Monday, March 31, 2008

The Annual Baseball Predictions

As promised, the long-awaited Musical Daddy 2008 Baseball Predictions! As per usual, all picks are made for entertainment purposes only. If you use my picks to gamble - legally or illegally - then you're out of your mind. Anything that makes you angry was only supposed to amuse and to provoke discussion - unless you're a Red Sox fan. In that case, I meant every word I said.

Let's start with the Senior Circuit:
NL East:
Atlanta
New York
Philadelphia
Florida
Washington

The Mets' acquisition of Johann Santana does not counterbalance the over-rated and injured offense - I don't think that Beltran is going to be much of a factor all year, and I think that the wheels finally come off of the Jose Reyes bandwagon. I don't think Pedro can be counted on for 30 starts, and any team that relies on Orlando Hernandez - who is, like, 63 years old right now - is hurting for pitching. Atlanta just does too many things right, year after year - this is the year to start another dynasty for them. I don't know why, other than a balanced offense and a good starting pitching rotation. Philadelphia falls back to earth from last year's hot end-of-season; Brad Lidge is not the answer at the end of the bullpen. Florida has too many young kids to contend, and Washington is simply irrelevant this year. Although, I'm glad Nick "The Stick" Johnson is back - he's got a cool nickname

NL Central
Milwaukee
Chicago Cubs (wild card)
Cincinnati
Pittsburgh
St. Louis
Houston

This is finally the year that Ben Sheets stays healthy and the Brewers stay in the first division all year. With the more-experienced offense and MVP Prince Fielder leading the way, the Brewers slug their way to their first division title since... well, a bloody long time. Chicago is a good team - they'll take the wild card because they play 76 games against the rest of the division - but just not good enough to win the division. Cincinnati finishes third for no other reason than someone has to finish there; Dusty Baker is the wrong manager for a team that's relying so heavily on young, inexperienced players. You'd think general managers would pay attention - look what he did to young players in San Francisco and in Chicago (Wood & Prior immediately come to mind). I hope Homer Bailey - if he even gets starts - has a good insurance plan. Pittsburgh brings back the same crew that won, like, 50 games last year - they'll improve, because the pitchers will be a year better. It won't help them break their 16-year streak of sub-.500 finishes. St. Louis stinks. Houston is even worse. When Miguel Tejada - who hasn't had a great year in years - is the lynchpin of your offense, then you're in a lot of trouble.

NL West
Arizona
Colorado
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco

I love Arizona's pitching staff this year, and I think that the young players they have are great. I think they continue their division-winning ways - this year, they might even score more runs than they allow. (How's that for a statistical fluke?) Colorado's a great team, also - but they played over their heads last fall for one of the greatest comebacks in the history of professional sports. I think they finish a little bit behind the D'Backs. I enjoy watching them play, though - Matt Holliday is awesome, and Troy Tulowitski seems like a young Derek Jeter (who can play defense). Los Angeles hired a hall-of-fame manager, and they're going to be disappointed with the results. Joe Torre did great things for the Yankees, and he'll always be a favorite; but, when you have a bunch of veterans who are has-beens or never-will-be's, and a bunch of promising young kids, then you can bet that Joe Torre is the wrong man. Joe will play the veterans to a fault over the kids, and that's the downfall of the team. San Diego is unexciting. San Francisco is terrible.

Now, on to the good league:

AL East
New York
Boston
Tampa Bay
Toronto
Baltimore

Everyone makes a big deal about Boston's pitching staff being so much better and more experienced than the Yankees, but both teams are relying on young pitchers with no track record. Which would you take - Jon Lester and Clay Bucholtz or Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy? Right now, it's a toss up - in three months, it won't be. Yanks kids will perform better. Yes, Boston's ace is better - but he's Nuke LaLoosh (million dollar arm, ten cent brain) and is due for a meltdown. Daisuke isn't THAT much better than Pettitte, and Tim Wakefield vs. Mike Mussina is a tossup right now. The difference? The Yankees offense, which will crack the 1000 run barrier this year and pass Boston. Tampa Bay isn't better than Toronto, but they'll have less injuries and finally crack that 78-win ceiling that they've lived under since the franchise started. The Blue Jays are a good team, but their lack of depth will hurt. Baltimore is, probably, the worst team in the league with few prospects for improvement in the next few years.

AL Central
Detroit
Cleveland (Wild Card)
Minnesota
Kansas City
Chicago White Sox

I just don't trust Cormona to do for the Indians what he did last year. I think that Detroit's pitching staff will pitch better, as a group, than Cleveland's; and Detroit's offense is a bit stronger. Cleveland wins the wild card - but not the division. Gotta root for D-Town; them's my peeps. I love the fact that an offensive juggernaut lives in such a pitcher-friendly park. Plus, I love Verlander & Bonderman. Minnesota will be better than people think, but I think that they're a 78 win team. Kansas City is starting to show a pulse, but they're just not interesting enough to pay attention to. The White Sox, on the other hand, will continue a downward spiral into one of the worst teams in the major leagues. They don't get on base enough, they don't score enough runs and their pitchers let in too many runs. That's a nasty equation.

AL West
Seattle
Anaheim
Oakland
Texas

I'm drinking the Seattle Kool-Aid again this year - they broke my heart last season, but they hung in until late. I think the loss of Escobar in Anaheim, and the injury to Lackey - which will linger - will be the deciding factors. Anaheim is just not that good of a team, and Vlad Guerrero is starting to show his age. Seattle's pitching, right now, is better than Anaheim's, and their offense will be just good enough. Can Richie Sexson have a breakout year? Oakland will be better than people think, but not good enough to win more than 82-83 games. Texas - sorry, Sabs - is simply irrelevant. They're not good enough to win anything, and they're not bad enough to be interesting.

World Series: Chicago Cub over New York (gotta root for the Cubbies in year #100 of their championship drought)

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP: Prince Fielder
AL ROY: Ian Kennedy, Yankees
NL ROY: Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs

AL Surprise Potential: Tampa Bay Rays
NL Surprise Potential: San Diego

What do you think?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tough Day

What do you do with a baby that doesn't feel like eating (much), doesn't want to play with his toys, doesn't want to walk around, doesn't want to sleep and doesn't want to hear a story? Darned if I know. That's the kind of day it was today.

Granted, he did sleep - quite a bit, actually. Thankfully. Last night, I did crash in the spare room - scared the you-know-what out of my wife, who woke at her customary 5:30AM to find me missing. The boy fell asleep again at 7:30, woke at 9:15; grumped about for a couple of hours, then fell asleep at 11:15 until 12:30. He ate quite a bit, for him - a piece and a half of pear, half a piece of carrot chip, most of two little sweet potato chips and some milk from a sippy cup. We went for a nice, long walk, which might not have been the best idea - it's too warm for his jackets and too cold for just a sweatshirt, so he was grumpy and uncomfortable. Still, he does like getting out of the house and seeing people. We got back home with perfect timing - he had fallen asleep just when I opened the garage door. The door sounds like a bulldozer moving, and that woke him up. He ate some, then we both fell asleep until Mommy got home.

Still, he's been like that for the last couple of days. The doctor gave us an inhaler, but I'm kind of wondering, now, why he did that. Then again, I'm wondering a lot of things. Like, for instance: if the traditional asthma medication (albuterol inhaler, rhinocort, allegra D, asthmanex) doesn't seem to be doing much of anything, chest x-rays and examinations reveal no clogging, considering that I'm still having breathing / coughing issues, and the only thing that works is steroids (which reduce inflammation - not build muscle), then - maybe - I don't really have asthma, and some other condition is causing my coughing fits? That's kind of an earth-shattering revelation to me, if it's true; so much of my life has been spent controlling this "asthma" thing, that maybe... just maybe... if it's something else, that needs a little bit different lifestyle / medication to control...

Then, what do I have? And what does the boy have? And how is this inhaler plus $72.99 attachment going to help him?

Argh. I should have gone to medical school. I think I might have been watching a little too much "House" and "Scrubs" lately. The one thing that both shows agree on is that "WebMD" can be a dangerous tool with too little research and knowledge.

Baseball preview is coming up this weekend. Enjoy it.

Every Breath You Take...

So, The Boy has developed a nice, painful, hacking cough over the past two days. We went to the doctor today, and he said that it wasn't serious. He proscribed an inhaler for The Boy to use a few times per day, with a nice attachment that cost us $72 because it's not covered by insurance. I'd love to hear an explanation of that one!! Anyway, The Boy is still coughing, but he doesn't seem to mind taking this medication.

I admit that it has me concerned. I've been an asthmatic for my entire life, as far as I know. I've always been under the care of a specialist - Dr. Safirstein in Montclair for fifteen years, then a pulmonary group in Ann Arbor, then Dr. Shah in Millburn, now Dr. Weber in Glen Ridge. I've been on more forms of prescription medication than one can shake a stick at - and, believe me, we shake a lot of sticks here in New Jersey. It's frustrating as all hell: I exercise more and better than 95% of people my age, I eat better than 95% of people my age, I keep a clean house, and I still can't catch a break. I have nights like tonight - where I'm just coughing and not sleeping. It's not even a good cough - nothing is moving around in the lungs, it's just a meaningless, moderately painful cough.

I don't want my son to go through this. I don't want him to have bouts of time where he walks like a 70 year old and sleeps two or three hours per day. I don't want him to have to take eight or nine prescription medications every single day to try to maintain some kind of physical balance. My growth was stunted because of the steroids that I was on for YEARS, and my liver is far more damaged than it should be for a guy my age because of that. (Okay, stunted is relative - I'm still 6'2.5", but I have really short legs for my torso length.)

The biggest things that terrify me, like all parents, are the things that I absolutely cannot control. Sickness. Chronic illnesses. Terminal episodes. Bullies. Bad teachers. Hostile schoolmates. Psychotic girlfriends. Drugs. Alcohol abuse in unsafe environments. Asthma is pretty high on the list - I was hoping that the genetic code would be improved in the following generation, that he would take the best parts of my wife's immune system (her ability to handle pain, her extremely hardy constitution) and avoid the worst parts of mine (my inclination to scream like an 8-year-old girl when given an injection, my fragile constitution and my inability to function, mentally or physically, when I'm sick).

Babies, I understand, have breathing issues all the time. They get all kinds of weird illnesses and such. I'm fairly confident that he'll be through the coughing thing within a few more days. Because he's still taking breastmilk, he's got my wife's immune system, and she's healthy as a horse.

I hope.

I don't think I'll have too many nightmares, when and if I sleep. I took one of my sleeping pills, and I'm feeling a little drowsy right now. I won't be sleeping with my wife and baby tonight, because it's a bad idea to cosleep with sleeping pills. My two choices are the spare room or the fold-down couch; I'll probably choose the spare room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cuteness, part IX

Two really, really cute moments today:

This morning, The Boy was sleeping with me during his normal morning nap. I'm a belly sleeper - normally, I sleep on my stomach and face outwards on the bed. He was next to me, in the middle of the bed. He woke up after an hour or so and started thumping me on my back. He continued beating on me until I turned over and snuggled him close to my chest, whereupon he fell soundly back to sleep.

Later, he was sitting on the bed playing with me - standing up, grabbing the sheets to hide, playing with a chew toy, that sort of thing. My shirt rode up a little bit, showing some pasty-white belly - The Boy leaned in, put his face against my belly and blew out. He was trying to give me the same raspberries that I give him every day! It was SOOOOO cute.

Babies are awesome.

Because you asked for it...

The cutest little guy on earth:

He got paid to write this?

Parents' Magazine published a story last month about a man who attempted to use cloth diapers, only to suffer an Epic Fail in the attempt. I'm utterly amazed at the "journalistic" standards that this gentleman used, as he showed what can only be described as a complete and utter lack of research or common sense in his pursuit. I've spoken about cloth diapers, before, particularly here. Look, I understand that, when your magazine is heavily sponsored by Pampers and Nestle, you need to steer people towards their products; but, this is ridiculous. Anyway, on to the article...

Page one: Why Give Cloth a Try? Okay, problems: "I wasn't familiar with all the arguments of the cloth-versus-disposable debate, but stuffing the earth with Isaac's dirty diapers didn't seem like a good idea." If you're writing an article about using cloth diapers, wouldn't you think that the arguments for and against would be the very first thing to look up? I guess I could accept the excuse that he wanted to keep an open mind, so he didn't research the arguments. But, the editor should then not have used the article's tagline, "What are the trade-offs when you give up disposable diapers? Are you helping the environment? How much laundry will you have? One dad conducted a hands-on experiment to find out the pros and cons." When you don't know the arguments, when you haven't researched the total costs, then you can't really evaluate the results. The next problem: he goes to the store and asks for cloth diapers, and THEN goes home to look on the internet for instructions on how to fold them. The only analogy I can come up with is: I go to the store to buy an HDTV, bring it home, and then ask the cable company if they have HD channels. Not very intelligent. When The Wife brought cloth diapers up to me for the first time, she had already spent several weeks discussing it on the Mommy Boards and several days doing serious research about what to buy.

Page Two: Safety Pin Trouble. Yes, we own a set of diaper pins. We used them for the sum total of two days before we found a better solution - the three-tipped claw thing that holds the diapers together. He gives up after only five tries and jury-rigs a diaper fold that it destined to fail grandly. Maybe I'm just persistent; I will try 35 or 40 times to try my bow tie before I get it right. Maybe I'm just coordinated; it only took me twice before I got a decent fold on the first day. Oh, wait - I forgot. I'm the guy that's not allowed to use power tools for fear that I'll staple my foot to the ceiling. I'm the guy that can't paint a wall without splattering paint out the window and down the block. I'm utterly shocked that this guy can walk upright without falling. Folding a diaper is not difficult, folks. He then uses a roll of painter's tape to hold the diaper together, and THEN lets the kid wander around with a cover on the bare cloth.

You have GOT to be kidding me. Really? Painter's Tape? You're letting tape get in the hands of your infant - because you know he's going to go for the colorful stuff around his waist - because you are incapable of following simple directions? And then, to top it off, to let the child run around without covering the diaper is SCREAMING to have poopy stains on the carpet. Common sense; research; asking questions. This guy is the reason why we have directions on boxes of toothpicks. Yes, the diaper gets wetter, faster. You'd know that if you did one second's worth of research on the internet.

Page Three: Dealing With Dirty Diaper Laundry. Germophobia is a serious mental condition. Howard Hughes locked himself in isolation because of it. Without sarcasm, if he truly suffers from that condition, then I feel very badly for him. I don't suffer from that; as a woodwind teacher, I'm used to touching things that have been in kids' mouths for hours at a time. It's not a big deal. Blood freaks me out, but spit / pee / poop / puke doesn't affect me. I don't have any problem handling a dirty cloth diaper when I take it off The Boy, and I don't have any problem handling it later, when I'm dumping it in the washing machine. I don't like it when it's been sitting in the diaper bag over night, but who would?

But, really - swished the diaper in the toilet bowl? Okay, I can see where you'd get the idea. My wife just bought this, which I'm going to hook up into the bathroom this week; my father, the mechanical engineer, said that it would take anyone - even me - around 20 minutes to hook up. It's a sprayer that is used to hose the poopy into the toilet bowl. Flushed three times? I don't flush three times when I drop a #2, and suffice it to say, I get a LOT of fiber in my diet. I don't relish the idea of touching toilet water, either.

Laundry time - well, we do diaper laundry every third day. It takes one minute to put the diapers in for the first cycle, including walk times. It takes 45 seconds to put the diapers in for the second (soaking) cycle. It takes a minute and a half to move them into the dryer, and another minute to bring them upstairs when dry. We don't always fold them; about half the time, we pluck out diaper parts as needed until we need to wash them again. Sometimes, when The Boy is in a good mood, he'll sit in his crib and play with his toys while we fold diapers. It takes ten minutes, if I'm talking on the phone at the same time. Not a big deal. Most of the time I'm watching tv while folding. How is that difficult? It doesn't take THAT much time, and - while we're out of having to wash The Boy's clothes every other day - it does give the excuse to throw a load of our stuff in, once the diapers are done.

Page Four: Trying the gDiaper. After admitting that he finally got the good diapers - likely similar ones that we're using in our house - he moves to a different brand, the gDiaper. For honesty's sake, I don't know anything about them, but I do remember my wife talking about a cloth diaper with a disposable insert. We considered it briefly but decided to go with the Bum Genius. But, the man who is a self-confessed "germophobe" is going to allow himself to use a stick to tear apart an insert floating in his toilet bowl, or - worse - just flush it down and cause occasional sewage backups? This doesn't seem entirely consistent with anything except his lack of research. Plus, 40 pads - which would be, um, like 4 to 6 days, depending on the kid - cost $15. That's ridiculous. That's a lot of money. I don't spend that much on comic books, and that's my big addiction.

Also, please note that two total paragraphs are spent on the cloth diapers with which he had a good experience. That's it. And, cursory descriptions, no reaction from the child or the mother, no word on laundry... just a mention, two paragraphs in five pages of article. Sorry, but that's crappy journalism. Listen to the description of the gDiaper: "The gDiaper is what might result if cloth diapers and disposable diapers had unprotected sex." What? Really? Wow. He does note that the disposable inserts for the gDiaper are biodegradable. That's a plus, I suppose.

Page Five: Do Cloth Diapers Really Help the Environment? Here, he speaks of a study by the British Environmental Agency that states that, because of the energy cost of washing and drying cloth diapers, cloth has an equal negative environmental impact as disposable diapers. He provides no literature citation and no internet links, here. For me, a 30 second search on google didn't find the abstract of that study, which would be necessary to evaluate it; as our author indicates, the opposition said that the study was flawed because of sample size - sample size and selection are REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT for studies to be relevant. Want an example? Okay. Chris Woodward enters the regular baseball season batting .407 in spring training - higher than Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Johnny Damon. Wanna bet that Chris Woodward isn't a .407 hitter in the big leagues? I'll take any odds you like, for any amount of money. With a small enough sample size, ANYTHING can happen. Looking on Wikipedia - never a truly reliable source, but decent enough for this case - the diaper section reports five studies that contradict the one study that this author "cites." To be honest, I find Wikipedia to be more credible in this case - it has the citations, while our favorite author has none.

Also, please note that I sacrifice no time with my son while folding diapers. Mostly, it's done by one of us while The Boy is asleep or playing with the other - or they're just not folded at all.

To sum up, I have rarely seen a shoddier excuse for journalism. Maybe I've become more sensitive from reading people mocking crappy journalism on Fire Joe Morgan, but I am shocked and surprised that a reputable magazine actually let this see print. I can write articles that are rings around this hack - at least, I can write articles that have at least thirty seconds' worth of research and reading done before writing. Parents' Magazine has a lot of explaining to do; while I'm not currently debating about canceling my subscription, I probably won't renew once it runs out. I can't actually believe that this guy got paid to write that article. What a sad commentary on the state of the American man!

EDIT #1: Also, this doesn't address the cost of disposable diapers by the pack. This article also doesn't address the fact that disposable diapers are made with lots of toxic chemicals that are absorbed into the skin, AND the fact that many babies with sensitive skin experience painful diaper rash because of those chemicals. Like my kid - he breaks out in a rash if the disposables touch his skin.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Momma's Boy or Daddy's Boy? Not our call.

About a month or so ago, I really started to notice how The Boy started to respond to the differences between Mommy & Daddy. That is, he has noticed differences that are not necessarily related to the fact that Mommy is a moving food supply and that Daddy needs to go to the microwave to heat up water to heat up a bottle for the baby. He's begun to distinguish between us in the various forms of comfort and entertainment that we provide for him.

This is kind of weird, but not in a bad way. I mean, babies grow and develop - they turn into little people who turn into big people, over the course of time. I've enjoyed watching him begin to work things out on his own and to respond to things and to people on their own merits. I know that successful parenting - and successful teaching - revolves around allowing the children to make their own choices and their own mistakes, so that their successes will be more precious because they are earned.

Anyway.

Saturday, The Wife & I were out for most of the day. She got hired for Easter week to be the soprano section leader of the church choir that employs me, because 1) they REALLY need a soprano, 2) she's a far, far better singer and musician than I am, and 3) being Jewish, she wasn't busy on Easter. It was nice, but a busy week - mass & rehearsal Sunday, mass Monday, mass Thursday with rehearsal afterwards, mass Friday, rehearsal & mass on Saturday, two masses on Sunday. Busy week. On Saturday, we both had a couple of private lessons to teach, sandwiched in between the rehearsal and the mass; fortunately, The Wife's parents were in town for the weekend to take care of the baby.

(This was ideal for them - they didn't really care about seeing us. They just wanted uninterrupted time with their grandson, and this work thing got us out of the way.)

But, that meant that, for most of the day & evening on Saturday, we didn't see the baby. When we finally got home, it was around 9:30PM Saturday night. The baby was grumpy, because he was hungry and tired and missed his parents. I picked him up when I got in & hung up my jacket, while The Wife was using the lavatory & putting away the milk she had pumped.

The Boy screamed even louder and struggled hard to get out of my hands.

This is something he's been doing for about a week now. When he doesn't want to be held, he arches his back and starts to roll his body. When he wants to be held by someone else, he initiates a full body dive towards that person, with hands outstretched (sometimes). He yells out and sometimes cries as he stretches his body towards the person. He doesn't quite get the hands outstretched-thing yet, but he's not far from it. Saturday, that's what he was doing when I picked him up after I got home. Then later, when I picked him up to change him. Then later, when I picked him up to transfer him from his crib to our bed.

He was definitely in a Momma mood then. Big time.

Sunday? Different story. We got home around 1:30-ish in the afternoon, and The Boy was a Daddy's boy. He wanted food from Mommy, yes. That's it. He struggled and cried when he was done, until Daddy got him. Then, we played on his toys, rolled around on the floor for a bit and laughed a lot. It was a lot of fun for both of us; very sweet, also, when he began to nap on my shoulder, like he frequently does. Sunday, he was in a Daddy mood.

It changes, frequently. Even at night, when he's sleeping with us - at times, he wriggles away from me and wants to be held by Mommy. Two hours later, he wants some Daddy snuggles. I'm okay with that. My ego isn't SO big that I need constant baby feedback; I just want him to know that I'm there for him when he needs it.

Let nobody say that babies are stupid; ignorance of the world does not indicate a lack of intelligence. He knows what he wants, when he knows what he wants. Sometimes, he can get it from Daddy. Sometimes, from Mommy. Sometimes, from neither.

His third tooth is coming in - pushing through from the middle top. He's REALLY unhappy about it - last night was a miserable night for the poor dear. Today hasn't been so hot for him, either - he didn't take his naps until about 1PM-ish. He's still asleep now, an hour and a half later, with my wife, who's home on a mini-Easter break. It's been nice to spend the day with them - nicer still if I wasn't feeling so crappy. Anyway, I think I feel that tooth breaking through, on his right side of the two front teeth. Looks like Lil' Fang is going to get a matched set of chompers - I pity my wife's poor boobs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Walking the Tightrope

So, The Boy came with the wife & myself to our church gig tonight. He was fine during the rehearsal, he was fine during the group dinner, fine during the second rehearsal... until about fifteen minutes before the mass, when he started screaming like he was on fire. (He wasn't. He was just yelling like he was.)

It took us a while to figure out that he was hungry, so he was fed. Thankfully, the wife carries the bags of milk around with her wherever she goes. Didn't help. Still screaming.

Now, some of it was due to the fact that he had a truly odd sleeping schedule today. He woke normally, took his normal morning nap, and from then on ceased being his normal self. Normally, he'll nap from 11 to 12-ish, then nap again from 2:30-ish until 4-ish, then fall asleep around 7:30 or 8:00 for the night. Today, he fought his way through the 11 o'clock nap and didn't fall asleep until after 12. He did sleep until around 2:15, but that was weird for him. That set the schedule, I guess.

So, the mass was starting and he was fussy. After a little while, The Wife handed him to me, and I figured out that he wanted to play. So, I held his hands & played the stand-up-sit-down game with him and let him play with some of the toys that I brought with me. He was far more fascinated with the wooden pews, and he had a grand time running his hands up and down the smooth, finished wood. This created a soft squeaking sound which mystified everyone as to its origin... wily little man! He got fussy again, and Mommy took him, put him in the sling, and he fell asleep - right at the time when we were really needed, to start singing. Whew. Crisis averted.

Still. Not the most comfortable situation, but I think we handled it well. He's a good kid, he really is - it's just that sometimes he's more of a kid than I'm used to dealing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

He's Sweet...

We really are lucky. The Boy is a really wonderful baby - and, yes, I know that most parents say that about their children. But, I think that the one that we have is extraordinary. He's a handsome young boy, and he has such a sweet disposition and temper that it's hard to believe that half of his genetic code is mine. He's very good humored, and he laughs a lot, and he seems to have lots of fun wherever he is. People remark about what a neat kid The Boy is, and I agree with them.

Then again, people say that about many, many babies. As a human society, we're conditioned to believe that all children are special when, by definition, at least half of children aren't special in the remotest. That would be the nature of the bell curve. SOMEone has to be on the far left of the bell curve, just like someone has to be on the far right. We hope that children would be the later, but - let's again be honest - smart people have less children. Stupid people reproduce like rabbits.

But, I think that this one is special. We'll find out, as the years go on, I suppose.

Today, I think he actually managed to propel himself forward on the kitchen floor. It wasn't far - just a couple of inches - but it was still forward motion. We also made a couple of trips today, to breakfast, the grocery store & to drop off an application packet at a potential job. Let's see what happens.

Yankees are playing Virginia Tech, in a benefit game to raise money for a memorial for the students killed in the attack last April 16. Good for them. They've already donated over a million dollars to VT, and this will help more.

Monday, March 17, 2008

One of those mornings...

The Wife left for work at her 6:30 usual time. The Boy and I hung out in the bedroom for a while, playing with his toys; he fell asleep around 7. Woke up fussy at 7:45 - VERY short morning nap, for his usual. (He's usually down for 90 minutes, at least.) Fell back asleep and slept fitfully until about 8:45. Changed diaper, had one of those weight-reduction poops - you know, where he's a pound lighter after his diaper's been changed?

Fed him half of a bottle before he lost interest. Played ADD-style for a little while - nothing entertained him for longer than about 30 seconds, and his playing was a little bit frantic. This means that he was rushed and banging on things, not really taking the time to explore them like he usually does. Started crying around 9:10 (him, not me). I figured out that he had pooped again, another weight-loss-kind - I think he's back under 18 pounds again. Changed & cleaned him up - he's a little happier. Finished a little more of his bottle. Played some more, bounced some. Cried a lot. I put him down in his crib at around 1030 and he cried for a solid fifteen minutes before I picked him up again - it wasn't steady crying, or I'd have gotten him earlier. Made another bottle, which he drank in approximately a minute; fell asleep while drinking. Finished watching a tv show (last week's Jericho), then put him in his crib. Sat down, checked my e-mail, started writing this & he's now awake.

Gonna be one of those days.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A couple of firsts...

Yesterday, The Boy had his 6 month checkup. Things were wonderful, as we expected - he's healthy, happy and showing all the appropriate milestones, physical and mental, for his age. He measured in at 28 inches and 19 pounds, 13 ounces - both at the 75th percentile, which is down from the 90-somethingith percentile at 4 months. This is not necessarily a bad thing - if he continues growing at his current rate, he'll be borrowing clothes from me by the end of the summer. (slight exaggeration) He received his shots, including the new vaccination against stomach flu / food poisoning bacteria.

The shots made him quite irritable today. He was happy for short stretches, then grumpy for longer stretches. He took two LONG naps today - one as my wife was leaving, that lasted for around two hours, and another in the afternoon that was, with a brief interruption for feeding, around three hours long. Even this evening, he was grumpy. Better than the afternoon, though.

There were a couple of firsts today. He's been leaning himself in to us to give us hugs for a few weeks now, including spreading his arms out around our shoulders. It's quite cute and very touching. Today, he leaned in to me to give me a hug, then put his face on my neck and made the "smeck" sound of a kiss! It was awesome. He's very cute, and he was very proud of himself afterwards. He hasn't repeated it yet, though, so it might have been an accident.

Last night (not really today, but who cares?), he was playing the "Where's The Boy?" game with my wife, who had thrown a blanket over his head like we usually do. The difference? He pulled the blanket off of his face, then held onto the blanket and covered his face with it again, then pulled it down - starting his own game of peekaboo or "Where's The Boy?" He was giggling like a fiend, which was quite cute, I'm told.

We thought we heard a "Dadadadada" pointed in my general direction, although it was most likely babbling that was randomly thrown at me. Last night, on the way home from choir rehearsal, The Boy was talking up a storm - like, for fifteen straight minutes of the ride. "bababa" and "mamamamumummmmmmmm" and "ib ib ib ib". I was waiting for an "I Gregory!", but that didn't come, yet.

Also, sitting on my legs in front of the playset that my father bought, he reached up, grabbed the handle, and pulled himself to a standing position. It didn't work for him when he was sitting on the floor (much to his frustration), but he can do it from a slightly higher-than-floor position.

Lastly, tonight was the first time that I carried him in from the car and deposited him straight in the crib, asleep the whole time. Usually he wakes up. I don't expect him to stay asleep, but it was nice to get fifteen minutes to blog.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Water Bottles & The Gym

I was at physical therapy this morning, wearing The Boy in the front carrier. He enjoys that - the motion of the exercises is pleasant to him, and he likes looking at the world from higher than the stroller allows. I was drinking out of my water bottle, and he decided that he wanted to play with it. So, on a whim, I decided to let him play with the open water bottle (with me holding on to the bottle, so as not to wear the water). He brought the open end to his mouth, I tilted the bottle up a bit, and he drank.

The cool thing about it? He did it a few times, and none of the water got on his clothes. And, I definitely heard him swallow. Pretty neat, no?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Solid Foods

The Boy has been enjoying his sweet potatoes, broccoli, bananas, rice noodles and carrots. It's been an awful lot of fun watching him experiment with the new experience of eating actual food, even though most of it winds up on the floor or on his bib.

That's actually most of the fun - watching his food get smeared all over his face, his clothes, his chair and the floor. He enjoys the touch and feel of the food. It's really entertaining, watching him take a piece of broccoli in his hand and use it as a hammer on his high chair table. Last night, we handed him a small spoon with apple sauce on it - he promptly took it and smeared it across his forehead.

That's comedy right there, folks.

I feel very badly for people who aren't able to find the humor and fun in this process. Yes, it's going to be messy, and yes, it's going to take a long time for him to eat the food. But, it's funny. He takes a lot of pleasure and fun out of handling his food and throwing it around the room. It's also kind of gross, because the food comes through the digestive process more-or-less unscathed. As in, it's possible to identify - in his diaper - what he was eating.

("Look! Broccoli! Gross.")

The good thing is, summer is approaching rapidly. It should be nice & warm, right around the time The Boy is walking and eating full meals. This means, post-meal cleanup has just become easier. "C'mon, Boy, outside. You're done eating, and it's time for the hose!"

(Please note, Child Protection Services: I'm not actually going to spray my son down with a hose after meals. Run him through a sprinkler, sure... but that's different.)

First Concert

Saturday night, The Boy, The Wife & I went to a concert. This is a startlingly rare occurrence; while we are frequent participants in performances, it isn't often that we go to see a show that we're not directly involved in creating. Pretty much, the last time that happened was... um... well... a long time ago. I think we went to see the Easton Brothers In Harmony chorus perform, and that was last May or June.

We took him to see the International Prelims Finals. This is the quartet contest that determines whether or not a quartet is invited to sing at the Barbershop Harmony Society International Competition in July in Nashville, TN. The way it works is this: sign up for the contest, and average a score of 76 in two contest rounds. That's a whole lot harder than it seems; at least one wonderful quartet that I'm friends with - 'Round Midnight - is composed of four professional musicians, and they don't crack the 73 barrier, much less 76.

The Boy was great. I mean, ideally well behaved. He spent lots of time chewing on my fingers, with his sharp, pointy little teeth; and he did fall asleep in the baby sling that my wife wore for the final three competitors. But, he fussed a tiny, tiny little bit - really, just a couple of vocalizations during loud applause and cheers from the crowd, and the one time that we laughed and scared him. I'm pleasantly surprised by how well he behaved, and I hope that it's a harbinger of times to come. My wife wasn't surprised - she expected it. She also doesn't hear the vocalizations he does during the day, and how loud he can be when he so chooses. I was terrified of him deciding to sing along during a slow, quiet, tender moment, and of me being labeled as "THAT guy who brought his baby to the FINALS" to everyone in the Mid-Atlantic District.

More fool, I. I should trust the family more often.

Anyway, I was proud of my friends in Round Midnight and Family Affair. They didn't make the Big Show this year, but they still did wonderful, moving performances. But, I'm being paged by The Boy right now, quite strongly - more later.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sorry, Boy...

but you're not getting the remote control. No matter how much you cry, no matter how wily and patient you are... you're not getting the remote control. Your mother doesn't get the remote control. The relatives don't get it. I get it, because it's my remote control.

Old-time men will talk about marking their manhood by owning a business; going hunting; staking a claim on land. I've got a TiVo control.

Sorry, Boy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wish Me Luck...

Today, The Boy was awake (during school hours) for a total of, oh, two hours. The rest of it, he was asleep. Like, 6:30 until 8:30AM nap, then 9:30 to about 10:45, then 12:30 to 2:30. And, he napped with his mother in the evening.

Is he ever going to sleep tonight? Only The Shadow knows. It's 11:40, and he's still going strong. >sigh< At least my cable was fixed, and G4 comes in. We're going to watch "Attack of the Show" now. And, I'm going to eat something.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Physical Therapy

We just got back from the 6th of 12 physical therapy visits for me, for the knee that I banged up in Denver last summer. It's interesting, doing the therapy exercises with The Boy around, even though he usually spends a good chunk of the visit crying.

Here's how it usually goes: we arrive, I do ten minutes on the stationary bike. He doesn't mind this, as I give him a toy to play with while he sits in the stroller. This particular toy is one that I usually keep in the car and not in the house; so, it's a toy that he doesn't always get to play with. Because it's new, it's something he enjoys. Around minute 8 of the 10 minute ride, he starts to get a little antsy.

When I'm done with the bike, I pick him up and put him in the front carrier, usually because he's starting to fuss and needs attention. I do the standing exercises - the stuff that's safe - with him in the carrier. It's the balance board, side-stepping, heel raises, marching on a small trampouline (not jumping on it, just high-stepping), stuff like that. Stretches. He enjoys this stuff, because it's motion that is unfamiliar to him and because it lets him look at the world from on high.

This stuff takes about 30-ish minutes, give or take. The next step is stuff that I can't do while holding him - bouncing balls, biofeedback machine, that sort of thing. What usually has happened is this - at this time, he's tired, hungry and cranky. I finish off the exercises, feed him, put him down, and by the time I'm done with the biofeedback stuff and icing down, he's asleep. Not before spending five or ten minutes screaming in frustration, though; this isn't a big deal, because it's obvious that he's not crying in agony. Then, I transfer him into the car, from the car in the house, and can usually get five or ten minutes' worth of time wasting (dishes, mail, e-mail, Yankees news, clothes folding, whatever) before he's conscious and wants attention.

At least he's moderately predictable during this whole session. We got really lucky; The Boy is quite adaptable with what he does. I have heard all the horror stories of the babies that are completely unable to adapt to new situations like that. Watch - kid #2 will be like that, to "punish" us for having an easy one.

Sadism in such a young one...

The Boy, recently, has decided that pain is really, really funny. More specifically, inflicting pain upon Daddy is amazing, hysterically entertaining.

This is not necessarily surprising. It's in the genetic code. I do enjoy the tv show Jackass on MTV. As a matter of fact, my wife made me stop watching the second Jackass movie last week. Watching it, and laughing, was triggering a worrisome asthma attack and horrific cough, and she didn't want to have to spend the evening in a hospital. I'm also one of those people that will watch the youtube videos of people smacking into walls and falling down and things like that.

It's just that my son has taken appreciation of pain and begun to turn it into an art form. Not bad, for a six month old.

Where to begin... first of all, head butts are hilarious. He truly enjoys ramming his forehead into my nose, cheek, chin (that one can hurt) or other exposed part. This is followed by giggles and laughter, then a repeat. If there is a solid "thunk" sound, then he is happy.

The next thing is his bouncing and dancing. He loves standing on our laps, supporting himself with his hands. He's done that for a long time. Because he loves his jumparoo, he also enjoys standing on us and dancing. With me, he always starts stomping directly on the family jewels. My wife assumes that he's trying to remove the possibility of having a brother or sister, but I know better. He enjoys the bloodcurdling screams of agony from his father. No matter what I do, he goes exactly for his favorite bouncing point. This is done with that beautiful, gummy smile of his.

I've spoken about the semi-co-sleeping that we've been doing lately. But, do you know how he wakes us up? He starts pounding on me in the morning. Rapidfire punches to my back (I sleep on my stomach) are his preferred method of waking. They don't hurt (certainly not as much as the whole dancing-on-the-crotch thing), but it's only a matter of time before the punches are being done with blunt instruments. Still, the punches are thrown as he looks with love upon his daddy - and the look in those eyes, as he clubs me into submission, is worth every moment of agony.

Since his teeth have started sprouting in, his discovered the latest method of inflicting pain: sharp, quick bites, designed to separate flesh from bone. His preferred target? The tip of my nose. That's sensitive flesh, my friend: when subjected to sharp, pointy little teeth, quick agony ensues. Agony, followed by gales of high-pitched baby giggles. When the nose isn't available, he'll gorge himself on fingers, toes, arms, legs or whatever else falls into the ministrations of that patient, fiendish, cute-as-a-button mouth.

I am interested to see what other methods he will choose in his lifetime to inflict pain upon me. He might pitch, forcing these tired old knees to spend hours in the catcher's pose, wearing the Tools of Ignorance. He might play drums (G-d forbid). He might take up knife throwing. Or, worst of all, he might be a Red Sox fan.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Feedin' Time...

Just got a neat video of The Boy as he was "eating" tonight. Rather, as he was using a carrot chip as a chew toy, playing with a small handful of rice noodles, and bouncing a sippy cup partially filled with water off of his high chair and the floor. It's very, very cute.

We've been giving him things to hold and to chew as we eat our dinner together. He's had steamed broccoli (which actually went down, as little pieces of broccoli came through his poop this morning. Yes, gross, but not a bad thing for him to actually eat), carrot chips, noodles, and stuff like that. Everything hypoallergenic and big enough for him to suck on with us worrying about the food getting lodged in his throat.

So, it makes lunch and dinner more interesting. The Boy likes his high chair and likes playing with some food pieces and his sippy cup. He enjoys the interaction at the meal table, even if he doesn't quite understand the role of eating when compared with hunger yet. Fun, fun, fun...