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Overheard: there was a LEGO stuck on my tooth just now.

There’s a popular blogger, The Nester, who hosts a “31 days ____” every October. Each person chooses their own topic that they want to write about for 31 days straight. I couldn’t think of one particular topic (plus it looks like everything is well-covered anyway), but let’s consider this 31 days of a post every day. Minus the cute square icon, but plus some appearances by this cute guy:

Padilla Bay camping '12

Names, by Carl Sandburg

There is only one horse of the earth
and his name is All Horses.

There is only one bird in the air
and his name is All Wings.

There is only one fish in the sea
and his name is All Fins.

There is only one man in the world
and his name is All Men.

There is only one woman in the world
and her name is All Women.

There is only one child in the world
and the child’s name is All Children.

There is only one Maker in the world
and His children cover the earth
and they are named All God’s Children.

It’s becoming increasingly exhausting to have any sort of conversation when Seth is around.

Why?

Because he’s constantly asking “Why?” to everything we say.

Why?

Because that’s what kids his age do.

Why?

Because as a baby, he spent his time learning what things were by touching and putting them in his mouth. As a young toddler, he spent his time testing out the laws of physics and causality by dropping things and repeating the same movements over and over again. And now as a two year old, he’s spending his time exploring the concepts and rules that make those things happen. And the only way he can learn those concepts is through asking. So we try our best to give him good answers he can understand.

Why?

Because this is an important part of his intellectual growth, and we don’t want to discourage his curiosity in the world by refusing to answer or talking over his head.

Why?

Because the most interesting grown-ups in the world are the ones who are still curious. But it’s definitely exhausting for us to answer that many questions.

Why?

Because the questions often end up in some pretty abstract territory, and it can be difficult finding ways to explain why laws exist, why God loves him, or why the grass grows in terms that a child can understand.

Why?

Why what?

Why?

Are you just saying “Why?” out of habit?

Why?

Well, Seth seems to do a lot of that, too. Seth doesn’t like playing quietly, either by himself or with a parent next to him – he always wants to have a constant stream of conversation and chatter from the moment he wakes up until he falls asleep at night. So he keeps asking “Why?” just as a way to fill space.

Why?

Hey, how about we make up a story about Huckle Cat instead of more “Why?” questions?

Talk Huckle! Talk Huckle please!

It had been waaaaay too long since we’d seen Seth’s birth families, so a trip down to California was overdue. We watched the plane ticket prices like a hawk all summer long, and when the price dipped down, we jumped on it and scheduled a trip down south.

The majority of our time was spent either at the T-B house, or at Aria’s Grandma Linda’s house, which was right across the street. The T-B house is a mecca in the neighborhood for kids, and Seth had a blast playing with his uncles Skyler and Carter and all of his other new friends.

Aria had started school recently, but she was able to drive back into town for a couple of evenings to play with everyone. Ethan was also busy for much of the time with preparations for his travels in the fall, but we got to go over to his house one evening to have dinner with his family.

My highlight (other than getting to see all the people who I had deeply missed) was the chance to cook dinner on two different nights. The T-B’s are some of my favorite people to cook for, as they are always so thankful and complementary, and having a free afternoon with no need to rush and with Seth distracted was just what I wanted out of my vacation time.

Some photographs:

Playing boat with the Uncles. Seth would have spent the entire vacation on the trampoline if we had let him.


Riding in a wagon around the yard. Later in the week, the wagon would be used as a big soup pot for the pretend kitchen.


Cooling off in the water with Nadia, Heather’s daughter. Heather was one of our biggest helpers during Seth’s first week, and her daughter was born about a year later.


All the kids did some painting one afternoon, led by Betsy. How the house survived without turning 12 different colors is beyond me.


Cooking outside in the play kitchen. Just like at his kitchen at our home, Seth spent hours playing restaurant and serving up meals to whoever would eat them.


Birth father and son, showing off their smiles.


Two wild animals snuck into the living room one morning.


Exploring the creek in Kelseyville.


Everyone had fun.

During a normal dinner conversation about chores, Betsy mentioned something about picking up Ladybug’s waste in the yard, i.e. poop duty. Seth was very excited about this idea, and decided that he wanted to play poop duty inside with pretend poop.

We used his blocks as poop. He started out by using his shovel for clean-up, but then switched to his hands after a little while.

Poop duty from Eel Fang on Vimeo.

Transcript:

Betsy (off camera): What are you playing right now, Seth?
Seth: Poop duty!
Todd: Nice…
Seth: Me picking up poop. Me picking up… me put in garbage.

When I reach the end of my life, I want to have a large family of people who love me. To know that I was an example of strength, compassion and dignity to those around me. To be remembered for sacrifices for others, for hard work, for an easy smile, and for some truly awful puns and lame jokes.

When that day arrives, I want to be at peace, confident in the world after death, free from pain or fear. I want to enjoy a nice meal with my wife, climb in my bed, and relax for the long sleep ahead of me.

My Grandfather achieved all of those things over the course of his life, reaching that final day yesterday.

My sadness in his passing is therefore not for any opportunities he left unachieved or for any regrets in how he lived his life, but rather, that the footsteps I’m following in my own path are now the footsteps of shadows rather than of the physical flesh. But the footsteps will remain.

It feels like half the posts we write are about Seth’s sleep habits, but for good reason – that’s definitely been our cross to bear. He’s a great eater, he’s good at sharing his toys, he volunteers to clean up after playing, he’s usually in a good mood… but for some reason, sleep has always been so hard for him.

The pre-bedtime routine has been the same for over a year now – we have a small snack of a boring food (plain cereal or crackers, milk), put on pajamas, brush teeth, read 4 books, go potty one last time, sing a song in bed, and then it’s time for sleep.

But Seth never wants to sleep. He’ll throw his blanket and pillow and stuffed animals out of bed, try to climb out of bed, laugh, cry, fuss, and do nearly everything but sleep.

A year ago, we put him to sleep in our bed, with one parent staying in bed with him to try to help him calm down and get to sleep. After several months of the parent getting kicked and Seth being unwilling to sleep, we moved him to the Pack-and-Play. We were hoping to be able to leave him in there and let him sleep by himself while we left the room – but he very quickly learned how to climb out. On top of that, he wasn’t old enough yet to be good at climbing out, so allowing him to climb meant giving him the chance to fall down on the hard wood floor and hurt himself. So instead, we stayed in the room with him, far enough away that he couldn’t see us, but close enough that we could hear him try to climb out. His counter-move was to start throwing all the contents of his bed out, and then screaming non-stop until we gave it back to him.

Finally, we decided to get him his own bed. He hadn’t “proven” himself with the pack-and-play yet, but we reasoned that an actual bed would be much softer and more comfortable, it’d be safer when he tried to get out, it might be a point of pride for him to stay in his big-boy bed, and it really couldn’t be any more annoying.

The current process is to go through the full night-time routine, and then put him in his bed with one parent still in the room. That parent silently and emotionlessly places him back in bed every time he gets out, and waits for him to fall asleep. This ranges anywhere from 15-60 minutes, with last night taking nearly 100 minutes before he finally fell asleep.

We’ve tried leaving the room, but he can open the door and the bedroom isn’t 100% baby-proof anyway. We’ve tried being more forceful about keeping him in bed, but that usually just makes him mad. And we’ve tried reasoning with him, but he is only 22 months old and he doesn’t care.

He does great for baby-sitters, though – we had our friend Aaron and his girlfriend Monica watch him at bedtime, and he fell asleep within 10 minutes for them. We had my sister watch him last Saturday, and he stayed in the Pack-and-Play without climbing out. But if we are anywhere around, his top priority is to climb out of bed and come play.

It’s really tiring for us… why isn’t it tiring for him?

Betsy’s employer had their annual party to celebrate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 (or something like that). Because the farm employs a number of workers with Mexican or other Hispanic backgrounds, they throw a nice party every May to help celebrate heritage and to herald the coming spring.

My favorite part was the food – chile rellenos, tamales, fresh hand-made tortillas, charcoal-grilled carne asade, queso fresco, ceviche… I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. Seth enjoyed the live band (he kept walking right up to them and dancing), but his favorite part was definitely the mud puddles. We were all pretty dirty by the time we got home.

cinco de mayo party at the farm

Barn, dog, baby and mud

Blue-eyed baby holding rocks

yellow rainboots, baby playing in mud puddle

toddler walking in mud with tractors

We went down to Portland last weekend.  The plan was for me to attend a Blazers game in the evening, and for the whole family to spend the day relaxing.  Ah, the best laid plans…

The Blazers game didn’t happen, unfortunately.  I had put off buying tickets for a while – every time I remembered and tried to make the purchaset, either Seth was fussing and wanted me off the computer, or I was at work and my credit card was in my other pants at home.  By the time I finally got around to it, they were sold out.

The morning before we drove down, Betsy’s voice was raspy and starting to fade.  Before the weekend was over, she would lose her voice almost completely.  That, along with the rest of her cold symptoms, made the trip rough on her.

Have we mentioned recently that Seth is a 16-month old baby (and not an adult)?  Because that’s also an important part of the story.  It was tough on him to be in the car for 3 hour trips down south, outside for an hour or so, and then back in the car to go to dinner or to a place we wanted to visit.  And when we did get out of the car, he was strapped into the stroller.  He didn’t get nearly as much time to run around and explore the world on his own terms as he normally gets, and he let us know about that.

Fortunately, we had an excellent and gracious host in my friend Vic, who let us stay overnight at his house, led us to some great places for food (The Kennedy School and Pine State Biscuits), and was a formidable Mario Kart foe when he and I stayed up until midnight racing (with Scott P joining us from the deep south for the first hour or so).  He was patient with a sick Betsy, a cranky Seth, and a frazzled Todd, and we are very grateful for his company.

I’m glad we went down, and we’ve definitely learned some lessons about travel with a toddler (minimize  car time where possible, make plans for naps/snacks however inconvenient, don’t let Betsy get sick).  It wasn’t the relaxing and laid-back weekend we envisioned, but we had fun anyway and it was good to see Vic.

Baby smiling on a leather couch

Baby and Mom riding Portland's Tri Met Train

Seth playing with water cover in Portland

Baby and friend holding hands at Portland's Saturday Market

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