Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Edition of The Fearful Parent

Another Halloween is fast approaching.

I'm working on this year's pumpkin. I'm carving out a medusa head based on some the cameos I saw at the MET. I think the snakes are going to be the hardest.

The only problem is that The Child has fallen asleep, so I can't use the power jigsaw. He seemed OK with it earlier, but I put it down for some sharp knives and while I was carving out the little feathers of the wings on the left side of medusa's head, he passed out.

Trick or treaters should be appearing at our house in about four hours...

While I was carving, I had all sorts of Fearful Parent articles going through my head. Arthur's on the floor so he can see what I'm doing. Naturally, when I first separated the top of the pumpkin's head a few seeds fell out onto the newspaper. I picked up the seeds. Later, Arthur started to try to eat the newspapers on the floor. The article came unbidden to my head

Pumpkins can be a festive treat for baby's first halloween, but they can be deadly, as Susan of Chicago, Illinois found out. "I'd given little Dakoda-Shanti her own little knife to carve with. We'd always carved jack-o-lanterns when we were kids. I turned my back for just a second, and Dakoda-Shanti was out the door, with the knife." Susan's voice quavers. "She got into a police standoff holding up a Fisher-Price Depot."

We spoke with Dr. Sheridan Johnson, of the Safe Holidays Institute. "We all remember the fun of holidays past. But holidays these days are a lot more dangerous. Take pumpkins. Baby sees the pumpkins and will try to eat them. Most parents use the "bigger than baby's fist rule" and don't realize that it doesn't apply to pumpkins. Sam and May of Minneapolis, Minnesota discovered Dr. Johnson's warning too late.

"We thought, '[the pumpkin is] bigger than Leonardo's fist,'" recalls Sam.

"But Leonardo was just starting to teeth," adds May. "We were both in the kitchen when we heard a noise."

Sam continues. "I thought it was some early trick-or-treaters, so I went to the front door. But..."

"It was Leonardo. He'd gotten his little mouth around the stem of the pumpkin and the whole top of the pumpkin was lodged in his windpipe."

They called 911 and EMT's managed to dislodge the pumpkin from the infant's throat just in time.

Experts warn not only of physical hazards, but also of the psychological damage of Halloween pumpkins.

"We see this sort of thing all the time," says child therapist and pediatric physiological expert, Dr. Margaret Castle-Jones. "We call it, 'Post-Pumpkin-Stress.' PPS all starts out innocently, and 94% of the parents of sufferers of PPS we interview are completely unaware of the early trauma they've unwittingly submitted their children to."

Dr. Castle-Jones leans in. "The young child is taken by her parents to a pumpkin patch. They choose a pumpkin. Then the child sees how the pumpkin is cut up. A face is carved on the pumpkin; it can be a smiling face, it can be a frowning face -- it doesn't matter, the pumpkin has no choice about its emotional expression. After one special night, the pumpkin disappears; maybe it ends up in the garbage or a compost heap. During this whole time, the child is internalizing the pumpkin process. She might worry that someone will come to take her away; or will have her emotional expressions limited or dictated. Birthdays or other special celebrations can trigger PPS related anxiety that the child will disappear the next day. If the parents have been calling her 'pumpkin' as a nickname it can compound the damage fivefold."

Dr. Castle-Jones points to a graph on her wall. "We're experiencing the legacy of PPS as a culture; teenagers today are reacting to infant PPS by piercing ears, noses, chins, brows, lips and even eyes in an attempt to regain some of that perceived control they lost in their early developmental years."

We asked Dr. Castle-Jones what parents can do. "I'd recommend avoiding pumpkins during halloween altogether. However, if your family tradition is strong, a fallback strategy would be to purchase a plastic pumpkin that already has a smiling face (see SideBar for Plastic Pumpkin comparisons).

....oops. Look's like Little Pumpkin The Child is waking up. Time to fire up the jigsaw.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Today Arthur and I went out and bought some Halloween pumpkins.

Our new best friend was a small girl who rushed away from her Mother's side, shrieked, "A baby! A baby!" and attempted to touch Arthur's head. Without asking.

Now that I think about it, there must be something about large pumpkin patches in the Eugene area, because last week when we went through the corn maze, one little boy was about ready to take off with the baby distraction toy attached to Arthur's pram.

Anyway, this girl was determined to touch Arthur. She was fast, too. I'm not sure why her mom didn't intervene. Luckily, I was able to channel my inner Mark Dwyer instead of my inner Mamma Grizzly.

As a result of today's encounter, I think I have a product that could make me millions if I advertise it in The Fearful Parent Magazine. It's an electric fence you attach to your pram to keep small children and other wild animals from pawing your baby.

I can see it now. A small generator attaches to the pram's wheels and charges up a capacitor which hooks to a series of wires around the bumpers of baby's pram. I think I'll call it a "Don't Bug My Baby Zapper."

I suppose there's some law about bringing an electrical device like that into a public place. Pity. And don't even get Mark started on letting me attach a flame thrower to the pram.

I suppose I'll have to wear a Malificent costume and practice saying, "On your child's sixteenth birthday she will wear a black halter top and ride off with a motorcycle gang leader named 'Snake.' Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

No. Too much work: I'd be smashing the hat/horns into doorframes everywhere and I'll bet that on the days I really needed it, the outfit would be at the cleaners.

I guess I'll have to rely on judo-chops.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Moments of Discovery

Arthur as Hugh Hefner.The other day , I made a discovery.

If I play with Arthur really hard for about two hours, he'll fall asleep. If I plan my play time right, he'll fall asleep when I want him to.

Nobody told me that becoming a parent meant becoming a master at manipulation.

I also learned that the heartbeat bear has an inexorable affect in the evening. Turn it on, put Arthur in the crib, and bamm, he's asleep. So far it's Arthur zero, HB Bear six. It works like a charm. This can be a good thing when it's been a long day and it's 7:30 PM.

In slightly different news, Arthur has learned the "throw the rattle on the floor so Dad picks it up game. " I'm very conscious of this one. I think I'm going to start a one-two-three rule or something and not pick it up after the third time. I suppose that this means that I'll have to remember where I am in the rattle count.

I had to laugh this weekend. Mark is a real sweetie and takes the brunt of childcare over the weekend. So I shouldn't laugh, but the event went something like this:

Scene: The living room, near the entrance to the kitchen.

Arthur (for no fathomable reason): "Waaaah. WaaA WaaA WaaA!"
Muriel (because she's just come in and now she wants to go out): "Meow. Meoow. Meoow."
Mark (Holding Arthur): "Augh! I'm surrounded by whining creatures!"
John (reaching for the Calgon): "Welcome to my world."

You know, I've never really seen satori on someone else's face before.

Arthur & Mark in he Woods.Last Sunday was Arthur's first real hike. OK, maybe it was his second hike, but we don't think he trip to Yosemite Valley counts as he was only about four weeks old at the time and we only hiked between parking lots and sights.

We went on a very nice trail with lots of trees and leaves for Arthur to look at. Arthur is in for some big time betrayal when winter rolls around and all the leaves are gone. In fact, just yesterday he scowled at the barren tree branches on our Library walk.

People give you the strangest looks when you're pushing a baby cart. Their behavior changes. Either they look at you as if to say, "Dude, why don't you get a real job," or else they generate a demeanor one usually finds in a church and they utter something completely smarmy, like, "that's a precious cargo you've got there." It's not just Eugene, either; Roseburg bench bums stopped swearing when we walked by them. And it seems like I'm making more new best friends every time I go to check out a new book or DVD.

Today, for example, there I was, walking down 10th street toward the Eugene Library, when this guy started talking to me. He had white hair pulled back into a ponytail. He saw the pram, saw Arthur "So, is this your grandkid?" he asked. Something in my stance must have tipped him off that he'd asked the gay male equivalent of asking a weight-concious woman "So, when are you expecting?" Mark figures I must have given him The Scowl. He quickly amended "-- or your kid?"

For those of you who need help with the math, in order for Arthur to be my grandkid, at the minimum I'd have to be 32 years old (flattering on some levels, but wildly wrong on others given my status as a science geek in high school). At the other end of the scale, a more reasonabe assumption would be to do some sort of 25 - 25 or even 28 - 28 combination of ages. This makes me either 50 or 56 years old. Even in an age where "30 is the new 20, and 20 is the new 10", that still means that "50 is the new 40." Since I'm celebrating the 16th anniversary of my 25th birthday this December, I'm really not getting much out of this after all the assumptions and "new math."

Are you expecting an art class?
Do I look like someone who's 50 or even 56? Or maybe I looked like my new best friend, who confessed the music his son listened to in the seventies was The Greatful Dead.

I'm not sure, but I think I've never been so insulted in all my life.

I'd ask Mark if I look like someone's 56 year old grandfather, except I'm pretty sure that he'll say something along the lines of, "Honey, that guy was blind; you look like a lesbian art teacher."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Flaming Pumpkins Are Next

The Jellicle Moon is shining bright / Jellicles come to the Jellicle BallI think we might be raising a Cirque de Soleil baby.

We've been making masks at our house. So I've got various masks I've aquired over the years out for inspiration. Arthur was asleep during this shot and I managed to rest the mask he's wearing on his shoulders. Despite what other people in the room thought I might be doing, Arthur's mouth and nose were unobstructed and he slept through the entire procedure.

For those of you wondering where the other John went, later on I did put some dry ice and hot water into a very large ziplock bag and closed it. About a minute later there was a very satisfying explosion, and I proved to Mark that a small chunk of frozen carbon dioxide can expand enough to blow out a plastic bag.

Remember; it's not a real science experiment unless something goes BOOM!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Obligatory Diaper Post

OK. Here's the scoop. You know those natural diapers, the ones with words like "green," "planet," and "generation" in them?

Well, they suck.

Have you ever had all-natural cereal; you know, the kind that comes in a box that looks like it might be something like Fruit Loops or Sugar Smacks, only the box is pastel colored instead of bright, screaming, Romper Room primaries? The stuff tastes like recycled cardboard dipped into diluted apple juice.

Natural diapers are like their natural breakfast cereal counterparts. First off, they're itchy. Second, the material doesn't conform to a baby's body; so they leak (when they aren't giving the baby the equivalent of paper cuts). Third, the adhesive strips on either side stick really well. Once: when the strips are in their pre-deployed position. They stick OK when you use them right the first time -- but you're on your own if you goof up and need to reposition them. Luckily, I think they're Scotch Tape, so in a pinch you could Scotch Tape your baby into natural diapers.

I'm so glad we're using cloth. When we do use disposable diapers we use Huggies; at least the only thing odd about them are the name. OK... and they're covered with cartoon characters (why anyone would would put cartoon characters on a baby's undergarments is beyond me: the baby doesn't know who the characters are, and grown-ups can't see the characters when the baby is wearing clothing over the diapers). It's sort of like putting advertising on the inside of a cereal box.

You'd only see an advertisement on the inside of a cereal box if you were recycling the cardboard.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thrashing to Tubular Bells

Arthur has two relatively new sleep behaviors.

The first is thrashing around in his sleep. The first time it was a little disconcerting because he managed to kick his sheets out from underneath him. The second time I thought maybe someone was trying to break into the house. The third time I was used to it, so I didn't think there was an earthquake in progress. Dr. Jimmy assures us that sleep-thrashing is normal.

The second thing... which I've almost been able to catch on video tape, is that Arthur sleeps with one eye open. It's weird. The other day I poked my head into the bedroom where Arthur was sleeping and his left eye was cracked open enough that I could see his iris. The other eye was shut, and he was in the middle of R.E.M.; at one point his left eye rolled back into his head.

Today when I caught him at it (the two times I've seen it, it's been during the afternoon naps), he smiled a little bit as if he recognized me, but then his eyes rolled back into his head. It makes me wonder if we're going to be raising a little sleep-walker, as both Mark and at least one of his brothers used to sleepwalk.

But let me tell you, the strangest thing is seeing the blue flame of Arthur's iris when he sleeps with an open eye. If eyes are the gateway to the soul, I'm not sure what they are a gateway to when the soul's asleep.

I'm glad this happens during the afternoon and not in the middle of the night. At least there's no projectile vomit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Four Month Milestones

OK. It's official and legal. As of last Thursday, October 6, "Baby Boy" Wagner became Arthur Corvus Jackson Burridge, the legal heir of John Burridge and Mark Dwyer.

Mark and Arthur in Peggy's officeThere was a very brief court ceremony, which my folks attended (someone had to take the pictures). Getting to the courtroom was sort of an adventure. Our lawyer, Peggy, wasn't sure where the wheelchair access ramp was. We had Arthur in the pram, at least at first. Between stopping off at Peggy's office and walking over to the courthouse two blocks away, Arthur got transferred to Mark's arms and all of the cameras (one video, one digital) and my bag of everything and the baby bag and the umbrella and the bags for the cameras and someone's jacket got transferred to the pram.

Going through security was interesting. I had to demonstrate to the happy security guard that my video camera was a working video camera. Luckily, everyone knew Peggy, and Mark had Arthur out, which seemed to relax people. The nice (but kind of weird) thing about a courthouse is that when folks see two guys with a baby and a pram with two grandparents, they recognize an adoption in progress, stop what they're doing, smile and wish you good luck. We made more new friends between the X-ray machine and the courtroom than I can remember.

The courtroom we got to use was being used by another trial. I was too busy videoing Arthur, Mark, my folks, Peggy and the judge to notice stuff, but Mark says it looked like some sort of drug interaction trial. I didn't see it, but there was some sort of chart with dosages and weights and some interaction graphs.

The judge was less of a ham than I thought he would be, but he did agree to pictures. And we have it on tape that as part of the adoption process we have to love Arthur (although it is kind of hard to hear him). So a few years down the line when Arthur accuses us of not loving him, we can say, "Kid, we've got a judge on tape saying that we do love you."

Monday, October 10, was Arthur's four month checkup. Although he feels a lot heavier, he weighs 17 pounds, 11 ounces. This places him in the 95% for weight. He's 26.2 inches long, which places him in the 90% for length. His head circumference is 17.27 inches, which is 75%.

Arthur also got the latest round of shots.

Dr. Jimmy seemed pleased with Arthur's weight and formula intake. He suggested that we might want to watch for signs that Arthur wants solid foods (Arthur already sort of watches us with a look a betrayal when we eat, so it's only a matter of time before he starts reaching for our food).

Arthur demonstrated a roll for Dr. Jimmy, so he's on track for this and other motor skills.

OK. I need everyone's help.

John, Julie and ArthurWhile we were visiting Julie in Roseburg this weekend, she walked into her living room where I was playing with Arthur. I was spider-walking my hands up from Arthur's tummy to his shoulders (and back) saying "Ugga-bugga-bugga-bugga" (clearly enunciated) in a rising inflection when I moved up and a falling inflection when I moved down. "I never would have believed that you'd be all 'goo-goo-ga-ga,'" she said.

I stopped.

"'Goo-goo-ga-ga?' I asked. I'm not going 'goo-goo-ga-ga;' I'm breaking up language into clearly delimitated phonemes." I switched to the theatre exercise, and said, "Tee-ka Tay-ka Tah-ka Toe-ka Two-ka." Then I switched to the left-foot, right-hand game.

Later, I realized that I had told (for about the third time) the story of The Mountain of Excrement.

It's happening. It happened to Judith Viorst, and now it's trying to happen to me.


If you notice me getting extra goo-goo-gaggy or if I start to talk about baby poop, will you please interrupt and change the subject to
  • Bronze Age artifacts from Thrace
  • The changing perceptions of female characters in fantasy short stories as revealed by a longitudinal inspection of Sword and Sorceress cover art
  • The (in)ability of Oregon to maintain a quality museum.
  • The diffusion of animal motifs by the Sythicans of the steppes.
  • The impact of hypertext and DVD scene selection on each generation's ability to process information in a linear narrative style.

In slightly related news, the Baby-Industrial-Military Complex sent us ads for Disney Books (in an envelope targeted at children) and another magazine. This month's issue of The Fearful Parent featured an article on herbal and alternative remedies. We read about the mother who mistook pennyroyal for mint and brewed a deadly tea for her child. We read about the drug interactions between herbs and allopathic drugs. And we read about the herbs prepared Outside the US of A (and subsequently pumped full of mercury, pesticides, and other non FDA-approved substances). So don't use herbs with your children; parents who did have dead children.

And Mark doesn't want me to sing Child Ballads ?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

October Starts In Eugene

Scene: The household living room. John is reading Are You My Mother to Arthur.

John (in a gothic voice): "...'I must find my baby something ... (pregnant pause) to eat,' the mother bird said, and she flew off. In the nest, the egg jumped, (more gothic intonations), and jumped, and JUMPED -- "
Mark (preparing food in the kitchen): "You didn't use a scary voice when you read that to Muriel!"
John: "Muriel gets nightmares, and then she keeps us up all night."

This weekend was the Eugene Celebration. The Eugene Celebration can be described a couple of ways.
  • It's a party thrown in an attempt to lure people to downtown Eugene.
  • It's like a Grateful Dead concert, only with slugs.
  • It's an event where Eugenians gather together to piss each other off.
  • It's a marketing attempt to package Eugene as a really edgy place where individualist hippies live.
It was kind of bland this year. And smaller.

I did like the parade, which for me is the highlight of the Eugene Celebration. Although Mark goes insane when he hears them, I love the bag-pipers. I also liked the shirtless guy in a kilt who rode a very tall bicycle (he was the edgiest, as his left nipple was pierced with some kind of shiny weight). The slug princesses (middle-school kids) were the funniest because they were being chased by a parent with a trash-cansdecorated as a Morton Salt container. The high-school kids racing in their electric cars were the most geeky. Probably the most impressive were the gymnast kids doing flips on the street.

This year the organizers decided they would discourage controversial floats. The result was that a lot of the parade participants were various kids from school groups. Mark and I used the parade to figure out which school Arthur will go to. Sadly, the lack of controversy made the parade a little flat. Although they're kind of creepy and weird, I did sort of miss the Very Literal Christians with their Live Crucifixion float. At least it's well done. This year's creepy float was a bunch of effigies of Wayne Newton on sticks bouncing around to a recording of Danke Schone.

Scene: Sunday night.
Mark (opening door for Muriel): "Kitty, if I let you in, I'm not going to play your little games."
Muriel (walking in from out of the dark rainy night into the living room): "Mrow."
Mark ignors Muriel and returns to his origami.
Muriel (walking around Mark's ankles): "Mrow."
Mark continues to ignore Muriel.
Muriel (looking as if Mark's legs might be a scratching post): "MrMrow!"
Mark: "Muriel, go bother the baby."
Muriel (saunters over to bedroom where Arthur is sleeping): "Mrow."
Mark (dropping oragami and following Muriel): "Agh, I didn't really mean that..."