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.