Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The evening started off peacefully. I ran a warm bath for the little guy, just like I do every night. It cleans the caked on applesauce and gets him calmed down for bedtime. This is an enjoyable ritual, and Mikey plays, splashes, and sings with great aplomb.

It is a fact that an undiapered baby poses risk to life and property. Even a novice caretaker knows to be aware of his surroundings and of the status and bearing of all baby orifices. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a surprise stream to the eye.

On this night, I let my guard down. I had no reason to believe that calamity would strike. After months of nightly baths, our routine is a finely tuned machine.

It might have been the warm and relaxing water that set events in motion. Perhaps the fiber-rich dinner of grapes, edamame, and cheerios helped things along. Either way, I was about to be subjected to another great parenting indignity.

I looked down at my book for a couple of moments (a riveting account of the D-Day invasion by Stephen Ambrose). When I looked back up at Michael, something was amiss.

My inner dialogue unfolded thusly: “What is that in his hand? Wait, there’s something in the water. No. It can’t be. Why! Oh the humanity! Oh the humanity! NooOOooOOoo!” This was not a drill. This was no Baby Ruth in the swimming pool. This was a Barf-Con 5 tactical emergency.

Recovery efforts began immediately to contain the toxic spill. Mikey got to take a big boy shower, and I had to clean up the ecological disaster in the bath tub. I don’t remember reading about this in any “What to Expect” guide book, and it certainly never came up at any baby shower.

This was the real stuff of parenting: confronting a shocking and disgusting situation while keeping the little one happy, safe, and clean. I won’t lie. There was some serious gagging going on, and I felt like giving up and just boarding over the bathtub forever. I pushed through and accomplished the mission.  I’m no hero. I was just doing my job.

Mikey emerged from his shower clean and a little confused. Despite all the excitement and revulsion I experienced, this was just another day at the office for him. He was sound asleep in his crib within 15 minutes.

The experience in photos:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Swagger Wagon

Happy Friday, everyone. Here's a video that's too good not to share. I'm a little sad that I'm now so easily amused and manipulated by 'parenting' advertisements. Madison Avenue knows what it is doing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Update on the stupid Cozy Coupe

I recently blogged about the Cozy Coupe, my mortal enemy of molded plastic.

If Michael didn't have a serious baby crush on his precious car, that thing would have been a smoldering slag pile ages ago. As it stands, the car is getting some heavy use, and Mikey's even figured out how to lift his feet up so that they don't get mangled by dragging in the undercarriage.

Sadly, his car drives like a full-size Dodge Ram van running on rims with a narcoleptic goat at the helm. It wobbles and swerves, and the wheels constantly rotate the wrong direction. The reason for this? I installed the wheel axles backward. And I can't get them out to fix it. Sorry, Mikey. You get a busted ride. Don't feel bad. My first car was a 1981 Isuzu I-mark with a top speed of 45 mph. This car broke down once in an automatic car wash. That was fun.

Making matters worse, Mikey was steering his car tonight when the steering wheel pulled right off in his hands. It was positively Yugo-esque. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to reinstall correctly, so the steering wheel pulls out at the least provocation.

During my failed repair, the wheel came out again, and little Mikey opined, "You broke it." I didn't even know he knew those words, and I didn't appreciate the accusation.

Just another day in the life of mediocre handyman dad. I just can't wait for Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Theory on Mad Dog's Health

Yesterday was an extremely typical day for the Sieber household.

We got word from daycare that Mikey was showing exceptional aptitude at coughing and that he appeared to be sick. By that evening, the dude was lethargic and couch-bound (common behavior for me but not him). Unsurprisingly, his body temperature ran up to 102.2 F, and he started coughing more and more frequently.

Here we go again.

The night was a long and exhausting blur. Our delirious baby spent the evening coughing, tossing, turning, getting out of bed to play, crying, demanding food and water, angrily throwing the proffered food away, and just plain being sick.

When morning arrived, we implemented the all-too-familar shuffling of work schedules and duties to get him in to see the pediatrician. I don't know why we even bothered. The diagnosis, general upper respiratory cold or virus, was obviously what was coming, and there is no real treatment.

This latest illness comes on the heels of a sinus infection treated by 10 days of disgusting antibiotics. That was following a nearly continuous stream of ear infections, colds, coughs, and flus.

Our child is sick so often that I have developed a theory.

I believe that Michael has a reversed immune system. His natural baseline state is to suffer from a runny nose, a cough, and an ear infection. This baseline state occasionally veers into fever territory for brief intervals.

I theorize that every few weeks or so, Michael comes into contact with some antibodies or some other substance that affects him. He might accidentally inhale something or eat something that causes his body to react. In this anomalous state, the standard runny nose, cough, and ear troubles are temporarily disrupted. A bizarre, unnatural period sets in. It is like the illusory calm that lies in the eye of a hurricane. The symptoms are troubling and alien to us: a pronounced lack of cough, a disturbingly dry nose, ears that seem to feel comfortable, and a body temperature that stays around 98.6.

We are nervous and on edge during these times. Something is amiss. The cough, nose, and ear problems quickly return, and we return to life as we know it. All the data I have supports my theory, even as it contradicts the so-called educated opinions of the medical establishment. I do wonder if there are others out there like us who live with a child who has a reversed immune system..

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On Books and Bedtime

In the frenetic early days of parenting, my biggest battles were against uncontrollable newborn crying fits and dirty and wet diapers. Our little crying, pooping bundle of joy sat still and gazed out at the world. Our job was to keep the baby alive, fed, safe, and clean. Education was an afterthought.

Parenting books advised us to constantly read books and teach our baby. This does not work well in the early months. It’s just too early. We would read some books, but the kiddo was just too young. The stories and pictures didn’t resonate, and he was more interested in clumsily grabbing and ripping at the pages.

That has all changed. We are in the midst of a of a golden age of learning and language development for Mikey. New sentences come bubbling forth, and Mikey is constantly pointing at objects and naming them. After months and months of frustrated crying, grunting, and squealing, Mikey is able to finally use his words to ask for objects. He spews forth a constant stream of sentences structured like “I want ______”

I want out
I want down
I want nana
I want shassy (pacifier
I want up
I want apple
I want apple sauce
I want dada
I want mama
I want cracker
I want baba (bottle)
I want wawa (water)
I want milk
I want a bass (bath
I want to sing (swing)
I want book.

Oh how he wants books! I’ve worried for years that this era of I-phones, internet, high-powered video games, and television shows would create generations of young people who just don’t read. I worried that Michael might become one of those sad souls with his head so buried in a Nintendo DS or so fixated on Fox News that he can’t be bothered to read. I imagined him churning out thousands of instant messages and facebook wall posts while his ability to write, spell, and structure coherent messages withered and died.

I wondered how we would instill in him a love for reading. How could we get him as excited about picking up a new book as he might be about going to the opening of the newest superhero blockbuster movie?

Based on our experiences over the last few months, my worries have been overblown. Mikey naturally gravitates toward books. He points at the pictures and names the animals he can recognize. He stretches his limbs, wipes his chin, and farts right along with Winchell. He roars when he sees a bear or a monster, and he “Toot toots” when he sees a train. When it’s bed time, we read book after book after book after book. I’m sure it’s just a stalling tactic against the inevitable advance of horrible, cruel bedtime…but I don’t care.

This brings up an unexpected problem. Most children’s books truly suck. The pictures are flat, colorless, and not interactive (ie nothing interesting to point at). The stories are completely inane, lacking in humor to keep a parent interested through thousands of readings. The few books that are spot on get so much reading that we poor bleary-eyed parents can recite all of them by memory.

I can tell you everything that Brown Bear, Brown Bear has seen. I can tell you all the different ways that Winchell cuts the cheese. I can recite the life story of Walter the Farting Dog by rote, all the things that the very Hungry Caterpillar had to eat, and all the various ways that Sam I am is pimping his green eggs and ham. I yearn for new material to memorize.

There are some nights, as the pile of books we have read through grows closer to the ceiling, that I get antsy. A little voice inside (possibly the last vestiges of my young, stupid, "free", bachelor former self) rebels against all the reading and pointing at different animals. It says, “This is taking forever. My neck is getting sore. I’ve got other stuff to do tonight. If I have to read about another talking animal learning a valuable life lesson, I am going to scream. How quickly can I get this guy in his bed?”

I hate to admit that this selfish side exists, but even the best parent doesn’t always want to be on the clock parenting. Just as soon as the selfish little voice arrives, it is washed away. I can feel the warm little body in my lap, radiating that indescribable baby smell with hints of fragrant shampoo and recently applied milk and honey lotion. He sits quiet and still, except when I ask him to point at the duck, the cat, the dog, or the moon. He is content, except when a book ends, and he briefly withdraws his pacifier to ask for another book.

I realize that this chore, this drudgery of plowing through books, is actually filling me with joy. I start to get that floating heart feeling of love for my little guy. I think most parents will recognize that feeling of love that it is both so heavy and light that it almost hurts.

We finally both grow tired, and the yawns come more and more frequently. It is finally time to put the little guy in his crib. While it is a relief to finally be nearing the end of the all-important “BED TIME ROUTINE”, my heart aches to be breaking away from this little ritual. Tempus fugit. Life is short, and time flies by. How long until he doesn’t want to sit in my lap reading books? How quickly will that day come that he heads out to college? How many more nights like this do we have left?

I reluctantly shut the door and hope that he settles down without crying for me. It’s after nine-o-clock. There’s a backlog of chores, and I really need to work out. It’s quiet, so he must be asleep. My melancholy dissipates quickly as I pick up my life again. Besides, there’s always tomorrow night. The books and Mikey will be there waiting for me.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Say it ain't so, Mad Dog

With the exception of some stories here about sleep, I've written overwhelmingly positively about the Mad Dog. Parents are wired this way. I am compelled to believe that my kid is dashingly handsome, physically gifted, well-mannered, way ahead on all his milestones, exceptionally sweet, and a saintly friend to all at his day care.

I concede that Mikey throws the occasional tantrum. Bystanders would be prudent to watch out for flying food. I have heard the sentence, "NO, MINE!" followed by ear-splitting screams more than once. Mad Dog is not afraid to flop on to the floor if he doesn't like the direction he is being herded in.

I'm OK with periodic tantrums. They make sense, even to me, a parent of the best kid in the world.

Imagine my surprise when I hear that is a bit of a tough-guy at day care. He's apparently served some hard time in the time-out lockup. I'm assured that what he has been doing is completely normal and common for a day-care setting where kids squabble over scarce resources like Lightning McQueen cars and such. Apparently, Mad Dog is not afraid to mix it up a bit when things start getting ugly.

Here are a few of Mad Dog's toddler fighting moves:
  • The Stiff-Arm, aka The Toddler Tumbler: Encroach into Mikey's personal space or try to snatch a toy, and you just might find yourself on the receiving end of little chubby baby arm delivering a vigorous shove. This move is ineffective against high-mass beings like adults. Applied to a poorly balanced 30 pound toddler, the results are typically "Down goes Frazier."
  • The Hair Pull:  Mikey's sometimes nemesis Omar is a specialist in this move, and Michael has been dabbling in it. Grab, pull, and listen to the lamentation of your enemy has he screams and cries while clutching his stricken scalp.
  • The Slap:  The slap is a mainstay in any classically trained toddler fighter's repertoire. It couldn't be simpler. Crank your hand back using the elbow as a force increasing fulcrum. Apply hand liberally to adversary. Prepare for a counter-attack, because it's about to get real up in this day care.
  • The Bludgeon:  A relatively innocuous toy becomes a deadly blunt force weapon in the right hands. It's all fun and games till someone takes a sippy cup upside the head.
Michael is a pretty big little guy, and he's not afraid to get in a scrape. That said, his cellmates are not exactly pushovers. They have a few tricks up their onesies:
  • The Talon:  A favorite of the females, a practitioner of The Talon grabs delicate, pliable baby skin in a vicious pinching attack. The resulting bruising and crying sends a stern message that says "I am woman, feel me pinch!"
  • The Take-Down aka The Deadliest Hug:  What initially appears to be a loving hug takes a sinister turn as the attacker throws the hugged victim down to the ground. The Slap or The Talon are often deployed on the now defenseless adversary.
  • The Bite:  The dreaded bite attack is the most lethal weapon that a toddler can deploy. It is the nuclear option that will end almost any altercation, leaving teeth marks, bruising, and a defeated enemy in its wake. Biters are not to be trifled with.
A day care is not for sissies. The whole situation is a powder keg, rife with potential territorial disputes, tense diplomatic relations, and unstable toddlers in the throes of the terrible twos. It would be nice to hear that Michael is a sweet angel and pacifist, but that's not the world that he lives in. A toddler's got to do what a toddler's got to do to defend his way of life. We'll just keep working with him to make sure that he applies force justly and only in self defense.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Tiny Tikes, Inc.: You are on Notice

Given the malleable nature of a toddler's brain and a propensity to repeat anything said by a parent, cursing is generally not a a great parenting behavior. The 'oh $h__' daycare incident at daycare drove this point home for us in a big way.

Fine, I can cut back on the bad words. I've had some success until today. That's when the Cozy Coupe manufactured by the sadistic folks at Tiny Tikes entered my life.

If ever there were a device designed for the maximally efficient extraction of curse words from a parent, it is the Cozy Coupe. This big plastic car mesmerizes children, and it is in its 30th anniversary year. My heart shudders to think of the thousands of parents over the last thirty years who faced assembling this hellish contraption. How many tears of rage and how much misery has this one company created? When does it end?

One wouldn't think that a goofy molded plastic car would need 700 parts to piece together. One would be wrong. There are so many parts ranging from stupid little screws to incorrigible plastic bits that just wont snap together to downright evil axles that require the coordination of a brain surgeon who is also a carpenter to hammer into place. My blood pressure began to rise. Red mist entered the periphery of my vision. I think a vein on my head began to pulse ominously. Seeing Michael eagerly playing with the partially assembled chassis motivated me to press on.

Let's discuss the instructions, shall we? The Cozy Coupe is a classic toy, popular the world over. Well, isn't that just great for us! This means that our instructions feature no words, just infuriatingly vague pictograms that would be better suited as Rorshach tests. They actually wouldn't be great Rorshach tests because all the responses would probably be along the lines of "I see Tiny Tikes factory burning down, and I like it." or "I see this heap of dastardly plastic in my garage standing as a monument to follies of industrial engineering, never to be assembled". Every psychiatric diagnosis would be Tourett's syndrome or deep depression.

Then comes the process of piecing this thing together. I swear that each component part had a natural enmity for its supposed partner in assembly. Priscilla Presley and Michael Jackson made a better match than these plastic parts. As I tried to jam the front "A" pillar into place, the stream of profanity began to flow. I was like the dad in "Christmas Story." I was like that stupid oil rig in the Gulf. I just couldn't stop. When I wrenched my shoulder, accidentally bonked Mikey on the head, and then twisted my neck, I reached a crescendo.

I did what any nerd in this day and age would do: I Googled it. My first search was: "bastard tiny tikes piece of crap is impossible to assemble. About to go all Jack Nicholson in the Overlook Hotel." That is a slight exaggeration. My actual search was "cozy coupe impossible." This yielded a plethora of assenting opinions. Eventually, I found some gems that saved the day. It turns out that one must strategically apply cooking spray to the recalcitrant parts to get them actually pop into place. Son of a biscuit.

Armed with this knowledge and a can of Pam, I slogged through the rest of the assembly, cursing all the while. Shannon, I am truly sorry for my language and rage. I was provoked. And to Mikey's caretakers, I am truly sorry if he ends up repeating even 1% of what I said or if he calls you a "red plastic son of a motherless yak vomit pile of moldering cat yuck"
This man just tried to assemble a Cozy Coupe

So, to Tiny Tikes, Inc:  Shame on you for your sadistic design that pairs an irresistible toy with Sisyphusian assembly. Why do you hate parents? Why do you hate our freedom and puppies? What did we ever do to you aside from forking over 30 years of our hard-earned dollars? And to any potential parents: if you must acquire a Cozy Coupe for your progeny, do yourself a favor and request it already assembled or not at all. Don't say I didn't warn you.