Dear Js,

‘Twas the day before Christmas. Up north went all of us… to the Exploratorium! It was our first time.

By the way, I’m off work this week and next, so you’ve been with us every day. Boy it’s killing me. My voice is dead, I dread waking up even though mama jumps on the grenade every morning so I can sleep in a little longer. You two are relentless. J with you it’s “Daddy play with me!” or “Read it please!” or “WHY?” or repeating everything you say 10 times if I don’t give you an audible acknowledgement.

What was I talking about? Oh. Exploratorium! In the last letter, I said you declared that you are a mouse. Well, what a coincidence – you got to meet your friends:

The mice were your favorite exhibit. You didn’t mind that they frolicked in their pee and poo and smelled like it. You enjoyed watching them spin the wheel, climb up to their loft and snuggle in their ball. Then a stupid lady appeared and made it her point to piss her self-righteousness on us
by exclaiming, “OH THAT’S SOOOOO SAD!”

Really? There were labels next to each animal on display explaining the significant scientific discoveries their kind contributed to. And really? These are mice – if you blinked or looked away for 3 seconds and looked back, another five would appear… assuming they didn’t eat all their babies.

Besides, please do tell me how you propose to make these mice “happier”? Set them loose in the wild so they can sing “Circle of Life” in the sunset?

Anyway, this was another display you liked:

But the one you loved the most was the one with a train in a house. You pushed a button and a white train cruised from room to room, demonstrating some some optical illusion or other. You didn’t want to leave and you didn’t want to share. It was close to lunchtime and naptime, so your self control stores were depleted. One kid pushed a little too far and you cried. Eventually you found the energy to surrender the train, and we left.

I don’t think we’re ever going back. It was too crowded, and the exhibits seemed to be designed for children with A.D.D. Too dense and too many things going on to distract and steal focus.

But your mom and I love to watch your brain at work. While the ADD kids bounce from station to station and flock to every flashing light, you solve problems even before you get to the problems on display. First problem was you weren’t tall enough. So you helped yourself. Other parents would give you a weird look as you screeched the chair across the floor, but we were smiling:

Bro loved mice, sis loved goldfish

Bro loved mice, sis found goldfish

The girls having fun

Girls having fun

sticker puzzle

We got a sticker puzzle at lunch. You hadn’t seen that before. I explained how it worked and you had fun matching the numbers.

The night before Christmas – Mama the Spirit of Christmas wrapped our presents. You were her Christmas Elf:

Christmas Elf

Christmas Elf

Christmas eve dinner

Mama’s Christmas Eve dinner

Mama made Ginger Bread house

Mama’s Ginger Bread house – she realized it was too hard for you to do it with her, and even for her. See how I only show one side of the house? 🙂

Presents stacked high

Presents towered over our tree. I’m usually the Christmas Grinch, but this time I snuck a gift for mama in the pile.

Rocking out with mama

Rocking out with mama

Penguin dance

Mama’s Christmas Eve tradition – Footie jammies for everyone. We did the Penguin Dance

Christmas morning – Presents!

The things you love most are books. So, in addition to dinosaurs, we gave you many books. I realize now that it’s a painful idea to give you so many new books all at once, because you ask us to read all your books. Since Christmas, we’ve been reading to you non-stop. Book after book. My throat burns. Every day. I have to hack, cough and wheeze the phlegmy knots between pages.

Oh, this was my surprise gift for mama because she was complaining about the cold. I gave her a pair before, but her feet ate holes in them and I couldn’t buy a replacement because they didn’t make them anymore. Just my luck, I checked a week before Christmas and someone else brought them back!

Slippers for everyone!

Slippers for everyone!

Even though you had your Elmo slippers, you stole mama’s and stood in them like they were boats. You even hugged them to sleep at naptime…

Danger – Crawling!. It’s official:

You love chasing your brother around the room. You try to steal his toys. J looks at us for help and we laugh.

He gets frustrated sometimes, “Why does she take my things without asking?” We try to explain, “She’s not trying to take your things. She’s learning to grab things. She tries to grab like this…” Then you pretend to grab with us. “Like this.” J, you’re getting the idea. Although you don’t like that she takes your things, you really love her.

I don’t know why, because she steals our attention away from you. Maybe you’re fascinated by her. Sometimes when we look to make sure you haven’t snipped her fingers off, you’re showing her things, talking to her and sharing your toys with her. Today you shared your water bottle with her. She drank from it, and you helped tip it into her mouth. You tipped too hard and she fell back. She cried. You ran and jumped onto the couch because you heard mama running downstairs. I said come here, it’s okay. Let’s help her and make sure she’s okay. You said, “I ran away because I didn’t want mama to come downstairs.” I guess we tend to yell when you try something dangerous with your sister with a smile on your face. This incident showed us we ought to tone down our reactions and turn you on our side instead.

Reading with brother

Reading with brother

We went to a new place: Aviation Museum. Youngest member of the Blue Angels:

Us: Smile! You: "I cannot look out the window because I'm the pilot"

Us: Smile! You: “I cannot look out the window because I’m the pilot”

Pew Pew Pew

Pew Pew Pew

Flight Simulator

Flight Simulator made me dizzy

Bogey on your six

Bogey on your six

Sister pilot

Sister pilot

Mindset experiment. Remember the book Mindset by Carol Dweck? The one that says you make kids stupid if you praise them? I’m almost done with the book and I’ve been practicing the concepts. Like yesterday, I started making unstable dinosaur towers:

Teaching you the word "unstable" turned out to be very useful

The word “unstable” turned out to be very useful. The word “specific” is useful too, as in “Can you be more specific?”

At first, you observed me. I stacked, they fell, I stacked again. I think you felt the suspense of trying to balance them, and the excitement of them staying up. After a few, you wanted to try too. But you were afraid. In your mind, you saw a picture where if you tried, it would crash. So you just pushed a dino to me and said, “Here, use this one.” I said you can do it. You said, “No, I cannot. It will fall.” Then I said, “It’s okay if it falls. We’ll just make it again.” Your eyebrows raised like god just parted the Red Sea. As if you thought, THEY CAN FALL AND IT’S OKAY?

You tried. It crashed.

Then I said, “What do we do when it falls?” You said, “We try again!” You transformed from being cautious to being bold and adventurous. You started building your own stack. It was a little one. You were still cautious, but you didn’t fear failure anymore. When you woke up this morning, you ran downstairs and dumped your whole dinosaur bin onto the carpet. You said, “Daddy, I want to make UNSTABLE DINOSAUR TOWERS!”

It’s such a delicate thing, mindsets and thinking in general. That’s why I’m scared to leave you two alone with my parents. So easy to screw it up. How easy it is to poison a kid’s mind and shut him down. And how simple words can turn a reserved kid into a daredevil scientist. Now every time you meet a problem and say, “I cannot do it, daddy help.” We say try. Each time you do, you often solve it with just a little verbal coaching. Each time, you surprise and amaze yourself. And each time, you get a little more fearless.



P.S. Comedy is about suspense and surprise:

P.P.S. – J2 your favorite foods are sweet potato, kale and peas. But you put everything in your mouth. Including shoes, my nose and laptop power cords. You are waking up a lot now that you can flip over and scoot onto your butt. One night you sat up and stared at me, confused, looking at me like you’re accusing me for waking you up. Your two teeth are sharp and they make mama’s nursings exciting.

P.P.P.S. – Oh yes. This is what mama gave me that made me cry this Christmas. She gave me a video:

It’s tough. We’ve already collected many stories as a family. And getting through every day needs more patience than I’ve ever willed in my life. My throat is shredded talking to you. But tonight you hugged me and said, “I don’t want to sleep.” I said okay, you don’t have to sleep. We can just talk. We talked and you looked through the bars of your crib, “NO DADDY STAY AWAKE! Don’t fall asleep!” We are your everything. I’m still trying to make sense of this relationship. It’s certainly not the feel-good “Love” like Hollywood or Hallmark describe. That’s bullshit. It doesn’t feel good. It hurts. It beats you up. The only time it feels good is when both of you are asleep and we have some quiet and alcohol and we can laugh about getting beaten up by children.