Harper in action.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Outside

Harper has learned the difference between inside and outside. Unfortunately for us, she only wants to be outside now. As soon as she wakes up in the morning she's asking to go outside.

As soon as we get her home from day care she wants to go outside. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming and crying. She doesn't ask for mommy, doesn't want daddy. She wants to go outside.

Sometimes we'll take her out onto the balcony patio we have. This is not what Harper means when she says, "outside" (or more accurately, "owshide"). Harper has a very specific intent when she requests to be outside.

To her, outside means getting in the swing we have hanging from the tree in our front yard. She loves to go really high in her swing for about ninety seconds. Then she starts frantically signing "all done". As soon as I let her down from the swing, she runs over to our side yard and waits for me to open the gate.

Her first stop is typically the ladybug sandbox. She scoops sand pours it into this funnel thing which spins a paddle wheel as it falls through. Next, she likes to go into her playhouse and stand at the sink. She rubs her hands together and says, "wash". She will also usually ring the playhouse doorbell a few times just to make sure it's still working.

Next she'll go down her little slide once or twice, point to one of the neighborhood cats and say, "shishy", which is how she says "kitty" (as well as "fishy" as when she asks for her favorite Goldfish crackers). She also points to the fish wind chime that hangs outside our neighbor's window by the side yard and says, "shishy" (which is also how she says "kitty").

So at 3:00am, when Harper starts crying to go outside, it's nearly impossible to calm her down. We have to distract her or something and we're usually up anywhere from one to three hours. Harper still has a really hard time sleeping and almost never sleeps undisturbed between midnight and 6:00am.

McCall was lamenting the other day the fact that she taught Harper the difference between inside and outside. But at least this way we know what she wants. It would be so much worse if we just couldn't figure out what she was crying for. At least in theory.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mini-vacay!

What a week! I don't even know where to begin. The beginning just seems so contrived. EVERY story begins at the beginning. Except those tediously obnoxious stories that begin somewhere in the middle or even the end! Get over yourself, just start at the beginning like a normal story.

We had plans to visit my brother, Joel, and his family in Minneapolis for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, Harper Jo got sick so we postponed our flight a few days. We ended up having Thanksgiving dinner with old family friends, the Sunukjians. Harper Jo didn't get better, though, and it turned out she had a mild case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. So we canceled the flight we had previously postponed.

This left us in a bit of a quandary. We had nowhere to go, nothing to do, a week in which to do it, and Harper Jo the whole time. That's right, she was barred from daycare for 10 days. I guess I'm thankful for that policy, but it sure bit us at the worst time. I started thinking about last year when we went down to San Diego the weekend after Thanksgiving. We had a such a great time. Then McCall's grandmother suggested we take a quick getaway to San Diego.

We Pricelined four star hotels in San Diego and got the Hilton Resort Mission Bay for a reasonable rate. We booked two nights and had a plan: we would drive down and spend the day at the SD Zoo, sleep, the next day go to the SD Wildlife Park, sleep, return home.

Then, and I swear I'm not making this up, we get a call from Harper's agent. She has an audition for Mattel the second day of our mini-vacay. Get on the horn, change nights, new plan: audition, drive, zoo, sleep, park, sleep, home.

The audition ran later than we estimated. We made it to the zoo about an hour before it closed. We had planned to become members either way, because then we got free admission to the wildlife park. So we went in and made sure there were still animals at the zoo, then we left.

At that point the plan morphed to: eat, sleep, zoo, sleep, park, home.

The zoo was a blast. We had a great time and saw all of Harper's favorites (ducks and flamingos, which she refers to as "mingos"). We rode the Skyfari lift three times and we even saw some Great Pandas.

That night we went ate a nice a restaurant/bar called Saska's. They the had the Cowboys and Packers game which was only available on the NFL Network and therefore not available at the Hilton Resort Mission Bay. After dinner, McCall took Harper back to the room while I finished the game. The Cowboys improved to 11-1. The best record in franchise history. Meanwhile, Harper randomly threw up all over McCall and the bed. I wasn't sorry to miss that one.

Friday morning we woke up the strangest thing. There was water, and it was falling. From the sky. It was like the clouds were crying. It'd been so long since I'd seen it, I almost forgot the word for it. Horrificallytorentialdownpour.

Rain hit us like we stole its lunch money. We checked the Weather Channel and all of SoCal was getting drenched. The plan: pack, leave, check out wild life park, eat, determine new plan.

The wild life park seems like it would be a lot of fun on a beautiful day. Yesterday it was the most miserable place on the planet. There was no place to sit down and have a meal indoors. We were there about 10 minutes and called it a bust. Somehow, we spent about $40 there.

The rain was really furious. We found the nearest diner and stopped to eat. The TV reception kept going in and out due to the storm. Thankfully, be the time we were done it had let up a lot. We drove home pretty exhausted. Harper was a handful the whole time.

But all in all, it felt like things really worked out the way they were supposed to. We had such a great time at the zoo, and San Diego is so nice, plus the Cowboys won. It's really hard to complain. It's also really hard to come back. But at least we can put Harper back in day care!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ice, Ice, Baby

We decided to take Harper ice skating today. I haven't been ice skating in a long time. A loooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggg time. McCall asked me how long it's been. So long it didn't cause excruciating pain the last time I went.



Let me back up a minute. McCall phoned all the local ice skating rinks to see if any had toddler skates. The Culver Ice Arena carries toddler size six skates. Perfect for Harper Jo. So we loaded her up and made our way down to Culver City.

Before leaving we had a brief debate about how warmly we needed to dress Harper. Did we need a cap, mittens, scarf, etc. I insisted no, it would be cold, but the air wouldn't be too cold. As soon as we walked through the door I knew I was wrong. The place was FREEZING. And besides that every kid in the place was bundled like Everest expeditioners.

In my defense, I grew up in Texas where the only ice rinks were in the middle of malls with huge open space all around. So the cold air was able to rise and diffuse. This place was a huge slab of ice in a room. It was a meat locker.

Anyway, we got laced up, snapped a couple pictures, shot a few minutes of video and then Harper was pretty much done. She made one full lap around the rink being guided by McCall. Then she started crying to leave which was fine with me, because my feet were killing me. I don't know what's changed in the last 17 years but it started by squashing any grace I ever had on ice skates.

We didn't get many, but here are a few pics of Harper at the ice rink.


Harper Jo once again proves that there are no limits to being cute.




"What do you think it is, Harper, 45 degrees?"
"Lower."
"40?"
"Lower."
"35?"
"Lower."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

10 Second Picassos

Harper loves to draw. We gave her some markers and a pad of paper and she started scribbling immediately. Problem is, after a few strokes she's ready for the next sheet. She's very specific about when one of her masterpieces is finished. I imagine in her head it's something like...

Scribble, scribble, scribble
"Voila! Perfect. Next!"

Some pieces for your viewing pleasure:


"Fishy"



"Bunny Rabbit"



"
Guernica"


The artist in repose.

Friday, November 9, 2007

One Night Only

McCall is a HUGE Ben Harper fan. Her affinity is one of the main reasons Harper is so named. McCall has told me numerous times that Ben Harper was the voice of God for her until she could hear Him for herself, that listening to his music was a form of prayer and worship for her.

Last night, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals played the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Our good friend and former nanny, Moon, is in town visiting and she agreed to babysit Harper for us so we could go to the show. It was a much needed and anticipated date night for us.

Through a series of events, the details of which I'll spare you, we had an extra pair of tickets we were hoping to unload. We weren't trying to make a profit, we just didn't want to eat the cost of an extra pair of fairly expensive tickets.

We dined at the Daily Grill and before our meal we prayed that God would guide the tickets to the right people. When you live by faith, you never know what moments may lead to life changing experiences for yourself or those around you. So we wanted to be open to the possibility that our extra set of tickets could be God's unexpected grace in someone else's life.

Standing outside waiting for the valet to bring us our car, McCall starting asking other patrons if they were fans of Ben Harper. The first guy professed that he didn't even have cable TV. I'm not sure what that had to do with Ben Harper, but he seemed to offer it as an explanation for not knowing who Ben Harper is. We then saw a young couple and the girl became immediately excited at the prospect of seeing Ben live. Unfortunately, the guy she was with had some "homework" he had to finish and she was unable to raise anybody else on the phone to join her.

So officially that left us at Expensive Tickets 2, Kyle and McCall 0.

We hopped in our car and headed over to the Orpheum hoping we might be able to find someone looking for seats there. McCall was very concerned because the show started at 8pm and we were cutting it close. Almost immediately it seemed that unloading our extra seats was going to be very unlikely. It was obvious that anybody hanging around this area of downtown either already had tickets, was homeless, or was looking to purchase something else.

When we saw the marquee, we realized there was an opening act, Piers Faccini, so we had a little bit of time. McCall and I both thought to call Moon and have her bring Harper down for the show. So Moon roused Harper, rushed out the door, and roared down Wilshire to the Orpheum.

She arrived just in time. McCall took Harper to our seats in Row G, center aisle right as Ben settled into his opening number, 11th Commandment, a solo on his lap steel guitar. Meanwhile, Moon and I took our seats in Row V. If my seat had been any further to the left, I would have been sitting in the parking lot.

I kept looking over to try and see McCall and Harper. Harper was pretty easy to spot with these big florescent pink earphones on. Unfortunately, she tends to get squirmy when we hold her too long. She really loves to run, explore, and meet new people. So McCall was constantly getting in and out of the row. I was very worried that the people next to or behind her would get upset.

I relieved McCall for a while and let Harper roam around the Orpheum's massive lobby. She loved climbing the marbled stairs and we took a quick peak from the mezzanine. Eventually, a very kind couple in the same row (opposite side) gave McCall their aisle seats so she could get in and out more easily. We didn't seem them after that, I guess they just left or something. Regardless, this allowed me and Moon to come down to Row G.

It was so much fun to watch Harper. Everyone around us seemed awestruck by our little girl. People kept checking in with her to see her reaction. Several times she walked down to front of the stage and stand at the security rail. At one point, we gave her a bottle and she sat bobbing on Mommy's shoulders with it stuck in her mouth. It was the funniest sight. I can't imagine that's happened too many times before at one of their shows.

The concert ended at the perfect time; just as Harper was starting to get really restless. At the end of the show McCall carried her down to the front and Leon Mobley, percussion, handed her a drum stick. Then Ben gave her one of the fabric roses that had adorned the piano all night.

The show itself was totally amazing. It had the feeling of a worship service. I could definitely sense God's presence. And why not? If I were God, I'd go to a Ben Harper show. I'm reminded of the song Anyone Can Play Guitar by Radiohead. In it Thom Yorke sings "I want to play in a band when I get to Heaven." Well, I'm pretty sure I'll be watching Ben Harper for the rest of eternity play the lap steel in Heaven's band.

Three moments in particular stand out to me. The first was a cover of Tom Petty's Breadown. I'm a huge classic rocker, so I was stoked when I heard the band playing it. Unfortunately, I was in the men's room at the time with Harper Jo (hey, the title of the blog isn't alliterative lip service). However, we were able to make it back into the theatre to catch the tail end.

The second moment was during Where Could I Go, the last song of the set before the encore. In the middle of the song, the band suddenly went totally quiet. Ben swung the microphone away from his face and stepped in front of the monitors to the very edge of the stage and sang the next verse a cappella. The excitement in the crowd was palpable and many had difficulty containing their hoots and caterwauls.

Ben recoiled from the shouts, obviously wanting absolute quiet. We obliged. Even Harper remained silent. The result was one of the most amazing live performances I've ever witnessed. Ben's voice filled the cavernous hall. I'm very glad I was standing so close to experience this, but I wander if it was wasn't even more spectacular from the balcony. He finished with the lyrics "They say freedom is just a place to hide/Now I'm coming to you with arms open wide/Where could I go but to the Lord," and the band kicked in at full volume as the crowd erupted in ecstatic rhapsody.

The last moment was something really special. Towards the end of the show, the band finished a song and the crowd started cheering. But the band just stood there looking at us. And we cheered louder. For what seemed like five or six full minutes we cheered, the volume rising steadily. But I don't think we were applauding Ben Harper's personal musical achievements as we were the opportunity to come together with so many different people and witness the beauty and inspiration that comes from watching someone do something they love so passionately so excellently.

As he stood there gazing out into the audience, I think Ben Harper felt humbled. He made no gestures to prompt the applause, did nothing to accept it. Simply stood and listened. Ben Harper may be a musician but it's possible this an erroneous label for him. I think more accurately he might be described as a harbinger of joy. Because that's what we were all feeling in that moment. Regardless of what awaited us when left the Orpheum, no matter what demons hunched at the doors, in that moment, everyone in the audience knew they were alive. We felt joy and we expressed it, we lifted it up and shared it with each other.

Eventually, the band had to start playing the next song. Because I for one had no intention of stopping. In fact I was just getting warmed up.

As we filed out, people kept wanting to meet Harper, take her picture, have their picture taken with her. She made tons of friends and brought smiles to everyone. I remembered my prayer from earlier that evening and I realized it had been answered. God had directed those tickets into the right hands. And our family was able to experience an amazing event together.

Not only was it Harper's first Ben Harper show, but it was Moon's as well and she was totally blown away. It felt good that we could give that to her considering how much she does for us. She is a really incredible friend.

God also demonstrated to me His unexpected grace last night. Everyone around us at the show was ready to help with Harper. Everyone was so kind. Everyone was positive. From the woman into whose drink I accidentally put my hand, to the kind couple sitting next me in Row V who thoughtfully asked me if I would like to share their weed. It was truly awesome to see even a small portion of Los Angeles come together in celebration and love. If you were at the Orpheum on Thursday, November 8, 2007, you showed me grace and I thank you.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Harper's Halloween (pt. 1)

This year we decided to have a fairly traditional Halloween. We knew we would dress up Harper Jo and go trick or treating. But we also wanted to let her experience some of the other fun traditions. That meant a trip to the pumpkin patch followed by some pumpkin carving.


Harper Jo and best friend, Miranda.


Last year we went to a really amazing, massive pumpkin patch south of LA. This year was a little different. We were going with one of Harper's classmates, Miranda, and her family. We had to coordinate naptimes and everything. So simplicity was the keyword. As a result, we ended up going to Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch right in the middle of West Hollywood. I knew about Mr. Bones because I used to work in WeHo and it was on my way home.


Harper (lost) in the hay maze.


What I didn't know was what a celebrity hang out Mr. Bones is. It seems this is where you go if you're famous and looking for pumpkins. In fact, Steven Webber stood right behind me line. And apparently Vanessa Williams was there as well. Since our trip, McCall has been showing me pictures from her tabloid mags of all the celebs at Mr. Bones. Everyone from Teri Hatcher to Harrison Ford got their pumpkins there.


You can't really tell, but everybody in the background is famous.


We ended up with a pretty big pumpkin, about 18 inches tall. Obviously, the next step was carving our monstrosity. We ventured over to Miranda's home. Her parents laid down a tarp in the middle of their living room and we all gathered our gourds together, drew different faces on them and began carving.

McCall was a wonder with the kitchen knife. Despite having the biggest pumpkin in the room, she sliced and diced her way through it like Jason Voorhees. I was so proud. My role was encouraging McCall, I told her if we were on the Amazing Race, this when I'd be telling her we were way ahead of the other teams. I also was in charge of collecting pumpkin seeds for baking later.

The kiddos had a wonderful time getting messy with all the pumpkin guts, and amazingly there were no accidents to anybody. I cooked up the pumpkin seeds in the oven and they've been a big hit around the house.


McCall's awesome handy work.

Harper's Halloween (pt. 2)

Taking Harper out for Halloween was a clear illustration about how different our childhood experiences are. We may have grown up on the same planet, but it's a very different world.

I have some really vivid Halloween memories. My first clear one is when I was only three or four. I remember going as Snoopy, or maybe it was Casper. Either way, I had one of those grocery store costumes with the plastic mask that is held to your face with a thin rubber band and two staples.

This year we dressed Harper up like a little punk rock girl for daycare. We took a lot of time to put on little tattoos and spike up her hair in a mohawk. Harper gets the benefit of our undivided attention, something that just wasn't possible for me (with two older brothers) to receive from my parents. But I'm not complaining. I didn't know the difference. And my childhood Halloweens were great.
After my family moved to Dallas, my elementary school would have Halloween parties each year. These later morphed into Fall Fun Festivals. I remember an early Halloween party when I was probably still in kindergarten or so. At the far end of the school, where the sixth grade classrooms were, the lights were dimmed, there was a small "haunted house" of sorts. And one class room featured a strobe light and Michael Jackson's Thriller video playing on a constant loop while the older kids danced. I couldn't wait to be in sixth grade! My brothers tried to take me through the haunted house. I got about four feet in, saw a teacher dressed up like a witch and wrested my arm free from my brother and ran out of there crying.

We picked up Harper after daycare and her hair was a bird's nest. It was terrible. We took her home and washed all the product out of it so we could get her ready for the main event. We were heading down to the Grove for their Halloween festivities.


Piggy Harper and Jason Daddy


Several stores were handing out candy to kids and there was a huge Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End DVD release event. We dressed her up in the cutest little pink piggie costume. She looked totally adorable.


Two little piggies



Piggy Harper and a mini Minnie Mouse



The Grove was a great option for us because we couldn't have gone trick or treating in our neighborhood. Most of the buildings around us are apartment complexes with secured entrances. And most of the residents living around us do not claim English as their mother tongue. Unfortunately, Harper will most likely never go trick or treating on her own. My parents used to let us go by ourselves and didn't think twice about it. I can't imagine sending Harper out into the night to go from door to door...ever. Even when she's in middle school, and all her friends are going together, I'll be very nervous. I'll probably just dress up as Leatherface and follow them from a distance. You know, to make them feel safe.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cracker Snacker

Most of us don’t ponder how to eat a pack of Ritz crackers. The process is fairly self-evident. But how did we acquire this knowledge? If you’ve never encountered Ritz crackers, or plastic packaging of any kind for that matter, how would you try to get them out? Oh yeah, and you’re 16 months old so you don’t know anything.

You may have guessed that these are not rhetorical questions. Yesterday, McCall was showing me some pictures she’d taken of Harper (for a posting to be determined at a later date), and Harper slipped away to our bedroom. Alright, she walked right past us on her way to our bedroom.

After we finished looking at the photos, McCall decided to track down Harper. About 20 seconds later, she called out to me.

“Kyle!”

When you’re married, you can communicate a lot simply in how you vocalize your spouse's name. In the same way that Eskimos have four million words for snow, my wife has about 40 recognized meanings for "Kyle".

Kyle. - I’m about to ask you for something I know you don’t want to do.

Kyle?? - Is that you or a serial killer?

Kyle!!! - Harper just pooped.

This one was a little more complex. The overall message was “Get in here quickly,” but there were heavy overtones of “I need your help,” with just a dash of “You’ve got to see this.”

A few steps short of our bedroom door, McCall had heard a distinctive crackling. The visual confirmed her mental image. Harper had the Ritz crackers on our bed.

Obviously this begs the question, “Why are there Ritz crackers by your bed?” Obviously, the answer is "None of your business."

In order to preserve the scene of the crime, McCall had not altered it in any way. Harper was chewing through the wrapping trying to eat the roll of crackers like an ear of corn. All around her lay a steadily mounting pile of Ritz crumbs.

Immediately, I took them from her and started snacking while I pondered my next move. I determined to get the dust buster and vacuum the bed. McCall stayed with Harper. When I returned to our boudoir, Black & Decker in hand, Harper was crawling around on our bed trying to gobble up the bigger pieces.

As soon as I powered up the 'buster (as I like to call it), Harper jumped down off the bed and ran away in fear. In fact, the only traces remaining of her were the slobber marks she left all over our bed sheet.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Harper's Tiny Tickle Dot

Harper Jo is very attached to McCall. It has only been recently that she will allow me to comfort her instead of McCall. I guess we're all pretty attached to our mothers and especially in childhood I think we feel more connected to Mom. Some of this may come out of the "natural order" in which matriarchs are caregivers while patriarchs are lawgivers. It is only after much maturation that we realize the importance of the steadfast instruction of our fathers.

Harper loves her mommy very much. Almost as much as the original point of contact between them. That's right. I'm talking about her belly button. That physical mark we all bear that, to some degree, defines our human-ness. The one thing we all have in common, the one scar we all bear. Reminding us that we were brought forth through great difficulty, and pain, but also with great love, and joy.

For Harper, though, the it's become an obsession. She touches her own belly button constantly. She doesn't suck her thumb, so belly button pushing has become her default method of self soothing. It's also very important to her that others see her belly button. She loves pulling up her shirt and showing it to people.

She also loves to see and touch ours as well. If she ever sees my or McCall's belly button she wants to poke it. I even make sound effects whenever she pushes mine which always draws much delight and giggles.

It is to the point now where we have to consider her belly button when we dress her. Dresses and onesies are more difficult now because she may melt down if she can't get to her bebo. See, it's not enough for her to touch it through clothes, it has to be direct contact. We even cut the bottoms off some of her onesies so she could get to it.

From where did this obsession come? Tiny the Dog. Who is Tiny the Dog? That's a bit more complicated. Tiny the Dog is an interactive stuffed animal (complete with glowing belly button) that comes with an educational DVD. The DVD contains all kinds of scenes designed to help babies and toddlers learn about colors, shapes, and object permanence. During the video, the characters on screen talk and Tiny the Dog responds.

In the middle of the program, the characters all sing a song together. The lyrics are as follows:
Belly button, belly button/When you touch it great things happen.
It's my tiny tickle dot/Hee hee hee, that's the spot.

Harper is now convinced that touching her belly button will cause great things to happen. Which I guess is accurate to some degree. When she touches her belly button she stops crying so that IS great.

But sometimes I wonder about the long-term effects. Can she suffer from belly button chafing? Will this practice encourage early lint build up? Can she actually poke through into her belly?

All things considered, I guess it's not really a very big deal. It could be a lot worse. She could have a compulsive need to put her middle finger up her nose. That would be so bad.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Flashback

Becoming a parent changes you so dramatically, so completely, and without warning. It's the ultimate guerrilla assault. It's like hearing that in two minutes your house will explode. And it's not that it happens around you. It happens to you, at you, and through you.

This is so true I think differently of people with kids now. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of crime. It's called Los Angeles. So there's kind of a natural level of "on guardedness" that everybody carries. Plus you never know when you might be walking down the street and Steven Spielberg sees you and decides to put you in his next picture and you become rich and famous and win an Oscar, and marry Brad Pitt. He's so dreamy!

But I digress...

A lot of dudes walk around looking all hard and stuff like they're all angry and don't mess with them. But if they have a kid with them, I know they don't mean it. They got too much to lose.

Harper Jo is 16 months old now so I have no personal memory of what she's experiencing. So with things like walking, talking, learning to eat, sort, stack, I'm watching her master these skills somewhat vicariously. I envision myself as a toddler learning in these same ways. I picture my parents chasing me like we do Harper. And I wonder if they chased me in as much frustration as I do Harper. I can't imagine they muttered much of what I do. I don't say "so and so", I say what "so and so" means.

But when she turns three I'm going to stop creating fabricated memories and start comparing actual memories. How is her fourth year similar or dissimilar to my own? I may write a disertation. No I won't. Because I can't even spell dissertation. Oh wait. I guess I can. That's pretty cool.

Anyway...

I think it's going to be kind of weird to compare my faded and photocopied facsimile recollections of really being five years old to my clear, original third-person impressions of virtually being five years old. But so far it's been really fun to see her begin to enjoy things that I enjoyed so much. She loves climbing, and exploring, and laughing. I pray that she never stops doing any of the three.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mine!

This has become one of Harper's favorite words. It is also an example of the only real drawback of daycare. Peer influence. Before daycare, Harper lived in a controlled environment. If I threw a napkin in the garbage from four feet away (or ten feet if I'm shooting a three pointer), and then I see Harper throw a toy similarly, I know why that's happening. Now she can pick up bad habits and I don't know from whom she's getting it. I just know it happened at daycare.

We've started to talk about daycare like it's this vortex we deliver our daughter to each morning and from which we retrieve her each afternoon. What happens at daycare stays at daycare. If Harper comes home in different shoes than she had on in the morning, there's no sense trying to understand. It happened at daycare (thunder crashes).

"Hey, Harper lost an earring, do you know where it is?"
"No idea. It happened at daycare." THUNDER!

"She wasn't wearing this t-shirt when I dropped her off."
"Forget it, McCall, it's daycare." THUNDER!

"Don't we have a girl?" THUNDER

So when Harper recently picked up the "mine" bug, it was senseless to try and identify a culprit. First off, what am I going to do? Confront the poor kid's parents?

"Hey, your kid's been teaching my kid stuff. Tell him to knock it off, Harper knows enough already!"

Besides, I'm horrified to think what Harper might be teaching the other kids. I cringe at the reverse confrontation.

"Um, your little girl showed my little girl how to climb up on top of, well, everything. The funeral will be this Thursday."

But honestly, the whole "mine" thing is a bit annoying, isn't it? Try to take anything away from Harper and she recoils guarding the item covetously while blaring, "Mine, mine, mine, mine..." I think the only reason she doesn't say anything else is because she can't say "precious" yet.


Mine!


Plus, she says it about everything. If she grabs my cell phone off the table, and I try to get it back from her...mine, mine, mine, mine. There goes mommy's shoe. Can I have that Harper? Mine, mine, mine, mine. It's not yours. It's actually mine. In fact, nothing is really yours, it's all ours. We just let you use it.

But I have to feel a level of sympathy for her. I get the feeling that she's coming to the realization that she doesn't really own anything and all the big people in her life do. Plus, if it's not adults, it's the other kids snatching things away from her all day. I think she's just desperate for a sense of ownership.

That's why I've started collecting a glass menagerie for Harper that she can play with anytime she wants. They'll be all hers. Because what better gift is there for a 16 month old than glass?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Stealth Daddy

Harper urinates quite a bit during the night. If we leave her overnight in the diaper that we put her down in, she’ll be soaked by morning. Her pants will be wet, her sheets, her bed, animals, everything.

Obviously, the solution is changing her. So just before I go to bed each night, I change her diaper. If she wakes up again after that, I change her again.

The downside is that Harper does not easily go to sleep. If I wake her up while changing her, I’m in for 20-30 minutes of soothing. That’s why I’ve developed my superhero skills. Now I can deftly move Harper from her crib to her changing pad, nimbly change her diaper, and whisk her back in her crib without waking her up.

Spread the word…
Diapers have a new enemy...
Sleep has a new guardian...
I am Stealth Daddy!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Shoe Fetish

Harper Jo loves shoes. I really think there's an inherited gene in women that carries a love of shoes (and therefore shoe shopping). McCall has absolutely scads of shoes. Some don't fit anymore, some are in the shop (seriously), and some are in boxes waiting to be worn for the first time. I lump everything into the category of "shoe" because really McCall loves boots. I'm a flip-flop guy married to a boot woman. My feet are all black and blue from being stepped on.

As usual I digress. Harper loves all shoes. She loves Mommy's shoes, she loves Daddy's shoes, and she loves her own shoes. She first fell in love with a pair of my flip-flops. Initially, she wouldn't try to put them on. She just loved walking around with them. Anytime I took them off, she was there like a heat seeking missile and then she would carry them someplace else. The more advanced Harper becomes, the more I understand what living with a kleptomaniac is like.

Now she tries to put on shoes. She's more successful with our shoes because they're so oversized. Of course whether or not she has them on the correct foot is of no consequence to her. Either way, she'll attempt to walk around in them with an expression on her face that reflects just how pleased as punch she is with herself.

This morning, while getting Harper dressed and ready for "school" (actually daycare, but we're trying to give her an early positive association with the word school), she grabbed a pair of her shoes with which she is particularly enamored, and sat down to put them on. She actually got her entire foot into the correct shoe! I was so proud. However, as soon as I went to fasten it's velcro strap the shoe came off in my hand. I have a feeling it may be a few sizes too big.

Still, that's quite an accomplishment. I'm not sure if the right shoe on the right foot was intentional or incidental. Either way, I think she did a pretty awesome job. After all, the reason I wear flip-flops is because laces were just too complicated.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adventure Baby!

Almost since birth we’ve been calling Harper “Adventure Baby”. She’s always loved being held upside down, thrown into pillows, flipped over, and doing somersaults. Now that she’s getting bigger and stronger, she enjoys climbing up on things. Anything. It doesn’t matter. If it’s taller than she is, she wants to climb it.

Harper is such a little dare devil. She has this insatiable need to be as high as possible. If she’s in a high chair, she wants to stand on it. If she’s sitting on a stool or chair, she wants to stand up on it. If she’s in a grocery cart, she wants to stand up in it. The seats on those things have those little pictures with a big line through it so you know your kid isn’t supposed to stand up. Harper can’t read those pictures.

I guess I have to take a lot of the blame. I was a climber when I was a kid. I loved climbing trees, rocks, mountains. I would climb up fences and get on houses. Shimmy up poles and get on top of my school. Then I would usually jump down.

Below is a quick clip to illustrate what I’m talking about. This is Harper Jo at her most daring. Testing the limits of her natural abilities, learning through experience the laws of physics.


video

My favorite part is the end when she throws the scooter aside like she's bored with it and runs away. It's almost to say, "I've conquered this, on to the next!"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sweet Tooth

I have to admit that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I don't go crazy and eat gallons of ice cream or gobble family size packages of Peanut M&Ms, but every now and then (probably more often than I should) I indulge.

But I do have one weakness against which I am totally powerless. It is my Achilles heel, my kryptonite, my garlic and holy water. It is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Surely, you can relate. There's that one item you pass in the grocery store, or at the movie theater; that one thing you see and think, "I probably shouldn't but..." and then you do.

It is difficult for me to describe how much I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And I have to specify them by brand name, because other types of chocolate and peanut butter combinations in cup form just don't cut it.

How much do I love RPBCs? I have often wondered how long I could survive eating nothing but Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and 2% milk. On some level I wish this had occurred to me in college, because I was in much better shape to survive on candy for a while, and I think I could have probably parlayed it into a bet of some kind and made money off of it. One more regret I have to live with, I guess.

Harper hasn't had any RPBCs. She's not strong enough to pry them from daddy's hand yet. But we do give her little treats occasionally and she has keyed in on jelly beans. We have this little Easter bunny jelly bean dispenser. You push down on the bunny's right arm and his left arm swings back allowing a jelly bean to pop out of his side into his little Easter basket. When you let got, his left arm swings forward urging you to take the jelly bean like a pusher in a crack den!


The first one's always free


Nothing in the world excites Harper like getting a jelly bean. There's an anticipation on her face, a consternation if we take too long, and an exclamation of pure joy when she finally receives it. She will take itty, bitty bites to make it last. And as soon as she's done, she asks for another. "Mor? Mor? Mor?", echoes her hopeful query.

The great thing about toddlers is they have lousy memories. Do something once, and they'll forget it almost immediately. It takes lots of repetition for them to remember things. Unfortunately, we're getting to the point where Harper retains more from each successive experience. Even though we keep the bunny pusher hidden behind a photo, sometimes she remembers where she saw him last and will point to the picture.

My solution? I'm going to start stuffing that bunny with peas and broccoli. Harper will be in for a big surprise when her dealer starts giving her veggies instead of candy. My laughter that day will be voluminous, muffled only by dangerous levels of chocolate and peanut butter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Master of the Universe

Something occurred to me while we were in Cleveland visiting McCall's family. Harper was playing with a new toy that McCall's mom, Susan, had bought for our visit. Well, actually, calling it a "toy" is understating it a bit. I believe they actually call it an "exploration center". If you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about. These mega structures make the Ewok Village I had as a kid look like Lincoln Logs!


"Harper" loves her Exploration Center!


Anyway, Harper was playing and McCall, Susan, and I were all looking on. Since the activity center was made post 1990, it of course emits lots of sounds and plays songs in six languages. Harper triggered the alphabet song, or something and started to bob her head back and forth. To encourage her sense of rhythm and dance, we all started bobbing our heads and rocking back and forth. The funny thing was, we all started pretty much in unison.

Harper laughed delightedly and started to rock more enthusiastically in response. As soon as the song stopped, she played it again and we all bobbed and rocked together. It was then that the afore mentioned something occurred to me.

Harper must think she controls the world. If she wants us to rock back and forth all she has to do is play some music and we join in. If she wants to play chase, she simply gets up and walks away. As soon as she sees one of us coming after her, she starts running. To her we're just the huge automatons that serve her, clean her, and make her laugh. And I think a lot of babies probably feel this way.

However, the truth is, she doesn't control anything. The only reason I'm rocking to and fro, is because I know that doing so will cause her to do it even more and she's super cute when she's jamming out. I run after her because I don't want her to get run over and as soon as I catch her, I scoop her up and drop her back down where I want her to be, regardless of her will.

I know a little girl who's in for a very sad day when she realizes that she doesn't control squat! In fact, I believe that day, the very instant of that realization, will be quite significant. I believe it will mark the end of her infancy, and the beginning of the long, difficult road toward maturity. But for now, I'm happy to be her puppet. After all, she's usually only pulling on my heart strings.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Barnyard Baby

Last week we flew home to Cleveland to visit McCall's family. Yes, you read correctly, I said we FLEW. For those of you who don't know, flying anywhere is a huge accomplishment for us. Not only were we going with the squirmiest baby on the block, but McCall has a horrible phobia of flying.

However, Kaiser Permanente hooked us up with some meds and McCall was, let's say, on a different plain on the plane. But before she was able to pass out, she had to deal with Harper while I wrangled luggage. And it wasn't until we were in the air that Harper finally went to sleep and McCall could relax. I have to tell you how proud I am of McCall, she was a real trooper and held it together. Way to go, babe!

While in Cleveland we stayed at McCall's mom's house which is called Critter Ridge Farm. It's just a house and a barn on about a half acre of land, but doesn't it sound cool? I've always loved properties with names: Camelot, Monticello, Southfork Ranch. We live in an apartment which I think automatically forfeits the right to name our home. Besides, if we were really honest, we'd have to call it something like Ant Springs, or Mount Toys, or Air Conditionless.

The Critter Ridge barn houses a variety of animals and McCall's mom, Susan, feeds and takes care of them every morning. She has two pigs, a goat, a sheep, a llama, and two alpacas. And those are just the barn animals. Inside the house is a cat, a horse dressed up as a dog called Charlie, and an African Grey named Einstein.



Harper made fast friends with Charlie and in the mornings went out with McCall and Susan to help with the animals. Here are some of Harper's animal exploits caught on film:


Harper Jo with Charlie



Harper with Peekaboo the cat



Susan and Harper prepare to feed Otis the goat



Harper and the animals size each other up



A kiss for Charlie


I love the following series of photographs. The sheep must have said something that Harper didn't like because she suddenly got very upset.






Here comes Charlie to the rescue!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Day Care of Hard Knocks

Harper's day care follows what is called RIE philosophy. RIE stands for Resources for Infant Educators. However, it might as well be called RIP, because they don't interfere with your child unless they're about to kill themselves.

The philosophy basically boils down to the idea that if a child can get into a situation, they can get out of it. RIE also promotes letting kids work out issues on their own. It seems to me that it would be much simpler (and cheaper) to put all the kids in a room with a sheep dog and let them have at it.

All that being said, I should note that we absolutely LOVE our day care and adhere to RIE-esque parenting at home. We don't coddle Harper and we encourage her to stretch herself with new challenges. However, this "hands off" approach does result in a few more falls and scrapes than if we dressed her in one of those over padded sumo outfits that bigshot companies rent for happy hours or executive retreats.

So as a result, Harper consistently comes home with injury reports. Most of the time the injury reports simply detail some fall or scrape resulting in minor bumps and bruises. Although, it was an exciting moment when we read about her first bee sting. It's just a classic childhood rite of passage.

A couple weeks ago, however, Harper got an injury report that McCall thought was hilarious. I think the humor stems from the sheer journalistic simplicity of reporting only the facts. Regardless, it seems that Harper received a valuable lesson in the fine art of negotiating.


Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's Potty Time!

Well, the time has come to train Harper Jo in the fine arts of human waste disposal. I believe this will yield benefits not only for our family but for the environment as well. Soon, instead of contributing to the ever growing land fills in the form of disposable diapers, we'll be contributing to southern California's water shortage in the form of three gallon flushes for half cup pee pees. On second thought, I guess either way the environment is screwed.

We got a fun book for Harper called "It's Potty Time" (I can't believe they stole my blog title for their book!), and we sit her on her little mini-toilet and show her the book. She's going to be a bathroom reader just like dear old dad.

It's a fantastic little publication that includes a built in speaker. When you push it, the speaker emits a flushing sound and a little girl laughs to let Harper know that using the toilet is a load of fun.


Now available for boys and girls of all races! (Must be white, black, or Latino)


This book got me thinking, though. I would probably read more if the books I bought had speakers. I just finished "The Ruins" by Scott Smith. It's about these 20-something vacationers in Mexico who get trapped in the jungle by a flesh eating plant. I'm wondering how much better this book could be if instead of having to imagine people screaming, I could push a button and hear them. Or instead of having to read all those words like a sucker (it's over 500 pages for crying out loud!) maybe I could hear the dialogue through the little speaker. Or it could simply act as mood music or sound effects. When you think about it, it's the perfect combination of paper and audio books.

But I digress. So a few days ago Harper actually sat and peed in her toilet for the first time. This is not to say that there haven't been some unsuccessful attempts in the past. Let's just say, it can be risky to let your baby run around without a diaper for too long. But she's starting to learn and that's very exciting because it means she'll soon be ready for bigger and bolder challenges. I think next I'm going to try and teach her to use the stove.

"Pot Luck" Dinner Night

So Friday night was Pot Luck Dinner Night at Harper’s day care. I suppose I should put pot luck in quotations, because none of the parents brought any food and the day care just ordered pizza. Now I’m not complaining because I love pizza. It just seemed like it should be called “Pizza Night”, not “Pot Luck Dinner Night”.

It was also funny to see how varied the dress was for the occasion. I was in my standard shorts, t-shirt, baseball cap, flip-flops ensemble. Some parents looked like they dressed in evening casual wear (dresses for the ladies, slacks and button down shirts for the men). For me this would’ve meant jeans instead of shorts and no baseball cap. Then there was Harper’s teacher from the day care. She showed up in a gown with high heels wearing a light wrap. She may have been carrying a clutch as well. She was the first person I saw so I immediately felt totally underdressed. I think she must have been going to some sort of awards show after the party.

Harper’s day care is affiliated with an Episcopal church so we were eating in a banquet hall. The room was festive with a bubble blower, a slide, and something that I can only describe as a two year old’s roller coaster. It was this three-sectioned, double humped ramp with a little car that the kids would sit on (see image below). The car had a handle for them to cling to (you know, for safety). You roll your kid down the ramp and watch them cruise across the floor. It was almost like a soapbox derby.



Notice the step? Harper's day care doesn't have that. And yes, your toddler will go so fast she will be blurred!

Harper’s first run she decided that she didn’t need to hold on to the safety handle. We urged her to, and she kind of placed her hands on it as a token effort to make us happy. But as soon as the car started moving down the ramp, she flung her hands up in the air like on a real roller coaster. Some day, and I can’t wait for this moment, we’re going to ride Space Mountain, or Shockwave, or some crazy Batman ride together and we’ll be high fiving the whole way because neither of us will be hanging on to the safety handles (which are for sissies in the first place). Way to go, Harper!

And she wasn’t really even using her feet for stability either. I think she was trying to have the least amount of her body touching the car as possible. Anyway, the car got to the end of the ramp and Harper was probably going a good 5 mph. You know, really moving, and she was just screaming with delight in this spread eagle position almost as if the car was a totally secondary part of the ride; like she was trying to achieve flight.

I’m watching her and I’m getting so much joy from her excitement and then I see that she’s cruising full bore toward the far wall. It’s obvious that she’s not going to do anything to stop herself. I mean the only thing on her that’s even touching the car is her butt. So I go running after her to try and stop the car before she runs into the wall. And even as I’m running in my flip-flops, grabbing the car, and bringing her to a stop inches from impact, I’m so proud of her inside. Because none of those other kids even came close to hitting the wall!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Day at the Beach

We recently went out to Dockweiler Beach. Harper had only been out to the beach one other time and we weren't there very long. So was this was her first real time playing in the ocean. We discovered quickly that Harper hates the waves, but loves sand (and McCall loves her pink bikini).

She made some friends building a lagoon by digging out sand and letting the waves fill it in. Daddy had fun swimming in the Pacific and Mommy took pictures. Here are some highlights of Harper Jo and Daddy playing in the sand:

Harper in the sand


Dockweiler is located right next to LAX, so planes are flying low overhead the whole time. Harper loved to point them out (Harper's sense of direction is not great. The plane was directly over her head.)


Harper Jo and Daddy sharing a laugh

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mealtime Prayer

We have been teaching Harper to pray before meals (which is why she can say "Amen", see below post). Partly because we want to instill in her a spirit of gratitude and partly because we enjoy being called child abusers by athiests. The other night, though, we forgot to say grace. But Harper stopped eating and put her hands together and waited. She was looking at us like, "Hello? Aren't you forgetting something?" It was extremely cute and heart warming.

The funny thing is how patient she will be while we pray, and as soon as we're done, she immediately gets very excited and points to her food. I imagine in her head it's all Charlie Brown grown up talk until "Amen." Then her brain goes, "LET'S EAT!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Words Harper Can Say

Harper is now 14 months old and is about to enter a period of time when her vocabulary will explode. So we wanted to gather a list of all the words she can say after one year, and if applicable how they actually sound coming out of her mouth.

Mama
Dada
No
Uh oh - said whenever she drops anything, sometimes ad infinitum.
Kitty cat - "kee ca" - we have three cats.
Belly Button - "beh-wi bu-un" - Harper is obsessed with her belly button. She is constantly touching it and likes to touch ours as well. We've been forced to cut the bottoms off some onesies because she can't sleep without access to it.
Up
Down - "dow" - I suppose it's possible she's actually just expressing an early interest in stock trading.
Amen - "a-me"
Wow - she seems very impressed by flagpoles and tall trees.
Bye bye - "bu-bye" - Usually accompanied by a wave of her hand, and usually after the intended recipient of this gesture is long gone.

Thankfully she can't identify any television characters like Elmo or Dora yet. I think this is more because we never watch those shows. Instead she watches a lot of the Simpsons.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Day at the Aquarium

A few weeks ago we went to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. This is a pretty nice aquarium with lots of displays and much to see. Currently they have a big exhibit on the history of surfing which includes a life size model of the Silver Surfer as a part of a tie-in with the Fantastic Four. Pretty sweet.

Sure, he can save the planet, but can he save the movie franchise?

Harper had a terrific time looking at all the fish. She was so enamored with the first tank she saw that we had to pry her away and explain that there were other things to see.

"You mean there's more?"


She especially liked the touching pools where you can touch various fish and stingrays. My favorite part was the Q&A session with one of the aquarium employees who was "pretty sure" that stingrays are either hatched from eggs or live birthed. One of the two. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's one of those too, sweetheart.

Harper loving the Touching Pools


They also a have a small aviary which houses several lorikeets. Harper had fun watching the birds fly all around her. They are very friendly and will even land on you.


It really was a fun day. The whole family had a good time. And I think we may even have a little surfer girl on our hands.

Shortly after I marked her height, we were asked to leave.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Harper Jo: Origins

Most people don't know this, but Harper Jo actually comes from Tatooine. Here she is basking in the dual sunlight of her home planet:



We won her in a bet from Watto. As it turns out, the joke's on us, Harper's midi-chlorian count is basically nonexistent. That Watto is a real sleemo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ride'em Cowgirl!

Here are some pics of Harper enjoying her new rocking horse, a gift from Great-Gram and -Gramp for her first birthday.




In the following pictures note how the old school springs have been replaced by Soloflex style rubber straps. This is so little kids don't get pinched in the spring coils. While Harper is at daycare I bust these out and do curls. Pretty soon I'm gonna be ripped!




Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rehab is for Quitters II

Things may be going from bad to worse with Harper. A bottle of wine here and there is one thing. Every woman loves wine. But when she starts emptying forties, that's when I get concerned.

Here are two pictures from the grocery store I caught on my cell phone:



Look at the excitement on her face. She grabbed that Mickey's like it was Christmas Day and the card said "Harper".



Now this is just sad. Not even strong enough to twist off the cap, she's trying to gnaw it off. The one upside was that after she got it open, she remembered to pour some out for her homies. That's my girl!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Birthday Bash

We recently celebrated Harper's first birthday with a big party and it was a smashing success. I have to admit that prior to the big day, I was very nervous and a bit skeptical that we'd be able to pull together everything McCall had planned. There were a lot of elements and it felt like the final task on the Apprentice!

The first major job we undertook was converting the dead wasteland that existed between our building and our neighbor's into a fun family side yard. Here are before and after images:

Before


After


In addition, we had three kiddie sized pools out front, sidewalk chalk, a baby swing, several play areas and a mini petting zoo. The petting zoo featured four ducklings, two bunnies, a baby pig, and a goat.

Here are some pictures of our front yard in the midst of all the birthday commotion:

Kiddie Pool

This bully wouldn't let anybody else near the pool.


Petting Zoo

It's hard to tell, but there really are animals in there.


General Frivolity

You could've cut the fun with a knife!


One of the highlights of the day was our good friend Eric Bryant performing Harper's baby dedication. A baby dedication is basically our public declaration as parents that we will do our best to raise Harper with the understanding that she belongs to God, not to us. We will attempt to love her in the same unconditional way that God loves us.

Big thanks to Eric!

It really seemed like everybody had a great time and we were so thankful for all our friends and family who joined us. Thanks for making Harper's first the best birthday she's ever had.