Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Raising a little Bittle

Nature has some new ammunition in its battle against nurture. Clara and Kate are showing clear signs of coming from that (ig)noble and (in)famous stock, the Bittles. Let me start by saying this is not something I am completely comfortable with. You see, we Bittles are a kooky lot, as anyone who has spent an extended period of time with us has discovered. Because I want Megan to continue to spend extended periods of time with me, I reign my kookiness in. That leaves my dad as their primary source of Bittle-ness, and unless he's holding Bittle lessons while I'm out of the room, I just don't see him influencing him in that way either. Which means that their Bittle behavior is inate! That is perhaps the most disconcerting sentence I've written on this blog.

Evidence #1: This may seem like something small, but it strikes me every time. Kate pronounces "sandwich," "sammich." I know, I know, most toddlers pronounce it "sammich" but you have to understand that my entire life I have heard it pronounced that way by only one person: my dad. Go with him to Subway. The 64 year old man will order a sammich. Sit him next to Kate and ask them what they want for lunch and my dad and his mini-mini-me will both say "sammich."

Evidence #2: The girls both got doll houses for Christmas, which are set up in the office/toy room. Kate was also given a big yellow dump truck. For the first two weeks after Christmas when they played with their doll houses, they took all the furniture from each house and threw it in the back of the dump truck, then proceeded to drive the dump truck around the house. They didn't want to play house - they wanted to play move houses. Every time they did this I shook my head and thought of my family.

Bittles are a nomadic, wandering people, prone to pick up and head out on long trips at a moments notice. Most of us can tell stories of long, adventure-filled trips that no sane person would take so much pride in. Often this wanderlust causes us Bittles to change houses, and the "B"section of many a friend's address book has suffered accordingly. Dmitri had to buy a new address book mainly because of us. I probably had a dozen different addresses in the 90s. Kate's not yet two years old and already she's thinking about moving.

I'm bracing for what Bittle trait next manifests itself in my girls, but as I write this I'm thinking of the kindness and the loyalty and the love that is so strong in the Bittle family. I'm thinking of my parents, of my brother and sister and their kids, of my Aunts Mary and Billie and Carol, of my Uncle Lyndon and Aunt Jane, of my cousins Dale and David and their kids, of my cousins Shauna and Nick and Danille and Steven, and of so many Bittles gone much, much too soon and I realize how lucky Clara and Kate both are to be counted among such people.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bright shiny faces of friendship

Clara invited her friend Alexis over for a play date, which mainly involves Clara "sharing" by dumping her toys on Alexis's lap. A few pictures of them working on a puzzle:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The snot artist

I'm going to go ahead and apologize for the graphic nature of this post. If it's any comfort, I did refrain from writing the equally true post "the poop artist."

Let it be known across the land that Kate, just shy of two years old, is an artist. I'm not talking about stick figures or finger paints. I'm talking about edgy, alternative modern art of the most original kind.

Having dropped off my mother at the airport after her post-Christmas visit, I headed home with the girls, hoping they wouldn't fall asleep in the car, as that would ruin any chance at a long nap when we got home. It turns out I had nothing to worry about because both girls found something to occupy their time. Clara played the game where she looks for a specific color car, a game that I only need to marginally need to take part in.

Clara: "Where's a white car?" (probably after seeing a white car approaching)
Clara: "There's one! There's one!"
Clara: "Daddy! A white car!"
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Clara: "Yeah! OK, what next? Where's a red car?"
Clara: "There's one! There's one!"
Clara: "Daddy! A red car!"

Kate played along for the first mile or two, but then she got quiet and I gave up on the idea of keeping her awake all the way home. After a while, I looked back and saw not only was she still awake, she was tracing her finger along her window, causing wavy streaks and smears in a kind of pattern reminiscent of the Synesthesia school of art. My first thought - how naive I am - was that she was licking her finger to get her "paint." So I let her create her masterpiece while Clara looked in vain for an orange car.

And then it happened. I looked back at just the right (wrong?) time and saw her stick her finger in her nose, look at what she found, then apply it to the window. She even tilted her head a bit to the side the way artists do. "NOOOOO KATE!" I've been at this job too long to be squeamish about bodily fluids, but as I looked over her masterpiece I saw every degree of liquid and solid on that window and my stomach turned a little bit. I knew that if I just let this pass she'll be decorating the television, the oven, and the windows of her pre-school. She looked at me shyly, as if to say, "do you like my painting?" "Kate, we do not put our fingers in our nose. OK?" "OK daddy." We'll see how long that lasts.

So now I've added a new shirt to the STLHomeboy line of children's clothes:

Monday, January 07, 2008

It's the most contagious time of the year...

Ah, the holidays. The gingerbread houses that line our street in Webster Groves were twinkling with Christmas lights. A heavy snow gave us two days of snow angels. Christmas music was everywhere, even when it wasn't: "Daddy, is this Christmas music?" "Yes, Clara, it's called a very Led Zeppelin Christmas. Do you like it?" "Yes, I do." Kate fell in love with anything Christmas, especially the tree and the animatronic Santa and Mrs. Claus, which she made sure to say goodnight to every night. Jim and Traci were coming into town with six-year-old Davis and two-year-old Elena. We were all set to have a wonderful Christmas...

Then Clara (let's call her Typhoid Mary) came home from school with a sniffle that turned into a cold that turned into pink-eye. With only one week to go until family arrived, we went into emergency mode: we got Clara's medicine immediately, washed everyone's hands repeatedly and their sheets daily, and kept them out of school and activities so they didn't spread or pick up anything else. Clara improved quickly, but the rest of us got hit hard. Kate got pink-eye in both eyes that came back three days after it seemed to be cleared up. It didn't help that Walgreens was three days late in getting us her medicine. I got a cold that led to a sinus infection, and Megan got bronchitis. Not only did we feel miserable, but according to the pictures from Christmas we looked quite miserable as well. We only got to see family a fraction of the time we wanted to, and even then we seemed to have passed on our illnesses to Jim and Tony. Sorry.

Clara, the only healthy Bittle this Christmas, spent her time developing a deep distrust for Santa Claus. I'm pretty sure she filed for a restraining order keeping him at least 50 feet away from her. At the RSI Christmas party she ran when Santa approached and declined her gift if it meant she had to sit on Santa's lap. Having thought long and hard about how she would get presents on Christmas from someone she really didn't like, she informed me that she would like Mrs. Claus to deliver her Christmas presents this year. She even called her on her pretend phone and had an entire conversation about it, assuring me afterwards that Mrs. Claus was OK with the new plan. "But how will Mrs. Claus get here if Santa has the reindeer?" "She'll drive her car." Duh, dad.

Whether from Santa or Mrs. Claus, Clara got her presents and certainly enjoyed playing with them, but nothing topped having a sleep-over with her cousins, which she would gladly give up all her toys to have every single night.

Oh, by the way, I didn't get off my lazy rear end soon enough to make Christmas cards this year so I hope you'll take this as a substitute.