I’m not the worst father in the world, but I sometimes feel like it because my priorities don’t always line up as they should. Lennie turned 20 months old yesterday and I’ve done a lamentable job of documenting her life. The Learn Houston trio was enjoying a Saturday morning cuddle in bed today, and when Lennie got down off the bed and ran into the living room to play for a few minutes, M said something about how weird it was that our child was old enough to go away and play of her own volition. And boy is it. Partially in preparation for making a DVD of Lennie’s life so far for my 90-year-old grandmother, whom we visited last weekend, and partially out of nostalgia, we’ve been watching a lot of old videos of Lennie lately. It wasn’t so very long ago that we were having to tell her how to play and in many cases to actually operate her hands and feet for her. How did she get from there to where she is now without my documenting every last detail? How could it all have slipped by? Maybe I am the worst father in the world.
Whining about it’s not worth very much. Let’s move on to some recent high points.
On our trip to see my grandmother last weekend, M and I tried to name as many of Lennie’s words as we could. We wrote down 168 that we felt pretty solid about including, and we’ve thought of more since then. There are some that might have counted that we just didn’t feel fair about counting. In any case, she’s up around 200 words, and she mixes some of those up into short, meaningful sentences. She knows how to ask for things, and it’s easier and easier to communicate with her.
When I last wrote, she had begun telling us when she had pooped. She hasn’t made a whole lot of progress on that front, though the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (incidentally, if you’re aware of and eligible for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program and aren’t taking advantage of it, you should be publicly flayed) just sent us a book about pottying, and I’ve started sitting Lennie on her potty to read it to her. The other night, shortly after we started reading (she was standing, however), she started grunting and got all red in the face, and sure enough, she had crapped when we went to check things out. She’s taken careful note in recent months of the diaper changing process and frequently does diaper time with her baby dolls. I sat idly by one Saturday morning while she wiped for 20 minutes or more at the subsequently no doubt raw diaper region of poor pink Polly. The only doll she calls by name is Fernanda (a Cabbage Patch doll kindly given to her for Christmas by Ashley, Fleda, Terry, and Bo). She can’t quite get out the whole name, but when she’s distressed to be without her baby, she’ll plaintively cry "Nanda, Nanda!"
Lennie continues to be a dancing fool. Her favorite singer now is Laurie Berkner, her favorite dancing song probably "I Know a Chicken." Lennie swings her body side to side more rapidly and enthusiastically than you might expect a toddler to be able to during parts of this song, and she always reminds me of an energetic choir member getting down during a lively gospel song. She doesn’t just dance, though. She can sing several lines from the song, among them "I know a chicken," "she laid an egg," and "oh, my goodness!"
Her eating has been uneven in recent months. She’ll down 10 or 12 animal crackers at a sitting if you let her (I’m finding them irresistible myself), and she eats all the carrots out of the Progresso chicken and rice soup I favor. She’ll eat a lot of the chicken out of that as well. But there’s not much else she’s keen on usually. Peas, occasionally, and baked beans of late. She’s decided she likes to eat sandwiches if she can hold them. So when I offered her a bite of my barbecue sandwich today, she pushed it away, but when I gave her the last little bit of it to hold herself, she took it happily. When you’re eating a sandwich and she wants to hold it, she’ll say something that sounds more or less like sandwich and then hold her arms up, joined together at the wrists with her fingers outspread in a pretty good sandwich cradle.
Zac and Ella spent the day with us on Monday, and I took the day off work to help and just because I thought it’d be fun. And fun it was. M made flubber and playdoh with Zac, and we all made playdoh animals and shapes. Ella demonstrated that she’s fond of sandwiches too, eating probably a quarter of mine (luckily, I also had soup, though someone had eaten most of the carrots and chicken out of it). During naptime for the girls, I took Zac out and we got a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and a corresponding Playstation game, and we had fun playing that and some downtime while he watched the movie. It was a fun day, and it’s neat to see Lennie socializing with other kids. Yesterday, Ella spent most of the workday with us, and Lennie’s little friend Lowen came over for a couple of hours. I had to work and missed it all, but I gather the three of them got along famously. Tonight, we go over to Dave and Karen’s to celebrate Ella’s second birthday a week late.
M took Lennie to the zoo this week (with Lowen and his mom), and for the first time, she was really engaged. The last time we went, M was home sick, and Lennie and I met Karen and her wingnuts with another friend and her infant. It was chilly and stressful, and I turned out to be coming down with something myself, and Lennie didn’t seem to care much about being there. But this week, she loved the gibbons in particular, she got to see an elephant pee and poop, and she reportedly saw the neon urine stream of a rhino. We have video of her in the petting zoo kissing a big goat and brushing its hair, occasionally bending at the waist to look into the kneeling animal’s face and say, "hi, goat."
The other day, I tricked Lennie into kissing me a half a dozen times in a row by hiding the fact that she was kissing me in a facial feature identification game. Can you kiss Daddy’s nose? Can you kiss Daddy’s eye? And so on. It was wonderful. The best thing she does right now from my perspective is that sometimes, when I’m holding her, she’ll pat my back and hug in very tightly. She’s napping on the floor with M right now (how she does so through the racket of M’s shooting up enemies on the Playstation I don’t know). Just a few minutes before I handed her down there, I was holding her and said "Pat Daddy’s back." She did, and she gave me a squeeze, and I melted and told her I loved her and that she was my favorite little person. I tell her that a lot, and I don’t think it’s the sort of thing you can really understand the meaning of until you’ve got a cute little niblet of your own.