Friday, March 31, 2006

Babyproof is not Puppyproof

Further humiliations in household safety today. We are watching our friend's 70 pound shepherd puppy for a long weekend, and right out of the gate he upset a watering can in the living room. Mopping it up actually gave me a chance to clean up the new hardwood floors a little, but still. And while the baby gates help maintain dog/puppy/cat separation, I am discovering that a new level of vigilance is required. Also, nap management migth be an issue if the dogs continue to sort out their various alpha and beta roles. (Our dog is --surprisingly -- in the running for alpha.)

All things considered, the watering can is not as bad as the last playgroup I hosted, when a neighbor's toddler came strolling back into the front room with a can of insect repellent in her mouth. The insect repellent was organic, and the safety cap was on. But still.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Black Scuba Divers Association of Washington, DC

At the grocery store parking garage the other day, I saw a late model BMW convertible with a notably low tag number. The owner of this flashy vehicle was number 0002 in a series of special DC tags for the "Black Scuba Divers Association." I wonder what 0001 drives?

Does the District make money off these associations, or is it a subsidy? I've also seen a superflash black convertible Corvette around town with a "Road Runners Club" tag, or something similar, and I believe it was 0001. Are these special tags limited to convertibles?

Anyway, today we salute the Black Scuba Divers Association of Washington, DC. (Did you know April is Black Scuba Divers History Month?)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Leaps and Bounds

The Monkey called me "Daa Daa" for the first time today. It rocks.

He also used the Baby Signs for "eat" to express the idea that he was hungry, and in another context "milk" to say that he wanted more milk.

When it rains, it pours.

Disc Golf

I played the Calvert Disc Golf Course today with some friends. It was great to get out of the house, after being cooped up inside all week. (The boy was too sick for playgroup, and the car was getting new tires all week.)

It's a really nice time of year around here: early spring. Some of the trees -- magnolias, redbuds, and a few others -- are in full bloom. They stand out strikingly, easily visible through the bare branches of their tardier cousins.

Of course, late spring is nice too: warm sunshine, green grass, more blooms, and verdant leaves. I'm looking forward to that, too.


I suppose that one of the overarching goals of parenting is to instill independence in the child, so that he can grow up to look after himself and then nurture other people and projects. But a young baby needs to grapple with independence slowly, in a safe and comfortable environment. Where is the line?

The line changes. A few months ago, I gave the Monkey a sippy cup to see if he could satisfy his own thirst. He picked the cup up OK, then flailed it around and bonked himself on the head. Then he cried. Freedom has a terrible, terrible price indeed.

Now he can maneuver the sippy cup pretty well, raise to his lips, and drink from it for a while. (He also likes chewing on the bottom, hence the need for the sippy cup.) But he is learning to crawl, to stand, to climb up on furniture, and to explore parts of the house under his own steam. He is totally not ready to do that unassisted or unsupervised. It's amazing to think that someday he will be.

When he's 25, probably. I think that's how long it took me.

So much missed

We had a couple over for dinner tonight, a coworker of the Monkey Mama and her husband. She is a blog reader, and appreciates the attention to the sensory existence of the Monkey (and his Daddy).

It made me reflect on what I am blogging. I try to give this blog some of my relfections on what it means to be a stay-at-home parent -- a stay-at-home dad at that, a stay-at-home-economist dad on top of that -- for this little Monkey. But so much of life goes unblogged.

For instance: what does it mean to be the only dad among the playgroup parents? How do I perceive playgroups differently because of that? How do I feel about being closer to returning to work (12 weeks away) than embarking on this adventure (14 weeks gone)? How is it to be a winter dad, and how is it to be a spring dad? Will I ever get a chance to exercise?

I try to blog a lot. But there is lot that I don't blog about.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Family Dog

On balance, the dog has been a plus to my tenure as a stay-at-home.

Especially during the winter, the mandatory daily dog walk has motivated me to take the boy outside. Even wintry sunlight contributes vitamin D, and that 's good for the boy. The daylight also helps my mood. And bundling up for freezing weather lets the boy know what temperature the world is out there.

Also, the dog is good for occasional comic relief.


The Monkey showed me something new yesterday. He was kneeling, and then pitched forward...but broke his fall with his hands. It kind of turned into a crawl from there. That's a gross motor skill that's certainly going to come in handy. Generally, he kneels up a lot and can pull himself up to (but not onto) most furniture.

In the fine motor skills department, he is getting a lot better at strumming the guitar. The nylon string flamenco guitar I bought in Spain in 1988 is the best, because the strings don't cut into his tender little fingers. He can get a fluttering little strum motion with his fingers, and sometimes gets it close enough to the strings to produce a nice sound. Or sometimes he Whangs the low E. And sometimes it's impossible to tell because his other hand is grabbing all the strings for balance. He appears to prefer it when I make major chords for him to strum rather than minor chords.

No playgroups for us today...for the sake of the children. The Monkey has a snotty nose, I've got a sore throat, and the other members of playgroup don't need that kind of trouble.

It's too cold to go to the National Arboretum, although it might warm up later. Spring bulbs are up, so it would be nice to catch them in bloom. Except that the car is in the shop, getting new tires. So maybe we should have a culture day, and Metro down to a museum? I haven't seen the Holocaust Museum yet, but I'm not taking the Boy there for a long time yet. I could just stay around the house and try to clean up a bit, do the domestic thing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Joy of Balloon

There comes a time in every young baby's life when he experiences his first helium-filled balloon.

This orange balloon came from yesterday's birthday party. It has a nice ribbon that ties well to a wrist, or to a doorknob. It's bouncy. It bothered the dog. Tomorrow, it won't probably have much helium in it.

I will save the experience of helium inhalation for another day. Life is too short, but there are still some pleasures worth spacing out.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Boys will be Boys

We went to our neighbor's 4th birthday party this afternoon. It was a lot of fun, and the food was great: dinosaur-shaped chick'n nuggets for the little ones, but roast fish for grown-ups. There was a strong francophone influence at the party, with many of the youngsters enrolled in a DC French school.

There was a realistic looking remote-controlled alligator prowling around at some point. (The remote control was shaped like an alligator, too.) The jaw action was especially lifelife: slow on the upswing, swift on the chomp-down. As soon as a young 4-year-old was given the remote control, the first thing he did was to position the leg of a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger in the open jaws of the alligator. And then...CHOMP! And then...waddle, dragging the Power Ranger around.

Hilarious. Boys will be boys, I guess.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Arrival

We got to meet the adorable 2-day-old daughter of our friends today.

They start out so young!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Grow up

A few readers have noticed that the "economist" self-identification occurs throughout this blog, but rarely in the substance of the posts. What can I tell you? Parenting is engrossing.

But tomorrow I will put on some grown-up clothes and attend a briefing to some government officials about a recently released report on which I am a co-author. Unfortunately, I won't play a significant role in the briefing itself: I like to give briefings and make presentations. But with my obligations at home, I have found it nearly impossible to make a contribution. Normally, my colleague and I would split the presentation (as we have done in the past) but this time I don't have the time to dovetail the different parts of the presentation...let alone time to prepare my part.

Anyway, my colleague gives very good presentations, so I am reassured. And it will be interesting to see what questions the higher-ups ask, and what they think of our report.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Paging Ms. Landers

I stated in one of my original posts that I would endeavor to avoid scatological matters pertaining to the boy. But this one is more of an etiquette question:

What does one do when one's dining companion appears to have fouled his diaper?

Recognizing the importance of feeding time, it's best to make sure he has in fact fouled himself before interrupting the meal. Lean over and sniff his butt, and also be alert for facial signs of straining before the fact. If the feeding is close to bath time, you can be a little less cautious.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sleeping through the night?

While the Monkey Mama was away for work travel, the Monkey appears to have started sleeping through the night. For two nights in a row, he went down at 7pm or 7:30pm...and didn't wake up until 5:30am.

That rocks.

Here are some theories why:
1) He knows the Monkey Mama is not around, so there is no reason to wake up. ("Wake me when I can nurse...")

2) The days without the Monkey Mama are more stressful, and therefore more tiring.

3) Small tweaks to his schedule -- a late afternoon walk, a late feeding, etc. -- have pushed him into a new sleeping equilibrium.

4) Because he is so hungry at the end of the day, he takes an enormous bottle (9 oz - 11 oz) at bedtime; normally, he falls asleep in the deepest comfort before taking so much from the boob directly.

5) He is actually waking up throughout the night, but the Monkey Daddy is too sound a sleeper to notice.

My best guess is a combination of 1) and 4), with 3) possibly helping. I discount 2) and 5) entirely: he has been having great days with me, and I know how to wake up when it counts (like a crying baby in my charge).

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The Boy and I had a great day. He blessed me with two 75 minute naps, and in between we hiked a mile or two along a tributary of Rock Creek.

It took a while to put him down for the second nap; he fussed and fussed. But when I laid him down on our bed he went right to sleep. But because the bed doesn't have safety rails like a crib, I had to watch him. Enforced mellow time for me, which isn't a bad thing.

I read a copy of my neighbor's memoir. A memoir is kind of like a blog, but the words stay the same all the time.

When the Boy woke up, he had a huge smile, cuddled with me, and wanted to play.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

FAA Report: Turbulence Ahead

Did you know that turbulence is the leading cause of non-fatal accidents to airline passengers and flight attendents? It is. Facts like these are helpful as I contemplate flying solo as a parent for the next few days.

The Monkey Mama left in a taxi this evening, just before the Monkey's bedtime. He waved bye-bye at the window, and then we went upstairs to get ready for bed.

We won't see her again until Wednesday, three nights from now. The only thing I dread is the anticipation of 5pm: the light failing, the Monkey cranky, and the Monkey Daddy worn out. It's rush hour, stay-at-home dad style.

But first things first: it was time to put the Monkey to bed.

I made up a bottle of breast milk, put it in warm water to heat it up, drew a bath, turned off most of the lights upstairs, undressed the Monkey, and put him in the bath. After bathtime, I dressed him for bed and took him to the strategically located bottle, by now warm next to the rocker. I cradled him in my arms...and dumped half the bottle onto my shirt.

Not so smooth. With our freezer supply of milk an untested quantity, and our supply of fresh milk extremely scarce, this was dumb. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to dump it on my shirt instead of on the Monkey, so I didn't have to change him. (But why not the presence of mind to screw the cap on tight, let alone to check it?)

The remaining 3 ozs was simply not enough milk to put the Monkey down for bed. So we went downstairs to the brightly lit kitchen, organized some more milk, and went back upstairs. I dimmed the lights again, and put on the Monkey's CD of bedtime music. Somehow, I had forgotten to put on the CD for the first attempt.

When he heard the first notes, he smiled. The CD is part of his nightly routine, and this routine was saving my ass. (Needless to say, dousing him with milk and then taking him downstairs into a brightly lit room has never been part of his routine...until tonight.) He took the rest of the milk and went down without a fuss.

The Monkey went down at 6:48 pm. Long may he sleep.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Differentiation and Attachment

Today I got an increasing glimmer of self-awareness from the Monkey. Maybe it was the vaccines talking -- they tend to make him surly for a while, although he weathered these shots better than previous ones. But this time he was a little pensive, even.

As he grew a little dissatisfied in the baby carrier, he started reaching to escape from it. He realized he was in there for good, but on the way he was trying to figure out the relationship between him, the carrier, and the Monkey Daddy.

This implies that he was seeing himself, the carrier, and his Daddy all as distinct elements, separate from himself. My understanding is that newborns can't differentiate all the sights, sounds, sensations and emotions from themselves: these stimuli are so raw, so unfiltered that they can overwhelm the baby. As the baby grows older, he might play games while nursing: experiencing his mother as a separate entity, but within the comfort and safety of the nursing environment. Later, play develops his ability to relate to other objects. Here, the inability to achieve the desired result (escape from the carrier) seemed to make him turn inward: relating to himself -- and his dissatisfaction -- as an entity distinct from those other objects. In this way, he differentiates himself from his experiences and sensations, perceiving himself as a perceiver rather than as the perceptions themselves.

And then I tickled his nose with an early magnolia blossom, and he laughed with his whole heart. So things aren't too bad.

Maybe it's time to get the Monkey an attachment object: a special blanket or toy, for example. I read in this book called Families (notable for having a Monty Python cast member as a co-author) that said attachment objects ease the difficulty of reformulating the baby's entire conception of the world. The attachment object, introduced before a lot of differentiation and endowed with a lot of pleasant, nursing-related memories, allows the baby to retreat back to the simpler, undifferentiated time. Then the baby can regroup, get a good night's rest, and work his way back up to some potentially challenging awareness.

I don't think we get to choose the object, though: it could be anything, and he gets to pick.

First place goes to...

...Magnolia zenii, the best smelling plant in the National Arboretum today!

The weather was rocking -- temps in the 70s-- so I took the Boy (and the dog) to the Arboretum. It was our first visit since discovering the delightfully fragrant wintersweet in January. We were walking around the same general area, along the ridge overlooking the Anacostia River, but my nose led us to two Magnolia zenii instead. The trees were very tall, and growing in a gully leading down from the ridge. And they were getting into their bloom, with soft, pale petals emerging from fuzzy husks. I waved a branch under the Boy's nose so that he could get the scent. But the petals tickled his nose, and he laughed!

Walking along the river, the Boy got to see some geese and, of course, the flow of the Anacostia.

Despite the beautiful day, there was a lot of wind. It gusted up while I was showing the boy the thick, waxy, rhododendron-like leaves of a giant Magnolia tree (and extricating said leaves from his mouth). We ducked underneath the leaves, and found incredible shelter. The huge limbs of the tree dipped back down to the earth in places, and reemerged elsewhere as a separate trunk. It was very easy to walk among these limbs, with the dome of leaves overhead providing a still, quiet, and dark canopy.

I tickled his nose with some other petals, and he laughed again. What a sweet kid.

Unfortunately, his sippy-cup full of water leaked, so I had to bring him back home. It was a fun trip anyway. (Friend AW really missed out when he passed on the invitation to come along.)

Crazy Days

Today I hosted playgroup. I was worried that gaps in the childproofing of my home would lead to catastrophe. (They did not.) And since two of the mothers have newborns in addition to their regular playgroup participants, the parents were outnumbered. But it was OK: those are some sweet kids.

Then we took the Monkey for his 9-month well baby check-up. He is well. Among other things, we got a list of new foods he can eat, which ought to double the variety in his diet. (And he took a couple of vaccinations like a champ. But I hate to hear him cry, for any reason.)

And next week, the Monkey Mama leaves us alone for three days and three nights. Our pediatrician says that the absence might be hardest on the Monkey Mama, and might result in newfound resilience and resourcefulness on the part of the Monkey.

We shall see.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Big Eater

Yesterday, the Monkey ate 7ozs of solid food at a sitting, with a 3oz milk chaser. That's the largest serving he has eaten to date.

In general, he eats three meals of 4ozs of solid foods and over 20ozs of milk every day. That's right around 2 pounds of total food.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Consonants and Phonemes

We're starting to develop a vocabulary over here:

"dee" means "Daddy" (or sometimes "Doggie")
"kee" means "Kitty"
"mbambmba" means "Mama"

We also have "guh", but we're not sure what it means.

Monday, March 06, 2006


A wise friend once called travelling with small children "more work, different place."

That wasn't really the case for this long weekend getaway just ended. Sure, I had to pack a lot of stuff for the Monkey. (I arranged my list of his stuff in the following categories: eating, sleeping, pooping, playing, going out.) And the dog added a wrinkle or two as I loaded up the station wagon. But it was worth all the preparation to pick up the Monkey Mama at work and to leave straight from there.

The payoff was that we got to wake up out there in rural Virginia, with views overlooking a broad river. The sun was bright on the rippled surface, and I started each day by holding the Monkey by the sliding glass doors and showing him the water. The weather stayed sunny, but it was a bit cool and blustery on our walks.

We explored the area a little more than we usually do, mostly because we stayed more or less sober the whole time and were thus in a condition to drive. (Not that we didn't finish the odd bottle of champagne with dinner.) It was generally relaxing, and the Monkey Mama got a chance to catch up on sleep a little.

From the Bookshelf

I just finished the 9th and 10th books of the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien, Treason's Harbor and The Far Side of the World. The latter one lent its title to the movie "Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World," although the plot was drawn from an entirely other novel. (I guess some studio exec like the sound of "The Far Side of the World.")

Anyway, the books are great. I haven't been disappointed in any one of them, and I breeze right through their 300+ pages. (Contrast with Flashman.) They are great yarns, sea adventures mixed with spy novels and leavened with humor, history, ornithology, and cannons.

I look forward to the day when I can pass them down to the Monkey. Boys need access to fiction with cannons. In the mean time, it's nice to know that there are 11 more novels for myself to enjoy.

Markets for Everything

While we were spending a three-day weekend down in Tidewater Virginia, I noticed a billboard for Lamb Exterminating. In case you find yourself in need, here is their information:

Lamb Exterminating

(804) 694-6166
1934 Village Dr, Hayes, VA

And for every one you see, you know there are twenty more...

(The "Markets for Everything" title references a frequent feature on, a blog run by two anarchocapitalist economists at George Mason.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The whole family will be away for a long weekend in tidewater Virginia. We might venture out to Colonial Williamsburg (and the Williamsburg Winery), or we might just relax in the rural, riparian environment.

Blog you later.