The Prize: Well, bragging rights, such as they are.
Difficulty: My neighbors are automatically disqualified.
Ours first: His first name and last name are nearly the same. And that's the most normal thing about him.
He obsesses about his lawn, including trying to plant grass between our houses, where the sun never goes and not even weeds grow. He'll get a few little sprouts after a couple weeks, but they die in less than a month. So he plants more.
During Spring, Summer and Fall, he powerwashes - yes, powerwashes - his deck at least once a day. And he vacuums it at least twice a day. Granted, I'm not home all day every day, but I do hear the first time around 6 or 6:30 in the morning, and the last one about 8 in the evening. Days when I have been home, I will hear it three or four times. During acorn season, he will vacuum the deck about once every two hours. Or whenever there are more than ten acorns on the deck. Whichever comes first.
He seals the driveway at least twice a summer, apparently just to stay in practice. Not weird, you say? Well, it's concrete.
They do not like visitors, and have removed the doorbells from their house. The other day, when The Shmunkin's balloon wafted over their fence - the helium was wearing out, so it neither really rose nor sank, but was heavily affected by air currents. We tried knocking on their door to ask permission to get it and, despite both cars being in the driveway and them talking just inside the door, there was no response. They're a real hoot on Halloween night.
Can you top that?
(They are nice people. When our one cat disappeared about ten years ago, they put food out for him, just in case. And when our other cat nearly died from Pancreatitis a few years ago, they sent him a get well card. They're just weird.)
The Shmunkin's birthday is tomorrow, and she will be five. Since it is a work and school day, we decided our family birthday celebration will be today.
Five has got to be one of the greatest birthdays. At least, I always thought it was. It is always special to have a birthday as a kid, but more so on a few key birthdays: Five, of course, because you go from little kid to regular kid. Seven, though I'm not sure why. Ten because it is a nice counting number. Thirteen when you're a teenager. Sixteen, because you can drive -- although I notice kids aren't nearly as excited about sixteen as I was. And, of course, eighteen and twenty-one. After that, it's just depressing.
But five is the first big one, and The Shmunkin is all ready. Her present this year is a bicycle. She's been wanting one for a long time, but, frankly, has been simply too small for even the littlest ones. So this was the year.
Naturally, it snowed.
The most wonderful feeling: Watching the excitement on my little girls' faces when I pick them up, or when I come home after being gone all day. Rosie -- who is well into walking, if not completely into balancing at this point -- will see me, get a huge smile on her face, and come toddling as fast as she can, hands waving up and down, until she is within a step or two, at which point she stretches out her arms and fairly lunges into a hug.
I know I am probably more excited about it than I should be, but it didn't happen with Helen Mei until she was much older. Not that I'm complaining. Shmunkie's transition into our family was much more difficult. For starters, she was fourteen months old --the same age Rose is now -- and was therefore much more aware of the massive changes going on around her (new home, new parents, new country, etc), even if she didn't understand them. In fact, while we certainly had a decent relationship, there was never a doubt, for the first two years or so, that the Ways and Means Committee was the favored parent. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I understand, and, while I will acknowledge a bit of jealousy, I'm not that bothered by it. Of course, there seems to be no favorite parent currently, so I suppose I have redeemed myself.
Rose, on the other hand, seems a daddy's girl. At least by comparison. She actually has no preference what-so-ever, and has taken to both of us (and Helen) very successfully. But the fact that she is not rejecting me out-of-hand whenever Claire is in site is an improvement.
Of course, it could also mean she's not as smart as Helen Mei, but we won't go there.
Incidentally, I realize there has been a severe lack of posting. Truth be told, I have joined the Facebook, and my limited on-line time has been taken up in that (so far) most annoying of venues. At least the posts are shorter. Even more pointless than I currently post, but shorter. Look me up, if you want.
It's finally happening. Little Rose is starting to walk. I'm somewhat surprised it has taken so long. Oh, sure, I realize most kids start to walk around a year or so. Helen Mei was even further behind...not walking until around 16 months. But I really thought Rose would do it earlier.
Much of that belief is because, since we brought her home at the age of 8 months, she has been able to stand by herself. And I don't mean crawl over to the couch or a table or something and pull herself up. I mean start from sitting position and, with no help at all, stand up in the middle of the floor. There were even a few times she did it without using her hands. At the time, I figured she was weeks away from walking. But, no. It didn't happen. Maybe she was just good at balancing on such stout little legs.
But the last few weeks, she has started taking steps on her own. On most occasions, she would stand up, take two or three very tentative steps on wobbly, albiet pudgy, legs, then flop back down on her but, smile and laugh and clap at her accomplishment.
The other night -- Tuesday to be exact -- she actually walked about sixteen steps all on her own. We were upstairs by the bedrooms, and she moved four or five steps, then held on to a doorway for support, then walked a few more steps, held on to another doorway, and finished with a flurry of seven or eight steps. And the whole time, Helen Mei was jumping up and down, excitedly yelling out, "Rosie's walking! She's walking! Did you see that Dad? She walked!"
Granted, those sixteen steps netted her all of about three feet, but it was still very exciting.
Last night she did even better. Claire was home, and I got Rose to her feet, then let go of her hand, and she walked about five feet over to where Claire was, then turned around and walked back to me. Hurray!
Incidentally, she had her (one month late) One-Year check-up the other day. She is in the 5th percentile in weight and the 10th percentile in height. Or the other way around, I actually can't remember for certain. But she is on the scale! Something Helen Mei never acheived.
We're pretty sure she will eventually be bigger than Helen, who is small even by Asian standards. But we are very cautious to let Helen know that, no matter how big Rose gets, she will always be the "Big" sister.
So, I've been debating whole Facebook thing. To join. Not to join. I don't know.
A number of people have encouraged me to join, including one who pointed out I am the only one in my family, including spouses, who does not have his own facebook page. Even the Ways and Means Committee has one. And she doesn't even answer the phone.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend from out of town was telling me about his experience with Facebook, and how wonderful it is because it has allowed him to reconnect with people he hasn't seen since high school, college, or other things from long ago. And my question was: What then? "Hey, great to hear from you again? What have you been up to? Me? Oh, got married, adopted a couple of kids, settled down into an actual job? Yeah, me too. Well, good to hear from you, look me up in another 25 years."
Then I read this, written by a friend of mine, and someone whom I respect very much.
Still, it is something I have been considering. I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not.
The school where The Shmunkin will go to kindergarten held their Kindergarten Round-Up this week. I thought it was an odd name, bringing to mind images of Rowdy Yates and cattle. And when you really get right down to it, that's appropriate.
The Round-Up was supposed to start at 6. I figured we would go in, gfet some basic information, listen to a little pitch of why we should send out little snowflakes to the school, then sign up and head home for dinner. Not so. It was an Event.
It started with a talk by the head of the school and introduction of some of the teachers. At least, I think it did. Frankly, I don't really know because, just before it started, the Little One decided to make a mess in her pants and, lacking a diaper bag (remember, we thought it would last 30 minutes or less), someone had to run home and get it. Thankfully, the school is all of three minutes from our house, including waiting for traffic lights, so she wasn't smelly for long. Still, running home, getting the bag, returning to the school, getting Sissy and taking her to the bathroom for a change took enough time I missed the entire introductory part. The Ways and Means Committee filled me in later.
It was at this point I thought we would get the information and sign her up. But, no. We were then herded into the gym/cafeteria for ten minutes or so sort-up phy-ed. The kids were organized into three lines on one side then, one at a time, were instructed to run, hop or skip to the other, where they again lined up and the process was repeated.
A brief complaint at this point, if I may: Why can't people follow obvious intentions? Right next to the exercise area, tables were set up -- complete with chairs and everything -- for parents to sit and watch. But did they? Of course not. That would have made sense, and everyone would have been able to see just fine. But a few helicopter parents decided they needed to be close to the action, and stood IN FRONT OF the tables where people were already sitting. So those who actually sat at the tables, assuming they wanted to see, had to stand, as well. That led to a constant flux in the parent crowd as people tried to shift to the front to see when it was thier little snowflake's turn to run 30 feet.
Next, everyone was divided into smaller groups and sent off on a rotation of a few events. We started in the music room for fifteen minutes of singing. Then the kindergarten class for fifteen minutes of making mouse-shaped Valentines out of construction paper. Then the library, where the kids were taken to another room for a story and the parents got a little presentation and Q & A with the principal. Then everyone returned to the gym/cafeteria again, where the kids got a snack.
Shmunkie is most excited to be going to kindergarten next year. She wants it to start right away. In the kindergarten room, she asked the teacher which cubby would be hers. She also insisted on wearing the shirt they gave her to day care the next day and told her teacher all about the experience.
Of course, the most exciting thing; the thing that made the biggest impression; the one thing she she talks about the most and is looking forward to more than anything else when she gets to kindergarten: She gets an actual tray for her food at lunch.
The Shmunkin comes up to me the other morning, very concerned look on her face, and says, "Daddy, I'm worried about Rosie." Oh? Why is that? "Because after I grow up, who will be able to take care of her?" Well, mom and I can do that. "You can't do it. You'll be really, really old."
Rose has started singing. Not much, mind you, but at least she can get the beat down and some of the words. She likes the Abba-Dabba Monkey song. You know: "Abba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba said the Monkey to the Chimp..." She said, "Dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba daaaaaa."
We got new car seats so Rose can now face the front, which she seems to much prefer. While both seats are about the same size, we gave Helen's old seat to Rose, and let Helen pick the new one because, well, Rose didn't seem overly interested in the process. The one she chose for my car has a cup holder for one side and a little box with a lid for the other. She was very excited about it, especially the cup holder and secret compartment. When I first put the seat itself in, it was about 10-below, so I didn't bother to add them, and she kept asking to have the put in. I finally did it last weekend, much to her delight. Monday morning, we got into the car, and she asked for a sucker (little Dum-Dum pops I keep in the car) and wanted to pick it out herself, so I gave her the bag. Tuesday, she didn't ask all, which is odd, since she asks nearly every day. When we got to the day care center and I was taking her out of the car, she had one in her mouth. You guessed it: She had stashed a bunch of them in the bin, which she now calls her snack holder.
Finally, I think Rose is actually on the verge of walking. I've thought this before, of course. Back in October when we first got her, the little eight-month-old was able to stand from a sitting position, in the middle of the floor, with no help at all. I figured she was weeks away from walking. But nothing. She wouldn't even cooperate if I took her hands and tried to help her. But Wednesday, for the very first time, she actually tried walking while holding my hands.
One of The Shmunkin's favorite things to do is take pictures, normally using Claire's cell phone. The other day, after doing her picture-taking, she slipped the phone into her coat pocket, and everyone promptly forgot about it.
Until Monday at Big Girl School, when she took it out again and started taking more pictures. They're actually very cute, too. Of course, some are pictures of things like feet and floors, but there are some pretty good shots of her friends, and even of herself. I would post some of them, but I have no idea how to get them from the camera to the computer, without costing me money.
Unfortunately, she also likes playing with other buttons. This is not new. A few years ago -- she was about 18 months old -- I was getting her ready for the day and she was going some fussing, so I took out my phone and let her hold it. WIthin a minute, I heard a voice on the phone saying, "Hello? Hello?" Somehow, she managed to access the stored phone number, and called the adoption agency. Maybe she just wanted to check in and tell them things were going well.
This time, though, it was different. She called 9-1-1. And, of course, that puts the phone into an emergency mode and, if you try to hang up, the operator will call back. Which she did. And Helen didn't know what to do. She finally called her teacher, saying, "Teacher, she won't go away!" Teacher took the phone and explained to the operator what had happened, and that there was no emergency. She thought it was hilarious. The teacher, I mean. The operator...Not so much.
We're having lunch, and Claire asked The Shmunkin to tell me me how they choose places to sit for lunch at Big GIrl School.
Me: Oh? You don't just find a spot?
Helen: No. First you have to sit on your cot and be quiet and still, then the teacher calls on you and you can pick a spot.
Me: How does she determine who to call first?
Helen: The first person to be quiet and still gets to be first.
Me: Then what?
Helen: Then the next person, then the next, then the next, until everyone has their place.
Oh. Do you always get to go first?
Helen: (Matter-of-factly): No.
Have you ever been first?
Helen: (A little quieter) No.
Me: Then are you second?
Helen: (Quieter still) No.
Helen: (Very quietly) No, I'm always last.
Update: I related Helen Mei's telling of this story to her teacher yesterday, who said she has never been last. Not first or second, either, mind you, but definitely not last. Of course, to her, saying she is last may simply mean she isn't first or second.