Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Have Things Really Changed That Much?

When I was a kid, I would spend my free time wandering in the woods, building forts with my friends. Or we'd take our bikes and go on a day long excursion around the neighborhood, visiting various pals as we went along.

Kids today attempting such a daring daily routine of play would likely end up with Lyme Disease, fall victim of a sexual predator or two (or three), and probably finish the day either being hit by a texting teen driver or blown up by a suicide bomber.

Was the world always this frightening? Have things really changed that much since I was a kid? I don't mean to come off like some conservative ideologue waxing romantic about the good ol' days when a man was a man and a woman was a woman. I'm genuinely confused by this. How did it get so dangerous to let kids go out an play?

I don't want to let Baby J go off and do the stuff I did when I was young. By today's standards, it's a death sentence. It's no wonder folks scuttle their kids off to ballet and soccer and violin and swimming and curling. And it's no wonder that kids turn to their cell phones and social media sites to interact with one another. Getting on your bike and riding across the neighborhood is too treacherous.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself here but I have no idea what I'm going to do when Baby J wants to go off in the woods behind our home or when she wants to wander off through the neighborhood.

Maybe by then the world won't be quite as deadly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Homecoming

Saturday was my wife's birthday and her mother drove up to babysit for us so we could celebrate. We went out and saw a show and then came back.

Upon our arrival, Baby J came running to greet us at the door. She look wild-eyed, one of her socks missing, her pants half off her backside, and her face smeared with food. The house was in disarray as if she had been lumbering around like a mini-Godzilla.

It's nice to know that she's like that for everyone, not just us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Penguin Revelation

My wife and I went out to dinner last night. While we were enjoying dinner a baby somewhere in the restaurant started to cry. The sound of her sobs had an uncanny resemblance to the way Baby J sounds when she gets upset. I would guess that most folks, especially those who don't have young kids, would say that all babies sound the same when they cry. It's not true.

I hear babies cry all the time at the mall, at playgroup, and every time I take candy from them. There's nothing special about it. But when this baby in the restaurant started to cry, it sounded different. It sounded like it was a baby my wife and I needed to tend to. Not exactly like Baby J but very similar.

It reminds me of that scene in March of the Penguins when the mama or papa penguin comes marching back from the sea and calls out to the huddled mass of bird at the breeding grounds. Somewhere in that huddle mass, their chick hears them, recognizes them, and responds. In time, every adult penguin finds their chick using this call/response method.

Even though to us, they all sound the same, look the same, and blend into the throng of birds, every penguin knows each other by sound.



I guess there is something universal in parenthood across the animal kingdom. You know your baby in ways that others couldn't even begin to distinguish.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beethoven

I just finished listening to a series of lecture on Beethoven's Life and Music. And here's what I learned: Beethoven was intense, gloomy, driven, uncouth, frustrated, angry, and, above all, possessed by a wellspring of demonic creativity. And it seems that almost all of his crazed personality quirks and sublime musical gifts stem from his childhood and his relationship with his parents. Dad used to beat him mercilessly, tortured him with endless hours of practice at the piano. Mom did nothing to stop the abuse. His famed deafness was also probably a result of a fever he had when he was a child. Music and isolation became his world. And these factors brought forth fiery creative forces.


The whole time I was listening to these lectures I was thinking about Baby J and children in general. Would Beethoven have achieved such mythic stature had he not suffered as a child? My guess is probably not. My guess is that if Beethoven's father had not been so cruel, music in Western culture would not be what it is today. I'm sure Beethoven would have gone on to be a great composer, but without the pain and isolation and rage that drove his artistic growth I doubt he would have been compelled to produce the great works that he did.

I know I'm oversimplifying here but it would seem that all of Western music hinges on a single unhappy childhood. And I'll bet many great artists, the ones that really changed history, also had unhappy lives as children. Maybe by trying to be a decent, reasonable parent I'm actually stymying the growth of a great artist. Maybe if I refuse to feed Baby J her beloved Cheerios, she'll go on to be a powerful creative force and redefine art in the Western world.

It's doubtful. I guess I'll keep the Cheerios flowing freely.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sing Along

The playgroups I go to with Baby J are comprised entirely of women and women tend to have higher voices than men. So when we all sing along I can feel my relatively low voice standing out among the chorus of relatively high female voices. Also, most songs sung to babies are up in a range that is difficult for me to reach. I end up having to drop down an octave to hit the proper notes thus accentuating the fact that my voice doesn't quite fit. What's more, I have pretty significant hearing loss so I can't really tell if my singing is in tune or not most of the time.

But I sing along anyway.

There's a strange discouragement among adults associated with singing that I find worrisome. I partially attribute it to shows like American Idol where judges judge and contestants are lampooned mercilessly but, in reality, I know there's more to it than Simon Cowell. I would wager that most people simply don't feel comfortable singing because they feel that they aren't good enough. They won't sound like their favorite star.

I know I stick out like a musical sore thumb when I sing along at playgroup but it doesn't stop me. Baby J likes it when I sing to her and if I were to clam up because I didn't feel I was good enough, it would, over time, send a pretty repugnant message to her.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baby Burn Out

I've debated posting about this since I like to keep things light here on my blog but I'm really dreading spending time with Baby J tomorrow. She's been a pill over the past two days. Her demands have been relentless and it's wearing on my patience, sapping my energy. Because of my wife's schedule, I won't be getting much of a break tomorrow either. Maybe 30 minutes max.

You know the feeling you get on Sunday nights? Like the hours are just ticking by as you await the inevitable. Nothing holds your interest because gloom is looming. Tomorrow's gonna suck and there's nothing you can do about it. That's how I feel right now.

It's baby burn out.

I feel a bit guilty for having these negative feelings toward fatherhood at the moment but there's an ebb and flow to all things in this world, being a dad is no exception. Parenting, like anything else, has it's ups and downs. Tomorrow might suck but the next day might be great. Who knows. All I can say for sure is that this lassitude is temporary. And, if tomorrow is going to suck, I'm may just have to console myself with a box of Girl Scout cookies we have tucked away in the pantry.

Samoas, in case you were wondering.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nothing Gold Can Stay

I've had a few readers of Dawn of the Dad ask me recently what the future holds for the blog. After all, I'll return to work in September of this year and that'll be the end of my stint as a stay-at-home dad. What then will become of my little corner of cyberspace?

I intend to record the daily exploits of Baby J here until I return to work, until September. After that, Dawn of the Dad is over. So dawn goes down to day.

I'm only on post 208 though so there's still time left before Eden sinks to grief.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back at Work

I spent sometime back at work yesterday giving a few curious folks a tour of the school where I will/used to work. Baby J came too, of course.

Aside from having to hand a constant stream of Cheerios to my cantankerous kiddie while I did the tour, it felt very strange to be back in the building where I will/used to work. I felt very much like an interloper, like I was screwing things up simply by being there. Everyone seemed happy to see me and the baby and to see I was spreading the word about our school one mini-tour at a time. Maybe any unwelcoming vibes I perceived were just a product of my over-active imagination. But still I couldn't shake the feeling that my presence was a bit of an intrusion.

It's like when you break up with someone and then run into them a few months later. Awkward and uncomfortable. There are smiles and pleasantries over a subtext of unease.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

90% Baby

I can tell when Baby J is really sick because she starts to lose her personality bit by bit. She stops smiling and babbling. She refuses food and gets clingy.

She's had a bad cold over the past few days and though she is feeling better, she's only at 90% of her normal self. I think by tomorrow, she'll be right as rain and back to 100% Baby J.

In other news, the robins have returned and spring is on its way. My second semester is just about over and all my major projects are done. And all my creative endeavors are coming together nicely.

Things are good hear at Dawn of the Dad.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Segments

Baby J's patterns of wakefulness and sleep divide my day into clearly defined segments.
  • Between the time she gets up for the day and the time she starts her nap, it's library time. We go to playgroups. We socialize. We take out books, CD's, DVD's, etc.
  • Between the time she starts her nap until the time she wakes up, it's daddy work time. I pound out assignments for class. I pay bills. I do work around the house. I write. I draw.
  • Between the time she wakes up from her nap and the time my wife comes home from work, it's go-somewhere-and-run-around time. The park, the mall, the playground. Baby J is free to roam and explore.
I have never much cared for routines but I don't see any other way of spending day after day with a little person who can't really communicate very well. The segmentation we have going now seem to be working for us so I guess I don't mind. Anyway, kids like routine.

This concludes the blogging segment of the day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mall Playland Part 6 - A Strange Beauty

At the mall, Baby J and I walk a lot. We go back and forth, in and out of stores, alongside the ladies power-walking their way to better health and between with the mall cops rolling to and fro on their segways, past the kiosks of skeevy salesmen with their dubious looking skin-care products and places where you can get your image on a t-shirt or coffee mug.

Perhaps because I spend so much time in the mall I see it for something bigger and more profound than it really is. But, to me, there's something strange and beautiful, almost poetic, about a baby walking through a massive mall oblivious to all the weird things that go on there.

There a palpable, omnipresent tension at the mall, a "mall-aise." Shoppers with bags full walk with only moments left to enjoy the fleeting, narcotic high they get off the fumes of their purchases before it evaporates. Failing businesses on the brink of dissolution offer impossible sales in spasms of desperation. Bored looking shopgirls lean on their make-up counters wearing clothes intended to make them look mature and professional but which just seem to accentuate how young they are. Packs of gawky teenagers stand about wearing kooky outfits, cussing at each other, looking surly and malcontent.

But everybody smiles at Baby J who, in return, smiles back or waves "bye-byes." Sometimes, I can even get her to blow kisses. For a moment, it's like Baby J has everyone forget themselves, forgets the tension. Or maybe it's that she helps everyone to remember themselves. After all, the shoppers, storeowners, shopgirls, and teenagers were all babies once too. Maybe what I find beautiful about a baby in the mall is that it connects everyone back to their own innocent youth for a fraction of a second.

Or, like I said, maybe because I spend so much time in the mall I see it for something bigger and more profound than it really is

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mall Playland Part 5 - Rainy Weekend

This weekend my wife and I took Baby J to the mall playland for a little family outing. It had been raining hard for several days but the weather had just begun to break. It was gray and wet but for the first time in several days, the rain stopped. As we drove to the mall I noticed the gullies and streams along the roadside were swollen with rain water and gushing like miniature mountain rapids.

The mall was also swollen, suffused with people. I guess everyone was sick of being cooped up and decided to get out with their kids like we were. The playland, like the gullies and streams along the road, was filled to the brim. Children were everywhere running wild. Baby J was outsized by the innumerable big kids pushing and pulling and leaping so we weren't able to stay long. I thought it sad that she had been displaced but those big kids looked as though they really needed to blow off some steam.

Baby J was satisfied to walk up and down the mall and eat part of a pretzel so, all in all, it was a successful excursion. But the trip underscored for me how different things are when you work. Normally, Baby J and I have the whole playland to ourselves. On weekends, when everybody's free, attendance swells like crazy.

Listening To: Zidane by Mogwai


Friday, March 19, 2010

FIRSTS: Violence

At the library today, Baby J attempted to interact with a little boy about her age. This little boy, however, didn't want anything to do with her and started shreiking as she approached. Apparently, Baby J thought these shreiks were shouts of encouragement and continued her advance. The little boy reached out and knocked her down, shreiking like an angry chimpanzee. Baby J started to cry.

I consoled Baby J while the offending tot was quickly admonished by his embarassed mother. It was a bad scence.

Baby J cheered up pretty quickly though and, apparently thinking it was all water under the bridge, approached the angry, young man several times more. He shreiked again each time and each time I plucked her up and placed her elsewhere.

There were strange force at work in my mind when it all happened. It went something like this:

Reason:
"All babies have to learn social skills through these kinds of unfortunate interactions."

VS.

Reaction:
"Hey! Don't be such a freakin' jerk, kid!"

Education:
"If someone knocks you down, pick yourself up. There's no shortage of unpleasant people in the world. You can't let them get you down."

VS.

Protection:
"Touch my daughter again, little man, and see what happens! I will end you!"

Shame:
"I should have stepped in before the kid got violent. I'm a bad daddy."

VS.

Blame:
"That kid's a raging psychopath! It's his family's fault! They're probably a bunch of jerks too."

Kids will all eventually end up on both sides of a situation like this. It's sad but true. Not every kid is super nice all the time. Not every kid is super bad all the time. All we can do as parents is try to teach them how to deal with their emotions when they come and to model how to behave when bad things go down.

But if that little boy starts something again, he better watch out. I'm teaching Baby J to fight dirty!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SONG - Happy Apple

I haven't posted a song in a long time so today I'm going to switch things up a bit and rock the blog with a little ditty called Happy Apple.

video

The tinkling you hear in the beginning and end is from one of Baby J's toys called the Happy Apple. It's a small, plastic apple with bells in it and, when you shake it, makes a delightful dingle-dangle.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

200th Post

Today is my 200th post. I never knew I had so much to say...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mall Playland Part 4 - The Escape!

As Baby J changes and grows, her interest in familiar things waxes and wanes. Currently, she is losing interest in our old standby, the mall playland. Her favorite thing to do there now is to escape in a mad dash and wander the mall.

Of course, I catch her before she can wander off too far and stick her back with the other babies, but, before long, she'll make another break for it. After three or four escape attempts, I usually just gather our things and follow her out into the rest of the mall.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ah huh huh huh huh

Baby J has developed a weird, whining, coughing cry that she uses when she wants something. It sounds like ah huh huh huh huh, ah huh huh. As you can guess, this is a pretty annoying utterance and I'd be much happier if she found another way to express herself.

But she'll do it if she wants your straw. She'll do it went she wants you to pick her up. She'll do it when she wants you to put a hat on her head. It's her default sound for all sort of trivial things.

Naturally, I'd like to discourage the use of this new vocalization but at the same time I see that it's very important to Baby J. She only has a few words (hi, apple, cheese, etc.) and it's hard to make yourself understood with such a limited vocabulary. If we don't respond to her ah huh huh huh, what will she have left?

I guess the key is to be proactive, to learn her cues, to preempt the use of this ah huh huh huh. If I see her stumbling toward me with a hat in her hands, I have to swiftly place it on her head before she gets going. If she lifts her arms for "up," I have to be quick and gather her into my arms without a moment for groaning and/or moaning.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Floor Flavored Cheerios

Baby J has pretty much stopped eating Cheerios at mealtime. Instead, she just runs her hands back and forth along the tray and flings them everywhere. And, even though she's given up eating them at mealtime, afterward, she's all too happy to pick them off the floor for a quick bite.

Maybe it adds flavor to have them roll around on the ground. I don't know. They have Multi-Grain Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios and some kind of berry cheerios. Perhaps the fine folks at General Foods should pay attention to my daughter and make Floor Flavored Cheerios. There's an untapped baby market out there ripe for the picking.

---

Happy Pi Day, by the way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

We Only Hurt the Ones We Love

Baby J loves books. But there seems to be an unfortunate relationship between the amount of love she has for a book and how much she wants to destroy it.

She ripped apart I Love You, Little One. Goodnight Moon is on its way to a shredded oblivion. The Very Hungry Caterpillar gets manhandled routinely. And you don't even want me to tell you what she's done to Pat the Bunny.

Is it a function of frequent use leading to more wear and tear? Or is there more to it? Is it the paradoxical destructive power of love? A dark duality? The greedy fingers of a selfish emotion? Do intense flames of passion consign our beloved to a fiery demise?

Just think about that next time you pat the bunny.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Learning Calculus

I never took calculus in high school. And, I'm embarrassed to say, they never asked me to do anything more complicated than dividing fractions in college. As a result, I've never had even the slightest understanding of the fundamentals of calculus and it has driven me crazy for years.

Most people think that I'm nuts when I cry foul over never having to take calculus. They usually say something like, "you don't use it in everyday life," or, "it's too hard to be useful." But for me, the allure of calculus was never about utility or difficulty. It's always been about seeing the world in a new way, learning to overcome a new challenge, and growing a more comprehensive understanding of everything - really beautiful stuff.

Okay, so maybe I am a little nuts.

Either way, I've started to teach myself calculus. I bought a used textbook from a crusty little bookshop and got a series of college level lectures on DVD from my local library. And things have been going pretty well so far. I do some exercises. I watch some lectures. I check my answers in the back of the book and make nice, neat, little graphs.

Now why am I telling you all this?

The process of learning calculus is not unlike the process learning to be a better parent.

Both can be maddeningly complex for the first-timer. Both require a lot of effort and deliberate thought. Both are based around a few precepts or core ideas. Both change the way you look at the world. But more than anything else, both are totally within the grasp of a normal person and require only hard work and persistence to obtain.

More people grow as parents than they do as math learners because their kids pretty much force them to. If you suck at diapering a baby, they will howl at you until you get it right whether it's morning, noon, or night. Class is never dismissed. And, since we usually grow in areas that we feel are important to us, we become better parents because we know our kids are worth the effort. We grow as math learners only if we are able to see importance (i.e. beautiful stuff) in what we are doing.

What's the moral of the story?

The best way to improve at something is not to get smarter or more talented. It's to appreciate what you do and to know that, like all things, practice makes perfect.

Well, maybe not perfect. After all, "perfect" is an unattainable abstraction like "infinity." But as I've learned in my studies of calculus, you can whittle away at a perfect infinity until it almost doesn't matter anymore.

Far out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sick Day

I was sick yesterday. Really, really sick. But I feel a little better now, thanks for asking.

So what happens when a stay-at-home dad needs to take a sick day? The go-to-work mom becomes a stay-at-home-mom for the day and the stay-at-home dad becomes a stay-in-bed dad. Baby J's condition stayed the same.

There was a whole shift in my wife's responsibilities. She had to write sub plans (which totally sucks - ask any teacher), care for baby, and tend to a sick husband. It was like she had to do her job, my job, and play nursemaid all at the same time.

So hooray for my supportive wife!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mall Playland Part 3 - Big Boys

Today at the mall playland, one of my favorite places to take Baby J, two older boys, I'd guess ages 10 or 11, took off their shoes and joined the little tykes in the play area. They were really getting a kick out of how ridiculously small everything was for them and played unashamedly for a good, long while. Baby J was fascinated by their behavior and quickly made her way over to meet these two big boys.

Big boys are typically much more physical than toddlers so there was a bit of apprehension on my part going into this encounter. Part of me was upset that these big kids were playing in an area designed for little kids and usurping all the fun stuff from the hapless toddlers.

But I saw how they truly were enjoying going down the pitifully small sliding board and leaping from the caterpillar climber. They were at an age where these sorts of shenanigans would soon become scorned as childish. In a few months even, they'd probably start thinking having fun in this way wasn't cool. Perhaps they'd even adopt that wondrously dour, disconsolate disposition adolescents seem to exude at all times. Part of me felt sorry for these big boys. This fun time was almost up for them and once it was over it would never return again.

But still, what about the babies that were being displaced by the rough-and-tumble big boys? What are they to do? Well, first off, no one got hurt so I suppose it's a non-issue. And even if they had, it probably wouldn't have been a big deal. It might have even created an opportunity to talk about how we could share resources. Secondly, the babies in the playland seemed quite content to drool on themselves and watch the big boys cavort. They didn't need to use the caterpillar climber at that very moment.

So, in the end, I guess two big boys in the baby area isn't really a big deal. Teens and tweens often marginalized. Discouraged, admonished, and mistrusted for basically being themselves. As long as everybody plays safe with each other, I suppose everything is fine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Where's Your Nose?

Here's some earth-shaking news for you: Baby J knows where her nose is! If you ask her, "where is your nose," she'll point to it. All that Heads, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes stuff is finally paying off.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Long Rant on Gender Roles and Education

This post is taken from a paper I wrote for on of my classes. It's long and loquacious but I think it raises some interesting questions about gender roles and how we raise our kids.

As long as there have been men and women, there have been gender differences. Aside from the obvious anatomical variety, there are myriad ways in which the two sexes differ from one another, subtleties explored endlessly in countless relationship self-help programs and in hackneyed stand-up comedy routines. Science has long sought to quantify these differences in a meaningful way and has been given a great boon in recent decades with the advent of new brain research and new technologies. Naturally, brain research on the differences between males and females has trickled into the classroom and posed many provocative questions.

But is the research being properly interpreted in classrooms or is it simply used to further codify culturally based gender norms? To gain insight on this question, I’d like to take a moment and reflect on a recent finding and how it could be applied to classroom routine.

There are two types of cells in the human eye, one that sees color and hue and another that sees movement. Women generally have a greater concentration of the color and hue sensing cells and men generally have more of the movement sensing variety. It’s been suggested that classrooms be fitted not only with traditional colored placards (i.e. word walls which in theory benefit females) but with hanging mobiles for the boys.

This is only an example, but it seems like a big stretch to me. Aren’t there a great many other factors that influence how males and females would gather understanding in a print rich environment? Is this the kind of physiological difference that should be considered when setting up a classroom? Though there is a lot of research suggesting that boys and girls would benefit from being separated from one another in schools, taught differently, but I’m dubious these claims. It feels to me like making a big jump from the realm of scientific research to the realm of educational practice.

I am currently a stay-at-home dad. My wife gets up each morning and goes to work to win the bread while I change diapers and care for baby. It’s a gender role reversal and though the case could be made that the female of the species is better equipped to handle child-rearing, it’s the model that works for our family at this place in time. My sole financial contribution to the family comes to us by way of my writing, a field of work where women are said to excel. Again, a bit of a gender role reversal. Furthermore, when I return to work, I’ll resume my place in the classroom as a teacher a career dominated by women. I’m positively male yet I do not fit into my gender roles with ease. I hate watching sports. In fact, I find pretty much all sorts of competition to be pointless, distracting, and downright pernicious. It’s somewhat insulting to me that some might consider me physically ill equipped to be successful in my many endeavors (teaching, writing, etc.). Perhaps my relative lack of color and hue sensing cells put me at a disadvantage when I sit down to illustrate a story but it would be a gross overgeneralization to suggest that I pass the task along to my wife and her more refined eyes so I can go look at mobiles.

Too much is made of gender differences in the classroom and the new science coming out, in my opinion, does little more than further entrench deep seated ideas of gender identity. I think it is good to be mindful of the new information available today but it is more important to interpret it in a larger context.

For example, there are more men than women at high-level math and science classes. If we were to jump to conclusions we might say that is because men’s brains are clearly wired to handle such abstractions. There may even be fMRI imaging to support this hypothesis. But this could be confusing correlation with causality and actually do more to slant out perceptions of men and women than elucidate the issue. Perhaps it gives credence to prejudgments and prejudices. Perhaps we should look at how teachers work with boys and girls, and see if that has anything to do with the disparity. Maybe it’s not a physiological advantage for men. Maybe it’s just generations and generations of educators make small, unconscious, and seemingly insignificant decisions in the classroom that accumulate over the years into a gender gap.

I’d like to do the research myself but, if you’ll excuse me, I have a diaper to change.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

FIRSTS: Message

Baby J loves to mash her hands on keyboards. Usually, I'm hesitant to let her do so. Experts advise that children under 2 steer clear of television and computers. Also, Baby J has a tendency to drool on things and a computer keyboard is not really something that should get wet. The strange way in which she mashes seems to cause funny things to happen on the computer (i.e. files moving around, obscure programs being opened, etc.). Finally, she pounds with such force sometimes I'm afraid she'll break a few keys.

But then I got to wondering...

What would Baby J type out if given the opportunity? Perhaps she has some hidden, secret message for me. Perhaps she's keen to play with a keyboard because she knows that's the only way she can get her message out. So today I let her have her way with the keyboard. I opened a new Word document to record the secret message. Here it is in its entirety:

egfth] mtxvrbc j cj ccbv/j nm mhnoooooooooooooooooooo,. yhnrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrbhm

Oddly enough, this jumble of letters is not unlike many of the sounds she makes. She says something akin to "egfth" all the time.

Feel free to try and crack her code. There could be precious insight in there somewhere.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Poo Poo Palace

There are certain times during the day that I need Baby J to fill up her daiper. I know it sounds weird but that's just the way it is. Our daily routine works best if she poops on schedule. And luckily, she is happy to obliged. I tell you, you could set a clock by my baby's poops.

Whenever it gets close to poop time and she has yet to produce, I put her into what has come to be known as the Poo Poo Palace.

The name started as an offhand remark and has kind of worked its way into the lexicon my wife and I share when discussing all things baby. It's a small enclosed area filled with toys and books and a mirror. And, 9 times out of 10, when you stick Baby J in the Poo Poo Palace, she does her business soon after. It's pretty wild but it works for now. Who knows why.

Listening To: Superfly by Curtis Mayfield


Friday, March 5, 2010

5:00 Wall

The hardest part of my day is between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.

I'm not sure if it's a blood-sugar thing, but I just totally run out of gas in that last hour before my wife comes home from work. By 5:00, I absolutely hit a wall and can hardly hold my head up.

Maybe it's because my day begins at 7:30 and goes straight through until that 5:00 mark.
Maybe it's just a natural lull in those biorhythms people used to talk about years ago.
Maybe it's all psychological.

Either way, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who struggles at the end of my shift. How do you overcome your "5:00 Wall?"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baby Briefing

Whenever my wife comes home from work and settles in, she asks how the baby has been. I run down the number of hours slept, poops had, things eaten, and then a general commentary on her disposition.

Whenever I come home from classes at night, I flop down and ask my wife how the baby has been. Then, it is her turn do the numbers. What time Baby J went to sleep, how many diaper changes, etc.

It's funny to me that we give each other these baby briefings upon returning home each day. It's like a military briefing.

Operation Kaka, 1600 hours, target disposed, new diaper acquired.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Week

I try to take Baby J to various storytime/playgroups in the area. They each are run by librarians and they each have their own distinctive ambiance or climate. This sort of ethereal quality usually stems from the personality of the librarian in charge. As a disclaimer, I'd like to say that no group is better than any other but they do vary a great deal in style.

Monday
This playgroup is organized, timely, and efficient. The librarian in charge is also very efficient and organized. Each kid has a nametag a spot to sit and a predictable routine to follow. It's starts right on time and ends right on time. Because of high demand there is a lottery held each session to fill available spots. It's hard for Baby J to hold still for this one sometimes. Parents here do not talk to each other too much.

Tuesday
This playgroup is a lot more loose in terms of structure and timeliness but it is full of personality and has tons of toys. The librarian switches things up as she feels she needs to and runs things on a more seemingly intuitive basis. She is a fun, easy-going lady and her playgroup is also fun and easy-going. It starts whenever and goes for as long as it needs to go. It's format is ideal for Baby J. The parents talk to each other a lot at this one.

Wednesday
This playgroup does not require a sign up but is very popular. There are songs, toys, books, chants, etc. and they come one right after another in a routine. We all sit with our kids on the floor and sing, play, read, or chant along as called for. I haven't gone to this one much because Baby J doesn't seem that into it. The librarian in charge has her thing down and I think it will just take time for Baby J to understand how it works. The parents hardly talk at all for this one. It's like being in school. Sometimes they whisper to each other so as not to interrupt.

Thursday
This playgroup is run by a very friendly and cheerful lady who is also very accommodating to the needs of toddlers. There are lots of toys, stuffed animals, and tons of smiles. The librarian clearly likes running storytime and the parents are chatty and happy. There's lots to do and it always seems over in a flash.

Friday
This playgroup is for older kids but the lady in charge seems to really like Baby J so we stop by to see her more than anything else. The librarian is quite old and has a very grandmotherly way about her. Her storytime is very old-school in a great big room with a tiled floor. It's like going to stay at your grandma's house, full of warmth and smiles but not exactly set up for little kids. The parents don't socialize too much at this group.

Baby J usually hangs with mom on Saturday and Sunday mornings. So there you have it. A brief summary of my week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hands Off

When is it okay for a stranger to put their hands on your toddler?

There's been a few instances recently where strangers have felt the need to physically interact with Baby J. A woman at the library grabbed her baby fist so she could type on the keyboard. Another woman picked her up so she wouldn't cut in line at the slide in the mall playland. A third lady used her foot to usher Baby J away from her son's Frosty from Wendy's.

Each of these situations required adult intervention but I must say I am very uncomfortable when strangers get physical with Baby J. It's unnerving. Especially the lady who used her foot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tower of (Babe)l

Baby J babbles all day long. It's a jumbled assortment of vowel sounds, coos, and burbles and it's completely adorable. But aside from being cute, I find it fascinating that all babies pick up language the way they do. For as long as human beings have been talking to each other, their children have been babbling along beside them in a unique brand of gibberish.

A baby's gibberish of course will resemble whatever language is being spoken nearby, but, generally, I'd wager that babies all babble the same way and have since time immemorial. I believe they speak a single baby language.

I wouldn't go so far as to say they all understand each other in a deep, meaningful way. But, when one baby cries, others can easily comprehend that their friend is sad. When one baby moans in frustration, the others know who in the room is really pissed off.

So perhaps baby babble is universal. Perhaps all babies sort of understand each other. Perhaps when the God of the Old Testament threw a hissy-fit over the Tower of Babel and made everybody speak different languages, He forgot about the babies.