Friday, September 29, 2006

Angry Little Scientist and Other Stories

Angry Little Scientist

It is truly fascinating to me, the degree to which a two-month-old child can begin to express her personality. She cannot speak, she has very limited control of her motor functions, and even her facial expressions are often red herrings. However, certain aspect of her person are already becoming clear.

In preparation for Norah’s arrival, Moonshot and I read a book called Baby Minds. It walked through the brain development of a newborn and gave helpful games to play with your child that will help them work with whatever it is that their little brains are supposed to be working on at any given moment. The first few months basically consist of a general “talk to them” and “makes faces at them” game. However, the one game that we would not have thought of on our own was to tie a string to her foot. The other side of the string is attached to her mobile. In this fashion, she is given a puzzle to figure out…how to make the mobile dance. And once she has solved the puzzle, she can then work on motor control…how to make the mobile dance in the way I want it to. So, the rules of the game were simple. Tie the string, wait for her to figure it out. Once she figures it out, move the string to the other foot and she will have to relearn the puzzle. Supposedly, this switch-up should delight the baby mind and make the game last much longer.

Norah makes her Pooh mobile danceSo we tied the string on to her left leg and she figured it out in less than a minute. Jiggle once accidentally. Jiggle twice accidentally. Short pause, look of concentration, pump, pump, pump with the left leg. Big smile.

We were thrilled. Our child was obviously a genius and thriving in the scientific realm of experimentation and logic puzzles. We let her play with the left leg for a few minutes, and then moved the string to the right foot. Pump, pump, pump with the left foot. Pump, pump, pump with the left foot. PUMP, PUMP, PUMP with the left foot. Rage!!! Full on rage, I tell you. We reached into the crib and moved her right foot for her, hoping to show her how it was done. The mobile moved and she silenced for a second. Pump with the left foot. Rage!!! We removed the string and called it a day.

The next day, hoping the 24-hour break would reset the circuits and allow her to understand the rather minor variation we had introduced to her string game, we replaced the string on her right foot. Her eyes lit up with a smile…she remembered the string game. Pump, pump, pump with the left foot. Tears of sadness. Feeble pump with the left foot. Rage!!!

It seems our little scientist has no taste for new data. Observation be damned, she knows how this string game works and no amount of new input can convince her that she might need to alter her worldview a bit. There is clearly nothing wrong with her understanding…there is obviously something wrong with the game, her parents, and quite possibly the world itself.

So, despite her limited ability of expression, Norah has clearly told us a very important detail about herself…she has inherited her parents’ stubbornness.

We are mentally preparing for the inevitable consequences.

I Miss You, Sonny

I had prepared myself for parenthood by closely watching my friends and family as they made this jarring transition. And to my credit, I think I entered this deal more prepared than most. However, while my method did allow me to observe the big changes and issues…the smaller ones eluded my notice. And in the end, it’s the multitude of tiny changes that lead to this sense of culture shock within your own home that we call new parenthood.

For instance:

I used to be an instant gratification type of person. A thought would occur to me and I would stop what I was doing and satisfy my craving. If I was watching tv and wanted a glass of water, I simply paused the show and went to quench my thirst. If I wanted desert after dinner I either got up and made myself something or Moonshot and I would stroll down to the frozen custard place and treat ourselves. The list goes on and on, but there was a direct link between what I wanted and what I simply got up and got.

These days it’s more complex. Let’s say I’ve just calmed Norah after a minor spat of fussiness. I am not going to threaten this tenuous calm just to make myself a bowl of ice cream. The calm is precious and must be preserved. If I get thirsty while giving Norah a bottle, I’ll make a mental note to get up and get a glass of water once she is done and has been burped. But then she needs changed and by that point I’ve forgotten that I wanted water in the first place until my throat gets dry. And only then do I stop to ponder…when did getting water become a planned out event that I had to hold in my memory long enough to enact said plan? It’s a glass of water. In this marvelous age of indoor plumbing I should have access to water whenever the urge strikes me. And yet I have noticed my water intake has decreased markedly since Norah arrived.

And I’ve forgotten to get my after-dinner bowl of Cocoa Puffs three nights in a row.

The Five-Minute Stalker

I love data. It’s a very geeky tendency I have, but I love to collect and compile data. As witnessed in the days before Norah’s birth, a good spreadsheet makes me smile. But more than that…the availability of data makes me smile too. Tracking it down prior to compiling it is just good fun. Because of this, Internet searches make me positively giddy. Often, I’m not even all that interested in knowing the information I’m finding…I’m just facintated that the information is there at all.

I love to Google friends, see where and how their lives intersect the grand tapestry that is the Internet. I Google “Moksha Gren” to see how often I show up. I track down old friends from high school to see what I can find. It’s not that I really needed to know that “Lesley” got evicted from her home last year…I’m just astounded that the paperwork is available online and that the paperwork refers to a real, live person I know in the physical realm. It’s sort of surreal in a way that I’ve never been able to express to my satisfaction. The fact that data represents real events in real space…it’s a form of magical transformation that my mind really digs on.

And it fascinates me to no end to know that in five minutes, I can gather more information on a person than his/her stalker could have only 20 years ago.

Case in point.:
(Warning: this will ramble around in a tangent for a little while…but will return to my point…hang in there)

There’s a little white house across the street from us. It usually gets rented out to college students, so it’s a bit dumpier than the other houses on the street, but it's cute in its own way. Anyway, this semester, we’ve noticed a lot of musical instruments going in and coming out of the little white house. “Ah,” we said, “A band…how cool.” Moonshot and I are both music fans in general and fans of young people pursuing music specifically, so we smiled as we watched the young band from our living room window.

And then the practicing began and we began wondering is college kids should be allowed to pursue music. Around 1:30 last Saturday night, we lay awake listening to the muted bass and drums pouring form the little white house and felt old and uncool as we contemplated going over and asking them whipper-snappers to quiet down..

However, the next day, while trimming the grass along our sidewalk, two young guys approached me. Shaggy hair, bushy mutton chops, funny sunglasses…clearly aspiring rock stars. They introduced themselves as Ben and Kevin and I was astounded at their politeness. They asked about the noise level, asked about our normal schedule and what times would be ok for them to practice. I was thrilled. What kind of rock and roll mentality is this? Respecting your neighbors? The Rock Gods would not approve. But I was suitably impressed. I chatted with them about their band and told them that while the really late-night stuff needed to lower the volume a bit, I’d generally rather them practice and become famous so I could later brag about living next to them. I’ll deal with a little noise in the meantime. The band is called Troubadour Dali. Ben sings and Kevin is filling in on the bass…on loan from a band called LaPush.

After my yard work was done, I retreated to my office and began my searches. I downloaded songs by Troubadour Dali from their myspace page and found that their listed influences are Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the Dandy Warhols. I should have guessed from the cleverly altered artist reference for their band name and from the big ol’ Joel Gion sideburns and glasses. I watched a video of LaPush playing on the Carson Daly Show and read reviews of their cd. I searched for Ben and Kevin to see if they were in any other bands. No, but Kevin teaches guitar lessons, has a big dog names Chuck, and listens to a supprisingly wide array of music for a guy who looks like he stepped right out of Dig!. Ben got good reviews for his roll in the St Charles Community Theater’s production of Angels in America, had a decent record as a high school track athlete and you can find a very cute picture of him with a ring-tailed lemur on his shoulder.

Why does any of this matter? I have no idea…but I was thrilled, and continue to be thrilled, that in five minutes I could find such a wealth of meaningless and trivial details that related to this guy across the street. I’ll never use the data, would probably have forgotten it all had I not found my eccentricities amusing enough to write it down here, but still I enjoyed the search.

I caught up with the band as they were loading up for a show on Wednesday night. I mentioned that I had listened to their music. I mentioned that I love Black Rebel and have been meaning to get more familiar with Brian Jonestown Massacre. I wished them luck on their show. I thought it best not to mention the ring-tailed lemur.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sorry You Missed It

So the flatbed truck came and hauled Moonshot’s car away yesterday.

What? Am I so far behind on my posting that I haven’t told you what happened to Moonshot’s car? Oops. I haven’t yet told you about the young idiot who, in the middle of last Tuesday night, took far too wide a turn and dragged his car across the driver’s side of Moonshot’s parked Ford Contour? In that case, my lack of recent blogs has probably kept you from hearing that the kid tried to drive off, but that the damage sustained to his Saturn was so great that it died only a half a block down the road and that he then got out and ran. You would have no way of knowing that my amazing neighbor Tom and his son literally ran from their house upon hearing the crunch and chased the driver, called the cops, and woke me from my slumber. And your not knowing that would be a real shame…because Tom deserves some major recognition for his heroic actions. But the even greater shame is that you’ve missed out on laughing with Moonshot and I at the 18-year-old imbecile who, upon smashing a car and abandoning his own vehicle in the middle of the street…ran the block and a half to his house, went inside and hid. Brilliant, eh? Even had Tom’s son not followed him, it would have taken the cops two seconds to find him since his plates were registered to that house. And they did find him. Hauled him off to jail in handcuffs for leaving the scene of an accident and for driving without proof of insurance.

It really is a shame you missed it, cuz you would have enjoyed the story. You’d have gotten a kick out of the cop who answered Tom’s question “Is he drunk?” with a straightforward, “No, I think he’s just stupid.” You also would have appreciated my frustration at the long-winded cop who stood on the porch of Casa de Gren for way too long, pontificating on whether or not the kid might actually have insurance as he claimed or maybe he and his mom were sharing one insurance card and swapping it back and forth (“See that all the time,” he said), and several other theories he had on the case but for which he had no real reason to even hazard a guess. Moonshot and I, in our sleeping attire, looking as haggard and as uninterested in his theories as parents of a newborn might look when their sleep is interrupted by such an event halfway through their child’s normal sleep cycle, could only wait for him to wear himself out so that we could sleep and deal with it in the morning.

Click here to survey the damage
And I’m sure, as loyal readers of my life, you would have worried with us when we realized that with the Contour out of commission, we had no car that could hold Norah’s rear-facing car seat (curse that tiny Mini backseat.) But I can only imagine that you would have sighed with relief when Jet loaned us his Avalanche...I know we did. And I have every confidence that you would have been pleased as punch when we found that the reckless kid did, in fact, have insurance, and that the insurance company has been taking good care of us ever since and is sending us a check that we will put toward a Subaru Outback

But my biggest regret is that had I told you the story, my opening statement that they hauled away Moonshot’s car would not have seemed so strange to you. It really was unfair of me to subject you to such a startling claim…when you clearly had no frame of reference with which to understand it.

So, I can only apologize for not telling you that story…it was a good one…and I think you would have enjoyed it.

Norah Update

Norah's Learning To Accessorize
I also realized that my last update was the day before Norah’s check-up…horrible of me to keep you hanging. The short answer is that she’s wonderfully healthy. Her jaundice is gone, her heart murmur is gone, and she is gaining weight like crazy. How crazy? Well, last we had checked, about two-and-a-half weeks prior to this weighing, she weighed 8lbs 3oz. Last week, she weighed in at 11lbs 2oz. That’s roughly a 40% increase in size in less than three weeks. I can’t even imagine. She’s now in the 95th percentile for weight, length, and head size. So, she’s proportional…she’s just a big kid. She continues to spit up huge quantities of formula, but other than that one complaint…she really is a pretty easy child. She’s going about 3-4 hours between bottles during the day and 4-5 hours at night. That means we only have to wake up once to feed her since we can feed her right before bed and right after I wake up. And even better is that Moonshot takes that middle-of-the-night feeding since I wake up and take the morning one. I have no complaints.

All in all, things are good. We still have our days when she’s fussy. This tends to fray our nerves and causes us to wonder what we were thinking when we decided to have a child. But then she does something cute, we melt, and everything is fine again. We’re looking forward to our memories glossing over the hard parts. It is clear to me that this happens. People are shocked when I mention my occasional frustration. They say things like, “But babies are just so sweet…how could you get tired of them?” It is obvious that nature has devised a system by which we only remember the cute faces they make and just kind of skim over the midnight scream-fests. In this way, evolution has ensured that we will ignorantly march into parenthood again. So, for now, I just smile and nod when people say these things to me…and wait for the blissful forgetting.

Late Breaking Update!!
Dolly and Duran brought the outfit, Aunt Gimpy made the blanket, Norah furnished the CUTE
Several days ago, the Little Miss began smiling in her sleep. Very cute, good for a few “oooh”s but it lacked the ability to pump up our personal egos, so we have been waiting for her to smile AT us. Waiting for that magical moment when one of us would walk into the room and her face would light up because she recognized us and loved us. But she’s been rather stingy with her love. First she saved it only for her dreams. Recently she’s been sharing it with her Pooh mobile, but only if we keep a safe distance. But today the final insult occurred. She’s now decided that she loves Arlo. Yes, she grinned her fool head off at our lovable pooch…but still can’t bring herself to give us more than a lazy, one-sided smirk. Now, I’ll freely admit that Arlo is far more lovable that either Moonshot or me, but I’m just hopeful the Norah will eventually decided to shower her folks with some well deserved smiles…hopefully sometime before her teenage years when she reverts to hating us ;)