Monday, November 30, 2009

Bubble Boy

There's an episode of 30 Rock where one character explains to another that attractive people live in a "bubble," where their good looks shield them from the less pleasant aspects of human behavior. Recently The Boy was at a birthday party and one of the mothers commented on him being the most adorable kid there. It struck me that, despite my genes, he may possibly grow up to be charismatic.

The thought worries me. I'm prepared for most talks about life. I'll be able to guide or bluff my way through most topics, but the ability to talk to someone to get what you want is pure sorcery to me. Making a good first impression is a wondrous thing, and will require a "with great power comes great responsibility" talk.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Hallows Eve

The Boy's first official Trick-or-Treat event went very well. Dressed as Bob the Builder, he went door to door and mumbled until they gave him candy. His initial hesitation evaporated when we got caught in the wake of a mob of children and he became part of the crowd.

We didn't stay out long, since sugar is the Devil's work, and so went home to dole out candy of our own. This turned out to be The Boy's favorite part. We'd sit on the porch, keeping an eager eye out for interlopers, then I'd hold the bowl while The Boy would carefully put candy bars in each bag. He got so into it that he didn't even mind when I had to dip into his own stash when we ran low. As it is he still has some pieces left in his bag but doesn't seem all that interested in them. This strikes me as odd, considering his candy radar can pick up the smallest tic-tac buried under the couch cushions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cruel Tricks For Dear Friends

Fatherhood is full of little joys; your child's smile, watching him discover the world, yada yada yada. But my favorite moments are when I mess with his head.

It started innocently enough. We were taking a break from our usual game of Chase The Boy with Lego Vehicles, and I had Mister Plow (no relation to Homer Simpson) eat a Lego piece. It was a simple enough trick. I brought Mister Plow down and knocked the piece into my hand and palmed it. It wasn't up to David Copperfield's skill level but it was quick enough to fool The Boy.

He's three now, and wise in the ways of the world. He has a pretty good idea that inanimate objects don't eat each other. I then picked up the plow with both hands and spat the piece back out, another sleight of hand beyond his perception. He gave me a perfect "you're putting me on" look and insisted I do it again. And again. I eventually showed him the trick, which sparked his interest even more. So I spent a good ten minutes going over the moves until he got distracted by a piece of string.

I toyed briefly with the thought of keeping it a secret, just to make the world (and me) a bit more mysterious. But kids have enough to figure out in a Newtonian universe, much less a quantum one. I don't need to add magic to the mix.

Besides, Penn & Teller have made a living showing people that the joy isn't in seeing the trick, but in appreciating how it's done. But for The Boy's fourth birthday, when I pull a Lego rabbit out of a hat, that secret I'm taking with me to the grave.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy birthday to you

We had The Boy's third birthday party this weekend. Technically, his birthday was the week before and he woke up that day demanding cake. I had to explain to him that due to scheduling issues we were going to observe it on a different day, like President's Day, and if it was good enough for George Washington then it was damn well good enough for him.

That didn't seem to mollify him, though, so we went out to breakfast at the local diner and had cake for dessert. That was the highlight of the day, since he then proceeded to bang his head at the playground and get stung by a yellow jacket at the train museum, so all in all it wasn't a great b-day for him.

Anyway, the party went well and he really enjoys the gifts he got, including several Bob the Builder toys and a large concrete mixer. (You can tell he likes them because he's already trying to take them apart.)

Birthday gifts have always been a foreign concept to me. When I was a wee lad we'd have our cake and ice cream and that would be it. For a few years we'd get a buck or two in our birthday cards, during that sweet spot of our youths when the relatives thought we'd be old enough to appreciate cash and young enough to not be able to mow lawns to earn our bread. But presents were right out. I still remember one time, probably around age ten or so, when a friend of mine gave me a Peanuts puzzle for my birthday and I looked at him like he had two heads.

My neglected childhood aside, I do worry about how much is too much. As a New Englander it's been ingrained into me to resist frivolous spending, and a play room filled with unused toys constitutes "spoiling" the child. On the other hand, it wouldn't have killed me to get a freakin' Omega Supreme Transformer when I was a kid.

We've been pretty good up to this point, doling out gifts one at a time and only after The Boy has harped on it for several weeks, but I'm sure that'll get harder and harder as he grows up and learns how to push our buttons.

Or rather, push The Wife's buttons, since with me he'll be competing with several generations of New England breeding. Ayuh.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There be monsters!

The other night The Boy ran to his mother, claiming there was a monster outside, and jumped into her arms. Naturally, this didn't sit well with me. Pulling him away from his mother's comforting bosom, I put The Boy on my knee and explained the situation.

First, I'm twice his mother's size so if he's looking for someone to hide behind it's gonna be me. I mean really, all The Wife would be able to do is scream at the thing and flail her little arms. Whereas I am freakishly strong and could easily chuck furniture at anything foolish enough to come slobbering at my doorstep.

Second, and most important, I'm the one with the training. The Wife wouldn't know a ghost from the Bogeyman. Does she know the best times to hide under the blanket vs. whipping out the flashlight? Would she know what storybooks are best used as throwing stars at anything creeping out of the closet? I think not!

For some reason The Boy has become obsessed with monsters lately. Every dimly-lit room has a monster in it now, especially if it's the bedroom around bedtime. The Wife made a futile attempt at telling him there's no such thing as monsters, but I quickly undermined that by teaching him proper monster warfare. Every enemy has its weakness, and the typical monster can't defend itself against a good punch in the nose. Some toys can make good bludgeoning weapons, but really your best bet is to smack it in the schnoz.

I wasn't sure how effective my talks were until one night I heard him walk into the dark bedroom and shout, "Take that, monster!" It did my heart proud.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Whyfor why?

The Boy's favorite word lately is "why." I can't even get through a sentence before he blurts out "Why?" It leads to some awkward conversations, like:

"Simon, it's"


"going to be"


"a nice day so let's"


"go to the park."

"Wh--- okay!"

It's also forced me to do some soul searching, since it's not in my nature to just reply with "because." Why shouldn't he just push all his toys onto the floor? Do we really need to keep things up on shelves? It's only more effort to pick them up, and he's going to have them on the floor again soon enough. It's entropy at work, and there's no fighting it. Why dump more energy into a decaying system?

So then I look at him and say, "You're right. The second law of thermodynamics is on your side. The universe is slowly grinding us all to powder and our feeble attempts at stopping it only speed up our eventual return to nothingness."

To which The Wife will respond, "Why did you say that?!"

So you see, there's really no escaping that word.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thammy the Theal and other thtories

Last time we moved we lost one of The Boy's books, and I was happy to find it last night wedged between two D&D tomes. It's an okay book, but the reason I like it is because I can use my Barry White voice when I read it.

Back when The Boy only had a few books around I developed voices for most of them. Corduroy was read with a British accent, Bubba and Beau had a Texan drawl, and Sammy the Seal was lisping and a wee bit flamboyant. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Most voices were selected after several readings, some were chosen right from the start. Leonardo the Terrible Monster, for example, is told in a deep, spooky voice despite the premise of the story being a monster who is too cute to actually scare anyone.

All these books are still around, but now we get a regular influx from the library so most of our nighttime reading is too transient for me to decide on a voice. I think The Boy prefers it that way, to be honest. When I tried reading Curious George in a Victorian Englishman's voice I only got as far as, "The curious case of George the monkey" before he demanded I "read it normal."

And no son of mine should know what "normal" means!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our house, in the middle of our street

When I was young our house was the one where all the other kids would hang out. We had room to run around and my mother would always provide everyone with drinks or snacks.

The way things are looking, I doubt my place will become such a mecca for the neighborhood urchins. The Boy often plays with Christian, who lives next door and is a few years older than he. We made the mistake of feeding him snacks once or twice, and now he's a constant presence at our back door.

I, however, am a selfish bastard and see no reason why I should share my hard-earned grapes with this ragamuffin. So I'll dole out an extra portion when it's obvious The Boy wants something to eat, but there have been plenty of times when I've refused requests for apples or crackers because I could sense the invisible strings of a hungry eight year old puppet master lurking in the shadows.

I'm honestly amazed that Christian tries to mooch off us at all. At his house they get soda and candy bars. If I was him I wouldn't waste my digestive juices on lame old fruits and vegetables.

Day Care Blues

We recently put The Boy into day care. Or, as we optimistically refer to it around him, "play school."

I've got mixed feelings about it, but to be honest he could use the social interaction. The Wife and I have been slacking off with befriending other families in the neighborhood so The Boy hasn't acquired a cadre of friends his own age. With any luck being with a bunch of other boys who are more than willing to hit back when they are hit will help to curb his overly-enthusiastic playing style. Or at least get it out of his system during the day.

The biggest danger with day care is finding one you trust. We looked at a couple and found one nearby that looked good. It wasn't the biggest, or the best organized, but it had some charm to it and the kids looked lively. Unfortunately, the owner has a pretty low opinion of me.

I don't give much verbal feedback when someone is talking, especially if they're strangers. I'll stand and stare at them, waiting for them to finish whatever they're saying. Unfortunately, there are polar opposites to this, people who desperately need feedback during a conversation or they start to panic. And when these people panic, they usually talk even more. So we get stuck in this verbal sink hole from hell where they keep talking more and more and I get quieter and quieter because I'm paying less and less attention to their ramblings. The best case ending, the talker runs out of breath and faints. (Worst case ending, we both get run over by a bus.)

This was one of those sink hole moments, and I didn't have The Wife with me during the tour to provide backup, so the owner just kept going on and on and getting less and less impressed with me. It didn't help when she asked if The Boy could bring a stuffed animal or blanket that he cuddles with to provide security, and I told her that he usually curls up with construction toys. She obviously thinks I'm a typical clueless dad who thinks of his child as an alien pooping creature, but she's not the one who has to keep digging toy trucks and plastic hammers out from the bedsheets.

Anyway, The Boy adjusted well. His first day was great, and the teachers were amazed that he's never been in day care before. The second day wasn't as good, since he realized this wasn't just a one-shot event, so there was some crying. Now, after two weeks, it's hit or miss whether or not he gets upset when The Wife drops him off but he gets over it quickly enough. I give him another week before he's running the place.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

All's fair in love and berries

We don't have room for a garden, but a couple months ago I bought a strawberry and a blueberry bush to keep on our back deck. Unfortunately, The Boy is a bit too enthusiastic about picking the berries off so we get a lot of green buds that will never live to see their juicy potential. I've had to keep a careful eye on him whenever he's outside.

Another drawback is I only bought one strawberry bush, and when you only get a single berry every couple of days The Boy is all over it. I swear he's rigged some kind of alarm to that plant, because he always knows when I try to sneak out to forage. I don't blame him, because the one piece of fruit I managed to keep from him was amazingly good. I had to force him to give The Wife a piece one day, practically at gun point.

It looks like strawberry season is over but the blueberries are finally coming in. After teasing us for months with little green balls it finally offered up a single perfectly blue berry just waiting to be picked. Naturally, I seized upon my chance and picked it, and it was amazingly good. (Okay, it could have done with another few days on the stem, but still...)

The rest of the berries are starting to turn blue, which makes me think I should install a cage around the thing to keep eager hands away before it's time. Heck, maybe he and I will even offer a few to The Wife... but don't hold your breath.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Snips and snails and puppy dogs tails

The Boy and I were at the beach the other day when a seagull landed nearby with an eel in its beak. They wrestled for quite a while, with the eel trying to squirm back into the water and the bird dragging it back onto the sand, until finally the seagull got the eel's head in its mouth and swallowed it whole in several gulps. And it wasn't a small eel, either.

You'd think The Boy would be fascinated by this, but he barely looked up from his bucket of seaweed and sand. I admit that as the gruesome scene played out I became less and less sure of my desire to have him watch, but it did amaze me that he and the other kids around didn't seem to care. The adults, on the other hand, were riveted and there was quite a crowd by the time it was over.

I mildly scolded him for not wanting to watch nature at its most disgusting, but maybe it was for the best. The last thing I need is for him to wake up in the middle of the night shouting, "Bird ate eel! Bird ate eel!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fair weather muse

Between crappy weather, work stress, and family health issues it hasn't been a great few weeks for me.

Now, a true writer of funny things would channel that angst into creating jokes. I, on the other hand, am no Jack Benny and prefer to wallow in my misery, so my evenings lately have been spent playing spider solitaire and watching Japanese animation on youtube.

But now I've come up for air and should sum up the last few weeks:

My descent into slothitude began when The Wife took The Boy to Florida to visit The In-Laws, leaving me free as a bird for a week. By the end of the first day I had caught up on all my Tivo shows and successfully conquered Alpha Centauri yet again, and for the rest of the week I was actually kinda bored. Not bored enough to do chores around the house, but still. After a week of decadence it was a relief to have the family back.

We brought The Boy to see the movie UP. This was his very first movie theater experience, and I was a little concerned about how he'd react. Would he sit still? Would he talk through the whole thing? Would he freak out at the giant screen? Would he scream when we didn't get him a bunch of snacks, or would he just mug some little girl for her Junior Mints?

Well, he did just fine. He stretched out in his seat, with a big bag of popcorn within reach, and grinned through the whole thing. All during the promos he kept saying, "I like this movie!" but settled down after a while. The only times he got restless was when the action slowed down for that lame "character development" stuff, but fortunately all the other kids in the theater also started to move around and talk during those bits so he wasn't alone. Now I'm wondering what our next theater experience will be. Maybe I'll take him to Wolverine.

Speaking of which, UP was a great film. I recommend it for all ages.

Sleeping has always been a challenge in our household, but I think we've finally come to some sort of arrangement. We have a small mattress for The Boy and it's next to our bed, so he's still within easy reach of cuddles if need be. But he will frequently wake up in the middle of the night and start talking to us. The Wife is also having trouble sleeping, since she's used to wedging herself in the corner with a mountain of pillows. Well, I woke up the other day to find The Boy sleeping next to me and The Wife on his mattress, wedged into the corner. Eh, whatever works.

Although I do wonder, from past experience, how a woman who usually takes up 90% of a queen bed can comfortably lie on a mattress a fraction of that size.

Speaking of sleep, that accursed sun isn't helping matters. All winter long I could reliably use the absence of sunlight to convince The Boy that it was time for bed. Now the wretched sphere is up far too long, and to make matters worse the neighbor kids have been spending more time outside, flagrantly enjoying themselves right outside our bedroom window. How am I supposed to compete with that at bedtime?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Total Recall

I frequently ponder The Boy's brain. Or rather, his mental development and how I can improve it, because if he's going to be evil then he'd better be an evil genius because I still expect him to support me in my old age.

His folks are fairly bright, but how big a factor hereditary plays in intelligence is up for debate so I want his environment to be optimal for memory and learning. When he gets older I'll hook him up to a little device I'm working on called Mister Quizzer to ensure he gets... proper motivation, but for now he's pretty much on his own.

His memory seems uncanny, recalling idle comments made days or weeks earlier, which is why I've stopped badmouthing people in front of him. Do all kids have this kind of recall at this age? I'm guessing most do. However, nature is a lazy slacker so I have a theory:

The brain requires energy, just like any other organ, and nature doesn't like to spend calories frivolously. If The Boy mentions throwing a sock at the cat three weeks ago at two in the morning, I do my best to remember and comment on it. I'll even ask for or remind him of more details, like the color of the sock or how the cat felt about clothing bombardment at that time of night. The more I blow these things off, the more some part of his brain may decide that it's not worth remembering every little detail, like historical dates and chemical equations, and his future as a historian or chemist may be ruined. I'm actually impressed with how much minutiae I can dredge up to keep up with him, considering how oblivious I am to the world around me.

I mentioned keeping an eye on what I say around him now, but to be honest I've always been cautious. With advances in medical science nowadays it's entirely possible that in The Boy's lifetime they could develop a drug that gives you total recall of your entire life, and fifty years from now I don't want him filing a lawsuit against me for our time with Mister Quizzer.

tongue tied

I listen to a lot of audio books during my commute, and I've developed a new found respect for those readers. I can't even get through Sammy The Seal without tripping over every other word, much less stay coherent hour after hour. I know they don't do it all in one take, and in some of the less-polished works it's painfully obvious where the cuts are made, but it's still impressive.

Sometimes even the authors read it themselves, which is a mixed bag. Neal Stephenson has a pleasant voice and can make his books feel like he's just chatting to you. On the other side of the spectrum, Stephen Hawking actually read his own book, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. It's like listening to a Dalek explain theoretical physics. Almost as bad was Ray Bradbury reading Fahrenheit 451, who sounds so much like Andre the Giant that I kept expecting him to shout, "I am the Dread Pirate Roberts!"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The bigger they are...

Like any boy, The Boy is fascinated with all things big. His current fetish is construction vehicles and fire engines, but I'm sure dinosaurs and tanks, jets, and other implements of destruction are not far down the line. I remember when my nephew, back when his age was still in single digits, became obsessed with the fact that I was one of the few people he had ever met who was bigger than his dad.

I'm trying to figure out how this mindset fits into brain evolution. For hunters it makes sense to want to figure out how to take down the big game. A single woolly mammoth could feed your tribe for a week, and in a calories-in per calories-expended ratio it's probably more efficient than chasing after rabbits all day. There's also the fact that males are territorial and like to size up the competition (which makes my nephew's behavior a little unsettling).

In the end, I've concluded that the biggest draw to fire engines and dinosaurs is the fact that... they're just so darn cool.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Romancing the stone

Ironically enough, the weekend that I experience the "joy" of a kidney stone is the same weekend that The Boy decides to eat a pebble. So now it's a race to see who passes his stone first.

I wonder if this counts as father/son bonding.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

That new baby smell

When The Boy was born a lot of mothers looked at him sadly and said they missed when their own kids were that age. At the time, and for a couple of years after that, I thought they were crazy. I figured it would be much better once the kid was walking on his own, because I spent 90% of my day carrying The Boy around and was ready for a break. Little did I know that when I picked up my cousin's newborn boy the other day I would look at his wrinkled grinning face and suddenly realize that I spend much more energy chasing after my toddler than I ever did lugging him around in a sling.

Those women were probably talking about some kind of sentimental emotion thing, but for a guy it's all about the caloric requirements of parenting. I shall watch my son play Little League with a smile on my face, enjoying the fact that he's out there working up a sweat while I can finally sit on my ass and eat chips.

Let's get ready to Roomba!

The Boy's favorite toy at the moment is the Roomba, a small robotic sweeper that putters around the room cleaning the floor. While I agree that the way it zips around can be mesmerizing, with The Boy it practically becomes a nightly religious rite. He'll point with glee when the recharge light turns green, then we'll bring it to the middle of a room and turn it on. And when I say 'we' I actually mean me, since The Boy at that point has scrambled onto a bed or couch or whatever is around. This is because it's firmly believed in our household that the Roomba is a deadly killing machine, despite the fact that the worst it can do to you is lightly bump against you. Even if, somehow, you managed to get a body part under the chassis and near the sweeping brush the worst you'll get is some minor tickling.

There have been times when The Boy has found himself in the middle of the room with the dreaded machine steadily coming towards him and, instead of moving away, he'll freeze up and start bawling. But Daddy has consistently come to save him before he loses any limbs, so the risk of death is a small price to pay for the privilege of watching Roomba work. For me, the risk of childhood trauma to my son is a small price to pay for clean floors.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Religion and politics

A guy at work just had a baby, and I'm avoiding him like the plague.

The problem, you see, is that I'm sure he's doing countless things with his child that I don't agree with, so it's easier to just keep my mouth shut by not talking about babies at all. I've learned over the years that child rearing falls under the same category as religion and politics, topics that just piss people off. That's because people can't help but listen and feel that it's a slight against them. Either you take offense to how you raise your kids or you take offense to how you were raised, claiming that you turned out okay so what makes me think your dear old mother did you wrong?

Well, let's ignore the fact that the number of Americans depressed and/or on drugs is rapidly rising, so the odds are good that you're not as emotionally stable and secure as you claim. Let's also ignore the steady increase of physical illness and autoimmune disorders in children. While we're at it, let's gloss over child obesity and the lack of effort put into studying baby's nutritional needs and food sensitivities. Plus the fact that cribs, strollers, formula, and vaccinations go against a million years of evolution...

... So yeah, I'm not going to ask him how his baby is doing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Let's make a deal...

The Boy has become quite the little bargainer. At some point he learned what "little bit" means, and now every demand for candy or television is punctuated with "little bit!" I'm pretty sure it's never actually worked, so I have no idea why he thinks this'll help his cause.

I thought this was just some automatic response, but the other day I was fortunate enough to watch his brain in action. The Wife was making deviled eggs and had scooped a spoonful of mayo out of the jar. The Boy, thinking that mayonnaise was now fair game for anyone with a spoon, toddled over to the silverware drawer and opened it up. The part that impressed me was that this master negotiator, after a moment of contemplation, passed over serving spoons, soup spoons, and even his normal cereal spoons and picked up one of his old baby spoons. He knew there might be some disagreement about allowing him to stuff mayo straight into his mouth so he picked the smallest utensil he could find in order to meet us halfway.

It showed more forethought than most adults so it was tempting to actually let him get away with it. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and even I balk at eating mayonnaise without even the pretense of other foods.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


One of the cool things about being a dad is that to a youngster you can do anything. Broken toy? Superglue makes it good as new! Skinned knee? A band aid saves his life! Ball stuck on roof? Behold the power of the ladder! Add to this the near-mystical properties of duct tape and you practically reach godhood.

I was pondering this very topic when the fellows who write Penny Arcade, a comic strip about computer games, started talking about it in one of their podcasts. They were bringing up stories of their childhood when their dads seemed so badass, running power tools one-handed and taking battery acid in the face without so much as flinching. Then one of them mentioned how he recently got around to using his circular saw for the first time and spent half an hour actually reading the manual. On a circular saw.

Now, I'll freely admit that I lack many "guy" traits, but the ability to use power tools is encoded into our very DNA. I mean, you pull the trigger and the blade moves. From there the male brain can pretty much map out the required steps. It made me feel pity for the poor cartoonist's son, but in that household the console game reigns supreme so in all likelihood the kid will grow up idolizing his father for being able to do a double-flip jump flip jump that allows Mario to save the princess once again. At least, I hope so.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Potato wrath

When The Boy hit exactly two years of age we prided ourselves on entering the Terrible Two years without a problem. Despite his... precocious behavior he wasn't too bad to deal with, and we were smug with the certainty that attachment parenting had actually paid off.

Unfortunately, they should really call it the Terrible Two-Point-Fives. If he had embraced the dark side before, now he had built the Death Star and was blowing up planets. Planets inhabited by cute, fuzzy kittens. He embraced any chance to do mischief, and would melt down given the slightest provocation. Food has become a major source of contention, since he seems to only want tater tots and french fries now, and while getting over some kind of stomach virus we had to put the kibosh on anything remotely tasty.

I didn't realize how much resentment was in that adorable little head, though, until the other day. He had acquired the extendable card key that clips onto my belt for work and he was swinging it around. The clip part was heavy enough to whip out on its string with enough force to make it a deadly little whip, as The Wife had discovered just the day before.

I calmly told him that what he was doing was dangerous, and that he had already given Mama an owie by doing that.

"You don't want to give Daddy an owie, do you?" I asked.

"Yeah," he replied.

Not thinking he understood the question, I asked, "now why would you want to give Daddy an owie?"

To which he bellowed, "Tater Tots!" and came at me with murder in his eyes, swinging the card key like mad.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

au revoir, retail

Two days ago The Wife and I closed down our baby store.

We started it nearly two years ago, after realizing there was a good market for baby slings and cloth diapers in this area. Unfortunately, the market wasn't quite good enough and it never made much money. And when I got a real job The Wife had to deal not only with it but The Boy and other issues so it became more of a hassle than a labor of love. The economy nailed the coffin shut, but there were plenty of other factors that helped dig the grave. And embalm the corpse. And perform Last Rites. And declare time of death. (Death metaphors are fun!)

It's a pity it didn't work out but I'm not sad to see it go, to be honest. I had some good times there introducing people to the joys of attachment parenting but in the end it just turned out to be something that ate up my weekends. I'll still berate people for destroying the planet with disposable diapers, and I'll keep glaring at zombie-inducing baby strollers, but now instead of doing it as a professional I'll just be a crazy person.

The thing I'll miss most, though, is being a shopkeeper. I never noticed it before but there's a clique in each town of store owners who can relate to each other's circumstances. Between greedy landlords and bad pedestrian traffic and surplus Christmas inventory there is always plenty to kvetch about, and now I'm out of the club.

On the bright side, now I don't have to talk to that guy who sells dead rats from his van. That's carrying the "retail clique" thing a little too far.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

rice is nice

One of The Boy's favorite pastimes is playing with rice. We put a tarp on the floor, give him a big bowl of rice and various kitchen implements (bowls, measuring cups, spoons, etc.) and he goes to town. It's usually a good way to kill an hour or so. He loves pouring stuff from one container to another, and this is a good substitute for water.

Unfortunately it often ends in tears, either his or mine. He'll eventually decide that the tarp is too constraining and start flinging the rice all over the room. Or he'll start to shove the not-terribly-clean rice into his mouth. So then there's yelling and wrestling and a timeout on the couch while daddy vacuums the entire floor. But it's worth it for that sweet, sweet hour of freedom.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Third fiddle

I don't mind playing second fiddle to The Wife when it comes to my child's affection. But I draw the line when, if we're alone and he scrapes his knee, rather than turn to me he'll insist on going next door so that the five year old neighbor can kiss it and make it better.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Da bears

I found it odd that The Boy never really cared about stuffed animals, or really anything soft and cuddly. I'd like to say that it's because he takes after his manly father, but I do confess I had three stuffed rabbits when I was a tyke. (That is, until I cut them open and took out most of the stuffing so I could use them as puppets.)

I always assumed that it was because he was always being carried around. Why settle for some piece of fabric when you're strapped to a soft, warm human all the time? Even after he mostly walked on his own he still got plenty of cuddle time. But lately he's taken a shine to a bear, a rabbit, and a dog and will often juggle the three of them in his arms while trying to go to bed, especially if I'm the one putting him down for the night.

This coincided, not surprisingly, with when The Wife started to ween him. So now I'm obsessed with how often he'll cling to the stuffed critters and will monitor him at night trying to gauge whether or not he's feeling deprived of affection. He's completely off the boob now, but it was interesting to note that his clingy behavior didn't increase. It makes me feel better about our anticipation of his developmental stage.

Don't get me wrong, if the house was on fire he'd probably still choose to save that stupid bear over me, but I've gotten used to being low on the totem pole.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Don't be a dick

Working in a natural parenting store has exposed me to many husbands over the last couple of years, and they all fall under three general categories:

The first is the one resigned to just do what the wife tells him. He may believe in baby carrying and cloth diapers or not, but he's willing to bow to his partner's more extensive knowledge on these topics and just does what he is told. It's somewhat sad, and I try to draw him out a bit and give him sage advice like how a baby in a sling is a great chick magnet, but on the whole he is still trying to figure out what happened to his life.

The second is the rare over enthused husband who has done even more research than his wife and is more often than not dragging her along. These guys are actually a bit scary to me, but god bless 'em.

The third, alas, is the dick. He's a guy who is activally opposed to the freaky hippy natural parenting lifestyle, whether it's because of the expense or the imagined slight to the way his mother raised him or the fear that his drinkin' buddies will laugh at him, he'll spend the entire time in my store finding fault with everything. I've had women on the verge of tears because they're desperately trying to master a baby sling while their husbands stand to one side and point out everything she's doing wrong and not-so-subtly hinting that maybe it's not worth the effort.

Now, I admit that when it comes to marriage I'm pretty well whipped, but it baffles me that any woman would put up with that kind of crap. Are these guys saints the rest of the time? As soon as they walk out my door do they suddenly offer to carry all the bags and suggest that they go jewelry shopping? I know it's not a perfect world, but really, was marrying this guy really a good idea?

Doing what's best for your kid is often not the easiest route. It takes practice to master a baby sling or mei tai, but the baby becomes much more attached and emotionally secure. Cloth diapers require a bit more work but are much better for the environment and are actually cheaper in the long run. Co-sleeping means having to fight for bed space but makes for a more secure baby and actually gives you more sleep. Breastfeeding is often tricky to start but is the only food that nature intended your newborn to have.

So you may not agree with everything your wife wants to do, but try to show a little support. At the very least, don't be a dick.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Polly want a cracker!

The Boy is talking up a storm nowadays, and has taken to parroting back random words and sentences. I must say it's awfully darn cute, but it does mean I really need to start watching what I say around him. It doesn't matter how adorable he is when he tries to pronounce "genitalia," The Wife still frowns on it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

so.... how's things?

Like most mortals when faced with a blank screen (or to be old school, a blank piece of paper) I find my mind suddenly empty of all the things I meant to say whenever I try to write a blog post. A month of making mental notes about The Boy's behavior have come to naught, so I start writing this in the hopes that some subterranean inspiration will dig its way up to the surface of my psyche long enough for me to club it and drag it out into the open.

Ironically, the first memory that comes to mind is of violence. Or the threat of violence. Or, to be honest, just threats of mild discipline. The Boy has gotten to the point where he understands cause and effect pretty well, so I can say things like, "If you don't pick up your toys you can't watch TV," or "If you don't eat your meat you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

It's nice being able to reason with him somewhat, though he still firmly believes that the laws of the house (and sometimes the laws of physics) don't really apply to him. I mean, we've only got a handful of rules that we enforce, like not playing with sharp knives or the gas oven, but he still insists on trying to push these rare limits. I'm very tempted to just make up some arbitrary rules, like having to hop on one foot to get a cookie or dancing the funky chicken to stay up past his bedtime.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tardy Santa

I finally mailed out the last of my Christmas presents today, a mere twenty-eight days late. This is fine, though, because they're destined for my family and we're not too strict with deadlines. I receive almost daily updates from my brother telling me how close he is to mailing out my gifts, which still hasn't happened yet, so at least I'm better than he is.

What gets me, though, is how pathetic my purchased gifts are. They're mostly minor trinkets or joke gifts, perfectly acceptable and appreciated on Christmas day when you're surrounded by presents, but when you receive a package at the end of January and discover it's socks and a bobble-head you can't help but feel a bit slighted. Again, though, my family has pretty low expectations when it comes to gift-giving so I shouldn't worry too much.

On the bright side, The Boy is getting a trickle of presents from slacker relatives and loving it. Dumping a pile of toys on a toddler all at once is a bit cruel, in my opinion, so I'm happy to see him receive one or two at a time and actually play with them for a bit. Christmas day was a madhouse of unwrapping and having pieces of flashing plastic thrust into his hands only to have them wrenched away, replaced with something new. I'm pretty sure by the end of it he had a mild case of shell shock.

I, on the other hand, fully appreciated his distraction and commandeered some of his toys for my own enjoyment. So, Merry Belated Christmas.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coming to a head.

For my birthday I received a new pillow. This may not seem very momentous, but I'm very particular with what goes under my head at night. I prefer something about as hard as a block of wood and covered with a pillow case. (Preferably a case with a high thread count. I'm not a peasant, after all.)

It's not quite as hard as my old pillow, but that might be because I've had my old one for several years now and it's been through a lot. I'm a reasonably clean guy but after thousands of hours resting a body part on an item that never gets laundered even I had to admit that my poor pillow had seen better days. I did love that pillow, though, and it made me think of other things I've had to get rid of over the years.

One was a shirt with a smiley face that got too ratty. It was several sizes too large even for me, so I could walk up to people, spread my arms, and become a wall of yellow with a giant face staring at you. I'd accompany this with a shouted, "Smile!!"

I've also lost a few root beer drinking glasses, which make me especially sad. I'd like to say it was The Boy who broke them, but I think it was actually The Wife. (She was always jealous of my fondness for root beer.)

My biggest regret, though, is losing an old plastic bowl. It was big and white, with a pucker on the bottom where it must have gotten too close to something hot. It wasn't much to look at, but it was distinctive and I loved it because it would make a great cherished memory for my kids. I imagined them eating popcorn out of it while watching Disney movies (or old Doctor Who episodes, if they take after me). It's the kind of memory that sticks with you, and I was hoping they'd fight over this bowl when I die.

This was before I realized there was no way in hell I'd ever have more than one kid, of course, so I'll have to think of some other way to make The Boy suffer from beyond the grave.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What's da password?

Picture a dingy-looking building in the seamier side of town. You pass a few unsavory types on your way to the door, then enter into a large room filled with people like you; forced to find solace in remote locations. You and your cohorts sit down at a table and you ask the waitress for... a highchair and a box of crayons.

In many ways the modern-day speakeasy is the child-friendly restaurant. While not illegal, bringing a baby into most eating establishments will cause a few dirty looks and silent prayers from customers hoping you won't be seated next to them. If your kid is in a good mood and behaves, then all is well. Elderly patrons play peek-a-boo with him, the waitress sneaks him some crackers, and all is right with the world. The other 99% of the time you've got a squirming, yelling bundle of hyperactive energy strapped to a seat, in a way similar to how a detonator is strapped to plastic explosives.

There's a restaurant nearby that I've seen for years but never went into. It's not in the best of shape and looks like a biker bar, but The Wife kept getting recommendations for it so eventually we went. Inside was filled with kids. There must have been over a dozen toddlers, nearly one per table, and the staff were quick with the highchair and child-friendly menus. It was a sight both beautiful and terrible, but I have to say it was remarkably orderly and low-key. This is a place that obviously went for a niche market and it's paying off. Add decent food at a reasonable price and we became regulars, at least until The Boy is old enough to handle himself at the local fondue place.

My souffle! Ruined!

I'm no Iron Chef but I've always done pretty well in the kitchen. I can follow a recipe easily enough and have a few favorites that come out pretty well (chicken tetrazzini and Italian beef are my specialties).

Unfortunately, over the years I've become more and more limited in what I make, due to family dietary concerns and preferences. I also find that with the distractions of parenting I've pretty much become a sucky cook. I hit the bottom of the barrel tonight, when I screwed up boiling potatoes.

I'm still not sure what happened. They probably got cooked too long, or maybe weren't very good quality, but they took on the consistency and flavor of silly putty at some point. I loaded them down with butter, which improved the flavor but didn't actually mix with the Starch of Doom, it just glazed small nuggets of it. I'm a New Englander, which means eating what's in front of me so the kids who are starving in Ethiopia will have some small comfort, but even my cast-iron stomach is not happy with the aftermath.

That didn't stop me from putting the rest in the fridge so The Boy could have it for leftovers tomorrow, of course.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sage advice

If you breastfeed, and I hope you do/will, then come up with some kind of subtle code to use around the baby. Otherwise, you'll eventually be flying in an airplane or sitting in a crowded room and everyone will hear, "Boobie! Boobie!"

I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested "Stella," which I think is a good one. Personally, I'd recommend... "Khan!"

Words, words everywhere

The Boy has finally gone crazy with speaking, parroting back random words that he hears us say. I gotta say it's gosh-darn cute, especially since he hasn't mastered most of the sounds yet.

I'm trying to think back to when it started, but it just seemed to come out of nowhere. He did have an exciting Christmas, seeing many people and even flying to Florida to visit his grandparents, so maybe that jogged his memory. The Wife did abandon our references to them as Grampa and Gramma and settled for Pop-Pop and Nannie, which The Boy can manage, so I do wonder if that gave him the confidence he needed to try other sounds. Up to this point you could ask him to say something and he'd just reply with a firm, "No."

Things like this make me ponder developmental milestones, like speaking or walking. There are many anecdotes about a kid learning some new skill right after getting sick, and I wonder if the brain needs some kind of kick in the pants to get out of its rut. The Boy gets plenty of activity during the normal course of the day, plus several different adults to abuse and manipulate, but it could be that we're just too boring for him.

But then I think about how humans evolved and what stimulation the brain received several thousand years ago. At most The Boy would have a small tribe to learn from, with exploits in hunting and gathering. The odds of him getting sick on a regular basis would be slim, thanks to clean living and a dispersed population. All in all his life would be pretty dull, so I wonder if kicking the brain in the pants isn't a good thing after all. How much stimulation is ideal, and where do brains get pants anyway?