Plagues plague the Boy

Thursday afternoon, the Boy got up from his nap, laid his head down on the couch and declared he had a headache.

It’s pretty standard fare for him to be cranky and still half-asleep when he gets up from his nap, so I didn’t think anything of it at first. After a few minutes he asked for lunch, like always, and at his request I made him a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich.

He took two bites of the sandwich, then declared he wanted to “rest” before eating any more and returned to his prone position on the couch. A little while later I encouraged him to return to his lunch, and he told me, “Not right now, Dad; I’m still resting before I eat lunch.”

That was when I first started to get concerned.

He never did eat any more of his lunch. At one point he said his tummy hurt, but mostly he just spent the rest of the afternoon and evening lying on the couch with a headache. I let him watch cartoons the whole time. This is not a child inclined to quiet time, TV-aided or not–normally it’s impossible to keep his attention on the same thing for more than three minutes at a time. And he was warm.

Girl was also tired and cranky. She spent most of the afternoon walking in increasingly fussy circles around the living room, and her head felt warm. Normally she goes to bed at 8.30, but at 6.50 I was able to give her Tylenol and put her down, and she slept until after dawn the following morning.

The Boy’s temperature was over a hundred that evening, so he also got Tylenol before bed. It’s the first time I can ever remember him not protesting at receiving medicine.

Friday morning he seemed fine. His temperature was down to 99.1. I remarked that he looked much better, so he could probably go to school today–that excited him a great deal. But after about two bites of breakfast, he came over and said, “Maybe I should stay home today, Dad. My tummy hurts!”

At that point I determined that we’d stay home. Five minutes later he was fine–I suspect his stomach ache was just a momentary reaction to having his first proper food in 24 hours. But I didn’t want to chance some sort of relapse. Even after the kids get all better, I’m always worried about a return of symptoms: the only time the Boy has ever really been sick, when he was about eighteen months old, it lasted a week–he was fine for about 23 and a half hours a day, then he would start frowning and clutching his stomach, then throw up copious amounts of vomit. And then be totally fine again.

So in hindsight, there’d have been no problem with school on Friday; I didn’t see a flicker of sickness after 10AM. (School starts at 12.30.) Girl was fine too. But we stayed home anyway, which broke the Boy’s heart. He did get it made up for, though, when we had a playdate Saturday night with one of his friends from school, roasting marshmallows in her back garden–he had a total blast.

This morning, we got dressed and packed up for school and set out for the bus stop. As we were turning out the front entrance of our apartment complex, though, I head the Boy let out a hacking cough, and then he said rather feebly, “Dad, my chest hurts.”

Are you sick? Do you need to stay home from school?

He shook his head emphatically at the suggestion. I felt his forehead; it felt fine.

He might have been coughing during the morning before we left; if he was, I didn’t notice it. But I did notice that he kept coughing as we walked along the street, and was still doing it when we reached the bus stop.

Personally, I suspect he’s totally non-contagious. I think the cough might just be a last gasp of whatever he had on Thursday. But you can’t very well send a child with a hacking, consumptive cough into the middle of a preschool class.

This makes two consecutive school days we’ve had to keep him home, then, and on both days I’ve been strongly ambivalent about it. On the one hand, I think the Boy was well enough to go on both days, and I don’t think he’d have passed anything on to his classmates. Now he’s missed all class activities about Thanksgiving, and essentially won’t have had any school for two weeks. But on the other hand, I totally understand the need for playing it safe–would you want any of the other parents sending their kid to school when he might be sick?

Luckily, we’ve got the impending visit of a grandmother and two aunts for Thanksgiving to distract him. Even though he keeps saying “Valentine’s Day” when he means “Thanksgiving”.


The Scholar and the Concubine
Words yesterday: 2384
Words total: 43,984

Time spent writing: 10am-2.30
Reason for stopping: End of chapter
Darling: He lifted his foot and pressed it down on the boy’s neck, eliciting a flurry of chokes and gasping splutters.
Words that boggled Word: inkpot
New words today: plentifully, trapdoor, marshland, mire, prefect

Go, Speed Racer, go

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The USA Science & Engineering Festival

Robots playing football

Boy watches the robots


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Boy builds robots with Legos

Boy in front of the Washington Monument


I call one of them Trick and the other one Treat

Boy as Darth Vader and Girl as the Flutterby Fairy


In which I compare my kids, because you’re totally supposed to do that

For almost every developmental milestone, the Girl hasn’t reached it until being a few months older than the Boy was. She rolled over later than the Boy, she crawled later than the Boy, she started talking later than the Boy, she walked later than the Boy. The Boy was always well ahead of where he was supposed to be on matters like that, so that was no surprise.

But over the past couple of months, the Girl has found an area where she’s been able to carve out her own little niche of parental wonderment–she’s far more interactive than the Boy ever was.

She points at me and says, “Dad!” She points at Lisa and says, “Mum!” She points at the Boy and says, “Pawpaw!” She makes eye contact with you and then sticks out her tongue, or waggles her head, or scrunches her face up and snorts air through her nose, in an attempt to get you to stick out your tongue, or waggle your head, or scrunch up your face and snort air through your nose. And when you respond appropriately, she laughs and claps–and then laughs even more when you clap, too.

The Boy would have never done any of these things at thirteen months, because he simply wasn’t aware of the people around him as being people, just like him. He must have been going on twenty months old the first time we saw him actually interact, when he laughed at something Arnold did in an episode of Kipper. I so much had it in my head that that’s what babies do, that the first time the Girl tried to engage with me like that, I totally dismissed it as just being coincidence–as just being her happening to act in a way that resembled communicating with me.

Our sample size is only two, so obviously I couldn’t begin to come up with a reason for the difference–is it just normal variation? Is it connected to their genders? Is it because the Girl has a four-year-old sibling who loves to play with her and so she has more social interaction than the Boy did? I was talking with one of the mums from the Boy’s playschool the other day, and she mentioned that both her two girls were far more socially interactive than her son (one month older than the Girl) is, so maybe that’s it.

But it’s so much fun to watch.



Boy with his backpack onA month ago, Boy started school.

Playschool, to be precise. We had looked at two preschools for him. One, private, is about a half hour walk from our apartment; the other, run by the county, is about seven miles up the road. But in nine months at the county playschool, we’d pay less than what we’d pay for a single month at the private school. So we put on the waiting list for the county school, and while we were away at DragonCon, we got the call that he’d got in. He started the Friday after we got back.

Six or seven miles is obviously too far to walk, so I’ve had to bite the bullet and take both kids on the bus with me three times a week. Unfortunately this is Northern Virginia and not, say, Central London, so the buses run only once every 45 minutes. This means that in order for Boy to get to school at 12.30, we have to leave by 11AM every morning. And then Girl and I have to find something to do for the two and a half hours his class lasts, since we can’t go home–I worked it out, and if we took the bus back after dropping Boy off, we’d have a grand total of ten minutes at home before having to leave again to catch the bus and go pick him up.

So we head across to the strip mall across the street and have been working our way through their various eateries. They’ve got ten (actually eleven, but I’m never going back to the Thai place again), and with Boy only having school three days a week, that means we don’t repeat dining establishments too often. After lunch we head back across to the picnic area outside the community centre, and I get an hour or so to myself while Girl naps. What I really need to do is find a way to bring my laptop with me so I can do some writing–I tried lugging both my laptop bag and the diaper bag with me on the first day, but having both was too bulky and too heavy.

Boy eats birthday cakeAnd this weekend, Boy participated for the first time in that seminal ritual of childhood, the classmate’s birthday party. Of course, it had to fall on the weekend that Lisa was away in New Orleans for a conference, so he, me and Girl had to take a cab over. But that wasn’t the big problem–the big problem was that I was with two dozen adults I barely knew for two hours while the kids played around us, and my social anxiety did not like that One Bit.

It went perfectly well, though. I was able to use my skittish, clingy thirteen-month-old daughter as a shield, and the dad of the boy whose birthday it was turned out to be a huge Man United fan,* and I spent most of the time talking with a fellow housewife who just wanted to play with Girl. And then Boy, Girl and I walked the three miles home. We’ve got another birthday party the week after next.


*As per the invitation, Boy and I both wore the jerseys of our favourite sports teams. A number of other parents and kids did as well. And here, in the land of the Redskins and ACC basketball, Boy’s Gator jersey was the only non-soccer jersey in evidence. We had South American clubs, English clubs, European clubs, the Peru national team. And Boy only wore a Gator top because we discovered his old Man United top no longer fits him.


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Words yesterday: 1052
Words total: 8198

Time spent writing: I started at noon, finished at 1am.
Reason for stopping: Quota
Darling: “That’s the brilliance of Shanghai, Cooper. No government interference because there’s really no government.”
Words that boggled Word: extrality
New words today: Communist, missionary, abide

Through three year old eyes

Whenever Boy gets told news he doesn’t necessarily like, he’ll often simply ignore it, especially if it’s a fairly abstract concept. His response to our attempt to explain that Mum had a baby growing in her tummy and after a while the baby would be born and he’d have a little sister was, “Will you play fire trucks with me?”

It seems for all the world like it’s just flying right over his head, but it’s not. Gradually, over the ensuing weeks, he’ll start bringing it up. It was a fortnight after hearing about Girl that he paused in his playing, looked up and said, “Does Mum still have a baby in her tummy?” A week or so after that he started asking for the first time about how it worked–what the baby ate, how long it would be till we met the baby, that sort of thing.

I’d just as soon have not told him about my dad at all, but of course we were heading down to Florida for the funeral, and he could very well keep asking my mum or sisters where granddad was. So we made an attempt to explain to him that granddad had died in a car crash. At the time he was particularly concerned about the car–he loved my dad’s car because of its sun roof, and he wanted to know how badly it was damaged and if we could still ride in it (to which the answer was no.)

For the most part he made no mention of granddad while we were in Florida; twice he started to ask Lisa about him, but both times they were interrupted.

Then, as I was putting him to bed one night last night, the last thing he said to me was, “Would you talk to Mum about the car crash?”

“The car crash?”

“About Granddad and the car crash.”

Then on Monday we took Girl to the paediatrician for her four-month checkup. When Boy got up from his nap, he told me, “Granddad died. He was in a car crash.”

Then, at the paediatrician’s office, the doctor asked him, “And what did you do in Florida?”

Answer: “Nana missed Granddad because he died.” (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to imagine the look on the doctor’s face.)

At dinner after, Boy asked Lisa if she would let Nana know that Granddad died. And when she put him to bed that night, he asked her to talk to me about the car crash the same way he’d asked me to talk to her the prior week.

Since then, he’s made no mention.


Do you want to know?

When my first sister came along, we knew long before her birth that she was unfortunately not going to be a boy. But when it came time for the second, my parents elected not to find out her sex before birth (which caused a good nine months of resentment between me and the already-arrived sister). They said that knowing Claire’s sex beforehand had taken too much of the anticipation out of birth; it had reduced the ensuing phone calls from an excited, “It’s a girl!” to a much more humdrum, “She’s here.”

When Lisa got pregnant for the first time, I don’t remember what our reasoning was for finding out the sex. But I do remember that we had decided very early on–certainly before she got pregnant, probably before we got married–that we were going to find out. And I very, very clearly remember what it was about our experience that made us do the same thing again with her second pregnancy.

As soon as we knew we were having a boy, he had a personality. He wasn’t a foetus, he was a person. He was someone whose arrival we were planning. He was someone we could have in mind when we were buying toys and furniture for his room. He was someone with a name. And Lisa and I could stop arguing over possible girl names.

We had much the same experience with Lisa’s second pregnancy, even though we were less sure on the sex–the sonographer was reasonably certain she was a girl, but always she seemed to have her legs crossed come exam time. (So not just a girl, but a lady.)

I think we made the right decision, and if we were ever to end up pregnant again, it’s a choice we’d be happy to repeat. But on the other hand, one of my best friends in all the world chose not to find out the sex for either of her pregnancies–and having talked to her about her reasons, that was definitely the right choice for her, too.

So a questions. Did the parents amongst you find out? Do those who aren’t parents have an expectation of what choice they’ll make if it ever presents itself?


Jingle tinkle swish

Girl is laughing.

For some reason, she finds our bed a really happy place. I don’t know if it has to do with that being where we change her, or with her liking to lie there and stare at the ceiling fan makeshift baby mobile*, or with the sheets being redolent of Lisa and me. But lay her on the bed, and all of a sudden she starts absolutely beaming at whoever enters her field of vision–including the ceiling fan.

And then the other night–she laughed.

Just two or three little beats of giggle. I almost didn’t think that’s really what it was. I made a half-joking comment about it later, to Lisa (who hadn’t been there for it), and she said, “Ooh, you better be joking.” But then the following afternoon she did it again; and yesterday, again, removing any doubt that that’s what she’s doing.

It’s a lovely sound. I’m not going to try to describe it. If you’ve heard a baby giggle, you know what I mean; if you haven’t, I couldn’t do it justice. It’s one of my favourite sounds in the world.

Which leads us into the quintessentially bloggy part of this post. A list! Of favourite sounds!

So here’s what occurs to me, pretty much off the top of my head:

*Baby giggles.
*The clink of ice against the glass as the drink gets poured in.
*Rain drumming against the windows.
*A woman’s gasp and quiet moan as you nibble her neck.
*A cricket match. Which is funny, really, because I find cricket thoroughly, interminably boring. But with cricket, as with golf, the audience is supposed to remain still and quiet, and there’s something very peaceful about the sound of leather against willow, the angry shout of the occasional player, and the periodic burst of appreciative applause on an English summer afternoon.
*The sudden silence after a train departs the platform. It only works at outdoor platforms.

Those are mine. Well, until I think of more. What are yours?


*”Baby mobile” meaning “mobile for babies to watch”, not “mobile with babies suspended from it”.

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