Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blue's Clues - Where Did Steve Go?

Martha Allen, senior year Humanities, was by far the best teacher I ever had. She was kind, passionate, encouraging, and devoted. I imagine she made every single student in her classes feel as though she cared about them. During my final semester we read excerpts from various authors and I started a journal of ideas and quotes that affected me or changed the way I saw the world. I have no idea where that journal is today, but I've recently rediscovered its contents through my parenting experiences.

For example, Rita Mae Brown once wrote that "people are like teabags - you can never tell how strong they are until they're in hot water." Over the past couple of months, Carrie and I have learned that we have different, albeit complimentary, perceptions of hot water. When Amari was learned to walk, pulled a kitchen drawer out, flopped on her butt, clipped her gum on the drawer handle, and started bleeding profusely - I panicked, racing her upstairs saying, "Shit, shit, shit. Carrie, Carrie, Carrie." She calmly asked what happened, told me to blend up some ice and fruit, and wrap it in a sock to ice her gum. Problem solved, bleeding stopped, dad feeling pretty lame.

Last week, dad got some redemption. Arriving home after Carrie's bedtime, I was surprised to see the living room lights on, troubled to find her pacing and crying with a screaming Amari in her arms.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"She's been crying for almost an hour, she won't stop..."
"She has an earache. She needs to go to the ER," blurts Granny C from the rocking chair.
Annoyed, I snapped, "Did you go to medical school while I was out? Don't diagnose my daughter."

Granny C proceeded to share the "battery" of tests they'd conducted which included taking her temperature and yanking on her ears. Conclusion - earache. Prognosis - apparently not good.
"Let me take her," I said calmly and she continued to cry in my arms for a few seconds until I said, "Do you want to watch an episode of Blue's Clues?" Silence.
"Yeah," Amari uttered her latest and most awesome word. It's muffled and shortened, but it's definitely a 'yeah.' Alleged earache gone, ER and other catastrophes averted. Carrie went to sleep and Amari sat silently on the couch with me, tooth pain numbed by her love of Steve, Blue, Salt & Pepper, and maybe even the warm arm of her dad. She stayed up much too late that night, but eventually she leaned over on my side, closed her eyes, and slipped into a peaceful, vertical sleep.

Last weekend, I got another opportunity to demonstrate the strength of my teabag (don't worry this isn't a prison story). On Sunday, Carrie and I enjoyed a delicious brunch which included poached duck eggs, sweet potato hash, and pork sausages. Amari ate everything. Tons of it. Then she wanted to play in infant swing hanging from the ceiling. She was smiling and laughing and swinging and eventually spinning herself around in circles. She did this until we left twenty minutes later, and neither one of us gave it a second thought when we strapped her into her car seat. Less than a mile down the road we heard a cough followed by a little cry and when Carrie reached back to offer Amari a pacifier, she came back with wet fingers and the wonderful hypothesis, "Oh crap, I think she threw up."

Sure enough, upon pulling over, we discovered poor little Amari looking quite pale and exhausted by the volcanic ooze of eggs, sausage, and orange slime dripping down her chest and seemingly into every crevasse in the car seat. Carrie kind of freaked out a little - mostly grossed out, but also a little bit of what-the-hell-are-we-going-to-do-with-no-change-of-clothes-and-a-car-seat-full-of vomit panic. Without so much as a word - probably because I was holding my breath - pulled Amari from her brunch soup, stripped her down on the side of the road, put her jacked on her naked upper body and wrapped the rest of her in a blanket. "You sit in the back with Amari and we'll drive illegally." Any cop that had kids would either understand completely or throw the book at us. It was a risk I was willing to take.

Back to the work 'yeah' for a minute. Last week, Jim was lamenting the fact that both of our kids had mastered the universal head shake "No," but neither was able to say yes, except by process of elimination. Do you want this? Head shake. This? Head shake. This? Head shake - sometimes coupled with a disgusted look like, "Are you fucking kidding? I only like cottage cheese five minutes ago and five minutes from now." Amari is, moment to moment, extremely fickle. And yet she likes a lot of things provided you have a lot of patience.

Anyway, while the Calverts were away last weekend, Amari fulfilled Jim's wishes that one of the kids learn to say yes. I don't know how or when exactly it happened, but she suddenly started answering a very quick, abbreviated, "yeh," when we ask her questions. Are you hungry? Yeh. Do you want to go upstairs, outside, inside, etc.? Yeh. It's awesome. It opens up a whole new line of questioning possibilities. I've already caught myself saying things like, "Do you love dada?" Yeh. "Is dada the coolest guy ever?" Yeh. "Does dada deserve an award from a prestigious parenting society..." and so on. There is definitely a certain momentum to her use of the word.

On the flip side, however, the word 'yeh' also allowed Amari to inadvertently tell her first lie. I'm not sure that it was a lie as much as she was telling me how she felt, but two days ago when I smelled a distinctively full diaper, I asked Amari, "Did you make a poo poo?" In the past, she could just shake her head "No" and I would have just thought, "Well, that's all she knows how to do." But now that I know she can 'yeh' with the best, her head shake felt like a little stab in our unblemished bond.

On the fun and goofy side of parenting, I took a field trip last weekend and met my buddy Matt at my brother's house in Cloverdale. I think I mentioned last week that Amari has become a fan of the show Blue's Clues, which has been a blessing first thing in the morning when we're trying to make coffee, unload the dishwasher, start a fire, and just plain wake our asses up. Feeling a little guilty about putting her in front of the TV, I decided it would be cool to create interactive parent-child videos that I could put on instead. Me saying and doing things that she and I do together - reading books, singing Little Bunny Foo Foo, high-fiving, and so on. I started to script an episode of Blue's Clues which incorporates some of my favorite songs from childhood.

I also hoped that by including Matt and Jacob, Amari would feel close to them even though she doesn't see them very often. The result of the fun, goofy, creative afternoon was a two-part, almost thirty minute episode of Blue's Clues (including outtakes). If you have kids, screen it first, but I'm pretty sure it's G rated.

I really do love this job...

G'night all.

Part One:

Part Two:


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