Saturday, March 27, 2010

Don't Oppose The Opposable

Sometime in the past couple of weeks, NJ discovered her thumb and its almost perfect fit in her mouth. And it's been an absolute delight. It's been at least a week since she woke up from a nap and cried; now, when I check on her, if I see her head is raised off the swing I walk around and find her happily sucking on her hand's fifth digit. Same with crib naps -- I'll hear her stirring on the monitor and get ready to burst into her room and save the day, but the crying doesn't come. Instead of bawling, she jibbers and jabbers and works the thumb. This can go on for quite a while, buying Dad Solo precious time to finish an episode of quality television programming or browse the online iPhone app store.

NJ's got the open-hand, fanned-fingers thumb suck down pat, choosing that over the traditional fist. Also, in something I hope is a harbinger of things to come, she uses her left hand. Hendrix, the Babe, McCartney, Ben Franklin, Obama, Koufax, Judy Garland, Robert Plant, Eudora Welty, Dad Solo, da Vinci, Letterman -- the list of great Lefties goes on and on. Even Wink Martindale!

I originally wanted a boy, as The Wife will tell you, but the instant I found out that wasn't happening, the idea of having a daughter became the most beautiful thing I could imagine and I haven't even thought about looking back. But left-handed, like her dad? Yeah. I want this.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I'm ice skating with one and going to a staged reading of 'Godspell' with the other.
The two loves of my life, NJ and Red Mill Burger onion rings, ran into each other today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Step On My Cape

Remember when all it took for Superman to fool everyone into thinking he was Clark Kent was to slick down his hair and don those black horn-rimmed glasses that Elvis Costello eventually made cool? It took a pretty ridiculous leap of faith to buy it. Of course, you're already watching a movie about a superhero who flies and can turn back the rotation of the earth's axis, so leaps of faith were all over the place.

So as I was saying, Clark ... hey, what the ...? Where did Clark Kent go? He was right here. And where'd you come from? And, uh ... why are you wearing a blue unitard?
The original Superman underwent and even easier transformation from Clark to Super. At least Christopher Reeve switched his part to the other side of his hair. George Reeve didn't even bother to do that (although his Clark Kent hair is under this rockin' fedora in this photo).

I think this Clark Kent would whip this Superman's butt. He looks like he's got mob ties.
Now I get it, though. A little bit. One of the approximately two bazillion impromptu games NJ and I play around here is "Glasses Daddy," where I put on these bad boys and become a whole new other person.

Dear Elvis Costello,
Please start wearing a pair of these frames so I can say I had them before they were cool.

Pump it up,
Dad Solo.
This game -- I suppose it doesn't meet Webster's definition of a "game," but still -- involves me smiling and talking to NJ, turning away and putting these reading glasses on, then turning back and calmly continuing to talk. NJ goes crazy for it -- she never fails to do a little baby double-take and smile. It's as though she's playing with someone completely new -- and, in a twist, it's the guy with glasses who gets the Superman reception. It's most likely because she sees her reflection in the glass, two shiny little NJs smiling back at her. But then the specs come off again and, again, she's enthralled. Oh, I suppose it's because she's seven-and-a-half months old and is easy to wow and entertain, but I don't think that makes my Dad Solo-as-Superman theory any less apt.

P.S. For those of you younger than me: Yes, I know Elvis Costello is no longer an arbiter of cool, and it's been quite some time since he was. But he was, once, damn it. So shut up. I'm an old man with reading glasses, lots of remastered CDs and a vivid memory of seeing a life-sized "My Aim Is True" cardboard cut-out at the record store in Almeda Mall. Leave me be.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Call and Response

The Baby Shriek gets more popular by the day around here. In fact, it's pretty much replaced laughing as the top indicator that NJ is having a good time. It's definitely been established as the bridge to NJ's not having any speaking skills at all and her uttering her first words. She's now using her shriek to respond to us verbally ("verbally" being used loosely here).

Today, as Dad Solo went through the laborious process of making his fabled Pork and Black-Eyed Pea Chili -- it takes a long time, but Son of a Bee Sting! is it worth it -- he often ducked into the living room and called out to NJ, who was goofing around on the couch with The Wife. Once I got NJ's attention I'd scream some nonsense sounds and the Smile That Slays Me would spread across her face, then she'd let loose with a good 20-second shriek of her own.

This is arguably the most famous example of Call and Response in modern music (starting at the 2.26 mark, although if you skip ahead and don't listen to the entire thing, well then ... no offense, but I really have to wonder if you're a patriotic American). It literally makes me feel good just to hear it. Of course, blues -- and, by extension, its offspring, rock and roll -- is based on chord repetition and call and response. If you've ever seen the Stones play live, you know how good Mick is at leading a call-and-response during "Brown Sugar" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want," among others. So maybe NJ has it in her bones and blood already: After all, she naps to lullaby renditions of Zeppelin, Stones and U2 songs.

Still, as charming and life-affirming as the Raylettes are, I'll take NJ's call-and-response shrieking any day. Now, she loves it when I sing to her -- honestly! -- and that's doubled the number of people who enjoy my dulcet tones (I'm the other fan). And lately both me and The Wife have been doing our best to talk to her using short, easily understandable words so she can, you know, eventually learn to talk. But it's a hell of a lot of fun to give her a little scream, then sit back and wait for the smile and the response.

What'd I say, indeed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The House Is Alive With the Sound of Jibberish

The house has been ringing lately with NJ's vocalization practice. It's like having Pavarotti wandering around the house intoning "me me me me me me," but wearing a pajama onesie with a smear of pureed carrot on the leg instead of a tuxedo. (Maybe he wore pajama onesies, but Pavarotti eating carrots? As if!) Two things in particular:

The Baby Shriek is used to express delight at, for example, the jumperoo contraption that still enthralls the kid on an almost daily basis. Once NJ's sitting in the thing and has made it around the control panel once, she'll let out a shriek to emphasize her joy at having completed the circle, then another to warn us that she's going around again. NJ also deploys the Baby Shriek when she's having fun with me or The Wife and wants us to keep it up. Yes, the shriek says, continue to tickle my belly and simultaneously make fart noises, Dad Solo. I heartily approve of these actions and would like to continue participating in this brand of merriment. Thirdly, the Baby Shriek serves as an all-purpose exclamation for a seven-month-old who has not yet learned to say "Wow" or "Whew" or "Oy vey."

The most common sound around the abode these days, though, is The Lamb. NJ enjoys going on a nice, long run of "ba ba ba ba ba ba ba" every now and again. After the first "ba" or two, she'll change the inflection of, or raise or lower, her voice. She sometimes ends up flapping her gums rhythmically by the end, as though she's making fun of herself. I've managed to engage her in a few "ba" conversations, and when she realizes we're ba-ing at each other it makes her smile. The Lamb isn't the first sound she's become intrigued by in her Quest for Speech -- she also had "ma" and "pa" phases. But "ba" has staying power, apparently. Maybe one day soon she'll string the three together in the appropriate order so The Wife and I can declare that her first word and book a trip to Venice to celebrate.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Crib Notes

Three months ago we began the transition from the Moses basket in our bedroom to the crib in her room. Even with a highly sensitive baby monitor, it wasn't easy psychologically on The Wife. It went well, though -- the first two nights we visited her in the grand tradition of Dr. Richard Ferber, and after that she's slept like a ... hold on, wait for it ... like a baby. Since that first week, NJ has awakened and cried only three times (ironically, last night was one of them). We've heard tales of kids waking every two hours during their teething and growth spurts, but NJ hasn't sprouted a tooth yet and, while she's definitely growing, there hasn't been a spurt uncomfortable enough to set her wailing. The vast majority of the time, NJ"s sleeping from about 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. or later now.

A couple of weeks after that transition began, we decided to move her naps to the crib, too, and out of the basement, home of the swing and soothing rock music lullabies. How'd that go? Thanks for asking -- not too good. NJ pitched fits that would have made Dr. Ferber reach for the whiskey, cigarettes and Xanax after a few minutes. We felt like we were lucky that she was sleeping through the night, so we decided to cut our losses and return to the basement for naps for a while.

"A while" ended this week.

Her afternoon naps in her crib have been short -- half as long as a typical basement swing nap -- but she has, indeed, slept. The room has blackout shades that darken the room to the appropriate level, and I shut the door so no dog wanders into her room to see what's in her waste basket. I zip her up in her sleep sack, borrowing part of the evening routine in hopes of making it more soothing and familiar. On the monitor, I can hear her yammering softly to herself for a few minutes, then ... silence. Sleep. Sleep good. But when she wakes up, she screams and cries like it's the end of the world. It's excruciating -- the kind of crying that makes your shoulders involuntarily hunch and your eyes get as big as saucers. The room is plenty dark and there's no extra noise; I don't understand the difference between sleeping in there at night and during the day. Apparently, though, there is one. As soon as NJ learns to talk, I'm going to ask her what it is.

Once we nail this crib nap thing, we'll expand it and NJ will take her morning nap there as well. (The Wife could, theoretically, put her down right before she leaves for work, letting Dad Solo slumber peacefully until NJ wakes up again. In reality, this will never happen.) But it's going to be a long, loud road.

Friday, March 5, 2010

NJ Has Two Daddies ... For an Hour

My friend came over the other day to check up on NJ, beer in hand, and ended up on feeding duty:

NJ spent most of the time trying to grab that thing off his chin.

A lot of the guys I know who have daughters (older than NJ) are especially interested in her progress, it seems. They run the gamut from a dad whose tween daughter is starting to rebel a bit to a guy who says he's wanted a couple of blonde daughters ever since he was a kid (he got them).

Of course, there's going to be lots of interest in NJ anyway, what with her being cute and beautiful and happy and smiley and all that. But I think a lot of it has to do with the don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it nature of kids growing up. Just about everyone I know with kids older than NJ is quick to suggest I pay close attention to her because she'll grow up so incredibly fast.

And it's true -- yesterday I had trouble remembering the days when we first brought NJ home and were up every two hours feeding. Those days, which were very intense and trying, seem like half a lifetime ago, when in fact they were just half a year ago. I had to flip through some of our two bazillion photos to jog my memory. Oh yeah, once upon a time she was tiny and didn't smile and cried a lot and didn't care about toys.

I thought about all this when NJ and I were at the supermarket, which was the first time all week we'd even left the house. We've had fun playing around the house -- NJ is sitting up now, a mite unsteadily still but getting better all the time. Voluntarily holding yourself captive in the house is not good, though, and today it'll change. The weather is great, The Wife is here, and the three of us will be accompanying the dogs to the lake in a little while.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The World's Most Underrated Dad Milestone

Yesterday, for the first time, I spent the larger part of a flight layover shopping for a gift for my kid. I was in the Albuquerque airport. I used to smirk at those guys -- they're easy to spot -- but yesterday I was one of them. And not minding it too much.

I was thisclose to resigning myself to coming home empty-handed because all I saw were gaudy pink t-shirts with "Somebody Loves Me in New Mexico" or some such thing written on them in glitter. But I found an artsy-fartsy shop full of artisan goods from Santa Fe, and now NJ is cuddling with this:

Thanks to an off-hand joke I made last night that cracked up The Wife, this horse is unfortunately named Brambles. Sorry about that, horse.