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.