Saturday, June 22, 2013

Damn day job interferes with blogging

So it turns out that being a lawyer means that sometimes you are really busy writing and conferring with clients and going to court and all sorts of other lawyerly sounding things.  This leaves little time for quality blogging (and who wants less than quality?), and so we've laid fallow for a few weeks.

Well, Sidney apparently had enough of my sabbatical and mandated at least a short word or three be posted.  In fact, here is a picture of him proofing the post with me.  I belive at this moment he was pointing out my overuse of parentheticals and semicolons (he can be pointed with his notes).  We'll also be posting more pictures with posts (and by that I mean any). 

More adventures later this week.  In the interim, anybody know how to convince a 17 month old that the Oxford Comma is not dead?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Amusement Parks

When last we spoke, I had just recounted the adventure that was getting to Orlando, and today we delve into the raucous journey that was taking Sidney to some of the theme parks.  Now, prior to the trip, several people, including yours truly, raised an eyebrow at the thought of taking a 15 Month Old to such attractions; many questions sprung to mind.  Will there be any rides at all he can go on?  Most rides require a height of at least 36", some even 40", and although Sidney is pretty tall for his age (32"), he still falls a bit short (no pun intended).  Will he freak out seeing the characters?  People in giant furry suits ... let's be honest, it scares us a little too (for decidedly different reasons).  Will our sanity survive the onslaught created by the throngs of fellow park goers, naked commercialism on display and the rigors of chasing a 15 Month Old around a giant amusement park?  Ok, mostly it was the throngs of people worrying me, but that is only because the masses tend to create massive lines which mean massive waits and just the thought of it gives me a massive headache.  See what I mean?  And let's not forget the question of Will Sidney remember any of this?  I am generally hard pressed to remember what I did last week, much less what I did at under 2 years of age, would this give Sidney any lasting memories?  Needless to say, we got answers to these (along with several others nobody asked), and now we can share them with you.

First up, were there any rides for Sidney?  Given the insane cost of admission (for our trip, we went to Universal Studios, Epcot and the Magic Kingdom), your ROI is going to be the amount of "fun" you and your brood can extract from any given park.  Luckily, children under 2 get into most parks for free (including the 3 we visited), so even if we didn't find many rides for Sidney, the economics of the trip could balance out a bit so long as he had a great time.  Universal, predictably, was very low on rides for kids as wee as Sidney.  A couple of rides (Despicable Me and Shreck) had "stationary" benches where you could sit with a lap child and watch the ride/movie, but both were in 3D and there was no way Sidney was going to keep the glasses on.  So rather than risk giving him a headache and/or precipitating rounds of puking from watching the movies without the glasses (take off your 3D glasses next time, odds are you will be nauseated in seconds), we passed on these.  The park did, however, have Woody Woodpecker Land (or something like that - Google is your friend people) which was essentially a themed playground.  There were slides, see-saws, water spurting areas, etc, all themed to different children's properties (Curious George, Fivel, Barney the Dinosaur and the aforementioned Woodpecker).  There was a kid roller coaster Sidney was still too small for, and two water rides that we could have taken him on but for it being a cool and overcast day.  Sidney  nevertheless had a great time wandering and playing on the slides.  However, you really could not make a day out of this one area, thus the height limit for rides will be the measuring stick for when we can bring Sidney back to Universal.  Next was Epcot.  Here we finally got to put Sidney on "proper" rides.  Several rides are slow moving benches where you can either keep a small child on your lap or sitting next to you.  Little Nemo, Imagination and Starship Earth all were hits with him (he cried when we took him off the rides - a trend that would continue).  Sidney also got to do a lot of walking around in Epcot as we went through all the Country Pavilions.  Sidney is very much in his independent phase, so getting him to hold your hand while he walks around is a 50/50 endeavor at best, so this gave us the opportunity to try out our child-leash, and yes it worked like a charm.  Some folks gave us dirty looks, but clearly they don't have children (all the thing does is let us know where he is and give us the ability to stop him from diving into oncoming traffic people, relax).  Finally was the Magic Kingdom, the Happiest Place on Earth™.  Unsurprisingly, this had the most rides for Sidney.  The vast majority of the rides are of the "bench moves you through stuff" variety, and let me tell you those work great with a small child.  He loved It's a Small World (Grandpa's favorite ride), but his favorite seemed to be the People Mover (we rode this one twice in a row, he was having such a great time).  So, the answer to "are there rides for the really small kids" is not so much at Universal, some at Epcot and pretty much all of Magic Kingdom.

On to the characters; did Sidney freak out?  Way back when I visited amusement parks in my youth (yes, they had them in the iron age), the characters would just walk around the park and pose for pictures.  Not any more, apparently.  At Universal, Epcot and Magic Kingdom the characters are now stationed at certain locations at designated times and you can line up and wait to take your picture with them.  Yeah, you've been reading this blog, you know this had a very low probability of happening.  That being said, Barney had no line at Universal (more on that shortly), so Sidney met his first amusement park character and it was a giant purple anthropomorphic tyrannosaurus rex with a speech impediment (have you heard Barney?).  It went just fine and he even smiled and stood still for the picture; Sidney didn't do bad either.  We saw a few characters in passing while walking around all three parks but none caught Sidney's attention.  The only other characters we saw up close were the princesses at Magic Kingdom, as The Wife wanted us to have lunch at Cinderella's castle.  Sidney, predictably, was fast asleep for the portrait picture with Cinderella, and for 90% of lunch (The Wife is lucky Nana and Grandpa love her so much).  So we have a picture of a passed out child in a stroller with Cinderella, pictures of The Wife with Ariel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, respectively, next to a stroller with a sleeping child (apropos with Sleeping Beauty, in hind sight), and a picture of a crying Sidney avoiding Jasmine.  In Sidney's defense, it looked like Jasmine could use a Pilates class or 10.  Hey, don't hate the messenger people, she's the one in the belly outfit.  Although we didn't have a freak out, he was not exactly enthralled with the characters, so let's call this one a push.

Next, would we survive the throngs of people at the parks?  Funny thing, turns out that the last week of April and first week of May is a "low time" in Orlando.  All the various Spring Breaks are over, it is too soon for the Graduation Trips, and way too soon for the Summer Vacation crowd.  All 3 parks were readily manageable.  In fact, the longest line we waited on was 20 minutes, and that was for the lunch at the Castle that we had a reservation for; not so much irony as foreshadowing, really.  All of the parks now have some variation on "fast passes" that allow you to drastically cut your wait time, and we did use these a few times at the Magic Kingdom, but for the most part the parks were just full enough to show life, but there were almost no lines.  I am not saying this was a "sweet spot" week, but it sure comes close.  The down side is that this is still smack dab in the middle of Spring Showers season, so there was rain every single day.  It broke long enough for us to be able to go to the parks, but rain it did.  So ... yeah ... none of you guys go down during the last week of April/first week of May.  Totally not worth it.  Sure, we will still go during this time, but only because ... uh ... because ... oh, look, the last question.

Finally, will he remember any of this?  Half way through the first day at Universal I came to the realization that we will have no way of knowing the answer to this one until Sidney gets older and communicates whether he does.  That being said, we will definitely remember it.  He laughed, he pointed and oohed, he stared quizzically, and was otherwise very happy (with the exception of when Nana would make him wear his hat to protect from the sun.  Willful little bugger, but Nana prevailed).  In the end it is not so much of a "push" as a moot question.  Apparently, not everything with Sidney is fully about Sidney.  Hegle would approve (the philosophy majors will argue Kierkegaard applies more, the rest of you, Google is still your friend).

Join us next time when whatever I write is way shorter than the last two posts.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ramp up to the family vacation, or, how I learned we NEED all this stuff to go with us.

The Wife, Sidney, Nana, the Admiral and yours truly spent a wonderful week in Orlando, taking Sidney to theme parks, the pool and generally running him around in the [occasional] sun.  However, before we get to that entertaining story, I thought it would be appropriate to share the adventure that was packing for and getting to Orlando (it also means I get at least two posts out of the trip; huzzah for content).  How adventurous?  Let's find out.

I have mentioned in the past that travelling with a child (and My Wife) can make one feel a bit like a Sherpa, but I now realize that this description, although completely accurate, does not convey the entire experience.  To fully appreciate the undertaking we need to go back a bit (to pre-packing ... yes this is a thing apparently), stay a while in the middle (actually packing and then making it to, and through, the departure airport) and, finally, forward a smidge (to flying and arriving at your destination) along the Sherpa time-line.  Confusing?  Oh, it just gets better.

Pre-packing begins when My Wife decides that an upcoming trip is close enough to warrant starting packing lists and purchasing whatever "essentials" we lack.  If this sounds vague then I have properly phrased it.  For a while I thought the length of a given trip would dictate the pre-packing deadline (ie, a linear equation), but the lists and purchases would come no-where near when the math predicted; total failure.  Determined to figure it out, I would add and modify variables in (vain) attempts to refine the calculations.  Distance being traveled, the climate of the destination, the "excitement factor" of the trip, the significance of the trip; none of it worked.  Some combination of relativistic time dilation, exponential calculations, wave function collapse and Dadaism are likely at play, but that's the best I can muster.  So pre-packing begins when it begins, but once it does there is no stopping or off-ramp.  The aforementioned lists will include breakdowns of clothing necessary (by day), supplies, required peripherals, optional peripherals (which become required) and items we might have forgotten in the past, but do not want to forget again.  The lists are subject to modification at any moment and any list you might have previously referenced could have been replaced so double check with The Wife first.  The lists also multiply, because the packing list gives rise to the purchases list and those together will give rise to a to-do list in order to coordinate the shopping, the packing and Sidney's schedule.  And we're just getting started.

Pre-packing gives way to packing in a very organic manner, which is to say we can't really pinpoint the moment it happens.  They run into each-other slowly; one moment The Wife is going over the lists, buying stuff we absolutely need, and the next piles of stuff that will be packed start forming.  I used to be of the mindset that "packing" didn't start until there was a suitcase out being stuffed, but then just before one short trip down to Philly I saw our dining room table covered in zip-lock bags, each one filled with an individual, but complete, outfit for Sidney.  Sure, there was no suitcase yet, but come on, how is that not packing?  For this latest trip, packing started about 3 days before departure, with small piles of Sidney's clothing appearing  on the dining room table (but no zip-locks this time).  We were done by the night before, partly because I just waited until the end and then threw stuff in a suitcase, but mostly because trying to pack with a 15 month old "helping" means you spend equal times putting things into a suitcase and chasing the little bugger down to get back what he just pulled out of the suitcase.  I swear the child must think his full name is "Sidney No!".
But, finish we did (after he went to bed) and I'll let you guess the bag count.  It's for 2 adults and a 15 month old for a week in Orlando.  Have your guess?  It was six.  Three large suitcases, two small suitcases and a stroller bag.  Oh, and the stroller bag had the stroller and a bunch of Sidney's toys packed in it (tip: most airlines let car seat and stroller bags be checked for free/don't count against bag total, so use them for more than just the car seats and strollers).  Now, of the six, guess how many I was packed into?  3/4 of one of the large suitcases.  The rest of the storage square footage was Sidney and The Wife.  And before you ask what was in all that storage space I'll just tell you that: (1) I only can guess at half of it; (2) I don't want to ask what it all was; and (3) I am sure it was all absolutely necessary and could not be left behind.  Yeah...moving along.  So now we have six bags and a child to get down an elevator and into our car, then out of our car and into the airline's hands.  We had decided to curb-side check because that would be "easier."  Unfortunately, the curb-side attendant was nowhere to be found so we ended up having to take turns running luggage into the ticket counter and showing our IDs for check-in as the other stayed with Sidney and the car.   Naturally the curb-side attendant showed back up to his post after we were done and pulling the car away.    Sonofa ....  

Next we parked the car in the pre-reserved parking garage because I'll be damned if I am leaving the car out in the elements of Newark, NJ for a week.  Unfortunately, this parking was attached to Terminal C and we were leaving out of Terminal A.  This means we had to get 2 rolling small suitcases, a backpack, large purse, car-seat and a 15 month old from Terminal C to A.  "Luckily" there was an air-train that went form terminal to terminal, but to get to it we had to go up three levels using two elevator banks separated by a few hundred feet of mazes (Newark airport, designed with something in mind.  Nobody knows what that "something" is, however).  Finally over the river and through the ill designed woods, we got to go through security.  My take on the TSA/Airport security: it's a farce.  Some of you will disagree with me (and you are certainly entitled to be completely wrong), but the whole strip down to stocking feet with no belt, carrying no fluids, and then being subjected to the Freedom Grope™ by marginally trained individuals (not their fault, it's the fault of those providing the marginal training) is not stopping t'rrists, it's humiliating and delaying law abiding citizens.  Add trying to get yourself and a child through with baby food and formula and security checkpoints are akin to death by a thousand rusty cuts.  The Wife, Sidney and I joined one of the pre-verification programs, hoping to avoid these theaters of the absurd, but unfortunately the airline we were flying hasn't joined the program yet (and now I can say, with no satire, hey, JetBlue, get with the damn program!).  So we muddled through the rape of the 4th Amendment and were finally at the gate.

Because we had to budget in plenty of time to get through Not-Actually-Security, we were at the gate about an hour before boarding.  Sidney spent this time running around, saying hello and bye bye to everyone he saw, and exhausting his parental units.  But then we got to board the plane!  Yes, get the 2 rolling suitcases, the kid, the car seat, the backpack and the purse onto the plane, then secure the car-seat onto the airplane seat, get the luggage into an open overhead before they are full and then get our own asses into the seats before an over-eager "In-Flight Specialist" (or whatever they call sky waiters/waitresses these days) yelled at us for violating one safety code or another for breathing on the wrong side of the plane.  However, we were on the plane!  Sidney was an absolute pleasure on the flight.  He played, he ate, he watched some cartoons, he laughed ... then he fell asleep just 40 minutes before landing.  Luckily for us when we woke him as the plane reached the gate in Orlando he did not rouse cranky, but then we had to get him, the car-seat ... you know the rest ... off the plane and onto another air-train so that we could get to the baggage carousel and pick up the three large suitcases and the packed stroller bag.  Nana and the Admiral met us just before the carousel and Nana ran to grab her grandson.  To be fair, we were sort-of holding him out and yelling "LOOK, NANA!"  It's win/win people ... 

Join us next time when I talk way too much about taking Sidney to Universal Studios, Epcot and The Magic Kingdom.  If you'll excuse me, I need to go lay down and rest after our vacation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why don't we all go out for dinner? and other sources of comedy.

My Wife and I love food.  More precisely, we love good food (although we have been known to disagree on the definition of "good" from time to time).  Before Sidney, we would go out to dinner at least twice a week to indulge our taste buds in the outrageously fantastic fare available in NYC, and that's not to mention the breakfasts, brunches and lunches we could be easily talked into as well.  We went out with Abuela and Abeulo, we went out with Nana and the Admiral, we went out with friends ... hell, friendly enough strangers could talk us into a meal out.  However, once Sidney was born, predictably the gastronomical outings became distinctly fewer and further apart, but our love for the tasty remained.  Now, My Wife happens to be a fantastic cook, and thus we have outrageously good meals at home ... but that means clean up.  My point?  We love food and not having to clean up after.  No wonder, then, the aforementioned affinity for the NYC restaurant/diner/gastro-truck/guy-selling-meat-on-a-stick scene.  Rambling story short, Sidney needed to learn to eat at restaurants.  Who are we kidding, it's actually that we were needed to learn how to handle Sidney at restaurants.  To this end, we try to go out at least once a week for a family meal, and there have been some definite ups and downs along the way.  What have we learned?  I'm glad you (or, more accurately, I) asked.

With considerably further ado, I give you the guaranteed partially effective checklist for having a moderately successful meal at a restaurant with Sidney (so long as by successful you mean "getting to finish a majority of the meal" ... and by "majority" you mean "got to shove 2/3 of your food into your mouth without [excessively] choking").  With me so far?  Good:

1) Get to the restaurant at an "off-hour" for the desired meal.  Basically, this means "get there before the rush."  So, for weekend breakfasts we're talking at or before 8am (hey, this is NYC, who the hell is up before noon on a weekend other than parents of young children? That's right, nobody ... unless Nana and the Admiral are visiting, then them), for a lunch 11ish or 2ish,  and for dinner 5.  Notice something?  Yep, we're talking early bird hours.  Babies and Geriatrics; cue Sunrise/Sunset, flowery circle of life cliché, et al.  There will be more room, the wait-staff will be happy to have a tipping table during the off time (more later) and you'll feel less bad about ruining someone else's meal in the event of a MeltDown™.

2) Pick a restaurant that is not quiet.  Sidney is, thankfully, very expressive.  He babbles, he uses the words he does know (often), and when he gets bored of that he just makes noise.  At 15 months, this is a great developmental thing.  Sure, as he grows we'll (hopefully) be able to teach him proper volume control, but for now it means we bring what amounts to a foreign language color commentator wherever we go; you understand a few scattered words, you know he's describing some on-going thing and every now and then he enthusiastically declares a scoring play.  In a loud restaurant, this all just blends into the noise; bonus points at places actually showing sports.  We've found establishments that play music are ideal, with large boisterous establishments coming in a close second.  This brings us to

3) Learn to spot "kid friendly" restaurants.  Aside from the blaring advertisements for the obvious "kid party-places" (which, really ... no.  Sorry Mr. E. Cheese [HA, pun], I'd rather pass), how does one know a restaurant is kid-friendly?  First, look for strollers.  Easy give-away.  Be wary of too many strollers, however, because this can mean either a private party is going on, or you have merely stumbled into a less obviously advertised ring of hel ... I mean "kid party-place".  Next, look for other families.  The kids may be out of strollers, but having one or two other families there likely means the place passes kid-muster.  Finally, and this one is key, ask if they have high-chairs.  My Wife and I have come to the conclusion that if your establishment has even a single high-chair, you contemplate young-ins as patrons.  Side note, you'd be surprised how many pubs in NYC have high-chairs ... rules 2 and 3 satisfied in one swoop!  Bonus: pubs showing soccer and/or rugby matches.  Everyone is pretty much expecting random exclamations in something vaguely reminiscent of English ... not to mention patrons possibly puking and/or peeing at the tables.

4) Bring stuff for the kid to do.  This one was all My Wife (and she gives credit to Nana), but it is dead on: a bored kid is a noisy fidgety kid, so bring thinks to keep them occupied.  For Sidney this means coloring books, a toy or two and Daddy's KindleFire (loaded with Bubble Guppies).  You start with the coloring book, he draws for a bit, throws the crayon, you switch to the toy, he plays with that for a bit, throws that, hopefully by then your food has arrived and you put on Bubble Guppies and that buys you the final few minutes to get your meal down.  Somewhere in there you feed him, which means hand him various foods that he either eats (GREAT) or throws (damnit).  The most successful meal we have had to date involved Sidney chewing on a lemon while watching Bubble Guppies for a full 15 minutes.  Hey, don't look the gift-horse in the mouth, just saddle up and ride it out.  Bonus: vitamin C.

5) Tip commensurate with the mess.  Had a relatively decent meal and want to be able to come back and not be told the high-chair mysteriously went missing?  Tip the poor people that now have to clean up the child-dining ground zero.  Kids in general make a mess, toddlers whom have a penchant for simply dropping (or tossing) food they are "done" with make spectacular messes.  So, leave a little extra for the trouble.  Think of it as an investment in future pleasant meals, your dining karma if you will.

Tune in next time when we cover packing for a family vacation.  No, really, we have to pack this week for a vacation and there is no way this isn't going to end in comedy.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Babysitters. Or, how we realized we are irrevocably now grown ups.

Babysitters.  One undoubtedly took care of you, at least occasionally, when you were a child.  Babysitters.  It is incredibly likely that during high school and college you either were or dated one (or, for some of you, both).  Babysitters.  You've heard the word for a good chunk of your life, and I do not presume to speak for all parents, but for at least My Wife and I the word now carries all manner of new meaning.  One of the banal realities of having children is that they need to be watched.  Whether it be a simple "keep them fed, changed and from obvious dangers", or the more involved "keep them in the line of sight at all times because they are walking mayhem", children need to be watched.  Although we want to be the ones doing all the watching, at certain times we need to be relieved of duty for short stints.  Doctor's appointments, emergencies, special events, mental health breaks (trust me), etc.  So who watches when the watchers need a break (quis custodiet pro custodes, if you will)?  Babysitters.

As first time parents, we predictably turned to Abuela and Nana for babysitting needs when Sidney was still in the "newborn" phase, and as new parents we defined that as until he hit around 8/9 months; although, if anecdotal evidence bears weight, for the next kid we will define that as "until My Wife and the baby are discharged from the hospital."  But, of course, we could not only use Sidney's grandparents (or other family) for our babysitting as there would be plenty of times that the need would arise because they were not available, or they too would be attending whatever event that called for the babysitter in the first place.  And with this came the first new meaning for "babysitter": a person that needs to be vetted.  

With thoughts of backgrounds checks that would make Secret Service agents nervous running through my mind, My Wife discovered that there were, thankfully, already a few networks in place for us to tap that had "pre-vetted" the candidates.  One was word of mouth from mommies she trusted (hold on that one for a second) and the other was a babysitting service run by Barnard College.  At the least, these gave us places from which to start the interviews; plural, because you are going to need to keep a roster of babysitters, not everyone will be available at all times, so have a deep bench.  As for the babysitting service (there are others similarly run all over the place it turns out), the babysitters submit for a background check by the service and list all of their references, etc, so you have a bit less legwork to do.  You get a list of qualified and vetted candidates to bring in to try out.  It is a bit like the drafts in professional sports.  You can concentrate on a smaller pool of known talent.  On the word of mouth, I was informed, other parents will give you their "back-up" babysitters in order to hoard the "first stringers" for themselves ... I do not blame them.  You go through a lot of trial and error before you find a sitter that is reliable, available and your kid likes (see, below).  Think of it as declaring franchise players vs. leaving players in unprotected free-agency (it's physics or sports metaphors people, deal).  So, the pools of available sitters are established, we meet them, we (and by "we" I mean "My Wife", who am I kidding) ask them all manner of questions and then we create our short list.  And with candidates being narrowed, we come to the next new meaning: a person Sidney has to interview.

Let's face it, the babysitter and your kid have to get along in order for the relationship to work.  Sidney, much like his father, figures out whether he likes people within the first few minutes of meeting.  He might warm up a bit after a while, but for the most part it's a read/react situation.  You can see him working through his feelings on the person.  He looks them up and down, waits to see what they have to say, gives them a good stare in the eye ... and then either smiles or starts bawling.  Someday he'll replace that last bit with something more subtle (I hope), but it is good to see he has the mechanics of it down.  To be fair, my reactions tend to be along similar lines, except instead of bawling at people I am not fond of I tend to just make small talk and nod until I can escape their presence (although, to think of it, bawling might be the way to go as it ends the conversation considerably sooner).  We've been very lucky and Sidney has taken to several of the babysitters quickly.  He has his favorites and those are the ones we always try to go to first, but they are all great young ladies.  Which brings us to the last new meaning: someone that makes you feel really old.

It is not so much that the babysitters tend to be from their very late teens to their early 20s (although, let's face it, that alone can make you feel old), it is that they refer to us as Mr. and Mrs. [Redacted] (you people know too much about us already, no way you are getting the surname).  Now, professionally I am quite used to being called Mr. [Redacted], but when done in a personal setting it always makes me spin around and look for my father; Abuelo is Mr. [Redacted], damnit, I'm the young buck.  But, alas, I am no longer.  I am now also Mr. [Redacted], Sidney is the young buck.  My Wife reacts similarly, although for her it is the memory of how she thought of the Mrs. So-and-Sos she'd babysit for, ie, "Grown Ups."  Her reaction upon having our first sitter call her Mrs. [Redacted] was along the lines of: "Oh my god, I'm the mom ... I'm the old one ... she's the young one ... shoot me."  You'd think having the kid would have been enough to make us feel old, but no, it took an innocent, and very respectful, third-party to hammer the reality home.

In the end, all that matters is that we have people we are comfortable with to watch Sidney on those rare occasions that we need to be out.  It is good for him to be exposed to new people and it is good for us to continue to have adult corners of our lives.  Ostensibly it is good for the babysitters too, as it is a (relatively) easy way to make a few extra dollars and Sidney is a great kid, but someday a babysitter will call them Mrs. So-and-so and they'll think "she's the young one ... crap."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pre-School Interviews? Pre-School Interviews.

I have recently (and by "recently", I actually mean "since she was 3 months pregnant") been informed by my Wife that in order for a Sidney to get into a private pre-school in NYC, there is a rigorous and very competitive interview process that must be navigated.  If you are anything like me, that sentence is tantamount to abject madness.  Forget the fact that we have to start the process almost 2 years before he's even old enough to be matriculated (dead serious), this is pre-school we are discussing.  Finger painting, paste eating, basic socialization and the daily nap.  How, exactly, does one interview, much less competitively, for pre-school?  Would Sidney be forced to sit for a Pre-Pre-Pre-Pre-SAT?  Would we need to get letters of recommendation from his baby-sitters?  Does he have to submit his best crayon-scribbles-in-lieu-of-personal-essay?  Should he be doing extra ... wait, he isn't even doing curriculars, how the hell are we supposed to get him extra-curriculars!?  He's not even on toddler student-government ...

Realizing that I was approaching this from the entirely wrong direction (one premised upon the notion that the process made sense), my Wife broke the news to me that the whole thing is rigorous and competitive because it is the parents that are being interviewed.  Oh, sure, the schools want to meet the kids, but I am convinced this is just to make sure they are not dealing with some uncontrollable hellion, hopped up on sugar and lugging blueprints for mischief.  The core of the process, its unapologetic sine qua non, is the parent interviews.  In a nutshell, the Wife and I would have to fill out long applications listing all sorts of information about ourselves.  Our education, our income, our hobbies, our jobs.  Then, after all this, we'd need to sit through personal interviews with the schools.  Let that sink in.  A pre-school administrator would interview me, and the outcome of that interview would dictate whether our bouncing boy got into the pre-school.  That's right folks, Sidney's screwed.

It's not that I don't interview well, indeed my academic and professional careers would dictate the contrary.  No, it's that my consternation with being, ostensibly, interviewed so that my son could attend a pre-school would permeate my every answer.  Remember, we're already filling out questionnaires on Sidney (and ourselves), and they are meeting him.  What questions, specifically for me, other than "is that your son?", "can you pay the tuition?" and "will your son cause our casualty insurance rates to go up?" are actually relevant?  Sure, my Wife would undoubtedly (and rightfully) have me killed in some creative manner or another if I didn't play nice with the "interviewer" asking me about some wholly irrelevant thing  ... but let's be realistic here, this is me.

Please understand, my cognitive dissonance on the topic is triggered not by them wanting to meet us, this makes perfect sense (the "what are we getting into with these people" factor), but by the declared competitive and extensive nature of the parents' interviews.  Some answer I give makes Sidney a better pre-schooler?  An answer given by someone else's parent means Sidney is a less worthy pre-school candidate?  Asking me what books on parenting I have read (actual application query) is going to determine whether Sidney will be able to handle the rigors of free-play time?  Of course these don't make sense, and things that don't make sense make me ask questions.  Mostly, questions that force the person attempting to feed me the nonsense to reflect on the abject inanity of their position; and thus we have me being murdered in my sleep (ok, there are other steps involved, mostly variations on my Wife screaming at me that I knew what the game was, so why did I have to make the interviewer cry, but that's not important).

However, I may have been spared a gruesome demise (temporarily), as my Wife has decided that the exorbitant costs of pre-schools in NYC makes the entire endeavor possibly a poor ROI proposition (translation: we looked up tuition and choked).  Instead, she's trying to find us an apartment in a neighborhood zoned for a really good public school.  In NYC, this means either a condo or co-op building ... which means we'll have to go through a Board-of-Managers interview to buy the apartment.  That's right folks, we're screwed.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bath Time (Revisited).

When Sidney was just over a month old, we discussed the ins and outs of bathing an infant. As you may recall (translation: I needed a transitional opening), the "ins" were having a clean baby, and the "outs" included wedging the baby-bathtub in the sink, water splashing all over you, him peeing everywhere and the ever-present threat of poop in the baby-bathtub.  It's been over a year now, and I thought it might be time to report in on how bath time goes these days.  The biggest change is that we no longer use a baby-bathtub.  Once Sidney started sitting up on his own, we pretty much had to move the baby-bathtub from the sink to inside one of our bathtubs out of sheer fear that the now sitting/leaning soaped-up child would manage to fall out of the thing and tumble from sink to kitchen floor.  The baby-tub in the big-tub didn't last very long, as our boy went from sitting to pulling himself up very quickly (not to mention getting too tall to even fit in the baby-tub).  So with the worry advancing to him tripping out of the baby-tub and going face/head first into the big tub, he graduated to just the big tub.  End of story?  HA.

How do you keep a very active child relatively (key word) still in a huge bath tub long enough to bathe him?  Toys.  Lots of toys.  With his graduation to the full tub came filling the tub with water friendly toys.  Foam letters, bath-time friends, bubble makers (who are we kidding, these should just be called "child re-soapers") and anything else remotely water-proof.  Heck, Nana was crazy enough to put a water-table in one of her showers for him (more on this shortly).  Bathtub full of toys, bathing is now a snap, right?  HA AGAIN!

As I have mentioned previously, Sidney is a full on standing, walking, mobile platform of mayhem.  Putting him in the bathtub changes none of this.  You sit him in the tub, he stands up.  By a miracle he sits back down and you pour water over him to start the actual bathing ... he stands up.  You start lathering his hair ... he stands up and tries to grab something.  You try to wash his body ... he stands up, actually grabs something and then throws it out of the tub.  Basically, at any given moment you have a wet, soapy, slippery child trying his best to wriggle his way around, across and/or out of the bathtub for no other reason than he can.  The phrase "Sidney please sit down.  SIT!" is uttered so often during bath time that our neighbors must think we have a recalcitrant dog in the apartment that is only awake between 7 and 7:30pm.  My Wife does her best to wash him, essentially one-handed, but on several occasions we've had to work together to get the job done.  That's right, the answer to the question "how many college educated adults does it take to give a toddler a bath" is "at least two."  

When he isn't playing one-man Marco Polo in the tub, he is usually trying his damndest to get everything that is inside the tub out.  Toys, wash cloths (this one is fun), cups, the water.  All of it flying over the side.  It is no surprise that once he's been soaped and rinsed My Wife generally announces "ok, you're on Daddy's watch now"; this is usually immediately followed by him throwing a soaking wet washcloth at me and splashing at me until I am as soaked as he.  This, or he stands up and proceeds to pee into the bathtub.  I comfort myself with the notion that he's practicing for potty-training.  Which brings us to Nana's water table.  Just when we thought "poop in the tub" was a thing of the past, as Sidney stood in Nana's shower during a recent visit, playing merrily with his water table, he pooped.  Just standing there.  He stopped what he was doing for a second and pooped right in her shower.  The next night?  He did it again.  The third night?  We put him in the shower with his diaper.  Hey, poop in the shower once, shame on you ... third time you're in a diaper; or something.

I guess the takeaway from all of this is that the "ins" of bathing a toddler are having a clean toddler, and the "outs" include a soaped up child trying to escape your grasp, water going everywhere, him peeing in the bathtub and a turd in Nana's shower.  Progress!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Flying Food (and happy dogs)

I am not quite sure of the evolutionary advantage provided by the behavior, but from the fact that so many toddlers fling their food, there must be something I am missing.  Pretty quickly after making the transition from "baby food" to "real food", essentially from pureed pastes to stuff that needs chewing, Sidney also made the transition from "being fed" to "eating some, throwing the rest".  To be fair, he also does a good share of "grab and put in mouth" (sometimes his mouth, sometimes Mommy's, sometimes inanimate objects ... you get the picture), but not a meal goes by without something going flying.  Things get really interesting when he gets a hold of a spoon (wet-food catapult), fork (meat flinger) or spork (the perfect storm).  He does not even need to be feeding himself, mind you, as he is more than happy to grab the utensil full of food out of your hand and fling whatever is on it.  When he is feeling particularly creative, he will grab the utensil, wait for you to start pulling back and then just let go.  That's right, he gets you to effectively throw the food for him.  To punctuate the exchange, he'll usually laugh at this point.

But, I digress.  For the most part, Sidney uses the Food Fling(tm) to indicate he is done with the meal, and this despite Mommy's (and the rest of the supporting cast's) constant reminders to the wee lad that "we do not throw our food."  When we are home or visiting Abuela and Abuelo, this leads to a lot of vacuuming, clean-up and occasional "yeah, this is still good" munch by Dad (don't judge me, some of this stuff is tasty ... you have no idea what you are missing).  However, when we are visiting Nana and the Admiral, it means that the puppies get snacks.  So this leads to two Havanese being front and center for every Sidney meal, waiting patiently by the high chair.  Sidney throws a piece of chicken nugget, mad dash by the dogs to get it.  Sidney throws a piece of waffle, mad dash by the dogs.  Sidney throws a piece of cracker, mad dash.  You get the picture.  

The downside is that having the dogs respond so positively to him throwing the food is that it "encourages" the behavior, despite the parental (and grand-parental) admonitions against his Tater Tosses. Actually, now that I think about it, kids throwing food at family animals would seriously ingratiate the tots to the pets ... leading to an extra set of eyes on the wandering infants.  A rather elegant solution to the evolutionary question; a symbiotic development.  Then again, the kid throws everything he gets his hands on eventually, so odds are the dogs just benefit.  Also, 9 times out of 10 a Havanese will beat you to a flung chicken nugget ... in case you were curious.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ix-Nay on the Ursing-Cay

Recently we noticed that Sidney was using fewer random phonemes and instead engaging more deliberate speech.  He is repeating sounds he hears a lot, and repeats some simple words very-often.  He also now does a running commentary, utilizing a structured babble (consisting of these learned sounds and small words) to narrate as he goes about his day (you guessed it, now there are two wandering philosophers in the house, except he makes considerably more sense).  Now, as an inveterate linguaphile (Exibit A), I was ecstatic because my first thought was "front row seat to linguistic development!"  As an inveterate potty-mouth (I am a lawyer, Exhibit B), however, I was petrified because my second thought was "holy @#!&ing $#!^ I have to seriously stop cursing."  I have no doubt all parents experience this epiphany.  Indeed, the euphemisms employed by loving mothers and fathers to avoid exposing their treasured young to the harsher, more vulgar, near barbaric corners of language outnumber the actual curses (almost).  The problem, as you likely guessed, is not with the idea, which is probably near universal in acceptance; no, the rub lies in the practice.  

I am not a fan of neutered curses.  Intellectually I find them dishonest.  When someone says "gosh darn it" or "gee willickers" we all know full well they mean "goddamnit".  We also know full well what someone means when they say "shoot", "shucks" or "sugar" in that tone, and there is no need to get into "F it", "F off" and "are you gosh darn F'ing with me. Shoot."  You're not fooling anyone, either curse or completely refrain; this was my intellectual stance on the subject.  You see where this is going.  My new role as "Dad" put me in a bit of a pickle, a cognitive conundrum (Exhibit C) if you would.  Do I compromise my intellectual stance, or do I risk turning my son into a potty-mouth (a few years early; we live in NYC and Nana and the Admiral are in Philly people, it's inevitable).  The solution I am trying to implement is the "completely refrain", this way I can satisfy both my intellectual convictions and my fatherly duties.  However, nobody plans on cursing (except for Quentin Tarantino), it really just flies out in the heat of the moment.  So what we end up with is me cutting myself off mid-sentence the moment I realize I am about to curse (when we're lucky).  This, unfortunately, leads to conversations that sound like I have either been struck down mid-sentence or am suffering from intermittent selective-mutism.  

So, the good news is Sidney will (hopefully) hear incredibly fewer curses at home and I do not have to compromise my intellectual snobbery.  The bad news is Sidney is going to grow up thinking his father can't finish a goddamn sentence ... oh $#!&.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Did I really just say that?

There is a concept in the law (an exception to the "rule against hearsay" to be specific) known as the "excited utterance."  In a nutshell, things people hear others blurt out in the "heat of the moment" are given slightly higher weight than regular old over-heard stuff because, the theory goes (and I am over-simplifying here, so don't go quoting Moore's Federal Practice on me), folks are more likely to speak their mind honestly under Sudden High-Stress and those over-hearing such sudden blurts are more likely to remember them accurately because of the intensity used in aforesaid blurting (ah lawyer, verbosity is thy name).  Now, this may be enlightening in the context of an investigation or trial, but it is downright worrisome when you apply the erstwhile aphorism to what can come out of a parent's mouth when their offspring induce Sudden High-Stress.  It's not so much that what is said is any less "honest" than the usual parental chatter (to the contrary, they are mostly raw unfiltered truth) but that the sentences themselves border on the nonsensical to the overhearing ear.  Both uttering parent and over-hearing "witness" are left with something that everyone agrees was said, but without a whole lot of context sounds daft, at best, or insane at worst (which is most often the case, naturally).  To illustrate, here are some Sidney induced excited utterances; imagine hearing these coming from inside an apartment or on the street without having the context:

Don't grab the poop!

We do not throw food in this house!

Don't pee ... don't pee ... don't pee!

Fine, you want to push buttons?  Now you watch QVC!

I said don't grab the poop!

We do not punch the puppies!

Please don't lick the window.

Did you just poop in the shower ... again?!

What are you doi ... oh no you don ... OH SERIOUSLY?!

Please don't lick the coffee table ... again.

Under what set of circumstances is flinging dinner helpful?

My point?  When your kid doesn't make you sound like a wandering sage dispensing wisdom, he makes you sound like a raving lunatic with stress-induced tourettes.  Then again, most of Nietzsche's writings indicate this is a thin line to begin with. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Wandering Philosopher

Sidney had been cruising for a little while (walking while holding on to things), but finally made the jump to full on walking just a few weeks ago.  Where once all we had to worry about was his apparent ability to teleport while crawling, now someone has to pretty much follow him around whenever he decides to walk out of whatever room we are all in (which, by the way, is always).  Our participation in the never-ending game of Follow Sidney has lead me to an epiphany: Socrates and Lao Tzu were following toddlers around most of the time.  Hear me out on this one.  We are all familiar with Socrates and Lao Tzu's reported founding of Peripatetic Schools (well, you are now), wherein they wandered around and espoused teachings to anyone whom was following them along. Now, the rub is that an inordinate amount of Socratic "wisdom", much like Taoist, is versed in the form of aphorisms that the listener then figures out the "true" meaning of for himself.  That is the touted "brilliance" of the methods.  However, as I listen to myself, The Wife, Nana, Abuela (Socrates is multilingual), The Admiral and Abuelo following Sidney around, we're all posing what could be perceived as Socratic/Taoist questions to an observer that does not realize we are following Sidney.  To illustrate, here are some of the things we have said while trailing Sidney and what an unknowing observer would take to be their "deep meaning":

That table is not going to get out of your way:  We must recognize obstacles that require us to modify our paths.

Why would you cover your eyes when you are walking?:  Be mindful of where you are, and what you are doing, life happens all around you, but only if you pay attention.

You can't carry that and walk at the same time:  Know your limitations.

Are you seriously trying to go right back from where we just left?:  Always move forward, the past is gone.

Where is your other shoe?:  No, seriously, where is the damn shoe ... you just had it on a second ago and it is nowhere near where you are standing now.  How does a shoe disappear?!

So the next time you hear someone drop an apparently deep truth wrapped in a mundane observation, look around, odds are they are high-tailing after an escaped toddler.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

No, seriously, I am going to post more often.

My Wife has pointed out that I have all but abandoned the blog despite the fact that Sidney continues to do hilarious things. The feeble defense I proffered was that my masterfully long posts took time to craft, time I was electing to spend instead with our bouncing baby boy (or sleeping...ok, mostly sleeping).  She has since destroyed the defense with the outside the box solution of making shorter posts (forgetting that lawyers have no concept of brevity).  So, going forward, shorter, but more plentiful, posts. 

As for Sidney, he preferred the longer posts.  Gave him something to do during breakfast.

Stay tuned for musings on Sidney's recent graduation to full bore on walking.