Monday, July 31, 2006

Irregular Newsletter: Almost Eight Months

You are nearly eight months old now.

Since my last newsletter, two months ago, you have changed so much, again. The speed of your development amazes me. And, what's more, not only are you changing and growing, but once you've acquired a new skill, it is seems as though you pack it neatly under your belt, never forgetting, always improving on it.

This is definitely unlike myself. I will learn some econometric technique, use it several times for a project. Then, months later come back to it, and it will seem foreign to me as though I am meeting a person for the first time. Not even remembering the face and forgetting the name.

You are amazing that way, Big.

Since my last newsletter you seem practically all grown. Headed off to college.

You finally learned to coordinate your arms and legs to the point of ambulation (on knees) across a flat plane last weekend while we were at the North Shore with MRM#1 and MRM#2. As the SYO enjoyed High School Musical for the 18th time in a row, we let you "vocalize" your way to mastery. Heretofore, you had only been able to get on your hands and knees, rocking your way to frustrated oblivion and a degree of vocalization that I, while alone with you, could not fully absorb. Usually, I would rescue you from your misery and wisk you off to your preferred destination. With the help of three other adults, though, we let you frustrate yourself to mastery.

This, of course, has changed our lives dramatically. You and your unpredictable ways can now be found in odd corners of the rooms after only brief moments out of the room to, perhaps, urinate, for example.

Childproofing has recommenced at a more vigorous pace.

When you're tired, and it is close to bedtime, your vocalizations seem to become more poignant. It is as though you're saying: I know that I'm off to bed now, so let me be more direct with you. To be sure that you understand what I am saying: BABABABABABABA! or MAMAMAMAMAMAMA!

You have inadvertently chosen to vocalize the names we're planning on calling ourselves. But we don't care. We pretend that you know what you're doing all the same, oohing and ahhing back at you. I sometimes respond with a chorus of "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys because of it's "BA - BA - BA" lyrics.

We're also learning a little more about your personality.

I would characterize you as, well, as aggressive. I have four empirical observations to support this conclusion.

1. BioMom said that after nipping her n*#$@le, you laughed. Hard.

2. I have observed you grabbing at our littlest cat's hair and pull it. Hard. Afer she cries out and wrangles herself away from your tiny vice grip, you then chase after her, black hairs poking from between your tight-fisted fingers, on your hands and knees, giggling all the while.

3. Snap the bow of my favorite glasses on one single twist, and then laugh when I responded with a resounding "NO!" (Running tally of costs due to your shenanegans: $70).


4. Persist on rolling over, head butting, putting your mouth all over, grabbing the hair of, and squeezing the face of a baby about your age who was visiting the other night.

You definitely know your own name, but I'm not sure that you recognize any other specific form of our language, or the two ASL words I've been using with you regularly: "milk" and "more".

You're eating loads of stuff now, but wanting a small, rare fillet. I can barely carry you in the Bjorn and, in fact, bought one with more back support as a birthday gift for myself.

When we go to get you from your crib first thing in the morning, or after any of your naps, you wrap your arms around our necks, squeezing, and your little mouth, open and wet, searches our face in your wild form of a kiss, as if to say: OH! It's YOU! I missed you so much! I'm so glad you're here!

You make me laugh. Hard. Deep belly laughs that warm me up and make everything else just roll off my back.

Thank you again, sweet potato.

Another North Shore Perspective: Our More (ahem) Tasteful Version of Hooters?

On the way home from the North Shore this past weekend, we stopped at our usual haunt, the New Scenic Cafe.

This place is unusual not only in its amazing menu and simultaneously kid-friendly yet still elegant atmosphere. Every single time we go (nearly twice per year), the place is stocked with a new crop of funky, easy-on-the-eyes, woman-friendly female waitstaff.

Our travel companions noted our observance of this unusual phenomenon.

Duluth isn't San Fransisco. Or New York. Or Austin. Or even Minneapolis for that matter, so we're always surprised at that place. Where do they get these girls?

The North Shore Perspectives

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

An Academic Justification for Blogging

Brad DeLong makes a great case for blogging in the Chronicle of Higher Education. By the title, I expected him to reference Dooce. Given the personal nature of my blog, I think I'll still avoid sending a link to my deans.

See the article: Can Blogging Derail Your Career?: The Invisible College.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Unique Explanation for the Wage Gap

Taggert, over at A Random Walk sent me this link:

Does menstruation explain the gender pay gap?

I'd like to look at the results of this study more closely. How, for example, do they measure "menstrual cycles"? And, if they are comparing men and women, doesn't this just proxy for sex? I suppose it would be interesting to compare women's bargaining ability at different stages of their cycle.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Two Things Seen and Heard

The following two things were either seen or heard at our little homestead over the past couple of days.

Thing One: The SYO abruptly leaves the room in which we were both hanging out. No less than 30 seconds later, I heard: Mama? What was I doing in here?

Thing Two: During a sink-bath, Big began urnating a steady fountain-like upward stream. While doing so, apparently recognizing a little game that I play with him using either the water spigot or some of his dinosaur bath toys that spray out of their mouths, he makes an attempt to grab at his pee-stream with his newly discovered pincer grasp*!

Thank goodness he has not yet reached the next developmental milestone: "Once your baby perfects grasping, throwing isn't far behind, so watch out. Many babies enjoy hurling their toys and having you pick them up."

*A developmental milestone which lets him pick up small objects such as beads between his thumb and forefinger.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

There Is No Place Like Nebraska

My Whiskey Tango Moment(s)

I got to meet LesbianDad last night at a reading for the book Confessions of The Other Mother! I really appreciate her beginning attempts at creating a space and language for the kind of parents that we are -- somewhere between dad and mom.

In practice, however, my particular form of fatherhood unfortunately seems to resemble my own father's rather than what LesbianDad calls "the best of a dad and the best of a mom."

I call this perversion, the "1950s Lesbian Dad." [Let me clarify: My dad was an older dad for me. He and Mom had my brothers when they were 19 years old in 1944, and then, well, I guess you could call me an "accident", but I came along 25 years later. Let's just say that the pill wasn't 97% effective in 1969.]

Alas, we all have our own "worst parenting moments."

This one, for me, occurred at the culmination of what felt like (and actually became) the longest drive home. BioMom and I have vowed now to never drive long distances during the day again. Ever. Big just refuses to miss ANYTHING! Sleep? Why? I might miss something! I wish I could still enjoy the nuances of the Iowa landscape to that degree.

I think he slept to twenty minute naps during the entire 8 hour (which should have been 5.5 hour) drive.

As a result, we stopped many, MANY times.

During the last stop, only about an hour to our destination, we found ourselves at the infamous Dairy Queen.

So, picture this: Dairy Queen in rural America during the vacation months. Not just that, it wasn't JUST a Dairy Queen. . . It was a Braissere! It was that greasy, dirty combination of fries and cream with the floors that simultaneously slip AND slide. At one point Big spit up about a gallon of formula on the floor while I was trying to wear him out walking about the place. Let's just say that when I went to clean it up, I couldn't tell where he had actually spit up.

You get the picture.

Of course, though, all of this did not diminish our appetites. I order a Dilly Bar and BioMom orders the SYO a small cone, and herself a medium cone.

As though arguing in front of a judge and jury, the SYO begins making her case about the degree of unfairness at getting the smaller of the two cones.

Why do I get a small?

No response.

Why do you get a big one?

No response.

That's not FA-IR! (Note the word became two syllables.)

This goes on and on, the SYO meandering through all imaginable permutations of the argument.

I then make the mistake of getting involved.

Mom gets a bigger one because she is bigger than you.

But that's not FA-IR!!!

Seeing that the fair argument is getting her nowhere, she moves on to the next tactic. While holding her own cone (now actually larger than BioMom's because she's been arguing rather than eating and because BioMom has been focusing on the opposite) in her left hand, she says to BioMom:

Can I have a bite?

No response.

Can I have some of your's?

You know, you really should share!!!

Again, this goes on and on.

I think the SYO was also just having fun. Will this button get a reaction? No. How about THIS one?

She knows that this completely pushes my buttons -- asking for more of something when you have some of it in your own hand.

I snap:

SHUH-UHT UH-HUHP!!! (Note the four syllable pronunciation).

I told the SYO to "shut up" in a DQ in rural Minnesota.


Both BioMom and the SYO stop, mid-lick, and look at me in shock.

Hell, I look at myself in shock.

The only thing I could do at that point is take myself out of the scene. I start walking away and hear:

You can't say that to me!!

Note: I did, later apologize to her.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bertie's Birdbath

One afternoon last week, while on our way home from Cousin's brother's pool, the SYO wondered aloud how I knew where I was going and if we were lost.

Cousin had taken her youngest home earlier for a nap and we were lucky enough to have the star sleeper in town (Big), who took a nice nap in the pack and play while we lingered in the pool with the 105 degree sun at our backs. Without her to follow home, the SYO figured that we would not be able to find our way back.

How do you know where you are going?

She wondered.

I had, in fact grown up in Omaha, and we were not far from my old digs at that point.

Do you want to see the house where I grew up?

I wondered.

Cousin and I grew up about a block away from each other and the SYO was aware of the local lore.

YEAH! I wanna see the big hill you had to walk up to visit each other.

I'd given her the old -- it was up hill BOTH ways -- thing.

We drove slowly past my old house.

It has changed a lot. The crab apple tree that I used to climb out front has been cut down, there is a fence around the yard. The pairs of evergreens that cornered the backyard, creating the best hideaways beneath and between them for little summer daydreamers had obviously also passed on.

But I noticed one steadfast landmark: my mother's birdbath.

Images from my childhood-real and imagined in that way that our mind lets us incorporate old photographs that we've seen a hundred times into our memory as though we actually remember the moment the image was taken-flashed before my eyes:

We drove away, but I was obsessed with the birdbath for the next several days.

My mom died when I was nine, and that house held a lot of memories for me. Plus, I only have a few things of hers, so I felt like an archaeologist who had just excavated the missing link. Had I discovered one of the last remaining vestiges of my mother?

I imagined her moving in to the new house, and with her love of birds (hence the apropo shortening of her name, "Alberta" to the nickname "Bertie") putting up a birdhouse and birdbath. I imagined her painstakingly choosing among many birdbaths, and then the decision about where in the yard it would live.

In fact, I did not even know if she had actually put it there.

Had it been in the back yard when they moved in?

I interrogated my aunt (Cousin's mom): Do you remember it? Did she put it there? Was it hers?

Maybe I was justifying ownership. Reparations if you will.

In any case, she, nor any of her sons (my older cousins) even remembered its existence (I did not have the above pictures as evidence with me). But this fact only fueled my obsession: if they did not remember it, then she SURELY put it there, no? Or, maybe it was so consistent with her landscape that it did not stand out for them, the way it did for me.

Plus, if I remembered correctly, it was made of concrete, and it had obviously not moved in nearly 30 years. If someone could move it, wouldn't they have? Now that the trees were gone, it seemed absurdly far away from the corner of the fence. I'm sure I have changed everything about the landscape of our own backyard. My fingers have touched everything, making claim on all parts of our scenery.

It MUST have been her doing, since it was in the exact same position I remembered it so long ago.

Discussions about the method of acquisition ensued.

Cousin felt that it was my due.

BioMom felt that taking it would be unethical.

Cousin's brothers still didn't belive it existed.

Cousin's mom thought we should offer the current residents some cash in exchange for the birdbath.

The house itself has a rather well-known tragedy associated with it. One that any Omahaian of the early 1970s would be well aware of, were they given a little nudge to remind them. I imagined ringing the doorbell and inquiring after the birdbath, reminding them that I was the one-year-old in the house at the time.

This was a rather manipulative approach, and it also felt quite risky to me. What if they said "No"? Stealing would be an inadequate alternative in the wake of such a rejection.

In the end, Cousin, fortified with some liquid courage, talked me into taking the (ahem) road less traveled.

Under the cover of darkness (and a black shirt that her husband loaned me) we went back to the scene of our childhood and attempted to retreive my mom's birdbath.

We had it all worked out -- park the car far away. . . Enter through the back yard neighbor's. . . replace the birdbath with a newer version.

We did not expect the friendly, but loquacious dog.

No steaks or large bones were in sight.

In the end, we got away only with the top portion.


I unloaded it from the car yesterday and, in all of it's old, cracked glory, I am in love with it, and feel like I have a piece of my mom here with me in Minnesota.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Academic Freedom?

If we were in person, I'd tell you this story, and put the Academic Freedom part in, what Dane Cook calls "rock star quotes".

I swiped the link from Dooce's husband, but it's good. . . Well, interesting. . . No, scary. . . No, telling. . . in any case:

BYU professor looses job for disagreeing with the Mormon Church's recent gay marriage amendment.

What should we call that, instead of getting "Dooced" (neologism: to be "dooced" is to lose your job as a result of something you wrote in an online journal)?

Maybe he got "Goosed"? (Substitute G from Gay for the D in Dooced).

We're still here in Red-State-ville.

It has been absolutely lovely. Big has been a trooper, sleeping like he's never slept in his life. I think it's the big-sky fresh air, the plethora of crazy kids, and the non-stop playing we've been doing.

Today, there was a moment when all four kids currently en-residence were simultaneously asleep!


Thursday, July 06, 2006

On Holiday

We're heading to visit Cousin et al. today!

Hopefully it'll go well. Big isn't as flexible as the SYO was/is. On the Fourth, he refused to sleep, basically.

I suppose noone can refuse to sleep for a week!

Monday, July 03, 2006

King of Destruction

So, we are seeing some glimpses into the future of Big's personality.

The other morning, with the SYO at grandma's on an over night (did I mention how cool my MIL is?) BioMom and I listened to Big chatter away in his crib.

He was doing great and we were just enjoying our slow wake-up.

When we went into their room, this is what we saw:

The mobile that you see in pieces around him was from Cousin. . . Intact.

So much for having a products liability lawyer for a mom. . . I'm sure that one of those labels reads: