. I knocked and we waited. I called the phone number only to get a recording telling me that they were open for at least another hour. I knocked again. I kicked. I knocked on windows. I called again to get the same recording.

We were running out of ice cubes, and I was running out of patience. I called another clinic, and they explained to me how to find them. By 10:30pm or so, we were signing in to be seen, and the staff were very helpful and polite.

The PA came and inspected Avey's finger, gave us a prescription to fight infection, and sent us on our way. I still worried about the pain Avey would be in - we couldn't keep her finger in a cup of cold water all night. But as soon as we made it to the discharge, the staff offered Avey some stickers. Her eyes lit up, she handed me her cup of cold water, and never took it back.

(Side note: We're recording in widescreen now, but I can't figure out a way to get blogger to display in widescreen, so I'm afraid our videos will look scrunched until I can figure it out)

I wonder if they teach that cure in medical school. I'm sure it really did hurt for a long time after the initial burn, but maybe after a couple of hours she was just convinced that it would hurt when she took it out of the cool. We'll have to keep some cool stickers on hand for next time, if only to save us a little bit of a hassle.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

More Milestones

We are pleased to announce the reaching of several important moments in our children's development this week. In the following video, for example, Carver learned to tolerate Dad's odd games.
Avey had her second haircut ever. She wanted it as short as Kira's, which meant that it would be reduced in length by about half. Kira coached her through what that would mean, and that it would probably be more than a year to get it back to its previous length. Avey confirmed her choice and here is the finished product:
The Ladies Model Their Haircuts
In another great feat of strength and endurance, Carver learned to roll over yesterday. We had been growing concerned about his lack of progress, but then he rolled over 3 times with little difficulty. When we celebrated with cheers and smiles, he expressed indifference. He watched our jubilance with curiosity, as if to say, "What's the big deal? Can't you guys do that?"
Smile Contest
Kira accepted a new assignment at church today also. She has been working as the RS Secretary since we moved here, and today was asked to teach a Family Relations class.
They Both Win!
Aside from milestones, Avey grows increasingly annoyed with my occasional bursting into song (a habit I must have picked up from my father). She revealed to me some time ago that she likes only "silly" and "beautiful" songs, and apparently my songs fit neither of those stringent criteria. I decided that I would, therefore, try some of the silliest songs I know. I sang the "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" classic we all know and love, and it apparently earned Avey's approval. She requested it a few times since that day, and got quite interested in the song's background. She said to me, "I wonder what that song means. Why is Batman stinky? How could a human lay an egg? What happened to the Batmobile's wheel? Why would a boy learn ballet?
Tummy Time
Maybe we'll work more on dissolving gender stereotypes after the Olympics are over.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Schedules

As novice parents dealing with our children's ever-developing personalities, Kira and I have struggled to find the best ways to encourage Avey to do things in a timely manner. For example, at some point as I was growing up I realized that if I just did my chores/ate my food/brushed my teeth, rather than whining for 20 minutes and then doing it, I could move on to things that I enjoyed doing. Avey has not yet made this cognitive leap. If I had a nickle for every time Kira or I has patiently explained to her that if she just eats her last 3 bites she can get down and play, while she proceeds to stall and get distracted for 20 and 30 minutes at a time, I could retire right now and hire somebody to say the same thing to Carver when he's on solid foods. 
It finally dawned on us that she may be more of a visual learner. After all, she loves to draw and paint, she learned to count to 100 using the visual chart I made her, and I am certainly more visual in my learning style. Thus, we developed a daily schedule chart so that she can see the time, and a picture of what needs to happen during that time. 
Can't Help but Kiss That Face!
What a difference it has made! I laminated the chart this week, and she loves to mark off each item as she completes it, and then move onto the next thing so that she can mark that one off too. Then, in the morning, she can erase the board and start anew. 
Carver's "Brainy" Look
We will need to remember this little tool as she grows older. Perhaps when she's a teenager we can put a photo of a clean room on her bedroom wall and she'll be more inclined to keep her room tidy. I'm playing around with ideas of making a menu with photos of awesome foods next to the days of the week. Maybe if we're lucky she'll start cooking every night!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cause and Effect

Young children often have a difficult time making logical connections between related events. This is often why a toddler will test a toy's durability to the point of permanent damage, and then suffer disappointment that it no longer works as it once did. Perhaps the best illustration of this characteristic is an experience Avey and I had a few days ago.
(Kira caught her flipping through a songbook and making up songs from the pictures)

It was a sunny, sweltering day in West Texas. I was home for the day, taking a little break from school duties to spend some time with my favorite daughter. After an enjoyable time at the swimming pool, she suggested we go to The Dollar Store where she could spend some of the quarters she has saved. I, never one to discourage an opportunity to teach the value of the dollar (and always on the lookout for some cheap stuff), agreed. Upon arrival, Avey quickly decided to purchase the second item she saw - a package of water balloons. 

I suggested we look through the store a little longer, so that I could see if I spied anything useful. Avey followed, stopping every 2-3 seconds to point at another item and say, "Dad! Look at this!", or "What does this do?" or "Next time we come, I'm going to buy that!" After a good 5 minutes or so of this, having stopped me dozens of times to answer her questions or covet a particular item with her, we had moved through one aisle. Clearly discouraged by our lack of progress toward the checkout, she let out a huge, annoyed sigh and said, "Dad, you are taking forever." 
Pointless as it was, I tried to describe to her how I might have moved faster through the store had she not stopped me in between each breath she took. And I'm sure after this trip she made a mental note that I am very difficult to shop with. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hodge Podge

We've had so much going on the last few weeks that I'm having a difficult time narrowing my focus for today's entry into the Ricks Family Journal, a.k.a. the blog you are currently reading. Thus, you, the avid reader, will now be mercilessly subjected to several disjointed anecdotes. 
The Kiddos
I finished teaching my first college course this week! It was a lot of work (if I were to do the math it probably would work out to about $3 an hour), a lot of fun, and a great challenge. I promise I learned more than any one of my students, but I bet most of them left the class with a decent understanding of sensation and perception. I look forward to teaching again - hopefully a topic with which I am more familiar - and grooming young learners to join the world with an appreciation of all there is to know.
Carver Thinks about What He's Done
 Carver has been making great progress in social and physical development. He is laughing more and reciprocating attempts at conversation. Today I was talking to him and he had that look on his face you might get when somebody speaks to you in a foreign language and is clearly into what they're saying. His face said, "Dad, I have no idea what you're saying, but I bet it's really entertaining, so good for you!"
Free Toe Inspections
He's also been improving in his agility. One of his favorite things to do these days is grab his toes. I admit, I enjoy grabbing his toes too, so I can see the appeal.

Avey's been switching between acting like a complete angel to a moody pre-teen. She's probably trying to cope with how hectic things have been with me at campus more than ever, the hot weather, everyone's lack of sleep, and continuing to relinquish her stranglehold on her parents to a guy who can't even hold his head up for more than 5 minutes at a time. She's started daily chores around the house, which has given her a real sense of responsibility (we hope). She's gone strong with it so far, and every day I come home to find the great work she did.
The Whole Family
Kira has been holding down the fort even while the hostiles are the ones housed in said fort. It is her birthday tomorrow, and we look forward to having a nice celebration among all the chaos. She is so selfless in the rest of life that we too often must force her to take a few minutes for herself. Her first action in the morning, and often the wee hours thereof, is to nourish our son. Then, nearly every morning she feeds our daughter, puts the boy down for a nap, and eventually squeezes out a few minutes to feed herself breakfast around the time most people are eating lunch. In the few minutes that she is not caring for our children, she is usually working on her church obligations, keeping up on phone calls and birthday cards to dozens of relatives, making meals for other new mothers, providing a listening ear to friends and family in need, being an ally to her clients, and offering encouraging words to a husband who can only imagine what it really means to be overwhelmed. Avey, Carver, and I are very fortunate to have her, at the very least, to be a shining example of service and selflessness. Hopefully we can emulate her to some small degree for this week, and maybe a little more every day. Happy Birthday, Kira!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Splash?

Because I am technically a guest lecturer at UTEP for the summer, my family and I were invited to a staff appreciation "Splash 'n' Sparks Extravaganza" this week. We made arrangements to go, planning parking, timing feeding schedules, and coordinating vehicles. Judging by the title of the event, we were certain of two things; there would be some sort of fireworks display, and we should prepare to get wet. 

Avey was beside herself with excitement. She got to stay up late and get wet! All kids enjoy a good splash, but in Texas heat getting soaked is considered preventive care. We got her in her swimsuit with some other clothes that could get nice and drenched. To our dismay, however, when we arrived at the activity we discovered that the only water present was in prepackaged bottles meant for drinking. I spent the remainder of the weekend poring over the meaning of the word "splash". Is there some odd colloquialism known only to El Pasoans? Is "splash" a Spanish word for "dry"? I knew I had not misread the invitation - they gave us commemorative t-shirts of the event - it says right there, "Splash 'n' Sparks Extravaganza". Perhaps there was metaphorical splashing of sorts. Could it be that we were being "splashed" with entertainment and atmosphere the whole time? I suppose it's possible, but I, for one, was far too distracted by the lack of literal splashing to take in the apparently deeper meaning.
If nothing else, the evening did provide some fun memories. For example, I was following Avey as she scoped out the grounds, and she turned to me and said, "Dad, I have an idea. You could be my helper who carries everything for me!" I, already overexerted from the heat, lamented, "Oh, that doesn't sound very fun." Avey, offering the best encouragement she could, replied, "That's okay, you'll get used to it!"
Well this pack mule needs a few days off. Thank goodness our founding fathers had the wisdom to sign the Declaration of Independence in July so that we might have some respite from the toils that come with freedom! Happy Independence Day to all!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Boys and Girls

The old saying goes that girls are made of sugar, spice, and everything nice, whereas boys are made of snips, snails, and puppy dog tails. There's also the joke that women are from Venus and Men are from Mars. Yes, there seems to be something inherently different about the genders. Whether these differences sprout from genetics, socialization, or a combination of the two is a topic of endless debate. We have tried to keep an eye out for evidence of either since the birth of our boy. Having conducted 4 years of intense research on female development, we have a keen awareness of any deviations in behavior. 

In Carver's first few months of life, we've noticed relatively subtle and, perhaps, negligible differences between his and Avey's behavior in the same developmental periods. However, we made a groundbreaking discovery this week; when Avey first learned to babble, she made gentle cooing sounds, simply testing the waters of her vocal cords. Carver, on the other hand is doing this:
As you can see, rather than a gentle experimentation with sounds he can produce, Mini-Man dove right in, head first, caution to the wind. Why mumble when one can holler? Why chit chat when one can wail? Why hum when one can scream? After all, why would a stereo have a maximum volume capability if it was not meant to be used? Would a banshee be nearly as legendary if it whispered? Would we even know thunder was there if it did not shake us to our very cores? Carver, by testing the thresholds of his voice and our tympanic membranes, is merely reminding us that he is here to stay, and he is a force with which to be reckoned.

Luckily, this force of nature passes out pretty easily with a little warm milk.

Maybe boys and girls are inherently different from one another, but one thing's for sure; both need lots of room to explore who they are and what they can do, even if it's at the tops of their respective lungs.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad For A Day

By Kira-

While the common phrase "King for a day" implies that someone would want to be pampered like a king, I think at this point I would never want to be a dad for a day, and here's why; the dads that I know go out to work all day to provide for their families, then in the early morning and evening hours they help take care of the household as well. I think this is what a good dad should do, but it does sound tiring to me. My own father was the king of the yard and the garage, and both were well-kept. These tasks were more than full-time, especially during the summer. My dad also cooked breakfast for the family every day for all my growing-up years. There was a time that my dad worked 3 jobs to get by, and he has set a good example of how to take care of one's family. Thanks Dad, for taking care of us and teaching us what hard work is all about. 

The main reason I would not like to be a dad for a day, however, comes from watching Eli the past few months. Eli is one of the best dads there are; I have watched him get up early, go to work, go to school, do research, do homework, then go to the store to get groceries, then cook dinner, clean up the house, get Avey to bed, and stick Carver's pacifier back in his mouth repeatedly until the wee hours of the morning. Then he repeats this again and again. I think it must be especially hard to go out and function "normally" at work and school with no chance to take a nap and do all of this coherently. Besides Eli's endurance through this rigorous schedule, he does all of these things with patience and humor, and he takes everything in stride. Eli is often the glue that holds our family together. Furthermore, I have not even begun to describe what an awesome daddy he is. He has a special bond with Avey that only a dad and daughter can share. He is kind, patient, respectful, and gentle with our children, and they are blessed to call him Dad. We love you Eli.

Sincerely,
 
Kira, Avey, and Carver

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Phone Etiquette

Avey started a new habit a couple of weeks ago. As I am away from home most of the week, she has taken to giving me a phone call during the day to give me an update on her various projects, latest plot development of whatever show she's watching, or most recent bowel movement. We talk for 3-5 minutes before ending the conversation. Although brief, I've really enjoyed the distraction from my daily labors. I always hang up with a smile. It helps me to keep in the forefront of my mind the reason I'm working in the first place.

I usually end up laughing again when I get home, because she nearly always greets me and then asks, "Did you get my call?" I remind her that we talked back and forth for a few minutes, so of course I got her call. I think she understands that the voice on the other end is my own, but may not quite get the difference between leaving a message and talking to me because, after all, even the voicemail message uses my voice. It's cute in any case.

Carver has regressed back to fewer consecutive hours of sleep since we returned to Texas. I think it's his way of protesting leaving the greatest state in the world after he got only 1 week to experience it. That's left us all a bit "down in the mouth", as they say. Luckily, he's made up for it with what Kira has come to call his "permagrin". The little guy just can't help smiling!
I teach my first university course beginning tomorrow! It's a bit intimidating, but I feel excited to introduce these undergrads to the world of psychophysiology.

We also welcome another niece into the world early this morning! Can't wait to meet her!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mystique

Over our "vacation" to Colorado, my generous aunt and uncle offered us their van to make the trip more comfortable (our transition to a family of four has revealed that our little station wagon is not the most luxurious way to travel 600 miles). The van includes, among other technological miracles, side doors that open with the use of a remote. I think it was my uncle who first demonstrated this feature to Avey, introducing it by having her say "abracadabra" . 
My daughter was beyond impressed. The entire trip, she insisted that she had to say the incantation each time we needed to open or close either of the side doors. Of course, there were two other buttons within the van that could perform the same function, but if Avey witnessed Kira or me pressing said buttons, she accused us of cheating. 
After a while, the game seemed to be getting a little old for us adults. We tried to explain to Avey that we needed to use the buttons to get the doors to open or close, but she adamantly insisted that we were mistaken - the doors are magic! We decided not to burst her bubble, as it at least occupied her curiosity. For the last few days we used only the remotes to get in or out of the van for fear of dashing her sense of fantasy into pieces.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Brevity

Vacations, it seems, are always far too short. This one is no exception. We've been horribly spoiled by our parents and siblings, who have allowed us to sleep in (as much as Carver permits, anyway), shared food, cooked for us, entertained our children, and otherwise offered support. We should really do this more often.

Carver delivered the smiles, Avey played every second she could squeeze in. Kira renewed old connections, while I mostly hunted for my favorite foods around town. Yes, it was a successful trip for all.

We hope to have a repeat of our drive here tomorrow as we head back to our home away from home. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Travels

We made it to Colorado! We were both dreading our first road trip with two children, preparing for the worst combination of whining, spit, and poop that the world has ever known. We were, however, pleasantly surprised to find that Carver, like his sister, inherited the "good traveler" gene. The child slept nearly every minute that he was not eating. Stopping to nurse, eat, and gas up the car, we made a 9 hour venture in just over 12. To describe the experience as "too shabby" would be less than accurate. 

To see our faces upon arrival, you might think we were entering a foreign country. To be surrounded by green on all sides is quite the ordeal after our Texas experience. At least our little section of the Lone Star State has left us wanting as far as foliage is concerned, although we've seen just about every variety of the color brown since moving there. 

We do so love the company here too, and look forward to spending a lot of time with them. We'll make it a point to take some more pictures while here. Maybe I'll have some interesting stories to tell next week. In the meantime, tonight at dinner, Kira's dad asked Avey if she would prefer vanilla ice cream, or vanilla ice cream turned into chocolate. She decided she would like chocolate ice cream turned into vanilla. Some clever marketing delivered what she believed to be the goods. You may not believe it, but you couldn't even taste the chocolate. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ocean Blue

Avey has been expressing herself through art a lot lately. Her media of choice are marker, printer paper, and masking tape. Yesterday she came up with the idea of making a book, entitled Ocean Blue. Here is the cover:
Ocean Blue by Avey Ricks
And here are the illustrations on the inside:
A Sneak Peek
Avey told me the story, and then Kira asked to hear it again so that she could write it down verbatim. It goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a blue ocean, named Ocean Blue. And then a pirate ship came in it. The pirate ship was so big and fat that the Ocean Blue just turned into just little blue dots. The pirates didn't know what happened.


After several readings, and exaggerated sobs on Ocean Blue's behalf from yours truly, Avey added the epilogue:

Then God made a new Ocean Blue where the old Ocean Blue was.


Since yesterday we've read the story about 2 dozen times. Avey is beaming with pride that she made her own story, let alone created a book about it. She's currently working it into a screenplay to pitch to her uncle Jesse who "knows how to make computer movies". She was so pleased with the first one, in fact, that she has started Volume II of the chronicles of Ocean Blue. The next installment (SPOILER ALERT!) includes the introduction of a turquoise fish. No, that really is a spoiler, because that's the story. The fish swims into Ocean Blue and that's all she wrote, literally.
Carver Auditions for Baby Gap Commercial
Carver is officially cute as of this week. He's been smiling like it's his job (and it kind of is), and has slept in 7-hour stretches twice in the last few days! He made his debut at Relief Society today, giving Kira one of the nicest Mother's Day gifts he could come up with. If he can go another 7 hours tonight, he'll make this the best Mother's Day I've ever had anyway.
Happy Mother's Day 2012!
Avey filled out a Mother's Day card in Primary today. She did very well on many of the fill-in-the-blanks. We were quite tickled to see that for the question, "What does your mommy do in her free time?" Avey answered, "She likes to feed Carver."

Although a little sad that such a thing seems like all the fun Kira gets these days, it is a fairly accurate portrayal of the dedication and perseverance that it takes to be the mother of these two. It is beyond a full-time job. How she manages to keep the two fed, clothed, semi-entertained, and still have a little bit of time left over to take care of herself is a feat by itself. Avey and Carver do and will cherish her for the rest of their days (okay, maybe not through the teenage years), and will pass the love and guidance on to their children. After working with prisoners and now working with juvenile probationers, I am more aware than ever of the importance of stable, caring, mindful mothers in children's lives. I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife as a partner as we raise our children.

I cannot say a positive word about mothers without mentioning my own. I am a better man and father thanks in large part to my mother's endless patience and charity with her 6 children, and the example she continues to set with her grandchildren and students. I shudder to think what my life might be like had I been born to any other.

Happy Mother's Day to all who have listened to, kindly guided, complimented, comforted, and loved a child!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Carversations

As the second of six children, I had several years around babies while I was growing up. One tradition my mother carried on through each of my siblings was acting as the infant's voice. Thanks to my mother's quick wit, this made for hours of entertainment. 

I've attempted to keep the tradition going with our children. What's been most interesting to me is learning more about how Avey views the world. For example, just this morning Avey was telling Carver all about how she will teach him everything she knows. "They" got talking about how we learn, through school and such, and Avey told Carver that I still go to school because I never finished. I laughed and probed a bit to find out what she meant. We then had a moment explaining that I'm doing more school than most people, and I tried to come up with some explanation as to why (I ask myself that same question every morning).
Carver's been interacting more every day - usually in good ways. We're excited and terrified to make a trip home to Colorado with the kiddies in a few weeks, and I am close to finishing the semester! Sometimes I feel like our lives are a reality show, but with fewer sponsors and fans. We love the ones we've got though!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How Far We've Come

This week Kira and I celebrated seven years of marriage. We left Avey with a sitter, and mini-man crashed our party as we went out to a little Italian restaurant.

We've been married now for nearly one fourth of our lives, and have been through several significant (and often life-changing) events. We've earned three degrees from two universities between us, moved five times, worked diverse jobs, and gone through financial, emotional, and even spiritual highs and lows. At the restaurant, Carver served as a hovering reminder of what has no doubt been the most significant journey we've taken together: becoming parents.

I'm glad to have shared and continue to experience all of these things with Kira. Eventually I will graduate. Some day we'll settle down and unpack everything. Before too long we'll both retire. Perhaps the peaks and valleys will be less frequent. And the children will certainly grow. But at least through all of the life events that are sure to come, Kira and I will face them together.

Avey Took This Picture!
I'm excited to see what the next seven years will bring!