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April 30, 2008

Recent Developments

It's sad to say, but Alden seems to be growing up. In addition to being generally more "with it" on a moment to moment basis (she is now better able to actually look at the person who is holding her, for example), she has acquired some new skills over the past few days.

All of a sudden this afternoon, she seemed to have learned how to grip. She grabbed Robbi's finger and would not let go.

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She is doing more grasping in general: at fabric, chins, cheerful spinning Blue Devils, etc.

She's also starting to gain a bit more control over her huge wobbly head. As shown:

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The progress is uneven, with lots of precarious listing from side to side, as shown:

To the left

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To the right

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Back

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And forward

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She is trying hard, it's clear. We're pleased with the sheer effort.

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Another endearing quirk, which cannot be seen as a sign of progress, is her inexplicable tendency to suddenly go horribly cross-eyed.

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I love it when this happens, and wonder what it means. Perhaps this picture will have to be kept in a drawer "special" moments in her life at which it might come in handy. Like when undesirable boyfriends come to the door to pick her up for dates. Or when I come in to present on "Career Day" at her elementary school. Yes, I'm going to be that kind of dad. And there's not a thing she can do about it.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:28 PM

April 29, 2008

The Hard Sell

There are gifts and then there are gifts. Today a box arrived with truly unrivaled contents. It's clear that my mother and sister are not taking "no" for an answer when it comes to Alden's presumptive sports allegiances.

Check it out:

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Yes, that is a fleecy receiving blanket/baby comforter proudly emblazoned with the name and team logo of the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

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In honor of Alden's receiving the blanket, the Sox broke a 5-game losing streak in a thrilling nail biter this evening.

But here's the real coup:

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Yes, that is a Duke Blue Devil crib mobile which not only dangles five spinning Duke mascots above baby's head, but also plays "Blue and White," the rousing Duke fight song.

I was really at a loss for words.

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Just now we hooked up the mobile and gave it a spin.

At first Alden wasn't quite sure what to make of the rowdy team of small blue creatures rotating above her head.

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Her little eyes followed those Devils as they spun, her little head doing its best to make sense of this strange new happening. In no time she decided that she was nearly giddy with her gift and clearly happy to be a Duke fan in the making.

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That's a smile, I think. Perhaps her first real one...

Check back in a few years for photos of her effortlessly swishing baskets from beyond the arc.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:22 PM

April 28, 2008

Uncles and Aunts

People have been coming from far and wide to see Alden. It's nice that they make the trek. As many of you know, Chestertown is not exactly on the beaten path.

The other night, just after midnight, we were in bed, about to go to sleep, when we heard Iggy barking crazily from the porch. Since Iggy is known to bark crazily at leaves blowing across the yard, we didn't immediately assume the worst. Still, since Iggy seemed bent on continuing to bark, Robbi went downstairs to investigate. When she came back up a few minutes later, she was accompanied by a surprise visitor.

Uncle Roji had flown in from San Francisco for a surprise baby visit.

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It's a long way to come to see a baby. We were so pleased.

As I've already mentioned, Aunt Gina and Uncle King came to visit about a week ago.

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Gina was intrepid in her baby care, nimbly navigating the twin challenges of the Snugli and the "Norwegian Excursion" at the local coffee shop.

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Later, she and Grandpa John teamed up to teach Alden a thing or two about football.

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Auntie Maiko, denizen of Vancouver, has visited twice already in the course of Alden's short life, but I currently lack the photos to prove it.

Alden still has a number of aunts and uncles to meet.

Aunt Courtney is in Missouri applying to PA programs and has not had a free moment to meet the baby.

Aunt Andy is in Haiti doing good for the world. (Read about all the goodness here.)

Uncle Alex is at Fort Benning protecting the country. (To see how swell he looks in uniform, click here.)

And Aunt Lindsay is three weeks shy of making me an uncle. (Click here for some outstanding belly shots.) I'm really looking forward to it.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:32 PM

Multitasking

Contrary to the impression one might get from reading this blog, Alden is not the center of Robbi's and my universe. She is cute and tiny and great and all, but we are very busy people with full and complicated lives. We are not the sort to be derailed by the arrival of an upstart baby. For example, my higher education marketing work continues apace.

Just last week I was in the midst of writing an undergraduate viewbook for a very fine liberal arts university when it came my turn to look after the baby.

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Alden lay upon my lap, correcting my spelling, lambasting my overuse of the passive tense, and periodically making noises akin to the squeaks of a guinea pig. Her unwelcome contributions, consistently unhelpful, did not keep me from the task at hand.

Further, our Idiots'Books ventures continue at full steam. Last week we prepared the Volume 14 mailing. Again, Alden insisted on being cared for. This time it fell to Robbi to cater to the baby's petty whims while doing the honest work of the household.

Robbi was the epitome of the multitasker.

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She made notes in the subscriber notebook with one hand while entering data into the subscriber spreadsheet with another. With one foot she gently rocked the restless baby. With the other she successfully fended off not one, but two, dogs in want of attention.

Later, when the muscles in poor Robbi's foot had turned to utter mush, it fell to me to soothe the baby while I folded letters, placed stamps, stuffed envelopes, adhered labels, and licked foul gummed surfaces.

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This darn baby makes things take twice as long.

Those of you who feel (and rightly so) that Volume 14 was a few weeks too slow in arriving at your doorstep may blame the small, ungrateful child.

But don't expect an apology.

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It's simply not her style.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:10 AM

April 25, 2008

One Month

It's hard to believe that it has been a month since that long, surprising day when Alden showed up and changed things all at once. To commemorate her first month of life, we took her to see the doctor and his colorful waiting room.

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While the nurse was weighing her (and to be weighed, a baby must be wearing nothing), Alden peed extravagantly all over everything. The nurse was good-natured and soldiered on. While the nurse was measuring her from head to toe, Alden upped the ante, making a prolific mess all over everything. The nurse was stoic, unflappable. We were torn between mortification and amusement.

We moved to "the purple room" for the exam proper. Since the doctor was going to need to see Alden in her natural state, we opted not to put her clothes back on. Dressed only in a diaper, she quickly got cold, so spent some time hiding under my shirt.

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I get the sense she liked it in there.

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The time came for the exam.

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Apparently, she has gained two pounds since our last appointment, two weeks ago. Apparently, this is a sign that she is getting enough to eat. Given the volume of what she produces, this came as no great surprise.

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The doctor's appointment was just the beginning of the celebration. In Japanese culture, the one-month birthday is a fairly big deal. The baby and its parents and other family members go to a shrine to celebrate the first month of life. Lacking a nearby shrine, we all convened at Bob and Seiko's house for a gyoza (fried dumpling) feast.

Seiko cooked.

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I ate.

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And Alden slept through her party.

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Seiko made a strawberry pizza for dessert.

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And Alden wasn't even interested. She had a terrible attitude about the party and threw a major hissy fit when presented with her card. Apparently, she had been hoping for a pony.

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Kids today...

Later on, when things quieted down, Alden enjoyed a little down time with Iggy, who consented to share her dog couch for the occasion.

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And thus ended a month of life. If Alden continues growing at her current pace, she will weigh 277 pounds by age ten. With any luck, the breast feeding will be over by then.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:32 PM

April 23, 2008

Alden's Big Weekend

Last weekend Grandpa John and Grandma Judy came to visit.

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There was great enthusiasm for their first grandchild.

Grandpa John brought Alden the smallest Kansas Jayhawks 2008 Championship commemorative t-shirt he could find.

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And Grandma Judy brought a beautiful handmade quilt she has been working on for months.

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We were blown away by the needlework.

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Alden was pleased by the fact that it was soft and enveloping.

There was a lot of hugging and beholding and admiring.

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And then more of the same.

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And even more of the same.

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Alden was wary, skeptical, looking to me for grounding in this mad world of senseless adoration.

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I took her home for a nap. We were exhausted by it all.

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The next day we went to the health department to pick up Alden's birth certificate.

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The woman behind the counter informed us that, in the three years she had worked at the health department, we were the first people who had taken photos of the birth certificate receiving process.

I was torn between pride and shame.

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Aunt Gina came to visit, bringing a jade plant that we are sure to kill.

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Grandma Judy tried to kidnap Alden, who was, by this point, growing accustomed to the largesse.

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The day was quite sunny, so we bought Alden a sunbonnet.

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She was kind enough to let me try it out.

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For one resplendent moment I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Which traumatized my small daughter, who expects me to be masculine and sturdy.

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That night we got a half-bushel of steamed crabs, which I tore to pieces with my bare hands.

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It comforted Alden, who felt that sanity had been restored to her fragile universe.

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The next day we drove to Baltimore to attend Christian and Emily's bowling baby shower.

Alden met Rich, who rocked her world.

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Christian wielded his Steelers bowling ball, which spelled sure doom for the pins.

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After the shower, we had some raw oysters and steamed mussels in Fels Point. Alden was unimpressed.

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She is surprisingly unadventurous when it comes to diet.

The rest of the grandparent visit was a lot more of hugging and such.

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Alden suddenly fit perfectly into her Jayhawks championship garb.

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And posed for a picture with Grandpa John.

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John and Judy have returned to Kansas City, and we have returned to preparing Alden for her SATs. She has been doing terribly in reading comprehension and shows little promise in expository writing, but we have a growing inkling that she might be an analogy girl. Only time will bear it out.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:12 PM

April 20, 2008

Ringing Endorsement

Although Alden is generally an agreeable child, she does, like many other babies, occasionally find herself in a cranky place from which no amount of soothing tones or pleading inducements will easily extract her. We recently came in contact with a miraculous device that, coupled with an irritable baby, creates quiet, calm, and sometimes even the dulcet murmur of baby joy.

Friends, I present the Baby Bjorn, which is basically an angled rack for hanging one's baby upon. Perhaps that sounds unkind, but oh, how well it works.

From fussy baby...

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...to happy baby...

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...to quietly unconscious baby...

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...in about thirty seconds. What's not to love?

Posted by bogenamp at 10:53 PM

April 17, 2008

Bathtime Blues

Robbi's sister Maiko is visiting, and since it was recently her birthday, we decided to bake a cake. This required a trip to the supermarket.

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There was a great deal of oohing and aahing on the part of the other shoppers. One woman asked (with glee, I might add) if Alden was a preemie. I guess people just help themselves around babies, especially those on the small side.

We decided to make a pineapple upside down cake, because you just can't beat the stick of butter and cup of brown sugar that goes into the pan before you even get started. There is also the side benefit of the extra pineapple juice. It has to go somewhere, right?

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There is a kind of pleasure in building a cake upside down.

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The sisters made themselves useful while we baked.

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When we were done with the "top" of the cake, we added the "bottom".

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We put the cake in the oven and checked the box for baking instructions: 43 minutes, it said. "What in the heck are we going to do for the next 43 minutes?" we said to ourselves. "How about torment the baby," we mused. "She looks far too content."

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And so we shucked off her knickers and took her to the bathroom.

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About five seconds after this photo was taken, my shirt and pants were soaked. And not by the water from the sink. She is a spiteful thing, this baby.

And so we put her in the sink and proceeded to exact our revenge.

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She was not graceful in defeat.

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We finished our business and tried to show our benevolence by wrapping her in a clean white towel.

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Five seconds after this photo was taken, the towel was neither clean nor white. And neither was the baby. Another bath was in order. We washed her again, we toweled her again. She violated yet another towel. It was a vicious cycle. By the time we achieved the state of clean, dry, diapered, peaceful baby, we had generated an entire load of laundry and both had to change our clothes entirely.


She is lucky to be cute and small. She is lucky that we are biologically disposed to care for our young.

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We may have won the battle, but we are clearly losing this war.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:25 AM

April 13, 2008

One Small Job

The baby likes to sleep.

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And you'd think this was a good thing. But she sleeps at the wrong time. She sleeps during the day. All day. Every day.

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One of the sneaky things about babies is that in addition to sleeping, they spend some time awake. And babies that sleep all day stay awake all night. We know this because we also stay awake all night. Or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that Robbi stays awake all night. I have become a real pro at sleeping in the midst of Alden's most lusty nocturnal shrieks.

This evening I am watching the Red Sox/Yankees game. In addition to watching the game, I have a baby-related job. It is simple: keep the baby awake. No problem, I said, almost bragging, as Robbi handed her to me.

This is going to be easy, I said, as I gently encouraged the baby to wake.

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She wasn't entirely convinced that it was a good idea.

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Come on, I said, I'm lots of fun. Let's do this.

She immediately became completely focused and alert.

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And then fell into a profound slumber.

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You're making me look bad, I said. Come on, now.

She mustered a modicum of enthusiasm.

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I decided to turn on the charm. When charming, I am irresistible to babies.

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But perhaps my own child is immune.

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My bag of tricks depleted, I had no choice but to despair.

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Robbi, shrewd veteran mother that she has become, suggested that I try to cast a spell on the baby.

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The fact that I lack magical powers didn't seem to be an issue to Alden, who, to my surprise and delight, suddenly woke up.

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From that moment, it has been smooth sailing. The baby and I (and Iggy) have been watching the game and doing various chores while Robbi gets a well-deserved nap.

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In other news, there was a parade today in Chestertown.

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It was a tiny parade. One banner, one drum major, one small band, and one small group of flag waving people.

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I don't know what, if any, occasion there was for the parade. Seiko suggested that perhaps they were just practicing for a more important day, when an actual parade would be called for. There was a light drizzle and not a single spectator along the streets, so I was glad to be there with my camera.

It's sad to think of a parade for no one.

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The small parade was gone as quickly as it came, much like this sleepless weekend.

I must return to the baby. I am once more failing at my job.

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Posted by bogenamp at 10:21 PM

April 08, 2008

An End to Madness

When it comes to college basketball, there are only two things that can make me feel better about Duke not winning the national championship.

1) North Carolina also not winning the national championship.

2) Kansas winning the national championship.

Those of you who do not live under rocks already know that KU beat Memphis in dramatic fashion last night to win the men's NCAA Division I title and officially bring the madness to a close. I spent some formative years living in the great state of Kansas and still feel a great deal of fondness for the place, so it was not at all difficult to throw my full support behind the Jayhawks.

Of course, I required Alden to watch the entire game, explaining the rules as she took it all in.

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Although she was obviously having a fantastic time (it was an exciting game), she wasn't really following things all that well in the first half. And then I remembered that babies her age can only see about 16 inches in front of their faces. And so we moved a bit closer for the second half, at which point she really started enjoying herself.

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The game went into overtime. At that point Alden had developed a veteran's feel for the game. She was highly critical of Memphis's play in overtime, but I rather suspect that she was already betraying a KU bias.

I will have to remind her next November who her favorite team actually is.

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We can't let the excitement of a championship muddy the waters.


Posted by bogenamp at 11:13 PM

April 07, 2008

Back to the Baby

If I've learned anything this past few weeks, it's that people like babies. The tracking software tells me that the seven days following Alden's birth yielded the highest traffic in Barnstorming history by a factor of three. It is worth noting that yesterday, April 6, was the Barnstorming's two-year birthday. For a blast from the past, go back to the very beginning and have a look at the barn before we started taking all of the junk out.

As for the present, I know I've been keeping you all from glimpses of the baby these past few days. You'll be glad to know that my need to self-promote has been well sated by the past few entries, and now I'm ready to catch you up on Alden, who has had a rather eventful week.

For example, poor little sucker learned the hard way that Robbi won't share an ice cream cone with anyone, not even her own child.

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Which compelled Alden to try her hardest to summon the dark powers of Lucifer.

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Things got ugly for a while, but eventually Robbi and Alden decided to call a truce and have a nap together.

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Later that day a package arrived from our friends Garet and Matt, and the lobbying for college allegiance officially began.

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Alden has the burden of being related to no fewer than five graduates of Williams College (father, mother, grandfather, and two others whose exact relationship I lack the genealogical vocabulary to describe) and will invariably be inundated with Williams propaganda throughout her life.

"Why not start now then?" said Grandpa Bob.

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Apparently Alden will be influenced not only by people who went to Williams but also by small plush bears in Eph garb.

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Last Thursday, Alden made her first trip to the pediatrician.

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We learned that she is in good health, and that she had gained a full 11 ounces in one week since leaving the hospital. The nurses complimented mom and baby both on the good work. I was given no share of the credit.

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Later that day, the college lobbying began from another direction.

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My mother, Duke grad and former Duke cheerleader, was the culprit.

Also included in the day's mail was a fuzzy bear, which promptly attacked and subdued Alden, to the satisfaction of both.

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Friday brought a visit from the democratic family Westbrook. According to their egalitarian ways, each got a chance to hold the baby.

Barbara

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Jennifer

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Kira

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And Matt

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After examining the child, the Westbrooks concurred that Alden is an agreeable sort of baby. As a result, they rewarded her with a treasure from the Westbrook Easter egg cache, modified slightly for our child.

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What cannot be appreciated by this photo is that the egg sits on a pedestal that is, in fact, a fossilized shark vertebral disk more than five million years old. Matt found the fossil at a phosphate mine in Aurora, North Carolina. When we registered for a five million year old vertebral disk, I honestly hadn't imagined that someone would be able to find one. Way to go, family Westbrook!

On Friday night, Chestertown was hopping with festivity. We strapped Alden into the Snugli and headed out on the town.

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There was a poetry festival at Bookplate. Alden joined me as I read a Yehuda Amichai poem. Afterward, we went to the Massoni gallery to see the opening of Marcy Dunn Ramsey's show. Marcy is an amazing artist who is best known for capturing the beauty of the Eastern Shore's marshes. She was also Robbi's first art teacher. It seemed fitting then, that Alden should own one of Marcy's paintings. This quiet work, Afternoon Tea, was the gift of our benefactress Carla Massoni.

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We are hoping that Alden will eventually cultivate at least a bit more enthusiasm for art.

My mom, Alden's other grandmother, paid a visit this weekend.

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Alden insisted on donning the pink Duke bib to please her.

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Mom, Alden, and I were discussing the prospects for next year's Blue Devil team when Alden fell asleep mid-cheer, as if realizing that the off-season is long and that she'll need to rest up to be ready for full fandom come November.

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But then I told her that the University of North Carolina and the hated Tyler Hansbrough had been ousted from the tournament by the University of Kansas and she perked right up.

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For a two-week-old, the kid's sure got her priorities straight.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:27 PM

April 06, 2008

Even More Self-Promotion

Friends, if you have a few minutes, I invite you to read a book review I wrote for the New Haven Review. The assignment was to select a book that had been neglected by mainstream media but which I felt deserved critical attention. I chose Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre, one of my favorite comics of all time.

In addition to being brilliant and all, Lilli is a very nice person. Which goes a long way if you ask me. I could gush on and on about her work, but I'd prefer that you read my review in all of its carefully-crafted glory.

Here's the cover to Woodsman Pete

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Click here to view some pages.

And here is a link you can follow to buy it. At $7, it's one of the least expensive pieces of bliss you'll ever encounter.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:50 PM

April 05, 2008

More Self-Promotion

I was recently given the opportunity to write an article about a good friend of mine who some of you might know. Gina Coleman and I were colleagues during the five years I spent working in the Williams College admission office, and during that time worked together on minority recruitment and on the College's effort to attract students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. For three years, during the Williams' January term, Gina and I taught a course together: a field practicum that sent Williams students into local high schools to moderate a game called Quest for College. The game, which was intended to create excitement about the possibilities offered by higher education among students from disadvantaged backgrounds, is one of many early awareness initiatives in place across the country with the shared goal of leveling the playing field when it comes to access to higher education.

I left the Williams admission office in '03. Gina stayed on for a few more years, earned her PhD, and not long ago became one of the deans of Williams. She's also the women's rugby coach at the College, is the lead singer for two bands, and is a mother of two. In her "free time" she runs a nonprofit organization devoted to creating partnerships with school districts, colleges and universities, and corporations who have need of a tool like Quest for College in implementing early awareness programming in their communities.

A mere 18 months into its existence, the Quest for College nonprofit is doing amazing things. Before I re-write the entire article, I should leave room for the possibility that you might actually want to read it.

To find the article, click here and once you reach the Alumni Review home page, click on "Paying it Forward", which should be the third item under "March 2008."

Happy reading. Gina's story is so rich as to practically write itself.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:00 AM

April 04, 2008

A Hint of Things to Come

This is not a smile. It's too early for that.

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But it kind of looks like one.

One of the most interesting things about this tiny baby is how arbitrary her facial expressions seem. Over the course of a day, her face suggests an astonishing range of emotions: concern, surprise, suspicion, boredom, contemplation, reflection. Sometimes she looks coy and other times wistful, dreaming of the better days back in the womb.

Surely the underlying emotional life is not as rich as the face would suggest. Surely her face is just practicing for what will be asked of it as life marches forward and things grow ever more complicated.

For today, I'll revel in this practice smile, which lasted only moments, and hope that there are many more ahead.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:27 AM

April 02, 2008

Hip and Hidden

I'm going to disappoint most of you right now by talking about something other than Alden. Yesterday we received a new subscription order from a woman in San Francisco, someone whose name was not familiar to us. I wrote her an email asking how she found out about us. She replied that she had read about us on Whitney Matheson's blog Pop Candy, a USA Today publication dedicated to "unwrapping pop culture's hip and hidden treasures." Whitney had been running a monthly series on comics in weekly installments. The fourth installment was a list of her top 25 "personal favorites" and friends, we appear as number nine. This fact leads us to a number of conclusions:

1) we are hip (did you suspect this?)
2) we are hidden (no surprise here)
3) Idiots'Books is part of pop culture
4) if Whitney Matheson has her way, we are in the process of being unwrapped

We were delighted to be included along with the likes of Lilli Carre and Renee French, real live figures in the indie comics world.

If this external affirmation compels you to subscribe to Idiots'Books or just buy a book or two for your loved ones, who are we to stop you?

And here's a baby picture, just for the hell of it.

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Posted by bogenamp at 11:00 PM

April 01, 2008

More Loot

We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family in regards to gifts for Alden. It is perhaps no accident that we humans seem so giddy at the thought of babies, given the evolutionary benefit of caring about and desiring to protect the smallest among us. But still it is affirming and wonderful to feel that so many people care so much about this tiny person of ours. It makes us happy to know that she is entering such a large and loving extended family.

Today's mail brought a very stylish package from our friends Marigold and Steve.

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Inside of which were two sets of beautiful handmade booties.

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Marigold is something of a crafter. Click here to see more of her work or here to read her blog, which frequently features pictures and movies of a very cute baby.

And how did Alden respond to the booties? What do you expect from she who is the nexus of so much attention? Outrage that they were not dipped in gold, that they contained no tiny diamonds.

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Marigold, thoughtful person that she is, also included a gift for Iggy, whose recent neglect has been much chronicled.

Iggy was much more gracious than Alden.

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Once unwrapped, her gift was revealed to be a wonderful, whimsical sausage-like doll thing.

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She asked us if, in order to properly express her gratitude, she might tear it into tiny pieces. We said no.

After the presents were opened, we settled down to lunch, which, on this glorious day, turned out to be enormous bowls of strawberry shortcake.

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According to the alternative physics that defines the Behr universe, strawberry shortcake is not a desert, but a perfectly acceptable noontime meal.

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Alden wasn't feeling quite up to eating hers, so I helped out.

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I'm trying hard to be that kind of dad.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:14 PM