Month Fifteen…

07 Feb 2006

…in the life of Veronica Ruth, baby girl, and her brother Isaac and parents.

For those following along at home, she is now talking incessantly, although some guesswork is still required to figure out what she is saying. She will rarely answer questions. She will engage in a dialogue with me involving the alphabet song. (I sing: A, B, C, D… and then stop and point at her; she says the next letter, kind of, sometimes; well, she did at least once, I’m pretty sure.) Grace seems to understand more of what she says, or at least is more confident about her guesses.

After observing her, I’ve come up with a new theory of human communication. It is probably not original to me. This theory is that the approximate tone and emotional content of words represents the primary function of communication. In other words, being able to utter “yeh” in about the correct tone of voice at the right time with an appropriate smile is about 90% of the job of communication. She laughs when we laugh; when we clap, she claps her hands and does a little victory dance. She tries to do what we do. We use an electric toothbrush, so when we give her a regular toothbrush (without toothpaste) she wiggles it around in her mouth and chews on it and makes a “zzzzz” motor noise. The stated goal (exchanging words, actual tooth cleaning) are mostly an afterthought, a technical detail. Or maybe I’m just starting to think like a 15-month-old baby myself.

I’ve consistently been grateful because V has never made our sleep situation impossible. Even when she was a newborn, she would sleep in fairly consistent stretches, waking only briefly. The new parent nightmare of screaming baby and sleepless night has happened to us only a handful of times, and usually only if V is sick with a cold or fever. That’s starting to change a little bit. She seems to be getting revved up for her “terrible twos.” When her will is thwarted, she will throw herself down like a protester going limp while the police carry her off and scream like a banshee. She is no longer napping much, but yet seems to stay up later and later. Her energy level is remarkable. She seems to need less sleep than we do, and is frequently active past midnight as we are falling asleep. Occasionally we just have to wrestle her to the bed and squeeze until she tires herself out sufficiently to fall asleep.

Just to make things even more fun, she’s a very aggresive climber, and has become fascinated with electrical outlets. We have put safety plugs in all our outlets, but we have to take them out sometimes to use them. She’ll unplug the power adapter for Grace’s laptop to get at the outlet. She’ll move chairs around to climb up on them and get onto the table. We had to move a tall CD rack upstairs because she can climb it like a monkey. She is tiring! Grace tells me Isaac was a much different baby. I think it is going to get worse (tantrums, screaming “No!”) before it gets better (potty training, actual conversation).

Isaac is still having some difficulty finding his role in the family. It would be nice to say that he still gets as much attention from his parents as he ever did, but that is just not possible. I am trying to do more with him, but I have to trade off with Grace on baby care and pick up household tasks that she is dropping, so that does not amount to very much. I am taking him to the gym with me, and trying to work more with him on his home-schooling. He is studying algebra and doing quite well at it. He needs to pay a great deal more attention to writing and English, so Grace and I are contemplating trading stubjects. He needs a lot of work on attention and responsibility.

So how is Dad holding up? I had a followup appointment with my new doctor. Since starting up a gym membership in early January, going about twice a week, I have lost about three pounds and can fit into pants I haven’t been able to wear for five or six years. Isaac has been going with me. My goal is four days a week, but two days a week is what I’ve been able to manage in practice.

My blood pressure is excellent and has gone slightly lower since getting back to the gym. My overall cholesterol is fine. My mood is reasonably good, and has improved as the days become longer. I’ve managed to find some time for hobby programming (in Scheme) — gaining facility with Scheme is a long-term goal of mine. I’ve had a little bit of time for study — not much, but better than none.

So how is Grace doing? She has lost quite a bit of weight herself. She has not had any gall bladder attacks for several months. A recent ultrasound revealed that there are some small stones visible. She may still need surgery; the answer is unclear, although she is going to talk to a surgeon.

Our disposable income this past month or so has been almost entirely spent on co-pays and related health-care expenses. Now that we have health insurance again, we have a backlog of things we want to take care of. We’ve all seen doctors. Isaac had his first dental visit in years. I’ve seen a doctor for the first time in years. Grace needs a number of dental fillings and had the first one done. After some bursts of disturbing behavior Isaac is seeing a counselor; another expense, but it seems necessary.

I had an eye exam, the first in nine years. Our insurance doesn’t cover any of it. I need new glasses. But even armed with the new prescription there is little I can do now until we’ve put aside enough money to buy them. Our cars are falling apart. Our apartment is falling apart. If things stay on track, though, we will finish our major debt consolidation plan later this year, and that will be a great achievement. It all has to stay together until then.

So, we’re all tired. We all have too much to do. We have too many things we need to spend money on. But we’re doing OK. Tomorrow it will all be different.

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