June 29, 2008

Foul Fan Fa Fa

Bertram is really, really into fans. It probably helps that we have a ceiling fan, and five table fans rocking in an effort to stay cool in our apartment this summer. The thing is, he can't say the word fan yet. He points at the spinning wonder and says, "foul." Of course, Hal and I find this funny. We try to break down the word for him with no success, as in the following example:

Parental Units: Fa-ann.
Bert: Fa. Fa. Fa-owl.
Parental Units: Fa-ann. Ann. Nah. Nah.
Bert: Fa. Fa-owl.

We'll be out at a restaurant, and the first thing Bert will notice is the ceiling fan. So he starts pointing and says with great enthusiasm, "foul! foul! foul!"

June 23, 2008

dionysian eating at 13 months

This photo was taken at the end of May. We went to another baby boy's first birthday party and the very cool parents (in fact, they are the parents of Charlie, see below) made a special, babies only cake. What I love about this picture is that Bertram appears to be in a kind of birthday cake coma. You can tell that he felt the cake. He ate the cake. Sheez, he practically makes wearing cake a fashion statement.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens in the dionysian pleasure dome of the boddler. In this dome, eating involves squishing food between your fingers, smearing it on your clothes, putting it in your ear, smushing it into your hair, dropping it on the floor, shoving bits of food from one plate compartment to another, and oh yes, occasionally tasting it.

Just this past Saturday, we went to de Mole. Of all the things to order from a Mexican restaurant I ordered a hamburger with fries. Of course, de Mole kicked it up a notch with thick slices of bacon and just a few thin hints of red onion on a perfectly toasted english muffin. Have I mentioned how much I love de Mole? Anything they make is fantastic. Don't ignore that seemingly out-of-place burger on the menu.

Sooooo...for the first time ever, Bertram tried french fries and ketchup--together. Who needs language to convey the blissful combination of vinegary, sweet tomato and mushy salted goodness? He had such a smile on his face. He would take three or four shoestring fries at a time and dunk them in the little ketchup cup looking oh-so-pleased. (I would add that this was also his first successful food dipping experience.) What also struck me was the absolute pleasure with which he eats. In true dionysian boddler fashion, he sucked the ketchup off his fries, and shoved his ketchup smothered hands in his mouth, being sure to give his chin an ample coating of ketchup goo. He demanded more fries with pointing and grunts. His use of the polite ASL signs went out the window.

This kid truly enjoys eating. Looking at him, I think about how much we take for granite when we eat. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience a strawberry for the first time. And these days, you would find me eating a strawberry while hovering over the kitchen counter in the midst of preparing the next day's lunches. I've become a food multi-tasker, barely acknowledging the taste of a food while Bertram is the poster boy for all-out sensory enjoyment.

I know I need to give Bertram a few boundaries with eating--eg, take him away from the table when he starts playing with the food versus exploring and eating it. But the joy and gusto with which he eats is infectious. He's a boddler. I suppose he can get away with his dionysian ways for a few months more.

Coda 6/26: I noticed that our good friends Josh and Jess posted similar praise for the dionysian eating habits of their boddler, Charlie. Check him out savoring a nectarine--

civilized eating at 11 months

IMG_1032, originally uploaded by hal(var).

June 17, 2008

One Night Only

So last night Bertram had his first-ever, all night sleepover at his sitter's house. It just did not make sense to pick Bert up (waking him up) at midnight and then bring him home. He spent a contented night with his sitter, who declared that he was an angel. Indeed, he slept from 8:30p to 7:30a. Forget angel, I'd call that a freaking miracle, considering that he sleeps so lightly at home.

While Bert was acting like a little angel, his parents were partying like it was 1999. We were celebrating the re-opening of HERE Arts Center. That place is a testament to two things--
  • the resolve of a tiny but dedicated staff (I was once one of them)
  • the power of small donations
Yes, HERE had quite a few large donations in order to make its re-design a reality, but at the end of the day--it was the power of hundreds of everyday folks giving in small amounts. Yeah, it took HERE five years since the day it purchased its space, but look at that place now.

When I think about what I leave behind in this world, HERE is one of the great things that I have helped to make happen. Though my name is not in the spotlight or well known--I'm one of the many cogs in the wheel. Remember folks, without the cogs, the wheel won't turn.

This world does not give recognition to the nonprofit arts fund raisers, the marketers, and accountants--the people who often work without benefits and well under what they ought to be paid for the amount of overtime they put in, all in the service of art. (It's okay though I suppose, because this country doesn't value its artists either.) No achievement wall is made for all the times a development staff member managed to get out a personalized mailing to 300 donors and funders on ancient, testy office equipment, then that same staff member might spend two- to-four hours stuffing, sealing and putting postage on that mailing in a hot, sweaty basement dungeon with no air or circulation. Or the time a person spends filling out stacks and stacks of ridiculous paperwork to various city and state agencies to justify that yes, this organization is worthy of a small grant that won't even come close to making a dent in the amount of money needed to produce a season's worth of work. No glory is to be found as an arts administrator.

Frankly, I'm getting past the age where I care about the glory. I'm proud to be one of the anonymous. Maybe some day I'll have a big purse so that other people can make a big deal about how I opened it and dolled out cash to support what I love or because my friend or other social networking type convinced me that I should.

My name is not on any wall, but I hope that my child will one day say, my mother helped make art happen. She helped to make this place--HERE, be HERE forever.

Ultimate Boddler Toy

This past Saturday, we packed up the Bert and headed for my old 'hood, Greenpoint. A feast of grits, rib eye gravy, biscuit and eggs benedict minus the hollandaise was shared by all at Enid's. If you want to get a table at that joint--join the hipster parent crowd at 10am. Otherwise enjoy the coffee and the crazy wait for a table. Of course, I used to avoid the line by cozying up to the bar for a mimosa and making my brunch order there, but oh those days are long gone.

Then post-Enids, we just happened upon the Renegade Craft Fair at the McCarren Pool. Let me tell you it was craftastic and hot. Young Master Bertram was protected by globs of sunscreen. His mother, on the other hand, became burnt toast. I could feel my skin frying, but I just could not pry my peepers away from the aisles and aisles of handmade goods. I almost got sucked in by a skirt featuring a chicken amid several calico squares, but the $100 plus pricetag for what was essentially a skirt with an elastic waistband put a halt to that potential purchase.

On the way back from the craft fair, we stopped at a toy store. We couldn't resist the Melissa & Doug poundy-ball toy and a wooden play sushi set (see photo above).

One thing is for sure. This Melissa & Doug pound-y ball toy is hands down the winner for holding Young Master Bertram's attention. It succeeds on so many levels for him. His favorite activities include:
  1. balls
  2. shape sorting
  3. pounding blocks into a hole
Two days in a row, Bertram might start out playing with blocks or a book, but he then becomes distracted by this toy. He'll spend upwards of twenty minutes with it, which is amazing to watch. I could actually be so brazen as to--brace yourselves, gentle readers--leave the play area.

Thank you, Melissa & Doug. Thank you.

June 11, 2008

You Give Me Fever

What I thought was a teething fever has turned out to be, according to the pediatrician, something viral. Isn't that just the catch-all pediatrician speak, for "I don't know what's wrong with your kid."

Viral marketing--that's good. Virus in your baby--that's bad.

One moment Bertram is right as rain and the next moment, he's very, very hot and whimpering as I rock him in the Lazy Boy. I hate watching Bertram's temperature climb and climb and climb. This afternoon, the thermometer hadn't beeped yet, but it was pushing 103.6. I didn't wait to see how hot he was. He got Motrin and a bath, pronto. Of course, I'm freaking out. When he gets listless and whimpery, that's when I start to panic. It's all I can do to think, "calm down, it's probably nothing." Thirty minutes and a dose of Motrin later, and he's ready to play ball or blocks. Bertram dodged my hypothetical worst fear of him contracting meningitis. This time. Cue freaky, Hitchcock type music...

June 10, 2008

in between days

IMG_1080, originally uploaded by hal(var).
Yesterday I got so old

It made me want to cry

Reading parenting books is like reading about how to learn to drive a car or ride a bike--kind of futile. I love books, and I've learned a great deal from books. When it comes to being a mom, in my humble opinion, you learn from the day-to-day experience of it.

Still, I could not resist this title, recommended by another mom friend, Positive Discipline. The title appealed to my secret love self-help type books and made me wonder how positive a parent's discipline can be? I'll come back to that in a moment. First, a digression...

In the process of reading the book, I realized that at 13 months, Bertram is not quite an infant (in that helpless I-need-you-to-do-everything-for-me kind of way) and not quite a toddler (as in a bipedal, speaking being). Bert is sophisticated enough to use ASL signs for abstract words like "more," "go," and "all done," but still needs to be carried or strolled any place that isn't met for a crawler.

More importantly, he's started the journey toward asserting his independence. He wants a specific book, not just any book I pick up. He doesn't want the pasta, the chicken sausage, or the spinach pancake; he wants strawberries and more of them. When he's done eating, he throws everything off the table. That feels kind toddler-ish to me, but he looks like, well, a baby.

You know what I mean? Toddlers look more like kids; they are more defined with less baby fat. They have hair that can be styled a la the "Suri" or the "Maddox."

My point is that Bertram is not quite a toddler and not quite a baby. My word for this phase is "boddler." I think this growth phase started the day after his first birthday--the day he decided that his food is not mush that comes in jars. He'll have what his parents are having, thank you very much.

So how does my newfound boddler awareness tie in to Positive Discipline, the book? The basic principle is that by emphasizing what children can do versus what they can't do, you can help build their confidence. The book frequently urges the parent to use "kind, firm action." I'm simplifying this greatly, but this is the general gist.

I think this sounds great in principle, but in practice--suppose your prewalking, pretalking, boddler has just, to cite one recent example, taken the two halves of his peanut butter sandwich and put them over his ears like muffs, being extra careful to mash the peanut butter in his hair? What I want to do is say "No!" and curse like a sailor. And on my worst days, I probably will do just that.

My hopes for a witty conclusion to this post have just been dashed by a sudden, spiking teething fever. Ugh.