Thursday, July 28, 2005

Getting Things Off My Chest

This morning I made the mistake of having a large cup of tea before plunking Arthur into a Baby Bjorn pack and walking to the library. The result is that three blocks away on the return trip home I had to pee really badly.

Have you ever tried to pee with a child hanging in front of you? First of all, you can't see anything below your chest. Second of all, you can't be entirely sure of your aim. There's always that little bit of doubt in the back of your mind as you peer around the child's bulk: am I actually delivering the stream to the bowl, or am I doing some kind of rim-shot and is it half splashing onto the floor? I guess I'm going to have to practice, because I think it's profoundly weird to have a floor length mirror next to the toilet reflecting your every movement.

What I want to know is do the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert have this sort of problem?

Luckily, Arthur was asleep in the Baby Bjorn pack during all of this.

It's a toss up in our house which we like better; the baby sling or the Baby Bjorn. The sling is pretty easy to throw on and take off. The Baby Bjorn is a little more consistent in terms of how Arthur is positioned against us. The baby sling offers more sunlight protection. To make sure Arthur doesn't get too much sun, Mark typically drapes Arthur with receiving blankets. The overall effect is that Arthur looks like Ambassador Kosh the Vorlon from Babylon Five. Or Mother Superior from The Sound of Music.

Speaking of The Sound of Music, we're slowly discovering Arthur's taste in music. He likes older Annie Lennox, but doesn't seem enamored of her latest release, Bare. He likes Wendy Carols' recording of Switched on Bach, and the New Koto Ensemble of Tokyo's recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Handel's Water Music. Last I checked Anna Russell was not a big hit. The B-52's seem to be OK, and so are They Might Be Giants. There were mixed results for Yma Sumac.

Moving on to the visual arts, Arthur likes black and white objects. I used to think that all those black and white baby toys were some kind of marketing trick, but I made a bunch of high contrast Lamaze cards. Arthur consistently chooses the black and white graphics over the ones with color. So it looks like we're in for an Art Deco period at our house.

In other baby related news, we're trying to make sure that we have some skin contact with Arthur. We've been commanded by the Baby Police. "Skin on skin time," they said. "Make sure you spend time in skin contact with Arthur.

You want to know how that usually works? One of us take off our shirt and plunks Arthur down on our chest. Arthur lays there for about twenty seconds. Then he hears our heartbeat or something and starts rooting around for a nipple. Mark and I don't have milk producing nipples; Arthur's known this his entire life, but he still hasn't caught on. Rooting happens for another twenty seconds, and then Arthur grabs a fist full of chest hair. And pulls. I really have to hand it to baboons who run around the savanna for months with an infant baboon hanging from their chest hairs without a baby sling or Baby Bjorn. Maybe that's why they screech. I know I'd be hoarse after ten minutes.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Today (Sunday) Mark took Arthur out and so I had several hours of baby free time.

I suppose that I'm supposed to feel guilty, but it was great. I got some writing done without having to wear a sleeping small person around my neck. It was nice to be able to leave the house for a moment and not worry about Arthur, and being released from the two-hour Feed me, Seymour cycle was fabulous.

We seem to have a million baby clothes. I think about a half-million of these we can give to other new parents, as Arthur is already getting too big for the newborn stuff.

It seems like every other day he's bigger. A few days ago I realized he's taking up about half the length of the cradle; now he's taking up almost half. His crib seems a little smaller, too.

We might be raising a tank.

OK. I admit it. We made our first baby toy impulse buy. Small wooden blocks with numbers, letters, and animals on them. I'm not sure what we were thinking.

That's a lie. Mark was thinking, "Look, wooden toys that were made in America." I was thinking "Oh! How cute!" and secretly planning photoshoots with baby and blocks.

Up until then, we were secure in the knowledge that Arthur's happy with several books to look at. He really likes Animals on White, a huge photo book by Pete Dine (he liked the Irish Wolfhound and the bull); and Tiaras Past and Present by Geoffrey Munn. The Tiara book was the first book Arthur turned the pages of all by himself: he seemed to prefer a neo-classical tiara made up of diamonds and emeralds owned by Dame Ellen Terry and later by Dame Joan Sutherland over a tiara of rock crystal made by Cartier for Baron Pierre de Gunsburg, 1912.

It was only after we had paid for the blocks that we realized that the only thing Arthur's going to do with the blocks is suck on them for the for the next eighteen months. Then he'll probably throw them at us (or the cat). I had about consigned them to the shelf of misfit toys when I realized that they would give me something educational to wave in front of Arthur as he sucked down another six ounces of organic baby formula.

John (propped up on the couch within reach of baby blocks and a Pepsi): (Picks up block): "See Arthur, this is a swan. This is a swan."

Arthur (in the manner of Maggie Simpson): "Suck suck."

John (rotating block 90 degrees in the X axis): "And this is the letter A. This is an A."

Arthur: "Suck. Coo....coo. Suck... (eyes roll upward into head before closing).

John (discarding block, grabbing Pepsi): So much for higher education.

Uh, this is your pilot; we are about to attempt a crash landing...Mark has re-discovered rubber-band driven airplanes.

We took Arthur to the park to fly them. The rubber-band on Mark's plane broke, and after a few crazy flights, my plane got stuck in a tree.

Arthur was completely unimpressed. So we made him wear sunglasses.
My mission must not fail.  Do not resist me or you will be destroyed.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Counting Rhymes

John and Arthur sleepingThursday morning I was able to get Arthur to Savoure all by myself. I'm proud of this achievement, because it demonstrates that I've gotten far enough out of the baby-haze to be able to string more than three thoughts together.

After pushing the pram to Savoure, I parked it next to a small table and began to write. I managed to get some notes and scenes down for a short story involving busses when I noticed a very small spider dangling from the pram. Twenty minutes later there was another one on the other side. Arthur's pram seemed to be a kind of spider heaven. I managed to snag both spiders by their webs. With them hanging off of my pen, I delivered them to the bushes outside the tea shop.

I'm sure there's a significant message here. Spiders hanging from my pen... is the pen my tool for weaving webs of words? Ideas taken from the cradle to the bushes? What else does one take to the bushes? Or possibly the spiders are part of some sort of Old English counting rhyme.

Counting spiders in a crib;
Arachne's daughters will not fib.

One is for colic,
Two is for sleep.
Three is for jaundice,
Four a diaper heap.

Five is for showers,
Six is nursing time.
Seven is a stranger,
Eight is pantomime.

Nine is for in-laws,
Ten is a test.
Eleven is a doctor's bill,
Twelve's a spider's nest.

Mark and ArthurI wish I could say that I found the rhyme in an old book, or possibly a picture book by Heidi Holder, but I made it up. It does have the advantage of being an accurate divinatory rhyme, because Arthur managed to sleep through both Savoure spider visitations.

Arthur, John, John's Mother, John's Mother's MotherI realize that I've been slightly remiss in not reporting the results of the last doctor visit, which was about a week ago. Arthur's weight on June 28 was 4183 grams or 9 lb., 3.5 oz. Mark and I are pretty sure that Arthur's up to 10 lb. by now. His height was measured at 21.4 inches; but do you know how hard it is to accurately measure a squirming baby? Arthur's head circumference is 37.2 cm or 14 and 5/8 inches.

Arthur's very healthy. He's also more or less ravenous when he's not sleeping. I've watched him suck down 6 oz of formula in one sitting. The doctor says that if he consistently devours more than 36 oz in one day to mix rice into the formula.

I find that I'm developing a little more sympathy for what I call "Pod People Parents." You know the type of parent who has redecorated the entire house with Fisher-Price, and can only talk about baby poop, the baby, toys, the baby, formula, the baby, their play group, the baby, car seats, the baby, the baby and the baby? Extreme cases are only able to have adult conversation for no more than ten seconds.

I used to blame Pod People Parents for being weak-minded or misguided. Anyway, I realize now that it's not the parents' fault. It's not just that their baby has put them into a sleep deprived state. It's not just that the baby exudes pheromones as a kind of mind-control. It's that no matter where they go, all about ninety percent of other adults want to talk to them about is the baby.

In some cases, it's not so much a conversation about the baby as it is a kind of monologic aria. The other day I was trapped under Arthur while a woman I had met moments before launched into her twenty minute solo of "What a Beautiful Child." At least I think that's what she said. I was a little sleep deprived at the time, and what attention I did have to spare from feeding Arthur his formula was spent grunting, "Uh huh."

Will the real Arthur Corvus please stand up?I know I should be more gracious about everyone's excitement. After all, Arthur is being raised by two gay dads. One is a baby, raised by two dads; there's a counting rhyme for you. It could have been worse. She could have been telling me horror stories about spider bites.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Chivalry is not Dead (Yet)

I think I've discovered a new baby superpower. The ability to affect traffic patterns at a three block distance.

Either that or there's something in the Eugene water that is similar to Northfield, Minnesota, water. When I lived in Northfield, it was dangerous to cross the streets. Not because of any traffic, but rather a case of what I used to call "Terminal Niceness." This is where two or more car drivers spend five minutes using hand signals (this was in the days before cell phones) to try to urge the other drivers to be the first ones through a (usually uncontrolled) intersection.

The Eugene twist is that someone in a car several blocks away will see me standing on a street corner with the pram and slam on the brakes and then use head and hand gestures to try to get me to cross the street (thank the gods they don't have my cell phone number). I think I need to write a letter to the local Eugene rag:

"To all automobile drivers in Eugene:

How wonderful it is that you want to help me out as I wait to push my infant son around the downtown area of Eugene. May I suggest that when you see me with the pram, waiting at an uncontrolled intersection, devoid of crossing signal or pedestrian crossing that, instead of slowing down or stopping in the middle of the street, you continue to drive your car in a regular, controlled and predictable fashion? For those of you wishing to show support, a simple wave and a thumbs-up as you drive by would be great.

I know when you slow down, you mean to be helpful; but every time this happens I wonder several things: A) is that driver lost? B) is that driver waiting for me to step into the street so they can speed up? and, C) is that driver going to get rear-ended by the driver behind them? It's great that Chivalry is Not Dead in Eugene; but as it's been more than ten years since my last CPR class, I'm afraid if you keep this sort of thing up it soon will be.

Gratefully Yours, John Burridge"

I suppose if they do print it, I'll be able to tell who's from out of town; or at least Northfield.