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Six-Month Baby Observations (OK, 6.5…)
Oct 3rd, 2014 by Blaise

Dashiell_6MO02So this is nominally a little late, but I figure six months is the perfect time to look back on new parenthood and reflect. At six months old, our son Dashiell has hit all his developmental milestones, is perfectly healthy, and is now almost a little person, just one who hasn’t figured out talking and walking yet! Here are some things I want to remember, and maybe some other people will glean some wisdom from:

  • Ears, hair, and beards make great handholds, especially for a child the doctors describe as ‘amazingly strong’. Bear this in mind while deciding on a carrying position.
  • Always choose to make the second trip. Or even a third. Trust me. It seems like that will take longer than just one, but any trip involving carrying a wriggling, babbling baby will require both hands at some point, and I guarantee the clean-up will take longer than the multiple trips!
  • Get a splash shield for your face before venturing into solid (read ‘not even a little solid, so it’s really easy to squirt/spit/splash/flick/dribble’) food. ‘Nuff said.
  • Learn to meditate. Even five minutes a day will keep you from breaking down in tears when things get bad.
  • It does not serve to even think about why or how what’s just come out of your baby looks or smells the way it does. You think I’m joking. I’m not. This will be something you wonder about. A lot.
  • Baby drool. Learn to love it. You’ll be bathing in it.
  • If you’ve never been kicked in the short-ribs or punched in the eyeball, throat, or tongue, you’re in for a treat!
  • A full-grown human adult cannot out-annoy a human infant. They have more will-power and energy than seems possible, and look at your efforts as idle amusements. A full ten minutes of exclaiming, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” will likely render you incapable of speech for a day, but it will not even phase your infant, except possibly as an encouragement to yell even more between giggles. Not that I’ve tried this…
  • I say this as someone who waited until late in life to become a parent specifically so he could go out in the world and experience everything he could before “settling down”. There is literally (and I mean literally ‘literally’, in the literal sense) no better feeling in the whole, wide world than that you experience in the moments just after your baby falls asleep clutching himself to your chest.

 

Baby’s Latest “Phase”
Sep 26th, 2014 by Blaise

SlobberSo our son has apparently moved into another new developmental stage!

He’s acquired three simultaneous new habits. First, he drools continuously. Second, he yells and blows raspberries continuously. Third, he gets his heels underneath him and drives them repeatedly into any surface he comes in contact with over and over until either the surface gives, or the person he’s treating like a surface yells and moves out of the way!

Of special note, the three of these activities synergize quite well, the yelling and bouncing adding an incomprehensible amount of momentum to the drool.

I’m calling this latest move “The Sprinkler”…

First Night Away From Baby!
Sep 22nd, 2014 by Blaise

AhhhSo we finally did it. At six months, we finally let go enough to go away for a night, and leave Dashiell with someone else! It didn’t exactly go according to plan…

The trip was intended to be a surprise. My wife set everything up surreptitiously, so I would have no idea it was happening. Her execution was flawless… except for the minor detail that in order to make it happen, she had to tell a couple of other people, one of whom let the cat out of the bag two days beforehand! Since I’m not a big surprise person, I found this much more amusing than anything else, and by the way, I pretty much have the best wife ever!

The plan was for a party night and a stay away from home, to get completely out of our routine and responsibilities for a little while. Some friends were holding a private party at a club, and we had a hotel suite nearby to stay the night for afterward. We’d have some fun, dance, maybe even drink a little, and then get a whole night’s sleep without our usual 4 AM wake-up call. It was a wonderful plan.

And it started out wonderfully. We dropped Dash off with our friend without incident, and almost entirely without last-minute re-considerations. We made good time on the trip, checked in without event, and Sabrina even had time to go for a swim while I ordered our room-service dinner and unpacked. The food was surprisingly good, and we were fresh and ready to go to the club in plenty of time.

We found the club without incident, after which we made two discoveries. First, it was a strip-club, and second, it wasn’t actually a private party (our friends didn’t quite get that point across to my wife). So things were a little weird. It wasn’t a bad party. We had some fun, danced and drank a little, and talked to some friends, but we left early because it was a little uncomfortable being mixed in with the regular patrons and being accosted by teenagers who wanted to give us “private dances”.

We went back to the hotel, had a nightcap, and settled in, excited by the prospect of having a long, satisfying night’s sleep. Which came to an abrupt conclusion at our usual 4 AM when the fire alarm went off! This was no momentary concern, either. We were literally driven out of the hotel for an hour and a half while four fire-engines and countless police cars swarmed the joint (which, it turned out, was at least not actually on fire, so we didn’t lose anything). At least we got a yummy pre-breakfast at the Denny’s next door while we waited!

Needless to say, the reality of the trip was a tad less satisfying (or restful!) than our expectations might have prepared us for, but hey, at least we finally just did it, tore off the bandage, and endured our first separation from our son! (Who was perfectly fine by the way, and seemed a little miffed that he had to go back to these boring “parents” people!)

[ADDENDUM]
Because my wife tried so hard on this, the next weekend I begged our amazing friend Karen to take Dash overnight again, and made plans to stay at a local hotel and go to a local club as a do-over. This time, things went swimmingly, although the fire-alarm did briefly go off in both the club *and* the hotel while we were there (we may be cursed). We got the party we’d been looking for, got a somewhat shorter than planned but utterly uninterrupted night’s sleep, and generally made everything better!

Six Months of Baby: Still New Every Day
Sep 12th, 2014 by Blaise

sabrina&DashOur infant son, Dashiell, will be six months old in three days.

As mind boggling as that is, our current perspective on the whole thing makes me very glad I’ve been blogging all of this! It seems like forever ago that he was born. Our lives have become so integrated that it just seems like this is the way it’s always been. We don’t even think about things without taking him into account any more.

But it’s only been six months, and that means that things are still changing daily. A few weeks ago, we got our first sustained fit of laughing out of our son, and now he does it all the time, even when a waitress at the restaurant takes more than a passing interest in him! He weighs sixteen pounds and is 30 inches tall, and that’s appreciably different from last week.

The growth spurts keep coming. Yesterday, Dash woke at seven am, yelling to be fed. He had six ounces of formula, then went back to sleep. At eleven, he was ravenous again. I fed him a quarter-container of applesauce, and another six ounces of formula. We walked the dogs, and made Daddy lunch, and he was acting funny again. When he finally started yelling, I realized he was still hungry! He ate another six ounces of formula over the next hour. I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations (which I can bore you with if you like), and realized that my sixteen pound son’s consuming eighteen ounces of food is roughly equivalent to me consuming eighteen pints (two-plus gallons) in six hours. That has got to be at the outer limits of what it is even possible for a human body to do!

In other news, we’ve discovered a new ability, sleep-tantrums. These look just like the waking kind, taking about thirty minutes of jiggling and comforting, but they occur entirely with eyes closed and body limp, and end abruptly with snoring! So that’s different…

But for all my funny whining, every day Dashiell becomes more of a person. His personality is equal parts charming, mischievous, and stubborn, and his temper becomes sweeter every day. From what everyone’s telling us, it’s obvious we won the lottery with this child!

Baby Bottle Trials: Day One
Sep 8th, 2014 by Blaise

Our current course of experiments is to determine the optimum methodology for persuading a human infant to independently manipulate an unattached feeding device during its own feedings. A methodology will be considered successful if the food delivery operator retains the ability to accomplish simple tasks other than feeding during the infant’s feeding period.

Primary Methodology: Physically placing the infant’s hands on the feeding device as food delivery begins

Day One:

Per chosen methodology, infant’s hands were physically placed on the feeding device as it began feeding.
Initial observations:

  1. subject’s use of feeding device as a surprisingly effective flailing weapon (operator was able to recover device before sustaining severe injuries)
  2. subject demonstrates complete ignorance of physics, initially attempting to produce sufficient vacuum to raise contents from bottom of feeding device rather than inverting it to allow gravity to do its work (operator was able to recover device before its sides collapsed to the point that irreparable damage was sustained)
  3. subject demonstrates six previously unobserved methods for projecting food substances across the testing area (At least two of these may have violated known laws of physics. This represents a potentially promising opportunity for future research.)
Results:

  • Duration of feeding period, compared to normal: Five times as long
  • Time subject engaged in activities other than participating in experiment: 50%
  • Time subject retained control of feeding device during feeding period: 50%
  • Time subject utilized control to do other things than feed with feeding device: 20%
  • Time subject utilized control to attempt feeding with feeding device: 30%
  • Time subject successfully fed from feeding device while manipulating it independently: 15%
  • Frustration quotients: subject-6/10; operator-8/10; cleaning crew-10/10
Conclusions:

  1. Subject became more engaged with process as experiment progressed, indicating some level of success despite operator’s inability to accomplish simple tasks duriing experiment, suggesting that continued evaluation of this methodology is warranted to determine it’s equilibrium effectiveness.
  2. Human infants are incredibly uncooperative test subjects; Suggest future research be conducted with subjects more amenable to persuasion and soothing, like tasmanian devils or honey-badgers…

 

Baby’s First Chortle
Aug 29th, 2014 by Blaise

laughterThe other night, my wife and I took our son to a roadside ice cream stand after dinner. While we sat there enjoying our sundaes and the balmy night air, Sabrina tried, once again, to play peek-a-boo with him. This time, he finally got it!

Dashiell’s been laughing for months. Make a funny face, and he gargles out an “Ah-Huh”. Yelp because he pinched you or punched you in the nose, and he does the same. If a woman happens to be nearby, and gives him some attention, he will coyly turn his head aside and utter a demure “ghghghgheeee-heh”. However, none of these are in any way prolonged. They are laughs, but not ‘laughter’, if you will.

Well, the other night, he discovered laughter! The first ‘peek-a-boo’ got the usual gargle. The second got two, and an almost concerned look. The third got a sustained series of staccato “hah” sounds, and by number five, he was belly-laughing uncontrollably!

In my entire life, I’ve never actually laughed and cried simultaneously before. I did that night!

A babys laughter

Stupid Troy Schools: An Addendum
Aug 22nd, 2014 by Blaise

shcoolAs many will remember, I posted a rather bitter rant last week about my wife’s being passed over for a teaching job she was already doing. I’m considerably less bitter now, but the further news we received today was rather telling, so I thought I’d share.

Of the two job openings (of identical description) Sabrina was up for, one went to a teacher already tenured in the district and with significant experience. This decision, while not smart, given that they took someone who already was working for them and shuffled them, leaving another opening to be filled, is at least defensible, given her resume. The other job went to the fellow who subbed for my wife’s long-term sub position when she took her eight weeks for maternity this spring. Of note? This person has no master’s degree and only provisional teaching certification, and no experience beyond a few years of day subbing, as opposed to my wife’s master’s degree and certification along with close to a decade of service to the district as sub, long-term sub (a whole different beast), and teacher’s assistant, all while waiting patiently for the chance to do the job she lives for.

I couldn’t ask for better proof of the clear stupidity that went into this decision process. My guess, given that this follows a recent trend of hiring male teachers when superior female teachers were available, is that either a) someone got chummy with the (also male) principal and politicked his way to a job, or b) there’s an actual discriminatory principle at work here whose reasons are obscure to me. In either case, a disservice was done, both to Sabrina and to the children who begged to have her back even after they’d been handed over to this fellow for eight weeks.

Remember folks, YOU are paying for this. This is the incompetence you are being forced to buy for your children’s education. I see such a bright future…
 

Strange Day – They’re Out To Get Us?
Aug 20th, 2014 by Blaise

What is this I don't evenYesterday, we decided to kill two birds with one stone by taking a long drive in the awesome weather and simultaneously visiting our recently unoccupied rental property in Rockland County. This all started out really well. We had an uneventful and quite pleasant drive down, and discovered on our arrival that the problematic former tenant had amazingly left the place spotless and in good repair!

All that changed on the way home. About an hour into the ride, we were going up a hill next to an 18-wheeler. We were in the Civic Hybrid, so going fast up hills isn’t really an option, but we had been in the process of passing when we got to the rise, so we were kinda stuck there, inching past going slightly faster than the truck. Just then, a Sprinter van with commercial plates pulled out from behind the truck into the left lane behind us, going much faster than either the truck or we were, and screamed right up to our rear bumper.

He rode there, literally less than ten feet behind us at highway speeds, for over a minute. Finally, unable to get out of this prick’s way and seeing no immediate end to the hill, I tapped the brake as gently as possible in order to a) disengage the cruise control (which wasn’t helping us get up the hill anyway) and b) tell him that we were going to slow down so we could tuck in behind the truck and let him pass. This was apparently an eventuality he had never considered, as he swerved crazily around behind us, almost side-swiping the truck, before accelerating and pulling up literally a foot or two behind our bumper while waving his hands.

I gripped the wheel and floored the accelerator to maintain speed, and just gutted out the rest of the hill. The moment things leveled out, I scooted past the truck, probably cutting him off and looking like a real asshole, just to get away from the maniac behind us. Of course, it wasn’t over. Now free to once again resume traveling at 80% of the speed of light, the Sprinter’s driver chose instead to pull up next to us and yell at us for some time before repeatedly swerving into our lane, once severely enough that I was forced to drive onto the shoulder. I was dialing 911 when finally, he opened his window and threw trash or something at us before accelerating away. I had Sabrina write down his plate. We pulled into the Modena service area to call the State Troopers and catch our breath.

Did I mention that out infant son was in the back seat for all this? I am now quite certain that I am capable of torture, murder, and a number of other dastardly acts I would not have considered likely before parenthood…

We thought the day’s excitement was over, but we were so wrong! As we pulled out of the service area, I realized I had gotten a voicemail while talking with the troopers. I discovered that there were actually two. The first was from the Troy police dispatcher, telling me that “if I was still responsible for” our home address, I needed to call back. The second was from our neighbor and City Councilman, telling me that our burglar alarm was going off, and that the police were there. Trying not to drive madly, we quickly learned that a) the police had ‘cleared’ the house, b) our lovely neighbor from two houses down was standing guard until we returned, and c) the alarm was still going off, even though it’s programmed to reset after 30 minutes.

Long story short, nothing was stolen, and while a door was open, no damage was done, so perhaps we left it unlocked? Moose, our big bull mastiff, panicked and broke out of his crate at some point during the foofaraw, but was unharmed and happily waiting for us next to his food-bowl. The Troy police officers who investigated have my undying thanks, because having entered our home and found 120 pounds of anxious, muscular, black-brindle bull mastiff waiting for them, they did *NOT* shoot him dead, as seems to have become the nationwide norm in recent news!

We’ve narrowed down the sequence of events to one of the following possible narratives:

  1. Someone tried to break in, immediately tripped the alarm, and ran, after which Moose, in a panic from the alarm, broke free and wandered around the house setting off the motion sensors for the next hour or so.
  2. Someone started to break in, but Moose heard them coming and broke free before they got past the door (in the process scaring them off, as he is rather loud and intimidating), after which he wandered around the house setting off the motion sensors for the next hour or so.
  3. The alarm is broken and set itself off, after which Moose, in a panic from the alarm, broke free and wandered around the house setting off the motion sensors for the next hour or so, in the process somehow managing to open the back door (This would not be as unlikely as you think, given Moose’s history. I’ve conjectured that if Moose had thumbs, we would be the pets!).

 
So, all in all, just another day in Why-does-all-the-weird-shit-happen-to-us-land!

Troy, New York. The Stupidest School District On Earth
Aug 15th, 2014 by Blaise

shcoolMy wife Sabrina is dedicated to her work. Despite numerous instances of mistreatment (lied to about job status and pay, tricked into giving up a job by an unscrupulous HR person with an axe to grind, nickle-and-dimed out of weeks of pay after the birth of our child, etc), she really wants to teach in our district! She loves these kids, and they love her. She’s been taking teacher-assistant and long term subbing jobs in our district for SEVEN years, applying for every opportunity that came along.

Today, we found out that she’d been turned down for another position, but this time was different. You see, last Fall, a teacher in the district took a leave. Sabrina, being probably the most educated and experienced substitute teacher in existence, was asked to fill the position as a long term sub for the remainder of the year. Eager to do her thing, my wife jumped at the chance, and spent countless unnecessary extra hours reworking curricula and connecting with this new group of students. She got them excited about their work, and they loved her to the point that they threw her their own baby shower, and even actually took up a petition to keep her instead of getting their regular teacher back.

When the term ended, it was discovered that their regular teacher would not be coming back, and that another teacher in the English department was retiring, so there were two permanent openings. Of course Sabrina applied, because she was already doing the job, and clearly doing an amazing job at it. Her fellow teachers asked why they were even bothering to put her through the interview process.

Well, today, after weeks of foot-dragging, and with only weeks to the beginning of the new school year, they finally told her that both jobs, including the one she’d already been doing amazingly well for seven months, had been given to someone else.

I’m sick at heart, and disgusted. The people in charge of educating our children are clearly incompetent, and I have no hope left. At this point, I would not send my child to the Troy public schools if you PAID me to do it. So even more of my tax money will go to waste, squandered by mental defects who have no business saying they are educators. If you are listening, Troy Board Of Education (I know you aren’t, as you seem quite incompetent yourselves), crap like THIS is why everyone is clamoring to get their child into a charter or private school, not because you need to get your after-school sports program a little stronger! I’m surprised you aren’t teaching creationism in your science classes…

I currently have zero faith in humanity, and will be exceedingly grumpy for the foreseeable future. Also, I’m considering putting the house up for sale. Any takers? If you have no kids that need an education, I highly recommend Troy!

In The Great Outdoors With Baby
Aug 7th, 2014 by Blaise

Last week, we went for our yearly big camping trip with friends. Dashiell went with us last year, but this was his first time outside the womb!

We were at Thompson’s Lake State Park, on the Helderberg Escarpment. We used to camp there regularly, years ago, but the facilities (bathhouse, toilets, etc) had become foul, and after a bad experience with overzealous ‘rangers’, we finally stopped going. However, the facilities were completely rebuilt last year, and the beach was calling, so we decided to give it another try!

Day one was dedicated to travel and making camp. Given that it was a state park, I had concerns about fitting the camper into our site, but by the luck of the draw, we got the single largest campsite in the park, nearly 70 feet wide by 50 feet deep. We pulled in at 2 PM, and were set up by 3. The rest of our group arrived a couple of hours later.

Camp Car

We came prepared!

They were unfortunately separated from our campsite by a few hundred yards, but we came prepared with camp-wagon, off-road baby-lugging gear, and other toys, so we were prepared for some long distance food preparation and campfiring! There was a great camp-food feast (spicy mac-and-cheese and fajitas). There was beer (because ‘you ain’t campin’ if you ain’t got a beer in your hand!’). There was rain (also because ‘you ain’t campin’ if it ain’t rainin’). There was also an early bedtime! Dashiell, sad to say, was not impressed by any of these things, but he did enjoy being handed around and complimented by a stack of new people.

Day two was the great hike! Some other friends came out to visit at the park, and we all decided to take a walk. Dashiell got hosed down with bug spray and sunscreen, Daddy got saddled, and the troop headed out, a weird, two-headed baby-man creature in the vanguard. The initial plan was just to visit the park’s nature center, which turned out to be surprisingly nice. There were models of the park, pelts and skeletons of many of its denizens, a see-through bee-hive with a living colony in it, and a bunch of live critters. After the visit, it was decided the we’d go ‘just a little further’, to an old, restored schoolhouse/museum, and then it was decided to ‘take that other trail’ back again. 2014-08-07_05Our little walk turned out to be nearly a two mile hike in ninety degree weather with relative humidity of 80%. While wearing 15 pounds of baby. Dad was wishing he brought his canteen, and Dash took a three hour nap, he was so excited by the whole thing.

Day three was a complete washout. Literally (really literally, not Miriam-Webster ‘figuratively’ literally). It rained like we were in Southeast Asia during the monsoons. People had to dig drainage ditches through their campsites, to keep their gear from washing away. We didn’t do a lot, but some good books got read, and some board-games were played. Dash discovered how to make some new sounds, and proceeded to make them vociferously for the balance of the day. We decided to extend our stay another day in hopes we could enjoy another rustic day in the sun!

Day four was nice and cool, and the sun sneaked out as hoped. 2014-08-07_06We initiated our second attempt at introducing Dash to swimming. 2014-08-07_02When we got to the beach, it was sunny and calm, and the water was mostly devoid of swimmers. By the time we got Dash out in the ‘surf’, the sun was hiding, the wind had come up, and a dozen loud, splashy kids magically appeared, hunting the school of fish that decided to take refuge among the legs of our family. Dash did not appreciate *any* of these developments, but he was a real trooper. He never once cried, but all his time in the water was spent scowling and grunting, while clinging to Daddy with a claw-like grip (which, by the way, was particularly uncomfortable for the shirtless daddy in question!). I imagine that was what it would be like teaching a large, well-behaved cat to swim! Like the cat, I suspect Dashiell plotted our demise at least once during the adventure. We spent about an hour sneaking back into the water during bouts of agreeable weather, but eventually abandoned beach.2014-08-07_04

On day five, we packed up, broke camp, said our goodbyes, and headed for home. And a sick 120 pound bull mastiff. Can we go back to the woods now?

2014-08-07_03

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