Sunday, January 31, 2010

Barnacles

Barnacles have two phases to their life cycle.

When they are young, they are free floating and can explore the seas as they see fit. Then, without really realizing it, they start to secrete a gluey cement from a specialized gland. Once they've started producing this bonding agent, wherever they touchdown next becomes their permanent home. It would be like going out for a walk one day only to discover that your feet had suddenly begun to ooze epoxy and where you stopped walking was where you'd spend the rest of your life.

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that people and barnacles have a few things in common. When the time comes, you quit floating free and attach yourself to a family. At least that's how it worked with me.



Listening To: Milestones by Miles Davis


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shift

Baby J is transitioning from "baby" to "toddler" and there's been a big shift in how I do business as a stay-at-home dad. I still manage to fit in everything I need to get done except my daily exercise. I just can't figure it into our new routine. I've been playing around with when I go to sleep, when I wake up, when I take a shower, when I change for the day, etc. but I cannot find the time to exercise. It's driving me nuts.

Plus, I've been dying to eat a Boston cream doughnut for weeks now but can't justify the splurge in calories if I'm not working out anymore.


Look how it glistens with a delicious sheen!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mom's Club - No Boys Allowed

As I sort of explained here, my wife was once part of a mom's club in our town. When she went back to work and I took became the stay-at-home-primary-caregiver-thing, I asked her if I could take over the vacant spot in the mom's club. She said she'd ask at their next meeting.

The verdict was no.

I felt a bit dejected but, more than anything, I felt embarrassed for wanting to join a mom's club in the first place. I should have known better than to ask. I should have realized the answer would be no. My anatomy kind of makes it a non-issue. I should have looked at myself in the mirror and said, "Dude, you're a dude. Why do you want to join a mom's club?"

I think I was just worried that I'd be lonely and isolated in those early months of being a stay-at-home dad. But I'm not lonely. I'm doing just fine, thanks for asking. My only problem is that I occasionally run into people from the mom's club here and there. They are always quite friendly but I feel utterly embarrassed to be around them. After all, I suffered a rather public and entirely emasculating rejection at their hands.

I wonder what they'd do with a transgender person who has a kid. Like Felicity Huffman's character in Transamerica. Do you think he/she would be allowed in the mom's club? What about that Caster Semenya, the African track star?



Dang! With all these tough questions, I'm glad I'm not in the mom's club. I don't think I could deal with this kind of soul searching.

Listening To: Rising Down by The Roots


Thursday, January 28, 2010

FIRSTS - Words

I'm making the call. Baby J's first word is "kitty cat."

Today, she was looking at a book with a cat in it. She touched it and said, "kitty cat." If I say to her, "where's the kitty cat," she'll look around until she spots one. That's about as official as you can get.

She knows "mama" and "dada" and "baba" (bottle) but these are not words used by in normal speech. Kitty cat however can be used as follows:
"Would you like to see my new kitty cat?"
"I have a kitty cat at my house."
"A kitty cat has devoured my hamster!"
So there you have it. Baby J's first words! "Kitty cat." If you want to get really technical about it, her first word was "Iowa" with "Hawaii" trailing in a close second. But, she was only three months old at the time and I doubt she knew what she was saying. So it probably doesn't count.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trapped in the Closet

Baby J has discovered an affinity for doors. Opening them, shutting them. Especially, she seems to like closets. She'll open the door, go inside, and shut herself inside. It's cute and all, but I have to go free her everytime she does it.

I think my favortie part of all these closet antics is that whenever she shuts herself in, I'm reminded of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet. Especially the part where he opens the door and there's a midget.




Midget.
Midget.
Midget.

p.s. Click here to see the midget scene

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Muppet Smile

I love the Muppets. I love their songs, their skits, their characters. I love their cross-generational appeal. Since Jim Henson died, they've lost their soul a bit as well as whatever edge they had. But still they are as charming as ever.

When Muppets are happy, they smile by opening their mouths like this:



Since Muppets don't have any sophisticated facial musculature, an open, toothless mouth is all that's needed to show that they're happy.

Baby J has a Muppet smile. If she's happy, she just sort of opens her mouth like Kermit is doing here and that passes for a smile. When she has more teeth, she will undoubtedly look less Muppetlike (Muppetesque?) but in the meantime, it's a good look for her.

Monday, January 25, 2010

COMIC - DIY

For some reason, I haven't drawn any Baby J comics in a while. Ironically, ever since my 50 Comic Celebration, I haven't drawn a thing and I'm not sure why. Inspiration is a fickle friend.

Anyway, you don't need me to have Baby J adventures rendered in comic form. You can do it yourself with these 6 simple steps.


--click to enlarge--

Let the wild rumpus start!

Listening To: Mr. Beast by Mogwai


Sunday, January 24, 2010

FIRSTS - Artwork

This morning, Baby J grabbed a package of crayons from my shelf of art supplies. After she dumped all of them out, I handed her a piece of paper and show her how they work. She created this masterpiece:



It's nothing more than a few red dots and a black one but at least she's got the right idea. But, based on this picture, if I had to make a prediction, I'd say Baby J's style will be more Jackson Pollock than Renoir.



Or, maybe she'll get into Andy Warhol.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crib Recalls

Is it me or have there been an inordinately large number of crib recalls in the past year? It seems like since Baby J was born there have been five or six. That's millions of cribs in a single year.

I can't think of anything more frightening than the possibility of a lethal crib. Even the idea of the possibility is enough to make you lose your mind. I'm losing my mind just writing about the idea of the possibility!

The good news for Baby J and for me and my sanity is that the crib we have hasn't been recalled....yet. Props to my wife for doing the whole nesting/researching thing so well. Good choice, hon!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go peek in on my sleeping child for the five bajillionth time. It's been over five minutes since the last check and I'm feeling like I need some reassurance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Strays

Baby J is crazy for Cheerios, could eat a whole plate full of them. She does pretty well getting them into her mouth with a delicate "pincher grip" but every now and then she gets a little impatient and grabs at them ham fistedly. When this happens, Cheerios scatter like the panicked citizens of Tokyo in a Godzilla movie. Some of them escape into her high chair and high out under her bottom. But Baby J loves these stray Cheerios. When she's lifted out of her high chair, she spins back around to pick them out of the seat one by one. No Cheerio Left Behind.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baby Beaver

Baby J has been teething so she chews on stuff a lot. So far she only has one tooth out in the open though a few others are pushing through. But with this one tooth she gnaws on her crib railing and has scraped off flecks of paint. When I got her from her nap this morning she had flecks of crib paint on her cheeks and there were multiple bite marks along the crib rail.

We're trying to discourage this behavior for a plethora of reasons but I think for the time being we just have to accept that our daughter is turning into a beaver.


an actual baby beaver

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Daddy Librarian

Baby J loves books. She loves to look at them, chew on them, pull them off the shelves and make great, big piles of them. I'm very hapy about all of this of course but it is unsightly to have great, big piles scattered around the house. That's why I have become a bit of a librian.

It's my job to reshelve, reorganize, and restack books once Baby J has waddled off. I don't deal with anything close to the scale and scope that librarians typically face, but I can appreciate the difficulties associated with their jobs. Primarily, I understand that being a librarian is a battle against entropy.

All things spiral towards disorganization. It's the way of nature. Librarians (and their Daddy Librarian bretheren) are in constant struggle to preserve order against the unrelenting forces of disarray. It's neverending. Their job is never done. Legions of librarians daily enter the fray, fighting with all their might only to wake up and do it again the next day.



Just remember that next time some huffy librarian gets in your face because you're using the wrong computer terminal to surf the web or has a fit becuase you stuck a book in the A/V bookdrop. Why do you think there are two book drops anyway, hmm? Don't you get it?! One's for audio/visual materials and the other is for books! What's wrong with you?!?!

Sorry.
I didn't mean to yell at you.
It's not your fault.
You see, once you join the fight against entropy, it really gets to you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Baby Bjork

Today, Baby J had a lot of fun interacting with her reflection. Once she really got into it, she started licking the mirror and squealing with delight.

It was kind of like that Bjork video for All is Full of Love where she's making out with herself. Except not quite as weird and creepy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Leftover Dreams

Ever have one of those dreams that just stays with you the morning after? It sits with you at breakfast. Follows you to work. Slides just under your eyelids as you start your day. I hate them. They color my whole day, make it surreal.

Luckily, a daily work routine will dispel this sort of lingering dream-state like the morning sun burns off fog. If I have a conversation with a coworker or start shooting off emails and the dream seems to vanish. Good thing too. Otherwise, I get lost in a stupid haze that I can't quite explain.

Now that I'm a stay-at-home dad and don't have coworkers or anyone to email, I get dreams that just hang around with me all day. In the moment, I can't tell if they're reality or half memory or complete fantasy. Somehow, they feel like all three at the same time.

I have to say, I do not like these dreams going stale in my brain. Luckily, it doesn't happen often. When it does though, I long for someone to talk with, someone to distract me from my half-baked recollections of the dream world.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Generous Improvisation

Check out this excerpt from Babble.com published Thursday Jan 14, 2010:
Families today seem to be in the midst of a generous improvisation: women taking on men’s roles, men taking on women’s roles, and many of us reverting back to tradition when needed. If we are able to acknowledge this and leave behind idealized notions of equality, we might actually strike the balance we’ve been searching for all along.
Nifty little quote if you ask me. I especially like the term "generous improvisation." It's a good way to put it. None of us know what's really going on. We're just riffing the best we can. The important thing is to be generous especially when it come to children.

The rest of the article can be found here.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wanderlust

Baby J is always curious about what's beyond the boundaries of where she's allowed to go. It's this wonderful innate curiosity that comes prepackaged with all children. I know I had it as a kid and I know it morphed into a sense of wanderlust when I was a teen. I'm guessing Baby J will have the same when she's Teenager J.

I gave into my wanderlust for a while, traveled around a bit. I'm not sure what drove me or drives any of us to get out there and see the world. Whatever it is, it's gone now for me. I'm quite content in my stay-at-home role. I wonder where it went.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ancestors = Strangers

Baby J will meet her great-grandmother in a few months. Like many people, I never really knew any of my great-grandmothers. Once, when I was around the same age as Baby J, I had a photo-op with my mother's mother's mother, but I don't remember anything from the encounter. There's a picture of the two of us together somewhere.

It seems so strange to me that our ancestors are basically complete strangers to us. I don't know a thing about my great-great-grandfather. No one really knows that much about their ancestors. They're complete strangers to us. But if your great-great-grandfather had made a few decisions differently, gone left instead of right, you wouldn't be here. Neither would you mom or dad. Or you grandparents for that matter.

Odd isn't it that our lives depend so much on a fleet of strangers stretching back into the shadows of the past?

So I guess it's okay that Baby J won't really know her great-grandmother too well or even have a clue who she is when they meet. That's just the way life works. And someday, if things work out the way they should, I won't know the strangers that'll be my great-great-grandkids. I'm okay with knowing that.

As long as those dang whippersnappers stay off my lawn!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The GIving Tree

We've all heard the virtues of LOVE. How it conquers all. How it's blind. How it will find a way. However, I've also heard LOVE described as a selfish, hungry thing. An emotion that drives a person to want another exclusively.

Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a good book to look at when reflecting on the nature of LOVE and how different people feel different kinds of LOVE at different times in their lives.



It's a good book to read before you become a parent and then after you become a parent. Your interpretation shifts a bit. Every time I read The Giving Tree I'm left to ask if LOVE is giving or taking? Is it selfish or selfless? Is the kid a jerk and the tree a sap (forgive the pun)?

Either way, The Giving Tree is an eloquent parable, worth reading again and again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh! How the Containers Stack Up

What the heck do I do with all these baby food containers. You can't recycle them and I don't want to just throw them all away. After contributing several tons of diaper to local landfills, pitching these little cups in the trash would weigh heavy on my soul. So what do I do?

Bunch of Useless Junk or City of the Future

Any ideas? I'm open to suggestion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lee's Account


Today's post is from the preface of Sleepaway School by Lee Stringer. An interesting counterpoint to yesterdays post.
Somewhere in there, not long after I had gotten my kid's legs under me and had begun to walk myself to and from, it was determined by those who are charged with knowing such things that I was what we today would call a "child at risk." It was an unsettling thing - seeing such concern etched upon so many grownup faces. And it had the rude effect of acquainting me, far, far too soon, with doubt. But they were right. We wee people were all at risk. Every mother's son of us. Even those of us with overflowing larders and soft, warm beds. Our young hearts like leaves in the wind, we all had to face down the inner turmoil of being, simply, children. We were all on shaky ground.
Dang. That's heavy. I've got shpilkes in my geneckteckessoink. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Relate to Other Kids

Baby J doesn't get to watch t.v. When she comes in the room, the t.v. goes off. It's just something we do at our house. There's other idiosyncratic things like this we do as parents. Sometimes, I wonder if these elements of our parenting style will ever grow to affect how Baby J relates to other kids. How much of the stuff parents do to protect and nurture their kids is actually beneficial and how much of it creates a rift in their social development? Home schooling, for example. Does it stunt kids' social growth in the name of academics?

Either way, kids are pretty resilient. I suspect most kids overcome the crazy stuff their parents make them do. As long as they have love, food, safety, and a few other basic biological necessities taken care of, they'll probably turn out okay. At least, I hope that's how it works.

Check back with me when Baby J is Adult J and we'll reassess.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

B-day

We had a birthday party for Baby J yesterday and it was a lot of fun. In the weeks leading up to it I wondered if there was a point to throwing a party. I knew Baby J wouldn't really know what's going on. Even if she did, she probably wouldn't remember any of it later on.

But now, after all is said and done, I think baby birthday parties are a great idea. It's nice to get everyone together but, for me, the best part, was getting photos and videos of Baby J doing funny things (smooshing cake, eating wrapping paper, etc.). These are photos and videos I probably wouldn't be able to get any other time. After all, I think my wife would be very upset with me if at any other time I let the baby spread melted ice cream cake in her hair and then took pictures.

I had always suspected that babies' parties are more for the adults than the babies and now I know for certain that it's true. I also know that that's okay because now I've got great photos and warm memories that I'll enjoy for a long time.

Also, my brother managed to find a Happy Apple for Baby J which is oddly as mesmerizing now as it was when I was a kid.


tinkle tink, tinkle tink

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Books & Babies

There was a large research study conducted by the government a few years back called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). Basically, the government wanted to know what really and truly affects kids' standardized test scores (Why the government is so obsessed with standardized test scores, I will never know!) Anyway, they looked at a bajillion factors and bajillion students, watched them all grow up and take standardized tests.

The final word on the matter is that only a few factors actually affect kids' standardized test scores. One of the big ones is the number of books a family has in its house. More books translates to higher test scores (Take that Kindle!) Such a conclusion sounds like a bunch of hogwash to me. How can the mere presence of book in a child's home affect their achievement on tests? Don't you have to read to your kid for them to enjoy books?

I would think yes but Baby J has shown me that there is significant play value in simply having books around. We have tons of books in our house. Too many to count. Baby J goes to the shelves, pulls down about ten, and then proceeds to flip through them. She creates piles around herself and could spend all day just flipping pages. She carries them around with her. She licks them on occasion. Books are the go-to toy in our house. Despite the introduction of blinking, singing Christmas gifts.

Maybe there is some benefit to just giving babies piles of books to play with.

Of course, the ECLS only looked at standardized test scores and any parent who measures their child's success in life through SAT's deserves a quick succession of karate chops to the head.

Anyway, go give your baby a book. If you don't have a baby, go give someone else's baby a book. If you don't know anyone with a baby, you might want to consider making one on your own.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Knot

Yesterday, Baby J bumped her head as a direct result of my tickling her. It was a pretty good bump too, left a big, grisly knot like they get in cartoons. I felt terrible, like I was abusive or something. She got over it pretty quickly though.

I still feel lousy and though her hair covers the bump now, I know it's there. And what's more, I know that in a few weeks we're going to take her to the doctor and she's going to get a bunch of shots. When a baby howls in pain, it touches something deep inside the primordial part of the parents' brains. It's dreadful. On the upside, when a baby laughs, that same center is activated in a good way. That's why I tickle Baby J like there's no tomorrow.

But then, what happens when you tickle your baby until they bump their head and scream? A paradox! Your brain explodes? The universe collapses in on itself? Dogs and cats living together? Mass hysteria?!

Nope. They get a bump. You feel bad. Time heals all.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

What to Expect When You're Reading What to Expect When You're Expecting

What to Expect When You're Expecting has been the gold standard in baby books for decades. Eager mothers-to-be can find in its pages all sorts of info about what's happening to their bodies and what to look out for as their pregnancy progresses. It's so popular, it spawned the sequel What to Expect the First Year.



My wife has read both books and found them to be invaluable. I can't say much about its progenitor but I can tell you for sure that What to Expect the First Year is crap. I have all kinds of bones to pick with this book but it boils down to two major points:
  1. Comparing Babies - By it's very nature, this book seeks to measure babies against one another which, in my humble but ardent opinion, is parent poison.
  2. Panic Factor - Each parenting book should come with a rating, a panic factor, designed to inform the reader how much the should expect to panic upon reading. If such a rating system were put in place, What to Expect the First Year would have the equivalent of a Triple X rating or RED on the Homeland Security Terror Alert Scale.
I think I pretty well covered the first of these two point in a previous post so let's zoom in on the second, the panic factor.

To set the mood, here's one of my favorite quotes from What to Expect the First Year:
Breath-holding spells are usually precipitated by anger, frustration or pain...In mild events, the lips turn blue. In more severe instances, the baby turns blue all over then loses consciousness. While unconscious, his body may stiffen or even twitch.
I'm sorry. I must have fainted there a second and hit my head. Did that just say my baby may stop breathing, turn blue and twitch? I'm supposed to expect this in the first year? I don't have enough to worry about, I have to fret over my baby's breathing?

Rationally, I know that less than one percent of babies will suffer one of these spells but instinctively, reading about breath-holding makes me freak out. If so few babies have this problem then why even publish it in this book? Shouldn't it be in a separate pamphlet about breathing irregularities you get from your doctor? Why is it in a book called What to Expect the First Year?

The book goes on to list some other things I should watch out for like - believe it or not - blinking. Honestly, blinking? My baby's gonna blink? Whodathunkit?

Other headings in the book include polluted indoor air, contaminants in food, and an ominous sounding section on holiday hazards. Granted, there are all sort of issues out there that parent should be concerned about like contaminated baby food. But why put them all together in a compendium that bills itself as a reasonable guide on what new parents should expect?

You know what you should expect in the first year? Your baby will cry a lot. There will be a lot of poop. They will be cute. And, like the book says, they will probably blink. If anything else comes up, go have a conversation with your pediatrician.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

50 Comics

For those of you keeping score at home, you may have noticed that I've posted over 50 comics here on Dawn of the Dad. According to my math, that means this blog is approximately 40% webcomics! I'm kinda proud of that. So let's celebrate me and all my magnificence.

Since there's nothing I love more than making montage videos set to songs I've written, here are all 50 comics and song I made up yesterday. Enjoy.

video

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Duty of Dishes

I wasn't really sure what life would be like once I became a stay-at-home dad. I knew there'd be lots of diapers and bottles but that's pretty much it. One thing I certainly didn't expect was the amount of dishes I would wash on a daily basis.

Since we are trying to save money, we wait until after 8:00 each evening before turning on the dishwasher. Also, since we are trying to save money, we prepare and eat all our meals here at home. Furthermore, since none of the stupid baby food containers are recyclable, we wash them all and reuse them around the house. All this creates a perpetual mound of dirty pots, pans, plastic cups, and plates of all sizes.

I wake up in the morning and go straight to work on the dishes. During the day, I'm continually juggling things from the dishwasher to the drying rack to cabinet and back again. At night, I load up the dishwasher once more and set it to go once 8:00 hits.

I'm not really complaining - I'm just surprised at how much dishes are part of the stay-at-home dad reality.


--click to enlarge--

Listening To: Besides by Do Make Say Think


Monday, January 4, 2010

Libraries

I don't think I truly ever appreciated my local libraries before I became a stay-at-home-dad. They are wonderful resources for parents - well, at least they are for me anyway. They have free books and movies for dad. They have board books for baby. They have toys and dollhouses for both dad and the baby (What?! Dollhouses are cool!). Libraries have also given me a reason to get out of the house once a day. And, librarians are a very friendy sort. They all know me and the baby by name now. It's like being at Cheers - only with books instead of alcohol.

So here's my shout out to America's public libraries. Go borrow a book or two and hug your librarian. If they don't want a hug, perhaps they'd like a firm handshake. If they pass on the handshake too, well, you have to respect that. Maybe they have intimacy issues. Or a germ phobia.

Listening To: Off the Wall by Michael Jackson


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Down Dog

Baby J is getting more and more control of her body. This means more mobility and new sorts of movements. Recently, she's been striking a pose that resembles a yoga position called down dog. She places her big head on the floor, holding it steady with her stubby little arms, and then pushes her legs out as far as they can go so that she forms a triangle.



The first image is a drawing of Baby J in her new triangle position. The second is a yoga instructor helping someone acheive the down dog position. And, from the looks of it, yoga instructor is a pretty kick ass career choice.

Listening To: Clarity by Jimmy Eat World


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Party

We went to a birthday party for one of Baby J's friends. It was huge. There were dozens of people and dozens of kids in this cavernous warehouse facility that had been converted into an indoor playground. I enjoyed it a lot. Lots of exctiement. A feast of pizza and cupcakes.

Baby J's having her birthday party next weekend and it will be much smaller. I'm looking forward to it though. At this age, birthday parties are more for the parents than the kids. A way to mark time. A time to gather with friends and family and take a breath. There's so much worry in those first few months, a first birthday seems like an abstraction. I feel strangely relieved now that Baby J's birthday is nearly upon us. I feel like high fiving my wife.

Maybe it's because we're getting an ice cream cake.

I freakin' love ice cream cakes.



Friday, January 1, 2010

Pooh Photos

Each month, we take a photograph of Baby J beside a plush Winnie the Pooh. Now that she's nearly a year old, it's fun to look back at these Pooh photos and see how our baby has grown. At the first month's photo, she's the same size as Pooh. By the ninth month, she's bursting out of the frame. You can hardly even see Pooh.

Sometimes it seems to me that time has flown by at warp speed.

I remember when Baby J was first born, all squishy and weird looking, Pooh sized - we'll call that version of her Baby A. And I know how she looks now, portly and jolly, dwarfing Pooh - Baby B. When I try to reconcile these two versions of her in my head, I think my brain automatically assumes that a very long time must have passed between Baby A and Baby B. How else could such dramatic differences be achieved? And since I remember everything so clearly, I think my brain distorts the procession of time making it seem to have flown by quickly.

If I look at all the Pooh photos, it organizes all those memories I have into chronological order and lines up all the intermediary stages between Baby A and Baby B. It shows regular intervals and a reference point for measuring change. Time decompresses and her first year of life no longer seems distorted.

It's kind of the same with these daily blog entries. Looking back, the past has a regular rhythm to it. It makes me think that when parents bemoan that their kids are growing up too fast they are really saying that they didn't do enough to keep their memories well organized.

If you ever feel that the past is getting away from you, I recommend you get a camera and a plush Pooh doll. Or start a blog. Or do both. Every second of your life, the future is draining into the past through a tiny hole in the hourglass we call the present. Do what you can to keep things in perspective.

Or don't do anything. It's your choice. But a plush Pooh doll does give you something to smile at every now and then.

Listening To: Silver by Jesu