Month: September 2005

Naps

M. decided not to nap on Tuesday. We attempted to put her down six times over the course of the day. Only two were successful, and each of those turned out to be very brief naps. The process of getting her down for what should have been her morning nap but turned into a midday nap ended up being magic, though.

After two attempts, S. was spent and was trying to get a nap of her own on the living room couch. I got M. out of her crib and took her into our bedroom. We laid on the bed, and for the next 45 minutes had great fun. She never tried to get off the bed, she just rolled around until eventually we were lying with our heads at the foot of the bed. She decided she wanted to bite my hand. She would grab my thumb with one hand, my little finger with the other, and start pulling it towards her face. Her mouth stretched open showing her eight, fierce little teeth. I applied just enough resistance to make her strain. As she fought laughter, she bared her teeth further and stuck her tongue out in strain. I’d let her pull my hand all the way to her mouth, then pull it back. She’d double her efforts, which caused her legs to shoot up into the air as she tried to gain leverage. We continued this tug-of-war for at least five minutes before she gave up. Then, she tried to bite my nose, which was harder to avoid.

Next came grabbing daddy’s glasses, which is fun for her but not for daddy. By the time she grew tired of that game, my lenses were smearing and nasty. She had bananas for breakfast. Next, she spent ten minutes pinching, scratching, and flicking my nose, lips, cheeks, and ears. This is tolerable until she gets those sharp little nails against something tender.

I don’t know if it’s just my kid, but she gets more ticklish as she gets more tired. I was making bear sounds and pawing at her when she let loose her Tickle Me laugh. A dad can’t ignore a signal like that, so I went in for the kill, tickling her ribs while I tried to give her raspberries on her neck. Gasping laughter as she tried to get away from me. I’d let up for a second so she could catch her breath, but she would immediately do something to provoke me. No parent can resist the laughter of their child when it is being tickled. Soon we were both laughing like idiots.

Eventually she was laying on her back with two pillows surrounding her, me with my head on one of the pillows. She stared up at the ceiling fan, eyelids slowly drooping. Finally, they fell shut, her mouth slid open, and her breathing deepened. 15 minutes later, I woke up and carried her into her crib where she finally napped. That, my friends, is a great way to spend a morning with your daughter.

During one of the gaps between attempted naps in the afternoon, I stood in our entryway while she peered down at me from the bannisters outside our upstairs bedroom. She began dropping her smallest stuffed animals at me, which I immediately threw back to her. This back-and-forth went on for about ten minutes until she disappeared. I heard her making a strange noise; not noises of distress but as if she was trying to keep something secret. I crept up the stairs softly, carefully stretched over the gate at the top of the stairs, and tip-toed into her room. I couldn’t see her, but she was still make the same periodic noises, now with more urgency. Last week, she had been disappearing into the corner behind her crib where she would wait until we said, “Where’s M.?” before leaping out and laughing. I headed for this corner. But rather than peeking around the edge, or announcing my presence, I stretched my body across the crib and looked over the top into the space between it and the wall. She was pressed against the crib frame, leaning forward, peering around the corner, waiting for me to appear. I stifled my laughter and after hearing her anticipatory squeals getting the better of her, finally said the magic words: “Where’s M.?” She jumped, looked up, and shrieked with delight all at once. Another fantastic moment with the girl. Makes up for the very nasty diaper I had to change earlier in the day.

Monday Randoms

Some kids on campus called me “Sir” last week. I thought my short hair made me look younger, too.

Since I had M. to myself Friday and Sunday, I ended up watching more of the President’s Cup than I cared to. I came to the conclusion that there’s nothing in sports sillier than fans at these “international” golf tournaments. Actually, I should clarify that it is generally the American fans at these events who are silly. The European fans tend to take these events for what they are: exhibitions in which golfers who play together every weekend are divvied up into teams and asked to play in a team format for three days. We Americans, God bless us, take the President’s and Ryder Cups way too seriously. Things nearly got out of hand Friday after a lengthy weather delay, or as fans like to call it, mid-day happy hour. Those fools were amped up. Sports nationalism has it’s place. But come on, all these guys play together on a weekly basis, most of them live in the same handful of neighborhoods in Florida, many of them went to college together, regardless of their nation of birth. Compelling golf at times. Lots of fans who need to get a grip, though.

Tiger Woods was doing his 1980s baseball All-Star game imitation. He had some crazy dye-job going on in his hair and a goatee. Kind of like Frank White and others busting out the white spikes for the mid-summer classic back-in-the-day.

Why is Good Will Hunting always on? Don’t get me wrong, great movie and tons of fun to imitate their accents, but does it need to be on every night? Shouldn’t the rights owners be trying to see/rent DVDs instead of giving it away for free 28 times a month?

Bravo to the Colts and Browns, who played a regulation NFL game in two hours and 40 minutes Sunday. National League pace!

Byron Leftwich is becoming the new Steve McNair. He’s not happy unless he’s limping, bleeding, and barely conscious. Dude doesn’t start playing until his ribs get bruised.

Thumbs down to ESPN Sports Reporter “personality” Michael Kay, who Sunday morning mentioned that the New England-Pittsburgh game was vital because the Patriots can’t make it to the Super Bowl without having home field advantage in the playoffs. None of his fellow panelists, Mike Lupica, Jason Whitlock, and John Saunders, called him on the fact the Pats have won two of their three AFC title games on the road. Idiots.

Kudos to CBS for their ad campaign for The Amazing Race. I’ve heard from many people it’s actually a tolerable show, but shouting that it has won the Emmy for Best Reality Show 15 times during every NFL game isn’t exactly the highest of praise. Kind of like King of the Dorks, to use a Farmer Ted term.

AMC showed that American movie classic Fletch Sunday night. I always find it amusing that anytime I see Tim Matheson, I think of him in the role of Alan Stanwyk. Most people just a couple years older than me probably think of him as Otter from Animal House first.

 

Toddler Update

I haven’t given a detailed update of M.’s doings in several weeks. Part of that is because we had our first extended rough period with her a few weeks back. In fact, the Saturday before Labor Day was by far the worst day I’ve ever had alone with her. Nothing seemed to please her during that stretch. Not Motrin, not food, not naps, not playing. Happily, it seems as though she’s gotten through whatever her issues were and is back to being her normal funny self.

First, the picture I’ve included above is one of my absolute favorites taken to-date. I wish the color and focus were better but it’s still a great shot of her. One morning, she picked the paper up off the floor and just started walking around, talking like she was reading it. Eventually, she took it into my office and threw it down, then left, acting like she was totally disgusted with the state of world affairs. My little girl is going to be a cynical contrarian like her old man!

Walking appears to be her favorite thing to do. Some nights, she just walks around our kitchen island over-and-over. Other times, she’ll circle through our kitchen, dining room, entryway continuously. She babbles to herself while on these little walks, and smiles if you acknowledge her, but generally keeps on moving as if she’s got a schedule to keep. She seems to enjoy a modified version of hide-and-seek, too. We’ll be sitting in one room and she’ll take off on one of her little adventures. When she reappears, she smiles as big as she can, and says, “HI!” in her high-pitched voice. It’s as if we’ve been gone for days and she’s pleased to see us again.

Speaking of greetings, she pretty much guaranteed she’s going to private school one day last week when I picked her up after my class. She’s always happy to see me when I pick her up from my in-laws. But last Wednesday, as soon as I came in the door, she dashed towards me, threw her arms open, yelled “Hi Daddy!” and then gave me a hug. Top five moment of fatherhood, right there. It cracks me up when I’ve been sitting in my office or just been doing something in another part of the house and she’s gone maybe 10 minutes without seeing me and she says “Hi Daddy!” as soon as I reenter the room. It’s good to be missed.

The girl has always been in love with her reflection, but she’s taken it to a whole new level of late. First, she loves to push/pull the door from our living room to our sun room open and closed. Each time it swings by, when she sees her reflection in the glass, she says, “HIIIII!!!!” She’ll do this for 5-10 minutes. We also had some professional pics taken of her last month and have a framed one on my desk and another on the wall in the room off of our bedroom. When she sees either one, she points at it until she has our attention, then does the obligatory “HI!” yell. You’d think she’d get tired of looking at herself. I hope this doesn’t mean she’s going to demand to be in beauty pageants one day. She may have to get new parents if she wants to do that.

Another new word, or sound more properly, is her cow sound. “What’s a cow say, M.?” “MMMMMMMMMM.” She furrows her brow when she says it, so apparently she’s very serious about the cows.

Back to the walking, she can actually get going pretty fast sometimes. What makes it funny is she’s only successful with the fast walking 15-20% of the time. Sometimes she just gets going too fast and goes down in a heap. Other times she forgets the concept of cornering and ends up running into a door or wall. What’s funniest is when she gets all proud of herself and is too busy looking at you, showing off, and her head ends up going a different direction than her body. As long as there are no sharp edges near, that situation is usually good for some pretty spectacular crashes.

If you can’t tell from the pictures I’ve posted, her hair is totally out of control. She will definitely hate her parents for giving her the curly hair genes when she’s old enough to realize her hair is going to take a lot of work.

Food has been a struggle as well, although it’s gotten easier to feed her in the past week. Until about a month ago, she would eat whatever you offered her. Then, suddenly, she even refused her old favorites. She’s not back to her omnivorous state, but after some adjusting of her diet, she’s now eating a little better. Baby foods are no more. We offer her lots of cereal, toast, oatmeal, and whatever else we’re eating at breakfast. Lunch is often a piece of cheese and turkey, then hopefully some fruit. Dinner tends to be some kind of pasta with bits of our dinner added. Vegetables are hit-and-miss depending on the night. Unfortunately, she’s decided she loves chips. If she sees either of us eating some, she starts begging and whining for a bite of her own. Not a good habit to start at this age.

We got her some Quatro blocks last week, which are the Legos for little ones. She hasn’t quite grasped the concept of stacking so the blocks snap together, but she loves to throw them around, and most of all, dump the entire container over when it’s full. S. and I build large structures then our little Godzilla comes over and destroys them. The blocks seem to get more use by mom and dad than kid most days.

Overnight sleeping now tends to stretch until 6:30 or 7:00, which is the greatest thing ever. She’s even made it to 7:45 a couple times.

The best part about this age is she truly is becoming independent. Between walking, the ability to entertain herself, and knowing when to yell when she’s in trouble, you can confidently leave the room to do other things. One night over the weekend I had to run upstairs to get some more diapers. She had a Baby Einstein DVD playing and was arranging her toys. I knew I had plenty of time to go open a box, stock the diaper basket in her room, and then grab some to bring downstairs. A few weeks ago, she would have screamed as soon as I left the room. Six months ago, I would have had to put her on the floor and surround her with couch cushions so she couldn’t roll herself into trouble. We can turn her loose while we’re making dinner, reading, or doing other normal activities. It’s great that developing her freedom in turn helps us rediscover our freedom.

That’s what our little girl us up to at 14 months of age. More-and-more like a little person every day.

Silly Kids -or- How Technology Doesn’t Change Some Things

As I wrote about last spring, it’s always a little disconbobulating adjusting my expectations for the academic world today as compared to how it operated when I was an undergrad. When I was finally finishing up my bachelor’s degree, e-mail was just beginning to become a form of staying in touch with your instructors and other students. Today, e-mail is often the primary form of out-of-class communication. IUPUI has, and I imagine most schools do, a rather formal method for putting classroom resources on-line called Oncourse. You log in and all of your classes are listed. Under each class you can find the syllabus, assignments, materials your instructor hands out in class, class-specific chat rooms and message boards, and a “drop box” which is an electronic in-box where you can submit assignments electronically. It’s all pretty cool, but since I wasn’t enrolled in the class I sat in on last spring (I was enrolled in a graduate research course), I didn’t get to really experience the system. This semester, though, I am able to use Oncourse for both of my classes. If I’ve learned one thing from three weeks of navigating the system, it’s that students really never change.

For my media law class we had an assignment due this past Wednesday. We were to read a decision from the Washington Supreme Court regarding a law that banned video games that depicted violence against law enforcement officers from being sold to minors. Our professor passed the assignment out in class the previous Wednesday, but also posted those questions and the reading material onto Oncourse. When I logged in on Tuesday, I was alerted that there were several unread discussion messages. I accessed the message board and scrolled through a series of “What are the questions?” and “Where is the reading?” questions. It seems that regardless of how technology changes the academic experience (i.e. you can realistically miss class but never miss an assignment as long as it’s posted) undergrads still wait until the last minute to do things and then panic. I would expect that all of these kids are much better versed in how to use Oncourse and more in the habit of checking it than I am. Yet, I was still able to find all the materials after a quick series of clicks. Not sure why these kids were missing it.

My favorite message, though, was one from a student that said something like, “I have the reading and the questions, but I don’t understand them????” Like I posted last week, the readings were a bit dry and full of legalese. But if you stuck with them, reread things you didn’t understand, and focused, you could start to make sense of the decision. And I say this as a sleep-deprived father who’s always looking for an excuse to nap. The questions were pretty straight forward, so I’m not sure what this kid’s problem was. “How did the court rule?” isn’t that difficult to decipher.

Anyway, this all reminded me of a class I took late in my undergrad career when I was going back and filling in those slots in my liberal arts portfolio I had missed (or withdrawn/flunked at my first pass). I was a 24 year-old in a class full of 18 year olds. They cracked me up with their innocence and nonchalance about school. One kid in particular was always great entertainment. Despite the fact even quizzes were carefully labeled on the syllabus, he was prone to shout, “Dude! We have a quiz today?!?!” when our instructor asked us to close our books and clear our desks. Cheap entertainment.

 

Writers Block

Writer’s block is a weird thing. I’m fortunate in that I can almost always sit down at the keyboard and start tapping out thoughts. Where I struggle, though, is getting beyond that first writing session. One of the great things about blogging is that it is largely a first draft medium. Have some thoughts on the Super Bowl, politics, or a stupid TV show? Sit down, crank them out, post them. Quick, relatively painless, and with the satisfaction of being published where anyone in the world can find them.

But when I have an idea that demands more than 20 minutes of writing, it often ends up languishing. I’ve got notebooks full of short stories that are a third completed, 1500 word essays on some pretty weighty subjects, and random notes that could be used as the basis for something longer. It seems that if I can’t complete something in a single session, or sometimes two, it’s destined to be forgotten. Example: I recently had a great idea for a humorous column I could submit to our campus newspaper. We have a weekly paper that, well, isn’t all that good, so I figured I was sure to get published. Two weeks ago I sat down and in 30 minutes had a pretty solid draft. It definitely needed some work, but I figured another 30 minutes and I’d have something worthy of submission. Over the past 14 days, while I’ve thought a lot about how to finish the piece, I’ve only done some minor editing here and there. In addition to all the other purposes for graduate school, finding a way to get some of these ideas to a completed stage is clearly a priority as well. The bonus is if I never end up getting this column finished, I’ll just post it here for your pleasure. The blog readers get over on the general public once again!

 

Her Father’s Daughter

As if there was any doubt about M’s paternity, over the weekend she demonstrated a new trick that sealed it. For several weeks, she’s been able to turn the portable stereo we keep in our three season room on-and-off, using either the remote or the main power switch. We ended up having to take the batteries out of the remote, because she also discovered the Volume Up button. We’d be in another room, hear the stereo come on, then quickly crank all the way up, followed by screaming. I’d run in and see her sitting in front of the stereo, in tears, still pointing the remote at it with the Volume Up button depressed.

Several times over the weekend, though, I found her sitting in front of the stereo, rocking back-and-forth to the music, smiling. She’s already turning into a music fan! I remember playing with my parents’ record player when I was little, listening to Sesame Street, Really Rosie, and Winnie the Pooh albums for as long as they would let me. M. is one up on her old man, though. She was listening to current acts like Franz Ferdinand, Death Cab for Cutie along with older music from artists like Mellencamp, Fleetwood Mac, and the Beatles. Kid has some taste.

 

Katrina

It’s been very difficult not to be affected by the video and stories coming out of the Gulf Coast. When I first heard the comparisons to either the Asian tsunami or Hiroshima, I thought it was an utterly ridiculous analogy. As the shocking video began to roll in on Tuesday, though, it seemed increasinly apt. I believe that I, like many well-meaning people, viewed the events of last December through the prism of living in suburban America. Sure, the tsunami was an unbelievably powerful force. But those were third world nations affected. An equally powerful wave wouldn’t do nearly that kind of damage in the States, where we have rigid building codes and the finest building materials. We would never see anything like entire cities swept away, would we? It turns out we really aren’t so advanced after all. Images of casinos moved intact from one side of a road to another. Cargo containers strewn a quarter mile from the docks. River barges washed inland. High rise hotels shredded and looking more like something from Beirut circa 1982. Unfathomable.

The situation in New Orleans has become the dominant image of Katrina. As Keith Olbermann soberly assessed the situation Tuesday night, he reminded viewers that an America city the size of New Orleans had not been completely evacuated since the Civil War. Tuesday night it was still just a possibility that would be the case. Now officials are trying to figure out how to abandon the 30th (give or take) largest city in the country. Unthinkable. And now government officials are quietly wondering how they get all that water out, how they rebuild the levees, how they decontaminate a city that will spends days, if not weeks, stewing in a toxic sludge that contains bodies, industrial waste, sewage, and all sorts of other nasty stuff. How do you flush out the lakes and rivers, where all that water must someday go? Will New Orleans, as we knew it, ever exist again?

What floors me most is the raw scope of the aftermath. How on earth do government and businesses decide how and where to start the clean-up? Who makes that decision? Do you remove debris first, and leave things like electricity and sanitary services for later? Do you pick spots of importance and try to get everything done there, and slowly work your way out? Again, I tend to view storm damage through the experiences I’ve had, those being wind and ice storms in the Midwest. Here, when there’s a particularly bad storm (see the Kansas City ice storm of 2003), at worst you’re looking at not having power for 2-3 weeks. Even then, chances are you have neighbors, friends, family members who will have power that you can spend time with while waiting for your services to be repaired. And you still have your job, access to food and water, etc. What happens when everyone for miles has been completely wiped out too? Where do you go? What do you do with your life while months, maybe years of repairs are being made? Do you pack up your family like the Joads and head someplace else, hoping to start a new life? It’s almost too much to fathom.

I think what’s worst about the events of this week is how they may get worse. Tensions are getting very short in New Orleans and other cities where people have lost everything, are trapped, and have few, if any, basic services. I used to read novels that were based in a post-nuclear war world, where lawlessness ruled and the most basic things in life were the subject of intense battles. This week, those scenarios don’t seem that far-fetched if those cities aren’t cleared out quickly.

The only bright spot is we’re living in the richest, most powerful country in the world. We may scuffle when it comes to doing small things, but when we get big challenges, we excel. It might take years, but things will get fixed down south. What we won’t get past, though, is this first-hand reminder on how powerful nature is and how tenuous our mastery over the planet truly is. Be well.

 

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