Friday, April 27, 2007

Release the Hounds

It appears that 3B is learning just as much from Barky as he is from us, like just how wonderful food is. Hounds are what vets call "food motivated," which is putting it politely and mildly.

Just this week, Barky got so caught up in hopping and dancing on his hind legs around his food dish while I brought him dinner that he flipped over his water dish and didn't even notice. That suppertime dance that Snoopy does is a pretty accurate representation of a hound at mealtime.

That is, however, the most mild symptom of food motivation. Some of Barky's more memorable exploits have come when we're out of the house and he has, for example, eaten a whole stick of butter or all the sugar in the sugar bowl--both of which required him to jump up onto the dining room table to get to them--or eaten the contents of the kitchen trash can--after dragging it into the living room to spread things around on the carpet--or chewed out the pockets of more coats than we care to think about because they had, at some time in the last five years, held a crumb of food, which he could still smell as strongly as if they were stuffed full of Twinkies.

Barky's not much better when we're around, begging from us every time we crinkle or rustle something. Even if we're only getting out a new trash bag or putting away toys, Barky's at our feet, staring alternately at us and the floor, imploring us to at least, for the love of all that's holy, drop a crumb or two. When he sees us eating, he's even worse, and this seems to be the habit that 3B has picked up on. Yesterday, I had just flopped down on the couch to eat a sandwich when 3B crawled over, hauled himself upright and cruised down the couch to stand at my knee and wait for a handout. Even though I was giving him little bits of crust as fast as I could, 3B wasn't going to be satisfied until he got his hands on the sandwich.

Finally, Mama got him a piece of some waffles that we keep frozen for him to chew on and 3B was somewhat satisfied, although he kept his eyes glued to my sandwich while he ate his stick of frozen waffle.

Fortunately, 3B and Barky seem to respect each others' begging space, like respectful panhandlers on separate street corners, with each ceding begging rights to whoever got to the food first. And fortunately, there are only the two of them; if they weren't so respectful, or if we had any more babies or dogs, I'm afraid that it would look like this under our table if we dropped a crumb:

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Men aren't necessary, especially those pesky dads

[I finally got on the bandwagon and signed up for BabyCenter, just like every other parent and expectant parent between Park Slope and Adams Morgan, or between the Mission District and Santa Monica, out on the left coast. Before you get all up in my grill about waiting until 3B is nine months old to find out what I've been missing, please read their confirmation message, which I've copied in its entirety below.

Apparently, I've been missing nothing, except ovaries.

I added the bold emphasis even thought their emphasis is clear enough--this canned confirmation is a great way to engender my loyalty by letting me know that they've got my best interests in mind, and that I'll find plenty of useful answers to the questions I have about raising 3B.

After my gender-reassignment surgery, that is.]

Dear Papa,

I'd like to thank you personally for joining, and welcome you to BabyCenter! We're thrilled you've decided to become part of a dynamic community of 4 million moms and moms-to-be.

To update your password, or your personal or family information, log in here [link deactivated].

As a BabyCenter mom, you now have access to thousands of informative articles[link deactivated], bulletin boards[link deactivated], helpful shopping guidance, product reviews[link deactivated], from other parents, and much more:
  • See what's safe for your baby with our Ready or Not development guide[link deactivated]
  • Use our Store[link deactivated]
  • Enjoy free weekly e-mail newsletters[link deactivated] about your baby's development
Thanks so much for joining BabyCenter. We're delighted you're here!


Tina Sharkey
Chairman, BabyCenter, LLC

UPDATE: D'oh! Black Belt Mama is right. There's a series of boxes on the right that I ignored when signing up, where I could have selected "dad" instead of the default "mom." Mea culpa, BabyCenter.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Shake Your Rump!

The King sent me a brief thing like this with cool animation effects showing 3B using his mad mix skills, working the tables and the mic. I took the basic idea of The King's piece and ran with it, using it as a vehicle to show all 230 of the photos that we got back from 3B's recent photoshoot along with some other photos, ending up with this.

I was really just playing around to amuse myself, but this makes me laugh, and I figure that we can all use a little pick-me-up after last week. Hope you enjoy it too. (And if you don't, check out the new Feist video, via Mr. Nice Guy. If you don't like that, good luck.)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Am I hot? Are you kidding?

Even though I don't have MetroDad's fabu hair, the thoughtfulness of L.A. Daddy, or the design savvy of Greg at DaddyTypes, apparently someone out there thinks I'm a hot daddy blogger--and it's someone other than Mama Bradstein.

However, even though I was nominated by BlackBeltMama, Mama B. doesn't have anything to worry about--Mama B. is a second-degree black belt herself, after all. More important than Mama B's ability to hold her own in a rumble, she's the love of my life, and nothing will come between us--except perhaps the 471 miles between here and Vermont, where Mama and 3B are for the week, visiting 3B's Grammy and Great-Grandma for Great-Grandma's birthday.

Although I'm flattered by the nomination, I'm not sure what it was based on, especially since my writing reveals my charming personal traits and my profile photo shows only the best side of my face:

Whatever it is, I seem to have attracted another fan, although I'm not sure if I should be heartened or disturbed by that development.

I'm also flattered that BBM nominated this blog for the best parenting blog, even though parenting might be the topic that gets the least play around here (note to self: less writing about my own barfing, more about 3B's barfing).

I'm sure that I don't have a chance in hell of winning either category--in one, I'm up against Neil Gaiman, ferchrissakes--but it did make me feel nice that BBM thought enough of this blog, and the back of my head, to nominate me, especially because I enjoy her blog so much. I found BBM when I was searching for blogs that I thought might help support Mama in her quest to return to practicing Tae Kwon Do, and I got hooked myself. Not only is BBM a great mom, but she's funny and insightful about everything that she's got going on.

I'm not sure how she finds the time to do so much good writing, but I'm glad that she does. And if you want to know who else I think is deserving of an award, check out the What I'm Reading list in my sidebar (and yes, I know that the double apostrophe should be single, but Blogger keeps changing it back to a double apostrophe . . . whatta' ya' gonna' do?).

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Learning grammar and vocabulary: There ARE five fish, damnit

When I was younger, I made many promises, like last month or so, when I promised to share some of our favorite and least favorite baby items. The time for sharing has finally come, and I'm starting off with one of 3B's most favorite product lines, the Amazing Baby books.

3B's ability to both enjoy his first tender steps into the world of literacy and simultaneously manage his brand-name loyalty amaze me. He likes these books more than any other books that we have. Sure, he's having a bit of a fling now with Goodnight Moon, and he was seen curling up in an easy chair with the Lady with the Alligator Purse a few days back, but those are only temporary distractions. 3B only has eyes for the Amazing Baby books, although he does read more and less of various titles from time to time, depending on his mood and how far under his crib he's flung them.

Mama and I share his love for these books. Our general rule is that anything that gets 3B to enjoy reading is worth reading, and 3B loves reading these books. These are the books that he learned to turn pages with, in part because he couldn't wait to get to the next page and, when he got to the end, he couldn't wait to start again. In addition, these are among the only books in which 3B focuses on the words first, then looks at the picture. I checked because I was sure that his fascination with these was due to the large pictures of baby faces on almost every page, and that, while fascinating to him, they wouldn't be much good at teaching him about language, since they were essentially picture books. When I watched him as I turned each page, however, I saw that he would study the words, then look at the picture for a moment before going back to gaze at the words. Perfect.

Except one little thing. Or one big thing, if your daddy is an editor, as 3B's daddy is--subject-verb agreement.

The trouble starts with an innocent little splash--"splish splash," to be precise--at the beginning of Five Fish. From those first two words, the reader is taken on an amazing journey through a sea filled with first one, then two, then three, then four, then five--five!--fish. The pacing is exhilarating to behold from one page to the next, keeping the reader's eyes agog with each plot twist (who knew that after two fish, there would be three?), keeping the reader sucking his thumb at a furious pace, and keeping the reader grasping for the next page as he races for the inevitable denouement. But it is that conclusion, these four words, that ends up destroying all that came before it:

Now there's no fish!
No. No there aren't. Now there are no fish, damnit.

Sure, part of the fun of this book, and of One Fish, Two Fish, is that the word "fish" can be either singular or plural, which is why the phrase "one fish, two fish" makes sense, unlike "one car, two car." But in this final sentence in Five Fish, "fish" is plural, which means that it requires the use of a plural verb. Just as you wouldn't say "there is no cars" you can't correctly say "there is no fish."

And yet, that's exactly what I have to say, if I read this book verbatim, because "there's" is a contraction of "there" and "is." That's as grating to me as if the book ended with the sentence, "Now there is no rules for reading and writing." OK, that wouldn't make much sense in a book about five fish, but neither does this grammar faux pas in this one book in what is, overall, an excellent collection, in the refined taste of one nine-month old boy, anyway. But even that slip-up doesn't stop a word geek like me from recommending them as good books for a baby that are also fun for the parents to read.

Besides, it's not a big problem, since 3B will have outgrown this book by the time he figures out that his old man isn't actually reading the words on the page. By then, he'll be on to age-appropriate fare, like, "Curious George Gets Kidnapped from His Native Ecosystem by the Imperialist Oppressor." Think he'll ever figure out that that's not the real title?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Everyone is trying to get to the bar

I planned to write a post this last weekend about why I still believe in God, even after flunking out of Sunday school, as I promised. Instead, I spent the weekend wondering how I had offended God--maybe he's still a little touchy about that book I returned to the Sunday school library 19 years after checking it out--and wondering if he would stop the barfing, retching, and fever if I made him an offering that he couldn't refuse.

Maybe he would make it all stop if I wired the contents of my retirement fund to the collection plate of my local church? Or even just stop the barfing? Is that too much to ask?

And I didn't even have the worst of it--Mama did. But, being a guy, I did complain about it the most--I have to show 3B how we guys do these things, after all. Mom always loved it when I got to the moaning stage of any illness--that point at which the discomfort got to the point where I would start a low, rhythmic existential moan of agony, just to let the universe, my inner Buddha, and everyone in the house know that I get it: life is pain. Lesson learned. And now I'm going to share it with everyone. At that point, Mom would come back to my room, smile and politely inquire just what the hell I was doing and when, in the next 10 seconds, I planned to stop doing it. As a boy with a bellyache speaking to a woman who had borne six children, including me, I never had a comeback for her.

Mama had about the same reaction to my moaning, although she was much nicer about it than Mom. I think that Mama gave me 30 seconds, after which she would put a sock in my piehole, or something to that effect. I kid, of course. Except not really. Well, maybe a little. But no.

It all started on Friday night, when I called to let Mama know I was on my way home. She whispered, "I'm feeding 3B, and I'm so nauseous, I'm not sure how long I'll last." So I swooped home, scooped up 3B, let Mama shuffle off to bed, got 3B bathed and in bed, and then settled in for the night myself, figuring that I'd need to be well rested for a weekend of nursing Mama. By Saturday morning, she had rid herself--painfully--of whatever was ailing her and so was feeling better in that relative sense. As in, "compared to last night, when I tried to barf my tonsils into the toilet, I'm feeling better." I, on the other hand, had been fighting off the inevitable since about 2 a.m. on Saturday, when I woke up with a knot in my stomach that quickly became several knots, and then a whole seaman's convention of rope art for the rest of the day. I ended up lying in bed, watching DVDs to comfort and distract me--All the President's Men, if you must know, because I'm geeky like that and I couldn't find Lawrence of Arabia.

By Sunday morning I felt as though my back had been beaten with a broomstick and my belly with a bag full of oranges, and Mama wasn't doing much better, but we were both able to function somewhat. Fortunately, we had managed to stay on opposite ends of the sickness see-saw all weekend--one going down while the other went up--so we were able to take care of 3B. And by "take care of" I mean, of course, "lay on the couch and stay awake and not barf and hope that he didn't hurt himself or crawl out of sight." If only we could train Barky to fetch 3B.

Eventually, it all did subside, and I was able to stand upright and shuffle through the doors of work on Monday morning. Some great reward for getting better. As I sat there, sipping soda and water and nibbling on crackers, I cranked up my music to block out most of the cube farm world around me. What the music brought to mind, however, was Vampdaddy's recent tagging of me. Because there is perhaps nothing that I do better than equivocate, I was having much the same debate that Vampdaddy did . . .

So how do I do this? Should I go for the three all-time favorites, or faves of the moment? Should I go with the three that have the most personal meaning, or the three that amuse me? Perhaps I should go with tried and true answers that my friends will not be surprised by -- or perhaps I should pick something obscure to everyone in an attempt to raise my "cool-music quotient". Perhaps I should list three tacky songs in protest of the idea of having three favorites . . .
I did come up with a list, however, of my absolute most favoritest songs ever. My BFF from my music library, if you will. And if you don't like them, wait five minutes, and I'll have another list.

Wandrin' Star-Paint Your Wagon (from the movie soundtrack, sung by Lee Marvin)
"Snow can burn your eyes out, but only people make you cry."
I can lose my wallet, my keys, my car, but none of those will make me cry. I will miss every friend I've ever lost for the rest of my days. Sometimes the weight gets to be so much that I just have to walk, as if I could walk out from under the weight that I bear with me. I can't, of course, but moving makes it feel better. So it is, perhaps, that the losses I mourn have caused me to keep wandrin' through my life, causing me to lose more friends with each move.

And if that's not enough to get you down, watch Paint Your Wagon; hearing Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood sing should be enough to get you crying.

Heaven-The Talking Heads (but only the live version, from Stop Making Sense)
"Everyone is trying to get to the bar, the name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven.
The band in Heaven, they play my favorite song. Play it one more time, play it all night long. . . .
There is a party. Everyone is there. Everyone will leave at exactly the same time. . . .
When this kiss is over, it will start again. . . .
It's hard to imagine that nothing at all could be so exciting, could be this much fun."
Heaven would be a night in the New Varsity Theatre with every one of my friends, dancing to Stop Making Sense, a concert by a band that plays my favorite song, plays it every time, plays it all night long.

Highway Patrolman-Bruce Springsteen
"When it's your brother sometimes you look the other way . . . nothin' feels better than blood on blood."
Some 21 years ago, after my father had died, I had a few friends that got me through what remain, to this day, the darkest days of my life. They made sure that I laughed, that I wasn't often alone, that I didn't drink or smoke too much, and that I had some company when, late at night, I would hop the fence and wander through the cemetery to visit Dad's grave. This deepened my profound love and affection for my two best friends, one of whom took me over to his house in the middle of a school day, put on this song, lay across his huge bed with me and comforted me while I cried. Then, as now, it wasn't easy for me to cry, so every tear was a chore and a balm. And now, after having just listened to this song again, I need a little mood pickup, which comes, as it did then, in the form of a song that my other best friend introduced me to: Starship Trooper (Yes, from Yessongs), about which I have two things to say: Rick. Wakeman.

And yes, that's four songs. You'll just have to live with your disappointment.

Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows
Speaking of four songs, or more songs, I had to leave out any Dylan songs, like Forever Young, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Tangled Up in Blue, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Isis, or . . . any of the rest, because that's another whole world, and I could never put together an abridged pantheon, or even gold, silver, and bronze podium of players from that stage.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's not breaking the law until you're caught

I know, I know, I promised that the next post would be all about God and stuff, but I saw this and just couldn't pass up commenting on it--it turns out that cops who run red lights will have to pay a fine.

Amazing, right? Requiring law enforcement officers to obey the law.

Before you break out the PBR cans that you've been aging in your beer cellar to celebrate, this is only true in Dallas. But I'm holding out hope that rational minds across the country will see this example of policemen being held accountable for acting within the laws that they're sworn to uphold and pass similar legislation.

I'm sure that there are those of you who aren't big fans of these cameras, and who are already pecking in your comments to me about how I'm supporting an invasion of privacy, involuntary testimony against one's self, drivers being presumed guilty before being proven so, and so on. Hey, in case you forgot about recent donations that the Bradstein Household has made to Marion Barry's salary, you're preaching to the choir.

That said, I wish that there would have been a camera recording my encounter with an Alexandria cop at an intersection last week. I was rolling downhill at about 25 mph on my way home on my bike when I saw him approaching the intersection, which is a four-way stop, from my right. This is an intersection that I approach rolling downhill at a good clip, and I can see about 1/4 mile in either direction down the road that crosses the one I'm on so, if I see no traffic approaching, I usually roll on through. If, however, I see a car approaching, I slow noticeably, so they know that I'm not going to blow through. Then, when I get to the intersection, I behave just like a car: whoever got there first, goes first; if two people arrive at the same time, the one to the right goes first; if there's general confusion, I apply the first rule of boating that Dad taught me--give way to superior tonnage--and I wait for the drivers to sort it out.

Seeing the cop approaching at a high rate of speed--one might even say "speeding"--I slowed noticeably and prepared to stop, especially because Alexandria cops have a habit of flicking on their lights and siren five feet before an intersection, blowing through, then shutting them off as soon as they clear the far crosswalk. This cop, however, slowed as though he were actually going to stop, so when I got to the intersection before he did, and had completed my stop, I started up and headed through the intersection. As I got about a third of the way across, I realized that the cop had pulled a bump and roll or, as we affectionately called them growing up in the Golden State, a California stop--stomping the brakes hard enough to make the passengers pitch forward a bit, but not so hard as to completely stop the car.

This meant that I had to swerve to avoid getting run down, which I easily did, since I never really trusted that he was going to stop. I don't know why I wouldn't trust him to stop, given the aforementioned "false emergency," "testing the lights," or "I dropped my donut on the switch for the lights and siren" strategy that Alexandria cops use to bypass stopping, and given that cops are getting caught running red lights in Dallas at a rate of better than one a day--and that's just at the camera-equipped intersections. Why ever wouldn't I trust him?

The best part came after I exited the intersection and continued rolling down the hill to the bike path. I heard the cop roll down the passenger-side window and yell after me, "There's a stop sign, you know!"

Hey really, jackass? Did you see the one facing your direction? And just where does Alexandria send its cops to learn how to drive--Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey? And, if I didn't know for a fact that you'd write me a ticket for asking these questions, I'd come up there and ask them and ask you to repeat that snide, sneering comment to me. After I took down your name and badge number, I'd have a chat with your lieutenant about what official City of Alexandria policy is on police behavior.

And if you weren't a cop, I'd certainly have chased you down and asked you--because I know that I could have caught up to you--just what the fuck you were thinking when you tried to run me down. Just what was so damn important that you had to blow through that intersection and roll over me? Because I'm sick and tired of people who are willing to roll over bikers or pedestrians or ram into my pregnant wife, just because they have poor time management skills.

Fortunately, my Buddha nature took over and I just rolled on home . . . muttering "jackass" under my breath.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

God is in the details, not the church

One of my favorite bloggers, Denver Dad, wrote in a comment on a recent post about religion and faith

"It's a tough issue, because while I think many of us feel like we can make decisions for ourselves, suddenly we're making decisions for someone else who might want or need more than what we do.

I'm not making much sense . . ."
Au contraire, mon frère, le père, you are making perfect sense. As I've mentioned previously, Dad was a Christian Scientist whose behavior with his kids might have seemed a bit hypocritical from the outside. Although I never spoke directly with him about this, I believe that his rushing us to the clinic at the slightest provocation probably stemmed from a belief that until we were old enough to have faith, that he was responsible for protecting us from the damage that might result from illness or injury.

He always made it clear--to me, anyway, but perhaps this is just another benefit of being the last child--that I didn't have to go to Sunday School if I didn't want to. Of course, as a young boy, I couldn't imagine not doing what Dad did, especially something that he held so close to his heart. It was only as I got older, and the idea of getting out of bed, much less out of the house and over to church, by 10:30 seemed an inhumane way of treating myself on a weekend, that I stopped going. Some son, huh? "Hey, look Dad. I know that you love me and that you love church and that you'd love for me to go with you, seeing as how it's one time during the week when we can spend time together, but see, I'm really tired. I'll try to wake up before you get back, OK?" Turns out that he was right to take me to the doctor all those times that I cut myself to the bone, since my faith was not as deep as my need to get a little more sleep on a Sunday.

And he was also right not to force me to Sunday School or church against my will. I think that his refusal to do so came, in part, from an understanding on his part that his faith, Christian Science was, as he put it, "out in left field." Dad would have been delighted if I, or any of us kids, became members of the faith that he and his mother had both followed. But he knew that asking us to do so was asking a lot because it was always going to be different from other faiths. I also think that Dad was smart enough to know that nobody could be forced into faith--that true faith requires true belief, not coerced behavior. It also requires a certain presence of mind--hence rushing younger kids to the clinic, because we were too young to have the mental capacity for faith. And Dad was secure enough in his own faith that he didn't find it necessary to bring his children into it to confirm his own belief. Beyond that, I'd like to believe that along with his lifelong faith in the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, he had a faith in his kids, a faith that we would become good people even if we didn't attend his church--or any church for that matter.

As I said, however, Dad and I never got the chance to discuss this directly, so I'm having to put this together from a distance--triangulate his probable positions on most of this from quite a distance. But while I could be wrong about the fine points, I know that Dad was strong enough and smart enough to never force us into faith, even as he was leading us down the delicate path of love, beauty, and laughter to success.

As Dad was leading, it was the small things that mattered the most to me; it was more important to me when I was a boy that Dad apologized after yelling at me than that he went to church every Sunday. Dad's priority was doing small, simple things well; this was as characteristic of him as his left-handedness, to the point that a coworker sent him the poem "Success," with this note:
"Seems that Mr. Emerson may well have written this just for you."
Actually, it's most likely that Emerson didn't pen those lines, but her sentiment rings true. I hope that as I'm "making decisions for someone else who might want or need more than what we do," I can be as successful at the small things as Dad was.

Next up: So, if I flunked out of Sunday School, why do I still believe in God?

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cherry Cherry

Last weekend we went to see the cherry blossoms in DC with 3B's friend, who brought along his parents. It turned out that the Smithsonian kite festival was the same day, which was a big hit, especially since 3B is fascinated with birds, planes, and anything else that flies. Again, many thanks to The King for his gift that made it possible to share this little window into our lives--so next time you're in Vegas, catch a show at the Wynn, or at least drop some money on one of their tables, and support The King.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Unbearable Cuteness of 3B

It's still friends week here at the Bradstein Household, and today I'm celebrating friends old and new, near and far, including one who gave us the gift of his services for a professional photoshoot of 3B.

In high school, I believed that I would know all those people for the rest of my days, that our kids would play together, that we'd hang out at the bar together, that we would support each other as we won our Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, and Nobel Prizes. OK, there are a select few--two, actually--who I still keep in touch with somewhat regularly, but it's been the rule rather than the exception that friends drift, move, run, and slip away.

One such character was Jason Helvey, who Mama and I knew in Colorado, pre-wedding, pre-Barky, and pre-3B. He headed down to Tex-ass around the time that we were getting ready to leave Colorado, and that was the last we saw of his long-haired, Allman Brother-lovin', bike ridin', hippie ass. We've never forgotten about him, however, and often wondered where he was these days. It wasn't without hope of a reunion that I included his name in a post awhile back. Sure enough, a friend of his pointed him over our way, and after about a year, Jason got out of the stream, put down the rod and the flies, and figured out enough about computers to post a reply. We haven't heard from him since, but those few words from a young Dickey Betts was all we needed to keep hope alive that someday we'll see him again. You know, when he comes back east to check out some real rivers, not those cricks they have out there in east Tex-ass.

But he's not the only one we left out west. In fact, my whole family is still out there--not without good reason, which I'll remember in July and August, when my eyeballs melt from the heat and we all once again wonder why George Washington hated his new country so much that he stuck the capital in a place referred to as Foggy Bottom. But back to the family--one member of the family out there is Cousin #63 or something. One of my other cousins came up with an intricate scheme for numbering all of us to preserve our online anonymity, but honestly, once I get past my five siblings, any scheme is too complex because it automatically requires going over to my second hand, which I need to hold my martini while I type. Besides, she has her name all over her website, where she displays all kinds of cool art that she's made. Although it's not included on her site, the shiny newish header on this blog is her creation as well, from a photo of 3B she found while stalking seeing what was up with us.

Speaking of photos of 3B, two Sundays ago, all of us Bradsteins headed down to Kevin Davis' studio for a professional photoshoot of 3B. Kevin and his wife, who are both coworkers of mine, and their kids all gave us this photoshoot as a newborn gift for 3B. At Kevin's suggestion, we waited until 3B was a bit more sturdy and expressive to make the most of the session, and man, was 3B expressive and active.

The session was a family affair, with Kevin's wife and kids helping out while Kevin shot. Mama and I were positioned just out of the frame--most of the time--ready to catch 3B, who crawled headlong off the table a half-dozen times. Kevin said that's the first time he's seen a baby do that, which doesn't bode well for 3B's chances of surviving his teenage years. In between set-ups, as we were changing 3B's outfit or feeding him, it was so much fun to hang out with their whole family. Awhile back, Mama and Kevin's wife, who is Korean, talked for a long time at an office holiday party about Korea, where Mama lived for six months during her Watson Fellowship. At work, however, it's hard to find the time to really get to know someone, even over a number of years, so it was nice to have this space to relax with each other and our kids.

By the time the strobes stopped flashing, we ended up with 230 or so photos to choose from, which is many more than Kevin says he usually ends up with. As he said of 3B, "He's a very expressive baby." Now we need to have Kevin and his family up to help us figure how to display some of them in our house. The quality is high enough that we could display them "billboard size," according to Kevin. That may overwhelm our living room and violate a few building codes, but I think we have room for some large prints, nonetheless.

Mama and I narrowed them down to our favorites--although these copies aren't at billboard resolution. I figured that you weren't going to be printing them for your living room--and that you'd want to be able to download one in under a day. We hope that you enjoy these, and for those of you in the Northern Virginia area, or if you're coming to visit, consider swinging by Kevin's to get some priceless photos of your little beauties.

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In Haggadah Da Vida, Baby

We all went to a lovely Passover Seder last night at our good friends' house in Bethesda. In addition to their daughter and 3B, there were two other kids, who also brought enough adults to make for a full and festive house. From Kadesh to Nirtzah, we had a great time, although we didn't really make it all the way to Nirtzah, since 3B had to sleep. So, around the time that the door was opened for Elijah, we stepped out and drove back home.

3B and Mama got to Bethesda in the afternoon and had a great day visiting and playing, even if 3B missed his afternoon nap. At dinner, 3B did get to eat his first Charoset and matzo ball soup--one of the grandmothers had made a vegetarian version just for us. Perhaps next year he'll be aware enough to join the hunt for the Afikomen.

This Sunday we should give him a chance to hunt for some eggs or candy, but instead we're taking him to a grown up Easter Linner--yes, "linner." Usually we go to a brunch in DC, but a new baby arrived in that house, so they're not hosting, which left us wondering if this year we'd have to actually cook our own holiday meal. A friend--and babysitter--saved us this week when she invited us to her Easter "not lunch, not dinner--linner." Although there won't be an egg hunt, it promises to be fun, and it fits right in with our ideal of keeping 3B well-rounded in his knowledge of his background and options for faith, should he choose to pursue one.

And, if he's not going to follow in our footsteps as a vegetarian, he'll be well-rounded when it comes to food, learning the difference between brisket and ham.

But, back to the faith question, it's one that I've read about many parents struggling with these days. Many of us seem unbound from the faith of our upbringing or heritage, but we want to provide an opportunity for our kids to experience the benefits that we got: a sense of meaning, a sense of community, an understanding of the world in moral terms, and so on.

Mama and I have been to our fair share of Jewish holiday observances, and every time I've been touched by the feeling of connection to a community that stretches back over thousands of years. Reading the ancient texts and retelling the lives of historic ancestors--even though they're Mama's, not mine--touches me in a humbling and uplifting way. I also appreciate the Jewish tradition of questioning, including asking about their own faith. That path of always seeking appeals to me both because I'm a skeptic and because I like the idea of having faith married to skepticism. However, even with all of that, I don't feel a strong enough connection to consider converting to Judaism.

Then there's Christianity, which I can't really get behind either. Even though I was raised by a devout Christian father and went to Sunday School until I flunked out, and even though it's based on Judaism, there's something about Christianity that just doesn't sit right with me. Part of it is that I don't have faith in many of the beliefs that are required to be a Christian. There's also the manner in which Christianity is often practiced, as I see it, relying more on dogma than inquiry and inflexible interpretation and regulation more than consistent application of principles. Perhaps that's an inaccurate view because I'm outside the community, but I don't know if I could ever get over my trepidation enough to ever fully relax. And if I'm not relaxed, I doubt that it would be a good experience for 3B.

The middle way for both Mama and I seems to be Buddhism. We both loved it when we first learned about it before we met, and we both have continued to deepen our affection for it as we learn more about it--within certain bounds. I'm not sure, for example, that we could get into all of the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, much as we love what Tibetan lamas espouse. Our biggest hurdle to becoming practicing Buddhists has been our own laziness, which has kept us from looking for a Buddhist community to join, or at least scope out. However, I think that Mama and I will soon actively engage in our quest, both for 3B's continuing upbringing and for our own current needs. There's been a fair amount of stress in our lives of late, resulting from large transitions, like Mom dying, and I think we're both looking for some comfort, some understanding, and some like-minded souls to gather with.

Of course, we'll let you know how the journey goes, as it slowly unfolds. In the meantime, you can check in with some other parents who are writing about spirituality and religion. If you feel like sharing, hook a father up--how do you meet your needs for meaning, community, morality, and so on? How do you meet your kids' needs for those?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm it!

Black Belt Mama, despite her cracked rib, has caught up to me and tagged me with the six weird things about yourself meme. I've got to say that the first time I replied to this meme, I had a much easier go than I am having this time. You would think that after a year, I would be able to come up with six new weird things about myself.

You would think.

I think that it's the weird thing that's putting me off. I had no problem providing a list of strange answers last year--I had no problem doing it twice, in fact. I was even able to come up with lists of books after 3B was born, but somehow I'm not capable of coming up with a measly six weird things about myself. I did come up with a less than flattering picture of me circa 1994, courtesy of The King, but you'll have to wait until the end of this post comes around to see that.

And now I'm out of stalling topics and links, so I guess that I'll have to start coming up with some weird facts about myself.

  1. Systems engineering
    This one was Mama's suggestion, and it's partially true. Her words were, "You know how everything works, and you have a system for doing everything." The first claim is definitely not true: I don't know how gravity works. Why one mass attracts another is beyond me, and how one object, like our planet, can get so big that it attracts itself, forming it into a sphere is way beyond me. While I'm speaking of large bodies that become spherical, such as my own body is doing, I'm also not sure how donuts, which seem so light and fluffy, have such a strong gravitational field, which seems to be constantly pulling on me. Mama's second claim is true, although not because, as Mama claims, I'm highly organized. Just the opposite is true, in fact. I have systems because I got tired of spending an hour looking for my wallet and keys to take a 15-minute trip to the ATM. I finally had to develop systems for everything because if I didn't have these systems, I'd lose my own two hands.
  2. OCD
    OK, so some of the systems engineering seems like OCD, but those are coping strategies; I'm only really OCD about particular items, such as plastic cream containers in diners, computer desktops, paperback books. Creamers: must be emptied, then nested within one another. Computer desktops: must be emptied of all but the most commonly used (read: daily) items. Paperback books: must be read without cracking the spine, no matter how difficult that makes it to read the words in the gutter. There are other things that I'm moderately OCD about, but I can't think of them right now--ask Mama, and I'm sure that she can rattle off a long list, however--but in the rest of my life, I'm Pigpen.
  3. Pica
    I develop a pica for ice when my iron levels get low, so I end up going down one floor at work to the ice machine to get a large cup full of ice, run a little water over it to soften it up, and then chew my way through every last cube. I'm sure that it irritates everyone around me, and will probably result in my having to get crowns for every one of my molars, but I really can't stop myself. If I keep myself from doing it, it's so distracting that I'll get nothing done. Turns out that this pica is a common symptom of anemia. I finally found that out after making the ice pilgrimage several times daily for a month before googling it. Actually, I started googling around after they had to centrifuge my blood when I donated to ensure that I was over the anemia threshold. One of the first symptoms of anemia that I came to was chewing ice. Now when I chew ice, it's a reminder to take my vitamin.
  4. Horror films
    Hate, hate, hate 'em. They make me cringe, ball up in my seat, jump five feet straight up, gasp, scream, and they generally piss me off. I suppose that's their intended effect, so my reaction isn't that weird. What's weird is that I took a class on horror films in college. My roomie and I signed up for it, got all charged up about it, got back home, looked at each other and said, "Are we freakin' crazy? We both hate horror films." I've gotta say that I still hate, hate, hate 'em, but Halloween is one of the best films I've ever seen. It's just about the perfect horror film.
  5. Pierced ears
    Both of mine are pierced. Sure, in some locales, people will say that it's not weird for a guy to have two pierced ears, but I've only ever passed through those places; I've never lived in them. So, for most of my life, I've been "that guy." The only time that it's ever been a real problem was right after I got them pierced, in 1985, in my own house, when Mom saw them for the first time. I didn't ever see her that angry with me at any other time; she almost tossed me out of the house, but she could never do that, so I got to stay, as did the earrings.
  6. Makeup
    I used to wear it in high school. What? Didn't you? I can explain . . . no, really. First, it was the androgynous 80s, so everyone was doing it. Second, it was just eyeliner and mascara, not the full Robert Smith death mask. Third, it turned out to be a babe magnet. Fourth, how else was I going to get attention as the last of six kids? Sadly, however, it failed to get me even a sideways glance from Mom, who had this conversation with Sister #2 as I was on the way out the door--both of them on the couch, flipping through photo albums, neither one of them ever turning to look at me:
    Me: Goodbye. I'm going out.
    Mom: Goodbye.
    Sister #2 (who bought me mascara because I chose colors that didn't match my palette): Doesn't it bother you that your son wears makeup?
    Mom: No.
    Sister#2: Goodbye.
    Mom: Remember to lock the doors when you come in.
    I should have known that Mom would be much better at getting under my skin by ignoring me than I could ever be at doing the same to her with any of my antics--except the earrings, I suppose. After all, she had five kids before me to practice on; this was my first go-round. And her strategy worked--after getting no reaction for awhile, I lost interest. Besides, by then, all the other boys were doing it.
And yes, if I ever come up with photos of myself with eyeliner on, I'll be sure to share them with you, because I know that you're just dying to see them. In the meantime, feast your eyes on Papa, circa 1994.

Oh, that shirt . . . WTF was I ever thinking?

And yes, both The King and I spent that summer working on the Country Western Cabaret in the basement of a hotel in a national park. That's not a weird enough thing to make it onto this list, is it? Nah. I didn't think so.

I'm going to pass this tag on to six people whom I don't even know. I hereby tag anyone who lurks on this blog, regularly visiting without commenting. We already know that you're strange for lurking on this blog, but post a comment and let us all know just how weird you are by linking to this meme on your blog.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Good friends we have

This is friends week here at the Bradstein Household--all friends, all the time. Why? Because recently, we've just been inundated with fun times with good friends, and I want to share the love. Also, many of those who have been sharing the love with us through shout outs, call outs, and hang outs are among the six loyal readers of this blog, so I'm a bit remiss in getting back to them.

But we've been without DSL for, like, three and a half years, so cut me some slack.

Speaking of call outs, I challenged the loyal six to put a name to some lyrics back in February. (Crap, was it really that long ago? Man, now I feel even worse for taking so long to get around to this.) Steve, over at the Hygiene Chronicles was the first caller with the right answer, so he got to name his prize. Unfortunately, it took me two months to get my act together and schedule a night to buy him the drink that I owed him.

Which is really unfortunate, since he's the lifelong friend I never knew I had.

Steve's right that blogging is a way of pre-finding people, and it makes sense that you'll find people who are a pretty good fit--after all, we've self-selected as dads, writers, pseudogeeks, etc. In addition, we each only read the subset of that group with whom we share bonds. And man, do Steve and I share bonds; when he wrote recently about the customer service at Verizon--which is who we've recently, agonizingly switched to for DSL--and 80's poodle-head rock, I knew that we were going to have a great time together.

There's not much that I loathe more than bad customer service, and not much that I love more than the sweet sounds of power chords and shredding guitar solos played by guys who own more spandex than a French bicycle racing team and more AquaNet than Terri Garr in After Hours.

So, I rolled back the sunroof, turned up the G'n'R to 40--who the hell knew that the stock stereo in a Honda would go to 40?--and cruised down to meet him. It was exactly as he describes it, and exactly how it feels to catch up with an old friend after a long separation. Mostly we knew about what was going on with each other, but we each needed to fill in some details, had a few questions about this and that, and more than anything had a great time laughing over everything. On the way home, I was in such a good mood, so excited to tell Mama all about it, that I kicked the music over to My Humps and bounced all the way home.

I can't wait for our families to meet each other, perhaps at a Nats game, perhaps we could make it a trifecta at a Nats-Mets game, if any of their fans have the cojones for that.

Next up: a reply to that call out (while you're waiting for that, do go over and show some love to Black Belt Mama, who just cracked a rib while picking up toys).

After that: 3B's first professional photoshoot, and video of a day with 1000 kites.

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