Monday, December 24, 2007

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Have yourself a merry little Christmas (or Holiday, if that's your gig. I'm not all uptight about it or anything.),
Let your heart be light (especially you, Tracey.)
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay (Heh. He said "gay.").
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

(You know what? I really do dig this song. I'm just gonna shut up now and let it play. I wish you all a wonderful day with the friends and family you love best. Thanks for stopping by my blog now and again. It means a lot to me. I hope the new year is a good one for you!)

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Now With Less Patriotism!

At this point in my life, I've learned that for me, a New Year's Resolution is a meaningless gesture, because I never keep them. But as I watched The Today Show this morning, a new goal for the future occurred to me. The Today Show almost always annoys me, though certainly less so now that Katie Couric is gone. I watch it because it's less annoying than the other morning shows, and it is a lifelong habit to have television on as background noise, especially while eating. Plus, the day's weather predictions are useful to know, and traffic information is occasionally helpful.

This morning, though, I was particularly depressed by the themes, and I realized they are always the same themes, morning after morning, year after year. First and foremost: consumerism as patriotism. This theme is particularly clear during the holiday season. Daily there are gloomy predictions about how reduced holiday spending is likely to doom the American economy for the year to come. Buried in the story so that it is almost unnoticeable is the fact that when they're talking about reduced spending, they're usually talking about reduced growth in spending. Somewhere they'll mention that spending through the holiday season this year is up only 4 percent over last year, which is slower growth than over the past X number of years, etc. Then they talk about how it's a snapshot of the economy, and Wall Street is pessimistic, and gloom doom gloom doom gloom gloom gloom. Consumption is good!

Next they jump into an environmental story. Today it was about the melting of the polar ice and the several reasons why this is bad, and how it's tied to carbon dioxide emissions, like those produced by automobiles and the burning of coal for electricity. When our children are having children, they will live in an entirely different global climate. Consumption is bad!

Then we cut to commercial after commercial telling us what a great Christmas gift a Lexus makes, and diamonds, and sweaters, and housewares and appliances and toys and electronics and more and more and more. The message is always that happiness and satisfaction and individualism are achievable through consumerism. Consumption is good!

There is never once a sense of irony on the faces or in the voices of the anchors or the reporters. This morning there was a segment on Tools! For Women! The reporter presenting the segment was breathless and nearly shouting her excitement over this empowering trend! Yet the segment began with "Tupperware parties and kitchen gadgets" being the old expression of the female realm of homemaking and Tools! For Women! being the new, more equitable expression of the still inherently female realm of homemaking. The entire segment, as are so many morning show segments, was an extended commercial, with brand names and prices conveniently provided.

Now, I'm still trying to process what I think and feel about this, so I'm not sure how to wrap it up. I know that it's just a morning show. But I still feel like, even with the expansion of the number of channels that cable and satellite have meant over the last thirty years, network television is one of the broadest expressions of shared American popular culture. And network news, and network morning shows, are a large aspect of that expression of popular culture. It's just such a corporate, mercenary culture.

So anyway, I'm going to do my best in the days ahead to turn off the TV more. I've been enjoying Discovery and History Channel shows lately, but when you watch a weekly show's daily reruns, you run out of new material pretty quickly, and I've noticed the boy staring blankly at the TV when we're playing on the floor. Already, without even the context or language to understand what he's looking at, he gets sucked into the box such that he can't pay attention to the Tummy Time. It really should be off more.

Does that make me a poor patriot? I hope Homeland Security doesn't come calling.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Adventures in Babysitting

By the way, Mom, that's a reference to a movie from 1987 starring Elizabeth Shue before she was all hot and had a heart problem and messed around with Val Kilmer or made a gorilla invisible and got stalked by Kevin Bacon.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, babysitting. The incomparable Social Worker Sister-in-Law ("SWSIL") has put me on the payroll to pick her kids up from school or babysit them when they're on vacation and she's not. This is a pretty sweet deal, since they're seven and nine, and the older is a girl who already knows and is more than willing to explain exactly what her brother is and is not allowed to do. They practically take care of themselves!

Today we went to the library, where all I had to do was suggest that the nephew try "Yes, please" and "Thank you" instead of "Yeah" and "I guess so" as appropriate responses to the librarian's kind assistance. Then the Thumpster and I held them, uh, engrossed, with our magic poopy diaper trick, in which the boy makes a horrible, sticky, stinky mess and I clean it up. It's a real crowd pleaser!

We also played Twister Dance, which, according to the niece, SWSIL doesn't even count as TV time! Apparently this is a huge oversight by SWSIL, but we won't tell her how much fun the kids are getting away with here. I was declared "the most enthusiastic adult" ever to play the game, way more enthusiastic than SWSIL.

For his part, young Thumper is enthralled. I kept whispering in his ear that they're both crazy, but he is in awe. He didn't know there was this much fun to be had in the world. The running, the jumping! The yelling! The dancing! The bikes! The scooters! It's almost too much to handle.

So all in all, a fabulous time was had by all, and we're looking forward to more of the same. Need somebody to pick up your kids after school? Drop us a line! Just don't tell SWSIL. I hear babysitters are a precious, precious commodity in this strange world of parenting, and babysitter theft is a crime punishable by death. But drop us a line anyway. We'll pick up your kids, and we might even keep them safe and healthy 'til you get home! Just beware the poopy diapers... Eeeeewwwwwww!!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So Says My Nine-Year-Old Niece

"Oh, no. You shouldn't call him Cutie Pie."

"Why not? He IS a cutie pie!"

"Yeah, but when he gets older and finds out that's what you've been calling him, he's going to be mad."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

All Ye Know on Earth, And All Ye Need to Know

Apparently it was Men's Day on the subdivision loop today; the boy and I didn't see a single woman out jogging, biking, or walking. My little sleepy Santa only got one smile and not a single "Awww..." I realized it's probably a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of women to men who go all goofy at the sight of the Thumpster, which can really only lead me to one conclusion: women are more sophisticated and have a higher appreciation of the finer things in life, like Art and Beauty. And Babies in Santa Hats.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Raindrops on Roses

Lest anyone think I'm just all gloom and doom around here, I thought I'd mention a few of my favorite parts about this job so far. Also, we are making progress on both tummy time and self-soothing fronts. I have to remind myself fairly frequently that it's not necessarily mistakes that we've made that lead to this particular moment in time, and this particular moment in time doesn't necessarily point to more of the same in the future. He is right now what he is right now, and he'll be tomorrow what he is tomorrow. The last few nap times have started with only a few minutes fussing instead of the long, sweat-drenched, red-faced, vein-popping scream sessions, and just moments ago, he suffered five to ten minutes of tummy time with only a whimper or two while I rinsed out a surprisingly asparagus-scented dirty diaper. He didn't have his head up, but turned his head and sucked his thumb, apparently believing it to be another enforced nap and resigned to his fate. But he wasn't screaming! So we are moving forward, even when I think we're stuck forever in exactly the same spot. Patience, for me, is a virtue only when I know exactly how long I have to be patient.

So anyway, here's what I like:

The way he laughs when I wipe the poop off his butt. It really brightens up the entire dirty diaper experience.

The joy with which he thumps his legs down on the changing table when I take his diaper off. He lifts his legs high into the air, and I say, "Ka..." Then he slams them down, and I say, "THUMP!" And he grins his dimpliest grin, and we do it again. Ka-thump! Ka-thump!

The excitement with which he greets each new day. He's nearly always very happy to see us.

The wide-eyed wonder and foot-kicking excitement with which he, when we have run out of other things to look at, stares at the treasures that occupy our pantry. I can only imagine he is dreaming of the days when he will get to sample the mind-boggling variety of culinary delights like "tuna fish" and "multi-vitamins."

The way he now sucks his thumb. He hasn't figured out yet that if he curls all his other fingers down, he won't poke himself in the eye as much. He doesn't seem to think it detracts from the experience, though.

The number of "Awwwwww"'s he illicits from strangers, especially when he wears the Santa hat Grandma gave him when we go out jogging on a chilly morning. He's just so freakin' cute!

There are more, like the conversations we have, his tiny little voice and breath when he yawns or coughs, his enjoyment of the Giggly Wiggly Silly songs I'm learning, and others, but I'll have to save them up for the next time I start to feel like I've whined too much here. I mean, really; What's to whine about?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I know, when compared to deaths in the family, or kids with much bigger obstacles in their way, my troubles are pretty tiny. I've been trying not to write about it, because who wants to hear a guy whine about his baby all the time? But since it's all I'm thinking about, if I don't write about that, then I don't write about anything.

Is a four-month-old baby supposed to have this strong a will? He will NOT put up with this tummy time business. He will NOT put up with this silly self-soothing experiment. He has scabs on his face from rending his flesh. If he had teeth, he'd gnash them. And I probably shouldn't tell you all this when there are social workers in the audience, but yesterday, when moments before he couldn't keep his eyes open long enough to finish his bottle, within minutes of me reading him a book and laying him gently in his crib, he screamed so hard that now he has a blood spot in his right eye. He definitely his mother's boy. She didn't do it by screaming, but I've twice seen her, the morning after violent bouts of vomiting, looking like she'd been strangled, both eyes filled with blood. I haven't strangled the boy, I swear. Please don't take him away. But if you do, could you teach him to put himself to sleep before you give him back? And maybe to crawl? Thanks!

Oh, and four naps a day? Does that seem excessive to anyone else? The books say two, but he was taking four when I'd let him sleep on me, and he gets cranky and rubs his eyes, so he wants sleep, right? Until I put him down. So maybe I should work towards two? But he still acts like he wants to sleep every hour and a half to two hours. I tried to keep him up this morning through nap #1 so that maybe he'd sleep in the crib more easily for nap #2, but he actually fell asleep after five minutes of crying when I put him in the playpen for tummy time. I guess that means crib naps should be on the tummy, too, since it wears him out faster. When does he start speaking English, so we can discuss this?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

By the way, that's a reference to Animal House, Mom. It's a scene that has fun with the latent homoeroticism inherent in the macho pursuits of presumably homophobic men, though that has nothing to do with the theme of this post. At least I don't think so. I'll see if I can tie it as we go.

I've never lived a healthy lifestyle, at least not for sustained periods. I can pull out a healthy burst for awhile, but it always falls apart again eventually. I have lived as if excess were a virtue, and in my heart of hearts have even believed it to be so, at least in myself. I have taken pride in the fact that I can eat virtually anything, and do; that I can eat large quantities, and of spicy and/or heavy foods, without suffering heartburn or indigestion; that I can drink large quantities and not fall down unconcious; that I have eaten, and drunk, and smoked, and still came back to say, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" (Huh? Huh? See, I knew it'd fit in there somewhere...)

But now, as I'm getting older, I am in some ways thankful (thank you sir, may I have another?) that my body is providing me with a variety of ailments with which to say enough is enough. My knees creak and grind from all the extra weight that's been pounding down on top of them all these years. My lungs, already scarred from the pneumonia I had when I was a toddler, wheeze and strain from all the smoke I've poured down them, though I haven't smoked now in almost a year and a half. And now, I'm waking up in the wee hours of the night, not with a crying baby, but with heartburn.

An evil, quiet voice whispers "ulcer" and "cancer" in my ear when I'm all alone, and I know I should go to the doctor for a physical, but the stubborn part of me says that it's all just my body telling me exactly what the doctor would say: eat right and exercise. So I'm trying. I'm working on it. Then I can go to the doctor so that he can tell me everything's fine. Going to the doctor when you're unwell is just asking for trouble.

So did the title have anything to do with the post? Not really, I guess.

Anyway, I'm not very good with the diet part, but I'm working on it. I have been maintaining the exercise fairly well, at least for a few weeks. I jogged this morning without the boy for the first time, and I took two minutes off my best time. Was it the Crystal Method driving me to new heights? I haven't been using the iPod while jogging lately, since I like to converse with the boy as we go. The right music does seem to improve the effectiveness of a workout. Or was it the rain giving me new motivation? No, it was because I wasn't pushing a stroller. So the boy's been holding me back! I guess I should say that really the boy's been providing me with the opportunity to burn additional calories.

Hey, is that true? If I work harder for a shorter period of time, do I burn more or less calories than if I work less hard for a longer period of time? Surely if I walk three miles in 56 minutes, I burn fewer calories than if I walk and jog three miles in 43 minutes. But do I burn more, less, or the same, if I walk and jog three miles in 41 minutes? I guess it doesn't matter, because surely pushing the extra weight, even if it's on smoothly turning wheels, must burn more calories.

So help me out, internet. If you see me at a restaurant finishing a large portion of unhealthy food and washing it down with a giant beer, glare at me disapprovingly. That's always helpful. Not sure if it's me? Glare anyway. Fat people need to be public excoriated, just like smokers. It's the only way we'll learn. Thanks!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Bet I Can Make Your Baby Cry

It occurred to me today that that's my job these days: making the baby cry. I put him in his crib when he's still awake. I ruin a perfectly good play session by rolling him onto his belly. I pull his hair while making him wear a silly Santa hat. Maybe I can make some extra money that way. Is there a market for that kind of thing? I'll start my own show and sell it to The National Geographic Channel: "The Baby Cryer." No, that doesn't sound right. Baby Torturer? That sounds a little too graphic. Hassler? The Baby Hassler?

Anyway, do you want me to come over and make your baby cry for you? I'm just starting out, so I'll do it cheap. I bet I could do it with small children, too. Maybe teenagers. Maybe. They might be more likely to make me cry, though.

All in all, we are making progress on all fronts. Only 7 minutes of crying to prelude his current nap. No screaming! And he can go almost a minute and a half on his tummy before he gets mad now. And I'm learning 50 Giggly Wiggly Silly Songs so I don't have to sing him Christmas carols year round, though "Silent Night" does work pretty well as a lullaby, if I was, you know, putting him to sleep in my arms still. I'd write something interesting that has nothing to do with the Thumpity-Thump, but I haven't gone anywhere or done anything or talked to anyone in awhile. You're all still out there, right? Right? Or Am I Legend?

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Suspense Is Killing Me; I Hope It Lasts

By the way, that's a reference to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mom.

You know that moment? The moment when the cat spews an unbelievably vast lake of vomit across the carpet? You and your wife look at each other, and there's that long, long pause. It's a beautiful moment because it contains both the best and the worst in you. It's a similar moment to when you both know, without question, that the baby's just filled his diaper. You might step up and say, "I'll get it, honey." Or you might just wait. And wait. And wait until she says, "I'll get it, honey." Sometimes that moment is filled with the frantic mental calculations of which way the balance of the household labor is currently tilted; sometimes you'll claim it without a second thought. You just never know until it's over which version of you will show up.
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