Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for April, 2007

Our Little Chatterbox

Iris has always been an expressive child, from her woodpecker motions for milk soon after birth, to her sign language for trees and dogs, to her emphatic pointing and pulling us around the room.  But now we’ve moved into a new world, beyond monosyllabic grunts and gestures.
I read recently about a vocabulary spurt that toddlers have somewhere between 18months and two years old, and I think Iris’ started about a week ago.  Here’s what happened:
All of a sudden on Saturday April 21st, Iris started saying two word phrases like “daddy’s book” and “mommy’s milk” (yeah, I’m still nursing… so that’s a favorite).  She also seemed to suddenly learn a million words a minute.  She repeats everything we say, and seems to remember it! 
The next day, Iris’ aita Mary Kay and grandpa Bob came to visit and she said “gampa” for the first time.  She also blurted out complicated words like “buckle” (she was trying to figure out how to fasten her buckle in her high chair). 
By the end of the week of their visit, Iris was spouting two-word phrases all day long, things like “mommy’s tummy”, “tata’s coffee”, (“tata” is her version of “aita”, the assamese word for grandma), “up high”, “down low”, and “that way”.  Her biggest word, said over the phone to uncle Sean, was “Washington”!
Aita even swears that Iris uttered a 5 word sentence while I was out.  Aita Mary Kay encouraged quite a bit of Iris’ learning: Iris memorized an entire book of nursery rhymes from her aita, and now can count to three – those 3 bags of wool are quite educational!  Her favorite number though is two, as in two feet, two hands, two flowers or rocks or whatever she can carry in each hand, and of course, two “sides” to drink milk from. 
And Iris is learning her colors too, correctly identifying “bue” or “puple” crayons, and white flowers.  And aita and grandpa also witnessed her point out a “puple iris” flower while out on a walk.  She’s learned her namesake!  What’s left to learn after that?

Environmental Engineer?

It just might be a bit early to tell what career Iris will choose, but I’d like to venture a guess.  My scientific study of Iris’ skills and passions leads me to Environmental Engineer. 

First of all, she’s extremely passionate about trees.  For a few months now she has talked about trees in the morning before we go outside, and will even go over and knock on the door (while saying “na na”) and hand me her boots so we can go visit the trees.  She also eats lots of vegetables, as long as they are somehow related to trees.  This includes broccoli trees, cauliflower trees and even asparagus trees!  (okay, so it helps that she gets to dip the asparagus trees in mayonnaise – weird family tradition, don’t ask) 

Iris is wild about the April blossoms too, and I can see why.  There are trees full of pink and white flowers (and wildflowers all around, including Irises).  I’ve picked dandelions or cherry tree blossoms for her, and she very carefully holds them by the stem – one in each hand – for an entire stroller ride.  And if one drops, she really gets worried!  Luckily, just one trip around the block is full of amazing flowers, rocks and sticks to discover.

Iris’ skills and passions also extend to anything mechanical.  She can spend a long period of time figuring out how to get the cap on and off a water bottle, zip her jacket, stick a straw in the hole of a cup, or take the lid off her snack cup to dump out the contents.  This normally non-stop active child can suddenly sit still for long periods of time to attempt these feats.  She’ll eat her meal in her highchair without squirming if she can simultaneously work on taking the lid on and off a bowl.  (though watch out – she very early on watched us and learned how to remove the entire high chair tray by reaching underneath with both hands to unhook it and make it all CRASH onto the floor)   The Bob the Builder exhibit at the Children’s Museum is a fantastic place for us to go these days.

In sum, both her passion for nature and mechanical skills add up to a career test score of 100% outdoorsy engineering type.  That’s mine, what’s your prediction?

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

1985.  Twenty-two years ago.  Ronald Reagan was just starting his second term.  The Cosby Show was the hit new sitcom.  And I was a 13-year old who had just fallen in love with the sport of basketball by watching a team that played for a catholic school in Washington DC with which I had no affiliation.  But there was something different about the Georgetown Hoyas and their style of play.  They were intimidating, intense, and fundamentally sound top-to-bottom.  John Thompson Jr.  was their coach, an ex-NBA player who stood 6’10" tall and, unlike most coaches, cast a more physically-imposing shadow that could strike fear into the hearts of many of his recruits.  He towered over many of his players, but not Patrick Ewing, who was the star and icon of the team.  I watched that team intently, mimicing their style of play whenever I made it out to the courts.  In fact, I never really started playing basketball until I discovered this team.  I remember how they were the defending national champions that looked like a lock to repeat when they played a far outmatched Villanova team, only to see Villanova play what has been continually described as the perfect game.  No matter–Georgetown was in three of the previous four Final Fours and they’d be back again soon, right? 
Wrong.  Throughout my entire teens, my entire twenties, and halfway through my thirties, I relgiously followed this team through thick and thin (and it definitely got thin at times).  I always held out hope, but it never came through.  There were a couple of near-misses, especially early on, but nothing close in the last eleven years.  Twenty-two years later, they finally made it back.  As they started to seal the deal on the clinching win (over my brother’s beloved North Carolina Tar Heels, only sweetening the victory), I felt the years of patience being vindicated.  Cherise and I went out to dinner later that night and she remarked that it was too bad it didn’t happen several years earlier when I was younger and could’ve appreciated it more as sports meant more to me then (for what it’s worth, I don’t care less about sports as much as I now care more about other new stuff–like the eighteen-month old star of this blog).  But as I thought about it later that night, I realized that it was better to happen this year than any other year because of the lessons I can only now appreciate…
You see, like the 1985 team, the 2007 Georgetown Hoyas are coached by John Thompson with Patrick Ewing as a key player.  Only, it’s John Thompson III (the 1985 team’s coach’s son) and Patrick Ewing Jr. (the 1985 team’s star’s son).  It is literally and genetically the next generation of Georgetown.  And what has made this season so beautiful was that the fathers have been sitting in the stands every game, lending support and rooting for their sons.  Neither son is exactly like his dad.  John III is mild-mannered and a far smaller man whose career has many more years to go before any comparisons can really be made.  Patrick Jr. is four inches shorter and will never be one of the 50 best NBA players of all-time (as his father was once voted).  But in some ways, they are BETTER because they’ve learned from their fathers as well as their own unique experiences.  And in the process, they’ve made their fathers incredibly proud.  Seeing the parent-child relationship manifest in adulthood is something that has a profound effect on me, both as a father and a son.  The elder Thompson is more gratified by his son’s accomplishments than his own, but the son is effusive in the praise (and love) he gives his father publically.  In the case of the Ewings, the son knows he’ll never be what his dad was, but he also knows that his father help set a high bar and taught him to dream.  The goal isn’t to be their fathers, but rather aspire to great heights and feel free to use the fathers as inspiration.  To see that play out as part of a team I care so much about has made this an extremely rewarding season to be a fan.  In the hoopla surrounding the trip to the Final Four, there was one quote from the elder Thompson after the victory for the Final Four that particularly struck me:
"This (win) is the greatest thing that could happen to me.  I’m lucky to be able to share in my child’s life, and that’s more important than getting another statue.  There (pointing to his son on the court) is my statue, right there."
What the fathers have given to their sons and what their sons have given back is something priceless.  There’s no doubt my father provided that inspiration for me, despite the fact he doesn’t build software and never even used a computer until his 70s.  By the same token, I’m pretty sure my father would tell you that my brother and I are his "statues" and everything we’ve accomplished is a testament to him and my mother (in fact, he said so a few weeks ago and I’ve never felt more honored in my life).  And if there’s anything I hope to accomplish as a father, it’s that Iris will find some inspiration in me that helps her do something that we can both be proud of, regardless of whether she decides and/or is capable of following in whatever footsteps I leave. 
It’s amazing.  As I often tell Cherise, sometimes sports isn’t just about sports. The 1985 Hoyas taught me lessons about basketball that I have taken with me forever.  The 2007 Hoyas have taught me lessons about life that I will take with me forever.

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