Saturday, September 30, 2006


Like Matthew, Melissa has grasped the importance of shoes early on. "When we put shoes on, we go places!" When she wants to go out, she'll bring me my sandals as a hint. And the other day, when Rachel told Matthew to go get his shoes on, Melissa heard and brought Matthew's shoes, Rachel's shoes, and her shoes.


I've mentioned that Melissa started calling me Mama a few weeks ago. I didn't much care for this, so I stopped picking her up when she called me Mama. I didn't require being called Dada; I'd pick her up if she just held her arms out in the universal Pick Me Up sign, but Mama was Right Out.

I'm happy to report that my campaign was a complete success. Nothing like a baby happily calling out, "Dada!" to brighten your day.

Rachel is a little chagrined, though, that now Melissa sometimes calls out Dada to her, too.

Monday, September 25, 2006


  • Summer is over. Last week was cold and rainy. Friday morning Rachel took the kids to Matthew's gym class with the rain coming down in sheets and the temperature about 45. Before getting in the car, Matthew ran out into the rain and stood there looking up at it. "What a nice day! I like the rain!"
  • Saturday was the first day of Matthew's indoor soccer. I felt bad for him -- he looked forward to it so much, and started warming up (running across the gym, and jumping jacks) with such enthusiasm, but standing in line to do drills drained that completely. Three times he came over to me and asked to go home. I encouraged him to stay to the end and get his soccer shirt, which he was pleased with. Next week they should jump right into games, so we'll see how that turns out.
  • Sick babies are no fun. Last night Melissa barfed three times, once right after we set off for Rachel's cousin dinner, once at the dinner, and another time before bed for good measure. (She wasn't acting sick, or we wouldn't have taken her to dinner. Remember, this kid pukes when she gets angry enough, sick or not. So we're perhaps a little more blase about this sort of thing than we were with Matthew.) Today she emptied her stomach all day; Rachel lost count. Poor kid. Poor mama. She was so sick that when Rachel put her in the shower after one of her purges and sprayed some shaving cream on the wall, she just stood there. Normally there are few things she enjoys more than smearing shaving cream around the bathtub.
  • Melissa enjoys reading. She'll point to the pictures and tell you all about them. "Bjabwablabjabja." When Rachel asks her questions like "Where's the dog?" or, "Where's the ball?" Melissa will point to them.
  • Melissa can actually hold still during Nursery snack time, more or less. When Matthew was this age no force on earth could keep him in a chair. Melissa sits there swinging her legs and eats her crackers. (Water is still beyond her unaided abilities. Or maybe it's so much fun to smear on the table that she spills it on purpose. Either way she is not to be trusted with a glass, unattended.)
  • Matthew enjoys reading too. Rachel is teaching him phonics now, and he's learning the sounds letters make. He's pretty sharp: yesterday he was asking me how to spell his friends' names on his computer (not at all phonetic, except for Emma), and when he got tired of that he busied himself for a bit over his keyboard and announced: "Bwock! [block]" And there on the screen was: bock. Pretty close!
  • They usually play together pretty well these days, but sometimes Matthew gets a little tired of his sister. "I don' wan' this Lissa anymore. Le's [let's] get diffren' sister," he announced one morning after she'd swiped something of his again.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bedtime, part XXXIV

First, the good news: Melissa is getting better at going to sleep. Sometimes she lets her mom or I nurse or bounce her to sleep and that is that. When she does not she usually only yells for 5-10 minutes instead of 30-60.

Now, the way we got to that point is, Daddy decided that he was not going to go console his daughter while she yelled and pounded on the door for that 60 minutes. (Mama concurred with the decision but Daddy was doing the dirty work at this particular time.) This was hard, because she seemed genuinely distressed, but enough was enough, and, being a smart girl, she could tell that the pattern was, "if I bang on the door long enough, Daddy will come back." Not the right lesson to teach in this case. Her stubbornness was leading to sleep-deprived crankiness on her part and ours.

In preparation for battle, since having your daughter yell and bang on the door for you when she's supposed to be going to bed sucks even more than just yelling in her crib, we lowered the crib bottom as far as it would go to prevent her from climbing out. The top rail comes to her neck.

She climbed out anyway.

The first time she did this, I figured she was using our bed mattress as a step up in her climb to freedom, so I moved her crib away from the bed and left her there while I cleaned up the baby puke by the door. (Yes, she's still literally puking with rage if she works herself up enough.) Then I heard a clunk and more yells from the floor by the crib. In her rage, or the darkness, or both, she didn't notice that the bed wasn't there anymore and climbed over anyway.

We moved the crib back by the bed since we didn't want her to get hurt. After much banging on the door and wailing, she grew silent. When I dared check on her, she had climbed back into her crib and gone to sleep there.

A few days later I thought I'd give the crib trick another try when I was trying to get her to take a nap. Bang bang bang at the door, with screaming. It was daytime, so she could easily see when I pushed the crib away from the bed. Maybe she'd be intimidated by the memory of last time.

She was not. Bang bang bang again.

Obviously it wasn't working, but I was curious to see how she managed it, so I put her back in the crib one more time and watched through a crack in the door: she starts in the corner, pulls herself up a bit, gets an ankle over the rail -- it helps to be baby-flexible, because this is neck-level, remember -- and levers herself on to the top of the rail. Then she slips over, holding on with her hands so she's hanging by the rail, then lets herself drop to the floor.

Pretty sophisticated for 16 months if you ask me. Her mother's genes bred true.

(She uses the same leg trick to lever herself up onto our smaller rocking horse. I have that one on film: pretty impressive, if you're like me and the last time you were that flexible is roughly never.)

Sean Russell rocks

Seriously, he rocks.

Initiate Brother duo was great. (I wrote about the first book briefly here. Too bad the Vinge book turned out to be something of a disappointment.) The two River into Darkness books were also great. Now I've ordered the Moontide Magic Rise books, and that makes me sad because after that there is only one more series to go before I have run out.

On the bright side, he's pretty young. So hopefully he still has a long career ahead of him.

I realized that the other thing that makes Russell's work a candidate for comparison with Dune is the sense of a vast world behind the tale, of which only a small part is exposed in the book itself. Not many authors manage this, probably because it's a lot of work. But when done right it makes fantasy more engrossing than it can possibly be otherwise. This is one reason Tolkien's work is so amazing.

And Russell's books move. Kind of like if Tom Clancy wrote fantasy, back when he didn't suck. No Robert Jordan "how much more pointless exposition can I fit on this page" crap. (Does Clancy even bother writing anymore, or is he too busy with licensed properties to bother? And does anyone care?) (And Wheel of Time, Book 11? Seriously, Mr. Jordan, it's time to muster the courage to try something new.)

The early Russell books can be found used on Amazon for under $1. Go get some.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Stick a fork in it

Melissa wants to feed herself. Often she will refuse food we know she likes unless she is allowed to feed herself. This can get messy. (And she can usually out-stubborn her parents on this, since we would rather stick her in the bathtub afterwards than fight an hour-long battle over every meal.)

But, she is getting pretty good with a fork, on foods she can stab. She'll stab it with her fist around the handle, thumb pointing up and tines down, then she'll do amazing contortions to get the business end in her mouth. "Proper" fork positioning eludes her.

Often she will just pull the food off the fork with her other hand and put it in her mouth that way, after she gets it stabbed. But she is pleased with herself.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

M&M games

Matthew and Melissa are playing together more now. They liked to chase eachother and hide. They zoom around the couch, and up and down chairs and stairs, all the while giggling madly. Yesterday, when Matthew lied on the floor, Melissa toddled over and started tickling him and making "bee" noises. She then grabbed his shirt pulled it up to expose the belly button and said "there it is!"

For the most part Matthew is pretty gentle with his sister, but sometimes he forgets that she is littler. He's still a high energy kid and can be too much in her face. We've had to institute rules such as "no wrestling with your sister" and "no picking her up." He does get frustrated with her a times too. He'll explain a game and expect her to go along with his rules. Melissa mostly doesn't understand his more sophisticated "pretend" games and does her own thing. At other times she does get it, but has ideas of her own. This causes great consternation in Matthew. "MOOoom! Melissa not listening me!!!" Welcome to the club kiddo.


I'd pretty much given up on signing with Melissa. Yesterday I offered her some more yogurt and didn't bother with the sign. Matthew, however, signed "more" and low and behold Melissa signed back to him! And she really did want more! Today she did it again at lunch time. Wahoo! She's finally signing back! 'Course she's getting more and more verbal all the time, so she probably won't sign very many words before she's chattering like Matthew.


There are few things that motivate Matthew more than competing (and winning). Last week his room was in an abysmal state. After spending an hour trying to prod him to clean the mess, I was getting frustrated, he was getting bored, and the room remained in the same sad condition. Knowing how much he likes games I decided to make cleaning his room a contest of speed. I would clean my room and make my bed while he had to clean his room, and we would see who the victor would be. Well, I beat him, and he was extremely dismayed (though he had been cleaning his room at a frezied pace). Seeing how much he wanted to "beat mama," I set up new parameters. Mama would strip and make his bed and he clean his room. That time he won hands down. (Melissa assisted by being very cranky and wanting to be held, so I was handicaped somewhat.) He was thrilled, and the room was clean in record time. Since we had both done such a good job, we decided that a treat was in order.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bedtime redux

Since I wrote last time, Melissa has had to howl herself to sleep twice after exhausting both her parents' patience, but we haven't yet institutionalized Thou Shalt Go To Sleep By Thyself.

Night-time sleep is still a mixed bag. Some nights she only rouses a little to make sure I am still there and goes right back to sleep. Other nights she kicks and squirms and makes it impossible for me to sleep for an hour or more.

Matthew sleeps fine, of course, once he finally lies still in his bed long enough for gravity and sleep to overcome his natural tendency to remain in motion. But I do have a Matthew story: a couple weekends ago, I took an afternoon nap and invited Matthew to nap in the guest bed with me, under the theory that maybe the novelty would get him to settle down faster. It did, and a good nap was had by all.

But that night when Rachel went to check on him after his bedtime, he was not in his room. He'd moved to the guest bed! Rachel evicted him, but let him keep the blanket from the guest bed that he envied.

As the peanut turns

Bouncing on the trampoline with Matthew and Melissa today brought back memories. After all, it was the same trampoline that Matthew and I bounced on together over two years ago when we first moved here. Matthew was the age Melissa is now, and Melissa wasn't even a name on her mother's baby list yet.

I sent Matthew off to run around the house before rejoining us. Melissa took a few steps, but much faster than I thought possible Matthew was back, climbing back up the trampoline.

Matthew was a lot more sure of himself physically at this age than his sister is. A little too sure, really; he fell down a lot more, but usually picked himself up again cheerfully. This fearlessness extended to the trampoline, where he'd try to jump himself, or just crawl around and encourage me to bounce him around. Now he's this (almost) four year old with the proportions of a boy, not a baby, bouncing ME around with Melissa on my lap. Melissa took a few tentative steps away from me but her brother's jumping kept her coming back to sit with me. Not for her being bounced around like a ball by someone larger.

Funny, the similarities and differences. Melissa also enjoys me chasing her, but she doesn't like being tickled or tossed about as much when I catch her.

They're both at fun ages right now. Matthew is communicating more and more (really, it's getting him to stop communicating everything he thinks that's the trick, sometimes), and Melissa is just starting developing that ability. They are both good-natured kids. It's a good time to be Dad.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Matthew can hold a several-shot rally with the computer in Virtua Tennis, but he doesn't know how to direct his shots to make it hard for the CPU to reach them, so he always loses eventually. This makes him mad. Fortunately, the worst word he knows is "stupid," which he pronounces without the D.

On the other hand, he's surprisingly good at Sly Cooper 3 which I would have thought would be more challenging. I guess the extra buttons involved aren't as tough for an almost-four-year-old as the more subtle interaction of the buttons and analog stick for VT, after all. Sly 3 ("new fox game" -- yes, I know it's a racoon) is joining We Love Katamari ("ball game") and Burnout Revenge ("car game") in Matthew's favorites. He was really into Ratchet & Clank 3 for a while, too ("ratchet game") but I think his mom banned him from that for a while. (Really into it...) He racked up over $400k doing some of the earlier missions over and over -- I'd beaten the game, so Ratchet was really buff, and Matthew was able to breeze through the early missions, calibrated for a significantly less buff protaganist, with ease. Basically he just wants to blow stuff up and not worry much about dying.

I did let him try Ratchet & Clank 2, but that wasn't as much of a success. In 3, a lot of missions will auto-replenish your ammo when you start them. Those were the missions Matthew liked. In 2, you always have to remember to buy new ammo, and there isn't a "max out all" option to keep things simple. So Matthew was always running out of ammo and getting frustrated.

He's a little better at Guitar Hero ("youtarr [guitar] game") than a few months ago but it's still just a little too hard for him to really get into, past the first couple songs.

I also picked up a copy of Toy Commander for the dreamcast based on some guy's slashdot comment gushing about how great it was. For a game about toys, it's extremely complicated. Each toy controls differently, but the missions also have very narrowly defined objectives barely within a four year old's ability to remember, and far beyond his ability to achieve. Too bad. He wants to like this "plane game" -- one of the first toys you can use is a biplane -- it's just out of he league for now.

Most gameboy advance games are also just a little too hard for him. He can do most of Sonic Advance, with the exception of the bosses. By far the easiest game we have is a Donkey Kong Country (#2? #3? I forget) but he doesn't like that, for some reason. He does like Metal Slug because it has tanks, but it really is too hard for him. His favorite was Metroid Zero Mission -- Rachel had beaten it, so Samus was super buff for the early areas, like Ratchet -- but then he deleted the save with that data on it. We should have made a copy; he does that eventually to pretty much any game he gets to play, since he can't read the prompts when it asks, "Are you sure?" Given this handicap, he actually navigates menus amazingly well. Just keep him out of the Save menu.