28 December 2009

Christmas is All Around

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes . . .

Well, not so much anymore. After all that build-up, how quickly it all comes to a close. Evidenced, particularly, by the sight of an entire display full of Valentine's Day items spotted on a quick trip to Target--on December 27.

And yes, the above is a reference to Love Actually, which happens to be one of my favorite holiday films. Even if that particular sentiment is disingenuously expressed in it by a seedy, aging rocker.

This year was our son's second Christmas. And while he's not quite old enough yet to watch Love Actually (and won't be for a very long time), there are still plenty of other seasonal traditions which we can begin sharing with him. He doesn't quite understand all of them yet, but he is at least beginning to recognize the sights and sounds of the season. Apologies in advance for the preening parent moment, but the whole thing could not be more delightful.

After just laying around and gurgling during his first Christmas, this year we could see the spirit of the season begin to affect him, begin to take hold over him, as it does over most wee tykes when it comes around. He began to recognize the various signs of the holiday and the words for them joined his ever-expanding vocabulary. Sure, snowman came out as just "man" and he still insists on calling all deer (including that spunky one with the glowing red nose on TV) "dead deer." Perhaps one of our proudest moments as parents, though, was when we taught him to recognize the iconic visage of Santa Claus and to utter his signature catch phrase. Okay, so he only ever got "ho ho" out, even though we repeatedly reminded him that Santa actually says "ho ho ho," but still. We'll take it. At a certain point, he just started saying it of his own accord, without any prompting, whenever we saw an image of Santa anywhere. And we were proud.

Also, for the first time ever, he sat in Santa's lap, though merely for a moment before squirming down to the floor. Apparently, a lot of kids are afraid of Santa and detest sitting in his lap. Not our son. Not at all. After his brief encounter with the jolly bearded one, our son loitered in the vicinity for quite some time, repeatedly pointing from afar and telling us "ho ho." In case we had forgotten who we were looking at.

The lights. The trees. The stockings. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. He liked it all. And watching him experience it all, learn about it all, was one of the highlights of parenthood so far. It was amazing.

And I can't wait for next year.

Okay, fine, preening parent moment over, back to your regularly scheduled programming . . .

23 December 2009

Wild Thing

At last, our long, national nightmare is over. At least, the one going on inside my own home. After foisting the wee one off on his grandparents, my wife and I were able to go see a movie. In the theater. Sure, it might not sound that novel, but for relatively new parents, trust me, it is. And it was long overdue.

In my estimation.

The movie in question was quite possibly my most anticipated film of 2009. If not 2008. And 2007. I'm not sure when I first heard that Spike Jonze was directing a feature version of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, but it was definitely several years ago. It has been, in fact, seven whole years since Jonze's last film, Adaptation. Wild Things marks only his third film in a decade. Which is hard to believe, seeing as how he is such a singular visionary who has had a tremendous impact on the cinematic landscape. For me, anyway.

So, where do I begin? Well, honestly, everything about this film is awesome, from the fact that Jonze collaborated on the script with Dave Eggers to having Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs write original songs. Even the Arcade Fire music in the trailer sets a perfect tone for this beautiful, melancholic work. To me, what's truly magical about the film is that while it's a complete fantasy, it also manages to be the most raw, honest, and emotional film about what it actually feels like to be a child that I've ever seen. Yes, the film is full of melancholy and yet this does feel appropriate. Sometimes it sucks being a kid. And this is that rare piece of art that captures that feeling, those sentiments, perfectly.

And while it's not, strictly speaking, a kid's movie, I cannot wait to share it with my son. Every time I see the book in stores I want to get it, though I'm not sure at what age it would be optimal to introduce him to this story. This was one of my most checked-out library books as a kid, but I don't recall exactly when I first read it. The same goes for the film. In many ways, I feel I appreciate it more as an adult than I would have as a kid. Being a meditation on childhood more than anything else, it does kinda help to be able to reflect on your own childhood through this film, rather than being in the midst of it as you watch. That being said, I'm still excited about that first viewing with my son.

Between this and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (don't get me started--that's an entire post in itself) and Up, 2009 has proven itself to be a truly landmark year for kid-centric movies. I hope this trend continues as these are exactly the types of films I want to expose my son to. Now, if I could only get someone to make a screen version of Dooly and the Snortsnoot, then we'd be all set.

In the meantime, before my son is fully indoctrinated to the world of Wild Things, the book and film, we have decked him out in a stylish Wild Things T-shirt. Because it's true--there is a wild thing in all of us. Sometimes we grow up and we forgot that. But thanks to this amazing film, it's something I won't soon forget. And I hope my son won't either.

Let the wild rumpus start . . .

17 November 2009

The Kids Are Alright

Recently, my wife had a friend who had a party for a store opening. Her business is super cool and the stuff that they make is awesome:

It's in the same building as this place, also very cool:

Anyway, to celebrate the opening, there was a party. On a Friday night. So, my wife and I took our son out into the big, bad city after dark. On a Friday. And guess what? We were the only ones there with a kid. At least, the only ones who showed up with a kid. But I'm thinking, by the looks of it, we were the only ones there who had one.

And man, did we feel old. Even if the record scratching to a halt and the multitude of simultaneous turning heads were both a figment of my imagination, it still felt like we were suspiciously out of place. There were some other couples there, yeah, but not necessarily married ones. Young, single, possibly living in sin. No babbling little one to wake them up bright and early the following morning. It was the kind of gathering we used to attend with far more regularity pre-child. It wasn't the most kid-centric environment and our son soon grew antsy, so we didn't stay very long.

Yeah, we're those people. The ones who leave early, or worse, rarely come out anymore. The ones whose weekends are now a blur of pre-dawn wakings and diaper purchases and early nights.

"Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond. I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time."

But for approximately ten minutes or so that night, it kind of felt like old times. We felt like our old selves for a moment. It was the type of thing we once did, sans offspring. I mean, there was a keg there. I almost didn't recognize it, it had been so very long since I'd seen one, even if it had been a staple of my earlier existence. Yeah. We did not belong.

Seriously, when did we get so frakkin' old?

Have we really, finally entered that grown-up phase of our life? The one with playdates and dinner parties and only associating with other old, boring marrieds? Where are all the other hipster parents (assuming that we are such)? You know, the ones from the Mini Boden catalog? Was it really that misguided and uncool to procreate?

And if so, why didn't anyone tell us?

16 November 2009

Book Club

The title of this post has a dual meaning. First, it refers to our son's interest in books, which is growing by the day, and which pleases us greatly. Second, it refers to the fact that he has, on more than one occasion, wielded a book like a blunt instrument, such as a truncheon, actually hit me in the face with a book, in his exuberant attempt to get me to read it. "Buh buh," he intones, over and over, as he shoves the book (dare I say, violently) in my direction. I should do just that, I think sometimes. Read it. To myself. Silently. And see what happens.

Probably yet another book to the face. The first rule of Book Club is . . .

Seriously, when did reading become a full-contact sport? You should see some of this kid's books. They've been completely ravaged. Thrown, torn, stepped on, chewed. My wife and I always wanted our son to be a quiet, bookish lad. This is not exactly what we had in mind.

I'm sure most new parents experience something similar, but I'm consistently torn between wanting my son to remain this wee, miniature creature forever and for him to get bigger, so that I can share more books with him, so he can read them on his own, and then we can discuss them. To introduce him to the classics. His first taste of Shel Silverstein. The adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson and Conan Doyle's tales of Sherlock Holmes. But then as my eyes scan the book shelf, my mind begins to wander, on into the future. When will he read Catch-22? Will he enjoy it? Will it have a similar profound effect on him, as it did on me?

What would he think of Everything Is Illuminated? A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? Or the hilarious world of Ignatius P. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces? How young is too young to expose him to the brilliant, savage words of Hunter S. Thompson? It wasn't until college that I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and it changed my life. Perhaps the question I should be asking is, when will his mother allow me to share such a thing with him?

For now, I'll have to remain content with the simple, delightful, toddler-oriented tomes on his shelf. The ones he makes me read so many times I no longer need to look at the pages, that I have actually committed to memory, verbatim, the way I once knew the lyrics to pretty much every Beastie Boys song. Instead, today, I know all the words to Goodnight Moon and Hippos Go Berserk! and There's a Wocket In My Pocket! And I will cherish those moments that he sits in my lap, sleepy and content, hearing his favorite story for the hundredth time and I will hope that this love of books will grow and his explorations will continue and maybe someday, he'll introduce me to some of his own favorites. Authors who haven't yet written a word, who will take the world by storm someday, the way I hope my son will.

But not too soon.

15 November 2009


For most of his very young life, our son has had a serious fascination with technology. It's been a part of his daily existence for a while now and it's interesting to witness. My wife and I did not grow up with computers or cell phones (no one in our generation did, at least not early on) and so it's bizarre to think that such items will just be a normal, regular part of our son's life, from his earliest memories.


I still remember my life before e-mail and the years I spent without owning a cell phone. They're so commonplace now, so entwined with how I conduct my life, that it seems unfathomable they weren't always here. But they weren't. Although they will be for my son. I wonder how old he'll be when he gets his first cell phone. Probably not that old. Or his first computer. Of course, there will probably be something even more futuristic than the iPhone at that point. Hologram phones or something, I suppose. Like a palm-sized RD-D2.

"Help me, Obi-Wan. You're my only hope."

He always wants to "play" with our cell phones and the TV remote and the DVD player (yes, the tray goes in and out, please stop pushing the button). We got him a toy cell phone, but with its flashing lights, cartoon voice, and oversized buttons, it's clearly an impostor and he's onto it. It rarely holds his interest as much as the real thing does.

And I'm not sure what people did before Google Images. I'm convinced now that cave drawings were early cave people attempts at entertaining their offspring. Although, our son gets antsy when it takes a few extra seconds for a web page to load, imagine waiting to see pictures chiseled out of solid rock. He's also discovered the magic of YouTube, in particular videos of Elmo from Sesame Street. We showed him that old "Menahmanah" segment from The Muppet Show, but it didn't quite have the same effect. But Elmo, singing his song about the ducks? The kid can't get enough of it. "Muh muh," he implores, meaning more, wanting us to repeat the video ad nauseum.

What about a good episode of Pigs in Space, buddy?

28 October 2009

Dance Party

In our continuing exploration of questionable parenting decisions made by my wife and I, today we will discuss how we are teaching our son to dance. Yes, in and of itself, this is not a bad thing. (And it gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner.") While love of music is an excellent thing to instill in a child, one might question our musical selections, which we have done nothing to filter. More on that in a moment.

Since he was a wee small baby, we've done our best to introduce music into the life of our son. We play him music all the time, including a mix CD a friend made for us, titled 'Songs a Baby Would Enjoy.' Not having a baby himself, we're not sure how he knew what would appeal to the ears of a baby, but he managed to nail it with an inspiring selection of mostly indie rock tunes (plus Loudon Wainwright III's "Daughter") that are all perfectly melodic and an excellent soundtrack for the daily existence of a wee person.

But in an effort to assist our son in getting his groove thang on, we have used as many buoyant, beat-heavy tracks as can be found in our music collection. The result being that we have exposed him to a wide array of adult-oriented tunes such as Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," Kanye West's "Gold Digger," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and Outkast's "Hey Ya." We have gotten him to make a gesture akin to the shaking of a Polaroid picture, yes, but at what price? Some of Andre 3000's lyrics are a bit . . . sensual, shall we say? Of course, he doesn't really understand what he hears, which is the main reason we've used to justify our actions.

In our defense, he does seem to understand the word "dance" and when we ask him to dance, he graciously obliges with a mile-wide grin, a shuffling of his feet, and an ebullient laugh. Although sometimes I feel as though we are treating like him a trained monkey. "Dance, monkey, dance!" Again, convincing our son to engage in behavior for our amusement more than anything else.

But I digress.

He is getting to be a pretty good little dancer. Though I would say he is not as rhythmic yet as that baby in the YouTube video, the one shaking it to Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." Side note: how many parents are out there at this very moment, trying to get their own child to dance feverishly to some trendy, famous pop tune in the hopes of capturing the same type of magic on video tape and translating it into instant Internet notoriety?

Not that we are. That's not what I meant.

Recently, while driving with my son in his car seat in the back with my iPod set to shuffle, Tenacious D's "Tribute" started playing. I thought to myself, A kid could really dig this song. Visions of my son schooling the other kids in the neighborhood with his coolness and his knowledge of all things hipster were quickly shattered, though, when I realized (and how could I forget) that the D's lyrics are a veritable cornucopia of inventive profanity, that Rage and Jables are indeed notorious pottymouths (which is, sort of, half the point).

This incident reminded me that also, once, in the early months of our son's life, we watched the brilliant, hilarious Ricky Gervais stand-up special, Out of England, with the wee one laying on the couch beside us. Between peals of laughter, and wiping away the accompanying tears, we noted the very benefit of his lack of understanding. The inappropriate references in that routine would've raised a world of questions which neither one of us would be prepared to answer.

At some point, this will certainly change. We will have to be more selective about the material to which we expose him. That day is rapidly approaching. He is, in fact, already repeating certain things he hears, evidenced by the newest addition to his vocabulary, "ba pa," in reference to Dora the Explorer's magical backpack ("Yum, yum, yum, delicioso!").

Perhaps some day in the future, a band like the D will seem almost tame, quaint, no longer highly objectionable or inappropriate for our son's delicate ears, in comparison to some wild new form of dark, gothic, satanic death metal that he brings home. Or some form of polka. I shudder to think . . .

Until then, I suppose I need to investigate if Raffi still records music.

26 October 2009

Pub Crawl

A friend (who does not have kids) recently asked me and a fellow new father what the most inappropriate location was that we had so far taken our children (with or without our wives' knowledge). Reflecting on this query, it dawned on me that during his short life so far, my wife and I have taken our son on several occasions . . . into a bar.

Yes, I know. But I'd like to explain. It was always during the day. Never at night. And they were, let's say, pubs, rather than bars. Brewpubs, for instance. That's practically a restaurant . . . even if there are, say, giant vats of beer in the back. If we were living in England (or Ireland), the pub would be a perfectly normal venue to bring a toddler.

Don't judge us. It's not like we gave him beer or anything . . .

No, really. We didn't. But we have fed him bar food. That's okay, right?

Really, stop judging us.

We have acknowledged that this might be not be the best parenting maneuver. Of course, we've also found it highly amusing to be sitting in a bar with a baby. It's like that scene in Sweet Home Alabama. "You have a baby . . . in a bar."

He likes it. Good food, warm atmosphere. There was one time when he was fascinated, I mean really transfixed, by the giant silver vats on display behind the bar, with the pressure gauges and everything, where the beer is being brewed. I mean, it's practically educational.

Seriously, stop judging us.

17 October 2009

Parents of the Year

From the very beginning, I've been pretty doubtful when it comes to my abilities as a parent. Low self-esteem has routinely led me to believe throughout my life that I'm not very good at much of anything and being a father has not been an exception. But in my relatively short experience as a parent, I have discovered that pretty much on a weekly basis (hell, practically every day), at least one story appears in the news that makes me feel slightly better about my parenting skills.

And this week had a doozy: the Saga of Balloon Boy.

So I'd like to take a moment and recognize the parents of Balloon Boy for their outstanding contributions to the world of parenting. Because really, who are we kidding? This is parenting at its finest. And it allows me to breathe a little more freely, feel a little more relaxed, and generally be secure in the notion that, on average, I'm actually doing a pretty decent job as a parent.

For one more day at least.

13 October 2009

Oral Hygiene 101

ur son has sprouted teeth. Two little ones, right up front, on the bottom. He's had them a little while now and though I've yet to see him actually utilize them (either to bite or chew food), he's definitely aware that he's got them. He doesn't always let us get a good look at them, but when my wife or I has been able to jam our finger into his mouth, we've found that they're jagged, sharp little things. Like weasel teeth. Or vampire fangs.

Teething was not particularly painful (for him or us) and as he's been a major producer of drool from the start, it was often difficult to ascertain whether or not he was actually teething. While the drooling has subsided recently, it was pretty crazy there for a while. Early snap shots of our son show shirt after shirt with a big wet spot right on the front. Kid was like a fountain or a fire hydrant. I didn't know before this that a human being could even produce that much saliva.

When our son does open his mouth wide enough for a teeth viewing, the picture is a bit odd. With only two of them, sticking up from the bottom, it kind of results in a reverse buck-toothed thing. In fact, whenever I see those two tiny teeth, I can't help but think of this classic character from The Simpsons:

Of course, unlike Cletus, whose teeth surely suffer from years of neglect and poor oral hygiene, our son has actually become quite enamored of the practice. It's surprising, but it is true. I'm sure in a few years time (if all the parental horror stories and countless television comedies are to be believed) he will hate brushing his teeth and resist it at all costs. But for the moment, he really enjoys it. And even seems to be requesting that we do it. Of course, "teeth" comes out of his mouth as "ott," so we can't be positive, but he is fascinated by the toothbrush and toothpaste, knows when to open his mouth for the brush, and generally behaves in a genial fashion while we tend to his teeth.

He has developed a strange habit of interrupting the process to say "naa naa," which is our cue to lower him to within striking distance of the sink so that he can bang his fist on it, like he's knocking on a door. This appears to be the result of seeing my wife banging the toothbrush on the edge of the sink, as you do, at the end of the brushing session to knock free excess water. Is that why you do it? I don't know. Anyway, without fail, our son makes certain he gets the opportunity to knock on the sink midway through the teeth brushing. It's a very quirky, almost OCD-ish act, like he's a miniature Monk or something.

Of course, there's far worse things for our kid to be preoccupied with than teeth brushing. In fact, I'd like to chalk this one up to good parenting and an excellent example that we're setting.

We're going to fail him in so many other ways, I'd like to cling to this minor victory and assume credit for it, whether that's warranted or not.

It probably isn't.

30 September 2009

The Friend Zone

Snarky and judgmental have been my default positions for most of my life. But it took parenthood for these qualities to truly come into sharper focus. It's not that I'm a jerk, per se, but I have pretty high standards when it comes to people.

And other parents have now forced me to raise them higher.

From the moment we began taking our son out into the world, other people with kids have gravitated toward us like nobody's business. But here's the thing. We're not friends, people. Just because we both have kids, does not mean I want to converse with you. We are not on a team. Please go away and leave me alone.


What is wrong with people? Just because you have a kid and I have a kid, that doesn't mean we have anything in common or that we are similar in any way. You don't know what I'm going through and I wouldn't attempt to assume to know what you are going through.

Get out of my face. If I wanted to talk about your kid, I would've asked. But I didn't. Right?

Perhaps the single most annoying thing I've heard in these situations is the phrase, "It's magical." Magical? It's a lot of things, granted, but magical? I'm not sure I would qualify it as such. When my kid learns to apparate like in Harry Potter, yeah, maybe then I'll give you magical. But until then, no.

And please leave me alone.

27 September 2009

I've Been Out Walking

Here comes trouble.

My son, for the love of all things holy, has started to walk. I wouldn't say he's quite mastered the art yet (uneven ground and shoes still trip him up on occasion), but he's getting there. Rapidly. And as I watched him cruise across the grass the other day, with that strange little waddle of his, I thought, I know that walk. I've seen that walk.

What is that walk?

Is it a swagger? Can't be. He's just a toddler and toddlers do not swagger (particularly if they are the progeny of Klutzy McGee, aka This Guy). Strut? Saunter? Prance? Sashay? Seriously. Where did that walk come from? Where have I seen it before?

And then, suddenly, it dawns on me. My son walks exactly like this:

I'm not kidding. It's hilarious.

Maybe it's just me. I've been a Chaplin fan for a long time, so that might have something to do with it. In fact, I went out for Halloween as the Little Tramp when I was in the 4th grade (seriously, what 4th grader has ever even heard of Chaplin?). One of my favorite childhood stories to recount is of the little old lady whose doorbell we rang, who looked at me (and my tiny moustache, I presume) and thought that I was dressed as Hitler. Because, obviously, any parent would allow their child to go out trick-or-treating as Der Fuhrer. And while I've always considered this an amusing anecdote, one aspect of it has lately begun to trouble me. In hindsight, that woman did not seem remotely offended nor concerned that I was an 8 year-old kid dressed as the most evil man in the history of the world. Why is that, I wonder?

But I digress. My son walks just like the Little Tramp. Maybe I'll have to dress him up as the character for Halloween. Imagine a toddler version of Chaplin. How ridiculously adorable would that be?

Seriously, though, where did this strange, marvelous little creature really come from?

23 September 2009

Talk of the Town

Words matter. At least, to me. They're a big part of my life. Obviously. And my wife's too. In particular, the litany of completely nonsensical ones that she's invented over the years. So it should come as no surprise that our son's discovery of speech should be nothing short of a huge event for us. His first sounds (they can't really, technically, be called words) were goofy and glorious in equal measure. And as he continues to struggle to express himself (fan does not start with a 'b,' pal--get with it), we are determined to do our utmost to instill in him a love of words equal to our own.

From everything we've read (we're big on parenting books, web sites, magazines--any chance to intellectualize the experience of parenthood we've embraced wholeheartedly), you're supposed to pretty much talk to your kid constantly, so that they can absorb as many words and sounds as possible. So you find yourself describing absolutely everything, the most mundane of things, as if your kid is a miniature version of Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction, being followed about by the disembodied voice of an omniscient narrator. From his socks to his bath to animals in the world, you tell him about everything.

It can get tedious for the talker, but the kid doesn't notice.

His words (such as they are) go in tandem with wild gesticulations. Pointing this way and that, slapping you in the face, tapping himself on the head. I realized lately that I am a person who talks with my hands, so he is apparently doomed to follow in my footsteps.

While his vocabulary is limited, he's gotten pretty adept at a few small, choice selections: "Da da," "Ma ma," "Dead deer."

Don't ask.

In addition to describing everything in sight, you're also supposed to read to them. The growing toddlers. We have been reading him books every night at his bedtime for a while now and for the most part, he actually seems to be interested. Our favorite books are by an author named Sandra Boynton. They are hilarious and bizarre. Apparently post-modern absurdism has now trickled down to children's literature. And that's a good thing.

We've also heard that you can pretty much read them anything, but I question that theory. (Lady Chatterley's Lover, perhaps? Fight Club?) Maybe our son would enjoy Sy Hersh's latest investigative piece on the turbulent, continually deteriorating situation in the Middle East. But sadly, in our lives, the New Yorker has been replaced by Parents magazine and all evidence of our past intellectual snobbery has pretty much been expunged from our existence. As my wife said once, not too long ago, as she stared wistfully at a woven, sea grass basket stuffed to the gills with our son's motley collection of toys:

"That used to hold New Yorkers."

Ahh, the sound of the new parents' lament.

28 August 2009

The Machine

Okay, so now that I've talked about my son's circumcision, what other personal, intimate details can I put out into the universe that will haunt and embarrass him when he is older?

I know . . .

The above title is a polite (and coded) way of describing my son. For all the other parents out there, you know that this is par for the course, a regular part of conversation. Or maybe it's just us. (I really hope not.) Because it's weird. It's not as though my wife and I were previously in the habit of discussing the inner workings of our own . . . dietary systems, shall we say? But now, there is an almost daily conversation about our son's . . . well, you know.

And almost from the beginning, from his earliest soiled diaper, my wife managed to turn the entire unpleasant (odorous) experience into an amusing, melodic event. She sang. Still does, in fact. She managed to rework this classic Melodys tune (http://tiny.cc/BZXwW) and dubbed our son, "Poop Machine." And machine would prove to be apt. I might also be compelled to invoke the Patti Smith classic, "Piss Factory." Seriously, until you've experienced it firsthand, you cannot imagine how much, well, crap can come out of such a wee person.

This is yet another interesting development about becoming a parent. You begin to sing. All the time. About everything. Granted, my wife is a person who constantly had a song in her heart all along, but she really stepped up her game when the kid came along, truly unleashed her inner Kristin Chenoweth. "Poop Machine" was merely one in a line of updated, revised pop song homages or newly created ditties that accompanied the ongoing development of our child. Songs about pants, about socks, about taking a vitamin, and sucking on toes. A song about his bathtime (to the tune of "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain--it's a good one). Your entire life becomes musical, your daily dialogue begins to sound like the loopy word renderings of Dr. Seuss.

Parenthood is bizarre.

Can you imagine this behavior applied to any other facet of your life? Perhaps a trip to the grocery store. "I have a coupon for that salad dres-s-s-s-s-ing!" Or the gas station? "20 dollars on pump #7, #7, #7, #7!!!" The doctor's office? "It appears I have a strange raaaaash!" (ed. note - My wife insists that this would end with Jazz Hands. Jazz Hands!)

For me, though, ridiculous film fanatic that I am, there is only one association I can make in regard to my son's sometimes excessively dirty diapers. And that is the Golgothan, the mythical creature, produced by the warped imagination of Kevin Smith (refracted through his Catholic upbringing), from his oft-underrated flick, Dogma (http://tiny.cc/tGqdv). And I would call my son the Golgothan, but it is a mouthful. Poop Machine rolls off the tongue much easier, right?

I have to say, I was never crazy about getting a dog for this very reason, the fact that you have to clean up after them. And now this. But it's strange how things--instincts, I think you call them--just kick in. Even if you've never done it before, changing that first diaper is not exactly the rude awakening you might imagine. You just . . . do it. Oddly enough. Perhaps it's years of experience with your own body. After all, this is just a miniature version of you. Perhaps that's what makes it such an easy adjustment. But who knows for certain. And now, the contents of a diaper are a typical, daily subject of conversation.

How did we get here?

13 August 2009

The Procedure

As my son passes the one year mark (which is, in itself, rather unbelievable to me), I'd like to look back at his first week--actually, his first few days--of life. It was on the second full day of his life that one of the most amusing moments of new parenthood occurred. Sure, it was also potentially horrific. But in the end, it all worked out for the best.

Wait--my son is a year old. He's been on this planet for 365 days. How did that happen? I've been a dad for an entire year already. Sometimes it still feels like that very first week. I am so not used to this yet.

And I really wasn't used to it that Monday night in the hospital over a year ago, when I accompanied my newborn son as he underwent his very first medical procedure: a circumcision.

Now, I know what you're thinking. But don't worry. I won't go into all the gory details. In fact, one of the most surprising aspects of the entire operation was the total lack of gore. It wasn't what I would call pleasant by any means, but I also wasn't screaming my lungs out in abject terror and clawing at my eyes to permanently erase the vision from my memory. It was all rather simple, straightforward, and surprisingly quick. We were led by a doctor and a med student to a small room, almost a storage closet. Seemed a strange location for such a serious medical procedure, but I suppose it's also a bit of a strange procedure, so perhaps it was fitting. Anyway, the doctor lays out the equipment, the instruments, she'll be using and instructs me to please not grab any of them during the procedure. Apparently, some nervous or overzealous parents have in the past turned into eager assistants in this scenario, as though they were an extra on Grey's Anatomy. I practically laugh out loud, I am so baffled by this notion. Who could possibly behave in this fashion? Yes, please, mutilate my son's tiny penis, by all means! Let me help you, use this very sharp, shiny thing here! That's the ticket! Do it! Do it!

Now, I myself am no stranger to TV hospital drama (it dawned on me in the last year that I literally spent half my life watching ER--man, that show was on the air for a long time) but even I have no inclination to do such a thing. Okay, maybe if the doctor was Ellen Pompeo or Katherine Heigl, I might lose my head for a moment, but doctors in real life rarely look like models or movie actresses, so we are safe. The next thing I know, she's imparting a history lesson on the main tool used in the procedure. She's informing her student that it was invented by a doctor at this very institution where we're about to have this procedure. It was invented shortly after World War I, I believe she said. Really? I think to myself. This technology hasn't advanced in 90 years? How is that possible? But I don't have time to dwell on that thought because the next words out of the doctor's mouth catch my attention. She's telling her student that she'll explain everything to him as she performs the procedure, then on the second one (the next patient), he can assist, and then he can perform the third one of the night himself.

Again, I have to stop myself from bursting into hysterical laughter. Then I breathe a sigh of relief and thank all that is holy that we are the number one patient of the night. Man, that poor bastard who's number three, I think. Sure, this is a teaching hospital, but this kid is going to be given sharp, scary instruments to lop off the top of a very tiny penis for the very first time on this night. Seriously.

Number three, you poor, poor bastard.

But in the end, it wasn't as bad as you might imagine. Of course, I'm secretly hoping that if we end up having another kid, that it's a girl, and I never have to go through that experience again.

Because you never know, our number two could be the unlucky number three, that med student's number one.

Man, that poor bastard.

31 July 2009

Foot Fetish

"I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles."

This is one of my favorite lines, in one of my favorite movies, Knocked Up. Sidenote: I have a friend that's convinced this movie is the reason I now have a child. That this movie made it okay for me to want a baby. He's convinced of this because he believes movies inform most decisions in my life. And while it's true that I grew a beard the first time because I thought Jason Lee looked cool with one in Chasing Amy and that I started collecting vinyl after one too many halfway-inebriated, late-night viewings of High Fidelity, and yes, I do fantasize about being pseudo-hipster college prof Grady Tripp from Wonder Boys when I am middle-aged (though perhaps without the adultery and maybe a bit less pot), I must disagree. Knocked Up had nothing to do with my wife and I having a baby. The fact that the film was released in June and she was pregnant by November is irrelevant.

Wow. Longest. Sidenote. Ever. Maybe I do need to Twitter, it might teach me not to pontificate.

But I digress. Back to the story at hand and the title of this post. My son is fascinated by his feet. Fascinated. I cannot fathom devoting the amount of time he does to inspecting and examining them. How can feet be so interesting? Babies truly are very strange little creatures. The things that catch--and hold--their attention are impossible to predict and often downright baffling.

For example, my son has a multitude of toys that move, make noise, play music, light up, etc., and yet, he will often bypass all of these in favor of something seemingly mundane, such as an empty plastic water bottle, a shoe, or a department store catalogue. These items will hold him in rapture for untold amounts of time.

And those feet. And the toes. His utter fascination with them often leads to him trying to eat them. They cannot taste good, nor offer true nutritional value for a rapidly growing baby, but this does not deter him from constantly putting them in his mouth and trying to eat them. Sure, he puts pretty much everything in his mouth, but he appears to have a special penchant for those feet. And the toes.

As he nears a year in age, my wife and I have started putting shoes on him more and more when we take him out in public. Yes, he's a baby, so technically footwear is optional, as his feet don't actually touch the ground, but we've made the collective decision that going barefoot in public, at any age, is sorta hillbilly and we are raising a baby sophisticate, not a baby hillbilly. But just like the feet unadorned, those shoe-covered feet go straight into the mouth. Watching him go to town, mawing on a sandal, inadvertently recreating Charlie Chaplin's Gold Rush routine (http://tiny.cc/hKCIG), I wonder is he making a meal of that shoe leather, or is he really trying to chew through it, because he knows those wonderful, delicious toes are hidden inside? And how the hell does this occupy so much of his time?

Seriously, my shoes and feet are in no way interesting or edible. Or appetizing. Apparently, in the decades since I was one, things have gone terribly awry.

20 July 2009

The Wake-Up Bomb

Heard this tune on my commute the other day, with my iPod set to Shuffle. New Adventures in Hi-Fi remains (for me) the highlight of the R.E.M. catalogue. I know purists prefer the earlier records (which were, incidentally, actually records), but this is definitely my favorite.

And the reason I use it here is that the wife and I had an old, familiar experience the other night. The 4 am wake-up call. Or rather, cry. Now, since birth our son has not been the greatest sleeper. Wait. That's an understatement. He is, in fact, a terrible sleeper. He takes after his mother in that regard, who even under optimal conditions, routinely has trouble falling asleep. While I, meanwhile, could fall asleep sitting upright against a cement block.

From the start, we would read all these statistics about how babies are supposed to sleep 10-12 hours every night, and 2-3 hours every day. Who the hell are these babies? And where do we get one exactly?

Okay, so we're not prepared to trade him in. Not yet. Still, he resists napping. At all costs. It's like he doesn't want to miss anything. We've tried explaining to him that he really won't miss out on anything. I mean, it's not as though he does a whole lot when he's actually awake. But apparently, there is no reasoning with a baby.

It's only been within the last few months (and again, he's going on a year) that we have reached anything resembling normalcy when it comes to a sleeping schedule. Maybe it's our fault. We did wish for a quiet, bookish lad and instead we got some kind of speed freak, a non-sleeping, loudly-screaming, interested-in-everything, curious-as-hell kid. So perhaps it is our fault.

Anyway, back to that 4 am wake-up incident. It immediately took me back to the early months of his life, when he would routinely do that. All. Night. Long. Just like Lionel Richie. And I remember during those middle-of-the-night sessions, pacing endlessly, rocking and shushing him, bleary-eyed, delirious, agitated, and at my wit's end, I would always, without fail, think about the movie PCU. Most people haven't heard of it, let alone seen it, but it is pretty much a Comedy Central stalwart at this point--in fact, it might even be playing right now. Anyway, it stars a bunch of actors who look far too old to play college students, well, playing college students. It stars Jeremy Piven and there's a flashback to his freshman year, when he roomed with conservative uber-nerd David Spade. When Piven brings a girl back to their room to hook up, he can't, because Spade is trying to sleep. And Piven goes crazy, jumping on the bed, screaming, "Go to sleep! Go to sleep!" The moment where Spade is doused (in slo-mo) with whiskey, while writhing and whining through his braces and headgear--well, it really doesn't get much funnier.

Maybe you had to be there.

Okay, so this entire thing was a ruse, a means to mention Jeremy Piven and therefore discuss the current season of Entourage. I apologize. I dig it. And I know that everybody talks about how brilliant Piven is, but Kevin Dillon (justly recognized with another Emmy nomination this week) is consistently amazing, if for nothing else than the mere fact that he's managed to make Johnny Drama more than a caricature and closer to something resembling sympathetic.

I have just one complaint. 10:30 time slot? Doesn't HBO realize I have a baby who doesn't like to sleep? 11 pm is very late for me these days.

Pathetic. When did I get so old?

14 July 2009

Say it ain't so.

Okay, so this is probably old news. I tried denying it at first, but I guess I have to start working on acceptance. This will be one very rare occasion where I discuss sports. Only to say that I am severely disappointed and may never watch basketball again:


“Ball don’t lie?” Sure it don’t. Except for when it betrays you and moves to Boston. Thought we had something special, ‘Sheed. Guess you didn’t feel the same. And now you’ve made me cry in front of my son. Thanks a lot. Jerk.

10 July 2009

The Birthday Party

No, no, it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m not planning on mounting a new production of the first play by Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter. The wife and I are starting to plan one for our son. Quite different. Not so bleak. Less absurdity. No cockney accents. Well, of course, it hasn’t happened yet. So I can’t really promise anything. But nobody dies.

I don’t think.

Anyway, so yeah, my son is verging on turning one year old. How did this happen? Where did the time go? I am rapidly becoming a very old man. I’m still not used to it (this whole being a parent gig). Does anybody ever really get used to it? I mean, to put this in perspective, there are certain TV series that I’ve been watching longer than he’s been on this planet. A lot longer. That’s just plain weird.

One of those series is Rescue Me. And its current season has been a very bright spot in the otherwise arid desert of summer TV programming (Dance Your Ass Off? Really?) And honestly, this might be the best show on television. I’m just saying. It could even (almost) be described as Pinteresque (see what I did there?) in its commingling of darkness and levity, in its black-comic brilliance. It is one of the few shows on TV—pretty much ever—to not only embrace, but actually get the concept of absurdity.

But I was talking about that birthday party. It’s a very amusing undertaking as the guest of honor goes to bed early, doesn’t really speak, and won’t even realize he’s being celebrated. This has not stopped an entire industry from rising up around this occasion. Recently, we received not only an entire first birthday-centric catalogue in the mail—oh wait, Pinteresque absurdity in action, after all—but also a handy, detailed checklist of necessary items from a well-meaning, kid-friendly neighborhood chain store—one with a very long-necked spokesperson/icon/mascot. And I’m guessing that all of these items (commemorative bib? really?) are conveniently available for purchase at one of your myriad, multi-colored locations. Am I right?

While we appreciate your generous attempt to guide us through the tangled forest of first birthday-planning, we think we’ve got it covered. Though, we did have an eerie, possibly foreboding, experience recently that might have made us think twice about this whole birthday party thing. While doing some preliminary research on paraphernalia for said birthday party at our favorite big box store, which we love and spend most of our free time at and which was recently given the Eddie Vedder Stamp of Approval (http://tiny.cc/5fVJR), something rather absurd, and fairly disturbing, occurred.

While we are more or less used to all manner of human person from small children to wrinkled geezers sizing up our progeny and gushing forth with excessive adulation, we were not prepared for the sudden appearance of the rather mangy, unkempt little girl (though in hindsight, she was not that little) who shouted “Baby!” and bum-rushed our shopping cart in a mad attempt to manhandle and ultimately kiss our son. No kidding. She got right up in there. It bordered on terrifying and my wife practically had to physically restrain this creature while her mother/parent/guardian was obliviously absent the entire scene.

Seriously, this girl looked like the creepy chick that climbs out of the well and emerges from the TV screen in The Ring (the remake, not the original—and while we’re on the subject, that scene of the horse going crazy and jumping off the ferry might be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, I should never have watched it alone at night and oh no, now I’m thinking about it again—wait, back to the story). I mean, there’s poor parenting and then there’s this. Not only the ragamuffin’s appearance, but general inappropriate behavior. It was all I could do to not scream, Hey lady, get your dirty urchin offspring away from my kid!

The whole thing was almost enough for us take our son home and lock him away from the world for a very long time. Skip the whole birthday thing and just do it next year. Or five years from now. Either way.

I mean, really, it’s not like he’s even going to know the difference.

08 July 2009

Welcome to the Dad Scene.


You should know up front, I am somewhat neurotic. (That noise you hear is my wife's ebullient laughter at the
somewhat qualifier.) By way of introduction, I will say that I am worried that I'm (a bit) too late for this party. And I don't mean fashionably.

I mean that perhaps starting a blog at this late date in 2009 is just way uncool. Or maybe it's cool and retro like my extensive vinyl collection. Or is the phenomenon of blogging no longer where it's at, so to speak? It seems like maybe I should be on Twitter, issuing tweets, but unfortunately, I have a problem with verbosity and that 140-character limit thing just does not sit well with me. I would absolutely agonize over those missives, spend far too much time crafting, editing, fine-tuning, and shaping them into perfect examples of witty, sardonic, engaging displays of language.

Yeah, I've probably just set the bar way too high here.

The other issue that brings me late to the whole blogging thing is my innate potential to become obsessive about this type of enterprise. In the same manner that I am preoccupied with updating my book "shelf" on Shelfari and my Netflix queue (not to mention the rating movies section of that site)--I devote far too much time to such activities. It’s also why, so far, I’ve avoided social networking sites like the plague.

But I digress.

As the name of this blog suggests, the subject here will basically be my son. And his (constant) interference with my consumption of popular culture. This is not meant to be educational in any way. But if it helps, comforts, or amuses another first-time parent, I'll take it.

Back to that kid. And his cramping of my style when it comes to . . . . well, most everything I did before he was around. Seriously, he doesn’t like to sleep, he constantly needs to be monitored and/or entertained. Enough already. As I asked him a few weeks after he was born,
when exactly do you start fending for yourself?

He's now about 11 months old and has yet to answer me. What a jerk.

Okay, so I don’t really think my son is a jerk. Though he does sometimes smack me in the face and knock my glasses to the floor, as though I’m a scrawny weakling in the 4th grade and he’s the doughy, oversized school bully that’s been held back two full grades. But I know it’s not intentional.

At least, I think it’s not intentional.

And other than that, he’s pretty good-natured, laughs when I tickle him, appears to pay attention when I read him books, and is an expert at high-fives.

As for the whole pop culture thing, I'm happy to report that the wife and I have gotten out recently on two (count 'em, two) occasions to see some summer flicks. This being early July, that's somewhat sad, seeing as how even last year, we would've seen most of the big releases already. [Ed. Note – Here my wife insists that I relate how last summer, on the very day she was to be induced into labor, to give birth to our son, I forced her to sit through
Pineapple Express, when she would have much preferred to see Brideshead Revisited. And here I thought we were past all that. Oh well.] But I have to be satisfied (so far) with only Star Trek and The Hangover. And as this post is already incredibly long, I will limit my reviews.

Star Trek: Best. Star Trek Movie. Ever.

The Hangover: Best. Vegas Bachelor Party Movie. Ever. (So sorry Very Bad Things.)

But again, it's July and I've only seen these two movies. Because of my son. What was once as natural as breathing, a basic human right, has now become a rare treat. Because I'm a parent. Seriously, what happened?

Dude, where's my life?