Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for April, 2008

Where's Tampa?

The past few months have been a whirlwind.  While Iris is becoming more of a “big girl” every day, she also learned a big life lesson – family takes care of each other no matter what.  Iris’ big milestones include:
1. Moving to a big girl toddler bed from her crib – one day she said “I don’t need a crib anymore.  I want to sleep on my rug.”  So I told her that while she sometimes naps in her tent or on her rug, she still needed to use the crib at night, at least until we buy her a bed.  A few days later “mommy, we need to buy me a bed!”  So the IKEA trip was launched, and she picked out her new bed and sheets.  We brought it home and built it “together”.   Now she talks about moving the crib to the baby room to make room for a reading couch in her room. 
2. Starting preschool – mommy began thinking about how baby #2 is coming before the fall, so Iris had better get a little more used to being away from mommy and around groups of kids!  We found a wonderful 2’s program here run by the city at Heather Farm (yup, that same place where we got married, and Iris had her 2yr birthday… we can’t get enough).  It’s just 1.5hrs two mornings a week, so mommy uses it as her exercise time since there’s not much time to do anything else.  I planned to swim laps at the outdoor pool there, but so far haven’t braved the cold.  Run/walking the trails is beautiful though.  Iris cried for just a few minutes the first 2 days of preschool as mommy left, and hasn’t cried since.  While sometimes she’ll say “I don’t want to go to preschool” in the morning, she always loves it once there, and it’s usually hard to tear her away at the end.
3. Potty training? – we’re in the midst of this right now.  She has some super successful days and then wants to be a baby in diapers again for a few days, and I never know which it will be.  Today she decided to wear underwear out to the library and soccer class, so she’s getting quite brave about it!  Her main motivation seems to be the nifty designs on the underwear (doggies being the favorite, then stars), though I think her preschool friends are probably an influence since most are a bit older than her. 
4. Library addiction – Now every day she asks to go to the library.  Forget the playground even, sometimes!  She uses new vocabulary from her books too, like “I realized”, “eventually”, “actually”, and “ultimatum”.  That last one is from a favorite of ours called Click Clack Moo, where the cows and hens go on strike and the duck (being a neutral party) brings the farmer the ultimatum.  Yeah, two years old is a good time to start learning these concepts, isn’t it?  Daddy says Iris might be an actress when she grows up, since she seems to memorize her library books by the time he gets home the night we get them.  Then she dramatically voices the characters, like the squeaky mouse in Bear’s New Friend saying “it’s not me!”

 

But through all of these milestones, we were wreaking havoc on her little life, trekking back and forth to Lincoln weekly to help mom care for dad.  She went with the flow, enjoying life at Tata and Tampa’s (my parents’ house), and the extra attention from relatives like Gigi, Uncle Sean, and Aunt Lora, as well as neighbors and friends.  (Parent tip: bring your toddler to Easter at a senior active living community – Iris ended up with more easter baskets, eggs, and treats than we could imagine!  They sure love to see kids up there.) 
 
Iris interpreted what she saw:  “sometimes people get sick and need help”, and “we should give him medicine or a toy – that will make him feel better.”  She re-enacted things with me even back in Walnut Creek, like coming into my room in the morning, taking my hands in hers, and saying “let me help you out of bed, Tampa.”  This helping attitude of hers will really come in handy for me at the end of pregnancy!
 
And finally she had to figure out death.  “Where’s Tampa?” became a common refrain of hers.  We struggled to explain, using coloring books from hospice, that Tampa will always be with us even if we can’t see him.  Ultimately she found a way she could understand:  for quite awhile now she’s had pretend friends, whether it’s pretend-daddy who’s with us when daddy’s really at work, or making me pretend to be Trisha so she can be her friend Ian (who she misses from Seattle).  So now she talks about pretend-Tampa.  It makes total sense.  He’s always with us even though we can’t see him, especially when we’re doing things he loves, like watching birds, hiking, gardening or singing. 
 
In his last week of life, Iris came running in to ask Tampa if he wanted to go to the fishing pond, and his twinkling eyes said yes.  We pushed his wheelchair there, and Iris saw the Great Blue Heron she’d been looking for.  Tampa tilted his head back to be the first of us to see the hawk flying overhead.  So where’s Tampa now?  He’s all around us, Iris, all the time.  Pretend-Tampa will always be here.

Saying Good-Bye and Thank You

This blog is usually a place for humorous stories, introspective thoughts on parenting, or random observations of how Iris has opened our eyes to a new world. We’ve continued to share new experiences and certainly you’d think there’d be a lot of fodder with the discovery of our second child’s gender (it’s a girl!) or a recent Stanford-Cornell NCAA college basketball matchup where we could’ve tried to convince Iris to root for each of our schools.  Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks has been dampened as we mourn the loss of Cherise’s father.  While life goes on for the rest of us, it seems appropriate to take a moment to say something about our daughter’s grandfather and the loss we all feel.  While we held a beautiful "Celebration of Life" for him last week in which many people spoke, I was a little too worried about Cherise making it through the day to really prepare something worthy of the day.  Besides, it seems like this is a more free form approach to doing it where my rambling style is likely more appreciated…
 
I suppose the anticipation of a relationship with any future father-in-law can be a bit intimidating.  Personally, as a father to Iris and soon another girl, I’m already reserving a shotgun and pit bull for my initial encounters with prospective sons-in-laws.  But my father-in-law wielded something far more powerful than firearms or canines.  You see, the man had a brain the size of Wisconsin.  I suppose I should’ve known what I was in for when I asked Cherise what her dad did for a living.  "Oh, he’s an engineer".  Hmmm.  "Electrical Engineer".  Uh oh. "Yeah, he used to write programs in assembly language and try to teach me as a kid."  Yikes!  This guy’s a nerd. I can’t wow him with my knowledge of the NBA’s top scorers.  I can’t kick back and have beer with him while watching the Orioles.  I can’t have mindless conversations about mediocre movies or pop culture.  I’m gonna have to be on my toes every time we visit.   He is going to quiz me every time I visit!
 
Well I was right–except for the beer part (fortunately, we shared a love of Guinness).  He was a nerd.  To him, Kobe Bryant was a special beef dish and the only Orioles he knew were the ones he saw through his bird-watching binoculars.  And sure enough, the elder engineer with an MBA had set his expectations high for his new son-in-law engineer with an MBA.  My decision to work for Microsoft only made things more interesting.  I love telling the story about how, when people asked me what I did at Microsoft, I would start explaining it and getting deeper and deeper until I started seeing their eyes glaze over because I was getting too technical (it’s that look that says "geez, I was only asking to be polite") and then I would stop.  That never happened with my father-in-law.  Even when he didn’t understand it, he expected me to explain it and then asked those questions that only someone with an overactive brain could muster.  I remember discussing web application security with him.  To most of you out there, this is not a fascinating topic.  But to him, he was fascinated and kept after me.  He had questions and he wanted answers.  I used to give talks on the subject to hundreds of experts at a time and I managed to hold my own.  Yet, here’s this retired sixty-something systems engineer completely stumping me.  I can remember one visit to Cherise’s parents in 2002 where, the night before our flight as Cherise packed, I was reading up on a few topics just in case.  Yes, that’s right.  I was studying for my father-in-law!  That can’t be normal.
 
Of course, as time went on, I realized that the game was best when it was played in both directions.  So, as he worked on projects, I’d start questioning why he was doing things.  And his face lit up every time–especially when I could keep up with him.  The man was a born teacher and loved explaining how things worked, especially if they were his own creations.  He had an engineer’s creative bent, whether it manifested itself in computer programs, musicial compositions, or building the perfect shelf.  No detail was too small and no clever trick was left unturned.  He loved his intellectual pursuits, if only for the sport of it.  It encouraged him to get involved in any and every project imaginable.  He may have been one of the first people in history to be busier AFTER he retired than before.  And with every effort, he was the same:  measured, methodical, and ready to share any detail on the process. 
 
That was Bob Melton.  There wasn’t a hint of pretension on the man.  He was who he was and I consider myself lucky to have known him.  And it explains so much about what I’ve loved about Cherise since the day I met her and the reason why she still challenges me and excites me in everything we do.  So much of what I value in my relationship with Cherise is a direct result of his influence.  I know I owe my father-in-law so much and I am grateful that I was able to tell him as much before he passed on.  As I look back, I’ll miss the intellectual joust.  I’ll miss the unique brand of wisdom.  But I will always take heart knowing I’ll still feel his presence in almost every thing Cherise does.

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