Happy Birthday, Vivi!

Today – as readers of other Tassava family blog already know – is Genevieve’s second birthday. Happy birthday, Vivi! It has been a wonderful two years!

Vivi Strolling Downtown
Vivi Strolling Downtown

I (mostly) revel (nearly) every day in your (pretty much completely) wonderful self – the physicality, the stubborness, the blondeness, the silliness, and especially the love you have for your sister. And the round, toddlerish cuteness. Can’t forget that! As you yourself said tonight for the very time, “Uv yoo!”

Strange Day

I’m just back from some lunchtime errand-running, during which I saw

  • a third of the Northfield Police Department crowded around a big road-construction site (I hope nobody’s been hurt),
  • a man pop up rather spryly from a butch-looking motorized wheelchair,
  • four people cleaning one small bathroom at the grocery store, and
  • what must have been a big bag of cheese popcorn, scattered in the gutter along the better part of a block.

Ahh, Northfield.

Olympians (Greatest Wikipedia Table Ever)

I am very impressed by this Wikipedia table, which lists almost every athlete who has won multiple Olympic medals. Obviously,  Michael Phelps is at the top of the list when its sorted for number of golds, but he’s only number three in the ranking by number of total medals, behind two Russian/Soviet gymnasts. My man Bjørn Dæhlie, the greatest cross-country skier ever, is tied for number 6, with 12 medals (8 golds, 4 silvers). Gymnastics and swimming are where it’s at for winning huge numbers of medals…

Lucky Number 13

My wife’s already beat me to it, but I have to reciprocate and say “Happy Anniversary!” to her!

I have surprisingly clear memories of 8/13/95, but honestly hardly any memory at all of any of the subsequent anniversaries. Then again, most of them were spent with one or both of us in grad school (read, “no fancy dinners”) and the last four have been complicated by kids (ditto). Regardless, the various August thirteenths have all punctuated good, happy, healthy, productive years. Thank you, babe!

Sleeping Breakthrough?

It’s been months and months and months now since we started the process of having both girls sleep in the same room. For a while, we had success putting Vivi down in her crib and Julia down in the guest room, then moving the elder over after the younger asleep. Around the time the evening light started stretching toward nine, though, Julia decided that she could (or would) no longer fall asleep in the guest room, so I’d end up moving her, 30 or 45 or 60 sleepless minutes after putting her “to bed,” into her own room.

After weeks and weeks of this shuffling, I finally reached my limit on Monday night. When it was time for Julia to go sleep, I put her in her own bed, even though Vivi was still yammering away – and even though she pepped up when “Booah” appeared. But it worked well: after no more than 15 minutes of talking (all by Vivi; Julia either resisted the urge to reply or fell asleep amid the chatter), all was silent at the earliest moment they’ve both been asleep in a long time. Tonight it worked again. Perhaps we’ve finally shifted to the girls’ last sleeping arrangement in our house, the one we hope will last until Julia heads off to college (or, you know, abandons us for a missionary trip to Lesotho). It hasn’t come a moment too soon.

Georgia

I don’t blog much about politics here, but the new war in Georgia is so scary that I have to vent a bit about it. In the first place, Russia’s continuing incursion into Georgian territory is so nakedly aggressive as to defy belief. It’s a callous attempt by Putin – already revealing himself to be, as everyone knew, the real ruler of Russia – to exploit the Olympic moment, to wage war during the two weeks every four years when the world is at least willing to entertain the fantasy of peace. Putin himself left the Games on Saturday and flew directly to a Russian city near Georgia to oversee the military operations – practically shitting on the Olympic flag.

But Putin isn’t only taking advantage of the Olympic moment here. He is also capitalizing on the incredible weakness of the U.S., which – thanks to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the quieter deployment of American troops everywhere from Colombia and the Philippines to the Horn of Africa – can do no more than fuss like (off the top of my head) a two-year-old on her unwilling way to bed. Bush today said that the Russian invasion is “unacceptable in the 21st century,” which is of course as ludicrously hypocritical a statement as one could imagine. He’s the foremost 21st century practitioner of the war of choice, and is now only seeing others take advantage of the precedent set by the Bush-Cheney cabal. Quoth the veep: “Russian aggression must not go unanswered;… its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community.” Oooh. I’m sure that will scare the Russian leadership straight.

The Iraq-Afghanistan debacles are tied into the evolving mess in Georgia in more ways than bald analogy and presidential rhetoric. Since our invasion of Iraq, world oil prices have steadily increased (though, of course, prices went up for many reasons besides the invasion’s effects on Iraqi oil production). The runup in oil has phenomenally enriched the Russian state, literally and figuratively fueling a resurgence in Russian military, political, and economic power. This power has recently been used to suppress the separatists in Chechnya, where Russia has successfully concluded its long, bloody war against Muslim extremists – and learned some valuable lessons about how conduct war in the Caucasus.

Russia isn’t the only emboldened combatant here, though. Georgia, too, has used Iraq to strengthen itself and now to learn that its reach has exceeded its grasp. The Times explains that, having found an eager new ally in Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili,

the United States did not merely encourage Georgia’s young democracy, it helped militarize the weak Georgian state… Mr. Saakashvili’s rise coincided neatly with a swelling American need for political support and foreign soldiers in Iraq. His offer of troops was matched with a Pentagon effort to overhaul Georgia’s forces from bottom to top. At senior levels, the United States helped rewrite Georgian military doctrine and train its commanders and staff officers. At the squad level, American marines and soldiers trained Georgian soldiers in the fundamentals of battle. Georgia, meanwhile, began re-equipping its forces with Israeli and American firearms, reconnaissance drones, communications and battlefield-management equipment, new convoys of vehicles and stockpiles of ammunition. The public goal was to nudge Georgia toward NATO military standards. Privately, Georgian officials welcomed the martial coaching and buildup, and they made clear that they considered participation in Iraq as a sure way to prepare the Georgian military for “national reunification” — the local euphemism of choice for restoring Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgian control.

This is scary as hell, and depressing as hell, too. Because, inevitably, it’s the Georgians who are suffering most. These are people who adored Bush: just three years ago, 105,000 Georgians came out for the Decider when he visited Tblisi, a city that has a George W. Bush Street. Now they’re feeling a little bit burned by the man, who is utterly powerless to halt the Russian attack. In that sense, they’re only just coming around to what a lot of Americans have learned since 2000. It’s crushingly sad that so many are suffering and dying in learning this lesson.

Biblical Rewrite

As much as she loves the nativity story, Julia doesn’t like every part of the canonical narrative, which (at least in its YouTube variant) culminates with the “mischievous” Herod trying to “steal” the baby Jesus. This doesn’t jibe with Julia’s sense of how the world ought to work, so she has altered the story in various ways. Below, read an amalgam of some of the best bits of her revisionism. If she has to be a Christian – and on Saturday, she said that she was a Christian, like Nonna and Boppa and Grandma – at least she can be a heretical one.

After Herod tells his guards to go find the holy infant, he calls them back and says that they should leave Jesus alone. Then he goes to his own house and talks to “the lady Herod lives with” and they decide to have their own baby, “because all he really wants is his own baby.” After a few minutes, “the lady Herod lives with” has a baby which they name Mary. Herod loves the baby and takes good care of her and doesn’t feel like stealing other babies anymore. Then Herod moves his castle to Bethlehem, right next to Jesus’s stable, and lives there. Sometimes, when Mary and Joseph are tired or have had “a rough day, “Herod comes by to babysit Jesus. When this happens, Jesus squeals in delight and shouts, “Hewwod! Hewwod!” Herod entertains Jesus by “falling down in a funny way” over and over. When Jesus gets hungry, Herod makes toasted pita bread with frosting and myrrh on it.

Vivi’s Speech Analyzed

One of the perks of having highly educated, highly skilled friends is that they can offer interesting insights that, like the TV says, you just can’t get anywhere else. Here, a friend who was a linguistics major at Mac and is now a professional wordsmith explains, more or less scientifically, how Vivi gets ma out of spoon:

  1. Drop the final n first: spoo
  2. Mess up the vowel: spa
  3. The sp is a consonant blend – big time tough. Many languages don’t even have them. Look at Hawai’ian, just single consonants with lots of a‘s and o‘s in between. So she drops the s and gets puh
  4. Finally, p and m are both bilabials, made with the lips together. The m allows air to flow through the nose while the p stops the airflow entirely, which means the m is easier. This is why “Mama” is a common first word, and why puh becomes ma.

I believe that this is technically called QED.

Ekfast

The girls enjoy nothing so much for breakfast as the same thing, day in and day out. For months now, weekends have been given over to “banana split breakfast,” which is a few slices of banana topped with peanut butter (Julia) or yogurt (Genevieve), a handful of berries, and a handful of dry cereal.

Weekdays have recently been dominated by toast with peanut butter and honey (J) or cereal and yogurt (Vv), but for the past week both girls have asked for waffles, topped for one (guess who) with peanut butter and honey or butter (ditto), and, on the side, a banana and, for Vivi, a dollop of yogurt.

Adorably, Vivi loves to eat all these things only about half as much as she likes to name them, using her spoon (“ma,” mysteriously) to point to each in turn and announcing: “Orgut! Num, num. Nana! Num, num. Bawffle! Num, num!”

Bawffle – an all-time great kid word.

Summer Running

My eye ordeal knocked me off my running schedule, but back at it now, I’ve discovered that it’s high summer in the prairie. There are two main signs of this state.

First and best are fields full of yellow-and-black flowers. The black-eyed susans lean gently in one direction or the other, trying to find open space to soak up the sunlight. The sunflowers, on the other hand, just grow straight up on their thick, prickly stalks. They seem to get taller in the twenty minutes between my outbound northerly passage and my southbound return trip. I hardly noticed them two weeks ago, when they were poking their heads up over the other prairie grasses, but now they’re as tall as I am, and soon will tower over me.

The second, and much less appealing, emblems of high summer are the grasshoppers. Everywhere. Brown, green, black. Hopping, leaping, flying. Buzzing, clicking, making no sound. They look like rocks or twigs lining the path until I get too close and they launch themselves away from me, around me, toward me, into me. I haven’t had one actually fly into my ear or mouth or nose yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time. I can see why Yahweh used them to punish evildoers.

At Five, I’ll Use My Jetpack to Fly Home

Spurred by my scratched-cornea ordeal,  I just ordered some prescription sunglasses online through a sunglasses website. I used a Wikipedia entry to understand my prescription card, a ruler to measure my pupillary distance according to instructions on another store’s website, Paypal to handle the transaction, and our office copier to make and email a scan of my Rx to the vendor. All very casual; I hardly noticed even doing any of this until it was all done.

Kidding Myself

On my Sunday-morning walk with the girls (come to think of it, the next time Julia asks, “Why don’t we go to church on Sundays?” (as she did on Sunday), I’m going to reply, “Because it would interfere with our walks”), Vivi and Julia reenacted this little routine at a certain corner two blocks from home: I crouch down, clasp hands with one of them, and then lift as that kid climbs up me – her feet on my shins, knees, waist (if I’m lucky), stomach, chest, shoulders (and if you’re Vivi, my face). (The other kid stands nearby, shouting, “Me next! Me next!”)

It’s fun, one of those things that strike me as quintessentially dad-ly, and they’re both still diminutive enough that I can actually do it. But as I helped Julia scale my torso for the third or fourth time, I looked down at her legs and realized with a start that they were kid legs, not baby legs – gangly, not chubby; lightly tanned, not pink; lean, not thick; long, not stubby. I missed this transformation, which is all the more shameful because she has worn only skirts and dresses – no shorts or pants – since May. Before long, she’ll be as tall as me and hopefully using those legs to run ten miles or swim 1,000 meters or bike a century – or patrol the stacks at the library or help her sister through the first day of seventh grade.