Stephen Meets Santa Claus

Stephen met Santa for the first time last night:

Let's just say that he wasn't thrilled with the experience, as is evidenced by the classic expression haunting his adorable features in the above photograph.

To be honest, I really wanted to spare him the pain of meeting Mr. Kringle in such a state: surrounded by lots of noisy people (many of them strangers to him), sitting on the lap of a wierdo with a big white beard in a red suit, I think we're lucky that he didn't burst out in maddening screams.

Not only did the boy meet Santa, but he was also able to unwrap his first present, which was a much less traumatizing experience:

All in all, it was a good night. He got to crawl around with his cousin, Robby, and he learned to climb stairs. I even managed to squeeze off a shot of Stephen and his grampa, Lee...

...not to mention another picture of the boy and his grandma!

This afternoon, he has Christmas at his grandma's house. More photos and reporting to follow!


Stephen's First Christmas

Today and tomorrow are likely to be watershed days in the life of my boy: his first real exposure to the consumer fever dream that is the Christmas holiday.

If you thought our apartment was cramped with stuff now, you've got another thing coming. We suspect that the boy will receive a plethora of noisy plastic gizmos, toys, and the like. We do not begrudge the generosity of our relatives; in fact, we appreciate it. We also know that Stephen, being a mere nine months in age, will probably find the wrapping paper and bows a bit more enthralling that whatever they are disguising.

So far, he's seen the decorations. He's marveled at the Christmas lights. He's yanked the needles off the tree, and he's eyed the ornaments the way that a starving man might eye a t-bone steak. Nonetheless, his innocence has been preserved.

Tonight, that is liable to change.

You see, this evening is the annual Christmas celebration at my grandparents' house. My son, as well as dozens of his cousins, will partake of the annual holiday ritual of tearing wrapping paper, throwing bows, screaming, and fussing, as we, his parents, look on in equal combinations of amusement, horror, and helplessness. Will his nine-month-old brain make the connection? Will he fully realize what is happening?

I'm sure that next year will be the really big day. By then, well on his way to two years old, he should be walking and talking. He should also be familiar with several wonderful words, namely "no" and "mine."

I'm shivering with anticipation of this. No, I am. Really.

We're pretty much done with our shopping this year. We didn't have much to spend, so we didn't really devote much to presents. I always have trouble with this; I feel if I don't spend so much that I'm completely destitute by December 24th, that I've done something wrong. I'm not sure where this feeling originates. Merck needs to create a peppermint-flavored pill that takes care of holiday guilt. For all I know, they've got one, they just won't release it for fear of the lawsuits that the department stores will ultimately bring to bear on them for lost holiday profits.

Last weekend, we went to the Wild Animal Park. Yes, again. This time, we met up with my cousins, Jeff and Christy, their spouses, Sarah and Freet, and their children, Emily and Robby. We all managed to have children right around the same time, which I find amusing. It was only a matter of time before we got them all together.

This time of year represents the Festival of Lights at the Wild Animal Park. The park stays open late, and lots of holiday light displays are erected and plugged in. Some of it's very pretty; some of it is just kind of "meh." The best part of the evening, really, was the company. The lights were secondary to the day's enjoyment.

Stephen got to go on the merry-go-round. I stood by, holding him in place. He seemed to be both frightened and interested, but not once did he crack a smile or laugh. He would look to me every so often for reassurance, while peering at the animals and riders behind him the rest of the time.

So...that's that. I'll be sure to take the camera along tonight, in order to capture the chaos of Christmas first-hand. I will likely give my full report tomorrow; lacking that, expect something on Monday.

Oh, I may as well update you on how he's doing physically.

Stephen's a healthy little guy, quite durable. He bumps his head a lot, so thank god for that DOC band. Speaking of his head, it's rounding out very well. They estimate that he'll need to wear the band for another month.

He crawls very quickly. Once he gets a destination in mind, there's no stopping him. Off he goes, like an AT-AT, hands and knees thumping loudly on the floor. He also enjoys pulling himself into a standing position. Recently, he's begun to let go of whatever he's holding onto, balancing on his own two feet for several moments before falling onto his diapered butt. He'll be walking within a month, I reckon.

The boy is also moving beyond the vowel noises of his youth. He's been making "Mah-mah-mah" noises lately, with an occasional "wah" for good measure. He feels like he weighs about twenty-five pounds, but the doctor insists that he's only 19 pounds, 2 ounces. His height? A mighty 28.5 inches.

Soon, he will conquer the world.


Holiday Cheer

Okay, so it's December already. It's been busy! To make everyone feel better, I'll post some pictures of the boy and his antics.

By the way, he crawls everywhere now. He gets into everything. We've been forced to install baby gates in some of our doorways to keep him from eating things he shouldn't be eating...like cat food.

If walking is much worse, I doubt we'll survive the ordeal. Given that he enjoys standing as much as he does, it's only a matter of time before he's walking like a real pro.

We also have a Christmas tree for Stephen's first Christmas. The day we put it up, he stared at it somewhat dubiously before declaring that it was his. He's not as interested in it now as he once was, which is probably for the best. The last thing I need or want is to find him crushed beneath our slowly-dying Christmas tree.

Speaking of the Christmas tree, here's the thing in all its decorative glory:

I've been writing lately, though not as much as I had been earlier in the year. Things looks like they're going to get busy again. I need to pace myself, and try to keep some sort of sane balance between writing, work, and family. It's not always easy. These guys who give me this work, they don't sit down ahead of time so that their projects fit neatly into my calendar. As nice as that would be, it's never been the case (except by accident).

So, back to the boy.

This picture is Stephen (asleep) with his grandma. She's the only person that he'll do that with. Sleep, I mean, while she's holding him. He won't do that with his mommy, and he won't do it with me, either. I guess it's grandma's own special touch that allows her that sort of intimacy with the boy.

I dropped in at my mom's to pick him up this afternoon, since my wife was working a little bit late. He rode home with me, quite happily. He mostly stares out the window, or looks blankly at me while I sing or chatter at him. It's almost like he's thinking, "This guy's nuts."

We also went back to the Wild Animal Park a couple of weeks ago. Heck, we've got the passes. It doesn't hurt to use them. I enjoy pushing Stephen around in his stroller. He's learned to follow our fingers when we point at something, though whether he understands anything past that is beyond me.

We're planning another trip this weekend, but with some of my cousins, their spouses, and their young children. It will be quite the adventure, I'm thinking. These other kids are all older than my boy, but they're his peers. They're the cousins he'll be growing up with, much as I grew up with their parents. They'll be fighting, calling each other names, playing in the mud, and doing whatever else kids do together these days. It's just a matter of time.

I'd also like to share one final picture with you, of my wife. She only posed this way under protest. You might say that I "made" her do it. Still, it's not a really unflattering photo. It's just goofy.

See you next time!