Uncle Chicken

Twice a week, we provide day care for my year and a half old grandniece from just about the time that the sun rises until well into the evening.  The other weekdays, and often on the weekends as well, we have her for part of the day.  It is fortunate indeed that Pastor Mom, my wife and myself are all available to share in the babysitting duties.  To put it mildly, that cute kid wears us out.

Needless to say, my grandniece must be fed and changed throughout the day.  Beyond that, however, we do our best to keep Little One entertained at all times.  Toward that end, she has more toys, books and stuffed animals than a child ought to know what to do with, songs and games on her Nabi Jr. tablet, kid videos on our cell phones and reruns of Sesame Street streamed continuously from YouTube through our TV set all day long.  And, of course, our personal attention at all times.  Failure to provide said personal attention for more than, oh, I don’t know, say about 30 seconds, results in Little One reverting to her preferred activities faster than you can blink your eye.  Among the activities to which I refer are dumping the trash onto the floor and rooting through the soda cans, vegetable peels and used paper plates, opening drawers and removing the entire contents thereof, sending lengthy character strings as text messages to my wife’s friends, repeatedly opening and closing the kitchen cabinets, and pressing the buttons on every remote control, laptop computer and electronic device in the house.  In the immortal words of Julie Andrews, “these are a few of my favorite things.”

We also take Little One riding in the car a lot.  To give you something of an idea of what I mean, today we:

  • drove to my niece’s residence (stopping at the post office to send out a job application on the way), picked up Little One and brought her home with us so that Niece could study for her exams;
  • an hour and a half later, we put Little One back in the car seat, drove back to Niece’s residence, picked her up and drove two towns up the freeway to drop her off at a meeting;
  • drove Little One back to our house, making a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up a few items on the way;
  • an hour and a half later, we put Little One back in the car seat, drove back up the freeway to pick up Niece from her meeting, then turned around and drove back down the freeway to drive Niece and Little One home;
  • drove from Niece’s residence back to our house, stopping for gas along the way because (surprise) our tank was just about dry.

This was actually fairly minor, as we had Little One for only about four hours today.  Tomorrow we have her for eleven.

My wife will start this show about 7:15 am, the time she leaves the house to drive over to Niece’s residence, pick up Niece and Little One, ferry Niece over to the college in the next town, and drive Little One back to our house.  As an inveterate night owl, I am forever grateful to my extraordinarily kind wife for not rousting me out of bed to join her on her morning rounds at that ungodly hour.

The days and the weeks go by as we zigzag across three towns to get Niece where she needs to be on time, with Little One secure in the car seat just behind us.  I find it quite a challenge to keep Little One entertained in the car while she is thus constrained with nothing to divert her attention other than some bite-sized pretzels and her sippy cup of juice.  As my wife is usually driving, Entertainment Committee duties generally fall to yours truly.

Let me just say that I am not good at this stuff.  Not at all.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don’t know what the heck I am doing.

Some things are pretty standard, such as the mandatory singing of “Frère Jacques.”  After that, however, I am at a loss.  Thankfully, however, Little One is ever ready to prompt me for what comes next.  “Boo!” she will intone (it actually comes out more like “Buh!”), which is the signal for me to turn around and keep her entertained, gosh darn it.  When we first started this little game, I would merely “boo” her back, and we’d keep going this way in call-and-response fashion until we reached our destination.  By that time, I will have a severe crick in my neck from turning around to face her every ten seconds or so.

Lately, however, we seem to have upped the ante.  It is, of course, all my fault for trying to be a show-off.  Never having been a parent myself, what I did not know is that once you go down this road, you can never go back.  I don’t know what possessed me to get fancy by booing up a regular storm, like the Pied Piper’s rodents, in fifty different sharps and flats.  Accompanied, of course, by appropriate facial expressions, including rolling my eyes, sticking out my tongue and clucking.  Said performance tends to result in Little One laughing her head off.  For that payoff, I’ll do anything.  God, I’m such a sucker.

After that, we get into the Sesame Street songs.  My wife’s favorite is the one that goes “la-dee-dah-dee-dah, la-dee-dah-dee-dah, what’s the name of that song?”  As for me, I usually stick to “Counting to Four.”  You know, the one that goes “One, two, three, four monsters walking ‘cross the floor, one, two, three, four chickens just back from the shore, bawk, bawk, bah-bawk, bawk, bawk, bah-bawk, bawk.”

Just call me Uncle Chicken.


Dorothy and the Nabi

elmo dorothy

Now I’ve seen it all.

At my age, there’s not a whole lot that surprises me anymore.  But thanks to my little grandniece, yesterday I had what is, for me, a new experience.

I have attended a birthday party for a goldfish.

If you have a child under the age of five, or if you are familiar with Sesame Street, you probably know what I am talking about.

Apparently, our Muppet friend, Elmo, has a pet goldfish named Dorothy.  And yes, you guessed it, she’s another year older.

The special day was celebrated by adding a birthday cake toy to Dorothy’s fishbowl and by having all the kids demonstrate how they wrapped their gifts for their favorite ichthyologic friend.  Behind the window shade, Mr. Noodle appeared in the cloud window to further demonstrate gift wrapping technique, but not before wrapping himself in orange paper and winding an entire roll of tape around his neck and body.  Silly Mr. Noodle!

Following a segment showing how birthdays are celebrated around the world, Elmo closes by singing a rousing chorus of “for she’s a jolly good goldfish.”

Please tell me that Dorothy doesn’t have her own fan page on Facebook.  Oh, she does, huh?

Unlike Dorothy, my grandniece is not celebrating a birthday this week (she turned one year old about three months ago).  But that didn’t stop us from buying her a present anyway.

Nabi Jr
We found a good buy on a kids’ tablet computer known as a Nabi, Jr.  Now, the Nabi website says this product is for children ages 3 to 7.  But we know Little One is going to have a grand old time with it, judging by the way she plays with all of our iPhones.  We have to keep an eye on our phones or she will swipe them and disappear before we know what happened.  The fact that they may be plugged in to charge will in no way deter her.  She will simply tug on the cord until the phone comes loose.  Once in possession of said phone, she will touch every part of the screen with reckless abandon.  My grandniece’s explorations have resulted in her sending texts to our friends, making phone calls and even deleting most of our apps.

I think I get it.  Our phones are a whole lot more fun than a birthday party for Dorothy the fish.

We figure it won’t be long before Little One will be speaking to us in an intelligible manner, and we know how that scene will go.  I fully expect her first full sentence to be “I want my own iPhone!  Now now now!”

We will cross that bridge when we come to it.  For now, however, we know that she will go crazy over all the colors, the games, the drawing and music — both kids’ tunes and classical (Mendelssohn, anyone?).  Most importantly, she will get to touch every part of the screen and making fun things happen.  At least until she throws it across the room (she likes to fling things).

My wife and I were playing around with the Nabi after we got it charged up today.  I accessed an app called ABC Color, where, after reaching the letter E, I used the drawing tools that appeared at the bottom of the screen to fill in an outline picture of an elephant with a gray colored pencil.  Like any infant worth his salt, I was unable to stay within the lines.  No problem there; I simply used the eraser tool to make the picture look perfect.

Well, I’d better sign off here and get myself to bed.  I want to make sure to be up in time to see the look on my grandniece’s face when we present her with the Nabi.  And to hear the crash when she flings it into a corner to go play with a spoon or hide behind my mother-in-law’s easy chair.

So good night, and uh, happy birthday, Dorothy!  Or, in your language, glub glub.


The Naughty Chair

time out

I have discovered that young children can be tyrants.

My wife and I (okay, mostly my wife) babysit our one year old grandniece at least four days per week while my niece is taking college classes.  We love her dearly and have a blast playing with her.

We spoil her beyond all reason, in the style of aunts and uncles the world over.

We pretty much follow her lead.  Most of the time, she is rather creative and comes up with all sorts of games.  Whatever strikes her fancy becomes the order of the day.

I mentioned last week about her game of pulling the headset cord out of my laptop and sucking on it.  And also the “La La Song” that she sings as a cacophonous duet with my wife. 

Now she has a new game.  It goes like this:  Baby bangs her palm flat on the couch.  Then it’s uncle’s turn to do the same in imitation of her.  Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat 20 more times.  Uncle wonders if she’s going to get tired of this sometime before dinner.  The answer is no.  Attempt to distract baby.  Fail.  Efforts to distract succeed only in annoying baby, who demands to know why you are doing this when the game is not over yet.

No matter what the game is, it is never over until baby says it’s over.  Don’t you know anything, uncle?

When she runs out of creativity, and has already pulled all of her toys out of the cabinet and strewn them across the living room and has grown bored with those, the little princess simply demands to be entertained.  As you know, being entertained upon demand is the royal right of all princesses.  Failure to comply will result in swift and terrible punishment in the form of a royal screaming fit that will jar your nerves from here to tomorrow.  You will not soon forget your transgression against Her Royal Highness, as you will wake up in the middle of the night and think you hear her bawling even though she is two miles away with her mom.

My little grandniece loves music.  Any kind of music.  On the TV, on our mp3 players or one of us singing to her.  She displays a big grin and begins dancing to the rhythm.  This should come as no surprise, as her mom, at the tender age of 17, has a melodious voice that some would kill for.

I’ve been trying to teach her the ABC song.  And “Frère Jacques.”  And “Sur le Pont d’Avignon.”  And “Alouette.”  Even “Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde” and “La Marseillaise.”  Can you tell that I’m in French mode?  My college student niece has asked me to teach her some French and I’ve been trying to go over some easy phrases with her.

My favorite baby doesn’t know quite how to take all those funny sounding words.  She just stares at me raptly as if to say “You know what, uncle?  You have finally gone and lost your marbles, dude.”

We attempt to capitalize upon the little one’s love of music by using any music available to keep her entertained.  There is always the insipid Baby TV in the background, and then there are the Sesame Street videos that my wife has found online.  I think “Hooray-Hurrah for Broccoli” starring Abby Cadabby is my new favorite.

I don’t have children of my own, so much of this stuff is brand new to me.  Like the way a one year old demands attention.  And I mean demands.  It is fortunate that there are usually three or four adults here, giving us each a break as she toddles gingerly between us.  She discovers her world by placing everything in her mouth and sucking on it.  I have gained a new appreciation for child-proof caps and child-proof locks.

When she gets into something that is off-limits and refuses to take no for an answer, the little one earns a time out in the “naughty chair.”  At her own house, her mom has a cute little seat emblazoned with the logo “Time Out!”  Little Miss Fussbudget hates that seat, as her legs dangle from it and she cannot get off unaided.  Here at the parsonage, she has a tiny green plastic seat that serves as the naughty chair.  The only problem is that she loves this chair and drags it around with her.  It’s not that she wants to sit on it, mind you.  She just wants to suck on its legs.  Take that, Supernanny!

When my grandniece feels she’s not getting enough attention from the adult upon whom she is currently focused, or when she gets tired or when she doesn’t feel well, all bets are off.  She expresses her displeasure in the only way she knows how:  By wailing at a volume that can be heard over in the next county.

We try to ensure that she has regular naps, but this is becoming increasingly problematic.  No matter how tired she is, she does not want to go to sleep when there is the risk of missing something.  And there are enough of us around that this would be pretty much always.

Her glassy-eyed look is a dead giveaway for how tired she is.  But just try to put her down and the siren show gets going.  Today, Nana had to rock her until she finally fell asleep on her.  And then she rocked her some more, knowing that the moment she was put down in her crib, she’d start screaming.  Which she did.

It is difficult to say no to this little girl about anything, no matter how inconvenient it is.  Not just because we love spoiling her, but also because it causes her to pitch a fit.  In that respect, she can be a rather demanding despot.

But when you really think about it, why shouldn’t she be?  She knows how to get what she wants.

And, as they say in the funny papers, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


NaBloPoMo November 2013