Friday, November 16, 2012

Mother's Milk: Le Leche, the Jerkward, and the Honking

I took the photo below during one of our recent birthing center classes.

Not really.
One would generally assume that at a Birthing Center, your typical clientele wouldn't necessarily be the biggest of meatheads and chauvinists.

Last week we attended a class on breastfeeding, and it was a full house.  Altogether there were 12 couples, all of who were well on the way to month #9.  Most of the couples looked and behaved like you might assume a well-attended breastfeeding class at a birthing center would be.

There was a lot of plaid.  And men with ponytails.  And earrings.

When we all went around the room to introduce ourselves, we were asked to say our name, when we were due, what we did for a living and what town we lived in.  One couple who looked to be about our age mentioned that they were from the same town as us and I had every intention of introducing myself to them at  the first break.  They lived close by and were due right around the same time as we are.

I couldn't be happier that I didn't.

The peanut gallery comments from time to time were pretty funny.  At one point we were asked to go around the room and talk about one benefit of breastfeeding -- they ran the gamut from strengthened immune systems to the low cost (as compared to formula and bottles).  But the husband from down the street said, "breastmilk comes in nicer looking packaging," which, clearly, is correct.

But then he did something that blew my mind.  In a room full of 23 strangers (including the teacher) he reached over and honked his wife's boob.

Yup.  Room full of people you don't know and your impulse is to tweak her boob?

His wife didn't seem terribly put out by it, so I figured it wasn't a big deal.  But then he repeated the behavior whenever he'd answer a question.

The teacher asked the class -- "If dad can't participate in the feeding of the baby, how can he bond with his newborn?"

Our new friend from around the block raised his hand and said,"we can demonstrate how it's done."  And then he leaned over his wife's chest and pantomimed suckling.  That's right.  Pantomimed.  Suckling.

I wish I were making this up.

At this point, the poor girl who was married to the clown blushed from her neck to her forehead.  She pushed him away and stared at the floor.  The teacher was nonplussed but it seemed so strange to watch this guy at a freaken birthing center breastfeeding class bully his own wife.

That poor girl is going to be raising a human being with this turd.  And, in all likelihood, this turd-spawn will be in the same grade/school as our daughter.

By the time he was cupping her breast like he was weighing a melon at the supermarket, I was grateful that class was at an end.  Was he uncomfortable being surrounded by so many hippies?  Do boobs as food-source make him squirmy?

Why would he feel the need to assert his masculinity in that setting, of all places?  He fathered a child.  Pretty concrete evidence, if you ask me.

The good news is that it was a pretty informative class.  You'd think the whole process would be rather straightforward, but there's some art to the science of it all.  Probably the coolest part of the class was a video that showed a baby being placed, immediately after birth, onto his mother's abdomen and kicking and climbing his way to her breast and self-attaching.

It doesn't happen with babies when the mom has had an epidural, and even then not all babies will do it even if the mother hasn't had drugs during labor, but it was crazy to see.

I couldn't find the exact video of it on YouTube, but if you Google "baby self attachment" or "breast crawl" there are dozens of videos that crop up.  This one gives you the basic gist.


Crazy stuff.

Next week starts the final countdown.  As of Tuesday, we're cleared for launch at the Birthing Center.  Maybe she won't be like every other Gach and actually show up on time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Picture (Book) is Worth a Thousand Words

And just like that, it's November.


Both of Em's baby showers are over and done (and a HUGE thank you to all the lovely ladies who did so much to make the events special) and now it's a waiting game.

Cuteness Level: Extreme
Luckily, we got a lot of books as gifts.  We registered for a few, but the very clever invite asked people to bring a children's book in lieu of a card.  Being a bibliophile, I was thrilled to begin to build out the baby's bookcase in advance of her arrival.

Ermagerd! Kids Berks!

It got me thinking about the children's books that were read to me as a kid -- and those that made regular circulation without my request.

Hands down, without a doubt, my number one contender for best picture book of all time is Where the Wild Things Are.  Max's misadventures and the pictures that Sendak created are easily one of the biggest influences on my creativity.  I used to have terrible nightmares as a kid, and there was something empowering about the way Max rules over all the wild things.  Big, scary monsters were nothing for Max to contend with, and when things got a bit dicey (and by dicey, I mean that they were looking to eat him) he left in his private boat and came home.  To where dinner was waiting for him.

Yes.  These are all mine.  And the one to the right is
my original copy from when i was a kid.
The stories that were read to me, without my asking, were slightly different in nature.  I can remember two in particular.

One was a book about a house and its non-human inhabitants who get sick of the people not cleaning up after themselves.  So all the anthropomorphic items in the house (I can remember one particularly pissed off tube of toothpaste) get up and leave one by one until, finally, the house sprouts legs and takes off down the street because it doesn't want to be lived in by people who don't take care of it.

I wish I could remember the name of it (Google couldn't help me this time), not so much because I'd want to purchase it all over again, but because I'd love to see what psychological scarring it caused.  How messed up is that?  Scaring a kid into cleaning the house because it might up and leave if you don't? 

In all fairness, it really didn't work.  I usually pushed all my toys and dirty clothes under the bed and then made my bed really well.  This (in my memory) worked for some time, before I started running out of clothes and my dad had to look under the bed to find them.

Because sharing bread would be Socialism.
The second book was The Little Red Hen.  If you've never heard the story, here's the CliffsNotes version: little hen does all the work preparing a loaf of bread.  She asks for help from Sleepy Cat, Lazy Dog and Noisy Duck and none of them want to lift a finger (or paw or wing).  Now, one might ask (and rightfully so) why are you befriending people whose nicknames are "Sleepy," "Lazy," and "Noisy" and then expecting them to do anything, but apparently the good people at Golden Books have decided that is beside the point.  In the end, the Little Red Hen makes a kick-ass loaf of bread and her schmuck friends all want to eat it, but she won't share because they didn't help out.

And the moral of the story is "Hold a Grudge because Lazy People Don't Deserve Your Charity."

Or something like that.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that The Little Red Hen might be mandatory indoctrination reading for future members of the Republican Party.  The Hen is red, after all.

I'm sure that there is a much clearer message inherent in The Little Red Hen but whatever it is, it's lost on me.    So, sorry about that one, Dad -- whatever morality you were trying to bake into your son got lost in translation.

I've got about six weeks to kill between now and Baby's arrival.  I'll probably use it to catch up on my reading.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead...

A lot of famous poets had a good deal to say about sleep:
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 
 -Robert Frost
Death, so call'd, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass'd in sleep. 
-Lord Byron 
But I subscribe to the wisdom of the late Warren William Zevron.  Who wrote this song, just so you have some basis for his amazingness:

Apparently you have to watch "Werewolves of London" directly on YouTube, but I assure you, it is well worth the 3 minutes and 17 seconds it will cost you.  Because the song might be the most perfect song ever created by mankind.

Zevron said, "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

Why such morose subject matter this posting, you ask?  I'll tell you. 

Three random encounters with peripheral neighbors, acquaintences and a random person at the grocery store, all offered up the same advice:

Enjoy your sleep now.  Enjoy.  Your.  Sleep.

It's a strange piece of advice to offer up to a couple.  Don't get me wrong -- I fully understand that babies will keep you up and don't abide by our schedules.  But I can think of so many other things I'd rather do than sleep.

Here is a list of just some of them:

  • Bake a cake.
  • Eat a cake.
  • Play video games.
  • Watch a scary movie.
  • Watch a lot of scary movies.
  • Read a book.
  • Write a book.
  • Draw.
  • Paint.
  • Hike a mountain.
  • Swim in a lake.
  • Run a race.
  • Go on a date.
  • Go on multiple dates.
  • Go on multiple dates where cake might be consumed.
  • Eat a cake.
See?  Plenty of variety here.  Why then are we so obsessed with catching our REMs?  Not to be confused with the following:

Because, frankly, Michael Stipe doesn't look that fast.

Of all the things to long for once the baby is here, is sleep really the number 1 priority?  All the things you could miss and sleep is what you tell others to make sure they go out and attain?

In full disclosure -- I've never been much of one for sleep.  While I'm sure most family will remember me as a late sleeper, it's mostly because I'd stay up into the wee hours of the morning reading or writing or playing video games.

When one doesn't actually fall asleep until close to 3 or 4 in the morning, 9 or 10 o'clock can hardly be seen as "sleeping in." 

At one point it got so bad that I only really saw a few hours of sunlight in the winter.  I'd fall asleep just before dawn and wake up in the afternoon.  

Furthermore, I don't fully believe that whole "you'll never sleep again" mantra.  There's some evidence to the contrary:

1. Not every parent I know looks like this:
Babies!  Babies have made us this way...

2. If it was as bad as people describe it, no one would have multiple children:

The Duggars.  Yes, those are all siblings.

3.  Okay.  There is no 3.  But 1 and 2 should illustrate the point.

I'm grateful for the advice.  Don't get me wrong.  Well wishes with a tacked-on heads-up is much appreciated.  I just don't get why that's the solitary piece of advice people deem the most important.

I'm thankful that my years of being a night owl are finally going to pay off.  The past 30ish years of my existence have just been training for the weeks, months and years ahead.   As luck would have it, I married an early bird.  So while she and the baby catch the worm, I can catch my ZZZs.  Or, at least, what little I need.  As long as I am not busy baking a cake.

Because that is the advice I will impart on the fathers that come after me.  

"Bake your cakes now!  Bake all the ones you can.  You won't have time for that stuff once the baby gets here."

Totally unsolicited baking advice from a stranger.  It's a good thing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom-Mom

My grandmother (affectionately known as "Mom-Mom") turns 91 today.

Ninety-one years ago, the following events occurred:

  • The Yankees bought the land in the Bronx where they'd eventually build Yankee Stadium.
  • The Brits were occupying Dublin.
  • Einstein was lecturing about this new-fangled Relativity thing.
  • Babe Ruth became the home run champ.
  • China founded its Communist Party.
  • Hoover became Asst. Director of the FBI.
  • The first Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City.
  • Mary Donohoe was born to a grocer and a hairdresser in Philadelphia.
Eighteen years later, WWII would break out, but not before this could happen:

Ed & Mary

I -- like most children -- assumed my grandmother came into existence when she was 60 or so, looking like this:

Just off camera is a newborn demanding Vienna Fingers.
 But all those years ago, she happened to fall in love with a tall guy with a goofy last name.  As a result of that, a bunch of children came into the world.

In descending height order: Ed, Mary, Mary Lou, Eileen, Sue

In the picture above, my dad wasn't born yet.  My grandparents are standing with my Aunts Mary Lou, Eileen and Sue.  My dad -- Edward (like my grandfather) -- and Uncle Joe would enter the brood a few years later.  It would seem, that having a girl first, I'm following a bit in their footsteps.

A lot of crazy and significant things happened in 1921 -- but if my great-grandparents hadn't brought their baby Mary into the world, there are 18 grandchildren who wouldn't have existed.  And at this point, I've lost count of how many great-grandchildren my grandmother has.  Suffice it to say, there's a lot of us about.  Being Catholic seems to have that influence on a family.

But she could tell you all of our names and birthdays.  I still get a card on time every year.  Each one of us is inked into her bible.  But she still recites them off the top of her head.

I have more anecdotes about the woman than time to record them all.  Some of my favorites:

Growing up through the Great Depression, she has a certain penchant for being a spendthrift.  She always bought two of something, even if she didn't need the first one, because she could get a good deal on it.  Her pantry was always full of two unopened versions of every foodstuff you could imagine.

My avid love of fishsticks is a result of her microwaving them for me every Friday night I spent at her house in Drexel Hill.

Despite my weight issues as a kid, she never failed to indulge me.  Even as my father would be telling her how important it was to keep me away from sweets, she'd be handing me two cookies behind her back and telling me to go watch television in the living room.

She never bothered with getting her license until she was in her 50s.  When she took the test, she meant to switch on the turn signal, but accidentally turned on the windshield wipers.  She couldn't figure out how to turn them off during the whole road test.  When she finished the exam, there were tears in her eyes because she thought she had failed.  The instructor asked her what she was so upset about and handed her the slip to get her picture taken for her license photo.

And before you get upset with the Department of Motor Vehicles, my grandmother only drove 5 times in her entire life.  Once was to take me to a swim lesson at the YMCA.  So, in 91 years, she never had a car accident.

Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop used to take me to church when I'd stay at their house on weekends.  I was restless and agitated, but Mom-Mom kept me in check with doling out a seemingly endless supply of Tic Tacs.  When she'd stand to take Communion, I didn't understand why I couldn't get a cracker with everyone else.  So she'd appease me with a Certs.  I may not have taken to catechism, but I have a devotion to fresh breath which will last me a lifetime.

She came to all of my plays, musicals and concerts (choir and saxophone) from elementary school through college.  That's a lot of crap performances to sit through out of the love for a child.  She still has the playbills with my name underlined in each.

Mary, with Joe Cool Ed (left) and
her brother, Buddy (right)
Growing up around Mom-Mom was one of the best things about my childhood.  If you could distill everything that is good and hopeful and kind and altruistic about me ('d have to distill for a really long time) you'd probably find that the majority of that was instilled in me by this woman.

Here she is, pictured cutting her 90th birthday cake.  I hope that I can show our baby girl how to approach the world with just some of your grace, joy, and endless supply of tic-tacs.

Love ya, love ya.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Babies Having Babies

As Jack Handy once so infamously said:
I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not our children's children, because I don't think children should be having sex.
I saw this today on Gizmodo and did a double take:
I think this is the very definition of meta.
I'm 99% certain this is a joke.  Dear Lord, let it be a joke.

If you want to see the original, with all the details, check out this link:

And let's all keep our fingers crossed that this doesn't become an actual plaything.  I mean -- it has to be an ironic commentary about the glorification of teenage pregnancy epitomized by shows like 16 and Pregnant.

Right?  Please tell me I'm right.

Otherwise, to quote a famous doctor:

Good news, everyone.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Paid Maternity Leave -- Y U NO GIVE?

Today, I kick off with a graphic:

I saw this article back in May on and it rattled around in my brainspace for the past few months:


Here's the tl;dr version:

Now, I'm not saying we should run full force down the path of our crunchy neighbors to the north, but it is curious that Pakistan, South Africa and Mexico give mothers at least three months of paid leave.  And that's the lowest end of the spectrum.

Under FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), American women have their jobs protected for 12 weeks.  But FMLA only provides you with the time off and indicates that your position will still be there when you get back -- it does not stipulate that your employer must pay you during your absence.  Additionally, FMLA doesn't apply to any employer with less than 50 employees.  So if a woman works for a small company, that puts the employer in a bind, so they are free to backfill that pregnant employee if they so choose.

It's crazy to me that we tolerate this.  How are we so sadly lagging behind other developed countries in recognizing the importance of a mother's time with her child?  This isn't just crunchy-granola-breath-hippie-liberal-arts-major talk.

Some highlights from the articles:
  • Physical contact with infants keeps them calmer and helps encourage brain development.
  • It also lowers stress (cortisol levels) in the mother and staves off depression.
  • It allows mothers the opportunity to breast feed which has been shown to:
    • Increase a child's overall health
    • Increase a child's IQ
    • Reduce a mother's risks for hypertension and diabetes
  • And it allows mother and baby time to bond.  
How is this not important enough to gripe about? 

In 2010, Pew Research reported that about 18% of U.S. women will not give birth during their lifetimes.  Which means that 82% will.  If 50.8% of our population is female and 4 out of 5 of them are birthing a child...

That's a lot of ladies who probably would like to spend time with their babies.  

Just saying.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Brave New World

Given the content of last night's debates I've been thinking about all the things that will have changed in the world between the course of my childhood and when my daughter will be born.

Namely, I was thinking about Big Bird getting the boot from PBS if Romney wins the election..

But there's already so many things that at one time were novel for me, but for her -- they'll just have always been in existence.  Like how grandparents have always been at least in their 50's.

There's an excellent list put out every year by Beloit College that captures a bit of the mindset of each incoming freshman class.  The kids how entered college this year won't graduate until 2016.  Which sounds like a date out of a Bradbury novel.

For our little girl there are all sorts of things that will be perfectly normal:

  • Obama will have been president and it won't have been a big deal that he got elected in the first place.
  • Blue M&Ms will always have been in the bag.  And there will never have been tan ones.
  • You can always fast-forward through commercials when you use your DVR.
  • She'll never have to be kind and rewind.
  • Her parents will have always been on Facebook.
  • So will at least 1 Billion other people.
  • Televisions will have always been available in a flat format.
  • No one will have been able to smoke at the mall or in local bars.
  • You'll never have to dial up into the internet.
  • Encyclopedias on a shelf will be a relic.
  • When Marty McFly shows up on his hoverboard, she'll be three years old.
  • Video games will have always been rendered in 128 bits.
  • People always will have carried cellular phones.
  • No one will use the term "cellular phones."
  • "Web Logs" will have always been blogs and "Electronic Mail" will have always been just email.
  • That funny floppy disk icon you click to save your document will always just be a funny looking blue square and not something she ever saved a term paper on.
  • Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Dick Clark will have always been dead.
  • Vampires will have always sparkled.
  • Hot Pockets will not be a novel concept.  But will still be like ingesting molten lava because the bright minds at Hot Pockets, LLC have not come up with a way to help us figure out when the middle isn't a block of ice and yet not so hot to scorch a hole in your tongue.
  • Everyone will always know whether Severus Snape was really good or evil.
  • "i"s will always be associated with phones, pads and pods.
  •  You won't have to memorize anything with Google at your fingertips at all times.
  • Scrunchies, slap bracelets, and Zubaz pants will be something she never wore, let alone sees in her lifetime.
  • Pogs will just be funny, ridiculously small coasters.
  • There will always have been 649 total Pokemon, as opposed to the original 151.
  • The story of how Darth Vader became evil will always have preceded how his son came to deny the Dark Side.
  • Her dad will have always been a geek.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rock-a-bye Baby

I've heard people refer to sleeping soundly as "sleeping like a baby."  This has got to be one of the most egregious misuses of a simile in our language today.  Unless they actually mean that they woke up every two hours, messed in their pants and threw up a little on themselves, the simile is inaccurate.

How odd are the sing-song lullabies we use to coax children to sleep?  The "Itsy-bitsy Spider" is particularly scary in my mind as what ungodly arachnid can survive drowning!?!?

Growing up I can remember my Grandmother singing "Rock-a-bye Baby" to me ... but it also could have been an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, so don't quote me on it.

Being a former English major, I figured it was high time to deconstruct the go-to lullaby to each of its lines and analyze what is really going on there.

Figure 1.1
"Rock-a-bye baby..." so far so good.  Baby is partaking in a nonsensical activity which we understand to be taking place in a cradle.

Figure 1.2

" the treetop./"  So, already we're in trouble.  Why anyone would place a child in a cradle in a tree is beyond me, but this is hardly a soothing scenario.  Wikipedia offers up that this may have something to do with a Native-American tradition of rocking babies to sleep in birch bark cradles that were hung from trees.  Even if this is true, it seems a far cry from a safe activity.
Figure 1.2
"When the wind blows, the cradle will rock./"  You ain't just whistling Dixie.    Generally, wind + object intended to move = movement.  So, in short -- while not an overwhelmingly amazing insight, this portion of the verse does prove important for future plot twists.
Figure 1.3
"When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall./" This seems like a rapid escalation in the course of the action.  One might assume a parent would be apt to place his or her child on a rather strong branch of a tree (were one to place a child in a tree in the first place) and so this wind must be rather on the strong side.  According to the Beaufort Scale, we're looking at a wind speed of somewhere between 62-74 mph.  And that's for "twigs and small branches" to be blown off the tree.  Someone is a derelict parent here.  I'm assuming somewhere around 50 mph one would probably remove the child from a tree.

Figure 1.4
"And down will come baby, cradle and all."  Well, at this point things really could hardly get worse.  One assumes that baby lacks the powers of levitation, thus the inevitable force of gravity will presumably pull all three elements-- bough, baby and cradle, downwards.  In fact, unless said tree were positioned directly above an alligator infested pond the situation could hardly get any worse.

This whole scenario is far from relaxing.  I don't care how soothing your voice is -- this is scary as all hell.  Thus, I posit another explanation to the purpose of this so-called nursery rhyme: to instill crippling fear in the child to encourage obedience.  

Hypothesis: babies cry for a variety of reasons, and by scaring them into submission, one may hope to curtail unnecessary crying by the implicit threat conveyed by the lullaby.  

What could be worse than being put in a tree that inevitably will break and cause grievous bodily harm and emotional distress?  I sure as hell would act right if my parents threatened to throw me out of a tree.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Home Stretch

It's hard to believe that the 7th month is already upon us.

In the first trimester it was like we were continually headed uphill -- 12 weeks seemed like it would never come and we were continually itching to tell everyone that we were pregnant.  But time moved like molasses in winter and we were constantly finding creative ways to explain Em's continual aversion to foods.  She was sick non-stop.  I had to stop wearing cologne altogether and switch to the blandest deodorant that I could find.  She slept somewhat like a house cat and we would see each other for about an hour every day.  I would grill outside (weather permitting) and then eat by myself.

I had more than my fair share of hotdogs and baked beans for those three months.

Almost like a switch got flipped in her insides, the second trimester started and I got my wife back.  She was hungry without as much nausea, so I could cook in the house again.  She could stay awake past 8:30, so we could actually hang out when we got home from work.  We started actually doing stuff on weekends again and got to get out of the house and see friends again for more than an hour or two at a time.

Now we're in the home stretch and it's like an all new ball game.

If you've never experienced "nesting" firsthand or as a partner or spouse, let me describe it like this.

Everything you always ignored as being slightly annoying around the house becomes the most obnoxious and nagging thing ever.  Some women, apparently, only experience nesting in the last days or weeks before delivery.  Some have it plague them continuously throughout the pregnancy.  For us, it's been the most intense since we came into the last trimester.

And I say "us," because I have the same twitchy feeling whenever I'm being idle.  It hasn't been sympathy pains or hunger -- but this nesting thing makes me neurotic and feel the need to make sure everything is ready for this baby to come home.

Now, I know babies won't notice all the niceties around the house when they get home.  They want a warm, soft bed, plenty of eats, and a clean diaper.

I think it's possibly one of the more awesome aspects of biological design that one gets so ecstatic and eager for the child to get here.  I feel like I'm ready for her to show up tomorrow (but totally don't -- because your bookcase isn't built yet) and I'm ready to start the next phase of our life together as a motley trio.

It's going to be strange being the only guy in a house of all female creatures.


So, this was not my funniest post.  Given the circumstances, I'd like to leave you with a moment of zen:

I could watch that all day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Clean ALL THE THINGS! (On the virtues of Procrastination)

Do you remember this guy?

Mr. Yuk!

What you possibly don't remember is that Mr. Yuk had a public service announcement from the 70's which is creepy as all get-out.  He has a theme song and everything.

Seriously.  Watch at your own hilarious risk:

Mr. Yuk PSA

I came to thinking about Mr. Yuk once again since I've been trying to gradually baby-proof the house and get all our cleaning supplies either in high shelves or cabinets that can lock.

And, before anyone can say it -- yes, I am well aware that babies can neither climb, nor open caps, but I've got this weird compulsion to

(Image brazenly stolen from hyperboleandahalf, who is one of my absolute favorite blogs/webcomics ever.)

And in so doing (cleaning all the things) I keep noticing more things that need cleaning.  It's a vicious cycle.

I don't know if my brainstuffs are just short circuiting because I feel this need to get the house in the best possible order it can be before the baby gets here, or if it's just everyone telling me continuously that all my projects around the house are coming to a screeching halt the minute I become a dad.

But I highly doubt our newest housemate is going to mind terribly if the crown moulding in the living room goes unfinished for a few years.

I think the neuroses are getting worse though.  My wife had left for work on Sunday and I told her that I had two goals -- finish the pots and pans from the night before and mow the lawn.  I was getting the pots from the stovetop when I noticed some splashes of pasta sauce on the backsplash.  So I got out one of these insidious contraptions

What, exactly, are these things made of?
and went to town.

Two hours later, the backsplash, cabinets and fridge looked great.  But I'd yet to finish a single pot.  And the yard was a forgotten distant third on my priorities list.  Em got back from work and I was halfway through dismantling the waffle iron (those things are a sonuvabitch to get clean) when she came into the kitchen to see me wielding a screwdriver and half a waffle iron while standing over a sink full of dirty pots and pans.

It's not that I don't have the attention span -- I just see a constantly multiplying inventory of things to be cleaned, fixed, finished or otherwise dealt with and put away.  

And I have absolutely no Mr. Yuk stickers to put on anything.

Seeing the aggravation and complete sense of defeat on my face, Em knew it was time to get out and take in the day.  I protested for a while, but I was so exhausted from the hours of scrubbing, I gave in with little real fight.  So Em suggested we go do the exact opposite of productivity.  So we went to the park and flew a kite.


So, kite flying skills +1.  Houseproofing 0.

I can get my Mr. Yuk stickers another day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Drunk Baby is a Happy Baby

Everyone knows that there is nothing funnier in this world than a drunk baby.

If you don't believe me, please refer to Exhibits A-C.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C
See?  Hilarious.

But apparently, not tremendously effective at curbing binge drinking later in life.  An article recently published on indicated the belief that by demystifying alcohol for our children, we enable them to have a more healthy approach to drinking is dead wrong.
At least one in five of the parents of third-graders said they believed that children who sip alcohol will be better at resisting peer pressure to drink, and less likely to try risky drinking, the study's authors wrote in Monday's issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine."This finding indicates that many parents mistakenly expect that the way children drink at home, under parental supervision, will be replicated when children are with peers," they wrote.
"This expectation is refuted by recent studies that link adolescent brain development with adolescents' propensity to disregard home drinking norms when they are with peers."
Previous studies suggested that fifth graders whose parents allowed them to drink alcohol were twice as likely to report drinking in seventh grade, the researchers said.
So, despite our best intentions, drunk baby above may still turn into this fellow:

I have two distinct early memories of drinking.

The first happened at a 76ers game sometime when Charles Barkley and Dr. J were both still playing -- so this had to be sometime between '84 (when Barkley was drafted to the 76ers) and '87 (when Dr. J retired).  So, I was somewhere between the ages of 3 and 6.

I was choking on a pretzel, or popcorn or something or other and when I finally got it down, I needed something to drink.  Being at the Spectrum and landlocked somewhere in the nosebleed section, my mom gave me a sip of the only thing available -- a red solo cup with beer in it.

It was the most revolting, vile, disgusting thing I had ever tasted, ever.  Now, I got over this aversion in college, but it was a long and difficult struggle to overcome this travesty.  But I'm a trooper.

My second encounter came at Christmastime.  I remember that I loved eggnog (I'm sure you can see where this one is going).  Being a fat kid, there were few substances on the face of this planet more delectable than eggnog at Christmas.  The stuff tasted like liquefied vanilla ice cream -- what's not to love?

When I was really young, being the child of divorcees, my holidays were split.  As my Grandparents lived between my mother's home and where my dad lived, my mom would drop me at my Grandparents' house after we finished breakfast and unwrapping presents.

What you have to know about my father is that he's never on time.  Never.  Family has actually taken to telling him that events begin up to two hours before the actual start time, just to make sure that he gets there before all the food gets cold.

As my dad was yet to arrive with my stepmom, I was left to my own devices while my aunts and uncles and grandparents milled about and my older cousins played something or other I was probably too slow or uncoordinated to participate in.  Or, equally likely, there was food, so I was lingering around the kitchen.

I had just polished off a plate of chips, dip, cookies and shrimp cocktail (like you do) and needed a libation to wash it all down with -- out of the corner of my eye, I saw the nectar of the Gods: Turkey Hill Eggnog.

Nectar of the Gods
The ladle was in it already and I helped myself to a fancy punch bowl glass full.  Now, being a fat kid, I considered myself (and still do) a bit of a connoisseur of eggnog and this did not taste as it should.

But, as young as I was, I did not yet trust my already advanced palate and so I proceeded to continue to attempt to identify what was off about the drink.  Undaunted, I got through half of it before I walked over to my aunt and told her that it didn't taste right.

She asked which punch bowl I had gotten my drink out of -- and I gestured to the one in the kitchen as opposed to the one in the dining room.

The look of terror that crossed her face didn't register with me at the time, but I'm pretty sure she thought she had a drunk toddler on her hands.  Little did she know, my little Buddha-esque figure was so stuffed to the gills with carbs, I was probably closer to a food coma than I was to a drunken stupor.

But, knowing my dad was probably hours behind, my aunts and grandmother set on a quest to sober me up before he got to the house.  They set me up in front of the TV with my own plate of cookies and pastries and told me to finish it up before my dad got there and watch some television.

Best.  Christmas.  Ever.

I don't fully recall if my dad was informed of the situation that day or if the secret was kept until I was much older.  Either way, I still like eggnog.  Especially with rum.  Enough rum to blind a pirate, preferably.

So, -- let this be a lesson to you.  Beer is gross to kids, but mixed drinks are like sleepy-time-magic-ice-cream-milkshakes.  So if you are trying to foster a healthy relationship for your child with alcohol, don't give them anything that is that damn delicious.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Barbie Conundrum

For her birthday my stepmom got one of these.
Le Halloween Barbie
Now, what you need to understand is that my stepmom is not one of these:

I hope they swabbed down the boardwalk after this shot...
Which begs the question -- what does she want with a Barbie in the first place?  Now, in full disclosure, the Barbie was a gift from a childhood friend who remembered how much my stepmom loved the Barbies that they used to play with together.  

Clearly, having avoided Real-Housewife-itis, my stepmom seems to have turned out okay.  But there are so many things for girls to get hung up on as they grow up and mature.  I can only imagine what you might feel like if the model of womanhood you targeted during your formative years was a six-foot-tall blonde bombshell.

Now, given genetics, our daughter has more than a fighting chance at being tall, and she could always get blonde from a bottle, but why induct a child into that line of thinking so soon?

I remember, probably 16 years ago now, I was sitting on the couch watching television with my grandfather and Arnold Schwarzenegger came on the screen.  My grandfather turned to me and said, "you know, if you put some time in, you could look like that too."

Yup.  Totally attainable.  And I, at that age, thought this guy was getting ripped without the aid of HGH and other nefarious substances.

So why put a toy in the hand of a little girl that might make her feel compelled to look like this:

Yes.  The girl in the picture above is real(ish).  Whether there's Photoshop involved and/or vast amounts of plastic (LULZ) surgery is neither confirmed nor denied.  But in the entire world, how many people look like the girl above?  According to the local news affiliates, most people look like this:

Generic below-the-neck obese people shot.

I remember a year ago there was a story about a young woman who took the Barbie mythos and turned it on its head.  She took the proportions of a Barbie and  made them into a real life representation.  The results, besides being funny were pretty telling:

Get Real Barbie 
The young artist (pictured above with her monstrosity creation) suffered from body dysmorphia and a year-long bout with anorexia.  The doll, whose measurements come in at 6' tall, sporting a 39" bust and an 18" waist is clearly cartoonish and grotesque.  For basis of comparison, this lady -- 

Norma Jeane Mortenson
Marilyn Monroe
was 5'5", and 36-23-37.  

Now, before the nerds/contrarians in my readership come out with the "correlation is not causation" argument, I'll apply it first.

Barbie does not cause body dysmorphia or create eating disorders firsthand.  

But she doesn't exactly help.

I know I'm overthinking this.  I get it.  Just because a little girl plays with a plastic Barbie doll doesn't mean she's going to grow up with low self-esteem and dissatisfied with how she looks.

But it does make you wonder about how impressionable a child is.  Something my grandfather said to me in passing when I was barely a teen stuck with me into my thirties.  

I'd probably feel better about the whole thing if I knew for a fact that this lady had played with Barbie:

While this one

She's 26 years old, people.  Think about it.

did not.

But I'm pretty certain that's not the case.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Science, Math and Biology! Oh, my!

Disclaimer: I do not profess to be a statistician, mathematician nor a biologist.  I did, however, do really well in 9th grade biology, so everything that follows is probably pretty sound.  Just saying.

My dad said something that's been looping around in my head like the Mexican Hat Dance on repeat.

If you want to know what that experience is like, click the following link.  But don't say I didn't warn you:

Mariachi Mexican Hat Dance

Why suffer alone when you can take others down with you?

Anyway (You watched it, didn't you?  Despite my warnings.  I see how it's going to be between us.  *Sigh*) my dad said, "You know, you can't control how your kids are going to turn out."

My first and immediate response was something like this:

What a versatile visual.
I mean.  If everyone could control how their children turned out, we'd all be doctors and lawyers and other assorted well-compensated adults.  Rather than a bunch of hooligans.

But I digress.

I remember from Mr. Fetterman's 9th grade biology class, doing diagrams where you would show dominant and recessive genes from both the parents -- Punnett Squares was what they were called (and no -- before you laud me for my amazing memory, I just Googled "gene diagram for dominant and recessive" and it was my first search result.  I swear, we're going to be the first generation with worse memory functions than our parents) and they were a good pictorial representation of how genes play out and what the chances are of certain attributes showing up in the child.

I've got all sorts of things I can't stand about myself -- my inability to play Tchaikovsky as he intended, my struggle to break the four minute mile, the fact that I find it a physical impossibility to get my hand to the bottom of a Pringles container -- stuff like that.

There's also stuff I like about myself.  I'm far too humble and good looking to go into detail, but you get my drift.

My wife is the same way.  Sure -- 99.9% of her is practically perfect in every way

Despite popular opinion, I am not, in fact, married to Mary Poppins.

but even she (I'm sure) has a thing or two she wouldn't mind seeing skipping a generation.

So, being the science-minded academic that I am, I put together the following Punnett Square:

 Figure 1.1

The thing about a Punnett Square is that every quadrant has an equal chance of occurring.  So it's a 1 in 4 chance we'll have the most cherubic baby ever and it's just as likely that we could give Rosemary's baby a run for his money.

Child A is like winning the lottery.  She's well behaved and intelligent and smart and kind and pretty and self-motivated and all the things you would hope for your child to be.  Child D is the child your parents wished on you when you were bad.  "I hope you have one just like you" is actually an old Italian curse.

Odds are we're going to have one that's some mash-up of our best and worse qualities.  And, seeing as the both of us seem to have turned out relatively competent and self-sufficient, the odds are our child has more than a fighting chance at being a decent human being.

But this begs the question which I posed in a previous entry:

Where do a$$hole children come from?

And I think I've found my answer:

When demonspawns have babies with a normal person, the chart begins to look like this:

Figure 1.2
The chances of having a normal child remain constant, but the odds of a demonspawn are now 50%!  It's a flip of the coin, people!  This is why dads are so freaked out about their daughters dating hooligans!  It's a biological imperative to protect the species from self-destruction.

But even with the visual, if my exploits on SEPTA are any indicator, the tide is quickly turning, and more and more demonspawn are being born...thus, we must turn to science for the answer"

Figure 1.3
And this is why people should need a license to breed.  It's not my opinion.  It's science and math.  Just saying.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Childbirth Class: I Thought This Was Supposed to Be Helpful

I don't always have the best of attention spans.  In fact, while I'm writing this I'm thinking of all the things I need to do around the house:

  • mow the lawn
  • wash the dog
  • mop the kitchen floor
  • replace the battery in the smoke detector
  • vacuum the stairs
  • cook dinner
  • unload the dishwasher
  • reload the dishwasher
  • write an email
In fact, xkcd had a wonderful webcomic on this very subject today.

Click the link above if the image in the blog is too small to read.

Essentially, I've got a lot of balloons in the air right now and I'm just trying to make sure I hold onto the most important ones.

I'm not much of one for making lists.  I primarily shoot from the hip and figure if I forgot something important, I'll remember it later.

Which leads my to our prenatal class.  Aren't I just the best at segues?  

Saturday we went to our prenatal class.  Now, we had the option to go to four two-hour seminars or just get the whole thing wrapped up in one eight-hour birthing extravaganza.  I'm a guy who likes to rip off the band-aid in one fell swoop.  Thankfully, I married a woman who is also a fan of the approach.

We got there on time -- thanks to Em getting us out the door -- and we were the first ones there other than the instructor.  She was nice enough.  Not quite as crunchy-granola-breath-patchouli-wearing as I might have expected, but seemed rather low-key and the right energy for a bunch of people embarking on bringing their first child into the world.

The class itself (consisting of five other couples other than us) looked about as engaged as a class of Seniors the last week before graduation.

Em's had books all around the house for some time and we've watched a number of documentaries, so much of the information was already familiar.  The instructor tried her damnedest to get the class engaged, but they just wouldn't budge.  

The class is conducted in the basement of the Birthing Center.  So the layout looks like this:

Le expertly rendered birthing center

I was just getting bored enough to start making a list in my head of all the stuff I need to get done before the baby gets here when the sounds started.  It began as a low moan but suddenly rose to a fever pitched scream.  I imagine the woman in the birthing suite immediately above our heads looked something like this:

Bloodcurdling, thy name is
Janet Leigh least that's what she sounded like.  Suddenly unable to focus on my list making, my attention turned to the instructor.  She noticed the screams (of course she noticed them.  The woman was screaming bloody murder.  What I mean to say is that she acknowledged the screams) and thought that putting a movie on and turning the volume up might help to drown out the woman upstairs.

The screams definitely went against everything the instructor had been preaching...thinking of yourself "opening like a flower" and having the "power of a contraction wrap around you" and the "counter-productivity of the act of screaming" itself.


Actual. Statue. Used. In. Movie.

Yes, that's the real title of the movie.  The cliff-notes version (of the 10 minute film) is this: a bunch of women give birth in the squatting position.  As the title would imply.  But what blows your mind, is that there are rarely doctors present.  Mind you, this was filmed in 1979, and it was shot in Brazil as a anthropological piece.  But the babies are born, perfectly fine, without anyone catching them -- they land on a soft bed and the moms pick them up like nothing happened.

For those of you not wanting/willing/able to watch the video the children come out slowly at first and then, the minute the shoulders clear,'s kind of like this:

And BOOM goes the baby
After the first six times, you get kind of used to it.  I did lean over to Em at one point and mention that they should probably have some kind of bumpers set up so the child doesn't overshoot the landing, but at one point I looked at the guy closest to the TV (we were sat in a semi-circle) and this was the face he was making:

Caption unnecessary

Which was unfortunate for him, as his wife was 36 weeks pregnant.  I think I'm a pretty bad procrastinator, but if you have no idea what's about to happen to your wife, you'd probably benefit from taking some time to acclimate to the idea.

After the video was done, she let us go for lunch.

Nope, not kidding.  Fifteen babies born in the squatting position and then off to get some grub.

The rest of the class in the afternoon was pretty tame.  They took us through some relaxation and pain management techniques and then let us know the rules and regs of birth at the center.  Probably the most important thing I walked away from the class with was knowing it's probably best of install the rear-facing infant car seat before the day your child enters the world.

Which is yet another thing to add to my ever growing list.