Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sitting up and Tasting the World

The Four-Pound Nugget Toss (with loud, barbaric grunt)
Jonah has ventured into territory I have never encountered:  Constipation.  I really didn’t know how to handle this, so I came up with a couple ideas.  I told Sunday that we could begin feeding him prunes.  Since Jonah hasn’t even had rice cereal yet, Sunday didn’t think prunes were a good idea.  My next idea was more of a “tactile approach.”  We could pick up Jonah and squeeze his gut. 

I was thinking toothpaste tube.
Sunday was thinking no. 

While we discussed ways of getting more poop out of Jonah, he worked on it himself.  We could tell he was working on a particularly gnarly nugget when a vein popped out on his forehead and a grunt came from his little chest like he was forcing a chunk of concrete through his small body.  It was sad.  And a little funny. 

I don’t know why, but Jonah’s constipation became a contest where Jonah didn’t know he could win or lose, but we kept score.  With every diaper change, we would ask, “Nugget?”  Exhilaration came with every “No nugget” response and every small dark smelly chunk in his diaper brought dejection.  I never thought I’d get excited over someone else’s bowel movement, but Jonah changed all that. 

As a remedy for his “nugget” problem, we put dark Karo syrup—a.k.a. molasses—in his bottle.  When that quit working, we gave him apple juice.  When that quits working, we’ll just have to knock the poop out of him.  (Just kidding).

The Extended Reaching Position
In this event, balance is required most, because Jonah attempts to reach toward things he shouldn’t touch.  Old magazines, books from the library, dirty underwear and used diapers are all things Jonah has reached for.   He also reaches for earrings, bras, toes, bugs, and little balls of dust.   Jonah finds his own toes and hands interesting things to reach for, but his hands are harder to grab.

The Reach and Taste
Like the Clean-and-Jerk in Olympic competition, the Reach and Taste of Jonah’s Olympics combines two very difficult moves into one fluid motion.  I don’t know why the extended reaching position transitions nicely into the “I think I’ll put it into my mouth now” thought.  In fact, I believe Jonah has put into his mouth the following items:  his feet, his hands, pens (2), a sock, the toe of my boot, his pacifier, his blanket, snoopy (stuffed animal), the corner of my Bible, a lemon, his bottle, chest hair (eeewwww….), and anything else he seems to want to taste. 

Jonah now views the world through his taste buds, and this stage, according to the world-famous child psychologist Dr. Piaget, lasts the rest of his life. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Make Your Child Succeed

My Dad has a great theory for raising children that I hear few people say or even fewer practice:  kids should be kids.  My parents had little patience with those who believed that a child could “fall behind” other children if he wasn’t working on his third language by the first grade.  For Dad, children weren’t repository for the hopes of the overblown egos of their parents.   Surrounded by parents who coached and cajoled their children into a hyper-scheduled (and hyper-wearied) lifestyle, Dad let us be kids.

He refined his childrearing theory further with the backyard pitching, catching, throwing, fielding, kicking, punting, dribbling form of fatherhood.  We didn’t get all the fancy toys that required batteries or an electrical engineer to operate.   We weren’t allowed to play with anything that made us better in school or made us smarter.  For us, learning did not necessarily link to fun.  We were kids, so we thought fun and learning could, in fact, be mutually exclusive.  And our parents raised us this way.

I shall now list the toys we had when we were kids:

baseball (2)
glove, (1 per child)
football (1)
soccer ball (1)
mud (just add water to dirt)
boxing gloves (1 pair, to be used among the three of us)
basketball (usually flat)
bicycles (1 per child)

At times, the sports equipment could get a little expensive, but my parents figured that they were getting the dirt, sticks, rocks and trees for free, so the least they could do was to fill in the gaps for the rest of that stuff.  Dad wanted us to be able to know how to play, and he wanted us to be able to play well.  Not so that we could become professional athletes, or even for us to be able to play in college.  None of us were remotely that good.  No, Dad wanted us to play well because playing, well, is FUN!  Just fun.  That’s it. 

Play was neither a step for another level, nor was it a method of teaching a transcendent lesson about existence.  We didn’t think that football “built character” or baseball was a “teambuilding exercise.”  It didn’t occur to us that we could learn something about humanity at the same time we were getting dirty or sweaty or both.  We played because we were kids and we wanted to play, not because our moral fiber was strengthened through dedication to sport.

It was fun.  In fact, the funnest parts were when Dad himself, in full teacher/coach mode, almost got his head taken off by a line drive, or an errant throw, or a misguided punt.  He taught us how to play, but he had fun, too.  Even when the fun was dangerous.

Dad can tell you the times when he came closest to death as a father.  Mostly, these near-death moments came when one of us would suddenly catch on to a game that we’d been trying for a week or so.  For example, Dad taught us all to throw, catch and hit a baseball.  We all had similar training to hit a baseball:  bend at the knee, swing level, keep your eye on the ball. 

My older brother and I were decent hitters, especially before curve balls and large, hairy high school pitching.  We got the basics of hitting down pretty well.  But we weren’t naturally good.  My younger brother, however, showed that, while he could bend at the knee, swing level, and keep his eye on the ball, he also had an extra step to his hitting that my older brother and I didn’t have:  quick wrists.

In baseball terminology, having quick wrists means that the batter can wait a split second or two longer than one who does not have “quick wrists.”  Waiting longer allows the batter to determine what kind of pitch is thrown as well as whether the pitch is “hittable” or not. 

Since Luke had “quick wrists,” Dad often thought that the pitches he had thrown were not going to be hit by Luke.  And then, WHACK! Luke would swing around on a pitch from Dad and send the ball screaming back at him, throat level.  

In fact, Dad incorporated protectionary measures in his pitching wind-up, especially when he pitched to Luke.  He would kick up his leg, step toward the plate, fling his arm toward the hitter and release the ball.  As Dad released, his glove hand would fly up toward his head, covering his face, while his throwing hand would come down, covering his private area.  (Yes, there were many times where we would slowly creep away from the backyard, leaving Dad in a balled-up heap on the ground, weeping softly.) 

Although we had hours and hours and hours of playtime, kicking and throwing and hitting, none of those skills help me with fatherhood.  No, the greatest skill Dad ever taught any of us is the skill of doing nothing productive.   For a self-professed workaholic, Dad believed that a kid should have plenty of time to do nothing, sitting around, scratching his belly, belching, picking his nose, and giggling.   (Maybe not all at the same time, but you get the point.)

For children to be able to do this, parents needed to have control, too.  Our lives as children were not scheduled to the hilt with French lessons, tuba practice, four athletic teams, late-night tutoring or any other activity that Mom and Dad thought would help us “succeed.”  



Friday, November 8, 2013

Puking is Funny

While Jonah’s cuteness has been well established by the rabbinic standard of two or more witnesses, he has developed a couple bad habits that I would like to discuss:  dribbling and shooting.

The Great Ring of Wetness:          Dribbling
We have now transitioned from having a relatively neat child to having a child who explodes something from his noggin from time to time.  Some people call it drool or spit (my personal favorite is slobber), but I have noticed that, whatever it is called, it creates a large ring of wetness, beginning at his shoulder blades, rising over his massive deltoid muscles, extending down the front of his chest, making his nipples and belly button constantly wet.  My boy can’t keep dry at either end, God bless him.

We have resorted to having a 24-hour bib on him, changing it once every fifteen minutes or so.  It’s wild.  For a person who only ingests 25-30 ounces of liquid per day, he certainly drools a lot.  His dirty clothes hamper is so heavy with drool on some days that I have hired large Scandinavian men named Magnus to come and help me carry it into the laundry room.  He simply can’t stop.  He’s a little droolery store.  I catch him down at the drool hall with his no-count, drool-hall friends.  

This new wetness has also created a dilemma:  which end do we dry out first?   It’s tough trying to decide which part of his anatomy we should wipe:  the one that we have to look at, or the one that he is most concerned with.  Most days, it’s a toss up.  The other question is usually more pressing:  with what shall I dry him?  Here is a short list of the items I have used to dry off Jonah’s face:

burp rag
extra outfit in the diaper bag
my shirt (I was wearing it at the time.)
Sunday’s shirt (She was wearing it at the time.)
paper towel
pillow from couch
stuffed animal
dog down the street
front door mat (says, “WELCOME”)

I am certain that he’ll dry up one of these days, but I hope it’s before we sign him up for junior high. 

What Kind of Puke?:          He shoots
Now this is the part of the job I was expecting for quite some time:  puking.  For some reason, the drooling and the puking have come in the same month.  I don’t know if this is some conspiracy between the washer/dryer companies and the laundry detergent manufacturers, but we’ve been cleaning some clothes like you wouldn’t believe.

Anyway, with the puking come different kinds of puke, which I will describe for you now.

#1  Open mouth, let the formula drain. 
This produces by far the largest volume of vomit per episode.  This is where Jonah looks you straight in the eye, opens his mouth as wide as he possibly can, and allows the formula to escape his body, through his mouth.   This method of vomiting can be particularly dangerous for the person who foolishly thinks that, with every opening of Jonah’s mouth, he invites a quick snuggle or even a kiss.  Many a woman at church hath been bathed in the putrid waters of used soy formula with this mistake. 

#2  The phantom vomit.
This vomit is unusual, especially for the parent who prides himself on watching every move his child makes.  For some reason, Jonah will be playing, clean as a whistle and look up with vomit caked all over his face.  Additionally, this vomit seems to have been applied to his face with a trowel.  It’s got a thick consistency.  It’s like dry grits, without the butter. 

#3  The payback vomit.
I believe this special brand of vomit allows Jonah to become a type of “Angel of Justice” for the Lord.  This vomit occurs when a sinner holds Jonah for more than a minute or two.  Jonah senses the dark side of whomever is holding him and then he launches his own, personal brand of righteousness.  Using vomit, the sinner receives Jonah’s baptism of holiness.  This is a more public vomit, usually requiring us to apologize for our son.  But we know the real reason Jonah pukes on people:  he loves the sinner, unconditionally.   

#4  The shotgun vomit.
This is the fun vomit, the knockout punch.  It’s the vomit that keeps the crowds coming, time after time.  It can be preceded by a belch or a cough, but the best “shotgun vomits” are the ones that sneak up on you.  It looks like someone had pumped up Jonah—like a BB gun—to his highest pressure and then BOOM! his head snaps back with the force of the vomit.  This is the kind, where, afterward, Jonah tries to keep both his eyes in the same orbit while maintaining a sense of balance.  (it also seems to be the kind where he enjoys the most intense post-vomit bliss)

His vomiting and drooling have required us to become more alert to his surroundings, making sure he doesn’t drool or puke on anything expensive.  (Since we don’t own anything expensive, we’re usually worried about other people’s stuff).  We’re also having fun with it, too.  In our house, puking is funny.

Friday, November 1, 2013

AAAAHHHHH, Breakfast!

Jonah has developed a firm sense of timing.  Although we have not been a family of late sleepers, our son has tolled the death knell on all slumber past 6:30am.  It doesn’t matter if we put him to bed at 7pm or 11pm, my boy is up and at ‘em at 6:30.  It’s like I’m living with a very small drill sergeant who happens to sleep in a crib and poop his pants.  I don’t know who taught him to do this, but when I get up, he is grunting and wiggling around, ready to wake us up.

I usually get up with him to give him his first feeding.  I have become so accustomed to this habit that I would gladly wrestle a ticked-off mountain lion to keep this privilege. 

Our time is the early time

If I delay in picking him up out of the crib, his exhalations become progressively louder.  He doesn’t coo.  It’s more like the sound someone makes on a commercial when they’ve just drunk a cold drink with sweat rolling down the sides of the glass. 

“AAAHHH!” is the only way I can write it in letters. 

He does that over and over.  “AAAAHHHH!!!”  Then he’ll roll over and start gnawing on his fists.  Then again.  “AAAAHHH!!!”  Then he’ll grab his little feet.  Again.  “AAAAHHHH!”   and on and on, louder and louder.

By the time I get in there, our apartment sounds like we have a large group of people sampling ice-cold beverages in the baby’s room.  

When I poke my head over the side of the crib, Jonah raises one eyebrow, and smiles.  If he could talk, I believe he would say, “Hey, it’s that guy again.  I like him.  He feeds me and wipes my bottom.”  Or, he would say, “Hey, welcome to Jonah’s playhouse.  It’s a whale of a good time.  I will be your entertainment for this morning.”  Or, he would say, “I’m cute.  I know it.  Haven’t even combed my hair or brushed my gums, but I know I’m cute.”
Then, the best part:  he starts laughing out loud. 

He has progressed in his humor from giggling or just cooing to straight-out laughter.  You know, the nyuk nyuk from the Three Stooges kind of laughter.  It’s awesome. 

In the morning, the coolest part is that it’s just us.  I know that he laughs like that throughout the day, but I like to think that his first laugh is for me.  That’s why I wouldn’t trade it.  There are plenty of people who love Jonah, and we love to show him off and share him with others.  But it’s great to have something special, even when he’s this young.   The morning is ours.

So, when he’s had a good laugh, I’ll pick him up and he grabs my shoulders and we go into the living room.  If he’s still sleepy, he’ll put his head on my shoulder, too.   He’s getting to the point now where he doesn’t like to be held nearly as much, so getting him when he’s still a little sleepy is important for this snuggly time.  If I try to hold him during the day, he flops like a marlin.

Then, in the calm of the morning, I do one of the cruelest things a father can ever do to a baby. I sit him up on the couch, put the bib on him, and hold the bottle in front of his face.  And he knows what it is.  His eyes get really big and his arms and legs pump like pistons.  But I don’t give it to him. 

I’m waiting for the best part:  his tongue moves in and out of his mouth, trying to imagine what that bottle would be like.  

Sometimes, I give him the bottle before he begins to cry too hard.  Man that’s mean!  But it’s fun, too.  Jonah sucks down that first bottle quicker than any other of the day, mostly because I “prime his hunger” with my cruelty.