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?