Saturday, September 17, 2011

Updates? Who Has Time For Updates? Keep Up!

This boy is growing like a weed.

A sort of hefty weed.

Actually, I thinking he may be some sort of tree.

Michael is a year old, and I'll be linking to some of his birthday pictures below. Suffice to say that he is large, in charge, and excels at winning the hearts and minds of the local population.

Every day he's looking around more, getting a bit more willful about where he goes or what he's doing, and reacts in a more complex way to me and Veronica (and just about everything else in the world).

Consider this my attempt to set a standard of new catch-up posts, as the long-form ones of the past don't seem to be something I can maintain at the moment.

1. Size and Health

This is my baby:
Little Michael's Early Morning 4

This is my baby on FOOD:
Michael and Pasta 1

He's 83rd percentile in weight, 58th in height, and 89th in head size. Boy is all big and stuff.

2. School

He's in day care five days a week and having a blast. His mom drops him off, his dad picks him up, and he's just moved into the toddler room (despite having some trouble getting his balance down and so not exactly toddling yet).

He's sleeping on a cot with the big kids now. Holy cow!

3. Mobility

Ok, so he's not exactly running about the place; staying upright without support is something he's still working on. But man can he crawl around full speed, and the look of manic glee when he makes a break for something he knows you're going to try and stop him from getting is at least as endearing as it is frustrating.

4. Personality

I'll let the kid speak for himself.

Love this kid, so much.

Hope to post again soon!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Quick Montage, Part 2

Sometime in the last few months, there's been a change.

As a simple an ability as holding his head straight, turning on the floor or in your arms to look at something, completely changes the way you look at your child.

How is this not a revelation? It sneaks up on you so slowly, so carefully, it feels like waking up in the morning.

A few weeks ago I started assisting with feeding Michael solid foods. He's been eating them for months now, but Veronica wanted to make sure that (as much as is possible) he was feeding himself; at first this was essentially a mess all over the fornt of whatever he was wearing at the time, and after he got used to it he still ate very slowly. Grasping at the spoon, he'd pull the food into his mouth while getting most of it all over his mouth.

I'd get some of the food (including the bottles) ready for him every other day, either just handing off one of the pre-made jars that we'd gotten or making one from the baby-food ice cubes that Veronica had made, and he would eat it at daycare or when Veronica fed him at home. Every so often I'd feed him myself, but it felt like a slow and messy process that I didn't want to mess up by applying my approach.

At my sister's, on a trip with Veronica and Michael, I was asked multiple times to handle that part of his feeding, and he adapted quickly to my slight variation to the process (it basically involved him getting annoyed enough to grap lower on the spoon and get less of it on his face... but it also took longer).

I mention all of that, because I want to make it clear: The issue was not whether my baby son was in part feeding himself, but how he was feeding himself and how long that method took.

Now he's practically feeding himself lemons.

Picture of Michael Tasting Lemons for the First time

No, he's not crawling (though he can turn himself in a circle pretty easily and scoot forward just a tiny amount), but he'd obviously on the verge.

He's huge, he's getting bigger, and every day he's more a little boy than a baby.

It's pretty astounding.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Quick Montage, Part 1

Michael is going to be 8 months old as of May 10th.

I have no idea how to wrap my head around that.

It means, among other things, that I've been sadly lacking when it comes to keeping this blog updated. Originally I imagined that I'd put something new up here every few days as he did some little new thing or I learned some little new lesson.

The truth is, though, that it's all so simultaneously gradual and fast that you can really miss realizing there's anything to say if you're not careful. It's exactly the reason we've been doing a photo of him every week, but I wanted to keep this up to date as well.

So let me give something of an overarching look at the boy's life so far.

I'll try to do it in 2 posts over the next few days.

When he was just a few months old he wasn't particularly active but he still managed to be a little bit of a handful; he came home from the hospital rather small, but filled out pretty quickly and soon made a habit of using the weight of his head to move his body around.

By "using the weight of his head" I mean "flinging his head around, seemingly at random."

For the first stretch, Veronica and tried to work out a system whereby she could get a good chunk of sleep even though she was feeding him roughly every three or four hours. My approach to this was making her go to bed around 8, taking care of him until midnight or so, getting him in bed when I was sure he was totally out, and then getting up to take a morning shift so she could get a little extra shut-eye.

That worked alright, but she still ended up getting less sleep than me because I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and am difficult to wake up.

Eventually the schedule changed as the baby began sleeping for longer, and it wasn't very long before we gave Michael a bed-time; he'd get a bath or little scrub-down, a new diaper with PJs, some food, and then we'd try to get him to sleep.

This is, pretty much, the system we're using now and it's gotten to the point we can put him down when he's still mostly awake with the expectation he'll go to sleep shortly after.

Well, sometimes anyway.

During the day our boy was learning to grab things and laugh, see shapes, and go on walks with his parents. It's been noted by a few people that he's a very smiley and good-natured little boy, something that we can't take complete credit for at this point but which we have tried to encourage. When he cries or is upset we do our best not to necessarily placate (though there is some of that), but to chatter at him him in a calm and conversational way; it's not like we're reasoning with him, or even that he can hear us at all when he's really going, but often it seems to draw out a smile even when he's trying loudly to let us know that he's got a bit of gas or is hungry earlier than he should be.

That's enough, sometimes, and it helps to keep mom and dad calm in the midst of the storm because we can talk about what's going on without getting swept up too much in his reaction. Because, honestly, it's easy to let his distress feed into my frustration or worry if I'm not being careful.

So, yes, he's been a mostly happy and rather calm baby most of the time.

He does seem to have lost the common "all of you people are crazy" and "what was that?!?" looks that were so prevalent early on, such as the one he gave the entire church when he was being shown around by the priest after his christening. There are similar looks, but those were something special and they're far less common now.

One interesting note is that our dog seemed a little unsure of what to do around the baby; if the kid was on his blanket or stretched out in his little bouncy recliner there wasn't a problem (he'd even sit near, protectively, or sniff him curiously), but if either of us picked Michael up the dog would get some distance as if he didn't want anything to do with what might happen next. He acted like we were going to throw the baby at him, or use the baby as a bat or something.

The dog's calmed down a little bit, but you can still see the reaction at times.

I'll give some more next time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Random Encounters: Crawling A Dungeon

I stumbled across this very nifty little find, through the awesome Geek Dad blog in a little review/post of theirs, during the last week: Kids Dungeon Adventure.

Their motto is "You Bring the Dungeon, We Bring the Monsters" and it essentially involves crafting a simple maze or labyrinth out of toys your kid already has, letting them travel through it with action figures or dolls as adventurers while they defeat monsters to get cool treasures.

It's only $5.99 to download the monsters, and it's aimed at kids as young as 4 years old.

I can't wait to try out stuff like this!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Random Encounters: Mechanics of Fun

So I've been reading a pretty fascinating book called Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, and it has me thinking not only about myself but on raising a child.

The short version of the book is this; it's by someone who studies games, who likes to create simple games that seem more like creative school activities or marketing strategies than videogames or the like, and who believes that with a growing focus on games comes a growing opportunity to take what makes games loved and apply those lessons to real life.

Some people accuse her of being naive at best, a creator of "opiates for the masses" at worst, and a "management caricature of what a game developer is" somewhere in-between the two. Personally I've gotten some cool perspective on my personal preferences in entertainment and gaming by reading her theories on them, and think that the development of the first few chapters makes a strong case for her starting premises. Not to mention how she applies those ideas to various real-world examples.

I mean the statement (to paraphrase) "play is extra work that we choose to do, and often the harder it is the more we love it" really blew me away because I'd never thought of games, from golf to board games to video games, that way before.

Anyway, one of the things she talks about is the way that good games engage and encourage by emphasizing feedback to the person "playing" and provide a sense of accomplishment even in failure or victorious triumph in moments success. She talks a bit about the Quest to Learn school in New York that's built an entire method of teaching around those ideas, and while it hasn't gotten higher-than-average results on standardized tests so far, it does seem to have happier kids with similar results to more traditional schools.

In the past I'd considered how to handle future parenting concerns, from allowances to chores, with systems that'd be fair and hopefully encouraging... this just lays the idea bare and helps me really examine what I'd be trying to accomplish and why.

I feel like I not only can take such ideas a little more seriously, but I sort of have to. It's a challenge, and one that I think can have some pretty solid rewards if met.

In other words...

A reaction which really plays into the ideas I've been talking about.

See you next time!


This blog is not forgotten, though it is apparently well neglected.

We're seven months in, and I can't even begin to feel like I've learned enough to share enough.

But I'll try to do it more.

As of this week the boy is bouncing, smiling, reaching, trying to feed himself a little, and generally growing more engaged with the world every day. It's hard to see all of it, to remember to record it here, but I will try.

In the meantime I'm also going to keep on myself about adding my reactions to various related bits of news.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Random Encounters: Making Things

When I was growing up I always wanted to make things. I mean, I usually had no idea what it actually entailed and I wasn't exactly crafty, but I wanted it to happen.

Recently my mom reminded me of when I got it into my head that I was going to build a robot, likely because I'd seen something on television (a toy, a kit, a science show) that took the idea of a robot from fictional-cool and made it oh-this-is-real. She told me that she felt so bad because I obviously really wanted it, and I was sure that just a quick trip to the hardware store and some guidance from my parents could make it happen.

I told her that I've never forgotten that.

"Well," I thought, "If people can make a robot with real stuff, like screws and batteries and wheels, it must be something I can do."

CAROLL : Cheap Autonomous Robot for On Line Learning
This is totally NOT something I made.

I collected materials from around the house and put them in a brown paper bag. Screws, string, maybe some wire, nuts and bolts, a few batteries. Were there pennies in there? Probably.

That was 1986 or so.

I kept that rumpled brown bag for a long time, long after I'd sort-of-realized-but-not-really-accepted that it didn't work that way.

Around the same time I wrote stories (I vaguely remember one about a little boy who goes to find Jack Frost, and becomes Jack Frost; my dad had it typed up), and a few years later I drew very short and strange super-hero comic books. Thanks to the Cub Scouts I got some basics of building simple things out of wood, and even did a block print once (our Scout Leader was a local artist).

When I was 12 I wanted to design a video game, and once again had absolutely no clue what that entailed. Some friends and I designed levels and pitches and concepts, filling up pages of notebooks with doodles and sketches.

Funny story, it was one of my friends saying that he'd found papers about the highly technical process of making video games "on the information superhighway" (essentially Usenet articles by programmers, in a language that would have been so far over our heads as be out of sight, but we didn't know that at the time) that got me to bug my parents about getting an internet service.

Later there were short stories, poems, attempts at drawing again, roleplaying game ideas, and more. At one point I wanted to make a one-string blues guitar but didn't, and there's really no excuse not to do that.

I mean, look at it!

I'm probably forgetting lots of things.

They weren't all forgotten or put away. I've actually finished (or, in the case of the middle link, did more than I thought I would at the start) small projects here and there, even making a tiny bit of money off selling one as a book, and I have plenty of fun just messing around with them as they come.

Anyway, as I sit here and try to fight off my brain's latest distractions (writing down the various aspects of these new RPG ideas for later use) while trying to study... I think about Michael and all the things he's going to want to do.

What will he want to build? Or draw? Or write?

I don't know. I don't have the first clue. But I can't wait to find out, and I'm actually excited enough about it that I bought books of activities for things we can make together months before he was born.

We're going to make things!

...maybe even a robot!