Dear Holly: Having a Big Brother is Pretty Great

1 year, 6 months.

Dear Holly,

This past Monday morning after Mommy left for work, your brother invited you to join him on the couch, as it happened to be one of his days he’s allowed to watch Netflix on the Kindle before school. To accommodate what he correctly assumed would be your preference, he chose some kind of “Barbie Goes to Space” cartoon.

I looked up to see you and your brother sitting very close to each other, by choice. It was completely your brother’s idea and you immediately went along with it.

It’s not easy as a parent to be able to take your picture together and have you both smiling or looking happy. But this wasn’t for a picture. It was already happening and I was just fortunate enough to grab the camera in time.

Plus, you just happened to be wearing one of my favorite shirts you own.

It has a cloud raining down smiley candy. I just love the way you were cuddled up so close to your brother, quietly fascinated by whatever was playing on the screen your brother was holding.

I love the way he was more interested in being close to you than he was the Barbie show he was providing for you.

The thing is, your brother truly always wants to be near you. But right now, I am still in the process of helping him understand how to just hang out with you.

I am trying to teach him there is a time for light wrestling and crawling out on the carpet, but it’s not most of the time.

Instead, most of the time would be moments like this; where the two of you just chill out and lay low.

Eventually, the two of you will find that easier to do.

But for now, his natural inclination is to rush toward you like a mad bull, and you laugh and cheer, which only encourages his rambunctious behavior right before school, dinner, or bedtime.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: Riding on Your Brother Batman’s Shoulders

14 weeks.

Dear Holly: Riding on Your Brother Batman’s Shoulders

Dear Holly,

You now depend on Jack to entertain you each evening while Mommy and I finish preparing dinner. These days, we are able to lay you down on a blanket while Jack finds new ways to amuse you.

Earlier this week, Jack discovered his Batman mask from his Halloween costume two years ago in his closet. He also grabbed his favorite blanket and decided to “fly” around you, flapping his “cape” and regularly stopping abruptly in front you to proclaim, “Beware!”

From there, he would present you with a dramatic pause, as if to solicit a response of possible intimidation.

Each time, you instead presented him with a look that implied, “Okay, go on… What else ya got?”

Anytime he would stop pretending to be Batman for any reason, like getting himself some water or a snack real quick, you would make it known that he needed to return to his job post.

Dear Holly: Riding on Your Brother Batman’s Shoulders

You would turn your head from side to side, looking for him, then letting out a squeal to communicate to him, “Hey, come back… You have work to do!”

I think your brother is surprised that even though he is just randomly joking around, he is actually playing an important role in the family: His ability to entertain you is an asset; more so than he might realize.

And last weekend when Nonna and Papa were here, Jack recruited me to help him carry you on his shoulders. With my assistance, he carried you the distance from the living room to the dining room, and back, several times.

This shouldn’t have been something you liked. It didn’t make much sense that you went along with it and liked it. I can clearly see how your sibling relationship is developing with Jack.

His obscure ideas again prove that even when Jack doesn’t take himself seriously, you often do.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Riding on Your Brother Batman’s Shoulders

Dear Holly: Oh, How Your Brother Loves You

12 weeks.

Dear Holly: Oh, How Your Brother Loves You

Dear Holly,

Leading up to your birth, your brother Jack adopted a baby doll that your Grandma intended to be for you. He named her Dolly.

It became quite obvious that he was practicing… for you. She was the main toy he played with, there for a while. He even snuggled with Dolly in his bed.

Since you arrived, I can’t remember even one time he’s played with Dolly. That’s because the real life Dolly is here now: That’s you, Holly.

He watches how Mommy and I treat you to learn what he should do. And it’s funny how awkward, yet sincere he is about it.

Dear Holly: Oh, How Your Brother Loves You

One of my favorite things I’ve heard him say to you so far, was when he said, in a falsetto voice:

“Ah, how sweet! Little baby’s got 5,000 eyeballs. Yes, she does!”

Another one of my favorites occurred this past weekend when Jack made a snow plow out of his Legos and gently pushed it against your side as you were laying down on your blanket:

“This truck’s gonna push little baby away. Isn’t that sweet? Ah, it is. Little Baby likes to get pushed by the truck! Yes, she does!”

I loved watching your reaction. It was as if you knew he was just trying to annoy you but at the same time play with you (which was likely the case on his end).

You gave this sort of bothered yell, as if to say, “Hey, stop it!” But then you instantly smirked, as if to imply you enjoyed the attention from your brother.

When people ask Jack how he likes having a baby sister, he never answers in a way that accurately represents how much he truly loves having your around.

He’ll shrug, or mumble.

But I see how he adores you; how he’s fascinated by you.

I know the truth. I see the truth every day.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You are 2 Months Old Today!

2 months.

Dear Holly: You are 2 Months Old Today!

Dear Holly,

It was exactly 2 months ago today that our family was graced with your glorious arrival, in which Mommy amazingly gave birth to you with no epidural. You are everything I hoped you would be and more.

I love getting to go home each day and spend time with you. You are such a delight.

This week Mommy took you to the doctor for your newest check-up:

You are now 10 pounds, 2 ounces and 23.5 inches long; which puts you in the 38th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height.

If you remain growing at these proportions, I suppose you could end up being as tall as your brother, by the time you are both adults.

Speaking of Jack, I can tell you two are going to be really good for each other. Even if he’s just coming over to you to making funny noises in your face, you seem to like it.

And he’s so quick to help out Mommy and me when we need some help. He runs so fast to go find the burp cloth or the pacifier or the diaper that we need.

Having you as a sister is a really good thing for him. I feel you’ve arrived at the perfect time in his life. He’s less than 2 months away from starting Kindergarten; starting that new stage in his life.

Simply because of your existence, he is becoming more independent and mature.

I guess I need to start taking more pictures of the two of you together. A common question that Mommy and I get is, “Do Jack and Holly look alike?”

If nothing else, you both have the fairer toned skin; unlike Mommy and I who both have a sort of yellow-tinted olive complexion.

Happy 2 months! We have an exciting trip coming up in a few weeks…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You are 2 Months Old Today!

Dear Holly: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

22 weeks.

Dear Holly: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

Dear Holly,

This week Mommy got your brother Jack a new book to help him transition into his upcoming “big brother” status: It’s called The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby; where Brother Bear gets a baby sister.

(By the way, you will be born into a family that greatly appreciates the folksy Jewish/Christian cultural perspective of the Berenstain Bears’ book collection.)

It’s important to me that I make sure your brother doesn’t feel left out when you get here. Whereas you’ll always know what it’s like to have a sibling, he will have 5 and a half years’ experience as an only child before that changes for him.

Mommy and I are going to be on the lookout for a special toy for him, upon your arrival; it likely will be a stuffed animal, as that’s the main thing he’s into.

My own parents did the same for me when my sister was born; I got a Garfield stuffed animal.

Similarly, last week Jack got you a doll for when you get here.

You are going to get so much attention from everyone once you arrive. You are our precious little girl.

I just want to make sure I do my best to proactively prevent this from being more difficult than it has to be as he soon will become a big brother.

Fortunately, he’ll be old enough to where I think it will work to his advantage; that he will be eager to use his “helper” skills.

Your personality will be formed, and his may be altered, as the two of you begin interacting; especially in your first couple of years together.

So as your Daddy, I feel responsible for creating the atmosphere and environment void as much as possible of competition, but instead, cooperation.

I think that this new Berentstain Bears book is a good way to help set the pace right.

Love,

Daddy

P.S. Here’s a picture your brother Jack drew of our family so far. Before too long, he’ll be drawing 4 people.

Dear Holly: The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby

What Percentage of Your Day is Spent on Entertainment?

It’s not as simple as logging your TV and movie time: Entertainment is much more complicated, subtle, and encompassing than that.

When my sister was born in January of 1984 (I was about 2 ½) she gave me a Garfield stuffed animal as present.  I realize that the idea of a newborn baby giving her older brother a gift the day she is born may seem illogical, but my parents’ idea to keep me feeling special that day worked.  Because I didn’t question the rationale of my sister’s gift until high school.  That Garfield doll ended up being one of my favorite childhood toys.  I dressed him up in my dad’s whitey-tighties; they were Garfield’s diaper.

A major part of being a kid is being strung along by your parents.  It’s a constant, endless series of countless waiting rooms, strange places, and unfamiliar people.  But all I could really think of was eating, drinking, and peeing.  And when I checked all those activities off the list, that meant I must be bored.

So I needed something to entertain myself.  During the younger years, Garfield in my dad’s underwear did the trick.  I eventually graduated from the stuffed animal circuit to video games and action figures.  Then to playing guitar by the time I started junior high.  Evidently the worst thing in the world was to be bored.  So I always had someway to entertain myself.

*This explains the psychology behind Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell). Click that title to read more about it.

But I have to imagine that most people, like me, carry this idea of constantly entertaining themselves into adulthood, for the rest of their lives.  And as Ive learned by now, a tangible object isn’t necessary for entertainment- though something as subtle as checking for new text messages 33 times a day is a popular form of fighting subconscious boredom.

I learned as a child to use my imagination to daydream; while I still do that on an hourly basis, I’ve also made a habit of planning my future and coming up with ideas for my life.  And I figure I’m not the only one.  I figure that most people find some way to entertain themselves throughout the day, despite the busyness of life.  In between the busyness of life.  And during the busyness of life.  Even if it’s just while waiting in line, sitting at a red light, or zoning out at work (and often even not realizing we’re doing it).

Heckler-reader yells out: “Bahahaha…You just wait ‘til you have a baby, that’ll all change!”

Yes, life will change and my time will be spent in different ways and I will be functioning on less sleep.  But no matter how preoccupied I am with life and all its responsibilities and distractions, there are still moments throughout any day, even if it’s while I’m falling asleep, that I fill in those moments of fading consciousness with random thoughts like, “What was Grimace supposed to be, anyway?”

So how what percentage of my day is spent on entertainment?  It’s pretty much a trick question.  Because at least for me, my mind is constantly in entertainment mode.  Even when I’m asleep, dreaming.

The Most Popular, All-American Summer Activities for Kids

Notice I left out the word “normal”.


Now that summer is here, I realize I keep having flashbacks of my summers as a kid. The ways we all spent our summers as kids were unique in their own weird ways. I don’t know what a normal summer for a kid is supposed to be like. All I know is the version of summer that my sister and I experienced between the summers of 1989 and 1999 to keep ourselves entertained in Fort Payne, Alabama.

 

Mmm... Sharkleberry Fin flavored!

 

In the summer of 1989 our mom was obsessed with making homemade popsicles. She bought blue and red plastic molds into which she poured a random substance and placed in the freezer. Four hours later when it was frozen, my sister and I indulged in the flavor of the day. It started out as an alternative to “all those sugary popsicles they sell in the stores”. So orange juice was the first flavor. Then chocolate milk. Then yogurt. By the end of summer it was Dr. Pepper and eventually my personal favorite flavor of homemade popsicles: sweet tea.

The next summer, in 1990, we discovered water balloons. My sister and I would fill up about 30 water balloons, place them in a bucket, and take them out to the trampoline. One person would jump as the other launched the balloons at them. One point for every hit. Then eventually flashbacks from all that fun with the homemade popsicles gave us a new idea. We put water balloons in the freezer.

Not to throw at each other, but to throw into the air and watch them fall onto the driveway. I think the point was to see how many times the balloon could hit the asphalt before the broken ice inside would cut through the balloon. At one point we ran out of balloons to play with so our mom let us use some medical gloves. We filled them up with water and stuck them in the freezer. The funny thing is, there’s still a frozen glove in our parents’ freezer as of today. One last survivor.

My favorite classic summertime activity would have to be the paper rafts. It all started one day in 1993 when I drew and colored a cartoon man about 4 inches tall. Then I was compelled to grab some scissors and cut him out like a paper doll. My sister liked mine and made one as well. Ultimately we had made our own action figures. So in order for them to live up to their name (“action” figures), we decided to make paper rafts for them. So we drew, colored, and cut out Tom Sawyer style rafts and taped our paper men onto them, folding the men’s backs so that they sit down comfortably on their vehicle.

 

Destined for greatness...

 

Now all we needed was a good river for our men on rafts. No need to looking any further than the nearest bathroom. We dropped the men into the toilet and flushed them away on an adventure. I clearly remember my sister waving and telling her paper man goodbye. Then we did the whole event over again later that day, only with improved, more detailed paper men. And again and again.

In fact, I really, really want to make a paper raft right now.