Games We Play

All games have a start. A beginning. A go. It isn’t terribly important which game it is, whether you move by a spinner or roll of a dice, the object is to safely and effectively reach the end. Unless it’s Trivial Pursuit, then you want to reach the middle. When my daughter was born I passed Go, but I didn’t collect $200. The real game of Life started, her life.

The "start"

Realistically when she was born everything became a proverbial roll of the dice. Which foods would upset her stomach (for your information it was a lot of them), which diapers would leave to butt-reddening diaper rash, or even whether or not she would sleep longer that 45 minutes at a time during the night. With a little luck we moved on from chance to training. Our game was to anticipate her needs, and react accordingly like a sport. Now as she approaches 4 we are very much so entrenched in games. Her games, our games and the continual test of limits.

Now as she approaches 4 I am amazed at her ability to outsmart and out maneuver me. I am aware this will only get worse. We question our children time and time again with “how many apples do you see?!” or “what do YOU think will happen when you mix blue and yellow?!”. Most days I think she wonders how I passed Kindergarten based on my line of questions for her. And when the time is right they bust out a vocabulary word you didn’t know they knew, because their spinner landed on “frustrated” or “podiatrist”. Not things you expect them to say.

She jockeyed ahead. I don’t even try to let her win anymore, she is perfectly capable all on her own.

Sometimes the game is long.

I’ve never been one to say it’s all about winning. I like to play the game. I like learning new tricks to be a better player, which my daughter seems to teach me every day. Somedays she’ll best me, she will land on the short cut square and I will be playing catch up. But that’s ok.

The Indoor Park

Sometimes in Oregon it rains. But only sometimes.  Other times it might be drizzling, misting, sprinkling, pouring, or most often as the weather man dictates “showering”. We like our different words for water falling from the sky. This land where children are so often confused by learning the sky is blue, since around here it is mostly gray. But with these many gray days, wet days, and completely erratic weather days we parents need places to take the kids to run in circles that is not just the living room at home.

We started attending the indoor park at the city rec center about the time my daughter could crawl. The array of toys wasn’t extensive, and the probability of injury was high for the most part. Crawlers intermixed with toddler’s just able to reach the pedals on the tricycles, but not adept enough to steer them, resulted in the occasional scene from “Red Asphalt”. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic. It seemed, though, like there was a frequent invasion of just a couple bigger kids to show the littler ones what kind of dare-deviling could be achieved . . . then all of a sudden that was my child.

Her mother gave the go ahead on this, not me!

As the parents (typically moms) stood along the sideline it seemed that the older the kids got the fewer mad dashes across the room to pick up a crying crawler would take place. Coffees in hand everyone could stand and chatter with the frequent interruptions of “don’t throw that at him/her” or “no, you don’t need to take off your pants”. Without fail, mouths open wide, the kids would come running. It was snack time.

Bartering, Sneaking. Begging. Stealing. All the typical jailhouse cafeteria decorum would take place around the little Fisher Price picnic table. We wonder why our little people are sick so often, then you watch them share food. They sit, they eat, they run off and quickly the food is picked up by a mom so that a wayward crawler isn’t learning whether he/she has a nut allergy yet. But for 2 hours twice a week its a place to go that is dry, and gives us a chance to count home many laps the old fella with a limp can make it around the track above us. Well worth the $2 entry fee.

At The Park

The sun is deceitful on the Oregon coast. You can look out a window to a clear blue sky, the sun above, then walk out to the bone chilling wind. It’s not rain though, and for the parents in the area that means time to go to the park.

When I was a kid it was called a playground. Now that I am a parent it’s more like a meeting ground. The adults hold tightly to their various coffee mugs, exchanging tales of what their little person did today. Intermittently breaking up the conversation are the “gentle” reminders to our kids to not eat bark chips, as they are not real chips, or as they get old not to physically accost the other kids. There is always a “no” for every age.

They find their friends from school, from dance class, the ones they shared library time with as a toddler. That’s the nature of a small town. Even the kids all know each other before they realize what it means to be social, and exchange stories as well about what has been going on in the respective circles.

When I am not feeling particularly social it gives me an opportunity to follow my little blonde whirlwind around the playground catching some snapshots. My favorites are when she and her little friends don’t even think about my presence, and in this case while playing on some of the unusual equipment at this park, I got my shot.

And no, that’s not a UFO above them. Just because we live in Oregon doesn’t mean we all claim to see UFO’s… often. 😉

Spinning

A person’s a person, no matter how small – Dr. Seuss (Horton Hears A Who)

Raven Hair Sisters

When my daughter was very young we began taking her to the local library for toddler time. They would read stories to the kids, then they could all be “social” and play with the train set and puzzles with the other kids. Plus, this was networking gold for the other moms (and occasional dads). But as any parent knows keeping a newly mobile toddler in place to listen to a story is not always easy. Velcro on the butt crossed my mind a few times. I even suspected it of some of the other more crafty looking parents. I was always fascinated by the attentiveness of one of the girls there, Willa. Over time we got to know them and I had the pleasure of photographing the family when their 2nd daughter was born last September.

Serafina Brand New

Born with the same thick head of black hair as her sister Serafina immediately began hearing the constant reoccurring comment of “oh my! she has so much hair for a newborn!”. But today while we sat in their comfortably warm and well lit home, it felt more like a window into how they sit with eachother and enjoy family time together than a photo shoot. Brad happily pulled out his guitar to add some nice background music to soothe the baby, and I of course brought some candy incentive for 4 year old Willa. 

Willa and my daughter go to school, and dance class together. So even though she knew who I was (Natalie’s dad, or, guy-who-always-has-camera) I was still in her space and she withdrew a bit. It was a lot having a brand new sister in the house.

But ultimately she quietly accepted that I would be there for just a short while, and when she didn’t think I was there could be caught being “Willa” and having conversations with her folks. Then she overcame all of her shyness to have a picture taken of herself, her new baby sister, and her equally raven haired mother, Tanya.

I was excited to be asked and incredibly honored, to come and do more family photos when Serafina approached her 6 month birthday. Watching her growing personality at dance class while my daughter and her sister were in practicing they arabesque, there was now a chatty, happy, jet black haired little girl.

Trip 2 to the house for photos showed Willa a much more confident older sister. Not only wanting to be in the pictures, but helping in trying to get baby sis to smile!

"Chubby Chubby" as she says.

It quickly moved from a 6 month old shoot to a very happy and fun sister shoot!

Since the guitar had been such an integral fixture in the first shoot we thought why not incorporate it this time too!

We’re not going to discuss here what happened while she was in there, but I think I owe them a new lining.

When she was a newborn the shoot was broken up with feedings, naps, diaper changes but this one was just a happy smiley baby the whole way through with a confident sister by her side the entire time.

I feel honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity to document this important moments in this family’s life. I hope these pictures act as a reminder of this time with their little girls at their house at the beach.

Kris

Desktop

Aside

At 7 years old I was sharing the “master” bedroom of our house in Hunter Creek, Or with my 2 younger brothers. Not for a lack of space in the house mind you, but because this particular room was unique. It allowed for all 3 of us to easily fit 3 beds, a full dresser, and within the 3 mirrored closets along the wall all our belongings. It was a bizarrely large room with red and black shag carpet. The mirror on the wall had a bull fighter gold etching on it. Tacky does not begin to describe the oddities in this space.

Being the very particular child that I was at 7 I approached my parents with an outlined plan as to why I should take residence in the “den”. First and foremost it was important that I no longer be forced to try to sleep in a space with the “loud sleepers” that were my brothers. Much to my surprise, request was approved. My own space was on the horizon.

I shuttled all my things down the narrow hallway, far from the sighing, snorting, crinkling plastic bed cover sleep noises that had been my early introduction to insomnia and never looked back. The den, with its book case, 2 closets and most importantly the desk space. There was an inset wall between the 2 closets that allowed for my grandfather’s desk to slide in perfectly. A dark hardwood home base to GI Joe figurines and a place to pen down my many overcomplicated thoughts for age 7. I began journal writing in that place. Realistically it should have been titled “Love Lorn at 7 – Whininess of an Elementary Student”.

For some reason it was so important to me to have that space. I always wanted to feel like a grown up, and with the oversized (for me) chair, heavy drawers and desk light I was able to feel like an overworked middle class adult. Now I am blessed with a daughter who often shows signs of wanting to be a grown up. She has a small table that my mother painted the alphabet on for her where she draws, paints, colors, cuts paper down into the tiniest of pieces just because she can. Her friends come over and they sit across from each other and have meals, giggling the entire time. This table, her desk, has given her that place to explore and be the grown up writing her name on a pad of paper, or the preschooler cramming Dora stickers to every inch of a 3×5″ card. My goal is to always give her that work space she wants to be an artist, to be a writer, or to pretend she is a middle class desk worker, whatever it is she wants it to be.

Sometimes her desk becomes her oversized chair.

Those Hands….

Feminine. Dainty. Elegant. These are all words I’ve heard to describe my hands during my life. As a young boy that was right up there with women telling me they wished they had long eyelashes like mine (nearly took scissors to the eyelashes when I was 9, I clearly remember the view of sharp metal just inches from my eye). Not really the reassurance of masculinity I may have been looking for.

I have always had a fascination with other peoples hands. They are a feature I notice. Maybe because so much attention had been drawn to my own, but a girl with pretty hands was always a priority on my list of shallow things to find attractive. The “toe-thumbs” of Megan Fox are a clear example of something I would not be able to get pass, similar to Jerry Seinfeld and his many quirks.

When Natalie was born I waited to hear the doctor say that all those fingers and toes were accounted for. That fear of the unknown as she came into the world of whether or not she was done baking in the oven. As she entered and here little fingers squirmed uncontrollably I immediately realized I just wanted to hold those little hands and never let go.

1 month old Natalie asleep on my lap gripping my thumb in her sleep

As she grows through the stages of first just trying not to poke herself in the eye, to placing blocks through matching slots, holding a spoon or fork to practicing her handwriting, I am constantly amazed over what her little hands can accomplish. She has small, elegant, slender fingers that fit perfectly in her nose, where they can often be found.

Her nails are always short as she shares my bad habit of nail biting. Without knowing it I was passing down to her something I inherited from my mother, and who knows before her.

Easter Hands

She’s nearly 4 now. Her arms can easily wrap fully around my neck where she can interlock her fingers and nearly choke me out when she tries. She has the strength to hang upside down on the monkey bars on any playground. The preferred mode of transportation is still to be carried if she can get away with it, and post nap every day (when she still manages to take one) she sits up, wraps her arms around my neck, locks those dainty, elegant, feminine fingers together and for all I care doesn’t ever have to let go.

 

Sleepy Hands