Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Sad Fate of the Unworn

For every cute outfit you see a baby wearing, take a moment to think about all the outfits left behind. These poor fabric souls languish in a closet and never get to see the light of day, the flash of a camera, or the warming touch of a pool of spit-up. So many thoughtful shower gifts sit with their tags unscathed. So much potential cuteness waits and waits for the opportunity to be worn that will never come.

There are the strangely shaped outfits that seem cut to fit a dachsund. There are ones with scratchy logos. There are outfits that would never possibly fit a child of prodigious length. There are some that are just too hideous to deface a precious baby. Is it their fault? Do they deserve onesie purgatory?

There are outfits whose only crime was to be accidentally mislaid or buried somewhere in the back of the clost. How sad it is to discover "My Dad is Rad" or "Little Baseball Star" in outgrown 3 month sizes! They never even had a chance.

And there are the baby clothes that have been retired, outgrown and relegated to the out-of-rotation pile. These might be the saddest of all. Today's all-star outfit in daily rotation is talking big in tomorrow's give-away pile. Even the cutest, most essential daily staples meet their fate in the end. Not all go willingly to the laundry scrapheap of history.

"I don't belong in this pile! I was worn home from the hospital! You have any idea how many pictures I am in! I was in their Baby Announcement! I'm not like the rest of you. I was WORN. I'm somebody! I bet I could still fit if they really wanted me to. I can stretch! Yes, I can stretch! I've got some synthetic fibers. HRRMMGGGH. See! I can probably get up to 6M. They just need to get me out of this pile and try me out again. There must be some kind of mistake. You'll see. I won't be here long. I'll be back in the dresser before you know it. Somebody get me out of this pile!"

"Yeah, yeah. We've heard it all before," responds My Dad is Rad. "You're the king of the world. Pipe down and get back in the pile. Noone's coming for you. You're too small, you're faded, and you've got a milk stain. Face it. You're one of us now. If you play your cards right, maybe Mikey will get a little brother to wear you some day. Let's just hope the cat doesn't find us again. The cat pee holocaust of 2008 nearly wiped us out. You want to make it in the pile, you need to be quiet, keep your neck hole down, and make some friends."

Looking at these former all-stars is like watching late career Emmit Smith or Brett Favre. You saw glimmers of the old magic, but you can never go back. No matter how cute and how essential each outfit was in its day, the inexorable march of time will relegate all to the pile in the end.

All we can do is try to keep the closet clean. We check the dark recesses to look for stragglers. We can find diamonds in the rough and give them their day in the sun. Finally, we can treat our retired outfits with the respect that they have earned. They will find new life with new babies, yet unborn to our friends and family. Or, we can hold onto them until the day when we can say, "Your older brother Mikey wore that when he was a little like you."

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Bjorn Identity

Last weekend I spread happiness and smiles wherever I went. I wore a special outfit that was like a joy dispenser, generating countless smiles and happy looks from just about any woman who crossed my path at the Whole Foods Market. I was turning heads and hearing chuckles in my wake at every aisle . What was it that made me as comically heartwarming as a youtube video of box full of puppies? I had taken on my Bjorn Identity with little Michael strapped onto my chest in a Baby Bjorn baby carrier.

Millions of parents worldwide, including Doctor Evil, have strapped on a Baby Bjorn to carry their pudgy little bundles of joy. After snapping and adjusting a series of confusing buckles and straps, my tax break and I are ready to face the world, err, the grocery store together. Imagine Flavor Flav with an infant instead of a giant clock and more ridiculous looking.

Alas, the Bjorn Identity is not for the weak of heart or back. People will laugh. Any pretense of being cool vanishes. Cervical discs creak and bulge. When I take on my Bjorn Identity, I'm very publically embracing the role of dad. I'll admit that I look pretty ridiculous in the carrier, and, yes, people do laugh at Mikey and me. I don't care because Mikey and I are having too much fun.

The crisscrossing straps try their best to distribute Mikey's 15 pounds of baby fat and love, but the strain arrives quickly. We soldier on. A little spinal cord damage never killed anyone, and the stabbing pain in the C3 to C5 area is well worth it. A prosaic shopping trip becomes an adventure. Ambulation poses new and frightening challenges. Reaching items on the bottom shelf tempts disaster. Catastrophic spitup incidents or drool breaches are a very real possibility.

Michael and I bond while we walk. Without so much as a single fussy peep, he raptly takes in all the new and astonishing sights. The Whole Foods world headquarters in Austin is a foodie tourist destination and a wonderland of sight, smell, and sound. Imagine how it looks to an infant seeing it through fresh and curious eyes? What does he think about the giant chocolate fountain? How does all that brightly colored produce look to him? Does he smell the freshly roasting coffee beans and get thirsty like me? We're bonding, he's learning, and people are enjoying seeing his alert little face peering out at them.

When I take on my Bjorn Identity, the good vibes are contagious. I catch myself singing "Just the Two of Us" and doing a little dance with my own little mini me. Every smile, laugh, and "Awww, Cute!" warms my heart. I reach down and hold onto Mikey's chunky little legs. I let him grab one of my fingers in his vice-like grip. All my troubles and back pains wash away, and all that remains is me and my son taking care of business together.

Clay also rocks the Bjorn. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Field Guide Entry

Subject pictured is deploying destructive sonic wave natural defense. Nearby victims suffer headaches and potential hearing damage. This defense is finely evolved and astonishingly loud for such a small creature.

Homo Sapiens

~.3 years


Pack and Play, Zen Swing, Bouncy Chair, Bumbo Seat, crib (rare sightings)

Natural Defenses:
  • Sonic shriek to frighten away predators, new uncles, and nearby diners at restaurants
  • Needle-like talons with an affinity for eyeballs and the faces of enemies
  • Dairy-based projectile spit weapon
  • Foul-smelling gas cloud
  • Mesmerizing smile and cooing sounds to lure victims
Field Notes:
Approach with extreme caution. Secure all valuables, designer clothing items, and electronic devices before handling. Never, ever approach subject when in undiapered mode. Do not disturb while sleeping, as this will incur an attack from enraged parents. Protective suit with breathing apparatus is advised in case of deployment of spit or gas weapons (both dairy-based and highly lethal).

Victim is nearly overcome by the subject's potent dairy-based gas defense. Although much larger and more powerful, the victim was forced to flee the area. The gas is generally not fatal, but it has been known to indirectly lead to vasectomies or utilization of other forms of birth control.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Friends, we have established that I am incredibly fortunate to have a beautiful little son in my life. He scores off the charts in his ITGBS (Iowa Test of Good Baby Skills).

A wise man once sang, "Every rose has its thorn...Every Cowboy sings a sad, sad song." Life with baby isn't 100% perfect. We perpetually walk the fine line between tired and shot-with-an-animal-tranquilizer-gun. We've put aside childish things and waded knee deep into the diapers, the drool, and the tears. With the joy come some slightly cynical and hopefully humorous life lessons.

1. Having a newborn is like riding across an icy tundra on a snowmobile. Suddenly, it flips over, trapping you beneath it. At night, the ice weasels come. (hat tip to Matt Groening)

2. Putting pants on a 3 month-old is like putting a straightjacket on a pair of drunken ferrets.

3. Baby smiles are chicken soup for the soul of a tired and discouraged parent. Middle of the night cries are like chicken poop for the soul.

4. Sleeping in the same room as your baby is like gambling in a casino. Instead of chips, you have hours of sleep. The House always wins.

5. I thrive on hearing compliments and kind words about Mad Dog. It's not that I'm arrogant or getting an ego boost. It just helps to reassure me that he is ok and precious. Also, maybe he will turn out to have better luck dating in high school than I did.

6. I cringe whenever someone says, "Oh, he looks like his dad!" I wanted him to hit the genetic jackpot, not play the same hand that I did!

7. 95% of parents believe their infant to be above average. I'm a member of this group, but I know I'm right. Aren't I?

8. Don't EVER turn your back on the action. Especially if you have an undiapered baby nearby. Babies have a magic switch somewhere in the plumbing that always finds the right opportunity to activate. This is not unlike the technology behind fire sprinkler systems.

9. At the end of the 2008 election season, John McCain joked that he's sleeping like a baby. That is, he wakes up every two hours crying. Mikey is sleeping like John McCain. We're very proud.

10. If you see a dad carrying one of those infant seats through a public place, he probably appears to be doing so effortlessly. This is an illusion. The seat is like a lead anvil made out of fruit cake. It's that heavy. Dad's arms are screaming with the strain. He must never show any sign of weakness. Dad must appear to lift and move the chair as if it were not carrying a giant pile of baby fat and cute. Dad must demonstrate to the world how strong and virile he is. This is the same principle behind the sucking in of guts at the beach.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I had the good fortune to grow up in a home where books were commonplace. We didn't have a fancy television with luxuries like remote controls, a viewable picture, or channels that weren't 4, 5, or 8! We had clunky box with tinfoil-encrusted rabbit ears. Changing the channel required a pair of pliers, a short walk, and a certain fearlessness about being electrocuted whilst cramming a metal instrument into the bowels of a decrepit electronic device.

My dad's huge entertainment center didn't hold a flat panel tv. It had a record player, stereo speakers, stacks of record albums, and books. Row after row of books.

There was another tall book case full of paperbacks in the garage. My dad's taste leaned toward sci-fi and the like, perfect for a burgeoning young reader to pick up and enjoy. On those endless summer days between middle school years, I would wander out to the garage and browse the covers for something interesting. I read Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Stephen King, Greg Bear, Tolkien, and many others. There was some seriously good stuff out there.

I had my own books that I picked up at various book fairs. I was a regular at the school library. I think I read every Hardy Boys book in existence. I always wanted to go for a ride in Chet's sweet jalopy. I read Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, and The Call of the Wild over and over again. After I discovered my first Lord of The Rings book and brushed off the dust bunnies, I barely slept a minute in the next two days

Books were important to me, and they are important now. Language and entertainment have moved toward the quick and easy. I have hour after hour of shows on my dvr (Doctor Who is paused right now as I type this). I send a hundred fragmented e-mails every day at work. Text messages have transformed writing from an art or a pleasure into a terse, joyless expediency to get through as quickly as possible. Heck, I can misspell every word, and Big Brother iPhone will helpfully correct it all.

I believe that I am a better, more intelligent person from all the reading I have done in my life. I hope people keep reading. I hope I do. Most of all, I hope my little boy can somehow resist the ubiquitous Nintendo DS'es, the endless wonders of the internet, and the hundreds of channels of digital cable. I hope some day that he will wander out to my bookshelf, brush off a dusty cover, and settle in for a good read.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hero Dog: Sergeant Stubby

Read this article about a wonderful hero dog from WWI. Sergeant Stubby is now a permanent resident at the Smithsonian museum.

Sergeant Stubby's Story

Adventures in Baby____ing

This an e-mail I sent to Shannon on Friday morning. Now that her maternity leave is over, the baby and I spend some quality time together during work day mornings. We get ready for work and for day care together. Some days, not all goes according to plan.

This happened when I was getting ready to take Michael to child care for the morning. He hadn't had a dirty diaper in several days...

He sat serenely. Leaning forward, pale skin contrasting against the blue Bumbo chair, he looked peaceful. But that was an illusion. Deep within, powerful forces were at work. Pressure was building. Geothermal currents and processes were reaching critical mass.

Outside, birds fell silent and dogs struggled to escape their yards. The Brushy Creek mountain lion screamed and cowered in a cedar tree. Something was coming, and nothing could stop it.

The first indication was subtle. Was that a smile? Why is he turning red? What is he concentrating on? Then came the sound; a baritone rumble like a tuba full of saliva. We had heard plenty of those in the last few days, but none had produced anything in the diaper. Then came another report; a boom like demolition of a water tower full of taffy. And then came another, like a hundred cannons firing slightly out of unison.

Silence rushed in suddenly, and Mikey slumped back in his baby chair, exhausted by the elemental forces he had unleashed. I instantly knew what had happened, and my heart filled with icy cold dread. How could this happen now? Just after Shannon left for work and just minutes before day care? All those peaceful days of clean diapers this week had come home to roost. Peaceful Krakatoa had exploded at precisely the wrong time.

I steeled my nerves and sipped my coffee for an energy boost. This was going to be a long morning. I peeled back the little baby shorts and got to work.

I wasn't prepared for the carnage that greeted me. Both legs had catastrophically breached. The flimsy elastic was like a straw hut facing a massive milk tsunami. He was covered from the waist down. Feet, legs, thighs, waist. Everything. I despaired. With only several hundred diaper wipes remaining, I feared the supply would run out.

After what seemed like an eternity, the job was done, the beast was slayed. The mountain of wipes and the DIAPER OMG went straight outside to the trash can. And the little harbinger of doom; the conduit of such destruction? He just smiled.