Friday, December 27, 2013

Understanding

We are in Colorado for the Holidays. Living out of suitcases is difficult even for a single person, but with a family of four, especially with little children, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of all of our junk. We had a particularly hard lesson in property management on Christmas Eve. We had been all over town on that day, struggling to visit as many of our kin as possible. When we finally settled back down where we've been sleeping, it seemed that the day was behind us and we could all rest peacefully before the big day. Of course, things rarely turn out as we plan.

While preparing Carver for his slumber, it became apparent that we were missing the most vital element of his rest: his pacifier. Unlike Avey, who quickly transitioned to snacking on her thumb as she grew, Carver is attached to a specific pacifier he has known intimately since birth. Unfortunately, we had misplaced it somewhere in the city during our travels.

We were a bit panicked. We have a backup pacifier that is the same shape and brand, but Carver instantly senses the imposter because it is firmer than his usual one. A little coaxing combined with his exhaustion convinced him to try it for a few minutes, at least enough that he fell asleep. However, he has also been a little under the weather since we arrived, and needed all of the comfort he could get. He awoke several times during the night, at one point standing up and saying to me, "Gween Beenky [green binky]?" I informed him that we did not know where it was, to which he smiled and excitedly said and signed, "Deah [idea]!" I asked him his idea, and he suggested it was in the "Gween PackPack [green backpack]." That is where we usually keep his pacifier, but alas, we had searched through the entire thing to no avail. I told him that it was not in the backpack, and that we did not know where it was. He again signed and said that he had an idea, and that it was in the green backpack. The cycle continued for a few minutes until he finally accepted that he would not get his pacifier that night. I only hope that he understood it was because we did not have it rather than because we did not want to get it for him.

We survived the night, and the next day tracked it down to my father's house, from whence we retrieved it that afternoon. Such a happy reunion has not been witnessed in my lifetime.

And thus ends another year of The Ricks Experiment. Thank you for your love and friendship. We promise many more adventures in 2014, including Carver's cognitive developments, Eli's whining about dissertation, Kira's experiences in preparing for Baby #3, the latter's birth, and Avey's acceptance to and graduation from medical school (I assume).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Family Pictures

Our little family has been overdue for some pictures. Kira scheduled a photo shoot a few weeks ago, but we got bombarded with some awful weather. We gambled, and postponed for another couple of weeks. The Saturday we were scheduled to take them again was better weather-wise, but I was just beginning to recover from a cold, and the wind was bringing in some frigid temperatures. 
"Why are you pointing that at me?"
We went through with it, even with all of the difficulty, and we are quite pleased with the results. Here are just a few of them. We are excited to have Baby #3 join us next year for more!
Avey Can Hardly Take a Bad Picture
In other news, Carver has become quite dramatic in the last week or so. He is also listening intently to each of us, for better or worse. He overheard one of Avey's tantrums the other day and now he practices in his most accusatory voice, "You!" Kira recently taught him to say, "Totally cool!" which usually comes out more like "Toaly Coo!" Then, just yesterday Carver started making a drum beat with his mouth on the drive home. Apparently I do that in the car sometimes.
Carver Cracks at Some Fake Sneezing
Yesterday, I asked the boy what he wanted to eat for lunch. He looked off into space and tapped his lips with an index finger. Then his eyes shot wide open, and he said, "Idea!" while making the sign for it. I shared in his enthusiasm and asked what was his idea. He then went back to tapping his lips and staring off into space before again shouting "Idea!". The cycle continued for a few minutes before I decided to give him a slice of bread.
Fingers... going numb...
My semester is officially over, and Avey is onto her last week of school. We are excited to head back to colorful Colorado for a few days soon. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tattling

Carver, like most children his age, likes things to be a certain way. If things do not go that certain way, there will be consequences. One of his stronger preferences is in which parent does which task for him. Apparently, a division of labor is something he endorses. For example, he can open his water bottle by himself, but has a little difficulty closing it unassisted. A few days ago, his mother noticed him working on closing the lid while he said, "Hep [help]." She offered an extra finger to get it closed, and Carver angrily turned her away, calling for me instead.
Watching Barbie's 12 Dancing Princesses
Apparently, helping close water bottles is work for daddies. The really funny (or sad) part is that after he had successfully turned his mother away, he looked at me and said, "Mom," with the tone in his voice adding the unspoken "can you believe this lady?"
Not Sure What the Big Deal Is
I am embarrassed to say that he must have picked it up from me, because after I noticed that he would not let Mom help him with certain things, I would jokingly say, "Did your Mom try and help you? Unbelievable!" It looks as if he's caught my meaning.
Drawn into the Story
In fairness, he did the same thing to me last Sunday. We were having a pleasant meal at my grandmother's house, where Carver has a great uncle whom he adores. We call him "Doughy," a decades-old nickname that stuck. Doughy was encouraging Carver to eat his food, and then left to the kitchen for something. In his absence, I stepped in as the encouragement, but Carver shot me a glance of disdain, and then called for Doughy at the top of his lungs. When Doughy came to see what the matter was, Carver tattled on me by saying "Dad" with that same tone of "the nerve of that guy..."
(Click here [second video] for Avey going through animals around this age)

At least he will not need someone's help as frequently the older he gets. With a little luck, he will still let us both feed, clothe, and bathe him until he can do those things on his own.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Third Series of Studies

Background

Our first attempt to propagate the human species (Ricks & Ricks, 2007) served several purposes: (a) to pass on our knowledge, (b) to give purpose and meaning to our lives,  (c) to create a physical symbol of our affection and devotion to each other, and (d) to have a little person on whom we could shower our love and attention. Although the project proved challenging, we were pleased with the overall results. We had hypothesized that our general levels of love and affection would increase, that levels of cooperation and unity would also increase, and that these would also negatively correlate with our energy levels and satisfaction with sleep cycles. All of our hypotheses were supported, yet led us to other research questions.

It had become apparent that the adding of a child to our research laboratory caused many fascinating changes in our interactions, but we also became interested in learning how adding another variable might influence our lab. In line with the previous findings, we designed a second series of studies (Ricks & Ricks, 2012). In these, we retained our hypotheses from the 2007 series, but with three key differences: we hypothesized (a) an increase of the strength of the negative correlation between the previously recorded variables, (b) that our first child would be largely compatible with our second, and (c), that by including a Y chromosome in the second series, many changes in our methods would be necessary. That final hypothesis was non-directional, as we had little data upon which to base it. Our results supported hypotheses again, and it is now necessary for us to further our knowledge by adding a third series of studies, expected to commence near the end of May, 2014. We hypothesize that this third series will be compatible with the first two, that the overall love and affection in our laboratory will increase, that levels of cooperation and unity will remain stable or increase, and that the strength of the negative correlation between each of these and our satisfaction with sleep cycles will begin to decrease. That is, we expect that, rather than becoming increasingly dissatisfied with our sleep cycles, we will simply lower our expectations of what constitutes a valid sleep cycle.

Method

We used methodology comparable to the first two series of studies. Once the development stage is complete, we plan to implement a vigorous schedule of hugs, kisses, feedings, diaper changes, lullabies, and tickles, as we did in the first two series of studies. Some of these will gradually be replaced with encouragement, praise, and sugary rewards. We will record data with digital cameras and video recorders, and keep weekly notes on progress at www.ricksfam.blogspot.com.

Significance

The potential impact of the present series of studies will certainly be life changing, and may prove to change the world. We are confident that this project will improve the state of humanity, at least in small ways initially. We are also confident that our research laboratory is the ideal environment for this project to be carried out. Details are forthcoming.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chobalai!

Carver may be the most enthusiastic boy I've ever met. When it is time to eat, I'll say, "Carver want bread with butter?" He will nod his head and grin while his response seems to burst from his vocal cords, "Bread! Butter! Yeah! Okay!" He is the same way about going outside, playing with his great uncle George, and finding anything that is spherical (He will carefully pronounce each syllable at the top of his lungs, "Ball!").
It seems that sometimes during his scheming he is not quite sure what to say. He is still wildly enthusiastic, though, so he must need some way to express it. Somehow, he recently settled on the word, "Chobalai!" to scream out his excitement. It is a multipurpose set of syllables, apparently. He uses it as his war cry, as a celebratory shout, and sometimes in passing as he simply moves from one task to the next. 
We cannot seem to figure out if he is really saying something that we just cannot make out, or if it is a word he's invented. I keep thinking that maybe the "bolai" part has something to do with "play", but I suppose we may never know. He also uses a version that sounds more like "troublai", but as far as we can tell he uses the two interchangeably. 
We are also shouting "Chobalai!" in anticipation of Thanksgiving this week! Avey gets the week off of school, but I still have to teach on Wednesday, not to mention I have a dissertation lingering over my head day and night. Although we do not get to leave town for the holiday, we fortunately have relatives in town who are also pie and turkey enthusiasts. 
We are reminded again of the fortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves. We are healthy, and our home is full of love. There is not much more for us to want (Although I've got my heart set on another graduation soon...).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Transportation

For some time it has been apparent that our little station wagon is not entirely suited for a family of four. It got us from point A to point B, but with two small children it was a bit cramped to have to squat into to put the little ones into car seats and buckle them in. Thus, it is with great pleasure that we announce our recent upgrade:
Ha ha. Just kidding. Here is the real thing:
This is the van that we've heretofore borrowed from my aunt and uncle whenever we've gone on long road trips. They made us a generous offer we could not refuse, so we sold our wagon and bought the van from them last Sunday.

Its best two features for road trips are the cruise control and the DVD player (although I suppose having four wheels is a nice perk too).
Avey, although saddened by the parting of our station wagon she has known since birth, is thrilled with the van. It feels like a new room to our home. She and Carver have made a new game of exploring the van while it is parked - trying out all of the seats, opening compartments, and pushing buttons to see what happens.
We may need to figure out a road trip before Christmas so the kids don't go crazy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Battles, Bruises, and a Birthday

Carver is still an early riser. He did well waiting until around 6 for a while there, and then we changed the clocks. On Friday morning, it was my turn to get up with him. As I emptied my water bottle from the night, I noticed a dark spot contrasted with our kitchen's light floor. Closer inspection revealed that the spot was in fact a scorpion! We had heard that they are one of the unfortunate consequences of living in El Paso, but we had never actually seen one. I wished very much for a moment that I had put shoes on before leaving the bedroom, and then made sure Carver was clear of the kitchen, while I tried to come up with a quick plan. As I approached the fiend to dispose of it, it outsmarted me and scurried under the dishwasher.
Kids at a Picnic
I spent the rest of the morning in a minor state of anxiety, and made sure to keep my eyes on the floor in case of a blitzkrieg. We opted not to inform Avey of my little encounter, lest she never enter the kitchen for the remainder of her life. Once she was safely away at school, I took out the dishwasher and coaxed the pest out into the open where we had our final face-off. I was eventually crowned victor.
Future Source of Embarrassment
Avey rented Kung Fu Panda from the library last week, and Carver has caught martial art fever. I remembered that I still have a set of escrima sticks from my Tae Kwon Do days, so I handed him one to see what he could do. He turned out to be a natural:
I'm not sure where he learned to say "trouble", but it sure fits!

In the last bit of news from this week, I had yet another birthday. It was less traumatic than other years, perhaps because I am slowly running out of the energy to resist the aging process. I am slowly accepting my fate to be middle aged. I received wonderful gifts, and a lot of (good) attention from my kids and wife. My aunt in town baked me a delicious cake, we tried out a local restaurant with amazing food, and we actually had a date to see Ender's Game (very well done). I still aged, but at least I had fun doing it.
My Birthday Cake

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fruits of Labors

As parents, we occasionally have brief moments of clarity - where the enormity of our parental duty becomes overwhelmingly obvious. These moments contrast the complexity and size of the rest of the world with our ever-shrinking influence on our children. In some of those moments, our children shock us with how seemingly little they have retained from hours of teaching and guidance. But other times, they amaze us with independent, unsolicited feats of insight, thereby showing us that they do listen and learn when we speak.
 
I had just such a moment earlier this week. My mother brought us up to be particularly mindful of grammar, spelling, and word choice. For that reason, I have also tried to train Avey in the careful use of words. For example, I'll often tease her when she says something that could be misinterpreted by acting as if I misunderstand. 
Avey's Pumpkin Design on Left, Dad's on Right
Finally, I witnessed the fruits of my labors this week. Avey has a chart from her dentist with rows of boxes that she can mark after brushing her teeth. Below the chart, the instructions state, "Check each box after brushing teeth." Avey was brushing her teeth one day, reading the chart, when she commented to Kira, "Mom, I think a kid could think that means they could brush their teeth just once, and then check off all of the boxes. I think it should say, 'Check the next box after brushing teeth.'"
Carver's Pumpkin (Dad's Creation)
When Kira told me about it that night, I had never been prouder of Avey. Finally, I found some evidence that she will be a distinguished member of the Grammar Police in the near future, just as her father. She will spend countless hours biting her tongue while her friends and teachers misplace modifiers, incorrectly conjugate pronouns after prepositions, and throw reflexives about willy-nilly. I must emphasize to her that it is not an easy burden to bear. It has driven more than a few to madness, what with the current state our nation's schools, and the constant damage to the language that texting causes.

But she can hopefully take comfort in the fact that at least most of her college professors, and perhaps a few of her friends and fans, will appreciate her reverence with and mastery of our language.

Or if nothing else, at least she won't drive her father crazy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Characters

As Halloween approaches, we attended a Trunk or Treat event earlier in the week.
Avey had planned for months to go as the Easter Bunny. She had a boomerang because she had based her costume on the character from the movie, Rise of the Guardians.
Carver went as the scariest thing he could think of - a German with a bouncy ball. I suppose he has not watched much television. We had an authentic costume almost his size, with the lederhosen and everything. We figured it was appropriate, because if anyone on the planet has Wanderlust, it's this boy.
I parted from my usual, uncomfortable nerd costume from years past, and whipped out my mechanic shirt, and Kira went as a fancy, possibly French, painter.
Carver must have really gotten into the dress-up game, because as Kira and I spent Saturday sorting through clothes, Carver slowly insisted upon this ensemble:
I tried the hat on him for winter, and he wouldn't let us take it off for the rest of the day. He had discovered Avey's necklaces, but she didn't dare share with him. Instead, she allowed him to wear this pink disco ball on a string, which he proudly displayed. The shoes are at least 2 sizes too big for him, but he found them as I was boxing up boy clothes and insisted that we let him try them on. He flopped around the house for several minutes, looking like a White rapper. I think the pacifier complements the image.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bouncy Ball Bliss

Carver's favorite thing to do this last week was to venture outside to the sidewalk along our parking lot, throw a ball in front of him, and chase after it. Even as fast as he is, he has a hard time catching up with the ball if it is particularly bouncy, and it often rolls under a car, or down the hill. The end result is that Mom or Dad gets a good workout and black marks on the knees, while Carver watches with glee. It's a little like a game of fetch, except I don't wag my tail.
After some trial and error, we found that using his small orange ball was best, because it bounces, but is also light, so rarely has the momentum to wander into the parking lot.

Among other habits of late is Carver's curious behavior regarding the bathroom. I do not recall when this began exactly, but for several weeks, if Carver catches me heading to use the water closet, he is sure to follow behind. This is fairly normal for most children, but where it gets a little strange is that, when I prepare to relieve myself standing in front of the potty, Carver plants himself to the left of it, grips the side of the bowl with both hands, and just watches the show. I cannot imagine what would make it more awkward. After it's over, he says, "Eww", and then we both wash our hands. My only hope is that this little fascination of his will translate into easier potty training, now that he fully understands the sequence.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Aftermath

There truly is no party like Avey's birthday party, because Avey's birthday party does not stop. Here we are, two weeks after, and we still have not begun to sort out all of the booty. Her room is complete chaos - covered in little treasures.
Avey's talented and thoughtful great aunt threw a pirate-themed party, with an inflatable treasure chest and everything. After a brief series of clues, she was eventually led to the presents, all packed into the chest. She exclaimed several times that this was the best birthday ever. 
Carver also made out like a bandit. He got a fresh foam ball to toss around, so he has been entertained for the entire 2 weeks. We were again reminded just how bright he is when later, he surprised us by singing "Happy Birthday" all on his own. He had heard it only 3 or 4 times, but has it down pretty well:
Every day we are more and more shocked with just how grown up our kids are. Avey can whistle like a pro, snap her fingers, and finally tried eating a burger without taking it apart first. Carver impresses us with new words games each day. And he can dance like Fred Astaire (if Muse had been around when Fred was):
As a brief update to last week's post, Carver turned out to have a small cold, which may have been why he was having so much trouble sleeping. He's sleeping better now, even though it's less than we'd like.

Maybe by next birthday, we'll all be well-rested.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Circadian Chaos

Our home has been plagued with consciousness for far too long. For example, this morning Carver woke at 4:15, and insisted I suffer with him. Most days lately, he's up before 6. Kira and I take turns joining him, but do not always get a nap to help us recover. We drag through most days drained of energy. 

We've tried what measures seem reasonable. We've tried reducing his number of naps, moving up his bed time, pushing back his bed time, voodoo, explaining to him how sleep is good for all of us, and even making getting up relatively boring. So far we've had little success. Short of drugs or some sort of brain surgery, we may have exhausted our options. We keep thinking it is some phase, or maybe there's a last tooth coming in - that there's some end in sight.
Avey has helped very little. Since beginning school, we need to have her up at 6:20 to make it on time. To be her normal self, she needs to be asleep around 8, but most nights she'll manage to keep herself awake until 9 or so. One might think we could let her sleep in on the weekends, but she invariably has herself up by 6 when she doesn't need to be!

The end result is groggy parents, a cranky girl, and Carver on adrenaline. It can't get much worse, so we are hanging on for now.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

-6 Candles

Avey will be six years old in a few hours. As a brief blast through the past, I've selected a few of my favorite videos of her over the years: 
It is at once exciting and heart wrenching to see how much she's changed in these few short years. I will spare the reader my usual blubbering on about the passage of time. Suffice it to say, I love my daughter very much, at every age.

Avey chose to spend the day doing the things she loves. She wanted to meet some friends at the theater to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which was enjoyable for everyone. We ate out at her favorite restaurant, and we will open her presents and eat her cake today at my grandmother's house.

She had early release on Friday, so we got to spend some time at her favorite park. That ended up being a mixed experience for both kids. Avey tried to make friends with 3 older girls (8 years old or so). The girls were polite and interacted with Avey, but once they saw Carver gleefully entertaining himself, it was all over. The girls all but ignored Avey, and would not leave Carver alone. They wanted to pick him up every few seconds, take turns going down the slide with him, and make sure he did everything they thought he would look cute doing. They would walk with him, holding his hands, certain that he would fall at any moment. Then they'd say, "I think he wants to go over here," or "I think he wants to try the swings." He took it all in stride, but I figured he was ready for some space, so I suggested that he may want to explore on his own. They eventually dispersed. 
Just as we were preparing to leave, a girl Avey's age showed up and they became instant friends, so we stayed a little longer. We finally left exhausted, thirsty, and satisfied. 

It's hard to imagine that the next six years will go by just as quickly (if not quicker) than these first six, but I suppose we will need to be prepared for anything.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fear

Avey and I had the opportunity for a daddy-daughter date this week. UTEP's theater was showing Monsters University, which we had not yet seen. We had a great time watching it, even though it was way past Avey's bedtime. After it was over, I asked her what her favorite part of the movie was. She replied that she liked the part where Dean Hardscrabble flew into the room, and was really scary (clip here). 
I admit I was surprised that she did not mention any of the silly parts, but she has always been a fan of being scared. Before we left the building, I asked if she needed to use the restroom. She said she did, but after I opened the restroom door and she heard the blaring air hand dryers, she said she did not want to use that restroom. It was apparently too loud for her. We would be passing my office on the way back to the car, so I told her we could try that building. When we got there, though, it must have felt like a haunted house to her. It is one of the older buildings on campus, and was abandoned at 8:45 p.m., so I had to unlock it, and find a light. She was a little nervous about that part, but then what really did it was when we got to the restroom.
I opened the door and turned on the light, when what horror should await us, but 6 to 8 of the largest cockroaches scurrying around the tile floor. Avey panicked, so we left, and I suggested we try the ladies' room (as we were the only ones in the building), but she wouldn't risk it. She was horrified.

I do not blame her - I was pretty disgusted by the cockroaches, and I'm a little nervous about going back on Monday, because I don't know where they all hide during the day. But I am a bit fascinated by the fact that in her mind, she is really into scary things, but then gets spooked by the noise of hand dryers and the sight of insects to the point where she loses all her nerve. After that experience, she may never set foot on UTEP campus again!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rehab

Okay folks, gear up for a proud parent post. We were once again reminded how awesome our kids are this week. As you recall from our most recent report, Carver recently had a disagreement with Gravity, and, to quote Radiohead, "gravity always wins." He ended up in a full leg cast for about 10 days. Our little guy was a good sport about the whole thing - he never really cried about having the cast, never tried to take it off, and never even screamed out of frustration. He simply realized he could no longer use his right leg, and moved on. 

It turns out that it was his right fibula that was broken, not his tibia. Apparently the doctor could not exactly see the fracture when Kira took him in, but the policy is to treat it anyway because it was very likely there. When I took him to have the cast removed, the x-ray showed that new bone had grown to fuse his fibula back together. It had broken, but hadn't shifted, so that's why the doctor was not sure where the fracture was.
After removing the cast, Carver was unimpressed. I expected him to kick his legs around and start running. It took him until we were in the car on the way home to realize what had happened. He finally started moving his legs, kicking around in his carseat. At home, he had some trouble walking again. He stood up and moved around as if his leg were still in the cast. He hardly bent his knee.
Now, after a little more practice, he is nearly back to his normal self. He seems to enjoy sitting quietly a little more than before the cast, but that's probably good.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dead Weight

Several days ago, Carver was outside playing on the sidewalk, as he often does. Between two of the concrete slabs is a gap of about 3 inches. Carver has learned to navigate around it to avoid stumbles, but for some reason that day, he miscalculated and had a very short stumble to the ground. He cried briefly, Kira comforted him, and he went about his business. 

But we noticed that things were not quite the same. Carver had a little limp in his walk. We thought surely it would go away after some time. It was still there the next day. We tried putting little bits of pressure on his leg to see if it hurt. Carver gave no reaction. We tried bending his leg at the knee, then the ankle. He hardly noticed, and certainly did not wince. We were puzzled. The next day, the limp was no better, and we were beginning to worry. 
Fortunately, Kira has a connection with someone in her ward who specializes in exactly this sort of thing. He said it sounded like a small fracture in the tibia, and told Kira to bring him in. She did, and, although they couldn't see anything in the x-ray, they put a cast on just to be sure.
He tried walking the next morning with great difficulty, and now has resorted to crawling. He is mobile enough, and in good spirits as usual, but certainly will be thrilled to take the cast off in a few more days. 
On top of it all, our little trooper had a molar break through probably yesterday. We are beginning to suspect that he has a high tolerance for pain.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nerds

With Avey's increased studies of late, Carver has had fewer distractions at home. He finally has the time to delve into his own interests, rather than working to entertain his big sister at every waking moment. It turns out that he is a bit of a bookworm. 
With increasing frequency, Kira and I get a very unsettling feeling - as if something is very wrong. It usually comes about when the volume of the household has dropped to tolerable levels. As we find ourselves once again able to hear our thoughts, we panic for a moment and frantically search for Carver - certain that he must be injured to have gotten so quiet.
Fortunately, we find him silently engaged in his own studies, methodically researching the intricacies of colors, shapes, counting, puppies, and so on. He typically plops down in front of his bookshelf, and goes through one book at a time, page by page, occasionally pausing to announce something he recognizes.
It is a good feeling to see our children so eager to learn, and so capable of being quiet for several minutes at a time.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Coming of Age

My deepest sympathies go out to all of those parents whose children started kindergarten this morning. That must be very difficult to see your young one, possibly a daughter, reach a milestone where she begins to spend more time away from home, out of your direct supervision. I can only imagine the ache you must feel when you watch that daughter sit down in her classroom with a big smile beaming on her face as she shoots you a thumbs up, as if she were just fine with this whole thing - as if she were somehow excited to leave the house and explore what the world has to offer without clutching to your hand the whole time. It must make your stomach churn to realize that she is no longer, and never again will be, that little toddler who would run to you to kiss her "owies", needed to eat with a bib, and fit comfortably in your arms as she nuzzled her tired little head into your shoulder as you rocked her to sleep. That's gotta be rough... for you. That's gotta be really, really rough for you. I think if I were in a situation like that - where I were mercilessly forced to witness my own flesh and blood spreading her wings and venturing out farther from the nest than ever before - I would probably be in complete and total denial. I think, for me, the thought of my dear, sweet, first born child getting increasingly more influence from peers and teachers while simultaneously getting less from me would be terrifying. Somehow, letting go of the near-monopoly you have on her access to the world would need to become bearable to you. But you know what I bet is the absolute worst part - for you? I bet it's the thought that she might realize you are not Superman. You are not the coolest person on the planet.
This would be Hard to Handle
Or maybe what's even worse, but far too painful to face, is the cruel indifference of time - the momentum of aging - that ensures you can never again revisit the joys of her youth. Like trying to hold back the rushing waters of a massive river with a soup spoon, you desperately try to retain some sense of constancy. As covertly as a virus lays in wait to overtake the body, she will somehow lose interest in her dolls and princess dresses, opting instead to work out math problems or sit and read a book without your help.

What is it like, you poor, pitiful parent, to know that your importance in her life is slowly but surely fading away? It is inevitable that she will someday be repulsed at the thought of doing things with you that she used to beg you to do. She will laugh when you suggest going to the park together, cringe at the idea of browsing a pet store with you near, roll her eyes when you mention playing "Go Fish". And you will sit there and wonder to yourself, "Where did the time go?" How could you possibly cope with that?

Yes, having a daughter begin school must be a sad and difficult position to be in. For you.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

End of Summer Daze

We are swiftly approaching the end of our summer "break". I use the term loosely because there has been very little rest in our house for the past several months. We've been very busy with this and that, so the time has flown by yet again. This week I will head back to Colorado to spend a few days with my soon-to-be-out-of-the-country-for-two-years younger brother, while simultaneously trying to deny the feelings of guilt I will experience for not working on school things. It should be a nice trip.
We had planned to attend our favorite swimming hole yesterday with my cousins who live in town, sort of as a desperate attempt to squeeze some fun out of our diminishing flexible time. We hopped into the pool and had a grand 15 minutes or so before my cousin approached me with a disturbing observation; He noticed what appeared to be a few human droppings at the bottom of the pool a fair distance from where we had been playing. I investigated and concurred with his findings, and suggested he inform a lifeguard. They evacuated the pool, and we waited for 15-20 minutes before they said they would need to close down the pool for the rest of the day to sanitize. Fortunately, they refunded our money, and I confirmed that our children were not the culprits. 
As if to make sure I did not feel clean after the following shower, Carver hosed me while I was changing his diaper that afternoon. He had not done that in quite some time, so forgive me if I suspected a conspiracy from all children to keep me covered in some amount of human waste. Such is the life of a parent, I suppose. I must remind myself again that this is the life I chose.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Learning to Swim

Avey recently began swimming lessons. She has loved the water for as long as we can recall, but has always been very cautious about it as well. We figured it was high time that she learn to master the pool, and swimming is an excellent way to pass the time in the summer heat, so we hired a private instructor (a high school student) to tutor her. 
She has done amazing! Each day after a lesson, Kira tells me about how brave Avey was, how many new and scary things she tried and mastered, and how her instructor praises her as "a natural". She's quickly learned skills with the instructor that she would never dream of trying with Kira or me. Maybe she's driven by her compulsion to be a good student in this case.
Carver continues his escapades in art and speaking. We did invest in washable markers after all, and he loves them! We need to be close by to help take off caps and attempt damage control as he waves them to and fro, but he seems thrilled to express himself through art. 

He has picked up new words every day. One of his latest is "thank you!", which sounds like "sayshoo" in a very high-pitched, sing-song voice. He loves to help us throw trash away! More than once have we found items we use daily in the trash can, and any time he helps us with some real garbage, he insists that there is more to be dealt with somewhere. "Trash? Trash?", he repeats again and again until we manage to find something he can throw away. Something tells me this trend won't last once he has a room of his own to keep clean. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Artistry

Carver admires and reveres his big sister, and with good reason. She is bright, thoughtful, imaginative, and very creative. She exercises her talents in several ways, while Carver observes, awaiting the day he can do what she does. 
Carver recently observed Avey's most favorite pastime - coloring. He was intrigued beyond words (at least he didn't say much). He began swiping writing utensils from wherever he could find them. He first worked out their mechanics, finding the best method to remove lids, etc., then began the search for a medium. His attentive parents first encouraged him to try paper, the most popular medium for artists his age. He worked wonders with a few crayons and a sheet of white paper, but soon found that his talent could not be contained on a mere 8½" by 11" segment of the universe. Thus, it was only natural that he expand into new media, such as table tops, carpet surfaces, and sofa covers. Following the example of the great muralists, Carver has sought out places where his artistic expression could become part of the architecture - immortalized for generations to come. He has even gone so far as to beautify his father's clothes as a mobile tribute to his skill.
Luckily, half the time Carver can't figure out which end of the marker to use, and due to his sister's great difficulty throwing anything away, half of her markers are dried out anyway. In fact, he's not really left any noticeable marks around, aside from one masterpiece with which he blessed the inside of a kitchen cupboard. We may need to invest in some washable markers soon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Family Photos

I got up with my son at 5:04 this morning. At this moment he and I are wrestling for control of the computer's mouse and keyboard. I am barely holding him at bay while I attempt to churn out a few pitiful sentences to summarize the goings-on of the week. 

Both kids have been coughing like chain smokers, apparently still recovering from a minor cold they inherited from their cousins last week. Luckily for us, they are both in good spirits even with the occasional hacking fit.

Kira completed all of the work she needs to renew her license in Texas this week, and was asked to teach the lesson in Relief Society today. That serves her right for being so awesome.

I took my guitar to campus this week to demonstrate some of the aspects of music perception to my students. I tried it out last summer with this course, and it went over really well, so I did it again this year. When I opened up the ol' guitar case to tune her up, I realized just how long it had been since I'd played. Not only did the thin metal strings tear into the pampered flesh on my fingertips, but I discovered several little "treasures" hidden in the body of the guitar. Avey had apparently stored a few items there back when we lived in Canon City. After playing a little for my students, I have decided to play for fun more frequently. I picked out a song I've wanted to learn for a while, and practicing it a little every day! Once I get my fingertips calloused again, I'll be on easy street.

Now, nap time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Loneliness & Togetherness

There was a Cope reunion this last week, which had been planned for some months. The problem is that I found out only several weeks ago that I would be teaching a summer course during that time. After a lot of figuring, we decided to get Kira and the kids up there the weekend before the reunion so that they could get maximum time with the rest of the family. Naturally, that left me home alone for 5 days. As is usually the case during those times, I relished a few hours of quiet when at home, and the promise of uninterrupted sleep each night. But, as is also always the case, the fun lasted only for a couple of days. After that, I found that coming home to an empty home was... not much of a home. I found myself waking up at 6:30 in the morning automatically, even though I didn't really need to be up for a couple of hours. Instead of hearing Carver's singing from his bed, there was only the sound of the air conditioner turning on. Instead of excited shouts of "Daddy's home!" when I'd get home from school, there was only the buzz of the refrigerator. Needless to say, by the last day, I was aching to see my family.
Carver Sharing a Book with a Cousin
I certainly got my wish, and then some. I finished teaching class Thursday morning and drove to Colorado, where I met a warm welcome from my children. I was exhausted from the drive, so was eager to hit the sack. A few minutes into my slumber, Carver awoke screaming. He started coming down with a cold, and a tooth was on its way, so I was patient and understanding... at first. Then Carver woke up screaming an hour later, then again an hour after that, and the hour after that. He continued the pattern until sunrise. As I stared at him with my bloodshot eyes and pounding head, I tried with great difficulty to recall that feeling of longing to hold him again. 

For the rest of the trip I had no idea what loneliness felt like any more. In total, there were 24 people at the reunion, many of them very small children looking for as much attention as possible. Whatever sounds I had missed during my 5 days of solitude were now back with a vengeance. I suppose the grass is very often greener on the other side, as the old adage goes. Now that I've experienced the two extremes though, I am very much satisfied with my small family, and the moderate levels of noise coupled with ample showing of love and affection. Now that we're all together again in our own space, I remember what family is all about.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Anniversary of a Birth

We celebrated Kira's birth this week, with all the fanfare possible. Carver did his part by getting a fever and sleeping only a few hours at a time before waking up screaming. That gave Kira and me maximum time to party. I then contributed to the festivities by spending all morning on campus and the entire afternoon at work, so that Kira could have the kids all to herself. Avey, on the other hand, thought that being very helpful and cooperative would be a nice way to show Mom how much she's appreciated. 
Note the Haircut!
In brief, her actual birthday was kind of a mess. She did, in fact, fill it up with things she enjoys, and we celebrated as a family over the long weekend before. With the generous contributions from friends and family, she purchased a pair of shoes she had been hunting for a while. I baked her cake request, painted her toenails, and tried to let her sleep in as much as possible. Avey, after much thought and deliberation, gave Kira something she knew she wanted: She gave $2 of her own money so that Kira could go down the water slide at our favorite pool.
I began teaching for the summer on Monday, so have been busier than usual. That also means that I was unable to head home to Colorado for the Cope reunion this week. I drove the family halfway up, where we met up with Kira's dad. We then parted ways until I am free to leave later this week. I'm trying to fill my time with getting things done that I've neglected, like sleeping. I hope to dedicate a little more time to schoolwork this week too. 
Carver has been choosing to walk more frequently, and his vocabulary continues to grow. Avey impresses us with her creativity and artistic abilities every week, and her vocabulary is also growing. Her favorite phrase lately is "give me a second". She enjoys coloring her sentences with other phrases like, "as you know...", or "no offense". It's fun to see her experimenting, working out the subtle meanings and appropriate contexts for her new phrases. We are sure she'll get plenty more material from school this year.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Independence Play

We really need more holidays. I've been cooped up in my office on campus for too long, meaning Kira's been managing the children on her own for too long. The 4th this year gave a great chance for a break. We had a blast visiting the same spray pool we enjoyed so much a few months ago, inviting my cousins who live in town. They made it especially fun, because that gave us 4 extra hands to manage the kiddos, so we all got to take shifts. We then ate out at our favorite fast food place, where my receipt turned out to be patriotic also:
What Are the Odds?
We came home to eat and play some board and card games, then Kira and Avey were off to see the fireworks while I got Carver to bed. 
Friday was Kira's day to work, so the kids and I made it another day of fun. I cut Carver's hair (my first attempt), we went to party at the mall, and got a birthday gift for Avey's friend, whose party is tonight.

I start teaching on Monday, while still trying to get my dissertation proposal in good shape. I am officially in my last year of graduate school, and expect to be "Dr. Ricks" within the next 12 months (assuming that my dissertation participants cooperate). Avey is excited to begin kindergarten in a few more weeks, and Carver is thrilled to be doing anything at any time. He'll be crashing into walls very soon. We are gearing up for Kira's birthday this week, hoping to make it a memorable one. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Moms and Dads

Carver must have different perceptions of Kira and me. We saw the same pattern with Avey, but for some reason it is most apparent when they get around Carver's age. Mom equals comfort, and Dad equals playtime. The man cub has been in an annoying phase where he gets up between 5 and 6 a.m. every morning. Kira and I take turns getting up with him, and we've noticed that when I get up with him, he rolls around gleefully on the couch as if it were a trampoline. When Kira gets up with him, he'll cuddle up in her lap or on her shoulder, and sometimes go to sleep for a few minutes at a time. It can't be how we react to him in the morning, because we are both equally lethargic. I certainly don't encourage him to have a blast at 5:20, so it must be related to his expectations of us. 
We got the same thing with Avey around this age. For a very long time, every morning when she woke up she would call out from her crib, "Daddy, it's time to get up and play!" Kira and I have both come to terms with our roles, though. Even though she can be fun, and I can be warm, we are glad that we are both predictable and dependable enough in our behavior that our children get the sense of stability.
An Embarrassing Moment for Mr. Potato Head
Carver seems to have taken an interest in our social rituals lately. As you'll note in the video, when he sees a picture of a baby come up on our screen saver, he usually reacts with an "Awww..." as if to say, "How cute!" Over the last week he started finding crumbs on the floor and saying, "Uh oh..." then picking them up and handing them to us. Just about any time he collides with something, even when clearly not injured, he will hold out whatever part made contact, with a sad look on his face, until Kira or I kiss it. Then he laughs and continues whatever he was doing.

We can't wait to see what new developments July brings!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keeping Time

Avey gets so distracted by her imagination sometimes that she forgets what she should be doing. For a long time her eating has been affected by this little quirk. She will sit at the table, with food in front of her (even food that she likes), and she will let the time roll by as she plays a game with her brother, or imagines up scenarios, and so on.
Modeling Bracelets
As preschool was approaching, we knew that we would have to encourage her to eat more quickly: They would never tolerate taking a full hour to nibble away at a quarter of a sandwich! We devised a plan where Avey gets 30 minutes to eat all of her food, and if she beats the time she gets a treat. We bought a digital clock to keep at her spot, and began to write down her time to beat at every meal so she could keep track. We thought it would also provide good opportunity to teach Avey how to tell time.
Paper Dolls Never Go Out of Style
Earlier this week, Avey sat down to her meal and asked Kira what the clock should say when her time is up. Kira wrote down her time, 5:51. Avey looked at the paper, then at the clock, and said "My time is five fifteen." Kira noticed that Avey had confused the order of the digits and said, "No, switch it." Avey, now very lost, asked cautiously, "five teen fif?"
Totally Shocked

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tribute to Eli-Father’s Day 2013

By Kira-
With the help of the Primary, Avey made a gift for Eli today by filling in the blanks to the following statements: I love my dad because… “he is hilarious!” My dad likes to… “sleep.” [My] favorite thing to do with dad… “is to make jokes with him.” Therefore, according to Avey, Eli is either a one-act-show, or sleeping!
I am sure Avey knows that he does MUCH more than that, such as: continues to do most of the dishes for the past 8 years, cooks half (or more) of the meals, does most of the grocery shopping, pays the bills, cleans the house and the kids regularly, plays “Mr. Mom” 2-4 times a week (better than most Mrs. Moms!), comes up with creative games or toys to entertain his children in a small apartment, listens to his children and wife, supports financially and emotionally his children and wife, brings balance to the personalities and drama of the household, intellectually stimulates all of us, and he far outshines me in his midnight bonding with Carver (except for when I was feeding Carver as a newborn).
This is, of course, not even mentioning that he works 10 hours a week, is a teacher, is a student, does research, is finalizing 2 articles for publication, is writing his proposal for his dissertation, writes a family blog EVERY week, calls his mom EVERY week, and lets his wife “download” EVERY night, to name a few.
Besides all he does, what Eli is, is exactly what this family needs. We need, and are balanced out, by his humor, positive interactions with us, patience for us, his impeccable time management and punctuality, his love, support, and ever-helping hand. We love him, and would fall apart without him! Thank you for loving us, and we love you!

Affectionately,
Kira, Avey and Carver

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Communication

After Carver's fever from a few weeks ago, he regressed in several areas. He is now very hesitant to eat small bites of meat, opting instead for the baby food version. He has also taken less interest in walking, although he will humor us when we insist. But even with the setbacks, it seems his vocabulary has exploded.
Hugging His Puppy Dog
We've used our very limited sign language with Carver much more than we did with Avey, and it's made a clear difference. He has regularly signed "eat" and "more", but recently has nailed down "milk", "dog", "fish",  "bird", and "cheese".
Miss America
He's made even more progress in verbal words. Just yesterday I was feeding him a meal, and said jokingly, "Well, Carver, let's make some dinner conversation." He said, clear as crystal, through the little grin on his face, "Okay."

We've also caught him saying "Cuckoo" in reference to our clock, he says something pretty close to "cheese", "fish", and "sis" (our word for Avey). His all-time favorite word is "go", and we have to be careful not to say it or he will head straight for the door and say "Go! Go!" and sob if we don't take him outside. I've also caught him saying, "Ooh, look!" two or three times.

Just when we thought he couldn't get any cuter, he starts to speak! The problem is that now we have to be careful about what we say - he's always listening!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bed

Our new mattress is a huge success, with the whole family. Avey had fallen in love with our old mattress for its bounciness - in fact, the day the delivery guys were coming to exchange the mattresses, Avey bawled like they were coming to take away her left arm. 

Carver fell in love with our bed several weeks ago. He never quite got the hang of jumping on it, but that child could roll around on it all day and never once show a sign of boredom. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I showed the kids what it's like to make a little tent out of a sheet on the bed, and that immediately turned into their favorite shared activity:
Now, every night just before bedtime, they both demand some time on our bed. I've even had to move a baby mattress out to the front room so that they can play on it as long as they want with less supervision.

Forget some awesome vacation - these kids just need a few sheets and something soft to roll around on!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sleep, Round II

Sleep. What a wonderful concept. Yet it sounds so foreign to me now. Kira and I have been craving sleep for a good long while now, but never as much as in the last few weeks. When we were in Colorado at the end of April, we stayed at her parents' house, sleeping on a queen bed in the basement. We don't know exactly what it was - maybe the elevation, the cold crisp air, or the gloriously soft mattress - but we slept like we hadn't slept in years. 

The experience shed new light on the problem with our own mattress - it's hard as a rock. We had inherited it a few years after we were married, to replace our cheap futon mattress. After the Colorado trip, we knew the madness had to end. We purchased a better mattress, and it came this week. 
Unfortunately, our attempts to test it have been thwarted by our children: more specifically, the boy.

It really isn't his fault, though. The poor child was down with a high fever for about 3 days, and now is battling a stuffy nose. He wakes up every couple of hours exhausted and miserable, with little to be done for his ailments. Maybe some day there will be a baby-friendly version of Nyquil®.

As we wait for Carver to fully recover, we take turns napping on our new mattress. Those naps are wonderful, but I can't help but feel like I'm being teased. At this point, I'd probably be thrilled to lay down on a bed of nails if it meant I could doze off for a few seconds. Sooner or later, our kids will have to get better, and then we can give our new bed the true test.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Economics

With summer upon us, our fellow El Pasoans have pulled out their many methods of coping with the heat. One of those is the use of vehicles with convertible tops, allowing for maximum airflow while driving. Avey has been most interested in these unique vehicles of late, and mentioned to Kira a few days ago that she would like it if we were to own a convertible some day. Kira shared her interest, but also added the caution that such cars often come with greater cost than others. Avey pondered that for a moment and then said, "But if there's no roof, it should cost less!"
At dinner a few nights ago, I was teasing Avey (a common occurrence in our home). I jested that she should put me to bed and she could stay up and do the dishes (rather than the other way around). She responded that she was the younger of us and, therefore, should be the one going to bed. I challenged, saying that she were the older one than I. Now clearly frustrated, she growled, "Dad, listen. 1-2-3-4-5! Have you heard 31 yet?!?"
Scarfing Down French Fries
Carver has made leaps and bounds in his development these last couple of weeks. He's sprouted two top teeth, and possibly a third, and just yesterday after changing his diaper, I set him on his feet and he took about 5 steps unassisted. He's getting bolder, and will probably be walking all over us very soon!
Concerned Carver
I finished up finals on Monday of this week, utterly destroying my Categorical Data Analysis final with a 98.8%, and awaiting the results from my other courses. I was very disappointed to find 3 of my undergraduate students had plagiarized their written assignments, forcing me to turn them in to the University's authorities to face disciplinary action. I also finally learned that I will be teaching Sensation and Perception this summer! Hopefully I will also get two papers submitted for publication, and my dissertation proposal ready for approval. It will be a busy summer for me.
"Graduation" from Pre-K
Avey's preschool had their end-of-year celebration on Thursday (I have a hard time calling it a "graduation"). I spent most of it chasing Carver up the aisles, but Avey did a wonderful job singing with her classmates. We are so proud of how she is growing and learning! The printed program noted on it that she is in the future graduating class of 2026, nearly giving me a heart attack. That seems so far away, and she's our oldest!

Kira has been very busy with her counseling lately, spending most of her Mother's Day working through a crisis with a client, and now with a caseload of four - the most she's ever had for private practice. She made arrangements for us to go on a date yesterday - yes, a real date! We went to a morning showing of the new Star Trek movie (which was fantastic), and then enjoyed a lunch where no one was screaming for a bite of our food (e.g., Carver) and we were not distracted by the need to prod anyone to eat their own (e.g., Avey). We will need to do that more often!