Friday, June 30, 2006

I say, to the men in tights, "The elastic has snapped."

I like watching men in tights who have shaved their legs sweat together for hours at a time, and Saturday is the start of the biggest show of the year. In France, of course. Hell, I've got a drawer full of tights myself, in bright colors, with nice, long zippers.

Yes, I'm a cycling fan. At times, I'm even a cyclist, although pregnancy has put a damper on the Bradstein Cycling Team training schedule. We both used to ride our bikes to work in the morning, but with Mama's nausea in the first trimester, I started driving her as far into work as possible. I still do so, mostly because it's nice to still travel to work together. She picks up the Metro at that point; it's a short enough ride from there that she wasn't terribly likely to get sick, back when she was prone to. But let's get back to the topic at hand: cycling.

It's that season again, when Papa slumps on the couch for hours at a time, listening to the pleasant drone of Phil "Crazy Legs" Liggett and Paul "Pretty Hair" Sherwen as they call the Tour de France. I can't imagine how hard it is for them to keep up a steady patter when the action consists of a bunch of men riding bikes. For. Four. Hours. Yet, somehow they do it. And somehow I'm fascinated the whole time. I'll even replay particularly gripping or memorable stages. Yes, I'm a geek.

It goes back to idle summer days in my youth, when I would spend hours--all day, really--pedaling up and down the Coast Range between home and the beaches of Half Moon Bay. I would slide the pocket door out of the wall at the end of the kitchen and plot a course on the map that was taped there. The more isolated and winding the road, the better. That meant few or no cars would disturb my reverie, and agony, as I worked my way up to the crest through the oak forests.

It also meant that some of the switchbacks would be nearly vertical and that the surface of the road would be in bad shape at times, but that was part of it--pick your line, learn how to climb, to corner, to stand, then sit, when to alternate. And remember each of those walled-out switchbacks for the descent. What's my line through this one? How do I keep from shooting off the side of the road? How do I adjust if there's a car in back, or in front?

Here in NoVa, I'm limited to riding on flat terrain, but it's still a thrill every time I get on my bike. Perhaps I'll even motivate to finally drag out the trainer and watch le Tour while pedaling frantically to nowhere in my living room. That is my favorite way to do it, but it's exhausting. Did I mention that each day's coverage is four hours long?

So, fair warning here--if I start writing that "Once again, they've stretched the elastic." Which can only truly be followed soon after by, "The elastic has snapped." You'll know why. Usually the effect fades by mid-August. Of course, this year, with 3B's arrival, I may be a bit too tired to care, I might call out "Bridge to engine room--more power. There is no more." even in this year of great scandal.

Then again, if I summon the energy you might just see me refer to 3B as "the little man with the big heart," although I hope to never have to write that he's "an absolute beast of a man." And if 3B's first words, spoken with a Liggett accent, mais oui, are "dancing on the pedals," I'll be such a proud Papa.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Screwing up chicken for the rest of us

This warning, on the cabinet-sized shredder at work, is one of my all-time favorite useless warnings:

How many Flock of Seagulls fans are going to drape their tresses over the grinding gears of the shredder?

Thanks to the death of common sense, there are all too many of these asinine warnings around, such as the warning that my coffee is going to be hot. I just ordered it extra hot, so if it doesn't scald my lips and sear the first 48 rows of my taste buds, I may just chopper in the lawyers, guns, and money, and file suit on the spot.

Are we really so thick that we don't understand that our coffee is going to be hot?

Do we really believe some Flock of Seagulls freakfan is going to run, run so far into the copy room and jam their flippy locks into the shredder? You might as well believe that I'm going to fly to Pluto by lighting my farts on fire.

Clearly, I harbor some disdain for the knuckleheads and their lawyers who forced someone to print those warnings on the shredder and my coffee cup. I don't like people who flap about, telling me that the sky is falling when it's really just the sun rising, and cause my coffee to cost more as a result. So it was with great pleasure when I read this in the NYTimes:

Just two weeks ago, Mr. Chan noted in his blog that this newspaper had recorded another lawsuit, filed by a nutrition advocacy group against the fast-food chain KFC, to get it to stop using partly hydrogenated oils.

"I recognize that there's a certain part of the population who don't know a steady fried chicken diet is bad for them. I feel bad for these people," Mr. Chan wrote. "However, these are probably the same people who don't put on their seatbelts and who suck down endless coffee during the day and Coors at night. So let's be honest with ourselves here. You're not going to save these people. You're just screwing up the chicken for the rest of us."

It's as though he read my mind, then said it the right way.

Not only do those people screw up chicken, they screw up nice things, like the gifts that 3B has been getting, all of which come with a warning that they could eventually kill him. You've seen them, the ones that clearly state, "If you try to swallow this product while it is on fire, dehydration, injuries, or death may result."

It's a teddy bear . . . OK, in our case, it's an ugly doll . . . got to love our friends. I know that this isn't a new complaint, and that I'm not the only one to come across this, but it's a bit unnerving to constantly be reminded that every item in 3B's room is potentially lethal. And, not only are these warnings screwing up the cuteness, but also there are no warnings for things that are actual hazards. For example, 3B's crib should have come with this warning:
"The mobile that comes with this crib has no instructions for installation. In their place we have included these drawings of two hands folding an origami stapler while performing an interpretive hand dance describing the flight of a flock of sandhill cranes over a fallow wheat field in a sudden snowstorm. In addition, the crib rail it attaches to is rounded, while the attachment space on the mobile is perfectly square, and just a bit smaller than the crib rail. Any attempt to properly install this mobile on this crib may result in agitation, frustration, inappropriate use of power tools, sweating, and cursing."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Scoring some grass

I'm not talking about scoring the kind of grass that Sonny Bono warned about in the film classic "Marijuana," but that classic American cut of green: the lawn.

According to this WaPo article, a growing number of suburbanites feel as Monica Jackson does. She just bought a million dollar house with "two staircases, four stories, six bedrooms and seven bathrooms." It also has a front lawn. A 14-inch-wide front lawn. To which she says

"What's the point of having a big old lawn anyway? I hate mowing and being outside with all those bugs and weeds."
OK, I can understand wanting to avoid pouring buckets of chemicals into the ground, which will pass them down into the groundwater, meaning that you're likely pouring those chemicals into your own water glass. I can understand wanting to avoid pouring gallons of gas into a lawn mower, which will belch that fuel back into the sky as noxious pollutants.

I'm not sure that I understand the whole anti-outdoors sentiment, however. Weeds? She hates being around weeds? Wha? Can she even tell a what's a weed? Actually, if you define weeds as "non-native species," most lawns are nothing more than well manicured weed gardens, so perhaps she's smarter than I give her credit for. But, if that's the case, there aren't going to be many places outdoors that she will feel comfortable in. It certainly rules out golf.

Bugs? Yeah, I hate them too, but come on, they're bugs. A small price to pay for an experience as rewarding as being outside on a balmy summer evening, or in the slight chill of a spring morning, or even sweating behind a push mower in the heat of a summer afternoon, which is how Brother #2 and I--along with our four other siblings--spent many an afternoon. Not as many as our parents were hoping for, but we don't need to discuss that right now, I don't think.

Sure, even our small suburban lawns were a pain in my 10-year-old ass to maintain. They had to be mowed, edged, raked, watered, and patrolled for dog poop. In addition, Dad would fertilize, weed, seed, and aerate whenever needed throughout the year. I'm the first to admit that all those chemicals couldn't have been good for the groundwater--although it wasn't poisoning us, since we drank Hetch Hetchy water, the benefit of a much larger environmental disaster--but the lawns were also an almost endless source of amusement, even though they were far too small for my childhood dreams or ambitions.

I wanted a full baseball diamond, or even a soccer field (Brits, read: "football pitch"), but I could make do on our little tufts of turf. In addition, the front lawn was where one of our two cork oak trees grew, which is where I and my siblings would spend many an afternoon monkeying around. As many kids still do, I loved the sense of adventure climbing up in a tree: the majesty of the view--I can see rooftops!--from a perch in the limbs, and the freedom of hanging out alone in the grasp of the branches and the shade of the leaves.

And, yes, in the company of bugs. Sure, there were bugs up there, but I just brushed them off or, in the case of trails of industrious ants, moved around them. They were just a tiny part of the whole of the outdoors, which was endlessly complex, intriguing, and fun, yet perfectly simple.

So, while I'm not sure whether we'll have a lawn someday, knowing what I do now about their effect on us all, I do want to have a yard for 3B someday. I want him to have someplace outside where he can go and explore, be the king of his domain, rule the rooftops, or even hide in the shade and read a book. Who knows? If he's willing to help me find and plant native grasses, mow, edge, and water the lawn as well as weed and aerate, he may even be able to slumber in the cool grass with Barky. But 3B had better patrol for poop first.

Am I crazy though? Anybody else wish for nothing but filtered air and ficus trees for their kids? Or is there still some value left in the great--or small, suburban--outdoors? (Anthromama has already posted her answer.)

[To see Sonny Bono warn kids not to waste their lives on weed while he's sporting some sharp silk pajamas, get the Fantoma box set. Comes in a swanky lunch box.]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday melange: wordplay wedding, surf dogs, one brown dress, and speedballs for geezers

All that ibuprofen will stunt your growth.
  • Although we lack the time or money right now to travel very far--oh yeah, we're also going on 38 weeks pregnant, which puts a crimp in the "weekend in Europe" lifestyle that we're so accustomed to--but we still love to live vicariously through others and the Travel section. Although we both long to return to California when we have the time and the money, I think we'll save some of that cabbage while we're there and skip the surfing lessons for Barky. Seriously, he hates water, so he would piss on my pillow if I ever did that to him.
  • While I must start my Sunday paper reading orgy with the comics, to get in the right mood for the rest of the paper, there are plenty of funny lines in the paper. Some are inadvertent, like this one, about the members of Kiss:
"They definitely take more ibuprofen than cocaine."
Not that they don't take any cocaine, mind you, just more ibuprofen than coke. Is that the speedball for geezers? The geezball?
  • After Nacho Libre on Sunday, we went to our local Ted's Montana Grill. Yeah. Four vegetarians headed to a steak house that specializes in buffalo. They do have some great veggie burgers, though. And Boraxo in the bathrooms because that's how Ted rolls.
During the conversation, we all started to become conscious that some of us--it wasn't just me--frequently started anecdotes with "I was reading this blog. . ."
One blog that kept coming up was Brown Dress, which is interesting for a few reasons, not the least of which was this paragraph in the introduction, which caught my expectant father's eye
"As a brand new working mom with a new family budget, these economies are coming sharply into focus for me. Even my beloved second-hand shopping requires time, effort, and energy that saps my attention from the more vital parts of my life – being with my family, making artwork, tending the garden, growing my community, keeping a watchful eye on the government, reading new books, learning new skills, singing new songs . . . I intend to make good use of my energy saved!"

One more reason to keep 3B naked as long as Mama will allow it.

Rearranging the deck chairs in the living room

Pop quiz!

What are ideal conditions for growing organisms like these?

If you answered "wet conditions," give yourself a gold star.

That's what we've had here for the past several days, and last night we even had them in our living room, temporarily. Last Thursday a crazy storm came through. There were about three hours of lightning and torrential downpours. That was followed by a wet Friday and a waterlogged weekend, including cataracts of rain last night--up to two inches an hour.

Second quiz question: what's this?

At some point, all of that water became too much for the drains on the terrace above our condo to handle. The water sheeted off of our upstairs neighbor's terrace and into her living room and kitchen. While most of it spread quickly across her floor, gravity still works, and there are apparently openings in and under her floor, which allowed some of the water to cascade down onto the top of our ceiling.

Third quiz question: what's this?
There was a small, but rapid, drip in the living room, and a few drizzles on the other side of the wall, which is right above 3B's crib. The drizzles we contained quickly, but in the living room, the ceiling was starting to sag down toward the top of the bookshelf.

Fourth and final quiz question: what's this?
That sagging prompted me to do what it appears some previous residents did when this happened before--open up the ceiling to let the water out to prevent the ceiling from collapsing. We got two or three gallons out of the ceiling in a few minutes, at which point the flow stopped, thanks in large part to our upstairs neighbor, who mopped up what came in through the scuppers as fast as she could.

Others with terraces weren't so lucky. The woman above us has area rugs that she just rolled back while she mopped, but most on her floor have wall-to-wall carpets. Those carpets became soaked with water, which was rapidly wicking up into their furniture. While Mama held down the fort, I went up and helped out as best I could. Without a shop vac, however, there was little we could do.

Fortunately, our management company was able to get a crew out in the middle of the night to start work on drying out the upstairs units. Unfortunately, it's still raining here, and forecast to keep raining for some time. I believe, however, that unless we again get the kind of downpour that we did last night, we'll be fine. Besides, it's been terribly dry here for the last two years, so we need the rain--although we really need it outside more than we do in our living room.

Oh, and this morning, as soon as I got to work, we had to evacuate because there was a small fire.

Answer key:

  1. Holes that I drilled in the ceiling to let the water out, which I eventually joined together, forming this slot.
  2. View of the slot from the bucket on the floor. Note the Christo treatment of the bookcases to protect 3B's collection of Curious George and Winnie the Pooh tales.
  3. View of the bucket from the slot. Note Papa Bradstein's belly protruding into the frame. Niiice, PB. Want another donut?
Turn in your correct answers to your homeroom teacher to get your gold stars.

Confessions of a dilettante

I'm the youngest of six, which made me something of a dilettante. I clearly remember my mother asking me, "Why don't you figure that out on your own?" To which I thought, "Why would I when I have seven bigger, older, smarter people around to give me the answer?" It seemed an efficient system to me. . .until they started moving out.

It really seemed to be a poor system when I was living on my own, with no one around to ask for the answers that I needed. I find, however, that they still provide me the help that I need when I really need it, even on tough questions like what to name the baby or whether or not to circumcise him.

On that latter topic, I've been engaged in a long discussion with Tony, in response to my earlier post that mentioned it, although I admit to slacking severely in my response to him. I have, however, been carrying on other conversations about it offline, getting input from, for example, Brother #2, who observed that "Greeks considered it mutilation of a perfect form" and that "Jews considered it a little piece of work that God left for humans to finish." But then, you can read about the history of circumcision yourself, as I did.

You can also read what far wittier writers have observed about it, including Dad_To_Be and loads of other dads in the circumcision forum at Brand New Dads. What is interesting to me is the vocal group--I don't know if they're a majority or minority--that takes circumcision so deadly seriously, as though there was a threat to their own foreskin. I find that these dads--perhaps there are moms chiming in, but I've only seen what appear to be dads--quickly take on a shrill and panicked tone, often spinning claims that are difficult to reliably document.

There are those who claim that circumcising a boy because that's how daddy is, or because it's the cultural norm where that child lives is a ridiculous justification for doing anything. Really? I wonder, how many parents in Lincoln, Nebraska

  • teach their kids to cook a Moroccan tajine?
  • veil their daughters?
  • tattoo their children, as the Maori do?
Not many, I should think. Most of what we do with our children is dictated and restricted by cultural norms and the behavior of us, the parents.

Honestly, sweethearts, hyperbole is so overused these days, and so often used to mask lies--"The Iraqis are going to be parachuting into Central Park at dawn, each with his own supply of anthrax dangling around his neck in a vial, along with some of Billy Bob Thornton's blood!"--that I just tune it out. That's unfortunate if any of those shrill dads are making valid claims, but it's not a new phenomena. It's akin to the old tale about the boy who cried "Wolf!" or the one about the dad who cried "All circumcised males are permanently emotionally and mentally damaged before they are 10 days old!"

Really?

Has anyone documented a significantly higher incidence of emotional and mental damage in circumcised males over uncut males? Across all cultures and times? Perhaps I missed that study.

I must say that Dad To Be inserted some wonderful humor, as well as a litany of slang terms for one's nadger, which made me immediately consider what he was saying more deeply than anything I've heard from others. The humor, that is, not the slang. Although, the size of his vocabulary is impressive. I felt like I was talking with someone, not being talked at by someone.

I also didn't feel any of the condemnation from Dad To Be that lies under the surface of some of the remarks made on the topic. There has even been some anti-Semitism in the more public debates
The mother testified Wednesday that she wanted the boy circumcised when he was a newborn, but her then-husband refused. She quoted him as saying at the time: "There is no way my son is going to be circumcised. He is not a Jew."
Comments like that have no place in the Bradstein household, nor should they anywhere else in the world. The husband might as well have said "He is not a Muslim." since they also practice circumcision, which would have been just as reprehensible. This debate seems to uncover the ugliness in some of us, including the tendency to crucify parents for their actions without trying to understand who those parents are. I hope that, behind their hot rhetoric, these people understand that each parent loves their child and is acting out of love for that child. To twist a phrase from Sting, I hope those parents love their children too.

It seems that rather than debating this, we could spend our time debating solutions to problems that affect all children (in the U.S., anyway), such as why public schools are declining in effectiveness, or why girls now perform significantly better in academics than boys do, or why we don't provide healthcare for all children. (Brother #2 suggested spending our time debating which way to hang the toilet paper--another question sure to be resolved in short order.)

The circumcision debate, however, seems never ending. For those of you who are waiting for me to reveal my decision to either circumcise 3B or not, I'm afraid that you will leave disappointed. One reason is because I haven't made a final decision one way or the other. I'm still considering.

The main reason, however, is that I will leave it up to 3B to determine who he does or doesn't tell. I don't believe that it's my place, even as his father, to announce that news to the world. This is my blog, but it's his life.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Where's Daddy-O?

Now that Mama and I are on the weekly schedule at the doctors' office--37 weeks and two days, for those of you keeping score at home--we spend a lot more time in the waiting room there.

Having. . .

  • read every issue of Parenting and Conceive
  • checked our email
  • decided on dinner
  • chatted about how our day went
  • stared out at the clouds
  • felt 3B performing his latest isometric exercises
  • felt Mama's uterus tighten with another contraction
  • become bored
. . . we have also spent some time looking around the waiting room at our comrades in babes.

Our first observation was that most of our comrades were women. OK, no surprise, since having a baby does require a mother, but almost all of them are alone. Where are the dads, partners, or coaches?

There are many understandable impediments to a coach making it to every appointment, but it seems that, even so, we would see more dads than we do. It's not unusual that I'm the only guy in the place, except some of the doctors. Well, OK, sometimes the UPS guy stops in too, but just for a minute.

I'll be honest; nine months ago, I wasn't sure if I should go to every appointment. Neither was Mama. That's how I missed the first appointment, when they collect all the baseline information. That, of course, is the one appointment that The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Being an Expectant Father said I shouldn't miss, under any circumstances.

To be fair to me, Mama and I talked about it before the appointment, and she figured that I'd be pretty bored, since I'd just be watching and listening. Also, I didn't get the book until after that appointment.

Granted, it's easier for me than most dads, since our doctors' office is about 10 minutes from my office. Also, I've been able to make up the time I spend at appointments by coming in earlier or working later, so I'm fortunate to have a boss who's flexible about all of my time away from the office. It actually takes Mama more time to get to and from our appointments, but we picked this practice for its proximity to home, not her office. I just happen to work close to home, which puts me closer to our docs than she is.

Perhaps it's just because this is our first, but going to all the appointments has made a huge difference to me. I feel more connected to both Mama and 3B. We both heard his heartbeat for the first time together, saw him swimming around on the sonogram together, and heard his first bout of the hiccups together. I'm also able to remember for Mama the questions we were going to ask and write down the answers so that we remember those too.

It's brought us closer and made the pregnancy more of a partnership than two separate events happening in the same house, although I'm still a bit more removed from it, simply because I'm not carrying 3B. We both assume that attending all of the appointments would have the same effect for any dad and couple, so we were wondering what keeps dads from attending prenatal appointments?

In some cases, we figure that it's "by choice, man," but we think that in most cases it's likely that circumstances keep dads from accompanying mom every time. What better way to find out for sure, Mama thought, than to ask all of you--she is the brains of the outfit.

So, take our handy poll and let us know. If no answer here suits your circumstances, leave a comment and let us know what your answer is. For those of you who aren't dads, go ahead and answer as you believe you would if you were pregnant right now--but answer realistically. If you know that you would like to go, but there's no way that your work schedule would permit it, answer that you couldn't go.

I've included one answer for each of my five loyal readers and one for the mom in the crowd, so if you're the only ones who answer, we may end up with a tie and never learn anything. So, if you know a dad, have him come over here and take the poll--let's try to get a nice broad sampling.

Update
: I changed to a different free survey tool, which doesn't require you to enter an email address. I have the records of the previous vote and will add them to the votes collected with this new tool.)


How many prenatal appointments do you attend?
I go to every appointment. I get a gold star.
I go to some appointments, but I cannot make it to all of them due to drunkeness, avarice, sloth or other commitments.
I could go to all of them, but I choose not to because. . .(tell us in a comment why you choose not to).
I cannot go to any appointments due to work. You get a gold star. Your employer gets a red X.
I cannot go to any appointments due to other reasons. . .(tell us those reasons in a comment).
I am a mom, not a dad, so I go to every appointment.
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Word up, G?

Brother #2 flipped me a link to the gDiaper site. They make flushable diapers, which seem too good to be true.

The idea is that rather than sending all that human waste to the landfills, we can now flush it into the sewage system, which is designed for that kind of waste. Of course, we're also then adding the bulk of the diaper to the sewage system--so my guess is that it wouldn't work if you're on a septic system.

If these work as advertised, I'm not sure that I see any downside, except that they're 40 cents a flush. (To you Brits, that's like almost a farthing, or three stones, or half a gill. Or something.)

Has anybody tried these?

Know anybody who has?

Is this too good to be true?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

99 pictures of us on the wall, 99 pictures of us. . .

So, when we aren't napping, watching movies, or sucking down the sugar at baby showers, what are we up to these days?

Nesting.

Yes, in our spare time, we're out on the lawn, collecting twigs and scraps of fabric, which we bring back to our home. . .no, not that kind of nesting. The uniquely human kind, which inspires different behaviors in each of us.

Mama, she has dedicated her life until labor begins to hanging every framed photo or piece of art that we have, and framing every unframed photo or piece of art that we have:

Yes, our house has become an article from Real Simple: Why Paint Your Walls When You Can Totally Obscure Them with Pictures?

I'm not complaining. Not only does the place look 100% better, but we both get to relive memories as we look back through our pictures. For example, look at the picture back at the top of the post--I had totally forgotten what an ass Castro was that one time he crashed a party in our dorm room. Maybe in Havana he's a hilarious drunk, but at our party, he was just another loud drunk in fatigues.

My nesting behavior of choice? Cooking--although my three daily naps have been interfering with it somewhat. Over the weekend, I did manage to stay awake long enough to use the extra dough left over from our weekly sourdough waffles to toss a quick sourdough pizza crust and top it with a few things for dinner.

Nothing too exciting, but I also put in our Peapod order, which includes all the ingredients for my Mom's mac and cheese, by far the most delicious in the tri-state region, if not the country. It'll go well with all the greens and veggies that we got. After that, I've got to come up with something for dinner on the 30th, when we're having Liberal Banana and Boyfriend over for dinner.

Maybe they can help us hang a few pictures while they're here.

Thanks for the shower--wake me for the cake

There are lots of folks out there who are diligently recording all the stages of their pregnancies, from the very first moments.

OK, maybe not the very first moments. I don't think I've seen the morning after conception post yet, but I might have just missed it. (For those who are still in the pre-conception phase, you might want to check out the magazine that Mama and I flipped through while waiting for our most recent appointment--conceive. It's a great magazine, but it was a little jarring to flip from the cutsie-wootsie baby shots to the full page, back massage, not so subtle innuendo K-Y ad.)

Anyway, there are people like Dad_to_Be over at T Minus 9 Months . . . and Counting, who is making the rest of us slacker dads look bad by posting every day. Every freakin' day, mate! Even though he spells "fetus" all wonky, and stole my idea for a poll, he's telling funny stories about how the pregnancy is going and how he's not going to raise his kids.

And there's SprogMamma, in Torino, detailing the symptoms of each of her stages of pregnancy. I'm glad that she's over her nausea, and wondering when she'll invite all of us to Torino for a shower.

Which brings me to our latest pregnancy symptoms: showers and naps. Just like every other symptom, I'm sure that they don't hit everyone at the same time, and that they don't hit some people at all, but they seem to be a symptom of late pregnancy.

Today, Mama's coworkers threw us a shower; last week, my coworkers threw us a shower. Both were meant to be surprises, but after Mama alerted her coworkers that she might not be able to continue working if her blood pressure stayed high, they had to spill the beans, but only a couple days early.

My boss, on the other hand, had me set up my own surprise shower by telling me that she wanted to celebrate the award the cadre I work with was recently nominated for. Apparently, the most amusing part was when I sent out a reminder for my own surprise shower an hour before it started. At one point, when they were trying to figure out the logistics, they almost had me go pick up the cake, but they thought that the baby decorations might give away the surprise.

And my coworkers wonder why I don't trust them. . .but seriously everyone amazed us with their generosity and thoughtfulness. It was much the same at the shower today, which I can understand a little better, since their connection to 3B is Mama, who is wonderful, amazing, and beautiful.

After the shower, we had a little lunch--for those of you keeping score at home, that's bebimbap for Mama and boolgogi for me--at Java Green, where everything is delicious, including the desserts from Sticky Fingers. Then we headed home.

Full of all that good food--there were chocolate covered strawberries at the shower, of which I had about 73--I started playing the labor and delivery playlist that I've been compiling, then I curled up on the bed with Barky for a minute, and then . . . two hours later, I had a mouth full of cotton and a head full of tar, as my buddy Marc used to say.

I can't claim that I'm not well rested since we took at least two naps over the weekend, it's only Tuesday, and I've only worked half days so far this week because of our doctor's appointment and the shower.

That's the beauty of pregnancy--you can attribute everything to it. Mama's coworkers asked if I had had any sympathy pains--for the record, no, but I did have sympathy nausea, which was just delightful. But the sympathy naps have been great--"Mama, you look tired. I'd better lay down and get some rest for you."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Under Pressure?

In 1981, Queen and David Bowie released their collaboration, "Under Pressure," which--no matter what Vanilla Ice did to ruin it later--is still a great song. While they were singing this, they had something in common with Mama and me.

  • Great singing voices?No, only Mama has that. Barky thinks he does, but he's just a dilettante.
  • Fabulous wardrobes?
    Again, Mama's the one with the looks and the clothes to go with them. Besides, Freddy Mercury? Fabulous wardrobe? Not so much. The Thin White Duke, yes, but Freddy, no.
  • Millions of dollars, recording sessions in Switzerland, and all the comforts that money could buy?
    Yes. That's what we have in common--except the money, the Switzerland bit, and the comforts--although we do have a spiffy new kitchen.
What they have in common with us is that as they were singing about being under such intense pressure . . .
Watching some good friends
Screaming "Let me out"
. . . Insanity laughs,
Under pressure we're cracking
. . . life probably wasn't actually so bad for them. Although, perhaps I'm not being fair. Swiss recording sessions might be a real pain in the ass, although they do seem to produce some classic cuts. (The only other one I know about is the one during which Frank Zappa and the Mothers burned their studio down, leading to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." Something about bass lines and Switzerland.)

But really, life probably wasn't that rough for them at the time.

Similarly, although I reported last week that the doctor was concerned about Mama's high blood pressure, it turns out that we don't have anything to worry about and that we probably didn't at the time. So, like Freddy and David, I was singing a tune about some high pressure that we weren't really under . . . wondering when I'd make that connection, eh?

This is the thing that I like about going to a practice with multiple doctors--you never get the same answer twice. They always produce the same numbers as each other, but their interpretations vary. It's a solid reminder that there are several responses to any one situation, any or all of which may be correct. And what's right today may be wrong tomorrow. It's helpful to have these reminders of how few answers are clear and how many possiblities are open to us as we become parents.

Last week, the doctor was concerned that Mama's blood pressure had been going steadily, if slowly, up since her first visit. The doctor today noted that her pressure had been at last week's level at least once before, and close to it several times. "Perfectly normal," he said.

That's also what he said about Mama's swollen hands and feet, sore feet, and her aching joints. We felt that those were all normal for this stage--37 weeks--of pregnancy, but they can also be signs of preeclampsia when the mother also has high blood pressure. Turns out that it depends on what your definition of "high" is.

We should thank last week's doctor, however. She inspired us to both relax--finally saw a coupla' movies this weekend--and to get some final nesting projects finished off.

Friday, June 16, 2006

NPR, MD, and B#2

This morning I got two emails--one was the comment from MetroDad, encouraging us to enjoy ourselves before the great sleep deprivation experiment starts, the next one was from NPR, listing the stories that are most often emailed from their site.

Turns out that their New Advice for Sleep-Deprived Parents story is the most popular this week. With as many parents as there are in the world--two for every child, after all--it's no wonder that this is such a popular story.

My Mom has said that she and Dad used to tell each other to "sleep fast." Then again, they had six kids keeping them awake. Mom told me that when I was working at the Foolies, where I would get from four to five hours of sleep a night, six days a week, for about 10 months of the year.

The advantage of working there while I was so sleep-deprived is that nobody could tell if I was hallucinating, since every day was like a trip through a Vegas show designed by Dali, directed by Bunuel. It was similar to caring for a baby too, with hundreds of costume and mood changes to deal with every day, moments of perilously high drama and deadly boredom, and having to hear the same stories and songs hundreds of times.

Even with all that practice, I know that I'm still not ready to be a father, especially when I hear pieces like this one, with experienced parents and researchers still trying to figure out parenting. Not that I ever will be ready.

I think the moment that I believe that I've got fathering under control is the moment that I stop trying to improve, which I never want to happen. Of course, that would also be the moment that life woultd throw me a curveball because life has that "watch the balding, bearded monkey fall on his face" sense of humor.

Speaking of humor, the second story in the NPR email was the one about Diet Coke and Mentos that Brother #2 and I were just talking about. Shame on NPR for stealing stories from a little blog like mine. Really. But, viewing it again got me to thinking that maybe on that picnic that MetroDad suggested, we should take along a hundred or so bottles of Diet Coke and several hundred Mentos. But watching that much Diet Coke go to waste would probably break MD's heart.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pole Position

Why is it that guys turn first to sports for their metaphors?

Hey, speaking of sports, we saw the doctor on Wednesday and 3B is in pole position, ready to come out.

They've checked during each of our last weekly visits if 3B's head is down, which it has been each time. But on Wednesday, they also examined Mama and found that we're at a fingertip, 70%, 0--for those of you who know what those mean.

OK, here's an explanation for one of those descriptors: The number at the end refers to the position of 3B's head. Negative numbers mean that his head hasn't fully descended, or dropped. Positive numbers mean that Mama's in labor and his head is on the way out. Zero means that he's done waiting, but Mama's not in labor yet.

So now we wait.

For how long, we don't know. He could come tomorrow, or not until his due date. So we've advanced to frenzied nesting mode. The phrase may seem to be an oxymoron, but it accurately describes

  • the washing, drying, folding, stacking, and putting away of the mounds of laundry that we're trying to catch up on--grateful that Connie got our washer and dryer installed as early as she did
  • assembling the Pack 'N Play for the first time--it will be his bassinet, so we want to have it in the room and ready before labor starts
  • cleaning--and by "cleaning," I mean "tossing lots of crap and clutter"
  • taking out garbage and recycling--which is what it is
And the thousands of other tasks that we just won't get to, like brushing Barky again, because he's shedding flurries of fur everywhere, making vacuuming a futile act. We also probably won't have doors on our closets before 3B moves in with us, and we certainly won't have caught up on our filing and entering transactions in Quicken. Some things will just have to wait.

One reason to not get too frenzied in our nesting activities is that the doctor was mildly concerned about Mama's blood pressure this week. Not so concerned that she told Mama to stay home from work, but enough that we're going back on Monday for the results of some tests from this week, and so they can run more tests.

For now, it's nothing to worry about, but something for us to pay attention to. If it does warrant some action, their first move will be to have Mama stay at home. I had to clarify that they didn't want Mama working from home either, which made Mama about as happy as being told that she has to wear sneakers all the time. When the doctor reminded her that 3B's health would be at risk if her blood pressure didn't stabilize or come down, Mama replied, "No work for me, then."

It's hard for both of us to come to grips with all of the behaviors, habits, and patterns that we are going to have to let go of. Especially before 3B is here. Once he's here, I'm sure that he'll work magic--easily distracting us while our grip loosens on all of those pastimes we once held dear.

Until then, there are a few pastimes that I must get back to . . . like laundry. As soon as we have any more news, we'll share.

What else are you going to do? Work?

Who works anymore?

Really, you do?

So, reading blogs falls under "Other duties as assigned." in your job description, then?

Well, as part of your "work," you really should check out Brother #2's blog, which features the best Coke/Mentos video.

"Video" doesn't really do it justice, unless it's being used in the "music video" sense. "Short film" comes close, as does "documentary film, short format" or perhaps "performance art."

But really, stop reading this and go watch it.

Then get back to work.

(And if Blogger allowed us to assign categories, I'd have to file this under "Tricks That 3B Will Never Learn," with a possible cross-listing under "Why 3B Has Never Met Uncle Brother #2.")

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Walking up the down escalator


Mama took Barky off to doggy daycare this morning and I eventually rolled out of bed and stumbled down to pour myself some coffee and listen to NPR as I woke up at the kitchen table.

Mmm. Coffee.

Ever since high school, when three of us used to go out once a week for breakfast, I've loved coffee. Back then, it was often all that we could afford for breakfast, so we'd load up on six or seven cups of java, then jitter our way up to school. I'm sure that our first period teacher loved that.

Over time I've learned to--and my aging body has required me to--cut back from seven cups to a more reasonable one or two, but still, no morning is complete without some coffee.

Now it turns out that all that coffee has been protecting me. A recent study, reported on by NPR, showed a correlation between coffee drinking and a decrease in liver damage among heavy drinkers.

This is great news for me, because that makes Irish Coffee just about the perfect drink. It already was for its wonderful balance: it gets you drunk and keeps you awake, what I refer to as "walking up the down escalator." And now we know that it protects your liver from the damage it does to your liver.

It's like a yin-yang symbol in a glass.

Because there's no better place in the world to enjoy an Irish Coffee than in the Buena Vista Cafe--watching the fog roll in over the bay on a cool evening, or watching the sun play on the water as windsurfers skip across the whitecaps, or just staring down into the beautiful foamy head of another Irish Coffee--this can mean only one thing: a trip to San Francisco to save our livers!

Photo Nesting and Fashion Nonsense

Yes, that's Papa Bradstein, circa 1985, angry because his roots are showing.

It must be the season, because nesting fever hit the Bradstein household this Sunday, just after it took over Zygote Daddy's abode. Although it was a beautiful day that would have been nice to enjoy by our pool, that was not to be the case.

Mama's nesting urge manifested itself as a decorating project, which kept us inside all day. Her goal is to finally hang all the pictures and artwork that we have, which is a good thing since our walls are still mostly bare.

I think the blank spaces would bother me and motivate me to fill them more if I hadn't been living in rentals for the last, oh, 16 years of my life. Most of those places I was in for no longer than a year, which is just enough time to hang photos on the walls before moving out.

To our--well, Mama's--credit, we had previously picked out likely candidates from our boxes of disorganized photos, so we just had to narrow the selection down to a choice few, get frames, and then arrange and hang them. We got through the first two items on Sunday, so evenings this week will likely involve lots of hammering--as opposed to Sunday night, when we went out with the Right Reverend Rich, who married us. That involved getting hammered over tapas.

As we were selecting photos, we came across several old photos of ourselves. Many of mine were photos of a child that only a mother could really love, although even Mom questioned my "fashion sense"--if you can call it that--at the time. No matter how embarrassing some of them are, they are fun to look through and reminisce over.

And who better to share my embarrassing fashions and memories with than my four loyal blog readers, right?

Besides, I never did take up Liberal Banana's photo challenge two weeks ago. Something about pregnancy makes it difficult to plan too far ahead--you never know when that nesting instinct will kick in . . . or when you'll need another nap.

So here goes. . .a photographic tour through some of Papa Bradstein's past lives. . .

This one is actually fairly normal. What can I say? It was 2002 or so. The 80s and 90s were over and--what the--

Look at those freakin' pants! What is up with those?

Looks like someone didn't make it all the way out of the 90s, even by 2002.


OK, but at least in 2002 my hair was a more natural shade than this:

The best part of this dye job, performed by yours truly in about 1987, is that, although I got the hair bleach at a beauty supply store to ensure that it would look good, there wasn't enough for all of my hair, so the back of my head is a kind of bronze color.

Niiice.

I won't even get into the too-tight 502s with the baggy oxford tucked in. As for my nephew, in spite of this encounter with the great white uncle, he has grown up to be a somewhat normal man.

Going further back, to high school, you can see the first version of my current glamorous, high maintenance haircut:


What I particularly like about this, other than the fact that it likely documents me sleeping in my high school's main quad during AP Physics, is the cutoff sweatshirt that I'm wearing. Yeah, that makes as much sense as a short-sleeved sweater. Maybe I was expressing a cutting theme--cutting class and cutting off the sleeves would be in keeping with cutting off all of my hair. A week or so before this picture was taken, my hair was down past my shoulders.

Oh, and it was black.

As for what came after this stage, check the photo at the top of this post. That's myself and Jeremy in his grandparents' Mercedes convertible, pulling out of Burger King during our lunch hour. Jeremy was maybe all of 16 1/2 at the time, although I'm not sure why we weren't driving the SAAB 900 turbo convertible that he got for his 16th birthday. Oh yeah, because we were in a vintage Mercedes convertible, that's why. Yeah, kids had it rough at my high school.

Did I mention that I rode my bike to school?

What's next? Actually, the question is, "What's previous?" since we're going back in time. . .the answer is--junior high school:


Yes, that's me in the all-polyester suit, sans tie. The man in tights with the cape is my drama instructor, who is handing me the first place trophy for my comedy monologue. What did I perform? Dressed up in my sister's blue-and-white footed pajamas, I performed, down to the last sound effect, Bill Cosby's "Chicken Heart (That Ate New York)" at talent night.

I had memorized it along with all the other Cosby routines that I had on LPs at the time merely by listening to them repeatedly, until the needle nearly ran through the record. Performing it in the drama contest seemed like a good idea until I came through the curtain in those skintight, terry cloth pajamas and was face-to-face with several hundred parents and peers on talent night in the school cafeteria.

Fortunately, the spotlight came on and they all disappeared. Once they were gone, it was just me in that room, repeating a routine that made me bust a gut laughing as I had done hundreds of times at home--a scrawny 13-year-old honky from Palo Alto in his sister's pajamas, channeling the great Cos.

For the record, I killed.

But they may have just been laughing at the outfit. My good buddy Donald still is.

And, before junior high, there's elementary school. No better time than the first day of school in the fourth grade to dress to impress in your finest Hang Ten shirt, brown jeans, red kicks, yellow Bic Banana skateboard. . .and your very best real puka shells.

Don't miss the 9 m.p.g. family boat behind me. Yeah, this had to be sometime just before the oil embargo.


And man, did I dig on those puka shells for several years:


. . .and butterfly collars, no doubt.

There's nothing too outstanding about this other than my hair color, which is, for once, natural in this picture. Although it has really faded to dark brown, which is now being rapidly replaced with gray, it is pictures like this that lead me to continue to list it on my driver's license as blonde.

Why they let me get away with it, I have no idea. If only I could get them to put this picture on my license--we could Photoshop the beard in--I'd be all set.

Hope that you enjoyed this magical mystery tour down memory lane. I do have others, but I'll dole them out slowly to prevent shock. Later this week, I'll have a special photo long-distance dedication going out to the King--TCB in Vegas, baby--and all the other MoBoys, one of whom just had another baby last week.

Until then, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for your puka shell necklace.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pregnant Dads and Dinosaur Dads

Does evolution reward dads for being deadbeats? According to this article in today's Washington Post, not really. The author, Rick Weiss, found that, although there is still a commonly held belief that dads who don't spend their time parenting have a better chance of their genes being passed on, the evidence doesn't support that conclusion.

. . . But the more that scientists look--from insects to fish to small mammals and even humans--the more they find examples of exemplary fatherhood. There is nothing, it turns out, inherently natural about being an MIA dad.

. . . Female giant water bugs, for example, cement their eggs onto the dad's back immediately after they mate. For weeks he cares for his brood of bugs-to-be, stroking the eggs with his hind legs and making frequent trips to the surface to oxygenate them until they hatch.

Male sea horses go further, gestating their young inside swollen bellies and enduring a day or two of labor before giving birth to a mini-herd of a dozen or so sea ponies.

It turns out that other species may provide clues to human dads' biological changes during pregnancy and parenting:

. . . Many male birds, in fact, are Stepford husbands, in part because their bird brains are drenched in female hormones. Compared with females, male spotted sandpipers have much higher blood levels of prolactin, a hormone linked to maternal behavior (and crucial to milk production in mammals). Drunk with tender feelings, the sandpiper sire sits on the pair's eggs for the entire three-week incubation period and cares for the hatchlings for weeks afterward

Perhaps this is why Enya makes me cry and why MetroDad became, in his words "a semi-intelligible insomniac wuss with a penchant for Doritos and late-night scotch."

As for humans, it seems that the evolution of parenting is ongoing:
"Moms are still doing the lion's share, but the changes are undeniable," said Michael Lamb, a professor of psychology at the University of Cambridge. ". . . Thirty years ago, the dad who changed a diaper was seen as a fairly far-out character. Today, the dad who doesn't is seen as a dinosaur."
You can also read the online chat that Weiss held today.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Yes, We Have No Bananas!

In response to the Liberal Banana

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 5% Conservative, 95% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

I'm still trying to figure out which question triggered the 25% conservative rating for defense and crime. I'm guessing that it's the same question that fellow Left Coaster Zygote Daddy answered the same way, since we got the same score.

Perhaps, after he dumps his loveseat on the scary consignment woman and turns in his thesis, he'll figure it out. Or perhaps I'll motivate to figure it out.

But probably not, because we're in that we've-been-up-for-at-least-two-hours-in-a-row-let's-take-a-nap phase of pregnancy. So, after I get the sourdough starter going--if you come for a visit, I recommend Sunday breakfast. Sourdough waffles with Vermont maple syrup from Grandma's farm on Sundays versus FiberOne every other day.

After that, as I drift off to sleep, I'll be comforted by the reminder of good liberals in the world like LB and ZD--people who would do something helpful and good, rather than lash out as a result of their ignorance and fear, like these knuckleheads are doing.

Mail Call!

For only having four readers, the Bradstein Household gets a fair amount of e-mail, including some questions and many answers. Usually the answers are in response to questions that I've posed here.

This week, Brother #2 has been helping out with the name question. You know, "What are you going to name 3B?" Since Mama and I haven't settled on anything yet, and since one of the best names that we've come up with so far has been Barky Jr., I think we might need some help.

Here are some of his suggestions and my responses:

  • B#2: You know, if you just call him Boris Bradstein Bernley or Barney Bernley Bradstein or somesuch, he'll get to keep the same initials he's had until now.
  • PB: How about Bradstein Bradstein Bradstein? Like Toni Tony Tone, but different.
  • B#2: Or like Major Major Major, who naturally got promoted to the rank of Major and never got promoted again after that. Actually, I was thinking Bradstein Bernley Bradstein, which recognizes Mama's contribution [You don't want to know. --PB]. When people ask whom he was named after, you can say "My cousin Brad." [Yes, B#2 and I have a cousin Brad, but if we name the kid after him, he might take after him, and I've grown accustomed to being the wisest wiseass in the house.]
  • PB: I was also thinking of that kid in Lake Wobegon--Senator somebody. But I was thinking of aiming a little higher--President Bradstein.
  • B#2: Secretary-General? Boutros Boutros-Bradstein?
Anybody else want to take a shot?

Please hurry. Mama just called in her latest suggestion from the bathroom:
Bilbo Baggins Bradstein
Her only reservation? "But then he might be really short with hairy feet."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wishin' I Was Livin' Like a Hitman

This morning, like every other morning, I rolled out of bed half asleep, got some coffee, slurped up some cereal, hooked up my headphones, hooked up Barky, and headed out for a walk.

With my player set on random, we headed down the hill to the musings of Thelonious Monk and the harmonies of the Little Willies, nothing out of the ordinary. Barky snuffled his way along the ivy and I trailed behind, staring up at the sky, wondering again where the cover on the "W" went on the "BOWL" sign, and looking down every so often to ensure that Barky wasn't hoovering anything.

I spend much of our walks this way, in a blissfully self-ignorant state, leaving the driving to my unconscious mind. I do have to keep one foot in the present so that I can stop Barky when he invitably weaves toward the street, bound to follow his snout, even if it leads him into the path of a bus roaring past. Every once in awhile in this state, I abruptly become aware of myself, not from the inside, but as though I was observing my own behavior for the first time.

This happened when Beck came on this morning. I realized that my somewhat normal walk had changed to a slouching saunter. Thinking back, I realized that with each song that had come on, my walk had changed slightly--faster and little more lively during Monk, slower and a little more contemplative during the Little Willies, and now, picturing myself "sittin' in the kitchen, wishin' I was livin' like a hitman," this sort of slouching toward ennui shuffle along the sidewalk.

Later, on the drive to work, shuffle brought up 4th25's "Reality Check," which I almost skipped past because it makes me uncomfortable. It's five minutes of a pretty damning indictment of the attitudes of those of us who sit comfortably here in the U.S., while we send our brothers and sisters over to struggle, suffer, and, in some cases, die in Iraq. I didn't skip it, though, because my discomfort is the exact reason that I bought the album--it's too easy to forget about just how hellish war is, and nobody is reminding us on a constant basis. This album is my cilice, that I can wrap my mind in as a reminder of the agony of the war that my nation is engaged in.

Just as had happened earlier, when Beck came on, my bearing changed. At first, I squirmed in my seat, unable to get comfortable. As the song went on, my discomfort led to irritation, then to frustration and anger, and now I was sitting up straight, glaring at the cars in front of me, revving up the hill, weaving around the slower ones.

Unfortunately for anyone around me, shuffle then brought up the sublime and spectacular ferocity of the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, a perfect coda to my drive. I cranked it up, and even found myself waving my hands to it, drumming the steering wheel, and bobbing my head forward and back in time with the heavy strides of the theme.

Is it really possible to bang your head to Beethoven? Apparently so.

All of this music-driven shape shifting got me to thinking about Rude Cactus' post "Raffi? No, I'm Thinking Radiohead." I'm of the same mind--that there's no need to play simple tunes for the kid just because he's little. For example, I got into a long conversation in Chicago with a coupla' dads who recommended the Beatles' white album as a good source of lullabies; so that goes on 3B's playlist. But do I really want the kid to be subjected to the onslaught of 4th25 before he even knows what war is? Is some restraint in developing a playlist for 3B perhaps in order?

I do think that I'll go crazy if I have to listen to and endless loop of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," but the last thing we need is 3B becoming colicky because we were assaulting him with "Iron Man" in the crib.

So this weekend, one of the projects that I'll start but never complete will be to compile 3B's playlist. I will steal liberally from Rude Cactus' list (hey, I told him I would). What are your thoughts on what should go on there? And what should we leave off?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Plus ca change, plus ca meme at the car wash

There are some things that we do now that will end when 3B gets here, and some that will continue, but maybe change a little bit, and some that will stay the same.

One of the things that will end, for awhile anyway, is our weekly trip to doggie daycare. We started taking Barky when we found out that he was barking for, oh, nine hours a day while we were out. We called the vet just to ensure that nothing physical was wrong with him. (It later turned out that a failing carbon monoxide detector was randomly going off during the day, driving him bonkers. Now he's hypersensitive to any beeps--the microwave, the washer and dryer, and even the waffle iron.) The vet referred us to a behaviorist, who recommended some training techniques for us, tiring him out, and giving him more of a social life. Doggie daycare met those last two needs, so off he went for many days in a row, tapering off to our current once-a-week schedule.

Yeah, somewhere along the way our life became a sitcom.

While we're at home, however, there's no need to take him to daycare, so those trips will end. We may, however, still be taking regular trips to daycare, depending on what we do about work. We're sure that I'm going back to work after taking about a month off, and then working several part-time weeks, but we haven't decided about Mama.

I think that both of us, as we were further from 3B's arrival were more set on one parent staying at home with our baby for the first year or so. At that time, both of us were just starting on our career paths, so we weren't sure who would be better suited to staying at home. I'm happy to say that we've both moved along in our careers at about the same pace, so we've both advanced, but we're in the same equal position when it comes to staying at home.

As we get closer to 3B's arrival, however, both of us are talking more about Mama going back to work fairly soon. She has three months of paid maternity leave, and she can stack her accrued leave on top of that, staying home for four months. But will she, or 3B, be ready for her to go back to work then?

There's no way for us to know, but to make it possible, we would need to reserve a spot at a daycare, since they tend to book up a year in advance around here. Yes, you have to reserve a spot before you're pregnant, if you hope to get your kid in daycare anytime close to birth. So, we've missed that opportunity, but we could probably work something out if Mama decides that she wants to go back to work, which is something that I'm more in favor of the more I think about it.

After all, I didn't love my Dad any less than my Mom, even though he worked throughout my life. Why would 3B love Mama any less just because she works? Wouldn't that mean that he will love me less than Mama if I work and she doesn't? That just doesn't seem possible.

And Mama is deeply gratified by her work--as she should be; the programs that she works on save thousands, if not millions of women and children from disease and death every year. I know that 3B will mean more to her than anything or anyone (sorry, Barky), but I think that she can still enjoy that relationship and get the gratification that working brings her without endangering 3B's development, personality, or enjoyment of life.

If that's the case, why shouldn't we both work?

Then the question becomes, when should Mama go back to work? That might be partially answered by logistics, depending on what we're able to arrange on short notice. I think we both want to get on a daycare waiting list in case she does go back, but we've both been too busy and forgetful to do that. Anybody out there have any ideas? Experience? Know anybody else who has an opinion, some experience, a big mouth? Send 'em on over here to tell us what to do. (No guarantees that we'll pay attention, of course, but we do want to hear what's worked and what hasn't.)

Both of us going back to work would leave us with a slightly changed event in our life--going to daycare to drop off 3B, rather than Barky, which would involve a little less explanation every time we said it:

"Gotta go. Gotta get to daycare."

"Picking up the kid today, eh?"

"No, the dog, actually."

(Mametesque pause.) "Oh."
The one thing that won't change is our crazy hound, pictured above. After we scooped him up at daycare today, we stopped to get gas and decided it was time for our biannual car wash. I ponied up the extra buckage at the pump and we rolled into the magic garage, all of which Barky slept through. As soon as the water hit the car, however, he was on full alert, as you can see. Had the car seat not been in place, he would have been walking circles in one of our laps. He did have a hard time staying gripped because he was so tired from daycare, but he did a fair job of defending the car against the onslaught of clean.

Of course, rather than attempting to calm him--we've learned that assistance is futile--I took pictures of his distress to share. Yeah, it may be best if I'm not the stay-at-home parent, if we go that route.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I can help you. . .

. . .as soon as I'm done with this spreadsheet.


One of my favorite Dilbert cartoons has one cubicle worker asking his neighbor, "How did we look busy before computers?"

If you have run out of new ways to look busy, try this. You can even tell your boss that you're working on a complex spreadsheet and can't be disturbed or else it will all come apart--and not be lying.

But seriously--how did we look busy before computers?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Junk in My Trunk

Going through the Monday morning ritual at work today, as everyone asked what we did this weekend, it occurred to me that one of the highlights of our weekend was our trip to Goodwill to drop off all the crap that we had gathered in our foyer.

I know. We're already an old married couple and we haven't even had our first kid.

But that was just one of the highlights. Another was the country karaoke party that we went to Saturday night. Well rested from our late afternoon nap--I told you that we're an old married couple--we stayed out until 2 o'clock Sunday morning. Not so bad for some old folks.

At the party, everyone--mostly unmarried and childless--had the same questions for Mama:

  • When is it due?
  • Do you eat a lot of pickles?
  • Do you have a name yet?
  • How do you feel?
And all of the same stories--I think that people ask the questions just so they can tell their favorite pregnancy story:
  • My sister/cousin/aunt/grandmother had her baby two weeks/two months/four months early/late, aren't you scared about that?
  • My sister/cousin/aunt/grandmother ate nothing but borscht/pickled herring/kimchi/pork rinds/Rocky Mountain oysters/wheatgrass during her pregnancy. Why aren't you weird like that?
  • My sister/cousin/aunt/grandmother named their baby eight months/two years/a decade/six Olympic cycles before it was born. Why can't you pick a name? How about. . .
  • My sister/cousin/aunt/grandmother barfed every day for three years after she became pregnant. Nothing you had compares to what she went through. You're so lucky.
Then again, Mama is so beautifully pregnant now that strangers congratulate her on the street, as she walks to work. That's pretty radiant, if you ask me.

While Mama fended off the hordes, I took advantage of one of my final nights with a guaranteed designated driver to add to my looming beer gut--not a martini to be found, damnit--and debate foreign policy with a towering Montanan whose policies are to the right of Mussolini's, and possibly even to the right of Cheney's. When he said that sometimes you just have to carpet bomb people into freedom, I checked to see if he'd found the good stuff under the sink, but he was drinking the same beer I was. Damn.

The charm of that conversation eventually wore thin, as did Mama's conversation, which had covered the depth and breadth of poop, puke, and other bodily emissions, so we finally headed home. On Sunday, we managed to wake up just early enough to gather all of our junk from the foyer and load it into the car before Goodwill closed at 6 p.m.

Much of it was crap that no longer fits or is needed in our new kitchen, such as our old microwave, old placemats, and old plastic container parts (bottoms without tops and vice versa). Some of these we thought would serve someone else well, and others we debated tossing in the trash. We did toss some items, but decided that the rest could still be useful, even if not for their original purpose, so we took them along.

We actually did pretty well to make it to Goodwill. Often we load up the car with recycling--which soon won't be necessary, since Alexandria finally required condo buildings to recycle (thanks to Liberal Banana for pointing that out)--along with our crap for Goodwill, but then make it to only one or the other of the two drop offs. Then we spend the week driving around with a trunk full of junk. But we're not the only ones.

There's always a line of cars at Goodwill, each one full of crap to be donated, and Sunday was no exception. This seems to be a ritual pilgrimage for us that we make every fortnight or so, and it got us to wondering, "Are we the only ones who do this? Are we the only ones who have a revolving pile of discarded crap somewhere in their house, bound for Goodwill?"

Beyond that, did our parents do this? I remember my mom stacking up bags of things for the local Cerebral Palsy charity, which would send around a large truck periodically to pick up donations. But I think that most of that was children's clothing that we had grown out of, or toys that we never or rarely played with. I also don't recall how often they came around. Really, I paid so little attention as a kid, I'm lucky I wasn't hit by a fire truck.

Or have we, as a society, evolved into a culture of buy it-try it-dump it? Are most household items so cheap anymore that it's easier to bring one home and toss it out if it doesn't work (or breaks) than it is to shop around for something that is the right fit and somewhat durable? And where do these dumped items go? I believe that most of the clothing goes to third world countries, where it has devastated the local textile economies, but what about the plastic containers and the placemats?

Are we simply unable to, as the bumper sticker commands, "Want Less"? Do we need more? It would seem that we need less, that we're always trying to surf the accumulating wave of crap, fearful that it will crash down on us, and yet we keep getting more crap. Why is that? Has the satisfaction of ownership been outpaced by the allure of acquisition?

Judging by our conversations with friends, Mama and I shop for and buy less crap than our friends. Where do they put it all, or do they make a daily Goodwill run? Do they eat all of it? Or, heaven forbid, do they put it all to good use, while we just keep throwing our money down the drain, as my parents would say? Are we bad shoppers? And what happens with all the extra crap that we're buying for 3B?

Enough questions for one day. You tell me: what's the deal with all this junk in my trunk?

[UPDATE: Added link to LB's blog. Mea culpa, LB.]

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cat Confused by Apple, Papa Fascinated by Cat--please send martinis



Oh, the fun you can have with cats.

This video shows
  • Why Apple computers come with remote controls
  • A cat too young to know how to play with a mouse
  • Cat owners will spare no expense when buying toys for their pets
  • Dogs are smarter because they know that Apples aren't toy computers
  • On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog, but they know that you're not a cat because cats aren't clever enough to use a computer
  • One more example of how I've lost my mind--I'm totally distracted by anything cute (if I start posting about my Hello Kitty collection, please come over and smother me in plush dolls, strap my headphones on and blast Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, pour me a martini or five, anything--just stop me before the damage is irreversible and I find Teletubbies scintillating)
Select all that apply, get your votes in early, discuss amongst yourselves.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Correction: Our changing table is not a sink


My original inspiration for that previous post about Enya making me cry and losing my freakin' mind, events which may be related, was that in the post before that, I mentioned putting together our "Emsen" dresser from IKEA.

Good luck to those of you who tried to locate that at IKEA.

This is an Emsen (to my credit, we did have one of these installed in our kitchen recently):
This is our dresser--for the record, it's a Hemnes:
Yeah, I was strolling along with Barky, listening to EBN-OZN, musing about how words and language can interfere with communication, when I realized my Emsen-Hemnes mistake. Perhaps that was due to

  • complex Swedish dyslexia
  • the lack of meaning conveyed by words
  • the loss of my freakin' mind due to pregnancy
So no, we won't be changing 3B in a saddle sink. We will be changing him on top of a dresser.

Let's just hope that 3B comes with his brain intact; at the rate our minds are deteriorating, we're going to need him to keep it together for the whole Bradstein household.

Enya makes me cry, I'm getting fat, I can't sleep, and I'm losing my mind

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

I don't mean that in a Wizard of Oz way; I mean that in an EBN-OZN, "AEIOU and sometimes Y" way. If you don't understand, you may be too young to read this blog (or just not retro enough).

Listening to the song again, as I walked Barky in the oppressive heat early this morning, I remembered how much I like how it combines weird with irresistible 80s pop. It tells a nice little story, which is interrupted by this seemingly non sequitur chorus about vowels, all laid over multiple layers of catchy, fluffy, 80s synthesizer goodness.

Of course, the chorus does relate to the story; both of them describe how difficult it is for people to communicate, especially using language.

I agree.

Probably not a great position for an editor to take, but it's true. If I walk into a pastry shop in Tangiers with some money, it's pretty clear what I want and what the shop owners want. I want to give them money, which they want to take, and they want to sell me pastries, which I want to eat. Problems only arise when we start trying to talk to one another.

First, which language to use? Arabic? I don't know a word, so that's out, even though it may be their native tongue. Then again, they are likely to be Berber, so perhaps Arabic is not their first language. There's French, which I can get by in, and which they may speak as a result of the lingering effects of French colonization. On the other hand, they may detest the French because of the lingering effects of French colonization.

Before I speak a word, I'm already confused. Easier just to point at the magdalena and hand over the money.

My favorite line about this is Burroughs' line, which Laurie Anderson used, "Language is a virus from outer space." You kids out there can Google both Laurie Anderson and William S. Burroughs. (For extra credit, describe how Ginsberg mentions Burroughs in his poem "America" and explain why Ginsberg seems to be upset when he does.)

Ironically, although language is a communicable virus, it doesn't really aid communication. Hey, while we're on the topic of communicable viruses and non sequiturs, let's talk about some of the symptoms of pregnancy that Mama has passed to Papa:

  • I've lost my freakin' mind. I can't remember anything. Just ask MetroDad. He made a nice comment about a photo of Barky that I posted yesterday. Yesterday. When I responded yesterday afternoon, I went on and on about how Barky looked so good in that hat, and how he had worn it for awhile, so we have a bunch of pictures of him in it, and so on. Fine, except he was referring to the picture that I posted yesterday of Barky sleeping on our floor, not the one of Barky in the hat that I posted sometime last week. Let's not even talk about how many things I've lost track of at work. That's just depressing.
  • I gained 15 pounds, and I'm on my way to 20. I know that it's not as much as Mama has gained, but she'll lose much of hers at delivery and much more during breastfeeding, and because she's a bike-riding, second-degree-black-belt rock star, she'll lose the rest of it within a year, I'm sure. Me, I'll still have my 20, if I don't have 25 by then.
  • Enya makes me cry. OK, almost anything makes me cry these days. Mama and I went through a box of Kleenex each watching the childbirth video in our childbirth class. Mama's admitted that using shuffle on the iPod is getting harder, because almost any sad song is too much to bear. I'm having the same problem--hence the EBN-OZN early in the morning. No crying to that song. This hasn't made music listening easy around the Bradstein household; we're the ones, after all, who had a bluegrass duo play at our wedding. When we told them that they could play whatever they wanted, the fiddle player, Mama's cousin, reminded us that "not many bluegrass songs have happy endings." We didn't care then. Those were just songs. Now they are emotional boobytraps, exploding in brilliant displays of emotion.
  • Comfortable sleep is a luxury that is wasted on youth. "Sure," I thought, 34 weeks ago. "Mama will get uncomfortable as she gets bigger. Sure, that will make sleeping harder for her. Sure, she'll get tired. Good thing I'll be able to sleep and stay well rested to take care of things that she can't do when she's tired." Except that I can't sleep either, and when I do, it's not very deeply. Just ask Zygote Daddy, who I often swap emails with after midnight; he's going through the same thing.
  • I've lost my freakin' mind. I can't remember anything. Wait . . . did I already mention that?
Anyway, you were saying something about an EBN-OZN concert in Kanzas? With Laurie Anderson?

Wasn't that you?