Saturday, February 27, 2010

Absence Makes the Something Grow Something Something

I'm about 2,400 miles from NJ right now, thanks to an unexpected trip home to Houston. Four days away from the kid. The first time I've spent more than three hours away from her, I think. Some ridiculous number like that. And ...

When Dad's away: Rockin' the eggplant knit hat, heart-and-peace-sign onesie and a new denim jacket.

... now I have a completely new understanding of what The Wife goes through when she leaves NJ in the morning and goes to work. The Wife, getting a taste of Super Solo-ing herself, has obliged with e-mailed photos, as has a very considerate friend, but it's not the same. The first night I was gone I looked at the clock, subtracted two hours for Pacific time, and wistfully said "NJ's getting her bath right now." I actually said that out loud.

So: I'm out four days and nights. The Wife's typical week: Out five days, home for those nights. I'm going to call that a draw and say that this trip is about equal to one of The Wife's work weeks. I'm counting myself as lucky that I only have to do it once. Because I sure do miss the little diddle. I left town thinking "nice little break," and by the time I landed the dial had moved to "She doesn't nap when I'm not there!" and other hand-wringing nonsense.

Here's one thing I missed:

For the love of all that is good and holy, I beseech you, woman: No more of this pureed !#&@^!&* peas* nonsense. Daddy would never let this happen.

When you're there participating in a fiasco like that, you hit the whole range of emotions, from "This'll be nutritious fun!" to "You're so cute" to "Come on, now" to "Sheesh, kid, EAT!" and "Get your hand out of that!" When you only get a couple of photos of it in e-mail, though, it looks like it was the Best Time Ever ... and I missed it. Sigh.

Oh well. Maybe missing out once in a while will make the next Best Time Ever even better.

Update: Pureed avocadoes, not peas.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The World's Most Underrated Baby Milestone 2: Revenge of the Baby Milestone

NJ now loves mirrors. We stand in front of the hallway mirror and I point to her image, asking "Who's that right there?" She looks at herself in the mirror and smiles; then she looks at my image and smiles bigger. Then she tentatively reaches a hand up to my face, watching it happen in the mirror. Once her hand lands on my cheek or chin, she turns and looks up at me and laughs.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One Day We'll Curse in Fluent Kangaroo

We took NJ to the zoo on this very sunny February Saturday. A zoo trip has been talked about here for weeks, both me and The Wife and with our PEPS group friends. In fact, a trip two weekends ago was canceled because of wet, cold weather. I have been ambivalent about the whole thing, because I don't think six months is old enough to appreciate the zoo. Nevertheless, the weather is gorgeous and we've been cooped up in the house so many weekends in a row because of rain or illness that we had to get out of the house. And Woodland Park Zoo was the destination.

Now, NJ had a good time. She loved watching the crowds walk by, and being out in the sunshine (when it wasn't making her squint), and being passed back and forth between her mom and dad. But I don't think she saw any animals, or cared much about them if they did. Not even this guy, who reminds me of her uncle:

Here’s another thing a monkey won’t do
Go out on a night and get all in a stew
Or use a gun or a club or a knife
And take another monkey’s life

Yes, man descended, the worthless bum

But, brothers, from us he did not come

I know she saw an orangutan, because his big, flat face was two inches from the glass and I held NJ up two inches from the glass, too. She had a thing or two to say to him, but I doubt he heard. It was nothing like being at home when one of the Two Idiots roams the great hardwood savanna and is within reaching distance -- now, that's exciting. She wasn't the youngest child I saw there, but she was among the youngest. She'll love the zoo one day, but today it was just another outing with the folks. Which is pretty good, too. But not quite as good as when you know you're six inches away from an orangutan that could, if not for the glass wall, snatch you up and carry you off.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things That Fascinate My Daughter

NJ has toys spread out across our house. At any given moment you can reach to the coffee table, the living room floor (inside her play tunnel), the dining room table, the breakfast nook table, anywhere in her room, the basement floor or the office floor and find something to shove into her meaty little hands. Still, there are mundane and random things around the house that positively mesmerize her.

When NJ gets her evening bath in her tub, which fits into the kitchen sink, she loves to look at her distorted reflection in the kitchen sink faucet. Recently she's learned that it swivels, and The Wife and I are on constant alert now to make sure she doesn't bang herself in the mouth with it.

Whenever NJ is playing on the floor and one of The Two Idiots goes strolling by, play time is suspended until he's out of sight or lays down somewhere. NJ loves to pet Willie (L) and feel his soft fur, which we allow under very controlled situations. Zeus (R) never really gets close enough for that. He'll duck in and sniff the top of her head, then dart off like he's stolen a candy bar from a counter display.

As mentioned before, this ceramic bass hangs over an entrance to the kitchen. That's where we take NJ to dance the fussiness out of her, something she enjoys greatly. When she looks up and happens to get Fred the Kitchen Fish in her sights, she locks in on it and pretty much doesn't stop staring at it until she's out of the room. Go figure.

Trying to get ready for the day in the morning, but NJ is crabbing and crying on the bed? Start brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush and show her what you're doing. Something buzzing weirdly in your mouth -- it's a show-stopper. I can't tell if she is intrigued or horrified, but her eyes get big, she stops squirming, and doesn't move until the thing shuts off.

The washer-sink combo is a weird one. Ambient noise from the dryer and washer make for good basement nap accompaniment. But when the washer discharges its water into the sink, it's a mini-Niagra Falls. The roiling, rumbling water prompts NJ to jerk her head over to see what's going on (she can't, because there's a rack of hanging clothes between her nap swing and the laundry area). The first time it happened it scared her. Now, though, once it's over, she goes back to dozing.

Another nap-time diversion: my cell phone. She watches the reflection of the screen in my glasses and (I think) it calms her. She sees me, sees pretty lights, feels good. If she gets cranky, I call her name and wave the phone back and forth so she can see it. She watches intently and calms down.

More and more, NJ sits in my lap as I sit at the computer. And more and more, she's fascinated by the keyboard. Mommy and Daddy seem to be having a lot of fun, after all, so why not try it? She bangs the handrest area with her full hand, and lately has been reaching up onto the keys themselves. In fact, I had to start this missive over when she made the first version disappear. I think she's embarrassed about the ceramic fish thing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Six Months: A Nice, Round Number

Yesterday was NJ's six-month birthday and her parents did nothing at all to commemorate it. We didn't even take a photo to mark the occasion. In fact, despite hitting the half-year mark, NJ didn't get any special attention. Just the usual amount of attention -- which, granted, is enough attention to choke a horse, more attention that you can shake a stick at.

Anyway, since her half-birthday was on a federal holiday, we'll just say that we got the presents and celebrating out of the way early. There's last week's Jumperoo purchase (the contraption has been moved to the basement, and I'm delighted/relieved to say that NJ has actually gotten bored in it a couple of times) as well as a couple of other new toys and books The Wife picked up on a short walk this weekend. (There's a very cool kids' clothes and toy store a mere two blocks away. A blessing and a curse.) We went on several outings, and NJ was fawned over appropriately everywhere. She and Dad Solo even had a giggle-fest at the supermarket, a place where she's usually too wide-eyed to notice her parents at all.

Sorry, kid. Six months is impressive, but you're still not old enough for that.

If we had made a really big deal of things, NJ would have had a candle plopped in the middle of a serving of pureed sweet potato. That's her favorite solid food for the moment, along with rice cereal. Pureed peas and squash? Not so much. Acquired tastes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Could Open Up My Whole Day

Last weekend The Wife took NJ to a play date at a friend's house a couple of blocks down the street. There were four babies there, all born about the same time. A good time was had by all (including Dad Solo, who went out on his own for a hearty lunch), although there was some tug-of-warring between NJ and another girl over the only boy in attendance. I'm sure that kid has a bright future ahead of him -- his parents are great folks -- but it's a little too soon for me to see NJ fighting over a boy. Apparently she won over the other girl, but the boy wasn't particularly interested in all the attention anyway.

I saw him first!

The real hit of the party for NJ, though, was the Jumperoo. NJ was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over this thing when she got a turn in it. The Wife told all this to her mother, so naturally a few days later the UPS man was dropping one off at our doorstep. Yesterday I assembled it as NJ played nearby on her mat. As the contraption got bigger, so did her eyes. I don't know if she recognized it from five days previous, but she sure knew it was Something Cool, and it was All Hers. I scooped her up and planted her in the cockpit. She looked at me and smiled as I lowered her into the seat.

And that's the last she thought about Dad Solo for the next 35 minutes.


This thing plays music and has flashing lights, voices that tell you what you're playing with, and a seat that spins around in the middle so if you get bored with the little pink piggies (right) you can swing over (or get your dad to swing you over if you're not yet 100 percent on that concept) to the other side to the chick incubator (left). In front of NJ you see vegetables that are tied to ribbons -- the orange triangle is a carrot, to the left of that is a box of corn, and to the left of that there's a tomato. If you put them in their corresponding holes, a nice lady tells you what they are and laughs. NJ's feet don't quite reach the floor, as you see here; one set of toes only.

It's a huge hit. Only when The Wife came through the front door did NJ break her concentration on all the activity in her stationary 2001: A Space Odyssey pod. She looked up at The Wife, arms spread wide and shaking, as if to say "Ding dang, y'all, would you look at this?"

Later today I'm going to move it down to the basement and give NJ a few minutes in it. She'll get a little more Jumperoo time in the evening, because The Wife is going to be late and that pushes bathtime and evening meal time back a bit. Of course, the Jumperoo is no substitute for a flesh-and-blood parent, and there's a danger of plopping her in it too often. We're trying to be vigilant (now and in the future) about her watching too much TV, and this is so easy it could devolve into the same thing: an inanimate babysitter. It can't kiss a child on the cheek, or tickle her toes, or blow a long air fart on her belly.

It would be pretty sweet if it could change a diaper, though. Does Fisher-Price have a suggestion box?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The World's Most Underrated Baby Milestone

Over the past couple of days it's become apparent that NJ understands arms and sleeves. Dressing her is no longer akin to putting a full-body leotard on a cat.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Does This Mean I'm Winning?

NJ turns six months old in a week, so I'm going to use this artificial, round-number milestone to assess my and The Wife's parenting skills. Half a year in, after all. So, after an exhaustive, painstaking review, the objective pronouncement is:

We're doing anywhere from Great to Adequate.

On one hand, we haven't had to rush to the emergency room or call a shopping mall security office to ask if anyone found a child in a car seat at the food court. Still, though, NJ has yet to win a MacArthur Grant or grace the cover of a major magazine. So it's a wash, I guess. Now, on to the individual categories ...

The Wife is a great, great Mom. I always knew she would be. She loves NJ to death, misses her all day long, and when she walks through the door in the evening the kid's face lights up and her arms start flailing in "hug me, pick me up, Mommy" semaphore. I've never, ever seen anyone so eager to get up at 4.30 a.m. as The Wife is when NJ wakes up hungry. Also, she's taken the lead on solid food feeding and has it down pat.

I'm getting better. The Wife's overnight trip last week was the last big test for Dad Solo, at least until the teeth start coming in an the growth spurts hit (any minute now!). The daily routines are set, solid enough that now I can tinker with them some without blowing the entire day. I'm doing my best to watch The Wife and learn from her, too, although when it's me wielding a spoonful of solid food, NJ isn't as interested.

However, there's one area where I've surpassed The Wife: Naps.

The Wife has lost her touch there. The past couple of weekends NJ has missed at least one nap per day, and that's on The Wife's watch. A couple of times she's come up from the basement, frustrated because NJ has cried nonstop for a half hour, and sent me down to take over. On the other hand, I almost always get NJ to sleep in five or ten minutes, and there rarely has been any crying. Her swing is next to the basement bed, and I'll lay there reading my iPhone until I see that the kid has nodded off before getting up and going to the office or sneaking back upstairs.

I don't really know why this is. The only theory that makes any sense is that when The Wife is overseeing the nap, NJ would rather be awake and in her arms. When it's me there in front of her, NJ thinks "Eh, him again? I might as well get some shuteye." Whatever the reason, I'm the reining Sandman around here and if you want that title you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. Or take it up with the kid.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Turns Out, Five-and-a-Half Months Is "The Age of Aquarium"*

*Oh: It's Age of Aquarius? OK, whatever ... I've got half a pun there and I'm sticking with it.

NJ had a delightful time today at the Seattle Aquarium. She laughed a bit and cooed a lot, smiled a bunch and drooled a gallon. She loved the indoor exhibits -- exotic fish swimming in front of wildly colorful coral reefs, and there was a column of bubbles lit by fluorescent light that she absolutely adored.

(Trust me -- the digital flash does not do this column of lit bubbles justice. It was pink with hot-pink bubbles.)

(And, seriously: Look at her in that hat and pea coat! Who's cuter than that? No one! Who could even be cuter than that? Maybe two, three people, ever, in all of human history -- tops. Perhaps Cleopatra as a child; there's no photographic evidence, but ... maybe. Bottom line: Cute as all get-out.)

NJ also enjoyed the outdoor exhibits, the seals and otters. Slightly less, though, because the bright lighting of the indoor aquariums are more engaging (to an almost six-month-0ld, I assume) than the outdoor venues that house the mammals and birds. Also, she sees Willie the Lab at home, and he is a dead ringer for a seal and/or an otter. So: Been there, done that.

NJ was in good shape after checking out the entire aquarium, so we went across the street to a big antique store. Dad Solo was hoping he might find something the last time he was there, four years ago -- a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt that would look awesome on his office wall, next to portraits of Babe Ruth, T-Bone Walker, Thelonious Monk, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Muddy Waters and several other great Americans. Of course, FDR -- our greatest president -- would have made a fine, worthy addition. Sadly, the portrait was gone; I just hope a patriotic American bought it instead of some loony Teabagger hell-bent on using it to make some sort of sick, twisted, misguided fascist/socialist/communist comparison. After all, FDR saved our bacon in the 20th century more than any other American, even Elvis Presley. It's a shame how some people are trashing his memory: NJ will know him as a hero, not as anything resembling the dishonest caricature that a small, uninformed minority are portraying him now. (Our Lab, Willie, is a fan,too -- "I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog" rings true to any self-respecting canine.)

NJ was an angel throughout our antique store prowl, but once we got home she was extremely reluctant to take her afternoon nap. The Wife has had trouble putting her down for naps lately, but I think there might have been something else going on: All the talk of aquatic life got her riled up. Lately she's developed a crush on a completely different fish than the sort you'll find at your more respectable aquariums. I think she was pining away for Fred, who hangs over our kitchen doorway. Whenever NJ is in the kitchen, she can't take her eyes off this guy. He's something of a Svengali. Or Fishgali. Whatever. All I know is, when I'm in the kitchen busting my butt to entertain this kid, all she can do is stare up at this ceramic fish. I mean, really: All that thing does is hang there, looking exactly the same, 24/7.

Oh, not that I'm bitter. Any friend of NJ's is a friend of mine.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Super Solo Dad Diary, Day Two

12.30 a.m.-ish: I finally drop off to sleep. NJ went to bed at 8 p.m. and only stirred once -- when I shut the dishwasher door too hard. Three minutes of half-hearted warbling and she was back sawing logs.

4 a.m.: I wake up and lock eyes on the baby monitor. Why isn't that kid freaking out? It's quiet. Too quiet.

5.45 a.m.: Willie shifts position on the bed -- I never get the entire bed when The Wife is gone because he takes her place -- and wakes me up. I could get back in bed, but surely she'll be awake any minute, so I get dressed.

6 a.m.: The dogs are fed and in the back yard. NJ is smiling sleepily at me from her crib. She slept, or at least was content in her crib, for ten hours. I didn't think I could love her any more, but this cranks the dial to eleven.

8 a.m.: The Wife got some early-morning photos, NJ slammed down eight ounces (today's feeding movie: The Last Picture Show), and we played on the quilt for quite a while. Now, though, she's nodding off in her bouncy chair on the dining room table. An e-mail dings my cell phone awake: "She looks sleepy," The Wife replies to the last photo. We head downstairs to the napping swing.

10.30 a.m.: For the entire time NJ napped, almost two and a half hours, I was on the phone with tech support. Finally, with the computer healthy again, I turn on a basement light. By the time I get to the swing there's another sleepy smile waiting for me.

12 p.m.: It's too cold and drizzly to leave the house for no reason, so we don't. Dad Solo smokes up the kitchen frying bacon for a sandwich. NJ coughs a lot, but I think she accepted my apology.

12.30 p.m.: More play time. NJ is in a particularly flirty mood, which is awesome. Later, just as I'm thinking that my t-shirt is a little gamey, NJ yaks all over it. I get the hint, kid.

2 p.m.: Afternoon nap time. Dad Solo had three and a half cups of coffee in the morning, but nonetheless takes a nap, too.

3.50 p.m.: In the office, I hear cooing from NJ's swing. I smile.

4.45 p.m.: The sun is out now. NJ and I leave for the supermarket. Not only is The Wife going to come home to a happy baby and husband, but she's going to get a big bowl of delicious -- delicious! -- pork chili when she sits down. NJ is an adorable, smiling hit with both customers and the cashier.

6.30 p.m.: I tell NJ that her mother is going to walk through that door any minute now. She seems to perk up -- a very serious look crosses her face. Might be the aroma of sauteing garlic and jalapenos, might be her weighing the gravity of the situation. Who's to say? I put her in the Baby Bjorn.

6.38 p.m.: The Wife walks through the door. I can't see NJ's face, but her flailing arms and legs tell me she's happy to see her mom. The Wife beams, pulls her out of the harness and hugs her tight.

7.15 p.m.: Dinner is served. The Wife expertly eats a bowl of piping hot chili over NJ, who's delighted to be supping on real milk instead of formula.

All in all, Super Solo was a smashing success. Not a single bad moment and lots of good ones. My game plan of nervous anxiety seems to have worked again. I never celebrate a Texas Longhorns victory until the final gun sounds, and likewise I never declare a Super Solo victory until time has expired. Now, knowing this went well, I can look to future Super Solos without fear. Hopefully NJ has an inkling that if one of her parents disappears for an extended period of time, she's still in good hands with the other one. After all, they're both nuts about her.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Super Solo Daily Diary

Here's the day, as best as my creaky memory can relate:

11 p.m. (Monday night): NJ's cries come through the baby monitor on The Wife's nightstand. Twenty-five minutes later, after a steady escalation, I go down to check on her. After a few moments cribside, I leave and the cries intensify. Fifteen minutes after that, The Wife trudges downstairs to feed her. We haven't had a problem with NJ waking up in the night in months. The Wife gets back in bed at about 1.30 a.m.

4 a.m.: NJ begins crying lustily again. There's no point in trying to wait her out, so The Wife climbs out of bed and heads downstairs to feed her. NJ woke up at roughly three-hour intervals, something that hasn't happened since her first month. This does not bode well for Dad Solo's Super Solo evening, I think as I stretch diagonally across the bed and drift back to sleep. Willie rests his chin on my leg.

7 a.m.: The Wife wakes me up, saying that NJ's ready for her morning nap. That's what happens when you don't get enough sleep during the night: You're napping again shortly after 7 a.m. I take NJ to the basement and strap her in the swing. After puttering around a few moments and saying my goodbyes to The Wife, it's almost 7.30 a.m. I lay down on the bed next to the swing. NJ is already out like a light. In a matter of minutes, I am too.

9.30 a.m.: NJ stirs and coos. I'm pretty sure I mumbled something.

10 a.m.: The coos escalate to that sort of irritable crying babies sometimes do -- not flat-out bawling, but the I'm-tired-and-vaguely-unhappy-about-something-I-can't-put-my-finger-on whine. I sit up and she smiles, knowing that Dad Solo is dragging his butt out of bed. Finally, Old Man. Finally. I e-mail the first of the day's batch of NJ photos to The Wife.

10.30 a.m.: NJ is having her first Dad Solo bottle of the day. I'm trying to make sure she doesn't turn her head toward A Clockwork Orange on the TV.

11.30 a.m.: Needing to get out of the house on a surprisingly sunny day, I dress NJ in her tiny Mom jeans and "Born to Love" t-shirt and we head out to run a couple of errands. In our neighborhood, I pull over to talk to someone on my phone and, after a five-minute conversation, I look in the rear-view mirror to see the child out cold. The car used to have no effect on NJ, but now it's an automatic sleep-maker. It's like me on an airplane. Ten or fifteen minutes in, and it's "Who's snoring?"

12 p.m.: I've decided against the supermarket run, because NJ had a rough night and she is pooped. However, I realize, this early nap is going to throw her (us) off for the rest of the day. I grind my teeth and go on a long drive that includes a drive-through coffee and a stop at Burgermaster for lunch.

1 p.m.: I'm eating my burger on the coffee table and NJ is in her car seat on the floor, staring at me so sleepily that she is as still as a statue for least ten minutes. Maybe I was really wolfing down the chow and she was too horrified to move.

2 p.m.: NJ is eating again, while on the TV Alex is getting his first taste of experimental aversion therapy. His appreciation of Ludwig Van will never be the same again.

3 p.m.: The Wife receives another batch of photos. NJ and Dad Solo are having a grand old time playing in his office.

4.30 p..m.: We've sailed through NJ's usual naptime, because of the car nap she had early in the afternoon. I finish up the movie as she slurps on her bottle, occasionally trying to rub the tired out of her eyes.

5.10 p.m.: NJ collapses in my lap, and I move her to the crib. This late nap is not good, not good at all. I get on the phone -- software customer support -- and after thirty minutes on hold I hang up, go upstairs and make a lot of noise in the hallway in hopes that she'll wake up naturally and easily. She does, at about 5.50 p.m.

6 p.m.: Determined to keep NJ occupied until a 7 p.m. bath, I plant her next to me on the couch with her music box, which she frantically punches in hoping of hearing some tunes. (It plays Mozart, not Beethoven, so I won't have any Clockwork Orange flashbacks.) She's happy up until the second the sound stops, or the second her rattle is out of range of her mouth, and then it's fussing time.

6.20 p.m.: I strap on the Baby Bjorn and wear NJ as I do a little laundry and other housework.

6.40 p.m.: Not wanting to do too much housework, of course, I switch to kitchen dancing as I get her bath ready. NJ in particular likes "Twisting By the Pool" by Dire Straits and "Happy" by the Stones. At one point she cranes her head back to get a look up at me. She does it again, smiling big, and this time I lean down and kiss her forehead and then bow my head down to sort of hug her. She continues to smile and mashes her face into my cheek, holding it there for several moments. I am convinced she's kissing her dad and the room starts to get a little dusty. I am, indeed, "Happy."

7 p.m.: Bath time goes off without a hitch. The Wife receives a batch of (tasteful) nude photos of her daughter splashing and smiling in the tub.

8 p.m.: Dried and fluffed, NJ finishes off every bit of her evening bottle and tries to keep her eyes open as I burp her. She gets into her sleep sack and goes down in the crib without a peep. It's an hour later, and as far as the baby monitor knows, she's out like a light. I've already got a pot of coffee ready to be brewed, all I'll have to do is stumble downstairs and switch the coffeemaker on as I get her. I hope she's going to sleep through the night, but if she doesn't -- eh, no biggie. I'll get up whenever, try to nap when she does, drink lots of java. It's not like I have anywhere else I'd rather be.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Super Solo: T -1

The Wife has an overnight business trip planned for Tuesday night. Beginning tomorrow morning, it'll be me and NJ all alone, until Wednesday evening. I'm more sanguine about it than The Wife is, I think. She's not at all looking forward to being apart from NJ for such a long time. I'll be sending lots of photos and fielding lots of calls, I predict.

I had my day away from NJ this past weekend. I woke up just after midnight on Saturday with a pretty nasty stomach virus, and spent all of that day (except about a half hour) in bed, either watching TV, sleeping, or moaning in discomfort (or some combination of the three). A couple of times The Wife brought NJ up the stairs and they waved at me across the bedroom, and I made suction-cup noises that put a smile on NJ's face. (That was about all I had the strength to do.) I missed her, but better that she stay away and (maybe, hoping against hope) not get what I had.

The Wife's separation will be a lot tougher. Years ago, when I had a job that required a lot of travel, I was at a staff meeting in the Bay Area. A colleague had flown in from the East Coast just a couple of months after giving birth to her second child. She was miserable the entire time. I thought: Really? You're going back in a couple of days, the child is in good hands back home, and, well, don't you want a break? Now I get it. The Wife definitely gets it.

Any words of advice for Dad Solo on his first Super Solo adventure?