I always found it slightly humorous that if your group is large enough at a sit-down restaurant, they tack on a fee and call it "gratuity". It's funny because I always think of the word gratitude, and it's just... funny. "We know you're grateful 'cause we're awesome. We'll just add it to your bill." Slightly humorous, like I said. (No idea if they're actually related. Some of you English buffs [geeks is offensive], get on it.)
Anyway, this is going to be a little bit of me, "gratuitating". (Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls!) You'll find that Claire hasn't asked for any of this, I'm just kind of tacking it on, all unexpected and rude like. She can write an obnoxious review of my disservices later on "YelpTwitFace" thing later, if she wants.
I'm blessed with the most amazing family ever. I don't even know where to begin on Claire. As the Doctor to my Rose, the Jane to my Tarzan, and the Gandalf to my Bilbo... she expands my whole universe. (Admit it: you thought I was taking that a different direction.) She does things intuitively that are so brilliant, I'm just constantly in awe of her. She's such a fantastic mother. In my spare time, I'm trying to read big, dry books with titles like "Affect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of Self", and "The Neurobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Children". This is heavy stuff; it's all very abstract and complex. When I take something that I think I'm finally beginning to crack the code of and try explaining it to Claire, she listens politely and then just says, "Well, yeah. That just makes sense." That's really why I'm getting all of this education; I'm just trying to catch up. "Wait for me, sweetheart! I'll get it. Give me ten years or so; I'm working on it."
She is the best mother I've ever had the pleasure of watching interact with her child. She is so incredibly patient with Louise. I've chosen a field where one of their mantra's is "All behavior is meaningful". Claire lives it. She just understands what Louise is trying to achieve, what she's trying to tell us with her actions. It's awesome; Claire is so good at reflecting back to Louise what she's feeling that one of Louise's favorite words right now is simply, "Yeah." Most of the time, Claire will reflect or wonder something about what Louise wants, and Louise will say, "yeah", and then grin, laugh, and dance because she's so excited that Claire "got it". It's an absolute pleasure to watch; doing so is one of the simplest, greatest pleasures I am afforded in life.
Since being out here, just north of the heart of Chicago, I've really come to appreciate something else about Claire. Child care out here almost seems mandatory. Everybody I know does it, endorses, and pushes others to do it. It's crazy; a very different world from the one that I grew up in. In the midst of all this, and in a place where it's a virtual full-time job keeping a busy twenty-month-old little girl happily occupied all day, Claire does it and loves it. She's incredible; I've had her, numerous times, tell me how bad she feels for me, because I don't get to stay home and be with Louise all day. What sort of awesomeness is that? I, for one, can't wait to get home when I get off of work, with that kind of attitude and positivity waiting for me! She's the absolute best.
And then there's Louise. I just don't know where this kid came from. At twenty months old, she has a sense of comedic timing that would put the Three Stooges to shame! Her latest and greatest is that, when I do something that she's not particularly fond of, yet not legitimately mad about, she'll pucker her lips, narrow her eyes to slits, and knit her eyebrows together in a scowl that would make the old guy on "UP" jealous. Then, without skipping a beat, she'll just smile and laugh, as if she had just made the greatest joke ever. I love this kid. These days, she's also all about filling Mom's and Dad's shoes: literally. She'll slide her feet into any empty pair that's lying about, as well as putting on a variety of hats, and putting anything with a handle in the crook of her elbow like a purse. When we catch her unawares or startle her, her response lately is to laugh rapidly and drop flat to the ground, smiling. She's also our resident social butterfly; every time we put her in the stroller for a walk, it's a constant, "Hi", with a wave, to every person who walks within view. That's right, I said within view, not within earshot. Sound waves don't matter a bit to this girl.
Finally, I'm really appreciating at this point the little one who is as of yet "To be determined". It'll either be Cora Dixie or Eugene Kenneth, when we find out here in a few weeks. We'll keep you posted. Until then,