Saturday, February 28, 2009

To Speck at one year

Well, Little Bit, you’ve been with us a whole year already! Hard to believe. Some things are almost unimaginably different---our tiny helpless newborn now stands upright, expresses opinions, and giggles hysterically at the word "yucky." Of course, the one-year-old, like the one-week-old, still screams at many diaper changes or at having her arms fed into sleeves (SLEEVES! These people are trying to kill me!), and you're still a pretty serious chow-hound, so we can see some continuity. . .
varsity sleep; Speck in the hospital
How to summarize the past year? Angst over breastfeeding has given way to angst/certainty that you will never give up the bottle (now at some 35 oz/day!) for inefficient solid foods, although the occasional banana chip or cheddar bunny gives us hope. You transformed from a needy sack of potatoes into a wriggly upright-sitter and now into a busy crawler, stair-climber, and cat-chaser. We’re starting to feel like all this ever-changing novelty is a normal part of our lives, though there are times when your new demandingness (ENH!!) can drain us dry. Still, we’re crazy about our and your emerging personality---from the affectionate head-butt (endearing to parents, if alarming to cats) to your obsession with music of all kinds (sadly, we have yet to catch you on film "rocking out" to rock tunes and ABC’s), love of the bath (now with buckets!), and pranksterish grin as you hide behind the bathroom door or get into a game of doing something minor you know you shouldn’t. You helped us out by having a semi-regular schedule from the beginning (expect to feed me every 2.5 hours!), sleep-training yourself at nine weeks, and still being relatively predictable in eating and sleeping habits. However, taking only two half-hour naps per day can be tough on your caretakers, even with a bedtime around 6:30pm, which gives us a little adult time to eat, watch TV, and do our computer-using or mail-sorting silliness before collapsing into bed between 9:00 and 10:00pm (those 6am wake-ups have slain our night-owlish ways!) Recently, Gammy has started having you over overnight a few Friday nights per month, which lets your parents grab a few drinks, sleep in, and generally recharge for your next onslaught of energy.

Park 2; Speck at 3 months

Your temperment can catch us by surprise. You will launch yourself down a slide head-first, scamper through a tunnel, and walk the length of the couch to reach something appealing, but nothing will induce you to sit on the rocking-horse giraffe that your grandparents sent for your birthday. Similarly, when at a gathering of other kids and parents, you might grab some toys and watch your peers intently, or you might get overwhelmed by all the input and wail for rescue. Your dad tried taking you to a weekly tumbling class for a while, but a fair number of the activities made you cry; we hope that you’ll see the merits of such things eventually, but only time will tell.

What does engage you unreservedly?
  1. Things that are blue. You always end up with one hand tightly gripping the blue block/ball/shape/car while the other hand plays with other pieces or pulls you jerkily across the floor. Apparently your father had a similar color preference as a child, so this is just the first expression of the many ways in which you will enjoy the benefits of your warped genetic heritage. Sorry, kid!

  2. Manual manipulation. You love to handle and work things, and can focus on such activities for remarkable stretches of time. Some favorite pastimes include opening and closing our bedroom door (or our magical closet pocket door), poking buttons of your own "keychain" and "remote" (and resetting our humidfier), and, most of all, playing with toys like the house that allow you to drop balls, deliver mail, turn numbers, open and close a window, press a doorbell, flick a lightswitch, play a radio tune, and spin and handle other things---book1; Speck at 10 monthsI think the first time you were introduced to this toy, you worked so hard pushing, flipping, crawling around, and exploring (for some 45 minutes!) that you nearly needed defibrillators afterward. Two other faves in this category are a simple set of stacking buckets (which can be infinitely put into and out of each other, stacked upside-down or towers knocked over, and rattled and banged) and a music table where motions of levers, sliders, and keys are rewarded with jammin’ tunes or instructional chat. You’re still figuring things out---shape sorters are still mostly for inserting the circle-shape over and over, and wooden puzzle pieces more for removing than putting back---but you attack these activities with an intensity that is fascinating to see (and probably portends a geeky future in the math, science, and engineering fields like your folks; you can blame thank us later).

  3. And I suppose it would be silly to overlook love of cameras. We never get out our still or video cameras without weathering a series of assaults, as you interrupt whatever cute thing you were doing to grin and approach, hand out, to say, "can I have that? surely I can have that!" resulting in a host of unpresentable, if lovable, shots.
assault 2; Speck at 11.5 months

What else? You got two teeth at six months and apparently decided that that was enough---hints of the upper pair have been coming and going for a month or more. Similarly, your hair has at last become three-dimensional, but only faintly so, sparing us (or your grandma) any temptation toward clips or bows (or, really, any need for brushing). No idea how you’ll look when you have real Kid Hair, but we look forward to finding out.

On the speech front, you’ve replaced your early hits "ging ging" and "dye dye dye dye" with lots of conversationally inflected jabber along the lines of "enh? Enhh!" although we do recognize a multi-note "hi!" and you can be induced to say "mama" while looking at pictures. (Your mom anticipates her heart melting the first time it’s directed at her!) Even more, we have become aware in recent weeks of how many words you recognize and understand---light, bottle, music, nap, books, kitty, and stairs are just the most obvious (as well as "potty" over at Gammy’s house), but you respond to a wide variety of suggestions and questions that indicate that you probably have hundreds of words in context. Your mom is trying to introduce some sign-language signs that might help you communicate until your words come together, but Dad and Gammy have enough else going on that they don’t always do likewise, so this effort may or may not succeed---if not, then you’ll have to be strategic rather than sentimental about your choice of early words to learn so that we aren’t stuck watching you sob with a finger pointing adamantly off into the distance . . .

Well, that’s about it, Pook. (One of us sometimes calls you "pook," short for the embarrassing "pookie-poo"---the other favors "Gaster," derived from the real-name-homophonic "Melanogaster," a species of fruit fly (don’t argue).) At one year you’re poised on the cusp of many things---walking, speech, a blossoming of opinions and desires---that will change your life and ours again to an unforeseeable degree. But nothing can match having you arrive on our doorstep and rewire our lives from top to bottom so that we could watch your little self unfold (and try to stay out of the way). Am reminded of my attempts to teach you the game of Chase---you’re not sure about why you should run away, especially since you like being scooped up and snuggled/tickled whenever a chase ends, but you love to play anything silly. Thanks for coming along and bringing us your giggles, and thanks for reminding us that sometimes the best part of the game is being caught. None of the rest really matters.

wonder; Speck at 10 months

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday baby-blogging

Busy day, so not much posting time. But I thought you might enjoy this recent video of Speck playing at the playground (yay for the Little Kiddies section!), complete with current chirping vocalizations and favorite explorations.

We're in the midst of an explosion on the communication front -- she recognizes a ton of words now (from music to nap to slide) and is definitely trying out some specific sounds. Could be months or days; one never knows....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two bits on work

Seeing this image of people queuing up for a job fair, one cannot help but think of job (and bread) lines during the Depression; although I don't think it was anything that dire in this instance, people are clearly worried. For a visual antidote, however, I really recommend this amazing collection of photos of people at work -- gorgeous images, and intriguing insights into parts of the world and the production process that we rarely think or hear about. [I gotta say, though, that the complexity of the nuclear plant control room gave me shivers!!!]

(second link via kottke)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One less headache

grocery bagMan, Spouse and I really hated the redesigned Tropicana packaging -- it looked like a generic brand, and it was nearly impossible to sort through and find the specific kind (half-caf, no-pulp, whatever) that you were trying to buy. Amazingly, the company has relented and is returning to user-friendly packaging. I'd love to hear the chat they're having with the consultants and designers who thought that this was a good idea...

Shut up, Grandpa!

Making a mockery of all those "up hill both ways in the snow" rants about how Kids Today Have It Too Easy, these kids in China have to use a zip line to get across a river on the way to school, since the washed-out bridge hasn't been rebuilt.

Once might be an adventure, but every day . . .
(via kottke)

Friday, February 20, 2009


I've always been a fan of geek merit badges, but I gotta say, this one is something I'd really treasure. Not holding my breath, though -- it would take so long to get there that I'd probably have lost my job (even if I'd have warmed the hearts of our tech. department). I used to take pride in keeping my In-box under a single screen, but those days are long, long behind me...

Quote of the day

ladybug on a leafIf a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder... he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
-- Rachel Carson
(via A Mindful Life)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Maybe we Little Folk aren't so dumb

The first thought I had when I heard about GM and Chrysler's promised austerity measures -- including closing plants and cutting jobs, being implemented to prove their worthiness for a bailout, was that we were supporting some strange things in tight times. I mean, what good is GM to us if it's not employing people (and preferably more people)? Anyway, I find it reassuring to see and economic expert raise essentially the same question.
I’m not arguing against an auto bailout. But it ought to be focused on helping American auto workers rather than helping global auto companies headquartered in America. Why pay the Big Three billions of taxpayer dollars to stay afloat when, even after being bailed out, they cut tens of thousands of American jobs, slash wages, and shrink their American operations into small fractions of what they used to be?
Of course, the counter-argument is that if GM folds, many more jobs would be lost than if it just slims down, but still. I think it's easy to forget that what we need is more employment and better wages here at home, not just improvements in the stock prices of some high-profile companies. The latter may help retirement accounts, but only the former will break the feedback loop that is making our economy run more and more feebly.

(via Talking Points Memo)

When titans rumble

Well, it was easy to dismiss when just Krugman (and the other eggheads and doomsday folk) were advocating it, but when even Greenspan favors nationalization of the banks as the best solution to their solvency crisis, it's starting to edge toward Conventional Wisdom. We do indeed live in interesting times!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When your organization is run by wizened old men

femsignOf course this opinion is not universal in the Catholic Church, but it's hardly a shocking departure either:
That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls.
This from an arbiter of "truth." Sigh.

Other than back-scratching

...I just don't see what conservative pundits get out of denying global warming. Their efforts are clearly pitiful, and they're not even oil execs. Are their friendships with the Fat Cats that tight/lucrative?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The foothills

Parenthood is a series of transitions. First and most obviously, there's the complete reconfiguration of your life to orient around the needs and schedule of a new addition -- I'd definitely never experienced anything like that, and nobody can prepare you for its depth of penetration. But after that, there's a constant series of changes, with new skills and modes of behavior appearing in your baby every day, some small, some large, often in batches. And your own expectations adapt to match -- you reclaim some parts of your prior life as the baby starts to become more predictable and your energy returns, you start to babyproof your house when the kid becomes mobile, you constantly shift your notion of what is possible with a child in tow, how much of you should continue to be expressed (and at what cost to other priorities and people), etc.

Anyway, this struck me most recently on the playground. We had a couple of nice coat-free-weather days in the last week and were able to get out of our forced indoor routine for some playground visits, and Speck showed a jump in her exploration and initiative since last we went out. It gave me just a glimpse over the first crest in the foothills of her trek to independence and a sense of how strikingly different that parenting terrain may still become.

In the first few months of life, your baby is mostly a sack of potatoes -- it just lies wherever you put it down, perhaps turning its head to look about, and it becomes your parental responsibility to be or provide the entertainment and stimulus in an active manner around your inactive recipient. So you talk and make faces, provide visual patterns and musical sounds, dangle toys within reach of early batting, prop the kid where there are things to see and people to smile at.

Then there are a few months when the kid can sit up, and maybe scoot around a bit. It's still basicall stationary, but now it can reach and lean and pick up toys for itself. Now you are no longer the provider of action, but a participant in the baby's more active interaction with its world. You still need to put interesting things within reach, and play games and talk and be a clown, but now the baby is choosing things to pick up and manipulate, is doing its own exploration of the feel, smell, taste of objects. However, at the playground, one still feels that one is putting the baby through the paces -- swinging it in the swing, setting it on top of the climbing turtle, sliding it down the slide. It's capable of handling objects but not yet of taking charge of its own explorations or of moving itself through the physical world.

And now we've had a few months of active crawling, along with some standing up and "cruising" along a couch or other support. The interaction with toys is largely unchanged, although now the baby can go over to the toy box for herself, pull it over and/or sort through its contents for just the right thing. And she makes additional games from, say, chasing the cats (slowly) around the coffee table, or putting things through the baby gate and then stretching to get them back. But the playground was much the same, with my moving her from place to place and one potential entertainment to another while she expressed her degree of amusement and watched the other kids play.

But something different happened this week, all at once. She decided for herself that she wanted to leave one area of the toddler yard and just crawl on over to the other area where we usually go next. And then she wanted to stop and play with the gate. And then, when I finally put her up on the platform of the play structure, rather than just looking around, or maybe venturing into the short tunnel that connects two platforms, she crawled out onto the shallow slide and just went on down, head first (with a look of amazed happiness). And then she wanted to do that again and again, me hoisting her up and she launching herself into a stomach-slide (sometimes rotating slowly like a fat starfish on the way down) and then immediately trying to crawl back up the slide or come around to the stairs for assistance to do it again.

It's small, a tiny increment in her abilities among many that are constantly occurring. And yet I can see that we are only days or weeks from her ability to climb those stairs herself and slide at will, the transition from my showing her things and helping her play, to her playing for herself and my watching. And it strikes me that this is a critical transition that will play out again and again through the years of raising a child -- from doing things for her, to showing her how to do them, to watching her go and do them on her own. And in this tiny thing I can feel the echoes of all the joys and tinges of sadness that will accompany each letting go, seeing the heedless and natural way that she absorbs each thing and makes it her own, ever so gradually taking her leave.


A moment of piercing insight. A perfectly ordinary day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Breaks my heart

Man, I hope that someday we look back at this mess in horror, with the same shame that we feel when thinking about the Japanese internment camps. The idea that we should reward some families for forming and punish others for wanting to do the same...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Crazy but it's true

billsThe more I listen to the smart guys, the more it seems like nationalization of the banks is going to be the only solution to that part of our economic woes. Sounds radical, but if we try a bunch of half-measures, we'll only have more work to do when we finally get around to the right thing...

On the limits of innovation

I've never thought of it this way, but indeed we as a society make all kinds of compromises over the dynamic range of innovation in order to maintain some reliability and sustainability of systems. I don't want to go home for Christmas on the Space Shuttle, and probably you don't want to invest your retirement hopes with an equivalent untested bit of wizardry.

Poem for the day

A Piece Of The Storm

From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
From your book, saw it the moment it landed.
That's all There was to it. No more than a solemn waking
To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that
Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back,
That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
"It's time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening."
- Mark Strand
(via whiskey river)

Monday, February 09, 2009

The observer effect, in practice

One challenge with child photography is that babies are irresistably attracted to cameras of all kinds, meaning that you have a good chance of wrecking whatever cuteness you are trying to capture. A sample sequence below...

That looks fun -- let me have it!!


Your denial shall be punished!! rrrAAAAARRRRRRrrrrrr!!

(Actually, these are better than my usual yield, which involves hugely oversized heads with looks of great concentration or faked joy... [like this] whee.)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Krugman shows his teeth

...because what do we want, really; another Great Depression?
It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
I certainly hope we get a serious stimulus plan soon; if it takes Obama bringing his full popularity and persuasion to bear, so be it!!

Friday, February 06, 2009

"Stimulus" means spending, idiots!

Robert Reich explains why the Republicans are trying to steer us toward disaster:
This isn't a matter of more or less government, however much Republicans and conservatives would like to wedge it in that old ideological box. The issue is how to revive the economy. When consumers and businesses can't or won't spend enough to keep the economy going, government has to be the spender of last resort. Period.
I recommend the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

If I can't see it, it must not exist

clip art busRepublicans claim that transit doesn't create jobs (because, you know, nobody builds trains or operates them), and yet it's pretty clear in practice that lack of transit means lots of people lose jobs (or can't get to them). Some kind of paradox there -- or just typical rightwing denial of facts. Aren't we done with that crap yet?!?

(via Atrios et al)

Good ideas, bad ideas

  • An example of a good idea: streamlining the forms required for employing part-time help, so that it's easier for a higher percentage of people to do everything "by the books." I suspect that exhaustion at the prospect of more paperwork dissuades more folks than does some kind of desire to cheat the system.

  • An example of a [tragically] bad idea: turning to a vacuous media creation for input on serious topics of acute national interest/importance. It's a statement of how desperately the GOP is flailing for direction in the aftermath of their 8-year disaster and its electoral consequences...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Images in your head

Just loved this collection of lego art representing New York, or maybe just city life. Many giggles there.

(via kottke)

Why, I oughtta'...

femsignThere are times when it really wearies me to live in this modern postfeminist world . . . (Clearly, Jill Biden needs to be punished for having gone for more than an Mrs. degree!)

(via Atrios)