Categories
Family Life

Healthy not-knowing

Hat-tip to Austin Kleon for the above snapshot of his journal entry: “The true gift of children is they destroy what you think you know and provide the opportunity for healthy not-knowing and growth.”

Children aren’t necessary for achieving healthy not-knowing and growth, but they’re a hell of a good catalyst.

See also: “The rules are there ain’t no rules.” and Baby Comello

Categories
Family Life

Homeworking, day one

Thanks to COVID-19, today was my first day working from home. (That’s my new makeshift workspace above, squished into the space between the closet and extra bed in our guest room. I’ve since added a second work laptop.) My library is closed to the public indefinitely, along with most everything else, but as my work mostly happens online I can continue relatively unaffected.

A few days ago I joked that my life isn’t going to change much because all I do is go to work and come home. Thanks to Mr. Almost 13 Months, we don’t travel or have much of a social life. The biggest change will be adjusting my schedule with an active toddler around. But I’m excited for more time with him and my wife and for a much shorter commute.

I feel extremely fortunate to (1) still have a job (2) that I can do from home and (3) will continued to be paid for. I know that’s not the case for many, many people.

Stay strong. We’re in this together.

Categories
Family Life Music

Inch by inch

My son walked for the first time today, the day before his first birthday. I was in front of him, bouncing on our exercise ball along to some music (Kira Willey’s “Everybody’s Got A Heartbeat” to be exact). He wanted in on the bouncing action. He was already standing—he’s been standing strongly in place for weeks and walking assisted for longer—so he took three small steps like it was nothing and collapsed into my lap.

I’m glad I was home to see it. I’m glad he did it right in front of me, right to me. And I’m glad my wife had her phone out to record it.

After that moment, I thought it fitting to play “Walking With Spring” by The Okee Dokee Brothers (probably my favorite song of theirs), mostly because of the chorus:

Inch by inch by
Foot by foot by
Step by step by mile
We’re takin’ it inch by inch by
Foot by foot
‘Til we find ourselves
In the wild

Welcome to the wild, little man.


A shot from his first birthday party. I guess we were accidentally celebrating something else too.

Categories
Family Life

The rules are there ain’t no rules

There’s a scene in Grease where Leo, the head of the rival Scorpions gang, says to Travolta’s Danny Zuko before they drag race: “The rules are there ain’t no rules.”

It’s one of the many random lines that has stuck in my head from a lifetime of movie watching. I think about it a lot now in relation to parenthood.

Bun (as my wife calls him) is almost one year old and my main takeaway from that time is that there is no normal. How he eats, how he sleeps (or doesn’t), how he develops. How we teach him, what we teach him, how much screen time we give him.

There ain’t no rules. And Leo wasn’t slinging empty threats. He repeatedly rams Danny’s car and gashes his side doors with spiked hubcaps.

All Danny (and we) can do is hit the gas and hold on.

Related: this tweet from Colson Whitehead:

Categories
Family Politics

Four months old

The Boy just turned 4 months old and is absolutely perfect. He is starting to roll over, has recently discovered his own feet, and is super chubby and smiley.

So you can imagine my reaction when I read “The Youngest Child Separated From His Family at the Border Was 4 Months Old” in the New York Times:

Constantin was ultimately the youngest of thousands of children taken from their parents under a policy that was meant to deter families hoping to immigrate to the United States. It began nearly a year before the administration would acknowledge it publicly in May 2018, and the total number of those affected is still unknown. The government still has not told the Mutus why their son was taken from them, and officials from the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment for this story.

In Constantin’s case, it would be months before his parents saw him again. Before then, his father would be sent for psychiatric evaluation in a Texas immigration detention center because he couldn’t stop crying; his mother would be hospitalized with hypertension from stress. Constantin would become attached to a middle-class American family, having spent the majority of his life in their tri-level house on a tree-lined street in rural Michigan, and then be sent home.

Now more than a year and a half old, the baby still can’t walk on his own, and has not spoken.

The Trump administration and its sycophants are a cancer upon the republic.

Categories
Family Life

This is my pocketknife

Part of the This Is My series.

When my grandpa died in 2007, I informally inherited several of his possessions. Nothing from an official will, mind you—just my grandma saying “You should take this” as we were clearing out his stuff. That’s how I got, among other things, his wallet, a few shirts, an old cufflinks case, and this pocketknife:

It’s very small. It’s grimy. It’s probably older than I am. But because I almost always have my keys with me, I’ve used this small, grimy, old pocketknife far more often than my bigger Swiss Army knife and fancy Gerber multi-tool. The file and bottle opener I could go without, but the knife reminds me of its utility over and over again.

It’s also fortunate. Several times I forgot to remove it from my key ring before flights, but it must have blended in with the keys enough to evade TSA’s detection. I wasn’t so lucky with another bigger multi-tool several years ago; I completely forgot it was still in my carry-on backpack until it got flagged at security and confiscated.

One day I’ll clean and sharpen the knife at least. Even if I don’t, it’ll probably outlive me in usefulness.

Categories
Family

Advice for parents

Generally I take a liberal stance towards unsolicited advice. You never know when you’ll get something worthwhile, and you can always just ignore the bad stuff.

We’ll see if that stance changes once people start chiming in about particular parenting choices. So far I haven’t had a problem.

In the meantime, Lifehacker’s Offspring parenting blog asked people for The Best Parenting Advice You’ve Ever Received. As I’m just 3 months into this parenting thing my capacity for advice giving is quite limited, but I appreciated hearing from more seasoned parents with maxims like:

  • “Survive and advance.”
  • “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time. They’re having a hard time.” (I’ve heard this in relation to the elderly or people with special needs, but certainly just as applicable with babies.)
  • “Pause.”
  • “Kids are just little people.”

More here.

Categories
Family Film Music

This is his song

One day I was trying to soothe my fussy baby with some bouncing and singing. I faced him toward me and then out of nowhere started singing a melody that popped into my head. The combination of the song and how I swayed and bounced him calmed him right away, and even elicited a smile.

At first I couldn’t place the melody. But then I remembered: it was the “This Is My Song” ditty from the 1958 movie musical Tom Thumb, officially titled “Tom Thumb’s Tune”:

Here’s the film version, featuring the dance stylings of West Side Story and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers actor Russ Tamblyn. I remember loving that movie as a kid, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that perhaps it’s time for a rewatch.

The song-and-bounce routine has now become something of a family joke given how effective it is at soothing, if only temporarily. Funny how things can emerge from your brain at just the right time.

Categories
Family

Babies are wizards

Here’s a recent text exchange with a friend of mine that I started:

I keep thinking about the part in How to Change Your Mind about how babies are basically tripping all the time because of their undeveloped brains. Even mundane stuff can blow [my infant’s] mind.

Right?! He’s probably still seeing the cosmic consciousness!

But keeping its secrets to himself of course. All this pooping and spitting up is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that babies are actually wizards.

And language is the protective barrier. He probably even knows what stars his atoms came from once upon a time. He’s got them all mapped out.

And the squeaks and babbles are him actually telling me about it straight up, but I’m just not evolved enough to understand.

Are you sleep deprived enough? Maybe if you pushed yourself a little farther…

I’ve been all proud of myself for being able to get 4-5 hours of sleep each night, but maybe that has shown him I’m not ready.

I have great friends and a great baby.

Categories
Etc. Family

This was my couch

Part of the This Is My series, documenting meaningful objects in my life.

huhta-couch.jpg

This pullout couch was in my grandparents’ lakeshore cabin for decades before I was born. Then it was in my parents’ basement for another two decades or so. Then it was in my apartment for a few years. And now it’s gone to couch heaven, after we finally bade it farewell to make better use of the space in our two-bedroom apartment.

It was scratchy, kinda ugly, and an absolute beast to move up three flights of stairs. The mattress was thin, requiring us to add several layers of sleeping bags and mattress pads to make it hospitable enough to the human back.

But it was a free and sturdy couch, with family history, in surprisingly good condition for its age. The cushions are still plump and the pullout bed mechanism as reliable as ever. Having a pullout allowed us to host many guests over the years, which saved them the expense of a hotel room and provided us with lots of invaluable memories.

Odds are likely we’ll get another pullout couch one day, though I doubt whatever we get will last as long as this one. My dad said it best: “Goodbye iconic, hospitable, historic and faithful couch. (Notice I didn’t say comfortable.)”