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.