Monday, December 17, 2012

Month Ten Musings

I took a nine-month old baby on a week-long cruise and lived to tell about it… barely. There are two versions of the story of Jackson’s first cruise – one told from the perspective of Brian, and one told from the perspective of Kate. Although we pretty much spent every waking moment of the trip together, it’s interesting to see how dramatically different our stories of the trip are.

On every other vacation I’ve ever been on, there has been one singular focus – have as much fun as possible. Long in advance of the trip, I’d be reading on every possible detail of the location, planning every minute of every day in an effort to maximize fun. I’ve always been of the mindset that there are two types of vacations: ones that you go on with a goal to see and do as much as possible (such as trips to Europe or Disney World), and ones that you go on with a goal to do absolutely nothing – with the exception of maybe gaining as much weight as possible (such as trips to all-inclusive Mexican resorts). But on this trip, I learned there was a third type of vacation – a vacation with a baby, or what I’ll call a “Survival Vacation.” There is only one goal on a Survival Vacation – make it through the day alive, and live to fight another day.  

Traveling. Let’s start with the physical act of taking your baby from your home to your vacation spot. Since we are Americans, there are really only two options here – traveling by car or traveling by plane. Having now completed each with Jackson, I can say that there are pros and cons to each.

When traveling by car, you can pack as much crap as you need into the trunk and back seat without concern for weight restrictions or having to face the possibility of needing to carry ALL of it at one point in time. It’s also relatively cheap, comparatively speaking. On the other hand, Jackson absolutely hates his car seat and after about a half hour starts crying nonstop unless he’s being fed or constantly entertained (in his defense, I’m the same way on car rides).

When traveling by plane, this isn’t an issue. Apparently airplane travel is so much safer than car travel that babies don’t even have to be in car seats – or even have a seat at all! They are the equivalent of your laptop, you can just carry them on and hold on to them, or tuck them under the seat if you get bored with them. It’s great, especially when you have multiple people on the plane to pass the baby around to – like a hot potato, if the potato could erupt in tears at any moment. This freedom makes Jackson infinitely happier, and he gladly walked across our row, one lap to the next throughout the flight. He also enjoyed making eyes with the ladies in the row behind us by peeking up over the seat.

On the other hand, you spend the whole flight on full defensive alert for the first sign of unhappiness, ready to spring into action with a handful of Cheerios or shake-ball to keep him from screaming bloody murder and costing me the hundreds of dollars it would take to buy “I’m sorry” beers for everyone on the plane. Again, all pre-baby flights were just like pre-baby vacations. I was primarily concerned with how I was going to keep myself entertained for the duration of the flight. This time, my only concern was keeping Jackson happy.

Then there’s the actual act of getting onto the plane. Again, one of the nice perks is that you get to be one of the first people to board the plane (in your face “medallion members!”) and have all the overhead compartment space you could want. Unfortunately, you need approximately 20% of the total space on the plane for all of the things you need to carry on. I boarded the plane with a huge backpack on my back, a small backpack on my front, a rolling carry-on bag in one hand, and a stroller in the other. Note that this is in addition to the two 48 pound bags we checked for our week-long vacation in a warm weather client… and Jackson’s clothes fold into two-inch by two-inch squares, weighing almost nothing! It defies the laws of science.

How did the Monkey do?

Before we boarded the plane, he started crying when Kate attempted to put him down for a nap in her Maya Wrap (PS – have I ever discussed this thing on here before? Greatest invention ever for creating a pseudo-womb wherever you go which puts babies to sleep in no time… and you look like a hippie when you wear it). He cried for a solid ten minutes at first while Kate paced all over the terminal. Even among the loud hustle and bustle of the airport, I could hear his screams ten gates away (and say “Ugh – someone needs to get their child in line” out loud as much as possible). But once he fell asleep, he stayed that way until just before takeoff. On the whole, he was fine on the flight – aside from a few tense minutes of loud crying where I felt the angry stares of everyone on the plane (now I know how Muslims felt when they boarded planes post-9/11), he was his normal self – all over the place and needing constant entertainment, but relatively happy. As we walked off the plane, I breathed a sigh of relief – the first hurdle had been crossed… but we weren’t out of the woods yet.

As we arrived at the location of our shuttle to the airport (along with 50 of our closest friends, each with  multiple bags jockeying for space on a narrow sidewalk), standing in the beating sun (leading to reminders to “keep him out of the sun!” every 20 seconds from my lovely bride), Jackson decided he was tired of waiting, tired of being held, tired of everything. There was only one thing he wanted to do – sit on the ground and eat the rocks out of the flower bed next to us. After about 15 minutes of waiting, with him crying and doing his best fish out of water impression to try and squirm out of our hands, we gave up and plopped him down on the dirty ground. I’m pretty sure we kept swatting rocks away from his mouth right before he could eat them, but I can’t really be sure. All I know is that he was quiet, and rocks are “nature’s candy”, right?

But this really illustrated one of the big pitfalls of flying with a baby – there are so many variables involved – getting through security, keeping the baby’s ears okay during takeoff and landing, waiting in long lines, carrying a closet on your back – that any one thing could go wrong and lead to twenty minutes of pure misery not only for you – but for everyone within earshot. It’s risky.

But at the end of the day, we had survived the first leg of our journey relatively unscathed. It was time to board the ship.

Cruisin’. Once we finally boarded the ship (with our 250 pounds of gear), I had high hopes that things would be more under our control. We had a solid home base, fully equipped with toys and blankets for Jackson and two liters worth of booze sitting our cabin fridge for me. We also had hundreds of people sleeping within about thirty feet of us – but Jackson was a happy baby. We assumed worst case scenario, his laughter might wake some people up early in the morning (at which point they would smile and make some comment about “there’s nothing more pure than the laughter of a child”). Little did we know, Jackson was about to cry more in one week than he had in the previous three months of his life.


It’s hard to say. It was probably some combination of teething, being in a totally foreign environment, getting off his normal nap schedule, and constantly being put in scenarios and places where he couldn’t crawl around, do whatever he wanted, and put everything he found in his mouth (like he gets to do at school every day). It probably also didn’t help that his first day to the beach involved getting knocked over by a wave and getting sunscreen in his eyes. But Jackson went from a baby who slept from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am every night to a baby that woke up every two hours crying.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it would be possible to take a cruise with a baby, but only if you operate under the assumption that you are going on a Survival Vacation, not a normal one. In hindsight, we were probably over-ambitious to think that a 9 month old baby would happily sit at a two hour formal dinner every night cheerfully eating Cheerios while everyone else enjoyed polite dinner conversation. We probably shouldn’t have planned 8 hour excursions at every port and assumed that “he’ll just sleep in our arms when he’s tired”. But we were young, ambitious, and foolish.

Did we have fun on the trip? Absolutely – but it’s pretty funny when you look at when we had the most fun. It fell into one of two categories:

1. When we were not with our child (such as when we went Snuba diving and left him with Grandma).
2. When we were with our child inside our cabin, playing on the ground like we would at home.

Looking back on it, I realize that the fundamental problem was that we attempted to bring two very different worlds together as one, and assumed everything would work out. When the two worlds were kept separate, as mentioned above, things were great. When we were on a traditional vacation, we had fun. When we were acting like we had a baby, we had fun. When we tried to do both at the same time, not so much fun. In fact, I think I came back from this vacation more tired than I’ve ever been in my life.  

But live and learn. Ever since we’ve been back, I’ve said that I’m not taking Jackson on another vacation for a very long time. But this isn’t me being selfish – this is for him as well. The happiest I have ever seen my child in his entire 10 months of existence was the moment we got back home. He was crawling all over the place smiling, laughing, beside himself with happiness at getting back to his old stomping grounds. He was like Dorothy at the end of “Wizard of Oz” or George Bailey towards the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” hugging his toys and kissing the floor with an unbridled joy that only comes from someone who has thought that everything in the world that they knew was lost, only to have it found again.

Note: if you ask Kate, she’ll tell you all sorts of stories about how great Jackson traveled, how much fun we all had, and how I am over-exaggerating the stories above. Each one of us will swear that our version of the story is the one that is most accurate. Who is right? Well, they say that history is written by the victors… but it’s also written by the Bloggers J

Or, in the words of Homer Simpson:

Christmas. The other big news this month? It’s Jackson’s first Christmas season. Unlike any other time of year, this is where traditions are made, so it’s pretty exciting to start creating these traditions for him. Jackson has already experience d his first St. Nick, where he received a stocking filled with an avocado – his favorite! This was quickly followed by his listening of the debate between Mommy and Daddy about the rules and relationship between St. Nick and Santa Claus (which will surely become an annual tradition). He also had his first encounter with a Christmas Tree, where shockingly, he did not apply Baby Chaos Theory and tear it down, but rather gently touched it, since the needles on the tree are just like grass, which he hates. Somehow, against all odds, we have two cats and a baby in our house and our Christmas tree has never been toppled. I seriously would have bet money against that five years ago.

A while back, I heard the expression that a baby’s first Christmas is for the parents, but the second Christmas is for the baby – and having lived through half of the Christmas season, I can say that this is 100% accurate. We’re building the traditions and taking the pictures to prove it, but Jackson would be just as happy pushing the boxes that the Christmas decorations came out of as looking at them. He has no concept of what’s really going on – and frankly, will probably be traumatized by his first encounter with Santa Claus. But it’s not about him – it’s about us this year. It’s about finally having an excuse to be a kid again, to have an excuse to participate in all the activities that would seem a little weird if it was just two adults doing it.

We’re going to have our first real Christmas morning in our house. There are going to be presents* under the tree and we’re going to setup the video camera to capture him opening them. These are the videos and memories that are going to last for our entire lifetimes. It’s all very exciting. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

* and by “presents”, I mean random things around the house we’re wrapping up. Clothes Jackson already had, toys he’s already played with, food items from the pantry. I fully anticipate this kid being spoiled by others this first Christmas, so we see no need to add to the pile. Also, it’s going to be hilarious twenty years from now when he’s watching the video of his first Christmas morning and he turns to us and says “wait a minute – you got me a box of Cheerios for Christmas?!?”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Month Nine Musings

It’s amazing how much Jackson has changed over the course of the first nine months of his life. Sure, there are the obvious things – he’s much bigger, can do more things, and is much closer to a miniature person than when he was first born – but it’s crazy how much his personality and preferences over such a short period of time. You wouldn’t think that someone’s likes and dislikes would change so dramatically over nine mere months – but apparently with babies, today’s cat water is tomorrow’s car seat.

Balls. Take balls for example. Even two months ago, balls were pretty low on Jackson’s list of favorite toys in the house (obviously behind cat water, and definitely behind electrical cords). But today? They are second only to me as his favorite thing in the world. Part of me wonders if we subconsciously ingrained a love of round things at a very early age by bouncing Jackson on a giant exercise ball whenever he would cry. This may also explain why he loves to bounce up and down and exercises all day by crawling all over the house. But it wasn’t until this past Father’s Day when he first started paying attention to balls in earnest – when I got a football as a Father’s Day present from him.

Although it was far too big for him to actually play with at the time, I began getting it out at the start of this year’s football season as something to toss and hold with while watching football on TV (since I can’t just sit still… more on this later). At some point, I decided to play “catch” with him where I would pretend to throw the football to him. What did he do when the ball approached? The same thing any top NFL wide receiver would do – he smiled and tried to eat the ball. Accidentally, I may have taught my son that the best way for him to catch a football is with his mouth. There’s a pretty good chance this is going to end poorly with a handful of bloody Jackson teeth someday. Oops.

But the thing is, he absolutely loves the football now. You get it out, toss it in the air, he smiles and gets excited. You roll it on the ground, he crawls over to it and tries to stand himself up on it, even though it’s super wobbly (at which point I promptly tackle him and say “fumble!” to try and teach him the importance of ball control. Win the turnover battle!). When we were getting his nine month pictures taken last weekend, the number one thing that caused him to smile was pump faking the football at him and pretending like you are going to throw it at him. The nice thing about this? A football is pretty much the coolest possible “toy” for a nine month old baby. You don’t feel completely ridiculous carrying it around, it’s in no way girly, and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages, not just babies… that is, if I ever actually took it outside to toss it around. Unfortunately, given how often Jackson chews on the football, it’s basically become an “inside football”… since there’s a zero percent chance it wouldn’t end up in mud / weeds / dog poop within five minutes of throwing it around outside. I guess it’s time we become a two-football household.

Yet as much as he loves the football, it doesn’t hold a candle to these small balls that he’s had ever since he was born:

When he was younger, the only reason why he would pay attention to them was if you were making a clicking sound with one of them? But now, they’re his #1 toy. They ‘re small enough that he can pick them up and entertaining enough that they can keep him entertained for hours on end.

Remember when I compared my son to a dog a few months back? Well, there are now two additions to the list. Here’s the current tally:

·         They love people and want to be friends with everyone.
·         They spend their lives on the floor.
·         They eat food designed for them, but long for regular people food.
·         They will put anything they find in their mouths.
·         They require you to put nice things on higher shelves.
·         They are equally fawned over by the general public.
·         They both come home from day care exhausted from playing with the other babies / dogs.
·         Their owners spend their time cleaning up their poop.
·         They hang out under tables and eat food that drops on the ground (at least my child does at school – we’re very proud).
·         They both chase balls around the house for hours on end without getting bored.

Here’s the normal routine. Jackson crawls (scootches) over to the ball, picks it up, looks at it, tries to eat it, shakes it, loses it, it goes rolling across the floor, he races after it, picks it up, and the process starts over. We’ve received reports that our soon spends every waking moment at school doing laps around the room chasing a ladybug shaped like a ball. Again, very proud.

He couldn’t be happier. Well, almost – because much like his father (who must be multi-tasking at all times – reading the paper while eating, playing on the iPhone while watching TV, listening to music while working) and mother (who must try to accomplish at least 100 tasks on a never-ending “To Do” list every weekend), Jackson isn’t satisfied with just playing with his balls all day long... he wants to combine his two favorite things.

(Note: yes, there are about 1000 “that’s what she said” jokes in the previous few paragraphs, and the amount of times I willingly wrote about my son liking balls felt very wrong – but what other word could I have used? There was no other way to phrase it!)

Multi-Tasking. Remember last month when I mentioned how much Jackson likes to pull himself up on things? That hasn't changed – in fact, now he’s cruising around the perimeter of the couch, or from chair to chair under the table (and dreaming). Only now, he’s not content with only pulling himself up on things with two hands. That’s boring amateur hour stuff. Instead, in an effort to both maximize his fun in every moment through multi-tasking (or just to show off that he doesn’t need to use two hands anymore to support him), he will now pull himself up with one hand, while continuing to hold something in the other hand… preferably one of his balls (again with the way too obvious jokes! Come on!)

This has led to some interesting problems for his little head to solve. Early on, he would primarily do this with his blanket, which was a bit easier. If the going got rough and he needed to use both hands, he would simply throw the blanket in his mouth, hold on with his teeth, and safely use both hands for stability. No big deal. 

However, with his balls, this is not an option, which has forced him to do a lot of fancy hand-work, transferring the ball from one hand to the other while pulling himself up. Once up, he stands triumphant, usually shakes the hell out of the ball… and then inevitably drops it. This introduces a whole new set of problems, since Jackson doesn’t want to have to start from scratch sitting on the ground. Instead, the unintended side effect of all of this is that he’s now mastered the art of “taking a knee” – keeping one hand firmly gripped up high, then bending down with his other hand and dropping to one knee to pick up the dropped ball before quickly standing back up, returning to his happy place – standing up holding his recovered toy.

Of course, this isn’t to say that this still doesn’t lead to a good number of falls for the little Monkey. He’s just too damn confident in himself, getting too excited with the fun of standing up with a ball, which periodically leads to a backwards tumble onto the ground. The difficult thing for a parent is to decide what to do in these situations. If you stay close by to catch the baby, then they don’t get hurt, they don’t cry, and you don’t potentially get accused of child abuse when your baby is covered in bruises. However, this doesn’t teach them any consequences for their actions. Part of me wants him to fall, get hurt, and realize “hey, maybe it’s not such a good idea to stand up and hold toys until I’m a little more stable.” I guess hopefully this is a life lesson he’s picking up at school when I’m not around to catch him.

Holidays. This past month started a three month stretch of important holidays for Jackson – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. From the point when we found out that Kate was pregnant, I’ve been excited about the prospect of Christmas being focused on toys again rather than sweaters and socks – but I didn’t really think about the effect that babies have on Halloween. It was Jackson’s first Halloween, so we had to do all the traditional stuff to ensure that we’re building a tradition (and that he will have photos to look back on and confirm that we didn’t cheat him out of his first Halloween).

Up first was carving a pumpkin… which ended up being just cutting two holes in a pumpkin for the sake of torturing our child for a photo op. Still, it’s a Halloween tradition that we successfully checked off the list.

Up next was getting Jackson a costume. We decided long ago that he had to be a Monkey – since that’s what we call him every day anyways – but didn’t really factor in that he would absolutely hate wearing the costume. I think he kept the full outfit on for a total of three minutes on Halloween day… but that was more than enough time to get about 100 pictures of him wearing his monkey suit. The good news was that we were able to repurpose this outfit on the following weekend, when it was super cold and we were going to the zoo. Turns out, a monkey Halloween costume is basically a snowsuit with fur on the outside, and by far the warmest article of clothing that Jackson owns. There’s a pretty good chance he’ll be wearing it again to play in the snow this winter. I should also note that the day he wore this to the zoo, he was by far the most popular exhibit in the entire place. Everyone absolutely loved it.

The one thing that Jackson didn’t get to partake in this Halloween? Eating candy. At this point in his life, we’re feeding the Monkey a ton of different things – but it’s all pretty much healthy whole foods. Fruits. Vegetables. Cheese. Yogurt. Cheerios. While he absolutely loves pretty much all food items (especially Cheerios – we’re fairly certain that left to his own devices, he would sit and eat an entire box one Cheerio at a time over the course of a 24 hour period without stopping), none of them are really candy or special treats. So in honor of Halloween, we busted out Avocado.

If I went trick or treating today and someone gave me an avocado instead of candy, I would give them a hug. Granted, I’m a boy and don’t get worked up over sweets like every female I know, but I’d take a nice bowl of guacamole over pretty much any food in the world. Much like a football being the best possible toy for a baby (for me), Jackson’s love of avocados also works out very nicely in my favor.

First off, they’re the world’s most perfect baby food. You don’t need to keep them cold. You don’t need to defrost or warm them up before eating them. They don’t easily smash. When you cut them in half, it basically becomes a bowl to serve from… and whatever Jackson doesn’t finish, I get to eat. Everyone wins! Next time we go on a trip with Jackson, I’m leaving the jars of baby food at home and brining a bag of avocados.

Speaking of which…

Cruisin’. Against all logic and common sense, in two weeks we embark on a family cruise… with Jackson coming along. His inclusion on the trip was a topic of much debate and consternation in our household over the past few months. After all, he is a member of the family… but given the choice between a Caribbean cruise and chasing a ball around our living room, it would be no contest as to which he would prefer. Leaving the Monkey at home would be infinitely easier, we’d be more able to cut loose and have fun all day every day, and it would be considerably cheaper (they charge full price for a baby to go on a cruise! Are you kidding me!?).  On the other hand, the wife would probably be in tears missing him every day and in intense physical pain since she’s still breast feeding him… which would pretty much counteract any potential fun to be had on the cruise.

So in the end, we decided that our first family vacation is going to be a week long cruise of the warm waters of the Caribbean. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

·         Jackson hates airplane rides like he hates car rides.
·         Jackson screams the entire plane ride, causing people to throw things at me.
·         Jackson takes a huge dump on the flight, forcing us to perform a tricky mid-air change maneuver.
·         Jackson gets sea-sick on the cruise.
·         Jackson falls overboard.
·         Jackson screams during every two-hour dinner.
·         Jackson takes a huge dump during a fancy dinner, forcing us to change a diaper mid-meal (yummy!)
·         Jackson stains all his (and my) clothes within the first two days.
·         Jackson doesn’t sleep for seven straight days in a foreign crib.
·         Jackson eats two pounds of sand on the beach.
·         Jackson is afraid of the beach, like he is afraid of grass.
·         Jackson is afraid of the ocean.
·         Jackson gets eaten by a shark.
·         Jackson gets stung by a sting-ray.
·         Jackson gets sunburn.
·         Jackson takes a huge dump on the beach, forcing us to perform a tricky beach change attempting to avoid getting sand in his diaper.

Like I said, there’s almost nothing that can go wrong.

The good news is, this is a win-win situation.

If Jackson is well-behaved and loves the beach, it’s going to be a great time where we make a ton of memories and he’ll be able to go back to school afterwards and brag to his classmates about how awesome his parents are (“Oh, your mom and dad took you to the aquarium this weekend? That’s cool. I went to the f-ing ocean!”)

If Jackson starts checking off the “what could possibly go wrong list” above like his mommy on a To Do List, next month’s blog could be the greatest of all-time and approach old Lost-blog lengths.

To be continued!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Month Eight Musings

I’m sure at some point in your life, you’ve heard old people lament about how “kids grow up so fast”. Generally, I don’t really buy into it. Sure, time flies when you have a child (mostly because you don’t have any free moments to actually recognize the down time), but the actual growing up is a slow development. It’s not as though kids suddenly wake up one morning talking and walking. There are the gradual periods leading up to these momentous occasions where the kids are talking gibberish, walking (with assistance) like a drunken sailor, and exhibiting flashes of understanding of concepts and human interaction.

It’s month eight… and Jackson is right in the middle of this period – he’s on the cusp of doing a lot of new, super-exciting, semi-grown-up things… but he’s not quite there yet.

Walking. There’s an expression that you’ve got to learn to crawl before you walk. Apparently Jackson has never heard this expression because at this point, I think it’s fairly unlikely that my son is ever going to crawl on all fours. Don’t get me wrong, he’s mobile. He’s actually quite the speed demon “scootching” across the floor on his stomach. When he comes across something interesting at a higher level than the floor, he’ll raise to all four (on his hands and knees) to examine – but then when he loses interest and it comes time to move on, he’ll drop back down to his stomach and scootch away, gathering as much dirt and grime on his outfit as possible.

However, given the opportunity to pull himself up on something, he’s all about it. If you stand on one side of the room and make a “come here” motion with your hands (yes, treating him like a dog), he’ll scootch over as fast as possible, put his hands into your hands, and stand himself up within a second. At that point, with your assistance, he’ll walk all over the room as fast as possible checking out the view of things from two feet off the ground. Aside from playing in the cat water, it’s safe to say that pulling up and walking around is Jackson’s favorite past time.

But Jackson takes it to a strange extreme.

Not only does Jackson not crawl on fours – but he absolutely HATES being on his back, for any period of time, for any reason.

You attempt to sit Jackson down on the ground, his legs go stiff. You attempt to lay Jackson on his back, he rams his head into the ground and arches his back to flip over onto his stomach. Changing this kid? Good luck. It’s quickly becoming a two man job – one to pin his shoulders down and the other to clean up poop as fast as possible before it ends up all over the place. It’s good times.

It really is absurd. Jackson got his first flu shot last week. When did he cry the most? When we put him down on his back on the doctor’s table. The whole shot part? No big deal. If he was standing up for the experience, I bet he wouldn’t have even flinched.

Why is this? I have absolutely no idea. Is it simply that being on his back prevents him from being mobile, and able to move around and explore his surroundings? Does it represent “the man holding him down”? Your guess is as good as mine – but this kid is happy 95% of the time… and the 5% when he hates life if when he’s pinned down on his back or strapped into a car seat.

For now, we deal with it the best we can – attempting to change and dress the kid while he’s standing up, crawling away, or flipping around like a fish out of water. He’s not quite walking yet, which makes it easy to catch up to him when he scootches away – but with every passing day I know that we’re one day closer to him standing up and walking away… which will quickly turn into running away.

At some point we’re really going to have to put up those baby gates and keep this kid confined.

Talking. Much like Jackson’s pseudo-walking, he’s also pseudo-talking this month. In true, “crazy parent” fashion, I find that we’re often deciphering his gibberish into legitimate words and assuming they are intentional responses.

Me: “What’s going on Monkey?”
Jackson: “Namafunng”
Me: “He said ‘nothing’!”

We’ve taken bets as to what his first words will be, and I’ve settled on the phrase “hi dad”. For one, I’m clearly his favorite person in the world. Why wouldn’t he want to say hi to me? For two, of all the gibberish sounds he makes, some phrase that sounds something like “hi dad” is the one he makes most frequently.

Unlike walking, which is just a basic function for transportation that will help keep Jackson’s clothes clean and force us to finally childproofing our house, talking is the first true insight into what he’s thinking, what he wants, and why he hates lying on his back.

Sure, I recognize that he’s not going to be spouting off full sentences anytime soon – which is why we’ve also been trying to teach Jackson sign language. According to the baby books, kids can learn sign language quickly and learn to express themselves using it much earlier than they can use corresponding words to express the same things.

The only problem? We don’t know sign language.

To date, we know four things:

  • Eat
  • Drink
  • More
  • Milk

Luckily, sign language turns out to be pretty straightforward. The same actions you would make in a loud room to indicate that you would want to eat, drink, or call someone on the phone? Odds are that the official sign language motion for those actions are the exact same as you’d think. Pretend you have a cup in your hand and you’re taking a drink of it? That means “drink”. Pretend you’ve got something in your hand and you’re taking a bite of it? That means “eat”. Using this logic, I’ve also taught Jackson the following phrases, which may or may not be accurate:

  • Throw a football
  • Take a picture
  • Punch the wall*
  • Throw it back*

* Note: primarily occurred during the Reds failed playoff run of 2012 or any given Bengals game.

Is he actually learning any of this sign language? He’s exhibited no signs (pun intended) of doing so thus far. But we’ll keep trying (when we remember) and see what comes first – the Monkey saying “I want food”, or the Monkey making a hand signal of putting food in his mouth.

Singing. It’s funny that I lived 30 years of my life without having a kid, but now I try to think back to life pre-Jackson, and it’s all a blur. I can remember some things – like what it was like to be able to go out whenever you wanted, having free time in the evening to watch TV, or being able to eat a leisurely meal while reading the paper – but there are other things that I can’t remember at all… like, did I use to sing songs, all the time, about everything? Or is that something new that has developed now that I have a child? I’m not sure – but I do know that it sure seems like our house is a lot more musical now that we have a baby.

What am I talking about? When Jackson wakes up in the morning, it’s a safe bet he’s going to hear the following songs:

“Good Morning”
“The Thong Song”

“Good Morning” is what I call the song from some musical I’ve never seen that starts with “good morning, good morning, it’s the best time of the day. Good morning, good morning, to you.” Kate has informed me that these are not the actual words to the song, which makes it all the more ridiculous that I’m singing a song that I don’t actually know to my child every morning – but it seems happy and topical… and can sometimes keep him distracted enough to change a diaper before he crawls away.

Why do I follow it with a rendition of Sisqo’s year 2000 classic about ladies wearing scandalous bathing suits? Because the first thing I check on Jackson in the morning is if he has any poop in his diaper… or as I word it, “dumps in his trunks”… which leads me to “he’s got dumps in his trunk, what what, baby move your butt, butt butt” (which is surprisingly accurate, given that he is a baby… and is often moving his butt).

Sadly, those are the more “normal” songs that I sing to my child. There are also the “variations on a real song that substitute words to make them child appropriate songs” – like my version of One Direction’s instant-class “What Makes You Beautiful”…

“You’re insecure, don’t know what for,
Maybe because you spend the day on the flo-ooor,
You don’t know, oh oh, you don’t know you’re a baby…
Oh, oh oh, that’s because you’re a baby”

Or Carly Rae Jespen’s “Call Me Maybe”…

“Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy,
But you are Jackson, and you’re my baby.”

I could go on, but by now you can see the crazy.

So singing existing songs (incorrectly, or with altered lyrics to make them appropriate) is my thing. Kate’s thing? Making up new songs that simply describe what she’s currently doing. Unfortunately, she does it in a catchy way that gets these “songs” stuck in my head for days at a time. The most brutally catchy one? The aptly titled “We’ll Give You a Bath”…

“We’ll give you a bath,
Give you a bath,
Give you a bath, give you a bath, give you a bath,
(clap clap)
We’ll scrub a dub,
In the tub,
We’ll scrub a dub, we’ll scrub a dub, in the tub.”

Of course, she keeps it pretty PC. Once she gets the song started, it doesn’t take long for me to take over and make it inappropriate, thus ensuring it will never be played on mainstream radio…

“We’ll wash your wiener,
We’ll get it cleaner,
We’ll wash your wiener, we’ll get it cleaner, wash the wiener.”
(clap clap)

They say that playing music in the household makes your baby smarter. Someday Jackson is going to thank us (and all the one-hit wonders from the year 2012) for making him a future genius. Thank you Carly Rae Jespen. Thank you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Month Seven Musings

Graduation. It’s official – I have a genius baby. Just like a young Doogie Howser, Jackson is quickly progressing through the ranks of the classes at his school. Shortly after turning six months old, he graduated from the lowly “Tadpole” Room at school to the much more exciting “Frog” Room. It turns out, you don’t actually have to be exhibit any extraordinary degree of smartness to move from one classroom to the next, but rather just annoy the teachers by being waaay more mobile than all the other babies in the class, and they’ll quickly graduate you to make their lives much easier. In Jackson’s case, all it took was being the only baby in the Tadpole class to attempt to break out of the room when the door was open, throw everything on the shelves onto the floor, and literally crawl laps around every other baby in the room.

I think there’s an important life lesson here. Jackson, someday when you’re struggling with Chemistry class in high school, just be a handful for the teacher and they’ll graduate you rather than having to put up with your hijinks for another year… although maybe make sure that you don’t accidentally cause an explosion before throwing things on the floor. It’s not a big deal with diapers and plush toys – but chemicals might be a different story.

The interesting thing about being such a genius baby is that Jackson has quickly gone from being one of the bigger kids in the Tadpole Room to being the absolute runt of the litter in the Frog Room. Is it better to be a big fish in a little sea? Or a little fish in a big sea? There are definite pros and cons. On the one hand, observing the older kids should (in theory) lead to Jackson learning new tricks faster. You know, things like crawling on his hands and knees instead of his stomach or eating food like a civilized person that can keep carrots out of their hair and eyebrows. On the down side, it’s going to be a bit trickier to pick up chicks in the new room since the older boys can drive (toy) cars and walk circles around Jackson. The good news is that Jackson is so mild mannered that if an older kid comes and takes his toy away, he just stares at them, processes what just happened*, and then happily moves on to find something else to put in his mouth… or hit himself in the face with.

Picture yourself as a young baby. You are finally realizing that your hands are not only connected to your body – but that you have control over them. You figure out that they can be used to reach and grab things and bring them closer to you. It’s a fantastic feeling of power and control over the chaos of the world. What do you do with this newfound ability? Whack yourself in the head with everything, of course.

It’s not like Jackson doesn’t know it’s coming, and that it’s going to hurt. He flinches in advance of smacking the toy to his face – but that doesn’t stop him from doing it. What’s up with that? Soft toys suddenly become the best toys ever because there is no chance that Jackson playing with them results in the authorities arresting us for child abuse. Hmmmm… maybe he’s not the baby genius I thought he was – or he’s just preparing for an illustrious career as a professional wrestler.

Baby Chaos Theory. Or, maybe this is just another component of my newest theory about babies, which I’ve coined the “Baby Chaos Theory”. In a nutshell, babies absolutely hate order. You stack up blocks, they can’t crawl over to them fast enough to knock them to the ground. If I put a box of toys in front of Jackson, he’ll go through, grab each toy and throw it on the ground until it’s empty… then move on to something else to play with – unless you start to refill the box with the toys he has already thrown out, in which case the game may continue forever.

But the best example of Baby Chaos Theory occurs at mealtime. You give Jackson a toy to play with in their high chair, he can’t wait to swing it around and throw it on the ground. At mealtime, it’s an exercise in futility, yet I continue to play along – picking up the toy, putting it back on the high chair tray, then waiting ten seconds for Jackson to pick it up and throw it on the ground again. The good news is that I’m getting a little bit of a workout and Jackson is getting a little bit of free antibodies from the ground, since I long ago stopped rinsing off the toys before giving them back to them – although the evolution of this was hilarious. When first born, we would actually wash off toys (with soap!) before giving them back to him. Then it became a quick wash in warm water… then a splash of cold water… then me picking off any visible cat hair and dirt off the toy before giving it back to him… then finally to just blindly grabbing it and handing it back over. The bad news is, if he’s testing me to see how long I’ll keep picking up something that he keeps throwing on the ground, I’m failing miserably and Jackson probably thinks I’m an idiot – or can’t understand that he wants that toy to be on the ground.

Then it comes time to actually eat. Jackson knows exactly what to do with a spoon. He knows how to hold it and where the food is supposed to go… yet after he eats most of the food off the spoon, he finds the need to whack himself in the face with it and get food all over his face. Why? Because a clean face represents order – and getting carrots all over the place represents chaos.

Similar rules apply to most things for Jackson. Put him in a room with a hundred toys of various shapes and sizes and one extension cord tucked away behind a bookshelf in the corner, and he’ll quickly move over to that bookshelf and yank on the cord until it comes out far enough for him to chew on. In our house, we’ve accepted the fact that Jackson is going to do things like chew on the air register and try to pull books off our shelves. No big deal. The only thing that can really create a mess is the cat’s water dispenser in the kitchen. Over the course of the past month, Jackson discovered it and realized it’s his favorite thing in the world. He’ll lie in front of it and pull the water out of it all afternoon long, leaving a huge puddle of water on the floor – and him soaking wet.

According to my iPhone Baby Guide, babies are like Doubting Thomas. If they can’t see it, they don’t believe that it exists. In theory, this means that every time you hide a toy from them, they assume it’s gone forever. They can’t comprehend that things exist when they are not visible. Jackson Thomas does not believe in this theory. How do I know? If you place him in the living room and leave him to his own devices for five minutes, he’ll quickly crawl into the kitchen and make a b-line for the cat water. He knows it exists, even when he can’t see it. People always wonder what babies dream about when they sleep. In the case of Jackson, I’m pretty sure it’s the cat’s water.

Cats and Dogs. Speaking of cats – this month Jackson came face to face with his first dog. One would think that there is no difference to a baby between a cat and a dog – both are roughly their size, furry, and have sweet water dishes to play in. However, this is not the case. While he is pretty indifferent to the cats, Jackson is absolutely fascinated by dogs. He crawls for them, touches them, gets in their face, and goes nose-to-nose with them. Part of this might be because cats are somewhat cautious of babies, and tolerate them for about five seconds before running away, whereas dogs approach babies like they do most things in life – they sniff them, lick them, and want to play with them. The more I think about it, the more babies are just like dogs…

  • They love people and want to be friends with everyone.
  • They spend their lives on the floor.
  • They eat food designed for them, but long for regular people food.
  • They will put anything they find in their mouths.
  • They require you to put nice things on higher shelves.
  • They are equally fawned over by the general public.
  • They both come home from day care exhausted from playing with the other babies / dogs.
  • Their owners spend their time cleaning up their poop.

So I suppose based on all these similarities, it makes sense that babies would like dogs more the cats. The good news is that thus far, Jackson isn’t one of those kids (you know, the weird ones) who is afraid of dogs, which bodes well for my – I mean “his” – eventual Christmas present someday of getting a puppy.

Sick. One quick correction from last month. If you recall, I talked about all the fun that goes along with having a sick baby and taking them to the ER. I foolishly said “I'm going to go out on a limb and say the peace of mind that we received from the visit isn't going to be worth the many hundreds of dollars we're going to be paying the good people of Children's Hospital.” Turns out, I should have said “THOUSANDS of dollars”. Absolutely absurd. Jackson is not going to the hospital again unless he is missing a limb.

Having said that, this month KB and I go to enjoy the fun of being sick yourself while having to take care of a baby. Holy impossible. Do you want to know the last thing you want to do when you feel like death and are fighting to avoid puking by lying perfectly still on the couch? Following around a six month old baby to keep them out of the cat water. Absolutely brutal. It’s times like these when I wish Jackson was old enough to let the TV do the parenting and plop him down on the couch next to me to watch a Disney movie marathon for eight hours instead of building cognitive abilities by playing with toys and muscles by crawling all over the place.

On the other hand, the one thought that we had the entire time we were sick was “please God don’t let Jackson get sick”. One, it would be super gross and he wouldn’t be smart enough to get to the toilet when he needed to puke. Two, even if he did, he’s not tall enough to reach over the toilet. Three, he would be so confused as to what in the world was going on and would hate it more than anything. I dread the first time that he’s actually sick, and hope it’s a long time away… and occurs when I’m away on a business trip.

Buttons.  KB and I have both made realizations about baby clothes over this past month. She has discovered since Jackson crawls all over the place, dark colored clothes are far superior to light colored clothes. They make your baby less gross looking, and make you look like the type of person who keeps a clean house. Now Jackson has a closet full of white outfits that are just hanging there waiting for the day when he starts crawling on his hands and knees… which means that he’s cycling through a rotation of about five other outfits that are dirty-proof. If variety is the spice of life, Jackson’s fashion style is brown rice cereal (inside joke for all the babies out there – I mean, come on – give me some more flavor parents!).

Me on the other hand, I’ve realized that people who make baby clothes that have real buttons on them instead of snaps have never actually dressed a baby. I know what you’re thinking – how much harder is it to close a button vs. snap something? The answer is a million times harder, especially when you have a child who finds lying on his back to be the worst torture in the world and can’t wait to flip on his stomach and crawl away to the nearest air register / extension cord. If I’m lucky, I can get one button closed each attempt, which means a shirt with 5 buttons on it takes me a solid 10 minutes to close up… and then there’s the absolute worst feeling of the world of finishing the second to last button and realizing that they’re all out alignment and need to be shifted down one hole. If that happens, you’re looking at a solid half hour of getting dressed. Absolutely brutal. Jackson has two outfits that have a number of buttons and snaps – and honest to God, I can’t even begin to put the one on him without calling Kate in for assistance. I don’t know if it’s supposed to go on head first, feet first, or somehow just wrap around his back and fasten in the front. Baby clothes are supposed to be easy, one-piece affairs that have a maximum of three snaps on them. Anything more than that is just inefficient. I look forward to the day when Kate goes out of town and I take Jackson to school in a white onesie and baby mesh shorts… although then I guess he would come home in a black onesie and baby mesh shorts – but eh, what can you do.

The Good Life. Finally this month, I just want to note how great Jackson's life is right now and he doesn't even know it. Jackson lives in a world where the Cincinnati Reds have a ten game division lead and it's only a matter of time before they clinch a division title. He lives in a world where the Bengals are praised for their drafting prowess, open their season on Monday Night Football, and are coming off a playoff season. He has never seen Notre Dame lose a football game - but instead assumes that they always win close games and beat Top 10 teams on the road. It's like a young Brian living through the late 1980s and seeing the Bengals make the Super Bowl, Notre Dame win a National Championship, and the Reds win a World Series... and being too young (and sober) to fully appreciate it. Here's hoping that this is only a taste of things to come for him, and the good times continue to roll until he's old enough to appreciate it.

Speaking of tasting things - as if the month couldn't get any better - Jackson topped it off with his first taste of delicious Skyline chili! Being a responsible parent, I didn't let him load his coneys up with hot sauce, but rather put some chili on my finger and let him taste it. He thought about it for a second... then grabbed my other fingers hoping to find another one that tasted as amazing. It's no wonder he's too good for brown rice cereal now. 

* and by “processes what just happens”, I mean “plots his eventual revenge”. Someday you will pay for your treachery Soren! Someday…

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Month Six Musings

Six months already? That's half a year, getting closer to the point where normal society will track an age, as opposed to the silly "ten weeks" or "three months" measurements that are only used by parents of new babies (read: mothers. If it was fathers of new babies it would be like "um, I think like three months-ish?").

No - hitting the six month mark is an actual mark, as Jackson is officially a half a year old. The good news is, he's already accomplished quite a lot in his short time with us. Just in the past month, he's...

  1. Gone to the emergency room.
  2. Learned to crawl (or "scoot" as people call it, I was unaware there was a difference. He can move from one place to another on his own, whatever that is classified as)
  3. Eaten his first fruits and vegetables.
  4. Cut his first tooth.
  5. Attended not one, but two minor league baseball games.
  6. Officially been professionally photographed more times than his dad

More on all these items later - but they raise a very curious dichotomy in parenting I've noticed. Parents want their children to be advanced. They want them to be smarter than the other kids - better than the average baby. Some of it is perfectly logical. The sooner your baby sleeps through the night, the sooner the parents get to sleep through the night and thumb their nose at those sucker parents who still are awoken multiple times throughout the night by a crying baby. On the other hand, some of it represents the baby actually "growing up" - which is not always as well received. It's exciting to see your child doing things like crawling or eating for the first time, but in the back of your mind is the vision of your child no longer needing you - suddenly going away to college and hanging out with questionable friends, no longer wanting to be associated with his parents. 

As a dad, I have very little of these thoughts. To me, from the point when Jackson was born, the clock started ticking until the point when he would be able to play sports and video games with me. We're not there yet, but with every passing day, he's getting a little closer. I anxiously await the day that I can claim "father son bonding time" when we sit on the couch and watch football, taking breaks in between to play video games from 1996 (because modern ones are lame) and toss football in the backyard (for exercise). 

Kate on the other hand, as a mom, is the exact opposite. Sure, she wants Jackson to grow and develop - but with each passing day he's one step closer to not wanting to hang out with his mom. He's starting to outgrow those cute baby outfits we bought before we knew if Jackson was going to be boy or a girl. He's less likely to want to hang out in her lap without attempting to crawl off it and tumble face-first onto the floor below. The introduction of real food is the first step into not needing her for 100% of his life-sustaining needs... and that can be difficult to accept.

The one thing that makes it easier is that Jackson gets way cuter and more fun with every passing day. Remember when Kate gave birth to a small Asian baby and I demanded an immediate paternity test? Well, the good news is that Jackson now is a mini-Brian who smiles at everyone, constantly wants to be moving and playing, and loves TV and hates books just as much as his dad. Looking at pictures from six months ago to today, he barely looks like the same kid - but it's all been change for the better. The unfortunate thing for him is that he's probably rapidly approaching peak attractiveness for his life - sometime in the next year or two - and then it's all downhill until he tricks a pretty girl to settle and marry him twenty-five years later.

But back to the fun from this past month...

E.R. Although Jackson had been sick before, this month brought his first case of "what the hell is that!?!" - a rash that spread all over his body. After two days of assuming it would just go away, his demeanor (crying all the time, generally hating life and letting us know it) drove us to Children's Hospital on a fateful June weekend afternoon. I felt dirty for being the stereotypical "overreacting parents", but I guess I would have felt worse if Jackson actually had some life-threatening skin disease... if those even exist. Although we haven't gotten a bill yet, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the peace of mind that we received from the visit isn't going to be worth the many hundreds of dollars we're going to be paying the good people of Children's Hospital.

Let me break down how the experience went:

  1. Check in, have someone take Jackson's vitals.
  2. Wait in Waiting Room #1
  3. Move to Room #1, have someone else take Jackson's vitals.
  4. Wait in Waiting Room #2, where people who clearly aren't that sick glare at your screaming child.
  5. Move to Room #2, where a nurse takes Jackson's vitals.
  6. Wait in Room #2, thanking God for iPhones and the ability to follow Reds games in moments like this.
  7. See a Doctor, who takes one look at your child and then disappears for 30 minutes.
  8. Have the Doctor report back that "kids get rashes, nothing to worry about" and disappear again.
  9. Ask the Nurse for a more detailed prognosis and instructions.
  10. Have the Doctor return and give very vague instructions and information.
  11. Leave three hours later.

Needless to say, they did a very good job of giving the impression of moving through the hospital without actually giving any real information. And again, you can't put a price tag on peace of mind - but this experience makes me even more confident that we can successfully raise our child using only the internet rather than relying on these so-called "traditional doctors".

Crawling. You know the stereotype is that babies (and kids in general) always gravitate towards the things that are off-limits? Kids to fireworks, grown-ups to shots, babies to electrical wires? Well, it's 100% true. In an exhibition that will surely land KB and I in the "Parents Hall of Fame", the first thing that motivated our soon to crawl across the floor was the opportunity to put an extension cord in his mouth and bite down on it. That's right, in a room full of Babies's R Us approved toys of all the colors of the rainbow, making the most entertaining sounds and colors imaginable, Jackson scooted all the way across our living room to pick up a boring brown extension cord and put it in his mouth.

What really makes us good parents? After witnessing this, I went and got the video camera and dragged the extension cord across the room to entice him to eat it again, so that I could get his first crawls on camera. 

The funny thing is, this isn't a one-time experience. In any given situation, the one thing you do NOT want Jackson going after and putting in his mouth is the one thing he immediately gravitates for and won't stop until he reaches. Things like dirty shoes, dirty newspaper, full bottles or cups of beer, sharp metal objects, or high-priced electronics. Those are his favorites.

Part of me wonders if kids can somehow sense that you don't want them around these things, which makes them all the more appealing. I decided to perform an experiment by placing an empty cup of water just out of  Jackson's reach on the table, and telling him that he couldn't have it. Low and behold, he strained and reached for it until he finally got it, then munched on it for a while before realizing that he couldn't cause any trouble, and quickly moved on to dumping a cup of beer on the floor. But the moral of the story is, kids somehow know what they should - and shouldn't - be doing, and naturally gravitate towards the bad. I'm going to chalk this up to nature's way of toughening up kids - forcing them to build up immunities and thickening their skin a bit through a few jolts of electricity or scrapes and bruises. Survival of the fittest!

Of course, the other problem with all this newfound mobility is that we can no longer leave Jackson laying on the floor to run to the bathroom and expect to come back and find him exactly where you left him. Give him thirty seconds, and he'll travel across an entire room (provided there is something dangerous on the opposite side of it). We are rapidly approaching the final transformation of our house. We started out with a very "put together" house with nice pictures on the shelves, candles, and things made of glass adorning each room. Everything had a color scheme and there was an overall "feel" to every room.

Then we started to integrate more color - the brighter and louder the better. The rooms got a bit more cluttered as Jackson's things found their place alongside our things. We rearranged rooms, did our best to keep his toys put away as much as possible, and tried to maintain a balance between our pre- and post- baby lives... and I think we did it quite well.

Now that Jackson is mobile, the party is over. It's time to start locking down the rooms, removing all movable objects from bookshelves, hammering said bookshelves into the walls, and putting up gates to create mini-cages for Jackson to play in without it resulting in broken glass and electronics. Gone are the days of being able to change Jackson on a changing table without him attempting to roll off the edge onto the floor. Gone are the days of being able to give him a bath without him doing at least two flips in the tub to end up on his stomach. Gone are the days of him sitting in a stationary chair or swing and happily staring at things around the room. He's got the entire world to see (and put in his mouth), and he can't wait to do so.

Again, for me, it's exciting. One step closer to being able to throw a football and kick a soccer ball. For the females in the relationship, it's goodbye to their perfect cute homes and hello to stark walls and empty bookshelves. All we need is a couple of posters attached to the wall with push-pins and I'll feel right back at home in the Delta House... in more ways than one.

Cleaning. I would have never claimed to have a clean house. Kate and I have a very "put together" house. There's not crap all over the place. Everything is in its rightful place before Kate and I go to bed at night, and before we go to bed in the morning - just in case we die in our sleep or at work, people who come into our house will think we lead very organized lives... but not clean ones. 

You never really comprehend how dirty your house is until you have a baby crawling around it. Want to feel depressed about how clean you keep your house? I'll put Jackson in a white onesie and let him crawl around on your hardwood floors for thirty seconds. He'll come up with a black chest, with cat hair in his mouth and dust bunnies in his hair. As Sully puts it, he's gaining "free anitbodies" to protect him from future diseases, but it is a bit disgusting... and disheartening to see your baby reveling in your own filth.  We're getting to the point of either needing to take vacation days from work to do a good cleaning of the house, or becoming fancy-pants east side people who pay someone else to clean their house. It sounds crazy, but when you think about it, wouldn't everyone rather spend a few hours playing with their child instead of cleaning their house? Fifty years from now, I'd rather have a bunch of memories of watching Jackson eat extension cords rather than of watching Kate clean bathrooms (because I don't do such things since bathrooms are gross).

Still, it's funny how having a baby totally changes your life. I would have never thought in a million years I would be having a serious conversation about paying someone to clean my house. Then again, I also never thought I would be "doing stuff" for 16 of the 18 hours a day that I'm awake, leaving precious little time for things like exercise, watching TV, blogging, or reading. But here I am, super busy all the time with a kid eating dirt off my floor. Something's gotta give.

Food and Teeth. Speaking of eating, Jackson is now well on his way to being a good carnivore and tearing into some animal flesh. His first tooth has sprung, leading to a lot of excess drool and opportunity for me to pull out obscure Simpsons references I never even realized I had. When I discovered that Jackson had his first tooth on the way, I started calling it "Ol' Chompa" in a grizzled old prospector voice. I had no idea where it came from... until I decided to Google it:

That's right - one episode of Simpsons I probably saw 15 years ago and haven't though of since somehow permanently burned into my subconsciousness, even though I can't remember conversations I had with co-workers two days ago. God bless TV.

At any rate, although Jackson is not yet enjoying his first delicious taste of Skyline Chili or Cheeseburger, he's working his way through the gauntlet of canned baby food. As a surprise to no one, he's wolfing down everything we've thrown his way. Carrots, bananas, even peas (gross!) - he chomps them down, gets a decent share all over his face and hair, and comes back for more. You have to think at some point we will come across a food that he doesn't like - but thus far, we're either starving our child to the point where he'll eat anything, or all those food TV shows I watched and cooking magazines I read to him while he was in utero are finally paying off. 

Picture Pages. Lastly, with Jackson turning six, it was time for his six month pictures. By my count, this marks the fourth time that Jackson has been professionally photographed. Once in the hospital, once for his one month pictures, once for his three month pictures, and now for his six month pictures. By my count, I have been officially photographed twice in my life. Once on my wedding day, and once when we got "engagement pictures" taken three years after we had been married after three years of hearing Kate complain about the fact that we never got them.

Don't get me wrong - the pictures are great, and I'm glad we have them. But it is funny how Jackson has already discovered what a camera is and uses reverse baby psychology on them. Similar to how he's so attracted to things that we don't want him to chew on, he's the happiest, smiley-ist baby you've ever seen... until the camera comes out. Then it's all serious business-man Jackson, attempting to read your soul through the camera lens, thinking about solving the world's great problems, with no time for such frivalry as smiling for a picture. He's even smart enough to understand that an iPhone or iPad are the same thing as a camera. He sees those come out, and goes from Smiles McLaugherson to Concerned McSeriousface. Luckily, I'm still able to draw his attention away and get a few smiles out of him (mostly through singing the DMB jam "Anyone Seen the Bridge" - seriously), but it's ironic that for a kid who spends 95% of his day smiling, when the professional photographer comes around, we get about 10 pictures worth of smiles before he's done with it.

I guess the good news is, she'll be back around three months later for another opportunity to get more pictures of Happy Jackson. At some point we're bound to get that elusive family picture where he's smiling, I don't look tired as hell, and Kate isn't unhappy with the way her hair looks... even if it's when Jackson turns 16. Someday...

With that, I think I've used up my quota of two free hours of time for today. Back to work!