Monday, July 30, 2007

Teach your children ... socialism?

PBS Kids television programming is a constant background of our mornings these days. For now, Dan isn't old enough to absorb the underlying messages. He just enjoys the big colorful characters and the high pitched voices. But, me, I'm plenty old enough and, I'd like to think, wise enough to pick out these messages. And the messages are beginning to disturb me.

Between the shows, a woman called Miss Lorie and a little animated rodent named Hooper hold court. The theme this morning was sharing. Little Hooper made a dinosaur for show and tell, but he didn't want to share it with the other kids. He said it's mine and I don't want anything bad to happen to it. Fair enough. But Miss Lorie, whose name should be Miss Busybody Smartypants, told him that sharing can be fun. Then she showed him that other kids were building a rocket and that if they all shared the parts and built the rocket together, it would be more fun than working alone.

Clifford the Big Red dog seems innocuous enough. But I've noticed lately that Jenna, a little black-haired girl, ends up being the antagonist. And her antagonist trait always involves her wanting to accomplish something on her own, without any of the other kids' help. She wants to be better. She wants to win. Her methods are always nefarious and she's always foiled in the end while Emily Elizabeth and her friends come out on top because they worked together. At first, Jim and I didn't like little Jenna too much. Jim actually was watching one day with Dan and started calling Jenna names. But then I realized: that's what they want. They want kids to dislike the kid who wants to accomplish things on his own, the one who wants to be better, the one who wants to win. The message is that you can only really win if you work together.

Poor little Hooper made the dinosaur. It was his and he didn't want anyone to destroy it, which is usually what happens when kids are involved. You generally take better care of your own belongings, so its reasonable to be particular about who plays with your stuff. Jenna, on Clifford the Big Red Dog, wants to use her talents to succeed on her own. Nothing wrong with that. Now, I don't advocate many of her antics. What's worse is that the antics usually involved cheating or scheming. So they're teaching kids that the only way to win is by scheming and cheating alone or by working together. It's just wrong to portray her as a villain for wanting to work alone and be the best, which incidentally involves being better than someone else. I'm just waiting for the day when the public schools strike superlatives from the grammar curriculum.

Where am I going with this? The concepts of ownership and individualism obviously aren't encouraged in PBS Kids land. And that's a problem for us. These are two concepts that Jim and I believe in. We want our children to feel free to use their talents and willingness to work hard to acquire any kind of wealth - material or spiritual - without the risk of their accomplishments being demeaned, demonized or even taken from them. Think I'm being paranoid? Take a look at our tax code. Money and success equals taxation and extreme reproach.

So by the time Dan is old enough to understand this constant stream of socialism, we'll have to turn off our PBS. Maybe we can write children's shows and stories with a strong libertarian undertone. After all, that's what America used to be about.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The world is his toybox

Dan rarely plays with his toys. In fact, Jim and I play with his toys more than he does. Yesterday, we put together a puzzle of Sesame Street board books while he played for at least 10 minutes with a baby shoe that he had outgrown. He put it in his mouth, bounced it up and down by the shoestrings, banged it on the floor, shook it around and turned it over and over.

Why buy toys? All these commercials show babies happily playing with the latest piece of expensive, electronically enhanced molded plastic crap. What a joke!

In the kitchen, he's entertained by some of my old kitchen utensils: a plastic ice cream scoop, some plastic measuring cups, a pastry cutter, an old butter dish, the metal grate over the air vent. In the living room, where Danny's funtime playland is set up, he cruises along the newly padded hearth, chews on the handle of my purse, pulls up on the sofa, crinkles the newspaper, plays with our shoes. Upstairs, he plays with my old cellphone, a baby shoe, our shoes, a cardboard tag from a piece of clothing, a plastic clothes hanger. His favorite thing to do is bang two objects together. I've noticed him banging objects on different surfaces, presumably because of the sounds objects make on different surfaces.

And anywhere he is, he's more interested in moving from one place to the next to stop and play with anything.

So no "toys" for Christmas or his birthday. We'll just clean out the kitchen and the closets and let him play with whatever won't choke him, puncture his skin or poke his eye out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Threshhold of filth

I pity the mother who even tries to control germs and dirt. It's a never-ending battle against dog hair, dust and dirt that cling to my spit-up, drool and sticky food covered baby boy who can't sit still long enough for me to clean him up.

And to make matters worse, diapering him these days is like trying to give a cat a pill. This morning, after removing his dog hair and puke covered pajamas and soggy diaper, he flipped over and began to pee all over the floor as he escaped my grasp. Then he crawled through the pee.

So, dog hair plus puke plus crawling through pee is the threshold of filth. He had to get a bath, not just your standard wipe down. My priorities are to 1.) keep puke and pee off the hard floors so no one slips on it or tries to eat it (dog, cat or baby) or roll through it; 2.) keep puke and pee from getting ground into the carpet; and 3.) wipe the babies face and hands every once in awhile.

I know, it seems pretty like a pretty high threshold and really out-of-whack priorities. If I wiped the baby down before he reaches the filth threshold, I'd never get anything done.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Seven seconds of silliness

On Saturday, Danny attended his first birthday party. His friend, Gus, turned one and several babies turned out for the occasion. The optimistic among us thought it would be great to get a group photo of the babies. And, sure, we could get them all to look at the camera at the same time. No problem! About a dozen adults made noise and faces. Here's the video:

Here's the resulting photo:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Shhh. Don't tell Danny ...

... but he's sleeping through the night. This morning I actually had to rouse him at 8:20 to go to a 9:00 a.m. swim class. On Monday, we missed swim class because he slept until 8:30 a.m. He's even been taking naps regularly. I can expect a 1 to 2 hours nap in the morning and a 1 hour nap in the afternoon. Sometimes he takes a little catnap early in the evening.

The last time he didn't sleep through the night was when I made the mistake of telling my girlfriends that he had been.

The photo: Danny sat in the grass Sunday while I harvested some eggplant, cucumbers and zucchini. He dug in the dirt, got his face all dirty and then sampled my vegetables.

Tall decaf with two lids, part II

I actually ordered my coffee this way tonight. The guy didn't even flinch when I asked. I got my coffee with two lids and no smelly ink on the lid. Why would they just waste a lid rather than simply mark the decaf box on the cup? It makes no sense.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to make a brick hearth invisible

Check the Meehan photoblog for new photos and a new video

For the most part, our house is childproof. In fact, much of the childproofing was done by the previous owners. They left cabinet and drawer locks, atop the stairs there's a built in baby gate and plexiglass over railings, and just about every outlet was covered (even those above the kitchen counter, just in case your child likes to climb).

But even with all that, we had some work to do this weekend.

These days, Dan heads for the sharpest, hardest object or most dangerous situation in whatever room he's in. The brick hearth has been of particular concern. So Jim and I designed and built a padded bench-like cover (see photos below). Jim built a frame Saturday ($22 worth of wood). On Sunday, we went in search of decorator fabric and padding to complete the project. At the fabric store, we found fabric ($12) but struck out on the padding. The store charged $19.99 a yard (no kidding) for 2" foam padding. Their excuse? It's based on the price of petroleum. (Uh, okay, whatever helps you sleep at night.) A trip to Wal-Mart's fabric department yielded similar results. We trudged to Michael's and, again, struck out. Then, an idea hits. Why not use those lounge chair-sized cushions? Bingo, it's back to Wal-Mart and for $25, we have our padding. We stapled and glued the cushion to the top and some packing foam to the sides, stretched, folded and stapled the fabric around the frame and voila ... a hearth that is invisible to "Dangerboy" Meehan (the baby, not Jim).

As soon as it was installed, Dan headed straight for the staircase, with it's nice, sharp wooden corner. Eventually, he warmed up to the new addition to the living room, though.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where there's a will, there's a scream

At seven months, our son has developed quite the strong will. Since he can't talk yet, he just screams when he doesn't get his way. And his way, these days, consists of getting into absolutely everything.

He crawls. Well, mostly, he slithers, but it still gets him pretty far, pretty fast. It's a little disconcerting that he can now slither out of my sight. In the past week, I've caught him splashing in the dog's water bowl, emptying my beach bag, pulling pots off my baker's rack, plucking books from his bookshelf, trying to put his finger in the one outlet we don't have covered and strewing our, uh, I mean, mostly my shoes all over the room. He has a prediliction for anything hard or pointy. And when I redirect him, he howls. It's a loud, angry, red-faced fit that usually elicits a "tough cookies kid" from his father and I.

And, wonder of wonders, he now has slept through seven of the past eight nights. The one night he didn't sleep was the night I announced to some girlfriends that he had been. Apparently, the little beast could hear me clear across town and decided to teach me a lesson.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tall decaf with two lids, please

Sadly, this is how I must order my coffee at a local shop. Let me explain.

I always order a tall decaf and my husband orders a tall regular. The "barista" pours me a cup, reaches for the permanent marker, and scrawls a D on the lid. You see where this is going? Now, there was a time when funky smelling ink right under my nose was up my alley. But these days, I prefer not to huff ink with every sip.

I've tried ordering this way: "Tall decaf and please don't write on the lid."

"Barista" says, "What?"

Annoyed, I repeat: "Don't write the letter D on the lid. I can smell it when I drink."

And the one time I neglected to add the lid clause to my order, the "barista" reached for marker. I correct him mid-scrawl and he rolls his eyes. A "barista" with whom I've had the lid conversation with then says to his colleague, "She doesn't like the marker on the lid." Surly "barista" now asks if it's okay to put a sticker on the lid.

I say, "Why don't you just mark the box on the side of the cup?"

Yet another "barista," who wasn't even involved in the transaction, answers, "There would still be marker on the cup."

First of all, customer service rule number one: Don't argue with the customer. Rule number two: Don't talk about the customer in the third person. And finally, why doesn't it occur to anyone that the smelly ink on the lid will be right under the customer's nose when they sip?

My brother-in-law suggested that it's just easier and shorter to order a tall decaf with two lids: the one they're going to write on anyway and the clean lid.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Double talk?

"Here we are, just one species on the earth, and we're grabbing a quarter of the renewable resources … we're probably being a bit greedy."

This quote is from a professor in Australia. She is commenting on research that shows humans use more energy from the sun than any other species. Does renewable still mean what I think it means? That is, inexhaustible or replaceable by new growth.

If so, what is the point of quantifying how much of the sun's energy humans use?

Here's the article. Read for yourself.

Monday, July 02, 2007

My kid is on speed.

Maybe I should get a sleep number bed for the baby. Lindsay Wagner says she sleeps through the night on her sleep number bed. The little guy won't stay asleep. He's up right now, rolling around on the floor, trying to crawl and gurgling.

Cuteness is his only defense mechanism.