Friday, April 30, 2010

No Fear

Do you remember when the "No Fear" brand merchandise made it's debut on tee shirts and truck bumper stickers? It happened somewhere in the mid 90's if I recall correctly.

When I first saw this brand logo, I remember thinking how strange it would be for a person to live without fear, to be totally without a basic human emotion.

Well, today's post is a link to a story I just found about a rare genetic disorder called Williams Syndrome which creates utter and absolute fearlessness in people afflicted with it. Check it out here. It's about a young girl growing up without fear and her parents' anxiety at her abject trust in other people.

Makes you wonder what the role the dark emotion of fear plays in parenting.

Listening To: Deltron 3030 by Deltron 3030

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Baby J is becoming more adept at holding pens and pencils. She shows a preference for her right hand and seems to have the general idea about the proper kinds of grasps to use when holding a writing implement.

Today, she sat down with a pad of paper and a pen and started scribbling. She was playing so nicely, I permitted myself a momentary diversion and sat down to pluck out a little song on my guitar. When I looked up again, I saw that Baby J had wandered off and was scribbling on the wall with the pen.

Future graffiti artist?

Listening To: Latin by Holy F***

Since this is a blog about parenting and children, I felt it was appropriate to cut out the obscenities above. I hope you will excuse my censorship. Holy F*** is a great band and I whole heartedly recommend them to any music fan despite their naughty name. Also, if you like their stuff, check out the Japanese band Rovo

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Baby J has pretty much lost all interest in the mall playland. Whenever I take her there now, she immediately leaves and heads for the mall proper. Rather than fight it, I just follow her around the mall these days.

Today, she wandered into a store called Spencer's which sells all manner of novelty nick nacks and pornographic themed paraphenalia. She waddled over to a shelf and picked up a cake mold in the shape uniquely male appedage. She then pretended to start eating food out of it as if it were one her plates from back home. It was just plain wrong on at least six distinctly differnt levels. I intervened.

It was one of the more bizarre things I've had to pry out of my daughters tiny fists but once I got the cake plate away from her she forgot all about it and wandered back out into the mall.

I liked it better when she just played in the playland.

Listening To: What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Baby Talk

Now that Baby J has started using words to get what she wants, we've started using more baby talk to encourage her language development. But I can't seem to figure out why we use "kitty cat" instead of just plain old "cat" and why we say "dolly" instead of "doll." Why "bye bye" instead of just "bye?" Why "daddy" instead of "dad?"

Why complicate things?

Maybe it's because it's cute as all hell to hear babies say "kitty cat" and "bye bye" and "daddy." Maybe by stretching out the words and using more syllables or repetitions we expose babies to a greater variety of sounds. Maybe it's just because that's what people do. Maybe by using words we don't ordinarily say in adult conversation, children know we are speaking directly to them in a unique, shared parent baby dialect.

Maybe I'm giving this too much though. Bye bye!

Monday, April 26, 2010


A few years back we pick up an amazingly pregnant stray cat off the street. She then promptly had her kittens in a box in our basement. What I remember most of those early days of "kittenhood" is how the mother cat would stretch out on the floor for the babies to nurse. The kittens would start to purr. Then, mom would start to purr. Even today, if you pat her belly she purrs. The whole lot of them would squish together on the floor and purr and let each other know they were happy.

the happy family

I think in some respects laughter is the human way to purr. There is nothing more delightful to the ears of a parent than the sound of their little ones giggling with delight. It's why tickling is such a big hit with parents. When they laugh, we laugh, and we all know that everyone's happy.

Listening To: Purr by Dance Hall Crashers

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Advice - Version 2

A while back, I posted some advice for stay-at-home parents. Today, I have a few more suggestions that I'd like to share that compliment my earlier post.
  1. Sleep - I can tell you there is no sound in this world more grating and irritating than the sound of a crying child when you are tired. All babies cry. That's just a fact of nature. If you don't get the rest you need, that crying will drive you over the edge. So nap, snooze, etc. It benefits both you and the baby.
  2. Drive - Even if you don't have anywhere to go, even if you feel guilty about unnecessarily burning fossil fuels, go for a drive at least once a day if you can manage it. When your kid is in their car seat they are immobile, comfortable, safe, and generally pretty happy. There are very few situations were you can be granted this much peace of mind at a single instant.
One last note before I sign off. The aforementioned suggestions are mutually exclusive. Do not try them simultaneously.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Whenever I leave home by myself on the weekends or when I have classes in the evening, my mind is constantly tugged towards home. There are thoughts of the baby, thoughts of my wife, thoughts of all the crap I have to do and the bills I have to pay.

My home is my planet and there is an intense gravitational field pulling me towards it at all time.

I don't it to sound like I'm feeling trapped or stuck or anything. Actually, I spent many years drifting about and I'm more than happy to have been puled into orbit around my family. In a time when our universe is literally being driven apart by dark energy, it's nice to have a localized mutual attraction to keep you centered.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Unpleasant Lady?

At the library today, Baby J waddled over to the computers and started touching the mouse at an unused terminal. A woman at the adjacent terminal informed me that the mouse was not a toy. I told her Baby J would be okay with the mouse, she wouldn't break it.

That wasn't enough for this woman. She wouldn't let it go. She insisted that I take Baby J to the children's department and let her play there. I tried to be polite and tell the woman that we would be fine without her guidance but she kept on pushing the issue. Ultimately, she gave up when I made it clear that this North Going Zax wasn't going to budge.

Eventually, Baby J tired of touching the mouse and wandered off to go touch other things. I followed behind but my thoughts were still stuck on the strange altercation I'd just had. What was that lady's problem? Was she having a bad day and lashing out at whatever baby happened to toddle by? Did she simply not like children? Was it some kind of fundamental personality quirk which demanded a place for everything and everything in it's place (i.e. children stay in the children's section)? I'm not really sure what her problem was but clearly a curious child was unwelcome in her presence.

Thankfully, her vexatious disposition did not penetrate Baby J's sphere of consciousness. I tried not to let in into mine either. Had Baby J been older and understood that this lady didn't want her around, I might have said to my daughter that there are many unpleasant individuals in the world and that we can't let them make us upset or push us around.

Immediately after leaving the computers, I had a nice conversation with a mom. Baby J played with her daughter very nicely and the balance of the universe was restored once more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Baby J can now officially feed herself with a spoon. Give her a bowl of food and a spoon and she'll shovel it in. Now, I just kind of sit by with a back up spoon to help her out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I've been reading works by Henry David Thoreau, specifically Walden and Civil Disobedience. I'm discovering them for the first time and finding that they are truly amazing. The part that really strikes a chord with me is the importance of individual responsibility in relation to government. That when a law is unjust, the individual has a responsibility to take a stand against it (see Gandhi and MLK - both of whom were profoundly influenced by Thoreau). In short, we each have a responsibility to our neighbors and must be willing to make sacrifices for them.

But the issue never really addressed in these texts is the responsibility we have to our families. I understand that we must stand up for what we believe but what if it's to the detriment to our children? Thoreau never had a family so for him this is a nonissue. Gandhi had a strained relationship with some of his kids. A few others spent time in jail for following him. When Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, he left behind a wife and four children.

who's your daddy?

I'm not being critical of any of these great men. I'm just wondering where family fit into the equation for them on a practical level. How does it fit in for anyone who hears a higher calling? I guess right now I'm much too tied up in changing diapers to go out and change the world.

That all might change if there's ever a harsh diaper tax but so far things are okay.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Cat Shriek

Baby J loves to interact with the cats but the feeling is not mutual.

They have a tendency to slink away when she comes into the room. The go up high, behind a baby gate, or under a couch to get out of reach. They glare at her from the relative safety gloating in their ability to outmaneuver her. But, recently, Baby J has found that if she shrieks at the highest pitch and decibel level she can produce, the sound has a rare and amusing effect on nearby felines. Even if they are out of reach.

This cat shriek is an ear splitting, piercing sound and, by wielding it frequently, Baby J has found that there's more than one way to irritate a cat.

Monday, April 19, 2010

MMR shot

Baby J just had her Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) shots not long ago. She howled with pain and screamed at us and we tried to console her as best we could. To me, it's secretly funny how dramatic kids are about getting shots. I know their terror is real but, honestly, they go so over the top sometimes, it's almost comical.

But then I had to get another MMR shot for my graduate school and, let me tell you, it was no laughing matter. Apparently, I had forgotten this since my last MMR shot was so long ago but it is a really painful vaccination. It burns like someone has just injected hot coffee into your arm. It doesn't last long but it's pretty intense for those few moments. It's no wonder Baby J gets so worked up when the nurse puts on her rubber gloves and brings out the alcohol swabs. I wanted someone to console me, give me a stuffed animal, and feed me Cheerios one at a time. It is a crime that I did not get a sticker when it was all said and done with.

We, as adults, should try to remember what it's like for kids to go through these ordeals. We have to remember that shots really do hurt. That it really is scary to think that there are monsters under your bed that want to kill you and eat you. These are the nightmarish parts of childhood and if we laugh at how ridiculous they are or do not acknowledge the serious stress they cause kids, we run the risk of trivializing our children's feelings or making them feel that they have foolish emotions.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

FIRSTS: Visit to the Dentist

We took Baby J to the pediatric dentist today for her first visit. To keep her entertained, I kept a supply of toys and stuffed animals at hand. As we cycled through the toys and Baby J's patience was wearing thin, I picked up a trial sized tube of kids' toothpaste which she quickly fell in love with. It looked like this:

These trial sized toothpaste tubes look harmless enough but don't be deceived. Those two corners at the top are razor sharp. Basically, what I did was hand my baby a shiv which she proceeded to stab me with repeatedly. She howled when I tried to take it away.

At the end of the visit, we got the shiv away from her and she occupied herself with less lethal trinkets. And I learned that going to the dentist is a unpleasant experience even when you're not the one in the chair.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Changing Station?

Today I was at the library with Baby J when I caught that familiar, foul odor of a poopie diaper. I scooped her up into my arms and made my way to the men's room. To my befuddlement, there was no changing table there. Next, I went and found the family bathroom in the children's section but there wasn't a changing table their either.

I happened to see the custodian walking by so asked him if there was a changing table somewhere in the building. He told me it was in the ladies' room. He even offered to wait outside so no one would go in.

For me, the ladies' room might as well be another dimension, a parallel universe where the rules I've always understood no longer apply. And I don't think I'm the only guy who feels this way. When men go to the bathroom, we keep eyes forward, we don't talk to anyone, and we get out as soon as possible. But in the ladies' room, as far as I can tell, it's a social experience. They go in together. They linger. They talk to each other. I've even heard reports that some ladies' rooms have decorative little sitting areas.

Like I said, another dimension.

So it was with a mix of trepidation and wonder that I entered the ladies' room at the library in search of the fabled changing table. Luckily, I had the whole place to myself which excused my from embarassing interactions with startled ladies. I tried to be quick and keep my eyes forward like I would in the men's room so I didn't get a good look around. I can tell you, at the very least, that I did not see a sitting area. And I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed by this.

Anyway, when I finally got Baby J on the table and in position, I removed her diaper to see that she was totally clean. It had all been a false alarm. A deceptive baby fart masquerading as the real deal!

So, what can we learn from today's experience? Babies sometimes have nasty farts. There is no sitting area in the ladies' room at my local library. Also, childrearing is typically associated with women and thus public buildings do not always provide changing stations in both bathrooms. It's a woman's world - I'm just changing diapers in it.

Listening To: Be a Bright Blue by Saxon Shore

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kitty Cat and Apples

Baby J's language acquisition has been picking up steam in recent weeks. Right now, she's at a point where words are used for very general categories. For example, everything with four legs and fur is a "kitty cat." Everything that is a fruit is an "apple" (with the exception of bananas - they are "bleh-blehs"). It'll probably be some time before Baby J figures out that she's not quite using her words properly but, until then, I suppose her present state of specificity is good enough.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day

Today is April 15th, the day all tax forms are due to the IRS. It is also the day the Titanic sunk but that's beside the point.

This year, my wife and I got a tax break because Baby J was born in 2009. Although I very much appreciate Uncle Sam's generosity, I can't help but wonder why such a tax credit is offered. Is the government just trying to make things easier on parents, giving them a little cushion in that first, frustrating year? Or is it an incentive to make people want to have kids? Or is it some other ploy hatched by officials at the IRS that they're keeping secret from all of us? I smell a whiff of stinking conspiracy. Or maybe Baby J just has a poopie diaper.

Either way, let us take this opportunity to thank the IRS for all their good work and to remember the people who lost their lives when the Titanic went down. My heart will go on.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Couch Potato/Hot Potato

There are all kinds of cues that tell us when Baby J is tired. For example, her head gets very hot. Also, she starts up strange, small, repetitive behaviors that involve rolling or marching around. My wife and I call this spinning.

Anyway, now there's a new way for us to know, Baby J is ready for bed. Now, she gets up on the couch and "spins" until her hair is sweaty and matted to her head. I'm not sure why she wants to do this on the couch but it seems to be her new thing.

I guess we all need a way to relax before bed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Baby J has an insatiable appetite. The doctor told us to feed as much as we had and that eventually she'd get tired of eating and stop. But she never stops. She would eat all night and all day if we let her. The only way we know to stop feeding Baby J is when her belly is round and distended to the point of being obscene. It worries my wife and, I have to admit, I'm a bit perplexed by the freakishly large capacity of her baby belly. But, she seems happy so I guess we're happy. And now I truly understand the concept of "another mouth to feed."

Feed me!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Politics of Parenting

I'm going to make a couple bold, sweeping statements.
Conservatives draw political identity from the past, the way things were. They urge caution when trying new things.
Liberals draw their political identity from the future, how things will be. They are more open to new ideas than their counterparts.
I'm super generalizing here but it's a pretty good place to start today's post.

Baby J is always running around, trying to eat things and touch electrical outlets. She wants to push things off the table and take the batteries out of the remote control. In essence, Baby J is always interested in trying something new and finding interesting ways to use things. I spend a better part of my day running around trying to take things out of her mouth, keeping her fingers away from wall sockets, picking things up off the floor, and putting the batteries back in the remote control. In essence, I put everything back the way it was and push Baby J to use things safely.

It's not hard to see where I'm going with this. Children are liberal in their inclinations. Parents are conservatives. It is the interplay between these two ideologies that shape family dynamics. Of course, both are necessary for kids to flourish but we should all remember that children will grow up to live in the future, not our past.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Diva Dad

I'd like to take a break from the reflective, contemplative tone these posts generally take on to indulge in a bit of whining. It's not something I like to do but I've had some stuff clouding up the dad parts of my brain for a while and I feel the need to purge. So here goes.

I've given up on trying to explain to people what it's like to be a stay-at-home dad. I just let people assume that I'm idle or free from responsibilities. It's easier than trying to argue that I accomplish a lot on a daily basis or that my day is actually pretty exhausting. I think folks just don't get it because there aren't too many stay-at-home dads out there. People have their misconceptions about what it's like and they stick to those.

Stay-at-home moms have a pretty good handle on what it's like but I don't think they quite get it either. I think being a stay-at-home dad can be even more isolating than being a stay-at-home mom. There's no dad's club for me to join. There's very little in the way of a support network out there. I don't really have much to say to other moms when I meet them. It's like we're operating on two totally different wavelengths.

Furthermore, and forgive me if I'm going into the range of TMI, there's all kinds of weird stuff that happens to the male ego once a man assumes the role of stay-at-home dad. It's not a sexy, glamorous, or widely respected role in our society. At best, it's probably considered superfluous. That's a terrible way for anyone to feel. But I think it can be especially difficult for a guy to feel.

There is no parity between moms and dads. There's an annual moms' night out at the mall. There's a bajillion mom exercise and social clubs in the area. There's even a universally accepted term for hot moms. By contrast, there is no dads' night out. Dads don't socialize. And I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a DILF.

Okay, that's enough whoa-is-me/nobody-understands-me stuff. I think I feel a little lighter now. I've unburdened my soul and feel ready to begin my daddy duties anew. Tomorrow I will try to post upbeat and uplifting vignettes.

Diva Dad, signing off.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bring Back, Bring Back...

We sing lots of songs to Baby J. One of her favorites is "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." I have no clue where we learned this one or why we sing it to her but we do.

In case you don't know, the song goes like this:
My bonnie lies over the ocean.
My bonnie lies over the sea.
My bonnie lies of the ocean.
Oh, bring back my bonnie to me.

Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my bonnie to me, to me.
Bring back, bring back
Oh, bring back my bonnie to me.
Baby J especially likes the bring back, bring back part. She'll sing along with you when you get to that part or sometimes she'll just walk up to you and say "bring back, bring back" as a sort of request.

Combined with her love of stereos, iPods, and CD players, I'm think this puts Baby J in a career path of DJ.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Baby J has developed an affinity for a stuffed tiger that my wife received as a graduation present. She calls it by name, "tiger." Actually, she calls it "taiga"which is Russian for "marshy pine forest." I kid you not. Look it up. My baby speaks Russian.

Anyway, today at playgroup, she waddled over to a new stuffed tiger and correctly identified it as a "taiga" and then she played with it for a while.

I left me wondering if she will continue to be interested in tiger toys. Will tigers become her favorite animal? Is this how kids develop favorites? Is it just a random association that forms at some point?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FIRSTS: Tantrum

Baby J lost it today in a way she never has before.

On our way into the library today I wouldn't let her run around in the parking lot. So she threw her first, full-on, real tantrum.

She threw herself on the ground and shouted and squealed and cried and hollered. One of the librarians came out because she thought two cats were fighting. Eventually, the storm passed and we went inside.

Though this was the first tantrum, I'm going to guess it won't be the last.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trained Disobedience

There are many unstable and unpleasant people in this world.

Kids need to be able to trust adults in their lives. But, at the same time, they need to be able to distinguish between who is a positive adult influence and who is not. We can't have kids blindly trusting every single adult they meet, can we?

There needs to be a level of trained disobedience in kids. They need to practice disobeying adults they don't trust. Perhaps such learned defiance would have saved many a child from being involved in the current Catholic church sex abuse scandal. I think we'd all prefer to have children who are dubious of certain adults rather than children who have fallen victim to sexual predators.

So, now that I've made the case for trained disobedience, how do I intend to get Baby J where I think she needs to be? I have no idea. Maybe she'll be like me and be naturally skeptical of authority. Who knows?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Release the Kraken!

When I was growing up, I loved Clash of the Titans. So I was first in line to see the remake when it came out on Friday.

Actually, I wasn't technically the first person in line. There were other people in the theater by the time I got there. In fact, that's what I'd like to blog about today. There was one couple sitting behind me who had brought their baby boy to the showing. Mom was on one side, dad was on the other, and babe was sprawled out on a blanket on the seat fast asleep.

I was too wrapped up in the movie to really consider this but after we'd left, I wondered how that whole baby-sleeping-at-movie thing came about.
  • How did that guy talk his wife into letting him bring the baby along with them?
  • Why didn't they get a babysitter?
  • Did they have to pay for the baby to see Clash of the Titans?
  • If so, how much?
  • How did the baby sleep through Clash of the Titans?
  • Why did Perseus have a buzz cut?
I don't have the answers to any of these questions and I probably never will. All I know for sure is that that little boy will one day grow to be a great hero and that he alone will decide the fate of a mighty battle between mortals and their gods.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mom Network

In response to this post my mother told me that I was never as unsupervised as I thought I was as a kid. She alluded to a "mom network" that kept watch over the children in the neighborhood. A sort of community based method of child rearing. Apparently, there were dangers in the world when I was growing up just like there are today. The difference was we had a strong community presence in our lives to buffer us from really hazardous stuff.

In conclusion, it would seem a breakdown in community has made the world a more threatening place, not an upsurge in threats.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Violence Again

At the library the other day, Baby J was wandering about. In her travels, she happened past a young manstanding with his mother at the DVD's. She looked at him and smiled. He shoulted, "no," and took a swipe at her.

The boy's mother immediately admonished her son but, as I leaned in and scooped up Baby J, I was a little disappointed by the content of her rebuke. It was something like this:

She didn't do anthing to you. You have no right to hit her.

Maybe I was just a little upset that Baby J was once again the victim of bae-onbabe violence but I felt this mom had it befudded when it came to explaining why her son was in the wrong. When is it ever okay for a child to hit another child for some sort of perceived offense? Aren't we supposed to teach our children to solve their problems peacably? I know that kids scrap and tussle from time to time but as a parent, aren't we supposed to be the adults and say that there are better ways of dealing with disputes?

So, did I say anything to this mother? Nope. I just punched her.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


The recalls finally hit us!

After dodging the bullet over the course of several big recalls, our baby gates were recalled yesterday. Apparently, they are easily broken by babies and since they sit at the top of the stairs, they can create a dangerous situation.

You have to wonder why so many products are recalled these days. Shoddy craftsmenship. Toxic components. Sudden acceleration. Is it that the mass-produced widgets that fill our lives are so complex that snags are bound to form? Or is it that product quality is foresaken in the name of a company's bottom line?

I'm no economist so I coulndn't say for sure. All I know is I need a new baby gate now.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sudden Shifts

Baby J's development seems to happen in sudden shifts. Recently, she's been picking up words and it seems to me to be all of a sudden. For so long, there was nothing but babble. Now, she repeats things you say and calls things by their proper name.

But these sudden shifts don't apply only to language development. It was the same with her teeth. For a long time, she didn't have any. Then, five suddenly came in all with out warning.

I guess they call them growth spurts for a reason. Otherwise, they'd call them growth slow and smooth transitions.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Shoeless in the Car

Baby J has recently developed a habit of removing her shoes and socks in the car.

It's a strange thing to do but I guess when you're a baby and you're stuck in a car seat with nothing to do and nowhere to go, you find things with which to busy your baby hands. When I was a kid, I used to do all kinds of crazy stuff on long car trips. I just hope Baby J is satisfied with removing her shoes and socks and stops there. I don't want her stripping down in the back seat when we drive the hour and a half to go see grandma and grandpa.


Happy April Fool's Day, by the way.