Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Power of Kate

As some of you may know, Kate has been taking Tae Kwon Do from Grand Master Kim for several months now. She really likes it, and has become quite good at going through the forms.
Every so often, the students "test" to determine if they can graduate from one belt color to the next. It starts at white, then goes to yellow, then orange.

Kate has been a yellow belt for a bit now, but today was her day to test for orange. She was very nervous of failing in front of the class, but calmed down and went through her fighting forms with great precision, speed, and the loudest post-strike "Hah!" in the room. Then came the moment she feared most -- board breaking. This time, she had to do it with a bare-footed front kick. One slip up, and there could be purple toes for weeks . . .

But as you can see from her determined face, there was no risk of that.

The board didn't stand a chance. The photo above is worth clicking on to see large. We are talking perfect strike there.

The Weapon.

The evidence -- good bye yellow belt.

Hello, orange belt!

That face is worth a billion bucks, if you happen to be her dad (don't tell Grand Master Kim that, though, he might raise testing prices!). Not a bad way to start a Saturday morning.

Falcon Kill?

Saw this in our back yard the other day. The feathers belong to a bird that never saw what hit him. I think this must be a falcon, just because one day, a long time ago in San Francisco, I watched out my work window as a Peregrine slammed into a pigeon at such unbelievable speed it left only an explosion of feathers in its wake. Still, even after looking at a guide, I am unsure what type of bird this really is. All I know is that he smacked that other bird dang hard. Any birder's out there? (Steve? Alan?) Would be nice to know what killer raptors are hanging out in the neighborhood!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grown Up Beautiful

It is long past time for me to write about being Keegan’s dad. Though I have called him Captain Trainwreck (and similar sundries) in past posts, when this picture came out of the camera I immediately thought, “OH! He is so grown up!” followed almost immediately by “My word, he is so beautiful!” (Hence the title of the post.) Time passes so fast, and life with Keegan needs to be recorded for the joy it is, before it all gets away from me.

I’ve been thinking about what fun he is for a bit now. During the last weeks of September last year, Keegan, who had been our champion sleeper, suddenly began waking 5 and 6 times a night in sheer terror, screaming, disoriented, inconsolable. Nor would he allow his mother to leave his side, even for a few minutes (also completely out of character). There began a long stretch of sleeplessness for us, with a third little body inevitably in our bed every night, kicking and thrashing away. Frustration grew; understanding did not. I was on the verge of being mad about it, but then one night at the Jager’s house in California we felt what seemed a huge soft spot just back from behind his right ear. This was no goose egg. This was mush.

Many questions and few doctor visits later, I found out that he had suffered quite a fall directly onto his head in September, and unbeknownst to all of us, had fractured his skull. Scans showed some internal bleeding, which the doctors believed was “resolving,” and would not need further treatment. It was, however, expected that the severe concussion-like symptoms would continue for months, with super-vigilance needed to keep him from jarring, falling or hitting his head again. (If you know Keegan, this task is impossible. Period.)

We seem to be through it now, and he is much improved (i.e. as big a goofball as ever, see Chocolate Frenchy, above). While it scared the stuffing out of me at the time, the ordeal has been a blessing in disguise, in some ways. First, I became the designated PKBP--Put Keegan to Bed Parent. He refused to go to sleep unless his mom was snuggled up with him – great for him, bad for mom and me, who slept very little lying next to perpetual motion incarnate. Desperation set in, and somehow we learned that if I sat in the rocking chair holding him with his head on my shoulder, patting his back while singing to him, he would fall asleep.

As a result, I have spent some of the best hours of my life with a beautiful little head on my shoulder, singing church primary songs. Our favorite is “I feel my Savior’s love, in all the world around me, its spirit warms my soul, with all the things I see. . . .” We also sing, “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here, has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear . . . “ almost every night. Other favorites include "Families can be together forever" and "How could the Father show the world."

I’ve discovered that everything you need to know about life you can find in a primary song. How I enjoy them, and how blessed I am to be able to sing them to this beautiful little miracle I love so much. When I am old(er) and much grayer (if that is possible), in my own rocking chair, I will still carry the memories of this time with me, and they will still make me smile.

I have also paid a little more attention to the great things about Keegan during this time--all the things he does that makes him special and keeps us laughing. In no particular order, here are a few of the things you should know about Keegan:

He is so expressive. I challenge you to not grin from ear to ear just watching him talk -- it is simply impossible. All the joy of life, and all the emotion in it, seem to burst from the seams of each word he utters. Eyes big with wonder, hands a parade of motion, chest out with the deepest breath possible for a little guy, just to make sure he has enough air to say all he wants--it is pure fun to engage him in a conversation.

He is enthusiasm incarnate. Every little person seems brim-full with joy at being alive in the world, but never has that joy been so disproportionate to the size of the person holding it. It bounces in every step Keegan takes – never a walk; always a life-loving strut, arms swinging wide, head up and looking all around, determined, diaper-wiggling steps, or all-out run. He is even enthusiastic when he sleeps, as his hair will attest. (It is like this every morning and the boy hates hair brushes!)

He has the world's most beautiful eyes, and gives the world's greatest hugs. His eyes can express more emotion in a glance than most people can using everything they have. And don't even get my wife going about the eyelashes -- long as the prairie is wide. But best of all, he gives the greatest hug in all the long history of hugs. Every one starts with a full running leap, followed by arms flying as far around your neck as their short little selves can manage, feet kicking, teeth grinning, eyes shut tight amidst the biggest squeeze ever made by such a little guy. To be hugged by Keegan is to know the meaning of a hug.

He is very perceptive. Batman never smiles, and Keegan knows it. Just try to get him to smile while in character as the caped crusader -- never going to happen, even with a well placed tickle. He notices plenty of other things as well, at least one of which is quite troubling. A little while ago, we had the following diaper table conversation, which tells you just how much a three-year old really knows about how the world works:

Me: “Keegan, hold still!

Keegan: “Why?

Me: “Because you are supposed to obey me when I ask you to do something. I’m the dad.”

Keegan: “No dad, I only obey you if you obey me too, ok?”

Me: “That is not the way it works Keegan, I am the dad and that makes me the boss, so you have to do what I ask.”

Keegan: “Dad, YOU are not the boss. MOMMY is the boss!”

Just to make sure I understood the point, a few nights later, he was insisting on sleeping in our bed again, and as usual, I was arguing with him about it, and told him he could not sleep in my bed. We went back and forth in yes/no fashion a few times, which drew this final response from him: “Dad, mommy didn’t say no, so I win.”

Dang. I hate it when kids know more than they are supposed to.

He always seems to get what he wants, one way or another. Here he is in his best "King of the World" pose, which is so appropriate. Case in point: as his condition improved, I sought to reassert my authority (yeah right) to control my own bedroom--by trying to make him sleep in his own bed, without his mother. One night, after at least a half an hour doing everything I could to get him to stay in his own bed, he escaped my grasp and ran upstairs, with me chasing behind him and yelling, “Keegan, why aren’t you sleeping in your bed?”

Keegan, running his little legs as fast as they will go, yelled back “Because I am sleeping in mommy’s bed!”

Me: “Oh no you are not!”

Keegan: “Oh yes I am!” At which moment he slammed and locked my bedroom door right in my face (and pushed his mother away when she tried to open it from the other side). We were both laughing so hysterically at that point, at just the audacity of the whole thing, and we didn’t have the heart to force him back down to his room. Somehow, I don't think that is the last time he will get his way over my strenuous objection.

He is not ticklish. Really. The other day, Grandpa Bailey was engaged in a favorite Bailey household activity – tickling Keegan, who laughs hysterically at the slightest of touches. In mid-belly laugh, he stopped suddenly, and announced very seriously, “Actually, Grandpa, I am not ticklish!”

He already hates being short. For most of his life, Keegan has been about 5th percentile height and 50th percentile weight (no shots from the peanut gallery on where he got those genes, please). He already doesn’t like it. The other night he and Alden were bathing together, as usual, when Keegan said, “Stand up Aldy, I want to see how tall I am.” They both stood up and hugged, belly to belly, and Alden said, “Not taller yet -- you are still up to my chin.” Keegan responded, “Darn, I really want to be tall.”

Sorry little buddy, it is just not in the genetic cards.

He is figuring out what bodies do, sort of . . . We have been trying to potty train Keegan for what seems like a year now, and unintended consequences are about the only thing we have to show for it. On any given day, you can hear Keegan repeatedly saying, in mixed company or otherwise, “Dad, when you eat, you poop!” (Said as if it was really big news every time). Also one day, in less than ideal circumstances, Keegan emerged fresh from a bath and ran around the house naked, shouting, “Hah! My Penis has a Gun!” over and over again. Where do these things come from?

He can melt your heart in one sentence or less. Just before Christmas, Kathleen used a sharp tone with Keegan after he made a mess for the umpteenth time. He said, “Mom, it is supposed to be happy holidays, not mad holidays.” Later, when his mom and I went out on a date together for the first time since he fractured his skull, we returned to him grabbing us both by the neck, giving us both a hug like only Keegan can, and saying, “Guys, I really missed you. I am so glad you are home.”

He loves being chased. Our little man is a certifiable adrenaline junkie, and there is absolutely nothing he loves more than goading you into chasing him. So, for all the girls I am sure he will one day lure, with ease, into that favorite sport--there is one last thing you should know about Keegan:

His first french kiss was a Dog! (And don't think the old man isn't going to pull that photo out a time or two starting at age 16!)