Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Wubster's Time to Shine

I've been bad. No...not naughty. Just bad.

You see, I haven't written much about The Wubster. That's bad, bordering on unforgivable.

Wubster, if you're reading this, HOLY $#!7 YOU CAN READ!!! Oh, and please forgive me.

It's not that I haven't wanted to write about the Wubster, it's more that his brother's energetic adventures overshadow his mild-mannered exploration of the world. It's hard to compete with a kid who doesn't stop moving or talking; a kid who 'reads' a book from his Lutheran preschool and comes up with, '...and this is the guy who tickled Jesus' or who says at least ten times during a recent bath night, 'Mom! My penis is broken!' when it certainly wasn't. Even I become a wallflower around Mini-Me sometimes.

That's changing, though.


Here are some of the Wubster's latest accomplishments.

Back in the late summer of 2009, the Wubster started babbling, spouting out more 'Mamas' than 'Papas', disappointing, I know, but his overall communication development was looking good. Then he shut up. All we'd get was grunts, whines, cries, and, of course, laughter. No words. The Wubster was content to hang back and watch everything around him without getting too involved verbally.

In January, the Wubster had heart surgery to (mostly) fix a coarctation of the aorta, so we were a bit busy with other concerns and didn't worry too much about words. Despite our fears and nervousness, the procedure went well, the Wubster did awesome, and you'd never know that anything was wrong with him. He certainly wouldn't tell you.

At home he now spends as much time as a teenage girl on his iPod phone (not an iPhone, mind you, an iPod that he pretends is a phone) constantly babbling away about such things as how fun it is to vacuum and sweep the kitchen floor (not a day goes by that he doesn't do it at least once), how he gets his brother in trouble by mimicing all of Mini-Me's don't-do-that-at-the-table-your-brother-will-do-it-oh-nevermind-there-he-goes moves and how much he loves dunking basketballs and mowing the sidewalk. He even spits out more 'Dadas' these days then the Swiss did in the early 20th Century (I'm pulling a Dennis Miller here). And where does the Wubster go when he's got a call to make? The fireplace. He stands on the bricks, chats, and every so often kisses his own reflection in the glass. My little Narcissus!

At the sitter's, the Wubster has given Mrs. Donna the silent treatment, too, clamming up immediately if she walked in the room, the way I used to convert from walking to crawling before my mom picked me up from daycare. Within the past month, though, the Wubster has been singing and chatting for all of us. If you listen closely, you'll catch the familiar notes of Twinkle Twinkle/ABCs or the pre-meal prayer routine "Open, Shut Them" that Mini-Me taught us back in August.

The Wubster is also doing a great job walking, running, climbing, and just all-around keeping up with Mini-Me.

We purchased new mattresses for the boys recently and in a fit of genius inspired by a desire to stop dueling tantrums, I laid the old ones in the living room for some tumbling. The boys spent at least an hour that first day running back and forth from hallway to mattress, squealing and leaping (in Mini-Me's case) or falling (in the Wubster's case) on the mattresses. This is our new tantrum kryptonite!

The Wubster is also mastering climbing stairs (under close, watchful, nervous eyes) which means he's having a blast at the local playgrounds because he can now reach the top of the slide on his own. And that means he can build up enough static electricity to make my hair stand up when I catch him at the bottom. Who needs the Magic House?

And, finally, as much as the Wubster has been a wallflower while his brother frolics weed-like around him, he's starting to figure out how to stand his ground and fight for his right to toys, food, and attention. The Wubster can whine with the best tantrum-thrower in the house, but more often than not, the two tow-heads get along splendidly. Their dinner table shenanigans drive me batty at times as they feed off of each other’s every move, which sends mealtime spiraling into cup-slamming, hand-pounding, squealing frenzies of laughter. They also have worked out a morning breakfast ritual that involves Mini-Me eating all but the last 1/8th of his daily Pop-Tart (you know, that last bit of crust that nobody ever wants) and handing it over to the Wubster to gleefully finish. Brothers!

So that's life with the Wubster right now. It's exciting and exhausting riding his developmental coat tails, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Butterwhy House

We finally seem to have hit a turning point with Mini-Me.


Because he's not throwing tantrums quite the same way as he was a couple months ago.

And he's starting to make up his own stories.


Because he and I would make up stories about his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days to trick mom with at the dinner table.


Because we're silly.

But now he's telling the stories all by himself.


Because the cow apparently snuck into the room and laid on his cot at nap time, so he was unable to go to sleep until the teachers coaxed it out of the room by singing a nonsense song to the tune of "Jesus Loves the Little Children"


Honestly I don't know, but one other thing: the 'why's' have become less frequent.


Yeah. For what seemed like a never-ending epoch in our lives together he was an empty vessel, parched, thirsty, waiting to be filled, waiting to absorb all the knowledge of the world, yet questioning every drop.

And he still is thirsty, but the amazing thing is now I'm seeing his confusion shift to confidence. Every day I see him grasp bigger and more complex ideas. Every day I watch as he connects As and Bs and Qs and Us. Every day I'm there as he becomes his own man, albeit a short, immature man who likes eating Pop Tarts for breakfast, calling his brother "poopy head" and jumping off furniture.

This shift in Mini-Me's mentality became especially apparent during a recent trip to the butterfly house, which, if you've never been, is a wonderful place despite the occasional feeling that you're in a sauna with plates of overripe fruit. Seriously. It's incredibly warm and there are plates of festering fruit suspended from trees, beckoning the beautiful, delicate butterflies with their sugary goodness. It's downright tropical.

On this particular day, the air outside was frigid and crisp, tingling my nostrils with each inhalation as I hurried to catch up with Mini-Me, the Wubster, and the rest of the family. I slung my camera over my shoulder and squinted as the bright February sunshine reflected off a blanket of fresh snow. We'd visited the Butterfly House several times before, but never in the middle of winter. The humid, ripe warmth and "natural fragrances" would be welcomed today.

Before you can actually enter the butterfly area, though, you have to listen to a spiel about how to maintain the safety and security of these delicate, sensitive, natural beauties. The basic idea is "Don't touch the butterflies." I got it, my wife got it, the grandparents got it.

Apparently Mini-Me got it, too, because once inside, he shied away from every butterfly's approach. The Wubster tore along each path unaware of the dive bombing rainbow battalions, but Mini-Me looked frightened, as though the beating of their wings thundered in the air over his head. We guided him through the dome, corralling the Wubster as necessary.

Just before we reached the exit, Mini-Me came across a woman, probably in her mid-forties, kneeling in the path in front of us, reaching out to a fallen Blue Morpho. I'd seen her running around the place snapping photos, excitedly pointing out new finds to a man who sat indifferently on a bench in a far corner. As she knelt in front of us, the monarch tattoo peeking out from the hem of the left leg of her jeans, she confidently reached out her hand, Clara Barton of the butterfly house.

"You're not supposed to touch the butterflies!"

The voice struck fear in her; pride and slight embarrassment in me.

"I'm trying to help…" Defensive, scared, tense, she continued to nudge the wounded off the path.

"Don't touch!"

The voice boomed beyond its three years. It was loud, commanding, authoritative. It rang clear with a confidence of the ages.

"I know…it's just…" Her words hesitated as she continued her gentle sweeping of the wounded off the walkway and under a shrub.

"You're not supposed to touch the butterflies!"

I tried to assure him that she knew what she was doing. That it was okay for her to touch a butterfly. How do you explain to a three-year-old why, at forty-six, some rules are meant to be broken? She turned and looked up at him, her eyes pleading to the three-year-old boy watching her, his eyes burning with anger at her clear disregard for the laws of the land.

"I was just trying to help. He's protected now. Isn't that better?" She smiled, shrugged, and scurried sheepishly away before he could lash out again.

Mini-Me looked up at me and I smiled. "I'm proud of you, buddy!"