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Archive for January, 2011

Over at PopMatters, Timothy Gabriele explores the similarities between ambient music and what babies hear in the womb. Of particular interest are his thoughts on the auditory development of his 6-month-old daughter:

. . . parents and caregivers responsible for the sound development of the infant have a big responsibility, even if they don’t know they’re taking on this task. The human’s first audio memories are stored in the limbic system, responsible for generating emotional responses, located adjacent to the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe. Any remembered sound therefore should automatically trigger an emotional response, however small, meaning that the parent’s provided sonic environment also has an impact on emotional development in the child (it’s thought that this is why music from adolescence, when emotion is at its most vibrant, generally triggers the strongest emotional response from its listeners).

I played Nate most of the songs referenced in Gabriele’s article and here are his two favorites:

The second one (Arp’s Pastoral Symphony) especially amazes him. When the bass kicks in around the 25 second mark, Nate’s eyes get real big, like something incredible is about to happen, and he studies my face for what that something might be. It would not be an exaggeration to say that music is becoming my version of breastfeeding. When Nate’s fussy or wants a change of pace, I usually pick up the ukulele or the guitar or the keyboard or some random percussive instrument (he’s got shakers, tambourines, bongos, etc.) and play Nate a tune. It’s like giving him Prozac in the key of C.

To the outside observer, it may appear that I am pulling an Earl Woods and that I desperately want my son to grow up to be a musician.

Could be. But I’ll settle for him just growing up to feel.

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I used to think Freud was full of shizzat. Oedipal fantasies? Hysteria? Penis envy? Hogwash.

But I confess I’m getting a little jealous of Leigh Ann’s breasts. Call it boob envy. Those two mounds of mammary glory may be the greatest childcare tools in the history of mankind. Nate wakes up screaming? Put him on the boob. Nate won’t go down? Put him on the boob. Nate gets restless at his Mommy & Me class? Put him on the boob.

But what happens when Mommy’s not around? Well, what happens is poor boobless Daddy has to fumble with re-heating refrigerated breast milk and, by the time he’s done, Nate is usually teetering on bat shit crazy. I feel like an Amish guy trying to raise a barn without a hammer. I mean well. But, really, I’m just in the way.

Long story short, let us not forget that nature has her own ground rules – some several million years in the making – and we break them at our peril.

Or, as some old fart once said, “Anatomy is destiny.”

"Tell me about your mother, Scott."

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Our entire family loves football. I love football. Leigh Ann loves football. My parents love football. Leigh Ann’s father coached football for 30-some years. Point being, we love football. Did I mention that already?

So it is with great regret that I keep reading about how much long-term damage the sport does to your brain. Here’s an article today in Slate. And another on NPR. And, for those of you who cannot process information without a moving picture, here’s a news report based on the same University of Purdue study:

The NFL is taking concussions more seriously, yes. But research suggests you suffer brain damage without ever being concussed. Which brings up some thorny parenting issues — namely, if you’re not going to let your son smoke cigarettes, by what logic would you let him play football?

I’m looking at you scientists. You have 15 years to make the perfect helmet.

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Remember how I was finally getting some extended sleep? Like 5 or 6 hours at a time? Well, no more, my friends. Because a certain someone has taught himself to roll from his back to his stomach. Considering Nate’s not quite 12 weeks old, we thought it was a fluke the first time he did it. But he’s done it every night for a week now.

Instead of waking up after two hours, looking up at his monkey mobile, grunting a few times, then falling back asleep, Nate now wakes up after two hours, remembers, “Hey, I can roll over!,” turns onto his stomach, then starts screaming bloody murder.

Good morning, Vietnam!

His pediatrician tells us not to worry. He’s hitting his developmental milestones a little early, but he has good enough head control that sleeping on his stomach shouldn’t be a problem. Still, that doesn’t stop dear old Mom and Dad from glancing at the Wikipedia page for SIDS and seeing stuff like . . .

Among the theories supporting the Back to Sleep recommendation is the idea that small infants with little or no control of their heads may, while face down, inhale their exhaled breath (high in carbon dioxide) or smother themselves on their bedding—the brain-stem anomaly research (above) suggests that babies with that particular genetic makeup do not react “normally” by moving away from the pooled CO2, and thus smother. Another theory is that babies sleep more soundly when placed on their stomachs, and are unable to rouse themselves when they have an incidence of sleep apnea, which is thought to be common in infants.

Like I said, Nate has excellent head control for a 12 week old. But now I see why they say having kids makes you more conservative. Because who *doesn’t* want to play it safe when it’s your kid’s life on the line? Even if your doctor tells you it’s okay for your kid to sleep on his stomach, what happens when you wake up one morning and your kid is blue? Does that make you feel any better about it?

So, anyway, here’s what we’re going to do: 1) let Nate roll onto his stomach whenever he wants, but 2) install one of these:

Basically, it’s a pad you put under the mattress that monitors your tot’s movement and breathing. If it doesn’t detect any for 20 seconds, it emits an EAR-PIERCING SIREN sufficiently loud enough to warn your neighbors of an approaching nuclear holocaust.

Should give us some peace of mind, and it was surprisingly easy to set it up. Although, strangely, I could not find the enclosed Klonopin.

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Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone. I used to live in a state that celebrated Robert E. Lee’s birthday instead, but there’s no use crying over spilled racism.

Why not celebrate your work-free day by going out and doing something nice for someone? Like that stupid Liberty Mutual commercial. Only without the ulterior motive of selling people life insurance.

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Apologies for the light posting. Since Monday, Leigh Ann and I have been traipsing through Greater Los Angeles trying to find somewhere suitable for Nate’s first few years. (For why our current apartment sucks, click here.) At this point, we’ve got it narrowed down to two places, both with something in common: they’re in the valley.

For those of you not familiar with California, “the valley” is the San Fernando Valley, a 260 square mile flatland bordered by 6 different mountain ranges. It’s where you end up if you walk up past the Hollywood sign and fall down the other side. I kid you not, that’s the way it’s regarded around here. You know that “farm” your parents told you your Golden Retriever was going to when he got real sick that one time? Well, that’s the valley. Where coolness goes to die.

Lucky for us, our coolness is already dead. We wear three-day-old clothes, for God’s sake, and smell vaguely of milk. But we’re about to get duly rewarded. With hardwood floors. A second bedroom. A den. Two and a half baths. A fireplace. A private patio. Granite counter tops. And a washer & dryer. All for the same price we’re paying in Weho.

As J. Alfred Prufrock almost said:

I grow old . . .
I grow old . . .
I shall move to the valley, oh!

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Now that I’ve been driving in Los Angeles traffic for about five years, I’m ready to draw some conclusions. The first is that there appears to be an inverse relationship between whether you drive a BMW and whether you value human life. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m toting around a 9-week-old, but I hardly want to drive through Beverly Hills anymore for fear of being cut off, given the finger, and run off the road.

It’s true, there may be a bit of class warfare in my blood. Once upon a time, I read a study that said the nicer the automobile you drive, the more leeway people give you on the road. Specifically, when a traffic light turned green and you were the first car in line and you didn’t go, researchers measured how long it took for the driver behind you to honk. If your car was worth $50,000, it took about 10 seconds. But if it was worth $1,000? About 2.

With that in mind, my new favorite game is to pull up behind a shiny BMW 3 Series and, my palm braced on the steering column, LAY ON MY GOD DAMNED HORN THE INSTANT THE LIGHT TURNS GREEN!!! And I don’t mean just honk. I mean lay on the horn like I had just been shot and fell forward dead pressed against the steering wheel. I can’t tell you how much fun this is. Until, that is, the incensed driver of the BMW cuts me off, gives me the finger, and runs me off the road.

They can’t help it. It just comes natural to them.

Exhibit A.

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Nate got his first round of vaccinations today. So he should be autistic by morning. But, seriously, getting him vaccinated was a no-brainer. I’ve read through Generation Rescue’s website — and although Jenny McCarthy is an attractive woman who may or may not have inspired me, as a teenager, to touch myself — I find their case lacking.

If so many kids are contracting autism from today’s vaccines, where is the study showing a relationship? Oh, wait. I just found it:

Journal: Study linking vaccine to autism was fraud

January 5th, 2011

LONDON (AP) — The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

So much for that dude’s career.

As for Nate, he was a trooper today. He didn’t cry when his pediatrician (who I’ll call Dr. K) stuck an otoscope in his ear, or looked in his mouth, or checked out his nether regions. Nate even grabbed Dr. K’s finger and gave him a smile. It’s a funny thing when a baby decides to smile at you. It’s like a row of clouds has parted above and you, just you, have been chosen to receive this particular band of divine sunlight. Cue the celestial choir. Release the stardust.

But then Dr. K got the needles out.

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. . . And We’re Back

Apologies for my absence. But I have a good excuse: I had to live temporarily. Hopefully you were too drunk on eggnog — or too hopped up on pumpkin spice lattes — to notice. If not, if you’re the person who refreshed this blog 37 times on December 26th, then my most heartfelt apologies.

Really, it’s for the greater good. Not to start 2011 off too pretentiously, but one of my favorite Hemingway quotes is from the preface to his short stories collection, where Papa says:

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.

Or translated for Twitter: the more stupid crap you do, the more stupid crap you have to write about.

So let’s get on with it.

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