Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Home for the holidays

We had a break-in last week, and I'm still trying to figure out how it happened. Our doors were locked, and our windows were sealed. We don't even have a chimney. Yet, somehow, Santa found his way into our apartment... and the amount of stuff he left there was downright criminal.

Kyle, of course, received most of the loot, even though he would have been pleased with a ball of wrapping paper. We barely fit it all beneath the tree, which made us awfully glad we had moved to a bigger apartment this year. Last year our tree was crammed next to the refrigerator, forcing us to stack some of precious gifts next to the leftovers, behind the cold cuts. Nothing says "I love you" like earrings covered in spilled orange juice.

Santa wasn't the only person to blame for the pile beneath this year's tree. Kyle's grandparents were also guilty (the locked doors and lack of a chimney couldn't stop them from visiting, either). They didn't seem to grasp the concept that we live in an apartment and have limited storage space, which is why a number of gifts were larger than Kyle himself (some assembly required).

Kyle, of course, had no clue of what was going on, and spent the weekend in shock, often staring at everyone. Once the gifts were opened, he threw a few of them around the apartment, certainly making beautiful noise for the tenants below us. He whacked the buttons on the toys he didn't throw around, and they, in turn, made loud noises that permeated throughout the apartment. One such toy is shaped like the inside of a car, complete with a wheel and a horn that shouts "HEY! GET OUT OF THE WAY!" when you press it. Our kid is already learning how to become a New York driver.

Then there was the assembling part, taken up by the granddads. The two of them went through the instructions step by step and put together a toy with such precision you'd think they were building a new skyscraper. Jennifer and my mom, meanwhile, created a Christmas dinner that would put some of the city's finest chefs to shame. Meanwhile, I stayed busy with my main task, which was making sure the beer stayed cold.

Now it's all over. The toys have been put together, the wrapping paper has been recycled, and the grandparents have gone home. It was a Christmas to remember, though, unfortunately, Kyle won't remember any of it. At least we'll always have the pictures. That, and the loud toy dog that barks "Jingle Bells."

Tonight marks the end of 2008. What a year. Here's hoping that we all have a joyful, calmer 2009. Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Safe at home?

It seems like our little guy is just weeks (if not days) away from starting to crawl. Right now, we've been able to put him anywhere, leave him for a couple minutes to go to the bathroom, and not worry that he's climbing over the fridge. With that luxury quickly coming to an end, I find myself looking around our "classic" New York City apartment and asking, "Is this a safe place?"

Sure, I have made a few adjustments already, as any parent would. The pots and pans rack is no longer above the crib, loose nails are no longer stored with the teething rings, and the hornets nest has been finally removed from his room. But there's always more work to be done, especially in an apartment that's been around for close to a century. Sometimes danger spots are hiding in plain sight. Take a look at this picture of an actual floor here:

I know: it's disgusting. If it were up to me, I'd choose a different tile... maybe something a bit more modern, or a pattern with classic cartoon characters. Upon closer examination of the floor, though, I have come to realize that it's not exactly kid-friendly, especially with it crumbling away in bite-sized pieces. The duct tape is there to help fix that problem, and to hide the gaping holes to the apartment below.

And then there's this. Look at this piece of trim in our living room:

Sure, it might seem innocent enough, but say you happen to be doing the twist or a Russian dance by the door and you accidentally hit it. Look what happens:

It's bad enough that the block falls out, exposing the apparent chunks of asbestos. Take a close look at that block - yes, that's right: there's a NAIL sticking out of it. A sharp nail pointing straight up from the floor, just waiting for a toddler to crawl on it. Our apartment hates us. I'm certain it's waging war because we had a child: "How DARE you bring someone in here who will desecrate my walls with a crayon? You want a fight? BRING IT ON. You're afraid of a little nail??? - Just wait 'til you see what I do to your toilet when you start potty training!"

So, I'll be busy in the coming weeks. I'll probably find a way to keep Kyle away from that poorly-tiled floor by closing a door to that room. As for the trim... well, I'll find some way to fix it. Until then, I figure this should keep Kyle away from it:

(Anyone needing an explanation can click here.)

Okay, I have to go... I'm off to find a way to get the sharks out of our bathtub.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Straphanger in a stroller

In continuing our series on traveling with a baby, we explore the wonders of underground transportation known in New York as the "subway." On Saturday, Jennifer and I had to run a necessary errand in Times Square, which, for a New Yorker, is a place you want to visit if banging your head against a wall doesn't quite give you the headache you're desiring. To get there, we had to take the subway, and, thanks to modern parenting laws, we had to take Kyle along, too. Because of that, the chore suddenly gained a great amount of significance: it became Kyle's first subway ride.

It wasn't much of an errand for Jennifer and me. But for Kyle, the trip was absolutely terrifying, and not just because we were mugged three times. The little guy didn't understand why we were in the dark underground tunnel, and he seemed nervous about where we were going next. During the first several minutes on the platform, Kyle was frozen with an expression on his face that asked us what he had done wrong to deserve this. He even shook a little at the sound of an incoming train, apparently afraid that it would run him over or take him someplace hellish, like Times Square. We did everything we could think of to try to cheer him up, and even one of the muggers made silly faces in hopes of getting a smile, but nothing worked. Kyle just needed to ride the train to get past his initial reservations.

At first the train ride itself seemed to go just as well as the wait, with Kyle looking at his mom, questioning why he had trusted her for so long.

But soon his mood seemed to change as he came to realize that the train wasn't going to hurt him, and that the rats will leave you alone if you leave them alone (unless they're rabid). Kyle was smiling again, he was trusting us again, and he was no longer afraid of the monster known as the subway. He even started to explore his surroundings, but in doing so he ended up breaking one of the cardinal rules of New York subway travel: he made eye contact with the other passengers. So now they were the ones feeling uncomfortable. I suppose Kyle eventually will learn the proper subway etiquette. While this was his first subway ride, it certainly won't be his last.

Next week on our "Traveling with a Baby" Series: Kyle goes horseback riding!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Little wings

Jennifer, Kyle and I flew to North Carolina for Thanksgiving, and, boy, are our arms tired! Carrying that kid and all of his stuff isn't easy. There once was a time when Jennifer and I would travel somewhere, arrive at the airport an hour or so early, check our luggage for free, and wine and dine on sour pulled pork sandwiches and overpriced water bottles from the food court. These days, we're lucky to make it to the gate before boarding time.

Before I became a dad, I think I underestimated just how many big things you have to carry around for someone so little. As I wrote in an earlier post, Kyle rode to the Catskill Mountains in nearly total darkness because all his stuff blocked the windows of the car (fortunately, there was a little gap between his stroller and boppy pillow, so I was able to see enough of the road to drive). You can’t pack that many things for a plane ride, however. An aircraft simply can't handle it. The FAA learned that a few decades ago, when a plane loaded with three babies and their baggage failed to get off the ground, causing a lengthy flight delay. Half the passengers went home without hearing because of the infant screams, and all the drool caused so much flood damage that the plane had to be permanently grounded.

These days we’re allowed to take a stroller, car seat, diaper bag, and a bag of toys to distract the baby so that he won’t realize that his life is in the hands of a pilot who’s on a third overtime shift. Everything has to go through the X-ray, since babies are known to hide pocket knives and semi-automatic weapons under their burp cloths. So, this past weekend, as Jennifer carried the little guy through the metal detector, I stayed behind with the equipment. Most times I am testing the patience of the person behind me as I load up a half-dozen bins worth of stuff, and then take apart the stroller and car seat to shove it through the X-ray machine. That is, unless the person behind me is a clueless first-time flyer, as was the case this weekend. As I was scurrying to get my stroller, diaper bag, shoes, jacket and sweatshirt into those bins and on the conveyor belt, this new flyer would stop me to ask whether her mini-refrigerator-sized carry-on needed to be X-rayed. Needless to say, it took me a while to get through security.

The flight itself is also a change from what we had been accustomed to. Since infants don't need their own seat, Jennifer and I spent the entire ride with someone on our lap who drools, farts, burps, and demands all of our attention. Normally we end up sitting next to a person like that, so this is a little more in-your-face. For the most part, Kyle is an easy traveler. He has yet to throw a tantrum or set anything on fire. That's a good thing, too, since he's already been on seven flights (I'm not kidding). On our last trip, the flight attendant even gave him wings. I'm guessing that, by the time he's five, he will have traveled enough miles to earn a free overseas flight. I just worry about much luggage we'll need for that trip!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Energizer Baby

Is it me, or is the government turning a blind eye to the obvious solution to our energy crisis? Last week members of all 50 states met in California for the first-ever Governors' Global Climate Summit/Weenie Roast (sponsored by the Rain Forest Pyromaniacs Guild and the National Smokestacks Union). At this summit/weenie roast, the governors discussed alternative methods of harvesting energy. They called for more ethanol in cars, more windmills on our nation's farms and fields, and more green beer on St. Patrick's Day. Our President-elect even addressed the conference, saying his administration plans to create millions of jobs through eco-friendly projects, and he will undo efforts by the current administration to build the world's largest chlorofluorocarbon-based air conditioner. Everyone cheered, patted themselves on the back and drove home in their Hummers without addressing another potential (and abundant) resource: baby power.

During the past five months I have come to discover that a baby has the ability to kick one million times a minute. Our little Kyle can go even twice as fast when he's on a device called the "bouncy seat," which rocks back and forth with every kick. It doesn't matter what time of day it is - once he's strapped in, he's often ready to go. On an average early morning, when adults have trouble walking to the coffee pot, Kyle kicks the equivalent of a marathon. In the evening, when the adults lie down after a tiring day of sitting at a computer, Kyle is still kicking away without showing any sign of fatigue. It's so much fun trying to get him to go to bed.

Unfortunately, all that energy is going to waste. Our bouncy seat is unable to harness all that kicking power, and I doubt its manufacturer has even tried to find a way to do it. I plan to send an angry letter to the seat's maker on behalf of all environmentalists. I'm sure all we need is a simple tweak to the design and we'd be able to use it to light the apartment for months.

Of course, bouncy seats are only part of the equation. Babies really don't need anything to get going, even before they learn to crawl or run. Our little guy is now flipping himself in the crib and doing more push-ups than a wise-cracking private at boot camp.

(Above: Kyle completes push-up #125)

Once again, an opportunity is missed. The governors at that summit/weenie roast might want to consider pushing for the development of children's clothing that will collect and store this energy in a device that parents can then plug into their homes for electricity. Sure, this piece of clothing might have a large battery pack and lots of wires, which could make snuggling a little more difficult... but isn't it worth it to not have to pay the electric company to run your toaster?

Each year, some 4 million babies are born United States, and yet not a single one of them is being used to free us from foreign oil. It makes you wonder whether the government is seriously seeking renewable energy. Four million babies can probably keep most of our cities bright at night. And just imagine what would happen if we gave them sugar! The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The end of free lunches

Having a baby was easy at first - at least, financially. When we first brought the little guy home, we pretty much had everything we needed for him, thanks to all the generous gifts we received. With everyone giving us clothes at the baby showers, we have enough for Kyle to make it through college without us having to buy him a single garment, as long as he remained two feet tall. The diapers did cost us some money, but we had also received a diaper cake (one of the few cakes that doesn't go well with ice cream), and we were able to live off it for a while. Even food wasn't a problem, as Jennifer provided that.

But now things are changing. Kyle is starting to enjoy the world of mushy goop Gerber claims to be a food substance and is willing to charge us for it. After starting off with rice cereal, we moved to applesauce, bananas and pears. We head into veggie territory next week. There was one more fruit option, called "prunes," but we decided to help Kyle become a picky eater by declaring that he wouldn't like it. I think we have to wait 'til he's at stage two before we can say that he won't like anchovies, either.

This past weekend, as we waited in line to purchase the goop, a supermarket supervisor noticed Kyle and gave a big smile. At first I thought it was because we have an adorable little child, but I soon learned I was wrong.

"Do you know what we call him?" he asked Jennifer.
"No... what do you call him?"
"A CD."

And no, he did not mean CD as in compact disc, though I'm sure I could create him a "Kyle Wails the Blues" album if so desired. No... the supermarket looks at our child as a Certificate of Deposit - guaranteed money for decades which will only grow as he grows older.

As the supervisor left us laughing maniacally, Kyle wet another diaper and grew out of his onesie. Suddenly my wallet is feeling a whole lot lighter.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Home alone

After months of unemployment, I finally have a new job. Beats me how I ended up with it – I’m hardly qualified, I have very little experience, and the pay is way below what I was making before. But then, come to think of it, there wasn’t much to the interview process, and nobody even asked to see my resume. My new boss can’t read or talk coherently, in fact… and he drools an awful lot.

Yes, with Jennifer finally starting her new career late last month, I officially have become a stay-at-home dad. No longer am I merely sharing parenting responsibilities or finding time to do simple things, like putting on deodorant. Nope – these days from around 9am to 6pm, I am the lone adult, completely at the will of a two-foot tall person who lately has developed a habit of punching himself in the face.

Granted, I did have some practice when Jennifer was home, but it’s certainly a different ballgame when you do this sort of thing by yourself. For instance, I have no one to turn to now when Kyle spits up all over himself and my shirt. I also have no one to turn to when, after I put on a new shirt and change Kyle, the little guy spits up on everything again. Conversations around the apartment have also changed. What once was a discussion like this…

“So, do you think this economy will turn around?”
“Of course it will. The economy goes in cycles. If the rescue plan and proposed tax cuts work right, and if something can be done about this mortgage crisis, eventually investors and consumers will regain confidence and spend more, and that will create jobs and lead us back towards prosperity."
"I see."

... has become this...

“So, do you think this economy will turn around?”
"I see."

Our discussions about global warming and the upcoming season of Lost have gone pretty much the same way. I spend each day trying to reason with someone who screams a lot, whines, and barks orders without making any sense. It's not like I haven't been through this before. After all, I did work in news. But this time around I have actual responsibility, and I have less of a clue as to what I am doing.

(Above: Mistake #241 - Dad takes his son to a vegan convention)

It's a learning experience, and sometimes you have to make mistakes to get things right the next time around. For example, only a few days ago I was clipping Kyle's fingernails when I accidentally clipped off the top of one of his fingers. There was a lot of crying and blood, but in the end we realized that, hey, he still has nine other fingers and you can definitely get by with that. So it wasn't so bad. I'll just have do better next time.

Here's the best part: even if I don't succeed, my boss can't fire me! That is, until he's of legal age, and by then I would have overcome my mistakes or have shipped him off to a boarding school. So right now my job is safe... and with this economy, you can't ask for anything more.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Taking a stand

On Tuesday Jennifer, Kyle and I became wrapped up in something that's been an iconic part of American life ever since our country was founded: we waited in line. It was a line so long it wrapped around a building, down a street, through an old man's backyard, up a creek, over a waterfall, and around a bend, ending just a few feet from the beginning. Sure, we had quite the wait, but it was nothing compared to what people were going through in other states. Virginia had rain. The Dakotas had snow. Kansas had that rare tsunami. At least we had beautiful weather. For us, it was like taking a pleasant stroll... with cement shoes.

This was election day 2008, and everyone was excited. As we waited in line with the rest of America, we saw mothers and fathers wearing Obama pins and hats, and children dressed up in t-shirts that they themselves designed with brightly-colored letters that read "VOTE OBAMA!" Everyone was wearing big smiles and talking about how much this election means to them. Meanwhile, all the McCain supporters - well, this is New York, so we didn't see any McCain supporters. There were a couple people handing out pamphlets about some Green Party candidate, which were helpful in disposing our gum before we entered the building. I'm just glad that, once we arrived at the front of the line, there was a voting booth waiting for us. I hear that in some parts of the country, people waited hours only to find out that they were actually in line for the "It's A Small World" ride at Disneyland.

Voting in New York is purely ceremonial, since the state was called for Obama back in August. Still, I enjoyed being out there with my family and fellow citizens, and taking part in that age-old tradition. The voting machines here remind us of just how old the tradition is, since they hearken back to the early 1800's. It's fun to flip all the switches and then pull the heavy red lever, which makes a sound similar to a falling guillotine. And if you're lucky, you might win the jackpot prize! Jennifer says the machines are, in fact, illegal, since the federal government ruled that they should be replaced with boring computer machines that do the voting for you. So, in a way, we were all accomplices to a crime by simply going to the polls. Expect the entire state of New York to get busted this weekend on a special election edition of COPS.

No matter what, it was a privilege to take part in a civic duty that I didn't have to make up a crazy story to get out of. And this year was extra special, since I had a chance to vote for History...

...Bill History, that is. Of the Defenestration Party. He ran on a platform to turn subways into roller coasters and to loosen the ban on whales as pets. He didn't get many votes. I guess America's not ready for that kind of change... yet.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hurricane Kyle

The path of ruins stretched far and wide as the storm moved northward. Hurricane Kyle howled and thrashed as he soaked everyone and everything in his way. I had never seen so much drool before. Nobody was spared from the storm's wrath, especially at feeding time. And we had no choice but to pray that we brought enough clothes.

Now, you may be thinking that Hurricane Kyle was some wimpy rain storm that hit - of all places - Canada this past weekend. Sure, the mounties, grizzlies, and Rick Moranis may have thought that they were struck by something big, but it was nothing compared to what the Catskill Mountains got at the same time. Just look at the devastation:

We estimate the damage to be in billions of diapers. We hardly made it back unscathed.

Every year Jennifer and I take a trip to the Catskills for our anniversary. It's a good way to prevent anyone (namely me) from forgetting the date: if I wake up to the sound of trees rustling in the wind and nothing else, then I know it's time to run out and get a card. This year was no different, except that we had an extra person along... an extra person who actually wanted a place to sleep, clean clothes, and toys to keep him from screaming all the time. And all this stuff had to be crammed into my 2001 Toyota Corolla (built in America, by the way), along with a shirt, toothbrush and half a stick of deodorant - the only things of mine that I was able to take along. I managed to get everything in, though we were a bit cramped during the ride up. I still have wheel prints from the stroller on my face.

(Above: Kyle's view of the mountains)

All that stuff eventually took over our cottage, and we spent much of our time trying not to trip over the things Hurricane Kyle scattered about. We managed to get by, and on Sunday I squeezed everything and everyone back into our compact car before we returned to the city.

Next year Kyle will be a little bigger and will probably require more toys. We likely will have to tie Jennifer to the roof so we could use her seat to carry more stuff. I worry about the year after that, though, when nobody will be able to fit into the car. I guess Kyle's stuff will have enjoy the weekend alone, and we'll end up staying at home and just renting a movie. It will be a sacrifice, but that's parenthood for ya.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reading frenzy

Kyle doesn't understand English. He doesn't have a long attention span. He has yet to see a cat, never mind one with a hat. So, naturally, the best way to torment our child is to read to him. It's not that we have anything against him; it's just a rite of passage: an age-old method of welcoming a person into life's ways by throwing something on him that is completely incomprehensible and forcing him to like it.

We actually began this torment before our little guy was even born. Our friends Colleen and Tim, who have a newborn of their own, gave us a book intended to be read "in utero." According to modern science, or in Seussian terms, sci-wizzama-boop, babies in utero can hear the book being read to them, and will recognize it after they're born. I don't think it worked, though. Every time we ask Kyle "do you remember this book?" and hold it up to his face, he just gives us a blank stare. At that point, we usually just give up and throw the book back into the pile.

Thanks to our friends and family, we have a good collection of post-utero books for Kyle to "enjoy." It's probably a good thing, though, that he doesn't understand them. I doubt he grasps the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and these books would give him a warped perspective on life. Kyle might grow up believing that bunnies live in houses, frogs can play mini-golf, and cats walk around with funny hats and red bow ties. I might have to read him a newspaper every now and then to keep him grounded. For if Kyle were to believe that a cow jumped over the moon, he should be told that the cow's DNA was probably genetically altered to give him the super strength to jump that high. Either that, or the cow's on anabolic steroids and should probably be given a urine test before it tries to enter any competition.

Most of the books we have contain two simple messages: we love you, and GO TO SLEEP!!! There are a few, though, that vary from those themes. One is called "Little Bunny on the Move," which is the closest thing we have to a suspense novel. Where is Little Bunny going? We don't find out until the end, and with each page the speculation grows. The book follows this bunny as he leaves the hillside, past the cows and sheep, and across the field. It's all cute at first, but shortly afterwards Jennifer and I became a little concerned about Little Bunny and his intentions. On the next page, he crosses over the railroad tracks, evidently going into the bad part of town. Then he sneaks through a fence. Then he ducks and weaves through a forest. Evidently Little Bunny doesn't want to be seen. Little Bunny is apparently up to some mischief, or could be finding his way to the Bunny Strip Club. Maybe he's sneaking away from Little Ms. Bunny to go drinking with his bunny buddies. As much as we would have loved to have seen a children's book stray from the usual format, we did start thinking, "Maybe we should have read this book through ourselves before reading it to our child."

Little Bunny, fortunately, does not end up going to a strip club... but the book ends without really addressing whether he gets sloshed with his buddies. I guess we'll just have to wait for the sequel to find out what really happened. By then, maybe Kyle will be able to understand books and might actually enjoy them. Either that, or he'll do what most of us do... and wait until the movie comes out.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mr. No Manners

I must apologize for our son. He seems to be having trouble with manners. Day in and day out, Jennifer and I try to teach him proper etiquette, but every time we turn around, he's spitting up on another nun.

Studies have shown that humans are born with certain skills that they forget shortly after entering this world. Babies know how to swim, they can perform basic math, and they understand what a "yield" sign means. Unfortunately, manners are not included with those skills.

Kyle has given us the finger. He talks in church and cries in restaurants. He leaves the toilet seat up. On one occasion, as his mom and dad tried to sing him a sweet lullaby to sleep, Kyle stared back at them and, without changing the serious expression on his face, let his bowels loose.

And then there's the belching. It should be limited to after meals, when we are burping him. In some cultures, a loud clearing of the air is considered a compliment to the chef. Apparently Kyle feels that compliment can be given at any time, and to anyone. Sometimes before the meal. Sometimes when you pick him up. Sometimes when he just wants to show off. It's so embarrassing. This kid has the talent to burp the alphabet. Fortunately he doesn't know any letters yet.

In recent weeks, Kyle has been taking pleasure in sticking his tongue out at people, usually with a smile. He does it often, and at everyone - it doesn't matter if you're a parent, grandparent, or a sweet little old lady just wanting to borrow some sugar. It's Kyle's new way of mocking us, as if he's saying, "You have to worry about work, unemployment, wars, taxes, gas prices, economic meltdowns on Wall Street, health care, weight loss, relationships, and alternate-side parking regulations. I don't care about any of those things - I can just lie around all day and make funny noises. Na-na-na-na-naaaaa-naaaa."

Jennifer and I have been working hard at teaching Kyle manners, but it's hard to punish bad behavior by threatening to take away dessert when he's not able to eat desserts yet. So, all we can do now is apologize to our family and friends, wipe the spit-up off of them, and pray that they won't take Kyle's mocking personally. He'll get better. We hope.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Beach boy

On days like today, when the clouds block out the feeble sunlight between the city skyscrapers, the rain smears the ink of the tabloids littering the sidewalks, and the taxi cabs spray pedestrians with water, mud, trash, and whatever radioactive material oozed into the street puddles, it's hard to believe that Jennifer, Kyle and I live in a coastal paradise. But it's true, and this past weekend our family and a couple of friends went to one of New York's most popular tropical beaches, known as Coney Island.

Labor day may have been the unofficial end of summer, but you wouldn't know it walking around Coney Island. The sun was bright in a cloudless sky, and the air was hot. People who shouldn't be wearing speedos were wearing speedos. Muggers were stealing sunglasses and beach towels instead of watches and jewelry. Even the city rats were wearing sunblock. It was a perfect day to take the family out on a stroll.

Kyle probably would have enjoyed the surf and sun himself, had we let him anywhere near it. We figured he'd probably end up screaming for days at any hint of a sunburn, and we know he thinks it's gauche to get a suntan after Labor Day. So, whenever we weren't taking pictures, we covered him from head to toe with blankets and made sure the stroller canopy was fully opened to put him almost entirely in darkness. We would block the wind whenever possible, and use a sophisticated fan to blow away any salt air that may touch his baby skin (see picture below). We also didn't put him in the ocean... but that's because had forgotten his bathing suit at home. Fortunately he didn't miss much, since the water was off-limits to everyone that day because a sea creature was eating tourists.

Even though his parents had a great time, it might not have been the perfect outing for Kyle. At least he slept through most of it. Besides, Kyle wouldn't have remembered the trip, even if he was awake all day... and that's a good thing, since those speedo-wearing sunbathers probably would have scarred him for life.

Monday, September 8, 2008

(Diaper) Change you can believe in

The past two weeks were "Politics Gone Wild!" in our household, and by "wild" I simply mean politics had invaded our television. There was really nothing else wild about the weeks, unless you count the squirrel that's been scratching at our apartment window. Each night, after putting Kyle to bed, Jennifer and I would try desperately to stay awake through both the Democratic and Republican conventions, either by hitting each other in the shoulder or throwing beer in each other's faces. After all, this is HISTORIC stuff, and we didn't want to miss any of it... unless, of course, there was a good movie playing on cable.

After this election, Kyle will be living in an America that has either elected an African-American president, or a female vice president. This is phenomenal, and it makes me proud of our country. I'm hoping that either way, this election will open the floodgates, and every president and vice president afterwards will be either female or a minority. That way, in about 40 years, it'll be rare to see a white male receive a presidential nomination. That's when Kyle can step in and be a candidate of "change."

I don't want you to think that we have outlandishly high expectations for the little guy. After all, I'd be perfectly happy with him becoming just the Secretary of State. However, a parent can dream about the possibilities, and I have reason to believe that Kyle would be a great president, even if he was elected today.

First of all, Kyle is not afraid to stand up to authority. It doesn't matter who's holding him - if Kyle sees an injustice or wants food, he will let it be known and won't stop crying until a solution is found. Second, he is willing to work across party lines. I have seen him coo and smile at Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Socialists, and he has treated each one fairly. He's also not afraid to spit up on someone from his own party, either, if it means achieving what's best for his country. Third, he's a great asset to the American GDP: since his birth, Kyle has forced Jennifer and I to pump hundreds of dollars into our struggling economy, and we know he's just getting started.

Sure, some environmentalists might have a problem with the whole disposable diaper thing, but Kyle has been researching alternatives (such as his onesies and bouncy seat), and he promises to have complete independence from Big Huggies within five years, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Critics might also have a problem with his leadership experience. However, that really shouldn't matter, since both Democrats and Republicans no longer seem to be requiring experience for their presidential/vice presidential tickets.

Kyle is excited about all that he can do for America. I fully expect him to form an "exploratory committee" once he starts crawling. But why wait 'til he can vote, or even run for president? Write in Kyle for President (Jennifer for VP) this November! ... unless, of course, you live in Florida, Ohio, or any other state where your vote actually counts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Over the river and through the Bronx

We're back from Kyle's first road trip: a weekend adventure at my parents' place in Massachusetts. I was a little nervous before we hit the road; as a new parent, I had no clue as to how to pack for the little guy. I was used to the old days, when Jennifer and I could take a weekend trip on a whim, quickly packing just enough stuff for ourselves and the occasional hitchhiker. Now we have this little person who requires diapers, wipes, toys, blankets, burp cloths, bottles, and a billion different little outfits. The list of things we needed was long and far-reaching, and that's why I took it upon myself to let Jennifer handle it. I did, however, handle the actual packing into the car, and I'm proud to say that I did not accidentally put Kyle in the trunk.

Once we were able to fit ourselves into the vehicle, the ride itself wasn't so bad. It was, however, very long. What once was a 4-and-a-half hour trip from New York (2.5 hours on days when I can outrun the cops), suddenly became a seven-hour slog. Our breaks were twice as long as usual, as Kyle would demand that we would stop for a diaper change or food. While he appreciated the diaper-changing tables, Kyle quickly became disappointed in the food selection at the the gas station convenience stores (mostly stale doughnuts and beef jerky), and would have to settle for just milk. The little guy turned out to be a good traveler: he rarely cried, he loved looking at the moving objects outside the window, and he was great with a map whenever we became lost. Having the extra driver also helped - Kyle hit only a couple bicyclists (they were hogging the lane, anyway).

The visit to Kyle's grandparents home coincided with their annual Labor Day cookout, which meant that there were lots of people around. We had feared that Kyle would have had a difficult time adjusting to his new environment, but as soon as he realized that he'd be the absolute center of attention, he felt at home. The little guy was passed around from relative to relative, and he performed with smiles, laughs, and the occasional spit-up. Kyle reveled in his new celebrity status, and he probably would have forgotten his parents completely had he grown teeth or learned to use a toilet. But, as we all know, fame is fleeting, and soon the relatives were all gone, and Kyle had to re-adjust to being spoiled by just his grandparents.

(Above: Kyle rests after a busy weekend)

Yesterday it all ended as we left Massachusetts and returned to New York. Kyle celebrated the completion of his first trip by napping in his car seat. Jennifer and I were just glad that we could take him places without having to wear ear plugs or ponchos. Next month is the real test, when we try flying. We'll make sure to bring his pacifier along, so that the pilot won't have to make an emergency landing to let us off.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dirty laundry

There are many advantages to living in the city, and, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to hold your nose to enjoy most of them (except on garbage days). In the city, you can avoid high gas prices by walking everywhere, go to some of the best restaurants late at night, and get a new cultural experience by simply riding in a taxi cab (okay... you might want to hold your nose for that one). However, for all the upsides there are some downsides: for example, my apartment has no central air, no dishwasher, and sometimes no hot water - especially if family is about to visit. Perhaps one of the biggest inconveniences is our lack of a washer and dryer. That leaves us with only three choices: don't wash our clothes at all, burn them, or trudge down to the dreaded laundromat. Usually we go with the third option, since we don't have enough matches.

There once was a time when we could get away with doing laundry just twice a month. That was before we had a child. These days we visit the laundromat at least once a week, thanks in part to Kyle's ability to dirty clothes before wearing them. The laundromat isn't far away, thank goodness, or we'd probably be burning his clothes too. Still, a short walk doesn't typically lead to a pleasant experience, especially on days when the laundromat is busy.

A packed laundromat is like a steel cage match. If there's a free dryer, and you can get to it first, it's yours. If you can't get to it, you run the risk of being trapped in the hot, tight quarters, forced to listen to the TV's talk show repeats ALL DAY LONG. So you do whatever you can to get to that free machine, even if you have to shove, tackle or punch several people along the way. Of course, that's the polite way to nab a machine. The laundromat vultures don't even wait for one to get free - they'll take your clothes out and throw them in a cart or on the floor if you're not there the second the machine stops.

Jennifer nearly got into a brawl with one of these vultures several years ago. It was right in the middle of that 2004 Sox-Yanks playoffs series, so the stress level was pretty high in our household. The normally mild-mannered Jennifer walked into the laundromat just minutes after her wash was done, only to find an older woman removing her clothes from the washer. Jennifer nearly pounced on her, grabbing the laundry and shouting "WE DON'T DO THAT HERE!" Several heads turned and I think somebody gasped, but the vulture didn't let the harsh words phase her. First, she was a lifetime patron and knew the only rule of the laundromat ("Don't overload"), and she wasn't going to let some young Southern girl tell her what to do. Second, she didn't understand Jennifer because she spoke only Polish.

We have tried to make our laundromat experience better by befriending the attendants. However, it's turned out to be a futile effort. We haven't been given priority for the machines. Instead, we tend to get Christmas gifts, usually in the form of a laundry bag, extra quarters, or "new" pairs of socks, t-shirts, and underwear. So while Kyle received some new onesies out of this friendship, I still nearly got a broken nose trying to clean them.

Anyway, I have to be going - there's a load of laundry waiting. If I don't make it back, please tell Jennifer and Kyle I love them... and have them run down to the laundromat in 45 minutes, or someone will steal our clothes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to!

Hi, I'm Dave, and this is my new blog.

What you are looking at is the end product of years of hard work, in-depth research, long hours, and a mix of blood, sweat, and beers. Everything on this website has been precisely crafted for your viewing pleasure, having been screened by dozens of focus groups and consultants. Hundreds of thousands of people had a hand in making this blog possible. I am forever grateful to all of them, and I send out my heartfelt apology to those who were maimed in the process.

This isn't my first blog. As many of you know, I have been regularly writing a blog about the birth of my first child. Some entries from that blog are below. DaveWeekly is, in a way, a spinoff. It's the "Frasier," "Wolverine" and "Hannibal & Urkel's Playhouse" of blogging. It probably won't be as good as the original, but you might still find it worth checking out because, eventually, that's all you'll have. The baby blog has to end sometime before Kyle goes off to college. (To those of you who have never seen my baby blog: please ignore this paragraph - DaveWeekly is, in fact, a completely new and original creation, despite what you may have just read.)

Of course, I will still write about Kyle's adventures on these pages... it's hard not to, since he is the supreme controller of our household. However, on this blog I will stray and write about other things - random observations, day to day quirks of being in New York, and my adventures as a record-breaking Olympic swimmer/zoologist. The possibilities for this blog are endless, and that's why, in the end, you'll probably be very disappointed.

So, tune in at least once a week. I hope you can pretend to enjoy it. I will do my best to make sure that each entry I write is of the highest quality and that each joke is both funny and classy. Thank you for your time. Poop.

Father-to-be knows best

The following article was written in February for one of those free newspapers you often find on subway seats. The editor asked me to send a writing sample in a "list" form, so I jotted down a little bit of advice for other fathers-to-be. I know I come off as a jerk in this article, but it's all in good fun. The editor, though, took me too seriously, and I never heard from him again.

Anyway, since this was never published, I might as well share it here.

I’m going to have a baby boy in June. So right now I’m about five months pregnant, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at me, outside of my fatherly glow. I must say, it’s been difficult dealing with the sympathy pains and cravings, but my wife, Jennifer, says I’m handling it well. Oh... and I’m proud of her, too.

Now, I understand that a lot of you will probably be having kids in the future, and you may be wondering how someone like me deals with all the stress associated with preparing for a baby. Well, it isn’t easy folks, but here’s a little advice:

- Don’t brave it alone

Involve your wife in this experience. After all, she is actually carrying the child. I have found it so rewarding to share my pains and concerns with her. Each night, after she comes home from a busy day at law school and takes off her 400-pound book bag and 300-pound laptop, I get up from the couch and tell her about my daily struggles. I tell her that I’ve been stressing about being a role model for our child. What if I do a bad job? What if our child develops my horrible singing voice or my lackluster throwing abilities? What happens then?

My wife then grabs my hand and assures me that I’m going to be a great father, and I feel a whole lot better. She normally goes on from there, about her back pain or stretch marks or whatever. By that point, I’m usually zoning out or watching TV.

- Do the research

There are hundreds of books out there to guide you through the pregnancy, and I plan to read at least part of one before Jennifer gives birth. Until then, I just ask Jennifer questions, about 5 or 6 times a night. She’s been a wealth of information.

- Have fun

Jennifer and I won’t let the pregnancy stop us from having a good time. We’ll let the baby take care of that. Until then, we’re enjoying each night as if it’s our last. Once the weather gets better, we’ll probably go parachuting, bungee jumping, or speed skating. But I won’t take Jennifer out drinking - that wouldn’t be safe for the little one.

I usually have to enjoy that beer alone... but I always keep in mind that I’m now drinking for two.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

He's got a new attitude

Kyle turns two months old on Wednesday. A lot about him has changed since he came home from the hospital: he has put on quite a bit more weight, he now smiles often, and he's found new ways to dirty a diaper (and its vicinity). One of the most noticeable changes is in how he communicates. Kyle still rules the roost, but now he does it with a little more finesse.

That doesn't mean he has abandoned his Apocalypse NOW! cry. No, in fact, that one has become even more dramatic. As the decibels soar, Kyle twists his body and turns his shoulders so that his face is planted in his bed, as if he was shouting, "You better do as I say or I will EAT THIS MATTRESS!!!!" It's an empty threat, of course. First of all, Kyle couldn't possibly be hungry enough, since he likely ate just an hour earlier. Second, he has no teeth.

But Kyle is no longer a one-trick pony. These days, in addition to the Apocalypse NOW! cry, there's also the "Apocalypse Maybe," which often happens in the middle of the night. This is one or two major parent-waking wails, followed by a silence that could last an hour. Apparently Kyle woke in the middle of the night, thought he was drowning, screamed, realized he was only drooling, and then went back to sleep slightly embarrassed.

There's also the lesser "either the world is ending or I just want to suck on something" cry. Kyle performed this little act during his first trip to a restaurant last week. It's a lower-volume cry, and it often comes on slowly, gradually amplifying like a siren or a really annoying car alarm. It often can be stopped in time, if one is properly equipped. We were fortunate to have a pacifier with us that night, since Kyle thought my lager was too bitter.

Finally, there are those rare moments when Kyle doesn't cry at all. Sometimes he just kicks like crazy when he needs a diaper change. When he's hungry, he occasionally puts his hand to his mouth without making a sound, like he's doing in the picture I took below using a camera phone.

So, Kyle is getting better at communicating with us, which is a good thing. Hopefully he'll shed himself of the head-twisting Apocalypse NOW! scream before he gets too old. I don't think it would go over well on a date.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Kyle grows in Brooklyn

Okay, time now for more cute pictures. Take a look at this one of Jennifer and Kyle, shot about a week and a half ago:

Now feast your eyes on this one, taken last Thursday during a trip to Brooklyn's Prospect Park:

Notice a difference? If you said that Kyle looks a bit larger, you're right. Last week, our little one went through what the experts call a "growth spurt." These things typically happen several times during the early weeks of life. Kyle packed on some extra baby fat in just a few days, and he's come dangerously close to growing out of a good number of his onesies. He soon may need to borrow my shorts.

All this growing has made Kyle HUNGRY. Last week, he would demand to be fed every hour, and each feeding would take about an hour and a half. One of Jennifer's friends, who gave birth a couple months before Kyle arrived, said a mother might as well keep her top off all day during these growth spurts. That way she'll be ready for the baby's constant cravings. While I frequently asked Jennifer to consider this sound advice, she chose not to take it, since being topless would make things a little awkward around here, especially when we have friends and relatives visiting. Instead, she had me use a bottle to help out a bit more with the feedings and prevent Kyle from devouring her. Fortunately for all of us, Kyle's growth spurt now appears to be over. His diapers no longer fit like they used to, and he seems to be able to kick farther, but we won't know just how much Kyle has grown until he goes to the pediatrician and makes another attempt at wetting the scale. We have a hunch he'll show some big gains.

The end of the growth spurt has given us more "happy Kyle" time, and less "psycho hungry angry Kyle" time. That's made us all feel better, and has allowed us to do things besides feeding him, such as showering and eating lunch ourselves. Who knows? If Kyle continues to be in such a good mood, we might go out to eat as a family. I'd certainly welcome that, because I think I might be going through a growth spurt myself. I could really go for a burger right now... or maybe two.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tater tot

Kyle is no longer a just a homebody. These days, he regularly goes out on neighborhood strolls, and this past weekend he went to church for the first time. These ventures do come with certain risks, though. We are extremely cautious with each encounter we make with another person, and Jennifer has come awfully close to tackling those who attempt to touch our little one. We don't want Kyle to catch any diseases, such as a cold, the flu, or disco fever. But most of all, we're concerned that these other people might try to eat him.

I never thought much about the threat of cannibalism before Kyle was born. It wasn't something covered in our birthing class, and when he was born, nobody asked if we wanted fries with him. But now we're wondering whether our friends and family are smacking their lips thinking of our little one.

Just a few days ago, one of our friends wouldn't stop talking about how Kyle has great "frog legs." Shortly afterwards, her fiance said his little toes looked like kernels of corn. At that point, we had to kick them out of our apartment and ban them forever. Granted, we wouldn't have been as upset if these were simply acquaintances or gourmet chefs... but these friends are on the short list of possible BABYSITTERS for Kyle. How can we be sure now that they won't sprinkle some seasoning on him the moment Jennifer and I head out the door?

We can always pray that Kyle won't ever be used as a main course, but that's also tricky to do, especially when our church's congregation has hungry eyes for our munchkin. When one member met Kyle this past weekend, she called him a "little pork chop." Others just drooled when they saw him, many asking how much he weighed, as if he was a slab of beef for grilling. In the meantime, we set the baptism for next month - I just hope they don't Christen him with barbecue sauce.

(Above: Kyle thinks he's tasty)

With all these stomachs growling for Kyle, you might think that the only safe place for him would be at home. Yet he's not even safe here. My parents were here last weekend, and my mother - yes, my own mother - said Kyle was born with "chicken legs." She is now impressed with how "plump" he has become. What's that supposed to mean?!? And next week my mom will return to New York to help us out with - of all things - the cooking! You can be sure I will be keeping a close eye on her.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In the line of fire

Having a baby boy is a risky business, as some of you may know. Every day is wrought with peril, as we parents brave the "underworld" known as the diaper change. A baby boy is a locked and loaded weapon, ready to fire... and fire he will... when his target is in range, armed with nothing more than an unscented wipe.

We were warned, of course - in fact, the image on the left is from a card sent to us before Kyle was born. Friends, family members, doctors, parents, food delivery guys - practically everyone told us to take caution when changing a diaper to avoid being squirted. Our friends Sarah and Alex, proud parents of a young boy, recommended that we use a cloth as a shield whenever we change a diaper, while my cousins Kris and Craig, proud parents of TWIN boys (God bless them), urged us to go to Target and buy lots and lots of washcloths. We took all this advice, cleared out Target's linen department, and armed ourselves for battle.

For us, changing a diaper is a lot like that opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. One of us holds the washcloth with one hand while using the other hand to undo the diaper, carefully unsticking the tabs as to not trigger any booby-traps. Then, almost instantaneously, the diaper is pulled off and -WHAM!- the cloth is thrown down. After cleanup, we make another attempt at the same tricky operation, this time to remove the cloth and slap on a new diaper. If all goes according to plan, everything stays calm, we are not bombarded with projectiles or boulders, and Kyle's sinister plans have to wait until next time.

(Above: Kyle plotting to strike)

The washcloth shield has been a savior. Many times Jennifer and I would change Kyle and then realize that the towel was soaked. Beads of sweat would roll down our brow as we look at each other, knowing full well that we were the intended target. Those times we consider ourselves lucky, since the washcloth cannot protect all of the time. Kyle's grandmother was an unfortunate victim when she simply checked to see if a diaper needed changing. Many onesies also have been sacrificed.

(Above: Mortally-wounded onesies)

If you look at the odds, it's amazing that we're not hit more often. The inexperienced may believe that a diaper needs to be changed once or twice a day. Not so. Kyle's bowels are timed to our thoughts and actions, so whenever we plan to eat, take a nap, sit down or breathe, they spring into action. We change diapers 15 to 20 thousand times a day. Sometimes twice or three times in once session.

And then there are the surprises, and I leave you with the worst one of all. It happened Saturday morning, and NOBODY prepared us for it. I will spare the details for those of you who like to eat while reading my blog. Let's just say that on Saturday we learned that everything - EVERYTHING - is projectile... and that a dirty diaper doesn't necessarily mean the eruption is over. Most importantly, we also learned that your bed can never be far enough away from the changing table.

Dry cleaning is going to make us broke.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

King Kyle

I am writing this post today because Kyle is letting me write it. It's an honor, because Kyle doesn't let me do a lot these days without his permission. Since seizing control of our apartment a little more than a week ago, he has ruled with an iron fist.

Sure, to the casual observer he might not look like the demanding type. Some may think he gurgles and coos all day with a cute baby smile. They may believe that when Kyle needs something, he may simply point to it, or even ask ("Excuse me, dearest Mom and Dad - would you mind changing my diaper? I appear to have soiled it"). Yet the picture above is all too deceiving. When Kyle wants something - a clean diaper, another round of milk, the New York Times crossword puzzle - this is how he asks for it:

Every day - and more disturbingly, every night - this is the Kyle we must obey. Jennifer and I are at his mercy, and he knows it. Every cry has become louder, as Kyle faces every problem - major (diaper) or minor (diaper) - as if he is heralding the end of the world. As you may imagine, this is making Jennifer and I very very very very very very very very very very very very very very tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrreeeeed. In fact, Jennifer is trying to get some sleep as I write this (again, because King Kyle is granting her permission).

There were warning signs, of course. In the days after his birth, Kyle managed to keep both his Mom and Dad very busy at the hospital. The fatigue engulfed us, and by the end of the stay we were not able to think straight, and we kept losing stuff. In fact, one morning on my way to the hospital (they didn't let me stay overnight for my own safety), I left my apartment with a bottle of water in my hand. I got halfway to the subway stop and realized that a) I was no longer carrying the bottle, and b) I had no idea what I did with it. I was rather embarrassed by that. It wasn't until I got to the subway that I realized I also wasn't wearing any pants.

Of course, in the week since he's moved to Brooklyn, Kyle has been peaceful at times... watching the Celtics win the championship...

... being terrorized by the jungle play mat...

... and dreaming that he's a superhero...

We appreciate those moments when they happen, and enjoy some rest ourselves. But when our little one's mood changes, we spring into full action, 'cause one thing we've learned for sure...

... don't mess with King Kyle.

Okay - I gotta go now. I think I hear a dirty diaper.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part

Any day now. Yes, we're still a week away from the due date, but we're getting a little impatient. The little one has grown considerably, and frankly that hasn't been too comfortable for Jennifer. As for me, all my shows are now in summer reruns, and I'm just anxious to do something else.

So, we're trying everything we can think of to get him to come out. We talk to him about the beauties of being outside, and how he'll have so much room to move about. We go on and on about the walks we'll take him on and the playgrounds we'll visit. Like any good salesperson, we occasionally have to stretch the truth about the outside, and say things like "we'll teach you how to FLY!" But even that doesn't seem to be working... the little one just stirs in the womb, showing us that he's very comfortable in there.

If coaxing doesn't do the trick, perhaps other means will. We've heard that riding over bumpy roads can spark labor, so whenever Jennifer and I go driving, I aim for every pothole we pass, even if it means going into oncoming traffic. We've also heard that spicy and hot food works, so this is our dinner menu this week:

MONDAY: Spicy Mexican
TUESDAY: Spicy Curry
WEDNESDAY: General Tso's Chicken
THURSDAY: Fire Wings

Our final option has been bribery. As of now, if Kyle decides to come out in the next couple of days, he'll get extra desserts for a week when he's seven years old. He will also be awarded a trip to Disney World, and he'll be allowed to name his younger sister or brother. We might even throw in a car. Granted, if he goes beyond the due date, those prizes disappear, and we'll start taking away things. If we don't celebrate his ninth birthday, this will be the reason why.

So I'm asking all of you to think about Kyle being born, and maybe your collective thoughts will make it happen. But, please, don't think of Jennifer going into labor during rush hour traffic, or in the middle of the NBA finals, and certainly not when we're just about to go to bed. Let's think 10 am, after a good night's sleep. 10 am this Thursday. Does that sound good to you? It certainly sounds good to us. Gooooooo, Kyle!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lil' Papi

I'm a few days late writing a post this week because I've been busy working on the nursery (painting, cleaning, installing a hot tub, etc.). It's been a bit more difficult to do anything in that room since the shower last weekend. The little one received many gifts from our extremely generous family and friends. We now have a stroller, a playpen, and a "diaper genie" (he's the smelliest of the genie clan, and I've already learned he doesn't grant you 3 wishes... though I'm not sure I'd want him to, anyway). We also received clothes, baby monitors, books, blankets, and... more importantly...


Red Sox onesies, Red Sox warm-up suit, Red Sox plush ball, Red Sox sippy cups, Red Sox welding kit (we might wait 'til he's older to give him that), Red Sox blanket, Red Sox bibs, Red Sox socks - it may be enough to make him the most hated baby in New York. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

On Sunday, our little one got his first true taste of the Sox-Yankees rivalry: we brought him to a game at Fenway, and sat in the bleachers.

Jennifer could feel the little one "boo" Johnny Damon and shout "Yooouk" for Kevin Youkilis (it's actually the same feeling). The little one cheered when the Sox hammered the Yankees' pitching, and then openly questioned whether Dice-K is worth $100 million. All in all, it was a very good night - and we think the little one had a great time. It was especially comforting to know that he can't make out the words slurred by the drunken fans.

I'm looking forward to taking him to a Sox game after he's born. It's a good thing he already has all that team gear, though... we ended up spending all our savings on a couple Fenway Franks and a cup of coffee, so we can't afford to buy any more.