Month: April 2006

Sister Fetus Update

S. had a sonogram this afternoon to make sure all was well with our little Sister Fetus. That was confirmed. Estimated weight is six pounds, three ounces at 36 weeks. For comparison, M. was born at 38 weeks and weighed in at six pounds, eight ounces. #2 is generally bigger than #1 (something to do with the muscles on mommy’s abdomen already having been stretched beyond their limit once), so this wasn’t a surprise. If she’s supposed to gain roughly 1/2 a pound a week from here on out, I’m hoping S. can hold out through the weekend, and my trip to Kansas City, and then past Monday afternoon, since it looks like one of my papers isn’t going to be done by my unofficial deadline of tomorrow night and I’ll have to put some finishing touches on it before the official deadline of Monday afternoon.

Father Of The Year

I’ve not shared one of M.’s favorite foods with the group. She loves humus. We give her a little container of it and she dips pretzels, cheese, and bread into it and goes to town. Today is a Mr. Mom day for me. We’re getting close to needing a trip to the grocery store. M. was hungry and begging for pretzels, which we’re out of. So, I gave her humus and toddler-sized pieces of some hint of lime Tostitos. Kids loves them. Every two minutes I hear, “Mow cheep, mow cheep.” That’s more chips if you don’t speak M-ese. No one tell my wife that her daughter had chips and dips for lunch.

Leaves

Leaves are apparently M.’s first irrational fear. Thursday was a perfect day: 82, no humidity, gentle breeze, sunny skies; so we spent most of the day outside. We got her a sandbox on Tuesday, so she played in that a lot. She ran into the neighbors’ yard to trick us into letting her climb on their tree house. I mowed and trimmed the yard while she “helped” S. sweep the garage. But anytime a leaf came close to her, she freaked. “Leeef. Leeef.” She would start calmly identifying the leaves. As they blew closer to her, her level of agitation rose rapidly. “LEEEF! LEEEF! YUCKY!” Then she’d burst into tears, stomp her feet, and scream. Seriously, how does a kid A) decide a leaf poses danger to her and B) not realize she’s far more mobile than a leaf that’s blowing in the wind and just run away from it? We live on a wooded lot, for crying out loud. She better get used to leaves fast or she’ll never leave the house.

Wrapping Up The Semester

A little over two weeks and two papers to go, and then this semester will be done. I’ll have a short break, as I’m taking one class in the first summer session, again in Bloomington. So from May 8 through June 15, or something like that, I’ll be commuting to B-town three days a week to take a magazine writing class. Should be fun and interesting, since that’s kind of where I see my career headed. Oh, and we’re having a baby sometime in the first two weeks of class, so it’s not going to be your ordinary, laid-back, summer class.

So my two papers. The third paper for my media & society class is supposed to be based on the effects of various outside elements on journalism. Technology, economics, etc. We’re to pick a TV outlet and a print outlet, and do a 1-2 day survey of their coverage, and compare that coverage to each outlet’s web site, then draw some conclusions based on medium. Should be a kind of fun paper. Our first two papers had a six page limit; this one has an eight page limit, so there’s a little more work involved. I’m hoping to spend this weekend picking my subjects and setting up my monitoring for sometime next week.

The big paper is my research paper for my ethics class. This is the one that I had a draft due last Friday. After some changes and a few tweaks, I’ve ended up writing about public journalism, Communitarianism, and then a case study of a newspaper in Virginia that made a massive effort to convert its operations to a public journalism model. Public journalism, also called civic journalism, is a model that was first practiced in Wichita following the 1988 presidential election. The editor of the Wichita paper was disgusted with how his paper, and most others, had covered the campaign. Issues like tax policy, foreign affairs, and domestic agendas barely received coverage. What did seem to be important, if you read most papers or watched most newscasts, was Michael Dukakis riding in a tank looking like a fool, George Bush visiting a flag factory, 1000 points of light, Dukakis’ inability to answer a question about his wife (A completely awful question, by the way) in a warm, personal manner, Willie Horton, and the Pledge of Allegiance. So leading into the 1990 elections, the Wichita paper surveyed its readers to find out what issues they were interested in. They then made an effort to force the candidates in each race to address those issues. So basically, public journalism involves a shift from letting elites in government and business set the agenda, to allowing the public to set the agenda. It’s more complex than that, but that’s a fair summation.

Public journalism has been controversial because some see it as the media casting aside their traditional philosophy of detachment for one of advocacy. They wonder if the media can play the watchdog role if the public selects what is covered. They worry about how journalists will react if the pubic holds them responsible for issues they’ve pushed but haven’t been resolved effectively. It’s defenders say that journalism is the one force that can reengage citizens in participatory democracy, and thus public journalism is absolutely part of what journalism should be. They argue that public journalists aren’t advocating specific policies, they’re simply asking the public what issues are important and attempting to force those in power to address them. Finally, they say public journalism isn’t some radical shift in how journalism is practiced. Rather, it’s taking it back to its roots and practicing the art in its intended manner.

Again, that’s just a brief overview. But the readings, well some of them, have been very interesting. It’s fascinating to read studies of news organizations that have attempted to implement public journalism and see the internal battles, the adjustments to technique, and the changes in attitude over time. Whether a journalist (or prospective journalist) totally buys into the concept, I think there is a lot to learn from studying it. I tend to think the watchdog role is the most important aspect of journalism, but don’t necessarily buy the argument that practicing public journalism precludes journalists from holding those in power accountable for their actions. I think there are certainly ways to combine each school of thought and examine the doings of the elites while still taking interest in what the public wants addressed.

A big frustration of my writing efforts last weekend was relearning how to write a research paper. My writing style definitely fits the journalistic genre much better. That’s when you read about something, throw in a few quotes or references, but provide most background and arguments in your own words. As I read studies and stories written in an academic manner, I realized I had to adjust my format. Lots of citations, which meant I needed to write things down. How do I do that? Oh yeah, note cards. How do I organize them? Of course, write an outline, number the cards, and reference them on the outline. Stuff I hadn’t done in, oh, 11 years or so. And back then I didn’t exactly do the pre-writing process all that well. So I was laughing at myself a little as I created a method for organizing my material on the fly. I’m pretty sure I’ve screwed something up, so when I sit down to crank out my next draft, I’ll realize something very important has been misplaced or was recorded improperly.

It’s a little ironic that I went through that since I had been toying with a few applications that are designed to do much of that in a paperless setting. (WARNING: Lengthy, geek-based, technology-focused productivity pr0n rant to follow. Proceed at your own risk.) One great thing about the Mac platform is there are tons and tons of organizing apps. Windows users tend to stick with the elements of Office. I could use Office, although I try not to use it unless I have to, both to avoid Microsoft at all costs and because it’s so damn slow on Macs (I have an alternate word processor called <a href=”http://www.nisus.com/Express/”>Nisus Express</a> that I try to use rather than Word). I’ve played around with <a href=”http://www.devon-technologies.com/products/devonthink/index.html”>DEVONThink</a>, which is very cool but probably beyond what I need and somewhat unnecessary if you leverage the power of <a href=”http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/spotlight/”>Spotlight</a> effectively. I checked out <a href=”http://www.barebones.com/products/yojimbo/index.shtml”>Yojimbo</a>, which has a cool name, pretty look, but is probably a little light. <a href=”http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnioutliner/”>OmniOutliner</a> came with my PowerBook, and while it’s promising, I’m not very reliant on outlining as my sole method of organization. I’ve been playing around with an app called <a href=”http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/product/mori”>Mori</a> which is very cool and I may use going forward, but at the same time isn’t really a tool that I see as useable for large research projects (It well could be, I just haven’t figured out how yet). After I started, I found an app called <a href=”http://www.bartastechnologies.com/products/copywrite/”>CopyWrite</a>, which looks very, very cool and even has a perpetual free option if you keep your projects within a certain scale (they tout that as the perfect option for students, hey, that’s me!). That may be something I’ll have to try out after I get through this process. Anyway, if you’re still with me after all of that, I thought it was funny that I’ve casually been checking out some cool toys, but hadn’t made a choice by the time I really needed one. When I hit writer’s block moments, I would load up a trial app and plug away for a little while, thinking, “Wow, if I had just started using this three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have note cards scattered all over my desk.”

Toddler Update

The latest doings of my daughter.

The Post-Pacifier Era has gone relatively well. Naps are a problem; she’s pretty much not taking them most days. Bedtime was actually very good the first three nights. For some reason since then, we’ve had difficulty. But that corresponds with Daylight Savings Time and the sun being up until about 8:00. Even though her bedtime was right around 7:00 for months, she’s had no trouble staying up an hour later. So little trouble, in fact, that it’s been a chore to get her to calm down and fall asleep. Last night we finally went back to the 10 Minute Cry method, and after only 25 minutes of screaming she was asleep. Better than the previous three nights when either S. or I spent well over an hour crammed into her bed with her, waiting for her to relax and go to sleep. But she hasn’t been asking for a binky. In fact, the only time she mentions it is to say “Binky go bye-bye,” anytime she sees a balloon. The Newmans are geniuses.

She did surprise us Wednesday morning. She’s also been sleeping later thanks to the time change, so we usually don’t hear her rustling until after 7:00. Most mornings she starts working on her family vocab, talking about S. and I, her aunts, and her grandparents. “Mommy night night. Daddy night night. Mimi bye bye.” And so on. Wednesday, she just made a couple happy sounds and then went quiet again. S. rolled out of bed (literally, as she is 32+ weeks now), opened our door, and started laughing. “Look what I found!” M. had escaped her bed, opened her door, and was running to our room to wake us up. At least it was 7:15 and not 5:15 the first time she did that!

The kid is really impressing us/freaking us out with her verbal skills. Over the last week she’s started identifying colors. She can do white, black, blue, red, yellow, green, purple, and pink. She points at things and says what color they are, or responds to our questions about what color objects are. I asked S. if that was advanced for 20 months. She looked it up in one of her reference books, and supposedly kids should be able to identify four colors between the ages of three and three-and-a-half. OK, my kid is definitely smart, but doesn’t that seem a little extreme? Seems like most 2-3 year olds can point at things and say what color they are. Maybe I’m wrong and I should go ahead and start working on her Notre Dame application.

Beyond colors, she mimics counting. She’ll point at things and say “One, two, three,” then revert to gibberish for the rest of the numbers. “Yowie” is some number, I haven’t figured out which one yet. She can’t actually count, though. Trust me, I’ve tried to get her to do it. She’ll repeat almost anything she hears, sometimes with uncanny accuracy. Probably a good thing she started doing that a few weeks after KU’s season ended. Some things are “Yucky.” We can’t isolate a pattern there, although over the weekend she saw a leaf on the ground, called it yucky, and when the wind blew it towards her, she burst into tears. This is the same kid who picked up leaves and crammed them into her mouth last fall. One of her favorite things to say is “Swoosh,” which she says anytime she sees a Nike Swoosh. I forget how many Nike shirts I have (I officially can’t wear Nikes anymore, as my feet have apparently become 25% wider in the past three years and I can’t cram my feet into the traditionally narrow Nikes), but she reminds me by running up, pointing at the logo, and saying “Swoosh” over-and-over. So I think she’ll warm up to Uncle Billy and Aunt Stacey just fine when they visit this summer. The final funny thing she says is her identification of our cars. Anytime she sees the Sienna, she says, “Daddy’s car.” When she sees the Passat, “Mommy’s car!” S. is very pleased with that, especially since I actually drive the Passat most of the time and she’s usually carting M. around in the van.

If M. plays basketball, and since she lives in Indiana she will, she’s going to be a point guard. Although she still loves to run and dunk on her mini-hoop, and she’s even begun “shooting” from close range in addition to dunking, she’s learning how to distribute as well. After she gets a couple of her own shots off, she’ll get her rebound, turn to me, bounce the ball my way, and then yell at me to shoot it. Then she grabs my rebounds and passes me the rock again. She knows her dad always wanted to be a chucker. The picture above was taken a couple weeks back. We took her into our neighbor’s driveway, cranked their goal down low, and I lifted her up so she could shoot a real ball. It was fun that day, but now anytime she’s outside, she goes running over there yelling “B-ball! B-ball!” Since the house is for sale we don’t think the realtors or our former neighbors would appreciate us hanging out when some prospective buyers drive up. Finally, M. has days when she’s obsessed at putting anything through her hoop. One day I went over to check on her after she had been playing quietly and found one of her dolls, her sippy cup, and three books all stuck in the net. She was just standing there, admiring her work.

We’ve given the concept of Time Out a couple of attempts, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near being able to use that as a true discipline tool. Two problems: she doesn’t understand sitting still in one place unless Baby Einstein is involved and she always ends up doing something hilarious while she’s supposed to be thinking about what she did wrong, which generally sends me into a fit of laughter. I’m no expert, but I think laughing defeats the intent of discipline.

She’s still working on getting her final two teeth through. Seems like they broke the skin three weeks ago and we can still just barely see the tips. So, she’s still got the Motrin monkey on her back. But it sure helps, as her mood swings have been awful lately when she needs to be medicated. I’m not going to talk about her tantrums, because I’ve learned you’re just supposed to ignore them.

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