The Squirrelly

 

January 11, 2007

Butteryfingers
FADE IN

INT - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT

MATTHEW and THE QUEEN are sitting on a couch in their living room, 20 minutes into the Season 2.5 finale of BATTLESTAR GALACTIC. They both appear to be ON EDGE, as if ANTICIPATING something.

SOUND EFFECT: THE DISTANT RATTLE OF A TINY HAND STRUGGLING TO TURN AN ADULT-SIZED DOORKNOB

The ratting continues for a few seconds and then STOPS ABRUPTLY. A moment passes.

Enter THE SQUIRRELLY, left

SQURRELLY: Hiya!

THE QUEEN: You little --

MATTHEW: God damn it!

MATTHEW pauses the DVD for the FORTY-HUNDREDTH TIME. He stands, grabs THE SQUIRRELLY, tucks the grinning toddler under has arm, and walks out of the frame.

MATTHEW: Come on, you.

Cut to:

INT - SQUIRRELY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

MATTHEW enters, carrying The SQUIRRELLY. He puts him in his BED for the FORTY-HUNDREDTH TIME.

MATTHEW: Now, look: it's time to go to bed. Do you understand? I want you to stay in your bed. From now on. Do you understand?

THE SQUIRRELLY giggles MALEVOLENTLY

MATTHEW: No, I'm totally for-serious this time. Stay in your bed. It's time for sleeping. Stay in your bed. Good night. Stay in your bed.


MATTHEW leaves the room, closing the DOOR behind him. The scene goes BLACK. Cut to:

INT - LIVING ROOM - EVENING

Enter MATTHEW, left. He walks to the SOFA.

MATTHEW: He looked pretty tired. I think he's going to stay in his room this time.

THE QUEEN: [Ominously] He'd better ...

MATTHEW picks up the REMOTE CONTROL from the TABLE and sits on the SOFA next to THE QUEEN. He presses PLAY.

Enter THE SQUIRRELLY, left

SQURRELLY: Hiya!

MATTHEW: NNNRRRRGH!

THE SQUIRRELLY ambles up to his parents, smiling. THE QUEEN stands.

THE QUEEN: That's it.

THE QUEEN takes THE SQUIRRELLY by the hand and leads him BRISKLY out of the frame. She is gone for a few minutes. When she reenters she is carrying a can of COOKING SPRAY.

THE QUEEN: He won't bother us again.

MATTHEW: Why was the Pam in his bedroom?

THE QUEEN: It wasn't. I brought it with me, and sprayed it on his inside doorknob.

THE QUEEN places the COOKING SPRAY back on a shelf, while MATTHEW looks on with PRIDE and ADORATION. She joins him on the SOFA and the two watch the conclusion of BATTLESTAR GALACTIC uninterrupted.

SCENE

January 08, 2007

Holiday Post-Mortem

Hi! Sorry about that. The fam'bly and I took a bit of a holiday vacation there, and I've been largely off the grid since mid December. Wait, what does "off the grid" mean, exactly? Does it mean "without access to the Internet?" Or does it mean "completely without electricity?" In retrospect, the latter sounds more likely. But, whatever: we bloggers are totally rewriting the rules for media, you know (it said so in Time!), so if I say "off the grid" means "without access to the Internet" then, by Jiminey Popsicles, that's what it means. OFF THE GRID! WEB 2.0! BUILD TO SPILL uh I mean FLIP OR WHATEVER!!!!!

Anyway, here's a photo of my son sitting in the lap of an old man who wears a furry costume and hangs out at the mall.

Santa

Awww yeah -- two years old and he's already mastered the White Man's Overbite. The kid's a prodigy, I tell ya.

Fortunately, The Squirrelly is still too young to entirely "get" Christmas, so we didn't have to decide whether to let him believe in The Big Guy yet. Personally, I'm torn. On the one hand, he is the central figure in Christmas, and I guess there's no harm in letting him think he's real for a few years. On the other, I just can't help but imagine how crestfallen he'll be when he discovers that he's just a make-believe character. Some kids at school will spill the beans, he'll come home crying and ask us if it's true, and we'll have to say, yes, we've been lying to you all these years: there is no Jesus.

For now, all The Squirrelly knows is that December 25 = a whole buncha swag. He made out pretty good this year, too. His Grandma bought him a tricycle. His great-uncle bought him a remote control car. His aunt went berserk and bought him a crapload of stuff, the least of which was a book called Hot Rod Harry which he inexplicably loves. (And what did Papa get? Papa got to read Hot Rod Harry a hundred and thirty times over a two week period. What fun. It's a helluva lot easier to get through than Moby Dick, though -- I'll give it that much.)

He also got a Memory / matching game, with people's faces as the pictures. But I didn't realize that at first. When he ripped off the wrapping paper and exposed the box's bottom, I thought it was, like, a Whitman's Sampler for cannibals.

Matching Game

Another thing we had fun doing over the holidays was making up words to those Christmas songs to which we did not know the correct lyrics, i.e., pretty much all of them, insofar as we are Godless Heathens (see above: yukking it up over nonexistence of Savior). But, having never heard these songs before in his two years of life, The Squirrelly accepted whatever we coughed up as the Authoritative Version. Which is why, two weeks after the yuletide, he is still ambling around the house singing this:

(To the tune of O Christmas Tree)

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You have eight sides u-pon you

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You also have eight angles too

One and two
And three and four,
Five, six, seven,
eight -- NO MORE!

O Octagon, O Octagon,
O Octagon, we love you


Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I also bought out good-for-nothing cats a Kitty Castle for Christmas.

Kitty Castle

I mention this as a warning to others who might consider doing something so stupid. I brought into the house, put it in the corner, and prepared to watch the cats cavort with glee. Instead, Louie sauntered up to it and, as if he had scaled the thing a thousand times, nonchalantly climbed up to the top; moments later Eddie moseyed into the scene and, without so much as a sniff of curiosity, leapt onto the middle platform. Then they both settled down and watched birds out the window for half an hour. Subtext: we are too dumb to ever remember this not being here. YOU EFFING INGRATES I COULDA BOUGHT A WII FOR THAT! If anyone reading this has a kid who might like some pets for Christmas 2007, drop me a line in November and we'll work something out.

Leia
 
November 27, 2006

Picture Day

I was surfing Flickr and stumbled upon this photo.

Naturally, I immediately emailed it to everyone I knew.

It seemed to elicit two distinct responses. Some immediately boarded the lollercoaster; others said they could hardly look at the photo, it made them so sad. I don't think it's a coincidence that parents were largely of the first opinion, and folks without kids of the second.

Here's the funny thing about parenthood. On the one hand, having a child makes you inexplicably start loving all children. The Queen and I were pretty indifferent to the pants-pooping demographic before The Squirrelly was born, wanting to have one of our own only out of a desire for a minion. But now that we've up and made a kid, we're suddenly flirting with infants on the bus and calling redheaded six year-olds "Sport" at the supermarket. When we're eating in a restaurant and a couple with a baby sits at the next table, we cheerfully wave and make faces at the squirt, instead of bolting our food and fleeing for the exit, vowing never to return, as we would have five years ago.

On the other hand, parenthood tends to make you revel in the small injuries and indignities to which children are subjected (or inadvertently subject themselves). Before, upon observing an inattentive child walk headlong into a fence post, I would gasp in alarm and rush to his aid; now I'll roar with laughter and take a mental snapshot of the scene, something to chuckle over for months to come. It's a little bit of rebellion against our masters.

So if there are any childless women reading, bookmark this entry. The next time your period is a few weeks later, you may want to come back and take a gander at the photo above; if you snicker, it's time to start shopping for bassinets.

October 12, 2006

Tips On Parenting My Toddler, Supplied By Dylan, A 13 Year-old Relative, During A Recent Visit

Has he seen the Lord Of the Rings movies? He should see them because they will make him want to read books like the Harry Potter books.

If you keep kissing him so much you're going to make him gay.

If you keep throwing him in the air like that he's going to get like a brain injury.

He's probably too young to play [the name of some absurdly complicated trading card game that I didn't quite catch] but there are easier games like Pokemon and he could learn to play that. I could loan you some of my Pokemon cards since I don't play it any more, but I would just be loaning them to you, not giving them to you, because some of those cards are worth a lot of money, like a hundred dollars for one card.

You know what would be really cool? If instead this baby music you played Eminem.

When he falls down and cries you should just tell him to be tough because then he'll learn not to fall.

If you keep hugging him so much he's going to be gay.

If you bought him an Xbox then he could play it while you did stuff around the house. Also then when we come here I won't be so freaking bored.

September 22, 2006

Kitten Love

In my recent post about The Squirrelly's criminal tendencies, I included a photo of the kid wrasslin' with (and losing to) his stuffed kitty. This prompted one reader to comment:

why does the cat look like it god blood all over it and wasnt cleaned to well?
Good question. I couldn't have typed it better myself. As the many sticklers for spelling, punctuation, and grammar who read this site are fond of pointing out.

Perhaps you haven't been properly introduced to Kitty:

Squirrelly and Kitty

As you have so astutely observed, Kitty appears to god blood all over it, as though it wasnt cleaned to well. We have no idea why this is the case, because Kitty was something of a stray and we know little of its history.

Shortly after The Squirrelly's second birthday, my cousin K. brought over a box of her old stuffed animals, which had sat in her parent's garage for years. "Thanks," we said, "but don't feel bad if he doesn't take to any of them. He's never shown an interest in stuffed animals." Still, after she opened the box, The Squirrelly obligingly sauntered over to it, folded himself in half, and mooned us as he buried his head and torso in the toys. Duckies and bunnies went flying over his shoulders as he rummaged around.

Then, suddenly, he straightened, holding an toy I'd describe as "looking like something the cat dragged in" if cats made a habit of dragging in cats. Scraggly, lacking a nose, and with inexplicably red-tinged fur, it was the stuffed animal you'd expect to find forlornly standing against the wall after all the others were picked for kick-ball.

"Kitty!!" The Squirrelly announced.

We asked K. how Kitty had come to be in such a sorry state, but she confessed ignorance, admitting that she had never been very fond of the toy and barely remembered it at all. But Kitty and The Squirrelly have been thick as thieves ever since.

How on earth could anyone get attached to such an unattractive specimen, you may wonder. As is usual in these case, it can be summed up in two words: rebound romance.

Kitty fills the void left by The Squirrelly's One True Love, Mia. Mia was a curly red-headed toddler that attended The Squirrelly's music class, around the time he was 20 months. While all the other children sat quietly in a circle, listening to the teachers play guitar or sing "Shoo Fly," Squirrelly and Mia would wile away the hour galumphing around the room like a pack of hyenas, exploring every nook and cranny and upending plastic bins of tambourines.

I distinctly remember the moment The Squirrelly fell in love. Each child and each parent had been given a resonator bell -- you know, a wooden block with a single xylophone key on top of it? -- and a mallet.

The Squirrelly went to town on his bell, walloping it with as much gusto as he could muster, determined to be the loudest in the classroom. Mia, meanwhile, sat across from us, looking serenely from her bell to her mother's, clearly cooking up a plan. After a few moments she decided upon a course of action. She picked up her bell in one little hand, seized her mother's bell in the other, held them such that the keys faced each other, and clapped them together like blackboard erasers. The result was cacophony; The Squirrelly immediately stopped what he was doing to watch the spectacle, as pink and red hearts floated out of the top of his head.

Alas, the class ended a few months later, at that was the last we saw of Mia. It was shortly thereafter that The Squirrelly hooked up with Kitty.

We all know that Kitty is just a place holder, until The Squirrelly again meets a woman more adept at making a godawful racket than he. Until that day, though, they are all but inseparable.

Squirrelly Kitty Kiss
 
September 18, 2006

Project Management

Here's an easy way to determine which couples are the parents of toddlers: listen for the people who describe five-minute tasks in terms of "a project."

You: What are you guys up to this evening?

Couple That May Be The Parents Of A Toddler: The batteries in our remote control died, so we'll be replacing those tonight. Not that we ever get to watch DVDs anymore, hah hah! Hah hah hah hah! Hah hah! Sob!

September 13, 2006

And You Shall Know Him By The Trail Of Stuffed
And We Shall Know Him By The Trail Of Dead

No parent wants to think that the choices they are making will result in their child someday going on a seven state killing spree. But a couple of our recent decisions have left The Queen and I wondering.

First, we got him toy at a garage sale which allows him to mix-and-match a variety of head, torso, and foot pieces to create custom teddy bears.

It seemed innocuous, and The Squirrelly really liked it. Indeed, it was all fun and games -- until one morning when I woke up and, half conscious, staggered out into the living room to discover:

I used to think that cat vomit was the worst thing to encounter on my morning shuffle from bed to coffee maker, but now I'm going to have to put "pile of dismembered bears" on the top of the list. It appears that we inadvertently purchased the Fisher-Price Lil' Psycho Training Kit. I guess I should have been suspicious when I noticed the label on the bottom of the box reading "STORE UNUSED BODY PARTS IN FREEZER!"

Also, we figured out an innovative way to hornswoggle The Squirrelly into learning manners. He was reluctant to use his spoon and fork for a long time, knowing that the quickest way to deliver applesauce to his gaping maw was to simply scoop it up by hand and shovel it in there. So once, about a year ago, I decided to make a game of it. I stood behind him as he sat in his chair, put a fork in his mitt, wrapped my hand around his so he couldn't drop it, and guided the utensil to the bowl; when we skewered the target foodstuff I cried "stab!"

Oh man, did that go over well. He spent the rest of the meal enthusiastically forking his dinner, merrily shouting "Stab!" with each mouthful.

Unfortunately, he seems to have really taken to the phrase. Even now, while running wild around the house, he'll occasionally shout "Stab! Stab stab!" at random.

So if you pick up the Seattle Times some morning and see:

LOCAL COUPLE STAB! STABBED! IN THEIR SLEEP

Bodies found pierced by dozens of brightly-colored, blunted, child-sized sporks.

Yeah, that'll be us. In lieu of flowers, please send Bob The Builder DVDs.

Oh well, you needn't be too worried. Even if he does take to a life of crime, odds are he'll be inept at it. For instance, his recent attempt to put his stuffed kitty into a sleeperhold backfired:

Sleeper Hold on Kitty Backfires

Jump!  Jump!  Castle! | Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man | Camping Means Never Having To Brush Your Hair

August 16, 2006

Myth Buster!

We're trying to toilet train The Squirrelly, but it's tough going. He knows how to pee (does he ever) and he knows how to sit on the potty, but the idea of doing both simultaneously hasn't quite clicked. On the rare occasions that it happens accidentally we praise him to the heavens and generally act as though his pissing in a pot is as momentous as the fall of the Berlin Wall, but our positive reinforcements have yet to forge the link in his mind. Usually he just sits on his little throne, happy as a unmicturating clam and blissfully unmoved by our exhortations. "PEE! " we cry. "VOID THAT BLADDER FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S HOLY!!" Honestly, I think the phrase "getting urine from a toddler" ought to supercede "getting blood from a stone" as the cliché for describing difficulty.

Yesterday I had The Squirrelly all stripped down and ready for his bath and noticed his potty was nearby, so I got him to sit down. Then I waited. And waited. And eventually thought to myself, "if only there was some way of tricking him into peeing ..."

Anyway, long story short: the whole "put the victim's hand in a bowl of warm water" thing turns out to be an urban legend.

August 07, 2006

Prodigal Son

It took Michelangelo eleven months to cover the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a series of dizzyingly elaborate patters and illustrations, and he required a team of five painters to do it. The Squirrelly must be some kind of prodigy, because he managed to do essentially the same thing to the hard wood floor in our kitchen in about three minutes, and we only needed a single purloined ball-point pen.

I guess we should be mad, but we prefer to focus on the positive. Like, how much money this genius kid is going to rake in for us. The Queen and I agree that a career in bio-engineering would be best suited for the kid, as it's the most likely to result in him having copious amounts of cash to lavish upon us. So, to steer him in that direction, we have decided to only teach him the letters A, C, G, and T.

Awwww, isn't that adorable?! He's making a chinchilla!

Or perhaps he could go into IT, as he seems to have an intuitive grasp of how wireless networks work. He often likes to play Elmo's Keyboard-A-Rama on the laptop out in the (newly redecorated) kitchen. When he wants to play he doesn't go to the computer, though: he sort of wanders around the house, staring at a point about three feet above his head and saying "want play Elmo?" as if he can sense the pixilated muppet being sent over the wireless link. Or maybe he thinks that, when Elmo isn't on the screen jovially screeching about the letter "J," he is trapped in some nether dimension between the router in the back of the house to the laptop in the front. You know, like those guys in Superman II:

President: [on T.V] This is your President. On behalf of my country and in the name of the other leaders of the world with whom I have today consulted, I hereby abdicate all authority and control over this planet to Elmo. Only by following all his directives will the lives of millions be spared -- Mr. Hooper! Can you hear me? Mr. Hooper! Where are you?!

Elmo: Elmo doesn't know Mr. Hooper!

President: You will, and when you do --

General Elmo: Come to me, Mr Hooper! Elmo defies you! Come and kneel before Elmo! HahahHOOHOOHOOHOOhaha!

July 20, 2006

Nor Do I Pee Maple Syrup

I've never considered myself to be good at improv, and an incident this morning did nothing to change that opinion.

I was preparing The Squirrelly's breakfast this morning, and I decided to give him a choice of entree. "Do you want oatmeal or a waffle with jam?" I asked.

"Waffle with jam!" he said enthusiastically.

"Coming right up," I replied. I retrieved a frozen waffle from the freezer and popped it into the toaster.

Three seconds passed before The Squirrelly got impatient. "Waaaafle!" he whined insistently.

"I'm cooking your waffle!" I said. "Just hold your horses. Waffles don't --"

I was going to say "waffles don't grow on trees," but that seemed inappropriate. After all, my point weren't that waffles were hard to come by, but that they require a minute or two of preparation. So I abruptly switched metaphors in midstream. "Waffles don't, um, come out of my butt, you know."

Sigmund Freud wrote on the subject extensively in the early 20th century and the same holds true today: it is a sobering moment in every boy's life when he learns that waffles do not come from his father's butt.

June 23, 2006

Let's Get This Potty Started

There are a hundred different methods for toilet training a toddler, most of which revolve around incentives and punishments designed to coerce their child to poop in their potty.

The Queen and I are trying a different tack. We're just going to teach The Squirrelly to enjoy sitting alone in a small room every morning for as long as he'd like, quietly reading the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

June 21, 2006

The Trouble With Toddlers

 

Gone Fishin

In the months before The Squirrelly was born, The Queen and I had many discussion about whether we would prefer a boy or a girl, and, in the end, we decided that it didn't really matter. But I can tell you one thing: if we'd been given a choice, we certainly wouldn't have opted for a two year old. And I'm not just saying that because giving birth to a 30 lb. toddler would have made The Queen even crankier in the weeks following the delivery.

No, the problem with toddlers is that they are actual human beings. Unlike, say, infants. Infants share genetic material with the rest of our species, but that pretty much where the similarities end. You can't reason with them. You can't fathom their moods and desires. They have no memory or bowel control or sense of decorum*. They don't even enjoy watching Arrested Development, for crying out loud -- their idea of a good time is looking at a black square on a page. They pretty much exhibit none of the essential characteristics of humanity, aside from the farting. On the spectrum from "Pet" to "Person," babies are much closer to your average box turtle than they are to you and I.

But that was okay by The Queen and I -- we're not crazy about people anyway. We get along famously with our cats, though, so adding another critter to the litter suited us just fine.

But there's a big different between cats and kids, we soon discovered: cats become increasingly inert as they get older, while infants start crawling, and start walking, and start running, and start climbing, and start demanding that you play the "Best of Harry Belafonte" CD four times in a row. And one day you realize that nature has stealthily insinuated a little human into your lives. You start out with an infant, you wind up with a housemate.

So, long story short, now we got this thing crashing' around our household:

Under The Boardwalk

Oh, well. If we had been given the opportunity to pick out our own toddler (out of a police lineup, perhaps), we couldn't have selected a better one than the one we got.

Of course just because we like the little guy doesn't mean we couldn't stand two hours less of him every day. Sadly, this has not been the case since April, when, in the throes of a one-fortieth-of-the-way-through-life crisis, The Squirrelly a abruptly realized that Every Moment Counts and decided to stop squandering his precious time on naps. So now he's a 9 to 5 job -- except it's closer to "7 to 7" job, and you don't get a lunch break (unless downing a few bourbon shots while he eats his noontime chicken nuggets qualifies as "lunch"). The upside is that he goes to bed at night pretty reliably, though he has made it clear that he does so by choice and not necessity. Once, about a month ago, we put him down for the evening, settled on the couch, and started watching a DVD; "Hiya!" The Squirrelly said 10 minutes later, as he gamboled into the living room, having climbed out him crib and opened his door to his room. He hasn't done that again since, but he probably figures he doesn't need to. Just the knowledge that he can is enough to make us live in fear.

So what does The Squirrelly do with his boundless energy? Well, he enjoys the pool, for one.

Water Nymphs

We have him enrolled in swimming lessons for children under three, and man oh man does he ever love them. I think the allure of swimming is that we basically encourage him to do all the things we usually frown upon. "Kick!" The Queen yells from the sidelines, as I lead him around the pool, "for the love of all that's holy, kick your feet!" And then, 30 minutes later in the pool's lockerroom, he's doing the same thing as I try and get a diaper on him, and I'm growling "you seriously need to stop that" and he's all, like, "okay, look: you and mom need to call an executive meeting and get your story straight on this whole kicking issue, because I'm getting nothing but mixed messages here." Additional (and otherwise verboten) activities he gets to engage in while at the pool include flailing his arms with a ferocity rarely seen outside Animal from The Muppet Show, and leaping off walls into a 5 ft. deep concrete pit (albeit a pit filled with a fluid mixture consisting of 4 parts water, 1 part chlorine, and 2 parts toddler urine).

He's also way into spelling these days:

Future Spelling Bee Champion

So far he's got "mama," "kitty," and "duck" down pat, so he's already well on his way to "chiaroscurist" and "staphylococci." Which is good because his winning the National Spelling Bee when he's 11 is pretty much our current plan for funding his college education.

Or I guess we could just invest the money we're saving on groceries. About a month ago The Squirrelly apparently became epiphytic, because he no longer eats food and, we can only presume, now absorbs nutrients directly from the atmosphere. His boundless reservoirs of energy also have us convinced that he is photosynthesizing as well. Even though I married a botanist I never imagined I'd wind up with the Swamp Thing as a son.

Dinner guest  Swing  Time For A Book

* Well, okay: in this respect they aren't that dissimilar from myself ...
 
April 07, 2006

Head & Shoulders

Many parents track the height of their child by having them stand next to a designated wall every year or so and making a hashmark just above their head.

I'd use this method, if I trusted myself to remember to do so every 12 months. Fortunately, I have figured out an alternative way to track The Squirrelly's growth. Whenever I have him on my shoulders, walk through a doorway, and hear a "Twump!" from above, I just stop for a moment and jot the current date on the wall next to the frame.

March 01, 2006

Twos, The Terrible

It's been 24 months since The Squirrelly barreled into our lives, though The Twos -- the Terrible ones, specifically -- began months ago. The kid's a flaming ball of id these days, a Lil' Bacchus who enjoys nothing better than good food, a long nap, lively music, and an invigorating poop.

And he's as garrulous as ever, yammering away at every available moment. You'd think the perpetual narration would provide us with some clue as to what was going on in that head of his, but, more often than not, but he still catches us off-guard with non sequiturs. "Do you want a snack?" You'll ask him; "I'm a dog," he'll reply, "Ruff! Ruff!" Honestly, I have no idea how to respond to someone who says something like that (unless it's the guy sitting next to me on the bus, in which case I respond by hastily moving to to another seat).

Occasionally he'll seize upon a word or phrase that's particularly fun to say and just holler it out at random moments. "Edamame!" and "avocado!" are favorites, as are "down the hatch!" and "all right, kiddo!" He also likes to recite the line from The Cat In The Hat that goes "So all we could do was to sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!" But he, like most toddlers, lisps a bit, so it sounds like he's shouting "shit! shit! shit! shit!" like he's frantically trying to flush contraband drugs down the toilet before the cops bust through the bathroom door.

He hasn't adopted any real obscenities yet, something that can be attributed to luck rather than any effort on our part to moderate our language. Unfortunately, he has learned the worse four-letter word of all: "want." Someone told us that a sure-fire way of reducing frustration tantrums in a toddler is to teach them to express their desires, so we foolishly went ahead and taught him the w-word. And it's true: he has fewer frustration tantrums, no doubt. Now we instead get the tantrums of outrage, when we have the impertinence to question one of his edicts. "Want oatmeal," he'll say. "Dude, there's oatmeal in the bowl right in front of you, eat that," I'll reply. "WANT OATMEAL!" he'll shriek and throw himself to the floor, where he kicks and screams for approximately six seconds before deciding that it's not worth the effort, climbing to his feet, and announcing "I'm a dog! Ruff! Ruff!"

So, yes, we're having the standard toddler War Of The Wills, but, fortunately, The Squirrelly is exceptionally easy-going. His tantrums are infrequent, and rarely last more than a handful of seconds. When we took him in for his two-year checkup, the pediatrician asked "does he ever have tantrums that last longer than half an hour?" and we were all, like, "Half and hour?! Fuuuuck no -- if he did we would have just left him in your elevator, sprinted back to the car, and driven to Ontario at 85 miles an hour."

We also learned, at his 24 month exam, that his future career as an NBA center has been nipped in the bud, as he is now in the 50th percentile for height (instead of the 70th, where he was at a year). It's just as well, as he clearly has his sights set on some sort of musical career. We bought him a toy piano for his birthday, and he loves plunking the keys and singing the the "ABC Song." He really seems to enjoy music so we thought we'd encourage it -- it was only after the fact that we realized that we're probably setting ourselves up for 12 years of elementary, junior high, and high school band concerts. Dear lord, what have we wrought!

Oh well. If the next 16 years are anywhere near as fun as the last two it'll all be worth it, even the "Cleaveland Middle School Spring Ensemble." Plus, hearing loss runs in my family, so I might luck out.


Take Me For A Ride In The Car Car   GFEDCBA   Too Cute For Naptime

January 23, 2006

http://the-squirrelly.livejournal.com

I was downloading the pictures from my digital camera this morning, and laughed out loud when I saw how emo The Squirrelly looked in this photo.


Update: See Kevin's remix here.

December 20, 2005

Talkin' Bout A Revolution

The Squirrelly's new favorite game is "kittycat," though he tends to leave out the "ee" part of "meow" when playing. All of the sudden he'll leap to his feet and start marching about the living room shouting "Mao! Mao!" like he's trying to foment his own little cultural revolution and overthrow our bourgeoisie household.

Fortunately, I think we're safe. Lord knows we haven't engaged in any arts or intellectualism recently. Not since the child was born, at any rate.

December 12, 2005

Twinkle Twinkle Stars Are Right

Action shot of the Squirrelly in the bathtub yesterday evening.

"It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers ..."

Iä! Iä! Squirrelly fhtagn!

November 29, 2005

Logorrhea

In my eighteen month Squirrelly Update I mentioned that the twerp's entire vocabulary consisted of the words "kitty" and "Pooh." Since then, though, he's been cranking out words faster than global warming can produce hurricanes. For a while there we were excitedly phoning each other up whenever a new one debuted and trying to keep track of them all but, honestly, we pretty much threw in the towel we he came out with "precipice." I shit you not. He's become adroit at parroting the last word we use in a sentence, and one evening, after I caught him doing somersaults on the bed and delivered a sternly worded lecture about the danger of this activity, he shouted "precipice!" and did a celebratory somersault on the bed.

Of course, the real danger of his mimicry is that he will start adopting phrases like "I shit you not," which means we should probably start watching our language. But frankly, I'm not too worried. Given the speed at which vulgar language is now evolving, I reckon that by the time The Squirrelly is old enough to "hang out" with his "dawgs" and "homies" any obscenities he picked us from us will be quaint and charming, the equivalent of a 2005 "poppycock." By then they will probably be using terms so unimaginably filthy by today's standards that words we currently consider to be unforgivably profane will show up in spelling tests and Jumble puzzles.

Having mastered the ability to utter words, The Squirrelly is now focusing on individual letters. He can already recite what he believes to be the 23 letters that make up the English language:




  • A
  • G
  • Q
  • Gubble-oo
  • B
  • Ah-chay (that's Spanish for H! He's bilingual!)
  • Ah
  • X
  • C
  • I
  • S
  • Y
  • D
  • J
  • T
  • And
  • E
  • K
  • U
  • Zeee!
  • F
  • Ellemenopy
  • V
  •  

    His current goal, as near as we can tell, is to set the world toddler speed record for saying the alphabet. He's getting pretty quick, although he often cheats by omitting some letters and substituting the sound "mm" for those that he can't remember in his haste.

    "A! B! C! D! E! F! G! Mm! Mm! Ellemenopy! Q! Mm! Mm! Gubble-oo! Mm! And! Zeeeeeeeeee!"
    Yes, only 22 months old and he's already mastered life's most basic skill: the ability to fake his way through things that he doesn't entirely understand. Somewhere a position in middle-management awaits him.

    Update: The Queen has informed me that The Squirrelly is, in fact, 21 months old. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER WHEN HE WAS BORN, THAT WAS 22 WHOLE MONTHS AGO!!

    November 22, 2005

    Womb Service

    The Squirrelly spends a lot of time in the car: going to and from daycare, to and from swimming lessons, to and from music class. He spends the ride strapped in his car seat, clawing banana cips from his Snack-Trap™, drinking water from his travel sippy cup, and letting the vehicle carry him where it may. Honestly, he wasn't so much born as upgraded to a better womb. When he turns five and has to start attending school, we'll hire a midwife to extract him from the Toyota and send him on his way.

    I think this is just an intermediate step, as we humans slowly evolve into marsupials. Someday in the near future our baby-carrying devices will merge with us, and will we carry our infants around in a pocket complete with built-in DVD player and Goldfish cracker dispenser. If there is any any justice in the universe, it's the fathers who will wind up bepouched.

    November 01, 2005

    A Father's Proudest Moment

    I brought The Squirrelly to a Halloween party. He saw a child dressed as a pirate and, unpromped, said "Arrrr!"

    October 31, 2005

    Happy Halloween

     


     

    October 10, 2005

    ASD

    This is The Squirrelly, looking you in the eye.

    If you met The Squirrelly in person, this is not something you'd likely see. As you entered the room he might glance briefly in your direction, but would then return to whatever he was doing before and probably ignore you thereafter. Any effort you made to catch his eye would almost certainly be in vain.

    The technical name for this behavior is "gaze avoidance," and it is one of the symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The Squirrelly was diagnosed with ASD two weeks ago.

    The possibility of ASD was first suggested by his daycare provider in August. The Queen was worried; I was skeptical to the point of dismissiveness. This was the same woman who, just three days after he took his first steps, urged us to take him to a foot doctor because he "walked funny." I assumed that this was just another overreaction on her part, and one (like the "walking funny" comment) that she would never mention again. Instead, she brought it up several more times over the course of the week. It was clear that she was sincerely concerned.

    Of course we'd noticed that The Squirrelly was idiosyncratic -- his phenomenal ability to tune us out, his reluctance to adopt gestures such as hand clapping, the (slight) delay in his speech -- but we'd just chalked it up to his personality. Our only real worry was over his intermittent response to his name, which had us wondering if he might have a hearing impairment.

    But we'd never seriously considered the possibility of autism. Still, The Squirrelly had an appointment with his doctor scheduled for the following week, and we figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

    The pediatrician noticed the same things the daycare provider did, foremost among them his lack of eye contact and seeming indifference to her presence in the room. She suggested that we enroll him in the Toddler Assessment Project, a University of Washington study to identify ASD in children as young as eighteen months. We did so immediately.

    The clinicians at the UW Autism Center conducted interviews with The Queen and I regarding The Squirrelly's behavior, and we brought him in for observation on a number of occasions. After the fourth such visit they had seen enough to officially classify his symptoms as those of autistic spectrum disorder.

    * * *

    "Autistic spectrum disorder" is an umbrella classification for a group of closely related pervasive developmental disorders, including autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and (arguably) attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The word "spectrum" is in recognition of the fact that people with ASD vary widely in their impairments.

    Of the five major areas that characterize ASD -- social impairment, language impairment, imaginative impairment, repetitive adherence, and sensory integration dysfunction -- it appears that The Squirrelly's symptoms lie mostly (and perhaps exclusively) in the first three. He doesn't engage in rocking or arm flapping, doesn't have affinities or aversions to specific textures or sounds, and doesn't insist upon sameness and routine. That's good news, as these things go. His physical development is, if anything, a little ahead of the curve. And while it's really too early to start making predictions about his cognitive skills, he appears to be right on track.

    But his "gaze avoidance" tendencies are unmistakable, and he makes very little effort to communicate with others. He knows dozens of words but only uses them for labelling. Show him a banana and he'll say "banana," but if he wants a banana it apparently doesn't occur to him that saying the corresponding word to us might provoke a response. When he is in the company of other toddlers he plays around them rather than with them. And he rarely engages in imitative play.

    It seems likely that he is high-functioning. One possibility is that he has Asperger's Syndrome (AS), which is a relatively common form of ASD. People with AS have normal to high intelligence but great difficulty with social behavior. There's probably someone in your company's IT department with a touch of Asperger's. Albert Einstein and Bill Gates are both suspected of having AS, so, who knows: we might wind up with a genius or a bajillionaire in the family. Even Dan Ackroyd has AS, which, for some reason, comforts me to no end.

    But, at this point, all we know is that The Squirrelly falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum.

    It's worth noting that he will make eye contact with me and The Queen for long periods of time, though he does so infrequently. I wouldn't characterize him as overly affectionate, but he loves roughhousing with his father, sitting in his mother's lap, and getting hugs from either. He cries when one of us walks out the door, even if its just to get the mail. Most importantly, to my mind, he has a great personality, he laughs a lot, and, in general, is an exceptionally easy-going and happy kid. Honestly, what else matters?

    It goes without saying that we are anxious about his future, and have lost sleep since receiving the news. But that's when we tend to fret: when he's asleep in his room and we're awake in ours. Or when we are at work and he is at daycare. Or whenever he's not around. When he is around, though, it's almost impossible to worry about him too much. You can't spend any time in the company of this kid and not think that, regardless of the diagnosis, he's going to turn out awesome.

    * * *

    Of the aforementioned ASD symptoms that The Squirrelly is exhibiting, "rarely engages in imitative play" probably seems like the least of them. Actually, this one turns out to be a sticky wicket (as they say, um, somewhere, I think). Imitation is, after all, how toddlers learn a lot of things -- they see their mother use a spoon, so they decide to try using a spoon themselves. Most parents take it for granted that they can teach their child by demonstration; when that option isn't available, things get a bit thornier.

    So the first thing we need to do is teach The Squirrelly how to learn. The mostly widely accepted method for doing this is called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The Queen and I have spent the last few weeks trying to arrange ABA therapy for The Squirrelly, but it's proving to be something of a chore. Autism is on the rise in the US (even when you account for improved diagnostic techniques), but the increasing number of ASD cases is not being matched by a the growth in autism services. Consequentially, many organizations that offer ABA now have outrageous waiting lists and fees. Demand is running roughshod over supply.

    So curious as it may sound, The Squirrelly's diagnosis came as something of a relief to us. The Queen and I have been devouring books on autism ever since the pediatrician seconded the daycare lady's suspicions, and by the time we brought him to the UW we were already convinced that he had some form of ASD. But hunches aren't enough to seek treatment. To gain access to the ABA clinics, you need an official diagnosis; once we had one we could start arranging for intervention.

    The Squirrelly continues to go to the UW Autism Clinic of assessment visits. He will receive an MRI on the 28th. In the meantime we have begun incorporating ABA principles into our daily interaction with him and scheduling therapy sessions. Research has shown that intensive therapy can work wonders on children with ASD, assuming its caught early. As The Squirrelly was diagnosed at eighteen months -- about as early as ASD can reliably be identified -- we have every reason to believe that he will be very responsive to it.

    * * *

    And now, a story.

    For about a decade I didn't eat horseradish. My mother served it to my sister and I when we were kids, but I never touched the stuff after I left the nest. It wasn't that I disliked it, but I'm not much of a condiment man and never felt the need to slather it onto to anything.

    Fast-forward to my late twenties, when The Queen and I were visiting some friends. I had just finished telling a story and The Queen had launched into one, so I grabbed something to snack on from a nearby plate of appetizers. All of the food that I liked had already been eaten (undoubtedly by me), so I took one of the salmon fillets. And because I wasn't wild about fish, I decided to mask the taste by loading it up with the accompanying horseradish.

    I realized it was horseradish that I was putting on my salmon, and I remembered that horseradish was hot. But there were two other factors in play. First, when you get older you often find that the foods you thought were unbearably spicy as a kid are actually rather bland, so I was compensating accordingly. Second, my friends had served us straight horseradish, My mother always given us prepared horseradish, and I was unaware that it came in any other form. Consequentially, I shoved a horrific amount of the stuff into my mouth and started chewing.

    At first it wasn't so bad: just the mildly hot flavor that I remembered from my childhood. But then, at some point, I realized that it was getting hotter, and hotter, and hotter. I stopped chewing. I let my mouth hang open. Suddenly the heat doubled, and doubled again. By this point I wasn't even able do the comical "HA-HA-HAAAA!" hand-waving-in-front-of-the-mouth routine -- the horseradish was so hot that I was paralyzed, sitting there ossified while my friends laughed at the conclusion to The Queen's story.

    As the feeling continued to grow I began to seriously wonder: can I die from this? Can this become so overwhelming that my body goes into shock, and I'll just slump sidewise and perish from the sheer enormity of the sensation?

    I've been thinking about this story a lot lately, because I have begun to wonder the same thing about my love for The Squirrelly.

     
    September 28, 2005

    Hang In There

    The Squirrelly has always loved being held upside-down, but has recently started doing something new. After I flip him over and dangle him over the livingroom floor, he reaches up, grabs my hands, and tries to pry my fingers away from his waist, as if to say, "Jeeze Dad, I'm a year and a half old -- I can remain suspended in midair by myself now, you know."

    September 19, 2005

    Dogged

    The Squirrelly attends an at-home daycare, a few doors down from someone who owns several hounds.

    Occasionally one of the toddlers will throw a tantrum with all of the attendant crying and shrieking. If it continues for more than a few seconds the dogs will pick up on it, and soon the hounds will be baying at the top of their lungs. Once this happens, all of the toddlers -- including the one who, moments ago, was raising holy hell -- quiet down, stand stock still, and listen, their ears pricked up like rabbits in a field.

    Eventually the dogs wind down and the babies go calmly about their business, the cause of the tantrum forgotten.

    It's a pretty great system, actually.

    August 30, 2005

    Squirrelly 1.5

    The Squirrelly is eighteen months in age, and continues to grow like early Spring Lysichitum americanum in low- to moderate-elevation temperate wetlands. (Marrying a botanist has really Increased My Simile Power.) These days he sort of fluctuates between two quantum states: one moment he's a baby, sitting on the floor and playing with some blocks, then you glance away for a second and, when you look again, he's a full-on little boy, sauntering around the house in pursuit of a cat like he's been perambulating since day one.

    I have mixed feelings about his getting older. While I feel no small amount of pride when The Squirrelly hits some new developmental milestones, it is always tinged with sadness. Not sadness that has youth is ebbing away or anything like that, goodness no -- I can't wait for this kid to up and get himself toilet trained -- but sadness that yet another line in our babyproofing defenses is about to be breached. Last year we had him confined to the livingroom, but then he got big enough to push the chair we had blocking the entrance to the kitchen out of the way. So then we let him roam in the living room and the kitchen, but then he figured out how to subvert the babygate in the mouth to the hall. So we decided, well, it's okay if he goes down the hall so long as we keep the doors to the bedrooms closed, but now he's figured out how to push those open. By October he'll be frolicking about in the crawlspace. He's like the little Katamari Damacy dude, barreling around and accumulating mass until he's big enough to crash into areas that were previously inaccessible.

    Also, he is now so tall that, when I carry him around, he can further his Sibling Prevention Program just by kicking his feet, if you catch my drift.

    (When I mentioned this to The Queen last night she rolled her eyes and said, "You've been complaining about this kid kicking you in the nuts since the day he was born." "That's my point!" I cried. "A few times I could chalk up as accidents, but this is clearly an orchestrated campaign!")

    One thing that's cool to see is how things The Squirrelly has been instinctually practicing for months are suddenly clicking into place. Like, he's sort of shuffled around to music for months, but now all the sudden he's dancing. And remember when he was five months old and I posted this pitcure of him?

    I mocked him for trying to fit an object the size of a cantaloup into his piehole. Well, as with many of the things babies do that adults dismiss as "play," it appears that The Squirrelly was actually engaged in The Acquisition Of Valuable Life Skills. In this case it seems that he's been systematically working to increase the size of his mouth so as to better shove thirty-seven cookies in there simultaneously.

    (Of course we would never give our toddler "cookies." These are, in fact, "Sesame Street Banana-Flavored Crunchin' Blocks." Which are, in all respects, identical to cookies, except they are (a) slightly smaller, and (b) endorsed by Elmo.)

    The Squirrelly's still not much of a talker, though we've long since stopped worrying about it. We've noticed that he'll try out a new word for a day or so and then, when he's bored of saying it, file it away in his little mental dictionary. Apparently he's just going to save them up and then, one day when I'm out in the family room guffawing to "America's Funniest Home Videos," he'll come strolling out in his shark pajamas and be all, like, "honestly, I'll never understand why you fritter your time away on this puerile tripe"

    Until then he's adopted his own, invented language, which consists entirely of the word "kitty" spoken with varying degrees of intensity.

    Me: Are you done with your snack?

    Squirrelly: Kitty!

    M: No? Then do you want some more applesauce.

    S: Kitty.

    M: Okay, then: how about some Veggie Booty?

    S: Kitty!

    If he feels that some statement is ambiguous, he will occasionally add, by way of clarification, "Pooh."

    Oh, and hey: while we're on the subject of adorable lil' boys, did you know The Squirrelly has a cousin? A robot cousin??!

    This is my nephew Pogo, two weeks younger than The Squirrelly, who had the audacity to be born on what was formerly known as "my" birthday.

    We have since made up. He is hard to stay mad at, though I tried my best.

     
    August 03, 2005

    My Baby Can Beat Up Your Baby

    The Squirrelly is shaping up to be quite the bruiser. At seventeen months he stands a head taller than most toddlers his age and has already wearing the largest size in infant footware. Upon meeting him for the first time and observing the discrepancy between his physical and behavioral development, many people understandably assume that he is a retarded three year old.

    There's no way to know if this trend will continue. But, if it does, and he winds up a hulk compared to his elementary school classmates, it will be incumbant upon me to teach my son the fine art of not being a bully.

    Alas, this may prove to be a problem, as I have no expertise in this area. Which isn't to say that I was bully in school -- far from it. It's just that bullying was never viable career path for a child of my stature, so I never had to grapple with any ethical quandries when opting not to pursue it. Indeed, any sentences describing my childhood years that contained the verb "bullied" was infinitely more likely to feature my name as the direct object rather than the subject.

    So I'm not really sure how to go about imparting the whole "with great power comes great responsibility" message, and I'm often afraid that I am inadvertently teaching him the wrong thing. Take the other day in music class, for instance. All the parents were sitting in a circle with their toddlers on their laps, and the instructor was clapping her hands in assorted rhythms. Most of the other children were clapping along, but The Squirrelly was just looking at the other kids with curiosity. So I gently took hold of his wrists and brought his hands together repeatedly in time with the beat.

    After about a minute of doing this, I glanced down and noticed that The Squirrelly wasn't exactly clapping; while his left hand was flat, he had the fingers of his right hand curled into a ball.

    So there he was, looking at each of the smaller children in turn and ominously punching the fist of one hand into the palm of the other.

    July 18, 2005

    Worst Transformer Ever

    I took The Squirrelly to the park. He ran around like a thing wild for 20 minutes, and then, upon the depletion of his very last joule of energy, abruptly transformed into Cranky Frankie.

    "Ooooookay," I said, swinging him onto my shoulder. "I think that's enough park for one day." He half-assedly struggled for a bit, squirming until he was horizontal, but then gave up and went limp.

    Defeated, he just lay boneless in my arms, alternating between shrieks of anger and insincere sobbing. At that moment a young girl, maybe six, and her mother walked by. The daughter tugged on her mother's shirt, pointed at The Squirrelly, and said "Mommy, what's that?"

    July 05, 2005

    Natural Selective Hearing

    Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet Chevalier de Lamarck (or "Petey" to his friends) was one of the earliest proponents of evolution, publishing his conjecture on the subject more than 50 years before the advent of The Origin of Species. The most prominent theory formulated by Lamarck was "the inheritance of acquired traits," stating that traits acquired by an organisms during its lifetime will be transmitted to its dependents. For instance, Lamarck postulated that giraffes spend their lives stretching to reach ever-higher leaves to eat and then pass their elongated necks on to their offspring. This principle, now known as "Lamarckism," was later refuted and superseded by Darwin's theory of natural selection.

    Still, I can't help but think that Petey may have been onto something. After all, The Queen and I had been dating for 10 years before she mastered the ability to completely ignore me when I was saying something that she didn't want to hear, and it took me 10 years to learn how to do likewise for her, but The Squirrelly has had the ability to tune either of us out since the get-go.

        
     
    June 03, 2005

    Of Mice And Munitions

    For a while The Squirrelly's favorite plaything was the Busy Ball Popper, a.k.a. the toy that parented our child during the Avery Flu. You drop plastic balls onto a platform on the top, they fall through a hole and roll down a curving ramp, and they eventually descend into the base of the toy, whereupon a battery-powered fan accelerates them until they pop out of the top and fall onto the platform, repeating the cycle ad nauseum.


    Guns & Ammo
    Once the balls are set in motion, there's little to do but watch them. So although it's a neat toy, it's not very interactive. Or it's not supposed to be, at least.

    The Squirrelly lost interest in the Busy Ball Popper for a while. Then one day he discovered that he could wrench the entire platform / ramp portion of the toy off. That left only the base, which contains a U of the tube and the fan. Then he began dropping things into the input side of the tube, to see what would happen to them. Some, like his square magnets, would go halfway through and get stuck; other stuff would get flung out the other side. In fact, things that weighed less that the balls supplied with the popper would come flying out of the tube with considerable velocity.

    After some experimentation The Squirrelly found the perfect projectiles: the small mice our cats play with. He took to carrying the base of the Busy Ball Popper around the house, occasionally stopping to press the oversized red button that starts the fan, dropping a mouse into the tube, and watching it get shot across the room.

    That's right: fifteen months old and my son has already McGuyvered up a rocket launcher.

    I'd should find out where my college sociology professor is living these days. I'd love to bring The Squirrelly over to his house, let him loose in the living room to wreak havoc for 15 minutes, and say, "so all gender differences are culturally instilled, are they?"*

    Update 06/08: Today The Squirrelly figured out that a handful of cat kibble dropped into the Busy Ball Popper will be expelled like buckshot. Science ... on the march!

    *Of course, we did dress him in that camouflage jumper ...

    May 27, 2005

    Fish Story

    The Squirrelly's daycare was closed today, so I took the day off work and we went to the Seattle Aquarium. It was fun. The great thing about going to any sort of educational facility in the company of a small child is that you are free to just skip all the boring stuff. No standing around, pretending to appreciate the majestic majesty of some slow-moving critter that looks like a hunk of coral; bring a toddler and it's nothing but sharks and seals.

    And here's a fun exercise: next time you go to the aquarium bring a flask of watermelon schnapps, and take a drink every time you hear a child shout "Nemo!" You'll be dead of alcohol poisoning before you reach the otters.

    I lifted The Squirrelly up at the hands-on exhibit and he immediately plunged his paw into the water to grab at an anemone. Next to us was a boy of about 10 who was holding his hand apprehensively over the surface of the brine. His father said, "Whattaya scared of? Look at that little baby! That little baby's reachin' right on in there!" I should have said, "Yeah, well, this little baby will also reach into his diaper and grab his own feces if we don't keep him distracted while changing him, so maybe he's not the best role model, eh?"

    They should totally have a day where everyone can bring their cats to the Aquarium to look at the fish and sandpipers. It's the worst idea I've ever had, but the thought of the mayhem makes me smile.

    P.S. We just got The Squirrelly's one-year glamour shots back from the lab.

     
    May 18, 2005

    Sale Of The Century

    Is anyone in the market for some mucous? The Squirrelly is currently producing about three pints a day, and I'd be willing to let it go for a song.

    April 14, 2005

    Cell Shock

    We bought some refrigerator magnets for The Squirrelly. They required batteries. I'm not kidding.

    Modern parenting is often dumb.

    Update: Okay, I have to grudgingly admit that this Fridge Farm Magnetic Animal Set is kinda cool. The batteries go into a big barn that has a rectangular area in the middle of it; the other magnets are animal halves. So if you put a sheep's forequarters and a pig's hindquarters into the barn, for example, it will play a song about how you made a "Sheeppig."

    It's like a training kit for future genetic engineers. Maybe if The Squirrelly plays with this enough, he will someday figure out how to splice together cows, tomatoes, mustard seeds and pickles, and invent the holy grail of the fast-food industry: the pre-condimentimized burger. Hell, if he can figure out how to work some potato and cola bean genes in there, he might make an animal that can produce an entire Wendy's combo meal. Then he winds up a bajillionaire and The Queen and I ride the gravy train into retirement. Or, at the very least, he pays us back the fifteen bucks we paid for these stupid magnets.

    April 08, 2005

    For Whom The Bell No Longer Tolls

    The Squirrelly's teeth have extruded or protruded or whatevertruded, so he's feeling a hundred jillion times better* than he was last week, and is once again as delightful to have in your company as a case of Pilsner. And he's already putting the new choppers to use. This morning he became mesmerized by my wedding band, and after struggling to take it off my hand for a few seconds he suddenly bit my finger just below the ring. No harm done, but if his first words are "my preccccious" I think we're going to be concerned.

    The teething discomfort must have ended sometime Tuesday night, because Wednesday morning I took The Squirrelly out of his crib, put him on the changing table, and then -- on the spur of the moment, and despite the fact that he hadn't smiled at anything in four days -- put his pants on my head. Unexpectedly, he totally cracked up. I didn't know that 13 month-olds had a good enough grasp of the absurd to recognize that "pants on head = laff riot," but maybe The Squirrelly is an early bloomer in the appreciation of comedic genius. At any rate, the kid has been a fount of grins and giggles ever since.

    But there is one bit of bad news here in the Baldwin household. I regret to announce that while the rest of the Laugh & Learn Learning Home works fine, the doorbell -- previously mentioned here -- has gone to the great playroom in the sky. Its demise was sudden, but I'll never forget its final words:

    "Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-                                 "
    How true. How true that is.

    But grieve not for the Laugh & Learn Learning Home doorbell. It's purpose in this world was to be pushed, and The Squirrely helped it achieve that goal several hundred times per minute. It had a good life, rich in both dings and dongs.

    Rest in peace, Laugh & Learn Learning Home doorbell. Now that you're gone, we certainly will.

    * Exaggerated for humorous effect.
    March 23, 2005

    Sticks And Stones

    I held up two wooden animals. "Which one is the cow?" I asked The Squirrelly. "Point to the cow."

    The Squirrelly pointed to the cow.

    "Good job!" I said. I took all the animals, shuffled them, and held out two more. "Point to the pig. Point to the pig, baby."

    The Squirrelly pointed to the pig.

    "Very good! Let's do one more." I put all the animals behind my back and withdrew two. "Ready? Point to the chicken."

    The Squirrelly pointed to me.

    okay ... feelings ... kind of hurt ...

    February 22, 2005

    One Down

    The Squirrelly is one year old today. So says the calendar, at any rate. If I had to guestimate how long I've been father, based on how quickly/slowly time has flown/crawled by since Birthday #0, I'd reckon about ((F-5) + ((S*3) / (W2 - A)) - C) months, where F is my current frustration level on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 0 as "child asleep" and 10 as "in the middle of trying to change diaper while child simulates a paint shaker"), S = my current sleep debt (in hours), W = number of times in the past four weeks the kid has successfully prevented The Queen and I from wrasslin' by employing one of his many Sibling Prevention Techniques, A = number of alcoholic beverages I've consumed prior to contemplating the question, and C = his cuteness constant of 210.

    Recently The Squirrelly has begun taking steps. He will stand up and take a tottering lurch toward something before giving up, resuming his quadrapedic lifestyle, and crawling to his destination in a flash. Grandpa Baldwin thinks that he will start walking-for-real by the end of the month, but, if he's anything like his father, that might be overly optimistic. I can hunt-and-peck about 70 words a minute, and although I have tried to switch to touch-typing countless times over the last 15 years, I inevitably get frustrated in mid-email and revert to my two-fingers method. Given the speed at which The Squirrelly can crawl and the genetic material he carries, he may be crawling up to receive his diploma at 18.

    Still, he's a little ahead of the game, locomotion-wise. But he appears to be behind the curve in the language department. Other kids his age have said their first words, or, at the very least, wave bye-bye with a little prompting. The Squirrelly, meanwhile, has given no indication that he will be conjugating verbs anytime soon. Apparently this is normal: at one year of age there are walkers, and there are talkers, but there are very few walkie-talkies. Given a choice we would have opted for a kid who could charmingly exclaim "duck!" rather than one who can wander into the laundry room and eat "Tide" straight from the box, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that our desires and The Squirrelly's development belong to mutually exclusive sets. We wanted a kid who could clean gutters by now, for instance, and that hasn't panned out.

    But he's healthy and super-fun and completely normal. We have to keep reminding ourselves of this latter fact, because, like all parents, we are constantly (and often subconsciously) comparing our child's development with that of his peers and fretting about any differences, real or imagined. It doesn't help that most parenting books focus almost exclusively on Things That Can Go Terribly, Terribly Wrong. That's why I'm going to write a book for new parents called Your Child Is Completely Normal, to serve as a counterweight to the "guides" that trade in wanton fearmongering. My book will read like this:

    All the books we're read say that infants will roll over by themselves by week 14 but our baby is 14 weeks, four days old and still can't do it! Should we be concerned?

    Your child is completely normal.


    Our baby used to make eye contact with us all the time, but now he won't ever look at us when we speak to him. Is he becoming antisocial?

    Your child is completely normal.


    Junior is only four months old, but he already says sentences, like "get out!" and "Captain Howdie says no!" Also, he floats above the bed and can rotate his head 360 degrees. Is this unusual?

    Your child is completely normal.

    As Telly Savalas as my witness, I think this would be a best-seller.

    Happy Birthday, Squirrelly -- the best years are yet to come! For your mother and I, I mean. Once you figure out that gutter-cleaning thing.

    February 16, 2005

    Love Of Flatulation Humor Is Found On Chromosome Y

    The Squirrelly recently discovered that he can press his mouth into the crook of his elbow, blow vigorously, and generate impressive farting noises. He has been doing this ever since, laughing uproariously after every performance.

    Any lingering doubts that this child is mine have now been dispelled.

    February 04, 2005

    Ah, Homophones

    We bathe The Squirrelly after his dinner, and the foodstuff he is invariably covered in eventually accumulates in the basin, leading to conversations like this:

    Me: Can you watch the baby for a few minutes? I want to clean the bathtub.

    The Queen: Is it dirty?

    M: Yeah, it's full of pea.

    Q: The Squirrelly peed in the bathtub?

    M: Hah. No, I mean the other kind of pea.

    {Pause}

    Q: You peed in the bathtub?

    February 01, 2005

    Daddy Types = Fact-Checked

    Today I do some record straight-setting over at Daddy Types.

    January 19, 2005

    You've Got Litigation!

    Our son's current favorite toy is the Laugh & Learn Learning Home*, essentially a big, plastic, electronic facade. Dear Fisher-Price: please fire your entire marketing department and hire some guys who can at least think up a product name that doesn't use the same word twice in a row.

    Every part of this toy makes noise. When you open the door there's a creaking sound, and a voice cries out "hello!" a tone so impossibly cheerful that it makes me want to go goth. When you open the shutters it sings "How Much For That Doggie In The Window?" And the Squirrelly enjoys nothing more than to press the doorbell thirty thousand times in a row ("ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong!"), until mama and papa are so irritated that they find themselves in a screaming match over whether "meatloaf" is one word or two.

    Also, when the mailbox is opened it says "you've got ... letters!" I'm probably imagining the slight hesitation between "got" and "letters," but in that illusory pause it almost seems as if I can hear the Fisher-Price voicework woman thinking "oh man: if I say 'mail' AOL is going to sue me so hard that even my tattoos will be repossessed ..."

    * Gratuitous hyperlink to product page to ensure mention of this post on Daddy Types.
    January 14, 2005

    Security Systems

    I talk to another new father:

    Me: Does your daughter have, like, a security blanket?

    B: She has a stuffed animal she carries around. Why?

    M: I read that kids at this age will become attached to a "security' something-or-other. But The Squirrelly hasn't really taken to anything.

    B: That's probably for the best. When I was a little kid my parents had to take my blanket away.

    M: They took away your security blanket? No wonder you are so screwed up.

    B: They were trying to get me to stop sucking my thumb, and I only did it when I was carrying my security blanket. So, one night, the blanket disappeared ...

    M: I'm sure your folks sent it to a beautiful farm, some place where it could roam free.

    B: ... and when I woke up there was a note that said that it had been taken by the Blanket Fairy.

    M: ?? The "Blanket Fairy?"

    B: You know, like the Tooth Fairy? He took the blanket and left fifty cents. And after that I didn't suck my thumb any more, so I guess it worked.

    M: It's a good thing, too. If it hadn't you would have woken up one morning to find yourself with eight fingers and a buck in change from the Thumb Fairy.

    { Laughter }

    B: [Little kid's voice] "Whaa! I can't even pick up the quarters!!"

    December 13, 2004

    defective yeti's Excrement Adventure

    I knew that fatherhood would involve poop. I had no idea of how much, of course. If I had, I might never have signed on for this gig.

    Parenting tip:
    Eggshell = healthy,
    Sunny Lime = sick.
    But you get use to it -- blasé, even -- a fact that is disquieting in its own right. Worse, the diaper changing procedure involves so many herbally scented creams and lotions that, after a while, you begin to a conflate the aroma of fresh poop with a host of other, previously pleasant fragrances. They just all get lumped together in a region of your brain labelled "things you smell while changing diapers," which your mind eventually just abbreviates to "crap." I can't tell you how many times I've caught a whiff of some emanation from The Squirrelly's nether regions, whisked him off to the changing station, undressed him, found him clean, and only then recognized the offending scent not as human excrement but of lavender.

    Sadly, once you reach this state you pretty much smell poop everywhere. One day you find yourself in a restaurant sitting near a guy who just received a cup of chamomile tea and thinking, "Jesus Christ -- something in here smells like shit."

    Update: From the comments:

    "But have you memorized the different colors and textures of snot and what they all mean?"
    No, but The Queen has. She doesn't even use a thermometer any more. We picked up some paint cards from the local Home Depot, and now, when she wants to know if The Squirrelly is sick, she holds those up against his nose one by one until she finds a match.

    December 03, 2004

    The Burdens Of Parenthood

    The Queen:

    "I took The Squirrelly to the hospital today for his second flu shot. After he got it I was out in the waiting room getting ready to leave, and there was this old lady sitting near us. And she starts asking me all these questions, like 'how old is he?' and 'how much does he weight?' -- but not in a friendly way, she was all aggressive about it. So I got all ready to go, and stood up, and started rummaging around in the diaper bag for his hat, and she totally yells at me, "you need to put a cap on that baby!!" And I turned to her and started to say 'how about I put a cap in your ass?!' But I stopped myself. Because, you know: I'm a mother now."

    November 30, 2004

    Clothes Make The Man

    The Queen and I are a cheap couple of bastards, so we'll dress The Squirrelly in pretty much anything that's free. Hand-me-downs. Paper bags with holes cut in them. We'll be set for life when we figure out how to knit sweaters from the hair our cat Edgar sheds. "Sweadgars," we'll call them.

    We're so indiscriminant that some of those aforementioned hand-me-downs were originally intended for -- brace yourself -- girls. That's right: I have clad my infant son in pink. There may have even been some frills involved at some point, I couldn't swear otherwise.

    A few months ago my buddy M. was visiting from the East Coast, and he was so disgusted with The Squirrelly's wardrobe that he immediately swung-or-possibly-"swang" into action. He went online, found a store that sold camouflage jumpers for babies, and had one sent to us posthaste. Here it is in action:

    We've also been mixing PowerLifter IronMax 4000 into The Squirrelly's formula to counteract the feminizing effects of the unicorn onsies.

    Well, now that I've opened a can of worms by taking the cork out of the "baby pictures" bottle, I may as well go whole hog and mix my metaphors. To wit:

    Erasure live in concert, Dublin 1988


    Eureka!


    Sneers and Ears

    November 23, 2004

    Vital Signs

    This evening's "how was your day" conversation:

    The Queen: I made a major faux pas in baby sign-language class.

    Me: What happened?

    Q: Well, all of the women in the class are super religious, and one of them asked what the sign was for "Jesus." And the teacher said that you touch the palm of your left hand with your right index finger and then vice versa, like for stigmata? And I totally snickered.

    M: You snickered at the cruicifixion of our Lord?

    Q: I couldn't help it! I just thought it was ridiculous. I mean, what if the sign for every famous person was the way they died?

    M: You'd move your head back and to the left to sign "JFK."

    Q: Exactly. And to sign "Elvis" you would sit on a toilet.

    November 22, 2004

    Father's Roundtable II

    Today I discuss fatherhood and canderflabble over at The Morning News.

    November 10, 2004

    Monkeyshines

    The Queen and I hang out with Michelle:

    Michelle: What's your kid up to these days?

    Me: Crawling. Like, all over the freakin' place.

    Queen: And he's losing his monkey toes.

    Michelle: His what?

    Queen: You know, if you touch the sole of a newborn baby's foot how his toes will kind of curl up around your finger? Like he's trying to hang onto a branch or something?

    Michelle: Right, right.

    Queen: His toes don't do that as much anymore.

    Me: Also, we finally took him in and had his monkeytail amputated. His balance has been all screwed up ever since.

    Michelle: You should totally tell him that when he gets older.

    Me: Oh, I will. "Yeah, you were running and swinging all over the house when you were three months old. But then we had your tail cut off, and you had to relearn how to walk." I wonder if I could get an actual tail somewhere, put it in a jar of formaldehyde and keep it as "proof?"

    Queen: He'll probably take it to school for Show and Tell ...

    Me: Hah! Oh man, that will be great. I love being a parent.

    Queen: Other fathers can't wait until their child is old enough to play sports or hold a conversation; you, you're just waiting until he's old enough to hornswoggle.

    Me: It's so true. I guess I could start now, buy a big rubber breast or something.

    Michelle: I bet my husband would loan you his.

    November 01, 2004

    New Father Gaming

    I have a little piece over in The Games Journal that's going to be largely incomprehensible to about 99% of the yeti readership. But if you are one of those people who instantly recognizes the name "Reiner Knizia," go check it out.

    October 29, 2004

    Squirrelly's Revenge

    Okay, well, I was joking about stealing The Squirrelly's flu shot in that last post. But one thing I mentioned is true, as imposible as it sounds: it's been eight months since the kid up and got himself borned.

    And guess what he figured out how to do last week. Here's a hint: now when I set him down at some spot in the living room and wander into the den to play Diablo II for 20 minutes, I return to find him on the other side of the room and licking a light socket.

    Yes, The Squirrelly has discovered the joys of locomotion. Naturally, he immediately used his newfound superpowers to make some minor revisions to the household pecking order.


    The first day home from the hospital


    "Vengence is mine!"

    Possibly the only critters in the house less thrilled with this development than the kitties are The Queen and I, since we had decided to forego babyproofing the house in favor of steadfastly pretending that this day would never arrive. So now we have to, like, put padding on the edges of coffee tables, and I can no longer keep my collection of obsidian arrowheads in bowl on the living room floor.

    And what did The Squirrelly do two days after learning to crawl? That's right: he started grabbing onto things and pulling himself into a standing position, getting ready to start walking. JEEZE STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES FOR A SECOND WHY DON'T YOU KID?!

    Oh well -- maybe if he's an early walker he'll also be an earlier talker, and we can put him into kindergarden a year early, and then he'll skip a few grades here and there and and start high school at the age of 10 and get all A's and receive a full scholarship to some college and move out of the house when he's 14 and then The Queen and I can start seeing movies again as early as 2016! Oh man, that's gonna be great.


    "Lookit me crawl! I'm your worst nightmare!"

    September 09, 2004

    Another Challenge of Fatherhood

    Even if we bottlefeed our child until he's 20, I'll never get used to writing "nipples" on my shopping list.

    August 31, 2004

    My Son, The Eel

    In my junior year of high school, I took the Occupational Aptitude Test designed to reveal which professional fields I was well suited for. I didn't have much faith in these exams, and had even less when my results came back. My highest score was for "zoology" where I scored an impressive 95%; my weakest subject was the one I only scored 14% on, and, somehow, it was "animal sciences."*

    I've never really understood how I was able to pull off this feat. But based on The Squirrelly's six month checkup, I'd beginning to suspect that my ability to score all over the chart might have a genetic component.

    Let's do the numbers

    • Length: 28 inches. That puts him in the 90th percentile! If this continues into adulthood, he will be well over 6 feet in height!
    • Weight: 16 1/2 lbs, the 30th percentile. So, we're lookin' at a tall, scrawny athletically trim guy.
    • Head circumference: Another 16 1/2, this time in inches. Which puts him in the -- 5th percentile? Duh-wha?! So: tall, slender, and, not unlike his dad, unable to hold more than a single thought in his head at any given time.
    The doctor assures us that his current stats will likely have no correlation to his adult dimensions. But in the meantime we're gonna switch from "The Squirrelly" to "The Lamprey" and start renting him out as a chimneysweep.

    He also has two teeth now, a fact he's happy to remind us of whenever we let our fingers wander too close to his maw. Frankly, I'm finding the advent of teeth to be a little disquieting. I mean, it's weird enough watching the stuff he was born with get bigger, but now he's generating entirely new body parts? Great -- now there's even more baby to take care of. The only upside is that it has me wondering if, as we keep extending the average lifespan, we'll someday discover that the human body grows still more appendages somewhere down the line. I'm rooting for wings at 140.

    [Aside! Now that everyone who isn't the parent of a tottler has gotten bored and stopped reading, I can plug these two great children's CDs: "You are my Flower" and "You Are My Sunshine" by Elizabeth Mitchell. Check out youaremyflower.org and click "listen." I'm fond of "Freight Train."]

    We've also started feeding him solid foods, although I guess "feeding" is something of a misnomer since it implies that some of the rice cereal actually goes down his gullet. As I move the gruel towards his cryhole, The Squirrelly likes to "help" by opening and closing his mouth at random intervals and wildly waving his arms around in an attempt to grab the spoon, all of which makes the process about as easy as threading a needle during a downpour while riding a roller coaster drunk. Fortunately, the approximately 1200 hours I spent playing Zaxxon as a teen left me uniquely qualified to tackle this challenge. Weird how that high school occupational test failed to pick up on this aptitude

    * A second test claimed it would reveal the specific occupation the test taker would excel in. My #1 recommendation was for "model." This was a written exam, obviously.


    August 17, 2004

    Fly By Night

    It's no surprise that birthrates in the United States dropped dramatically after the Wright Brothers' famous flight in 1903*. After all, is there a more effective form of birth control than the knowledge that sex might lead to pregnancy and pregnancy will lead to a child and sooner or later you will wind up on a plane with said child and he will scream for the entire trip and then everyone in the world will hate you? (Oh man, just typing that sentence made me want to join an abstinence league.)

    And yet, that's what we did two weeks ago -- threw kid on one of them flying contraptions and shuffled off to Washington D.C. We purchased a ticket for The Squirrelly, though this was not strictly necessary (you're allowed to hold children under the age of 2 on your laps while in flight). I was against spending the extra money, but my wife was at one of her parenting support groups a while ago -- you know, those groups where, near as I can tell, they sit around a campfire and swap blood-curdling stories about terrible things that can happen to your child? And, anyway, when The Queen mentioned that we were travelling to DC, another mother assured her that any babies not shackled to a car seat when a plane hits turbulence will perforce fly out of their mother's arms and smash through the nearest window and be sucked into a turbine. So rather than become a party to hypothetical aeronautic infanticide, we sprang for the extra seat.

    The Squirrelly was exceptionally well-behaved for most of the flight, wherein "exceptionally well-behaved" is defined as "dead asleep" (probably because we took a redeye to maximize the chance that he'd slumber through the whole ordeal). He went out like the proverbial light the second the plane left the ground. Alas, such was not the case prior to take off: when we got stuck on the tarmac for half an hour he got increasingly bored, restless, and shrill. By the time we started taxiing down the runway the people around us looked like they were in the midst of a plane crash, gripping their seat arms with white-knuckled terror, their faces frozen into grimaces of horror as our child continued to increase in volume and eventually forewent inhaling entirely in favor one continuous, unbroken keen. Fortunately their psychological defense mechanisms must have kicked in immediately afterwards, because, by the end of the trip, everyone had apparently suppressed the traumatic memories of our child's pre-flight freakout and they were all commending us for having such a charming critter.

    We had also taken someone's advice and ordered vegetarian meals for the flight, despite the fact that we are carnivores to the core. We can't remember who told us to do this (although we are trying, because we want to punch them), but someone said that requesting the veggie option ensures you get a healthy, homemade meal instead of the standard airline fare. That turned out to be technically true, but the "healthy, homemade meal" turned out to be the culinary equivalent of a birthday party where no one shows up. I'll probably get sued by Northwest Airlines for revealing their top-secret vegetarian meal recipe, but this is what we received:

    Ingredients

    1/3 cup cucumber, chopped
    1/3 cup onion, chopped
    1/2 pita bread

    Directions

    Place first two ingredients in latter ingredient. Garnish with a packet of mayonnaise, four baby carrots, tiny tub of warm water. Serves 1/7th of a person.

    We only got two meals, which didn't seem quite fair. So we took it up with the stewardess, explaining that, although The Squirrelly is an infant, we did pay for a third ticket and he should therefore receive a meal as well. We kind of had to go back and forth with the stewardess for a bit before she ceded the point and reluctantly agreed to breastfeed him.

    All and all things went pretty well. And the we learned a Very Important Lesson about air travel with infants: if the baby ain't screamin', don't mess with it. You should resolutely ignore thoughts like "I bet I could make him a little bit happier if I stuck a pacifier in his cryhole," because a kid on a plane is like a brushfire, your attempts to sooth him are like either water or kerosene, and you won't know which until it's too late. In this respect babies are like dogs: it's best to let sleeping ones lie. (Curiously, this completely contradicts the Very Important Lesson we learned during out last vacation, that babies are not like dogs: you apparently can't just leave them at home for a weekend with a big bowl of water and a chew toy.)

    * 100% made up fact.

    July 09, 2004

    Twinkle Twinkle Toys R Us
    Hush little baby, don't say a word
    Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
    And if that mockingbird don't sing
    Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
    And if that diamond ring turns brass
    Mama's gonna buy you a looking glass...
    Jesus Christ, who wrote this song? The WTO? It's like a primer on consumerism. Nothing like exposing kids to positive, empowering messages like "Keep screaming and I'll buy you crap."

    After I sing this song to The Squirrelly, I like to sit him down and explain how we do things different in the Baldwin household. For example: we don't care if your mockingbird gets eaten by effin' coyotes, you ain't gettin' no diamond ring. Also: (a) under no circumstances are we buying a billy goat, (2) we're not going to spring for a horse and cart when you already got a perfectly good cart with that bull we purchased earlier, and (3) if your dog named Rover don't bark ... well, we'll chalk that up as a bonus.

    Honestly, I surprised advertisers haven't exploited this valuable real estate and inserted their own company's names into the song. "And if that looking glass gets broke, mama's gonna buy you Vanilla Coke ..."

    In fact, if there's any marketing weasels reading this: for a modest fee I'll promise to sing a modified version of this lullaby that includes the name of your product to my child at least once a night until he's four. Drop me a line, we'll negotiate.

    Meanwhile, in other, terrifying news:

    It's like Rosemary's Baby for the 21st century.

    June 28, 2004

    On The Ball

    The weekend started with a literal bang here in the Baldwin household, as the nation of Taiwan attempted to kill me and my child. It was a little after ten on Friday evening, and I was trying to get The Squirrelly to sleep by holding him while bouncing up and down on an exercise ball in a darkened room. Then, just as he closed his eyes and started to breath deeply, the ball beneath us decided to embark on a new career as a big piece of ruptured plastic. One moment we're merrily boinging up and down, the next we're laying there with dazed looks on our faces, I sprawled cockeyed against the wall, The Squirrelly several feet away on his back, looking like two guys waking up on the morning after a particularly enjoyable bachelor party.

    While I lay there wondering what the hell had happened, The Squirrelly leapt into action, quickly inhaling all of the oxygen in the room and expelling it in the form of a banshee-deafening wail. This was, of course, followed mamaseconds later by The Queen charging into the room (though she had doubtlessly already been mobilized by the sound of a small explosion emanating from our room). She saw The Squirrelly on the ground, bellowed "DID YOU DROP THE BABY?!!," and then stabbed me in the heart with a screwdriver. Or, at least, she would have, if she had been in possession of a screwdriver, and if I hadn't hastily gestured towards the limp and damp remains of the ball to justify my apparent decision to lounge nonchalantly in the corner of the room while the kid lay on the floor screaming.

    The casualties of the calamity were as follows: one red mark on The Squirrelly's noggin, one aching tailbone on papa's hindquarters, and a lot of anxiety for The Queen, who spent the remainder of the evening looking up "brain injuries" in The Baby Book (while I repeatedly pointed out that (a) the baby had not been "dropped on its head," as some spouses in the household were alleging -- he had merely tumbled out of my arms after I hit the floor -- and (b) I don't see anyone looking up "Ass, broken" in The Husband Book, so what say we spread the sympathy around a little bit, hey?).

    Later, reading the fine print on the body ball box, we discovered the true culprit: the Taiwanese, who apparently sanction the manufacture of shoddy goods within their borders. Or maybe they encourage it, and intend to seize control of our nation after wiping out an entire generation of American babies (and daddies!) through the export of defective "Gaiam Balance Balls." America, remain vigilant!

    Actually, there is another possibility. In the childcare classes we took prior to the birth, the teacher spoke about the absolutely necessity of a "body ball" to sooth cranky infants. When someone asked if the balls ever pop, the midwife said, oh no, that could never happen, because a typical ball has a burst weight of 800 pounds, at which point I loudly guffawed (because, c'mon: "burst weight" is funny) and the teacher looked a little irked. So I may have been on the receiving end of some midwifey fertility goddess hex. Wouldn't be the first time.

    Anyway, you'll be glad to know that there was no long-term damage to either the top end of baby or the bottom end of daddy. And the very next day I bought a ball with burst weight of 1000 lbs., taking pains to select a model that had been made in China. TAKE THAT TAIWAN!!!

    Appropo of nothing, here's Louie Cat traipsing through a Squirrelly photoshoot:

    June 09, 2004

    Maw Maw

    Here's my prodigy of a son trying to cram an object the size of a cantaloup into his piehole:


    (Don't worry, that's not an enormous 50s-era atom, just a run-of-the-mill winkel. Although it would cool if it were a big atom, because then he'd probably get super-strength or the ability to teleport or something. That's how radioactivity works, as I understand it.)

    We've been patiently waiting for The Squirrelly to develop a personality, but, now that he has one, we're kinda wishing it wasn't that of a insatiable vortex. Trying to put every object on Earth into his yapper has become his full time hobby. He's committed to the cause even while sleeping. Last night I reached out and patted his belly while he slept; he responded by seizing my arm and going at my wrist like it was a cob of corn, looking like the world's most ineffectual wolverine.

    Oh well. It's kind of endearing, watching him endeavor to shove an entire carseat into his mouth with no thought toward what would happen if he succeed. That kind of naive blindness and inability to think about the consequences of his actions gives me hope that, someday, he too will have children.

    May 25, 2004

    Rewombion

    The Queen, on The Squirrelly: "He has a big nose. He must have gotten yours."

    There's one reason why cloning will never catch on, right there: the inability to attribute undesirable attributes in your offspring to a mate.

    Saturday we went to a reunion for all the parents who were in our childbirth education class. I met ten brand new babies and, bizarrely, was able to remember each and every one of their names. This is very unusual, as I have no head for names at all. In fact, I couldn't remember the names of any of the parents at the party, and wound up calling them things like "Lucy's father" and "genetic contributor to Sam." So if you ever meet me in person and want to make sure I remember your name, try spitting up or pooping in your pants immediately after we shake hands -- maybe that will help.

    The highlight of the event was a group photo, where all the newborns were shoehorned into a couch and many a snapshot was taken.

    The Squirrely is second from the left, showing off his tie-dyed socks and his preternatural ability to slouch.

    It's probably best that no one overheard me tell The Queen that it looked like "a dingo buffet."

    May 07, 2004

    Coasting On Good Looks And Charm

    The Squirrelly is boring, but I mean that in the best possible way. We seem to have been blessed with Ye Olde Miracle Child, who only fusses with reason, sleeps seven hours a night, and spends his waking hours smiling at everything that comes within four feet of him. If we could get get him to ixnay the excretory functions, he'd be a dream.

    He's also hit a lull in his development. Well, technically that's not true -- I guess all sorts of magical things are happening inside that vaguely-too-big head of his, but when friends come over to see the Dancing Monkey Show we have to confess that he hasn't learned a new trick since figuring out how to hold his head up. For the first few weeks it seems like he was doing something new every day, but, according to the development chart, those days are over for a spell. The next big milestones are things like "Remains sitting up (with assistance)," where "with assistance" basically means the parent holds the kid up and pretends like he's reached a milestone. By that standard I should be able to put "Can perform neurosurgery (with assistance)" on my resume.

    In fact, all the development stages from 2-7 months are things like "Color vision improves." And while I understand that cognitive development is fairly important step and everything, we're not exactly calling the grandmas and saying, "Guess what the baby did today! He saw magenta!"

    Currently, The Squirrelly's main marketable skill is the ability to look as cute as all get-out. Not that I'm complaining -- judging from the development chart, this is the calm before the storm. Starting at seven months it goes from "Crawling" to "Walking" to "Arguing" to "Knows Where To Purchase Ecstasy" with frightening rapidity. I think I'll continue to enjoy the kid while I can still tuck him under one arm.

    Speaking of The Squirrelly, I just called up The Queen at home and we had this conversation:

    M: How's your day going?

    Q: Pretty good.

    M: Did you go for a walk yet?

    Q: No, but I'm going to go right after I eat the baby.

    M: After you what?!

    Q: Feed the baby! I mean feed him!

    Oh, man, I can see the conversation now. "No officer, she never gave me any indication she would do such a thing ..."

    April 22, 2004

    Phenomenormal

    The Squirrelly had his two-month check-up today. (I know! Two months! It seems like only yesterday he was 59 days old...) He's as healthy as a, uh, healthy as a hornet's nest, or whatever the cliché is. Healthy as a horse? Whatever.

    We estimated that he'd be in, like, the 130th percentile, weight-wise. We figure this for the cats, too -- the other critters we habitually carry around the house. As it turns out, he's 11 pounds, 4 ounces, which puts him in the 50th percentile for weight. He's also 23.3 inches long, which puts him in the 50th percentile for length.

    I don't want to boast, but do you know what the odds are of hitting both 50 percentiles? One in a hundred times one in a hundred equals one chance in a ten thousand, baby.

    My child is not average. My child is extraordinarily average.

    April 15, 2004

    Outbursts

    There are really no words to describe the overwhelming sense of pride a father feels the first time he sees his child shit all the way across a room.

    I've been boasting about this for a week. "Okay, so imagine our table is the changing station," I told one friend over lunch in a restaurant. "So the baby is here, right? And that dessert cart, the one way over there, is like the bedroom wall. And he pooped on it! It was awesome."

    The Squirrelly has also discovered the ability to shriek. His interest in shrieking seems mostly academic at this point: he's just, like, "Wow hey: there's, like, two whole octaves up there that I haven't even explored!" Still, it's always unnerving when he goes from "fast asleep" to "carbon monoxide alarm" in under a second. He doesn't do it often, thank goodness, and even when he does it seems to be in a "I just wanted to remind you that I know how to do this, and if I ever go colicky you are going to be miserable" kind of way. He's like a little North Korea, flaunting his nuclear capacity.

    April 05, 2004

    When You Rage Against The Machine, You Rage Against Me

    There are perks to fatherhood I never dreamed of.

    Over the weekend, for example, I was walking through Pinoneer Square with The Squirrelly in a Baby Bjorn when I saw some youths on the upcoming corner handing out fliers about an upcoming protest of some sort. This is not an uncommon sight in Seattle, which has reinvented itself as Protest City since the whole WTO debacle of '99. George Bush, free trade, carnivory, illegality of marijuana, Clay Risen not winning American Idol, compulsory pants-wearing -- you name it, someone's got a protest scheduled for it next weekend in Seattle.

    (Sometimes you don't even know what the people are protesting. I was on the bus last week and we passed by a municipal building were half a dozen people sat listlessly on the sidewalk while a women with a bullhorn shouted "What do we want?! {pause} When do when want it?! {pause}" The other participants were too engrossed in their own conversations to respond, so, alas, I was never able to ascertain what it was that they wanted, nor in what approximate time frame they desired it to occur.)

    Anyway, there I was, walking toward the corner, and this kid was thrusting his protest fliers at everyone who passed. Most people were taking them out of habit, because people in Seattle are too polite not to take a flier from some kid protesting daylight savings time or whatever. And I, sadly, having lived in Seattle all my life, am one of these people who cannot not take fliers; worse, once saddled with a flier I cannot bring myself to throw it away, what with paper being a recyclable and all, so I wind up carry it around all day and eventually taking it home and leaving it on the dining room table where The Queen will later find it and wonder if I'm really going to attend a rally protesting "500 Years Of Polenta."

    I tried to dodge around the youth, but he saw me and extended his arm toward me, flier in hand. Instinct kicked in and I started to reach for it. But then he saw the baby strapped to my torso and turned to some other passerby, handing him the flier instead.

    It took me a moment to realize what had happened, but, when I did, I was jubilant. I was all, like, "that's right, don't even hand me a flier, punk: I reproduced and am part of the corporate, conforming, consumerist culture now! Hell, this kid's wearing a Baby Gap onesie right now: booyah!"

    Seriously, I was totally all like that.

    Update: Protesters in Westlake Park.

    April 01, 2004

    Dry County

    I always enjoy dropping in on my Grammy, not only because it usually means I'll get to watch two episode of Golden Girls back-to-back, but also because she's guaranteed to say at least one delightfully daffy thing per visit.

    The other day, for instance, we brought The Squirrelly up to Grammy's. We also brought along a bottle of milk, knowing that we'd be there a spell as it's well nigh impossible to carry a baby through a retirement community and not have each and every resident stop you to administer cheek-pinchings to the yungin'..

    Indeed, halfway through our visit the kid started to cry in that "you'd better feed me quick or I'll give you something to cry about" sort of way. While I reached into our bag to retrieve the bottle, The Queen turned to Grammy and asked, "would you like feed him?"

    "You want me to nurse him?!" She exclaimed in alarm. "Why, I don't think I'd be able!"

    March 30, 2004

    Sing Me To Sleep

    I learned a lot of stuff in preparation for The Squirrelly, but, alas, the words to popular lullabies were not among them.

    I know the melodies to most of the classics, but I can usually only remember the first verse of words; after that I have to resort to improv. I figure it doesn't matter what I say, as long as I sing it softly and keep the beat. Unfortunately, this philosophies results in calamities like the Brahms Lullaby sung as:

    Lullaby
    And goodnight
    La la blah blah
    Blah something
    I think this song
    Is in German
    Eins zwei drei vier funf
    Bratwurst

    Girls gone wild
    Where's the beef?
    I've got Pacman fever
    Four score and
    Seven years
    Bingo was his name-oh.

    The great thing about this strategy is that you can tailor your lyrics for the situation.
    [Fifteen minutes and six made-up "Brahms Lullaby" verses later:]

    No, for real
    Go to sleep
    Or we'll sell you
    On E-bay ...

    Of course, coming up with words to lullabies off the top of your head takes some mental acuity, something I am often lacking at 2:30 in the morning. Then I resort to singing the only songs I know by heart: (a) 80's tunes that I listened to so frequently as a teen that they are indelibly etched into my synapses, and (b) 80's tunes that I learned the lyrics to by reading them off of a karaoke screen while drunkenly belting out them out in a bar. Unfortunately for The Squirrelly, the these two categories combine in a playlist suitable for the Worst Mix Tape Ever:
    • Careless Whisper by Wham
    • Love Cats by The Cure
    • Kiss by Prince
    • Stay Up Late by the Talking Heads
    • Just a Gigalo by David Lee Roth
    • Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Bennetar
    • Happy Hour by the Housemartins
    • True by Spandau Ballet
    • Stragelove by Depeche Mode
    • Forgive me, but, yes, Two Princes by the Spin Doctors
    These work pretty well for calming the kid down but they don't really help him doze off. Getting carried around by a guy bellowing Bizarre Love Triangle is not exactly Nature's Narcotic, it turns out.

    Last night, having run through all my pop tunes and at the end of my rope, I resorted to singing the only song in my repertoire that approximates a lullaby: Asleep by The Smiths.

    Well, it worked -- he drifted off about halfway through. But we'll probably have to pay it off in therapy bills somewhere down the line.

    March 23, 2004

    Still Getting The Hang Of This Job

    The Queen puts The Squirrelly in the stroller and sets out for a half hour walk. Ten minutes later she returns.

    Me: Back so soon?

    The Queen: It started to rain, and I didn't want the kid to catch cold.

    M: Aw, that's too bad. I know you really wanted to get a walk in.

    Q: Yeah.

    M: Well, why don't you and I go for a walk, just the two of us?

    Q: Because we can't just leave him home by himself, that's why.

    M: Oh, right: he's a baby. I keep forgetting.

    March 16, 2004

    The Ballad of "Cannonball" Baldwin

    First of all: a metric gazillion thanks to the countless people who wrote email and posted notes of congratulations after the birth. It was all quite overwhelming. I plan to print out the comments from announcement and save them so, when The Squirrelly gets older, I can show them to him and say "I know this is going to be hard to believe, but on the day you were born, this is how many people were surfing the Internet instead of doing work."

    The authors of several of the aforementioned emails kindly notified me of some finer points of etiquette. When announcing the birth of a child, for example, you are apparently expected to mention specifics like weight and height, not just post pictures of your newborn preyed upon by roving packs of felines.

    Who knew? Allow me to make amends.

    The Squirrelly, a boy, was born at 2:42 AM on February 22nd in the Seattle Group Health Central campus. His birth weight was 7 lbs and 6 oz., he was 19.5 inches long, and, right from the get-go, it was clear that he'd inherited his father's boundless reverence for breasts.

    The Queen's rhythmic contractions began just before midnight on the night prior. (The mathletes in the audience will have already deduced that this adds up to a three-hour labor, but let's not ruin the ending for everyone.) She had been feeling irregular contractions for days, but at 11:30 PM they become so eerily punctual that I, with the stopwatch, was soon telling her when they would begin. ("Okay, we're at three minutes, fifty-five seconds, so you're going to get another contraction in four, three, two, one ...") We had been told to go to the hospital after an hour of this, but after 30 minutes we were so certain that this was for really real that we declared ourselves above the law and hit the road.

    Now, in movies, when a father drives an expectant mother to the hospital, he is invariably zooming along at 85 mph and blowing through stoplights. In reality -- at least for me -- the exact opposite was true: that was probably the safest, least reckless 15 minutes of defensive driving I have ever embarked upon. I would not have been any more scrupulous if a cop had tailed me the entire way. I imagine that if, in college, I had once smoked a lot of pot at a party and then drove back to my dorm at an average speed of little over one mile an hour, this would have reminded me a lot of that completely hypothetical time.

    To put this next part in context, you need to know that a woman dilates during labor, culminating in a dilation of approximately 10 centimeters, at which point the baby can make his jailbreak. Most women arrive at the hospital at around 5 or 6 centimeters dilated; those who are less than 5 centimeters are often told to go home and return later.

    So when we arrived at the maternity ward, the nurse checked The Queen's dilation to make sure we belonged there. Upon completion of the exam, she looked at us with an expression of amazement and said, "Okay, I'm not even going to tell you the results until I do it a second time, " After the second pass she said, "Yeah -- so, you're nine centimeters dilated."

    (When retelling this part of the story to my relatives in the sleepless weeks following the birth, I consistently misstated the exam results as 9 inches of dilation, which was always good for a gasp and some bulging eyes on the part of the listener.)

    After that it was just a whirlwind of birthin'. We were whisked to the Delivery Room where things progressed at a furious rate. The question of whether to use pain medication -- something we'd been debating for months -- was already moot, since the whole point of an epidural is to get you to eight or nine centimeters -- a step The Queen had apparently taken care of during the car ride. Likewise, most of the stuff we I had learned in our Childbirth Class was rendered equally irrelevant. I'd say "okay, at this stage you're s'posed to take short, distracting breaths," and The Queen would say "too late: now I feel the urge to push." So I'd say "Uh, okay then, at this stage we were taught to ..." and the doctor would say, "Too late: here comes the head!"

    And so, at 2:42 AM, The Squirrelly made his grand debut. He celebrated the big event, moments after entering the world, by pooping. Maybe that's what all the rush was about.

    Anyhow, yeah: babies. Crazy. I'll be sure to give you the scoop on this whole parenting scam over the next couple weeks. The Queen and I have already worked out a pretty good formula for the division of labor: Mama's in charge of what goes into baby, Papa's in charge of what comes out of baby. As for what's going to happen with this site, expect more of the same, although perhaps not as frequently updated (for a spell) and with a renewed emphasis on poop.

    Confidential to Dooce: Labor story jinx! You owe me a coke.
    February 24, 2004

    Hello Squirrelly


    February 09, 2004

    Date Night

    The Queen and I got into a weekly ritual to celebrate our remaining weeks as a childless couple. Every Wednesday we met at my place of business, had dinner at one of the delightful ethnic restaurants on Capitol Hill, and then gathered with eight or ten other couples to watch horrific videos of strangers coming out of other strangers' private parts.

    Yes, we're attending childbirth classes, and Date Night will never be the same again.

    Our first class started charmingly enough, with a round of introductions and some gentle prefatory remarks by the instructor. Then, about an hour into the session, the teacher announced that it was time for a video. Perhaps remembering "movie time" from high school, we all settled back in our seats and prepared to snooze. And sure enough, the film opened with some soothing music and feel good imagery, enough to lull us all into a false sense of serenity. And then, a few moments later, everyone was sitting bolt upright in their chairs and gripping their arm rests, their mouths perfect O's of terror.

    The closest kin to childbirth videos are traffic safety films -- you know, the ones with names like "Mechanized Death" and "The Final Swerve." Both employ frightening, gory imagery, which make the viewer never want to go through the ordeal depicted on screen. The difference, of course, is that by the time you see the childbirth videos, it's already too late. It's like showing "Yugo To Hell!" to a driver who has already crashed through the guardrail but has yet to hit the rocks below.

    Between videos we learned the nuts and bolts of labor: breathing techniques, coping mechanisms, and what to say when your child comes out ("That doesn't look like a baby!" was a popular exclamation in the films we saw). Most of this, obviously, was for the benefit of the mothers, but we did cover a few dad-centric topics, like how to take a punch and smile while your wife is in the "transition stage".

    We also learned the father of the child traditionally cuts the umbilical cord. "Why?" I asked, upon hearing this. Our teacher seemed confused by the question, so I clarified. "I mean, if there an actual reason for the father to do it -- like, because he's standing right there anyhow, and the midwife's hands are full -- or is this just a feel-good measure to make the husband feel useful, so, later, with the guys, he can be all, like, 'dude, I totally helped out with that birth!'" The teacher conceded that the latter was the case. Knowing that the cord cutting is purely ceremonial, I've decided to go whole hog. I plan to wear a suit with a sash that reads "DAD," and proclaim "I declare this baby to be ... born!" while cutting the cord with a giant pair of scissors.

    Our final class was last Wednesday, and it was our turn to bring snacks. The previous lesson had been all about breastfeeding, so while The Queen and I were discussing our options on the drive home I came up with a brilliant idea. "You know what we should do," I said, "We should go to The Erotic Bakery up in Wallingford , get one of those cakes shaped like a huge pair of breasts, and serve it with milk! To which The Queen said, and I quote, "Hah hah hah hah hah, we should totally do that, hah hah hah hah hah, that would be great, hah hah hah hah! But, no." Stupid impending adulthood.

    Anyway, with classes over we're "officially" "ready" to have an "baby," if you can believe that. Now we're just sort of hanging around, killing time until the dirty deed takes place. It's like waiting for a really, really slow elevator to show up, but without the little arrow on the mother's belly to tell you exactly when it's going arrive (although that would be super cool -- somebody invent that).

    But what's really got us anxious is that everything feels weighted with foreshadowing these days, even the most insignificant events seem indicative of our upcoming adventure. Over the weekend, for example, we went out to Chinese food. When the fortune cookies arrived, I gave mine to The Queen, saying "This is our child's. It will tell us what his life -- and our future -- holds in store." Solemnly she cracked it open and read the slip of paper therein. Then she laughed and handed it to me.

    The Squirrelly's fortune said, "You may soon win a contest."

    January 09, 2004

    Lord Of The Ring Of Fire

    By the way, halfway through The Return of the King I figured out that the entire Lord of the Rings saga is an allegory for pregnancy.

    Seriously, check it out. You got your Frodo and your Sam, trudging to the Crack of Doom, right? And that's about as apt a description for pregnancy as you're likely to find: nine months of trudging to Mordor. (Fun fact: "trudging to Mordor" was euphemism they used on I Love Lucy before they could say "pregnant" on the air!)

    But only one person is the appointed bearer. And that poor sap has to carry the burden the entire way, a burden that just gets heavier and heavier as the weeks wear on. The bearer gets increasingly tired and cranky as they approach their destination -- and who can blame them? Their good-for-nothing companion doesn't do anything useful, except flit about and say things like "jeeze, I wish I could carry the burden for a while!" and occasionally fight off an enormous spider and/or fetch chocolate ice cream.

    But as bad as the journey is, it's the ending that truly sucks: the agony of carrying the burden is nothing compared to letting it go. The bearer gets all, like, "I can't do it, it's impossible!" and the companion stands around heming and hawing and lamely asserting "sure you can!" And then, out of nowhere, a creepy-looking bald-headed creature comes onto the scene.

    Skeptical? Further corroboration!

    • At the end of pregnancy, women endure "The Ring of Fire"; the climax in The Return of the King involves The Ring and fire. I mean, what could be more obvious? (Note: I'm not going to describe the Ring of Fire here for a variety of reasons, #1 being that the more times I type the phrase "Ring of Fire" the more likely I am to get that Johnny Cash song indelibly stuck in my head. So if you want to know what it is, Google it or get yourself knocked up.)
    • The One Ring causes the bearer great discomfort; according to The Queen, having a small person inside of you perpetually kicking your kidney is also something of an inconvenience.
    • When people see the One Ring they feel an almost irresistible urge to reach out and grab it; likewise, strangers in the supermarket are seemingly compelled to reach out and touch The Queen's belly.
    • One of the side-effects of carrying the One Ring is that the bearer does not age; one the side effects of being pregnant is that your hair stops falling out. No, for real. The Queen currently has a head of hair so big that it would make women from Texas burn with envy.
    • I am pretty much the spitting image of Viggo Mortensen. Case closed!
    (For those of you who have lost track: the due date is February 21st.)


    December 10, 2003

    Father's Roundtable

    Two dads-to-be and two dads-now-are participated in The Morning News New Father's Roundtable. I was one of 'em.

    December 08, 2003

    The Glow Is Fading

    The Queen:

    "The last trimester is ridiculous. He's fully formed, you know -- now he's just sitting around getting fat. There's no excuse for him to still be in there."
    Two months to go ...

    September 26, 2003

    Squirrelly Update
    September 02, 2003

    Operation Squirrelly

    Well, I promised you some news, so here you go. Operation Squirrelly -- previously alluded to here -- is a success.

    We've known for a while. In fact, we knew almost immediately. But it wasn't until The Queen came home from her first Nurse / Midwife appointment with sonogram in hand that the truth really sunk in: I was now the proud father of what appeared to be a packing peanut. Wow," I said upon looking at the image. "You get 50 more in there and that uterus is ready to ship!" (Note: do not say this to your wife.)

    I don't know what I expected to happen next -- maybe we'd get a few more of these ultrasound pictures, like postcards from the womb, and then nine months later The Squirrelly would just show up in a taxi or something. Little did I imagine that the next step would be for us to start eating like hippies. The Queen purchased a book called Every Woman's Guide to Eating During Pregnancy (A.K.A. How To Make Your Husband As Unhappy As You Are During Pregnancy) and began whipping up the sort of dishes that make vegans giddy. Seriously, the first meal she made involved red chard. Do you know what chard is? Do you know why you never eat chard? Well, I'm here to tell you that once you eat chard, the reasons why you never eat chard become abundantly clear.

    (I was recently talking to someone at work about Operation Squirrelly and mentioned that The Queen had just entered the second trimester. "Ah," said my coworker, "She's entering the salad days." I was immediately seized by fear, thinking she meant that, during the next three months, we'd be eating salad more often than we already do! Thankfully, the opposite has been true: now The Queen eats seven meals a day, two of which usually involve The Outback Steakhouse, so I can pick and choose which ones to join.)

    Either because of or in addition to the chard, the first trimester was rough on The Queen. Apparently placentasmithing is hard work, and she was pretty much exhausted all the time. I told her she should write down her daily caloric intake, estimate how many calories she was getting out of the deal, and write the difference in a ledger. Then, when The Squirrelly gets older, we can make it pay us back in chores. "You're not going anywhere this weekend," we'll say. "You've got 23,800 calories worth of lawn to mow."

    But The Queen's been feeling much better now that she's entered her fourth month. Now I feel sorry for the cats. Since the addition of Edgar to the household it's been a monkeys-vs-kitties stalemate, with each team having equal members. Team Monkey really only holds power by virtue of the fact that we can open doors and cans. But throughout the first trimester, I think the cats thought they had a defector. After all, The Queen has begun to exhibit some distinctly feline qualities, namely (a) sleeping 19 hours a day, (b) becoming exceptionally finicky about food, and (c) occasionally throwing up without warning or provocation. I'm sure they were thinking "Once we convince her to start pushing beer coasters off the coffee table, she'll be our!" Little do they know of the monumental act of treachery The Queen has in store for them, when, in six months, she not only rejoins Team Monkey but brings on the reinforcements.

    Anyhow, that's the news. The due date is February 21st. But I need everyone in the Internet Community to spend three minutes a day hoping for February 29th. It would be totally fun to torture The Squirrelly three out of every four years by saying "Sorry, no birthday presents again this year. I don't make the rules, I just follow them." That's gonna be awesome.

    April 10, 2003

    defective yeti Parenting Tip: Smoke Crack Today!

    The Queen and I are putting some thought into a yetiette, so we bought a few books about what prospective mothers (and, hypothetically, fathers) need to do before getting pregnant. The advice for women is usually, like, 330 pages long; the part for men is typically a few paragraphs tacked on before the index.

    Allow me to summarize each parent-to-be's pre-pregnancy duties:

    Mothers-To-Be
    Fathers-To-Be
    Get a complete battery of physicals
    Stop consuming alcohol
    Stop consuming caffeine
    Stop smoking
    Eat a well-balanced diet
    Take vitamins
    Exercise more
    Reduce stress
    Keep testicles away from plutonium and heavy machinery

    Needless to say, The Queen's a little bitter about the inequity of the preparations. She's gotta swear off coffee and red wine and cheeseburgers, she has to visit the doctor and the gym, she has to take pre-natal vitamin supplements that contain more minerals than The Museum Of Geological History, and meanwhile my job, when it comes to conception, is essentially "show up".

    I have become a teetotalist, because some of the books recommended that prospective fathers forego the sauce. But the reasons they cited were pretty lame, of the "well there's really no proof that alcohol has any effect whatsoever on male fertility, but if we don't tell you to do something your wife is gonna be way annoyed, so why don't you put the kabosh on the Schlitz Tallboys for a spell, okay?" variety.

    Actually, there is one thing all the pre-conception books advise fathers-to-be to do: stop using illicit drugs. Sadly, this doesn't apply to me. Which is a shame, because if I had a nice, unhealthy addiction to something, I could quit cold turkey and then I would get beaucoup credit from The Queen, what with the agonizing detox and horrific withdrawal process, etc. But that's the thing about living in Seattle, you know: you always mean to get hooked on heroin, but you put it off and put it off because you figure you can do it any time you want, and then next thing you know the opportunity to get strung-out and score major Queen Kudos has passed you by.

    But don't make the same mistake as me! If you're male and thinking about having a kid someday, take my advice and smoke some crack today! You may not feel that a crippling drug addition is really the right thing for you at this stage of your life, but, you know, when it comes to parenthood you gotta look to the future. That's the thing.

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