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!