November 16, 2009
As she continues to grow, learn, develop, etc., Alden has two favorite activities. One is climbing onto the dining room table and strutting around like a lunatic. The other is dressing herself in whatever bits of clothing she can find.
We often use the dining room table to fold the laundry, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Alden. Yesterday we caught her in the act of combining her two favorite hobbies.
Note: Robbi's pride was only marginally damaged in the posting of this photo.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:41 PM
November 09, 2009
Alden went to visit Cannon today for the first time in months. He and his mom returned from an extended trip last weekend, and so we drove over this afternoon to say hello.
At first, Alden wasn't sure what to think of Cannon. He is taller than he used to be.
But as soon as she figured out that he had acquired a set of wheels, she was good to go.
Alden sat in the back while Cannon drove. Basically, he treated her like an overstuffed recliner. But she didn't seem to mind.
Neither did she seem to notice that they were holding up traffic.
When we got to the playground, both seemed loath to get out of the wagon.
But eventually the lure of the slide proved too powerful.
Bored with the slide, they moved on to the swings.
Disenchanted with the swings, they decided to tackle the big kid slide.
To the top.
And down again.
After the excitement of the big kid slide, Alden needed a few moments to sit and collect herself.
Suddenly, she was ready to go. She let us know by going and sitting by herself in the wagon.
I figured that she'd get bored of sitting by herself and would come back to the playground after a few minutes. I was wrong.
It was a good reunion all around. No one got hurt. Polite cheek-peck kisses were exchanged at the end.
Later tonight, Alden threw a total fit right at the top of the stairs. Perhaps she was lovesick?
Or maybe just tired from all the swinging.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:15 PM
November 04, 2009
Let Her Eat Cake
Bob and Seiko have a friend in Washington, D.C. who cooks a mighty fine pound cake. Every time they go to visit her, they come back home with a fresh-baked cake in tow. Lately, they have been generously sharing with Alden.
Even at her relatively young age, Alden seems to understand the importance and specialness of the pound cake.
What she does not seem to grasp is the decorum that typically surrounds cake consumption, especially when dining in mixed company. The way she sees it, if cake is present and it's not in her mouth, there's a big problem, and the best way to address said problem is to reach out and grab a fistful.
She is lucky that such things are so endearing when done by one so small. I'm guessing that Bob would not take as kindly to me trying to pull the same move.
I wonder what day, precisely, it suddenly becomes unacceptable, uncute, unwelcome to reach into a cake with eager fingers.
Alden, I think, still has some time left to enjoy this sort of thing.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:17 PM
November 01, 2009
Which came first?
Because it is Halloween, Robbi decided to dress up as a chicken sitting on an egg.
Given the unavoidable problem of a larger-than-usual midsection, she decided to work with the bulge and not against it. First she put on a white undershirt. Then she took a black shirt and cut an egg-shaped hole. A bunch of craft paper formed the "nest", and Seiko's chicken hat completed the ensemble.
She was gratified by her costume but felt that something was missing.
Alden was happy to oblige.
Here they are together. It's a poignant of the real-life drama currently unfolding unbeknownst to Alden, who has no concept of what manner of life-changing calamity is waiting in that innocent-seeming egg.
We spent a few minutes debating timeless questions regarding eggs and chickens, but didn't really get anywhere. And so Robbi and Alden headed for the Halloween parade while I readied the studio for the madding crowds.
We'll be here from 10-5 tomorrow (Sunday) for the second day of the Artworks Open Studio Tour, so feel free to swing by for hot tea and some early Christmas shopping.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:06 AM
October 28, 2009
This past summer, a very nice young woman named Tilly spent some time with Alden while Robbi and I worked. Tilly frequently wore a red bandanna. When she returned to college in the fall, the bandanna remained behind and has been sitting on a table in our barn for several months now.
The other day, Alden chanced to notice the bandanna, and wasted no time in using it to craft a new identity.
At first I thought it cute, this tiny child in her bandanna, but when she made the two-hand "Westside," I began to worry.
Yesterday, Alden spent all afternoon with Robbi, who I have always suspected might be somehow involved in gang activity. What they might have discussed, I cannot say, but the evidence of Alden's precipitous moral decline has begun to mount.
Beyond the bandanna, I cite her recent interest in hip hop music.
She just can't seem to get enough of the stuff.
The peaceful streets of Chestertown beware.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:21 AM
October 26, 2009
The Looming Issue
I'm fairly convinced that Alden is blissfully unaware of the impending arrival of Tarzan and the utter chaos it will exact upon her heretofore idyllic life. As far as she knows, she lives in a barn with her mom and dad, and that's the way it's always going to be.
But she also seems to be an observant child. When a plane flies by, she points to the sky and says something that vaguely sounds like "plane." How could she help but notice the dramatic overhaul to her mother's abdominal landscape?
Perhaps she has pet theories involving cupcakes and ice cream? At times she is caught off guard, looking suddenly at Robbi as if to say, "What the...?"
We have been occasionally pointing to the bulge, introducing the concept of "baby," one of Alden's favorite words.
But the concept is probably confusing, given that Robbi's bulging midsection bears little resemblance to the smiling, curly-headed cherubs that so delight Alden when we stroll down the diaper aisle at Target.
At times, she has attempted to investigate the source of the uncanny protrusion.
But so far as we know, the mystery remains unsolved. Whether she understands on some level the looming consequence or is merely humoring us, Alden has adopted an affectionate relationship with the bulge.
And how could she not? It's awfully cute.
According to the folks at babycenter.com, Tarzan is looking something like this these days.
Robbi has just entered her eighth month of the current campaign. 198 days down, 82 to go. She continues to be continually pummeled, leading her to believe that she is growing some kind of vigorous giant. But the doctor tells us that Robbi is, in fact, two pounds lighter than she was at this time in her first pregnancy, so perhaps we're in line for another small dynamo.
I'm not sure we can handle another.
But it would appear that there's no turning back now.
Posted by bogenamp at 05:37 PM
October 20, 2009
Alden and I were hanging tonight before bed. It was nice, very relaxing. Low key.
We identified our elbows.
We tried on our glasses.
We shared conspiratorial whispers.
And then, without warning, Alden reached over to my bedside table and found a tube of cherry flavored Chap Stick. Clearly she was intrigued, confused, curious, and desperate for answers.
I looked at the clock. It was almost bedtime. It didn't seem like the proper setting or time of day for imparting paternal wisdom, but I decided to step up and try my best.
When I explained to Alden that Chap Stick is basically one of the most important items in the world and that maintaining well-moistened lips is one of the central tenets of basic happiness, she seemed incredulous. When I told her that there might be no greater pleasure in life than sharing Chap Stick with someone else, she decided to give it a try.
I went on to explain the many virtues of Chap Stick: its flavor variety, its handy tube, its reasonable price...and its ability to revive the dead.
I explained the fundamentals of this latter point (rub Chap Stick on lips of recently deceased), and then we ran a simulation.
Once I had been successfully revived, Alden became a true believer. We spent a few enjoyable minutes together moisturizing our lips.
It was awesome.
Before long, though, Alden started to wonder about the horizons of Chap Stick's usefulness and the flexibility of its applications. Could it, for example, be applied to one's nose? And to what end?
The experiment went horribly awry.
For some reason, Alden lost interest in the Chap Stick after that.
Then suddenly I lost interest just as Alden got interested once again. It was a real roller coaster.
It's an incredibly complex thing emotionally, the relationship between humans and Chap Stick. On one hand, I'm glad that Alden is getting a head start in the lifelong struggle to come to terms with lip balm, but on the other hand, I wonder if she's too young to really grasp these slippery issues.
So overwhelmed were we with our Chap Stick-related emotions, that we decided to cry.
It felt good, but once we got started, we could not stop.
Through the tears and lament, we took some comfort in knowing that our lips were in no danger of drying out.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:05 PM
October 05, 2009
A Weekend in Kansas City
After the debacle with the inside-out shirt, our visit with Grandpa John and Grandma Judy has gone much more smoothly. I think it's even fair to say that we've been having fun.
Went out to breakfast.
Waited for a table.
Tried the new menu items.
And hung out with Great-Grandma Alma.
We went to the dump to do recycling.
And had to recover by taking a nap.
We ate breakfast on the patio.
And hung out with Grandma Judy.
After breakfast, we went to Powell Gardens and got lost in a maze of hay bales.
Met a scarecrow.
And totally dissed it.
We played in fountains.
Observed bananas in the act of growing.
Met a terrifying clown.
Walked right by Whistler's Mummy without saying hi.
Reflected on the subtle majesty of nature.
Stole strawberries from the horticultural exhibit and ate them in spite of the rules.
Rode a horse.
Primed the pump.
Watered the plants.
Got Gothic with Grandpa John.
Climbed into the chicken coop.
And climbed back out again.
We took a ride on the barrel train.
Down a big hill and back again.
Back home again, we grilled.
Ate lemon meringue pie.
Tried on Grandpa John's glasses.
And wracked our brains trying to figure out what he was thinking when he dressed Alden inside out on Friday morning.
To cap it all off, we had a bath.
And now we are in bed, where anyone should be at 12:30 on a Sunday night. Except for Robbi, who in all likelihood is just getting started with her day.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:54 AM
October 02, 2009
Grandpa Dressed Me This Morning
It's morning in Lee's Summit, Missouri. On surface, everything seems to be fine. The sun is out. The coffee is brewing. There are Mardi Gras beads to play with.
But beneath the pleasant, calm veneer, trouble is afoot. A closer look at Alden reveals a tag and backwards-facing seams.
Indeed, this child was dressed inside-out this morning.
But I'm not complaining. While I slept in, Grandpa John fetched an early-rising Alden from her crib, bathed her, dressed her, and sat her down for breakfast. We can forgive a bit of mishap. In fact, I am impressed that he was able to get the neck snaps to attach inside out.
But it does make me wonder how often I must have gone to preschool dressed in similar disarray. Perhaps this morning's episode sheds some light on the social difficulties that plagued my elementary school years.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:21 AM
September 23, 2009
Tuckahoe Tire Park
The other day, Robbi needed some quiet time to work on illustrating our latest book, and so Alden and I headed out in search of adventure. A friend had recently told us about Tuckahoe State Park, a beautiful wooded area with a lake, trails, picnic areas, and a recycled tire park. Alden perked right up when she heard about the tires. And so we headed out.
The tire park was, as advertised, full of tires.
Tires with bits of tire strung between them.
Tires attached to balance beams.
Tires piled in an enormous pyramid.
It was a wonderland of tires.
Alden was pleased.
She felt so inspired by the tires, that she insisted on wearing my hat and sunglasses, so that she could, as she told me, "Look just as cool as you, Papa."
But Alden's favorite part of Tuckahoe Tire Park had nothing to do with tires. Rather, her heart belonged to the 8-foot slide.
I asked her if she thought she was up to the challenge.
She scoffed, sat down at the top, and proceeded to put her fanny where my doubt was.
The tires were forgotten as she redefined speed.
Once safely at the bottom of the slide, she climbed back up to the top again.
And then she came back down. Exactly twelve times in a row.
An even dozen slides under her belt, she raised her arms to me, said "up", and our Tuckahoe outing came to the end. The girl knows when she's done.
Alden slept all the way home. While we were gone, Robbi completed half of the illustrations for the new book, which will, we imagine, be a crowd favorite. Detailing the adventures of a particularly ornery rodent, Nasty Chipmunk will first meet the public this weekend at the Small Press Expo. Subscribers will receive their copies in a few weeks.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:30 PM
September 16, 2009
If you have not recently been to Home Depot with a small child, you might not have noticed the NASCAR shopping carts. Alden noticed. She noticed right away.
It only took moments behind the wheel(s) to cultivate the cool demeanor, the steely glare of the stock car driver. Tell me if you've ever seen someone eat an apple with such evident disdain.
Once she got the hang of it, Alden started doing tricks.
The "Left-Hand Backup."
The "Fists of Fury."
And, last but not least, the . . . ?
I scratch my head. Some moves defy words.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:32 PM
September 13, 2009
When we got back from a walk around the park the other day, Alden ran over to the fridge and banged against the door, a sure sign that she was interested in having something to drink. I asked her if she wanted juice or milk. She said "Yes," so I handed her both.
Clearly, the situation was baffling.
On one hand, juice was sweet and refreshing.
On the other hand, milk was cool and nourishing.
Unable to decide which beverage she craved, Alden moved to a more comfortable chair to continue her contemplation.
She fretted as she tried to puzzle it out.
A few minutes later, the storm clouds cleared, and she seemed to have made her peace with the situation.
I cannot say what manner of revelation came to pass in that fuzzy little head of hers, but for now, at least, juice and milk do not seem to be incompatible concepts.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:36 PM
September 07, 2009
Derailed: Comics Off the Beaten Path
Robbi and I have been invited to participate in a group show celebrating the work of contemporary comic artists. The show, called Derailed: Comics Off the Beaten Path, is being mounted at Sacred Heart University's Gallery of Contemporary Art. It opens this Sunday, September 13 and runs through October 29.
If you happen to be in the vicinity of Fairfield, Connecticut this coming Sunday (Sept. 13), there will be an opening reception from 1:00-3:30pm followed by a panel discussion during which Robbi and I will be expected to say profound things. Come see for yourself whether or not we are able to pull it off (Robbi has her doubts). Even if we are not able to pull it off, there will likely be wine, cheese, and cocktail napkins to enjoy.
Here's a link to some short essays about each of the artists (click the link at the top of the page to see a slideshow of the various artists' work, including some early sketches from The Baby is Disappointing and The Contented.)
Further, if you wish to find yourself in our eternal debt, we are actively looking for someone willing/interested/not unwilling to restrain Alden's wild impulses during the panel. We have occasionally allowed her to be present for our public appearances and have found her contributions not to our liking. Her various yells, squawks, and shrieks may well be profound, but not in any language that we speak.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:09 PM
August 31, 2009
Alden has been enjoying herself these last few days. Yesterday, she and Robbi went to Baltimore to visit Iris, Christian, and Emily.
Every time they get together, the girls understand one another just a bit better than they had the time before. They know one another's names now. Occasionally they say them. When one of them throws something across the room, the other one scurries to pick it up.
Yesterday, they played with bubbles.
And ate popsicles.
Alden shared hers with Christian.
This morning, back home, we had a nice surprise. Bob and Seiko brought Alden a pound cake.
She unwrapped it.
And admired it.
And decided to take a bite.
Luckily for the rest of us, she has a very small mouth.
Seeking greater efficiency, Alden acquired a knife. We decided it was time for her to return to the floor.
Once there, she found my shoes.
To our surprise, they fit her perfectly.
With a belly full of cake and shoes on her feet, Alden accompanied me to Eastern Neck Island for a bit of adventure.
She power walked through the marshes.
She navigated obstacles.
She climbed to the top of the observation platform.
She reveled in the thrill of ascent.
Emboldened, she stole my hat and glasses.
She was smug and satisfied.
Eventually, she returned my belongings. I can't say why.
Maybe she was embarrassed to be seen with me.
I decided to try and teach her some new skills. Since she is my child, she will eventually need to know how to jump. I showed her how it worked.
And she tried to follow suit.
And tried some more.
Eventually she quit in wretched disappointment. I tried to console her, but she fled into the wilderness in shame.
When I finally caught up to her on the boardwalk, she was far too busy to chat.
Apparently, it was time to feed her dog.
By the time she finished her picnic on the island, the failure to jump was long forgotten.
When we got home tonight, Alden's tried on her new shirt, a gift from a colleague of mine.
Contrary to appearances, it is not a choir robe. Rather, it is a very special shirt (albeit intended for a significantly larger child) from my very favorite organic burrito franchise.
My colleague knows someone who works for Chipotle. In addition to the shirt for Alden, there was a miniature foam-rubber burrito replica for me. The thing is so lifelike that I am tempted to try and eat it.
Apparently, Alden was fooled.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:16 PM
August 27, 2009
Just this morning, my mother sent me a link to a section of the Social Security Administration's website that tracks the occurrence (and thus the popularity) of various baby names in America.
If your name is on the list above, you may glow with pride to know that, had you been born in 2008, your name would be very, very popular.
I could not help but indulge my curiosity and find out just how popular (or not), Alden's name was.
According to my search, had Alden been a boy, her name would not have been very popular.
As a girl, however, Alden is so unpopular that her name does not rate among the top 1,000 in any of the last nine years.
Surely hers is a classic name, I said to myself. I just need to shift the parameters a bit and find the era in which her name was popular. I searched again.
Had Alden had been born in any of the last 99 years, she would still have been spectacularly unpopular.
The realization was crippling.
In a near panic, I searched for the new baby's name, certain that he or she would right the family's ship by surging to the heights of popularity.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
Desperate, I threw a Hail Mary:
But came up empty.
Thinking on this further, however, I am sanguine.
Given that Robbi and I have spent long stretches of our lives in states of profound unpopularity, it seems only fitting that our offspring should taste the bitter pill of like indignity.
That which does not kill us...
...leaves us still woefully unpopular.
Note: I see that this is The Barnstorming's 600th post. If you have found the time read all (or even most of them), I'm guessing that "popular" is not a word you often use to describe yourself.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:36 AM
August 19, 2009
Still Having Fun
My friend Kate wrote me today that it seemed that the ratio of posts about work relative to those about fun had grown skewed of late in the direction of work.
Perhaps this is true. We have been busy lately with various projects. But I assure you that we are still having plenty of fun. Life with Alden is consistently diverting. She is in the process of learning to speak, for example, which amuses and gratifies us. She can now correctly identify her ears, eyes, mouth, nose (though it is sometimes confused with ears), and belly button by pointing to the body part in question and crudely approximating the related word. She has been so far unwilling to repeat the feat for the video camera, but I will keep trying.
This evening, while we were cooking dinner, she disappeared briefly, and we wondered where she had gone. The answer came quickly. Apparently, it's no fun to spend time in the dark with a bunch of canned goods.
While she was in cabinet exploring mode, she investigated the cavern beneath the kitchen sink.
Again, the fascination was short-lived.
So yes, we are still having fun. And so much more fun lurks on the horizon. Robbi was sitting at her desk today and suddenly cried out in pain. She reported that young Tarzan had kicked her so hard that it actually hurt.
Given this tendency to violence and Robbi's recent, inexplicable craving for salami, I'm thinking this one might just be a boy.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:14 PM
August 09, 2009
Me and My Girl
Tomorrow we leave for a few days in Lake George, New York. We love it up there among the trees and old, small mountains, but Robbi had to get a few projects out the door before we left town, and so my job this weekend was keeping Alden (and myself) out of her hair.
On Saturday, the child and I set out for Eastern Neck Island, a state park near Rock Hall, a town on the Bay, about 25 minutes from Chestertown. The island is a great place to bird watch (when there are birds to be seen). This weekend apparently wasn't one of those times, but Alden and I took a walk across the boardwalk over the wetlands anyway.
Occasionally we crouched.
At the end of the flat part of the boardwalk, there is a stand of trees with a gravel path winding through it. This, too, is a fine place to crouch.
At the end of the gravel path is another boardwalk, this one a ramp leading up to a blind with clever slits for watching birds without being watched by the birds. As I've already mentioned, there were no birds to watch, so I watched Alden, who was also not watching birds.
After not watching birds, we stood near corn.
It was a real thrill. Or so I thought. Just when I thought we couldn't possibly have more fun, Alden implied (none too subtly) that it was time to go home.
While we were gone, Robbi got a lot done. So much so that she sent us off again today, this time to Betterton Beach, a very nice stretch of public sand on the Chesapeake (also about 25 minutes from Chestertown).
Alden was unsure at first what to make of the surf, which, considering her size, was rather impressive.
Her first temptation was to turn her back on the problem.
But then she looked around and saw the other children having fun and determined to find out what the fuss was all about.
She settled right in and seemed to have a very nice time.
When we were done swimming, she said something like, "Gosh, Dad, I love spending the entire weekend with you. Here's hoping Mom's really busy every weekend from now on."
What can I say? The kid seems to like me.
I think it has something to do with my sunglasses.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:10 PM
July 19, 2009
Alden in Alaska
Looking back, I can see it has been a while since I threw a bone to those of you who only tolerate these pages to see photos of my child. To that end, this entry will be devoted to Alden's adventures in Alaska this year.
She fared well on the 4.500 mile journey: Washington to Seattle to Anchorage to King Salmon to Coffee Point. The first three legs were on jets. Alden seems not to suffer from the horrible inner ear pain some babies experience during takeoff and landing. Instead she seems to suffer from a bad attitude.
The final leg of the journey, from King Salmon to Coffee Point, was in a five man, single propeller plane. Here's how Iggy traveled.
Here's the view of the tundra out of the right side of the plane.
And the left.
We landed, and Alden found the tundra to her liking.
We walked from the gravel airstrip to the Behr family compound, where Alden was promptly jailed for the remainder of our stay.
She pleaded for clemency, and we took mercy. From time to time, she was allowed short outings. She seemed to thrive out-of-doors, so we gave her a few modest responsibilities.
Motor pool management.
Waste incineration management.
Perimeter patrol (harpoon division):
Advanced tire inspection.
As weeks passed, she grew bolder and insisted on taking on new challenges.
She enjoyed buoy bouncing with Robbi.
She did not enjoy buoy bouncing with me.
One of the summer's more memorable passages came the night we decided to try some of the Japanese delicacies gifted by our friends Armand and Bernice, who had just returned from a visit to Nippon. First we sampled the barbequed whale meat, which was exotic in a good way: it tasted pretty much like beef, so we could feel bold and daring without actually suffering the discomfort of foodstuffs beyond one's textural comfort zone. Not so with the candied grasshoppers we tried next.
Exhibit 2: (notice the unsettling viscosity of the caramelized goo in which the grasshoppers are packed)
Exhibit 3: (Seiko, who has a taste for candied grasshoppers, was intrepid).
Exhibit 4: (corruption of a minor)
Exhibit 5: (the reaction)
Alden was not opposed to the grasshopper. In fact, she tried her darnedest to consume it. But lacking molars, she was not equal to the task of crushing its hard body into a state that could be swallowed.
After five minutes of letting her try, we removed the offending creature, tiny head, wings, and legs still intact.
I also tried the grasshoppers, adding another item to the list of foods that I simply do not want to eat. That list now includes: liver, beets, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and candied grasshoppers. If you ever want to torture me, here is the menu.
On our last day in Alaska, we added Alden to the wall on which Robbi and her siblings tracked their heights each summer in Alaska growing up.
Robbi was about 18 months the first time she went up there, so Alden's mark was the shortest on the wall, other than Mike the beloved dog, long gone but fondly remembered.
All in all, I'd say Alden thrived in Alaska. We won't know until her next checkup in a few weeks whether or not the medical community agrees. But for now, we're penciling her in for a return trip next year.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:26 AM
June 22, 2009
Yesterday was Father's Day. In honor of the occasion, Alden wore her favorite pair of pants.
Take a closer look.
I mean, these are extraordinary pants. The leg length is appropriate, but the distance from crotch to waistband is staggering. For whom were they designed? I'd love to see the child that fits them properly. Or perhaps that child would be terrifying.
Because it was Father's Day, my good friend and fellow father Christian was in town (with his wife and child).
It seemed appropriate to document the occasion.
Here is a closer look at Iris, who is coming along nicely.
And here's another look at Alden in her remarkable pants.
I mean, what is it with these pants? There is no way that any part of her pants should be visible in this photo.
I mean, they are horrible, these pants. Just awful. So grotesque as to demand a long stare. I feel like a rubbernecking driver, slowing down to see the grisly carnage on the other side of the highway.
The humanity! The horror! I cannot tear my eyes away.
And yet she seems to take it all in stride, comfortable and secure in herself and in her pants. If only we could bottle this moment and hand it off to her when she hits seventh grade. Who knows? These pants might well still fit her then, at least from the crotch to the waistband.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:49 PM
June 14, 2009
Virus and Funk
It has been a bleak week in the barn, with all three of us suffering from various aliments and mishaps. I will start with the child, who is on day four of some sort of meddlesome illness. She has been feverish and irksome and has spent most of recent days asleep. She has looked a lot like this for most of the weekend.
As if to compound the insult of her illness, we decided to try on Alden's new rain gear in advance of our trip to Alaska. She was not amused.
But she will be dry as the cold, wet tundra winds do blow.
Notice the coordinated green pants.
No one dresses this nice up there.
So the baby has been sick. Robbi and I have just been heartsick. Both of us had computer data snafus in the last few days. Mine resulted in losing more than a year of my writing files. Robbi's computer decided to purge a few weeks of photos. I cite these difficulties by way of explanation for the silence here of late.
In more cheerful news, Volume 21 was mailed out on Saturday. Titled The Last of the Real Small Farmers, the book represents a departure from our usual fare on several fronts. On one hand, we decided to widen the collaboration. Friend and fellow writer Brian Francis Slattery joined us in putting the thing together. Also, Volume 21 is not fiction. It is, in fact, an illustrated oral history of sorts. Brian and I edited an interview with a guy named Bill and Robbi illustrated it. I'll post some images in a few days.
We did have one particularly nice moment this week. A few nights ago, Robbi happened to look out the window just as the sun was setting. The sky was gorgeous, and so we went outside for a better view. It had just stopped raining and everything was glistening.
We feared the camera wouldn't be able to do justice to the sky, and it didn't, but even this faint approximation of how things looked that night, with everything in profile, gives a sense of how lovely things can be, even in the middle of a bad week.
Robbi is so good at noticing the small, important things in life. It's why I like her so much.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:13 PM
June 01, 2009
Ice Custard Happiness
Alden has been emboldened by her recent encounter with the strawberries. Today she demanded that we take her to the frozen ice stand, where she ordered a mini-cone of ice custard.
The promised happiness soon followed.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:29 PM
Just outside of town is Lockbriar Farms, a place that encourages the pick-your-own approach. And it happens to be strawberry season. My longstanding aversion to gardening extends to berry picking (proximity to dirt; sticky fingers), and so Robbi and Alden have been making the trek to fill pint containers with juicy red berries. Alden's enthusiasm for strawberries has recently been complicated by her insistence on using a fork. Here's what happens when the two forces combine.
First, the skewering (fun, but difficult).
Followed by the approach.
Which sometimes goes awry.
But she is determined and persistent.
And has a truly enormous mouth.
She is developing some specialized techniques. For example, the front-facing.
And the ally-oop (fork to fist to mouth).
As far as Alden is concerned, the only problem with strawberries is that, eventually, they all get eaten.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:36 AM
May 13, 2009
Meanwhile, in Missouri
Lest you think that Alden and I have been idle while Robbi works all day and night on the mural, I will share some scenes from recent days.
There has been scowling.
And lots of walking.
There has been companionship.
And noticing of small things.
And picking small things up.
And helping Frog Boy fill his basket.
There has been gong ringing with Grandpa John.
And more companionship.
There has been exploring with Grandpa John.
And exploring all alone.
There has been stopping to smell the flowers.
And picking them.
And reveling in the abiding joy of nature in its endless bounty.
There has been lots of eating.
And testing/approval of the KC strip steaks.
And grudging acceptance of the fact that although this is what I had for dinner...
...she was stuck with this.
There have been bubble baths.
And bubble bath basketball (say it three times fast).
In short, Robbi has no business complaining about being "busy" or "tired". Alden and I know the true meaning of these words.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:20 AM
May 09, 2009
Yesterday started, as all days should, with breakfast.
After breakfast, we had lunch. Lunch looked a lot like breakfast.
After lunch, John, Judy, Alden and I headed for Powell Gardens, a botanical garden about 15 miles east of Kansas City.
In addition to being full of beautiful plants and the like. Powell Gardens has enormous sculptural insects.
And dramatic fountains.
And a whole network of running water features.
Alden was fascinated with the water. Usually the only access she gets is in the bath or when we forget to put Iggy's water bowl up and out of reach. Yesterday at the gardens, we let her play and splash to her heart's content.
We brought the stroller along, but for the most part, Grandpa John was happy to play packmule.
Powell Gardens has a beautiful wedding chapel.
It is simple in design, exaggerated in its verticality, and there is so much glass that the line between inside and outside is blurred.
Up on the hillside is a structure that feels like a cross between a pagoda and a Frank Lloyd Wright concoction.
The gardens also had a wooded area full of flowers and bushes that thrive in the shade. We came upon these two old chairs covered with lichens, and I found myself missing Robbi.
When we emerged from the woods, we saw the chapel again, this time from across the pond.
Alden, who has recently learned to walk, spent some time practicing her "controlled descent" skills on a hillside by the water.
When she was done, Grandpa John gave her a dip in the pond.
Alden was tuckered out from all the fun and fell asleep in the car on the way back from the gardens. We didn't let this foil our plans to go out for dinner. I lifted the sleeping baby from her car seat, carried her into the restaurant, and deposited her in the booth next to me.
The restaurant was a little chilly, and lacking a blanket, I had to improvise.
Fortunately, she is still small enough to be completely covered by a napkin. She remained this way for most of the meal. The place was Peachtree, a Kansas City restaurant that promises "soul food with elegance." If you are in the mood for baby back ribs, sweet potato muffins, collards, mac cheese, fried green tomatoes, and okra, I offer my hearty endorsement.
I also recommend bringing a sleeping baby.
I have to believe that her presence added something to my enjoyment of the meal.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:33 PM
May 05, 2009
Alden was up for about 90 minutes, during which time she ate a hearty breakfast and played for a bit.
But now she is back to the good stuff.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:52 PM
May 03, 2009
On the Town
Our first three days in Kansas City have been cloudy, rainy affairs. Today the weather broke and we decided to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.
We headed out to visit an old friend. Alden enjoyed the sticks in her yard considerably.
Next we paid a visit to Gates Barbeque, a fine Kansas City institution.
Alden got cranky as we waited in line.
It was good that we had a little extra time, however, as had a bit of trouble deciding what to order. Pork, beef, chicken? And what sides? And what to drink?
Ultimately, she settled on a full slab with fries, beans, slaw, pickles, and a pitcher of diet pepsi.
After lunch, she took her very first pony ride.
We put a quarter in the pony, which made the pony dance and the child respond with great surprise. I took a movie of the event and sent it to Robbi, who wrote an email accusing me of cruel and unusual behavior. I contend that the child had a very good time. Though perhaps a pony ride is not the best thing to do with a gut-full of Gates ribs.
Fat and happy, we headed to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art for some culture.
We strolled in the sculpture garden.
Alden did some thinking with Rodin.
And was totally disappointed that she hadn't brought her racquet when she came upon the giant shuttlecock.
The grounds of the Nelson are beautiful, and amply dotted with sculptures by Henry Moore.
Full of grease and culture, we decided that we needed carrot cake. And apple juice.
But mostly carrot cake.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:24 PM
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Grandpa John has been taking his role as Alden's host very seriously. So when she said that she wanted to go to a Royals game, he packed her in the car and drove her over to the stadium.
It was kind of a rainy day, but the guy on the radio said that the game would be played. The stadium has just undergone massive renovations, including the installation of the largest video screen in the world (or at least in the state of Missouri).
The new stadium has a kid's section. Complete with a carousel. Alden rode on Slugger, Kansas City's cheerful lion mascot.
And honed her sliding skills.
There was a 40-minute rain delay, but by the time the first pitch was thrown, the sun was shining.
After the initial excitement wore off, Alden made herself comfortable doing what she does best.
The day was beautiful.
Either the pitchers were off or the hitters were on, but there was a lot of offense. The first few times the Royals scored, the crowd went wild and Alden thought that she was being attacked by rioting Midwesterners.
As the game wore on, we did some exploring. Apparently the statue of liberty has been shrunk to a fraction of its former size, painted blue, and moved to Royals Stadium.
Royals Stadium is known for its outfield fountains. The renovations allow the fans to get right up next to them.
Alden was amused by their unpredictable patterns.
She and Grandpa John got sprayed by one particularly strong blast.
Of course, she paid homage to Royals legend George Brett.
We're not sure how much of the game she was able to absorb, but every once in a while she'd turn to one of us and make a particularly incisive comment about the merits of this or that aspect of the proceedings on the field.
Apparently, she is not a fan of small ball.
"Swing for the fountains, is my motto," she told us.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:02 AM
April 24, 2009
Cake is Good
Need I say more?
Posted by bogenamp at 03:09 PM
April 22, 2009
Robbi and I have been having a running wager, each of us hoping that Alden will show an early preference or inclination for our own art form over the other's. I suppose it was naive of me to think that the baby would suddenly decide to pen her first story, but a father can always dream. It turns out that Alden is clearly her mother's child. Just the other day, she spontaneously decided to begin her career as an artist.
You can see she already has already mastered the tortured angst-ridden part of the profession.
I just pulled the finished piece down from the fridge that it might be scanned and presented here for your enjoyment/amusement.
After completing this initial work, she declared herself a devoted eccentric, donned a floppy pink hat, and set out to find the sunshine.
I can only hope that this work is the first of many and can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next.
And I'm holding out hope that she someday learns to write as well.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:38 PM
April 20, 2009
We drove to Baltimore the other day to surprise Christian for his birthday.
Christian was pleased and gratified that we had considered him worth taking the time and energy to surprise, but it was Iris and Alden who were most excited about us all getting together.
We threw them in the pen together, just to see what would happen. At first they were united in their protest.
Then they each pursued independent attempts at escape.
Eventually, they accepted the terms of their confinement and ended up giving one another foot rubs.
Later, we spent some time relaxing on the front porch.
Iris was determined to have a good time. Alden was resolved to sulk in quiet judgment.
Iris was like, "Dude, Alden, why do you have to be such a booger? It's nice out, we have no pressing obligations. Why can't you just sit back and enjoy life a bit?" Alden was like, "Bite me, Sunbeam."
Then Iris was like, "Hey Alden, I just totally pooped in my pants." And Alden was like, "Yeah, me too."
And all was well in the world.
Later on, just before bedtime, they argued over whose pajamas were more humiliating.
Alden's were deemed to be slightly less flattering than Iris's, but since they were borrowed from Iris (Alden's dumb parents forgot to pack any PJs when frantically packing for the drive across the bay), Iris still won the "most embarrassing sleepwear" competition.
Way back when we first learned that Christian and Emily were going to have a little girl only a few months younger than ours, we imagined that it was going to be fun.
We didn't know the half of it.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:25 PM
April 19, 2009
I know that I am not alone in finding the act of waking a wholly unpleasant thing. Suddenly the pleasures of sleep are past, the aches of the body return, and the day in all its many obligations looms. But lately, mornings have taken on an entirely new dimension. They are still awful, regrettable affairs, but slightly less so than before. Not long after I get up, I also get this.
And even this.
Usually Alden is almost as happy to see me as I am to see her. In this way, we help each other navigate the cruelest hour.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:49 PM
April 09, 2009
A few nights ago, we took Alden to Baltimore for my office bowling party.
After the various grownups had bowled a few games, I gave Alden her first lesson.
We talked about the importance of visualizing the pins before throwing the ball.
We talked about the importance of good technique.
Alden grabbed the ball, heaved it with all of her failure-to-thrive might, and let it go.
The ball went further than either one of us expected that it would.
Unfortunately, I hat forgotten to teach her about bowling etiquette, especially the part about not crawling after one's ball as it makes its way down the lane.
Alden followed her ball until it lost steam and dribbled haplessly into the gutter. It was with great dismay that she realized than she had failed to knock down a single pin.
I explained that, as a weak and undersized baby, she should feel good about having moved the ball at all and that she had years to refine her game. I told her I was confident that she would become a passable bowler someday. But nothing could cheer her. Dejected, she crawled back down the gutter.
Suddenly she stopped and threw her arms into the air. She had a fantastic idea.
If she wasn't quite yet able to bowl on her own...
...then she could help me bowl.
My score suffered somewhat in light of Alden's contribution, but I had a lot of fun.
And though she likely wouldn't admit it, I think Alden did, too.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:40 PM
Every day now, it seems Alden learns something new about her world. She's getting more mobile, more curious, more daring. The exploration leads to new discoveries, new frontiers, new opportunities...
I bet next she'll be wanting to pick her friends, if not their noses.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:26 AM
April 07, 2009
It was my turn to get Alden up this morning. I changed her, dressed her, and fed her breakfast while Robbi got a bit of extra beauty sleep. It wasn't until Robbi showed up mid-meal that Alden and I realized that a mistake had been made.
Apparently I lack a full understanding of which piece of baby clothing is supposed to go where. Certainly Alden had no complaints about my skills.
After breakfast, I got dressed for the day, but apparently was no more successful in properly dressing myself than I had been with the baby.
Alden and I think that Robbi could benefit from a little outside-the-box thinking.
It's really not so different from inside-the-box thinking.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:35 AM
April 05, 2009
I submit further evidence of Alden's will to thrive. Just yesterday she realized an important milestone in that inevitable evolution from the crawling to the walking child. Our friend Veronica snapped this shot.
In spite of her diminutive stature, in spite of her disproportionately large head, and in spite of her spindly, inconsequential legs, the child is clearly standing.
Although I look forward to her first few halting steps, it is the countless ones to follow that are sure to change and complicate our lives.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:26 PM
April 04, 2009
Failure to Thrive
Last week, we took Alden for her one-year checkup. Before we left for the doctor's office, we placed bets as to how much she had grown since her nine-month visit (at which time she had weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces). Both of us thought that she had grown quite a bit, though we disagreed as to how much. I guessed that she was 17 pounds, 8 ounces, and Robbi guessed 18 pounds, 9 ounces. Bob guessed 27 pounds, but one wonders if he might have been joking.
In any case, at the official weigh in, we learned that all of us had overshot the mark. Quite a bit, in fact. Alden weighed in at 15 pounds, 10 ounces, a figure that placed her well below the 5th percentile on a chart that looked a little bit like this one.
Her sub-fifth percentile status, combined with an overly-gradual rise on the growth curve places her squarely in a category of smallness known to the medical community as Failure to Thrive.
As the doctor was making this pronouncement, Alden was scampering enthusiastically across the floor of the examination room, chattering cheerfully and clapping her hands at intervals. The evidence of her thriving so abundant, the doctor sheepishly declared that Alden would temporarily be spared the usual battery of tests to which a child who is Failing to Thrive would usually be subjected. He allowed that genetics might well be a contributing factor to Alden's diminutive stature and that we should make a point to feed her in abundance in the weeks ahead. If we can fatten her sufficiently, he will worry less about her ability to thrive.
In addition to diet enhancement, we have launched a strenuous regimen of physical activities meant to promote vigor. This slate of exercises includes:
Daily conditioning on the new trike.
The ottoman squat.
And the plastic car lift.
To supplement these activities, and entirely of her own volition, Alden has taken to taunting wild animals in cages.
We asked her why it was necessary. "Because it makes me thrive," she replied.
We must sheepishly admit that it seems to be working. The child does little else but thrive these days. It takes all of our effort to keep up with her.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:26 PM
March 24, 2009
As previously mentioned, today was Alden's first birthday. Much of the day transpired like any other.
Even before breakfast, she was up to no good.
She went to Hobby Lobby with Grandma Judy.
She hung out with the dogs. Because it was her birthday, Iggy and Charley let Alden have her own bone.
Grandma Judy and Aunt Courtney spent most of the afternoon making an amazing cake.
After dinner, the party began.
There were presents.
Including a KU baby cheerleader outfit from Aunt Courtney.
And an extravagant noisemaking plastic thing in a box.
After opening presents, it was time for Alden to eat her cake. Fearing for its safety, we removed the cheerleading outfit.
At first Alden was tentative, not sure what to make of the goopy yellow mound before her.
She tasted the cake and she saw that it was good.
She told us all about it.
Perhaps my favorite present of the day came from my grandmother, who included in her birthday card to Alden three photos of my dad's first birthday, 63 years ago.
It was a good day, one on which Robbi had considerably more fun than she did at this time last year.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:54 PM
Today is Alden's first birthday. To commemorate the anniversary of her arrival, I commissioned a portrait from our friend Emily Kalwaitis, whose work often focuses on capturing the inner life of young girls. Usually her work is quite fantastical and not based on actual subjects, but she accepted the challenge of painting Alden, and I think she did a remarkable job.
Here's the photo Emily used as a model, but I like the way she did not merely follow the letter of the law.
Certainly the portrait looks like Alden, but Emily went beyond capturing likeness. She somehow infused the painting with the spirit of the child. The impishness, the curiosity, the introspection.
I asked Emily if she'd be interested in taking on other commissions and she said that she would. If you are interested, you can email her. Apparently, if I include her email address here, she will get all sorts of nasty spam from the predatory programs that prowl blogs at night while we sleep. But her email address is posted on her site.
I'll include a few of Emily's paintings below, but there are many more to be enjoyed on her site.
Happy Birthday, Alden. It has been a very good year.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:33 AM
March 06, 2009
So Alden and I went to visit Cannon yesterday. Cannon and his very small dog.
It was clear right away that the babies just wanted to be left alone. Alden was like, "Dad, you are so embarrassing."
Did I leave them alone? I did not. I had an obligation to capture every moment with the camera.
Apparently, Cannon had something for Alden.
It was an invitation.
Alden, who has never been invited to anything before in her life, didn't get the concept. And so she tried to invite Cannon to his own party.
The babies had a moment of mutual misunderstanding. It was very moving.
Cannon was like, "Dude, no paparazzi. I'm trying to have a moment here."
Moments later, things took a turn. Swords were produced, and the situation got dicey.
First Cannon did battle with his mom.
Then Alden was pitched into the fray.
Then she did battle with Cannon's mom.
I was just glad no one asked me to take up arms. I surely would have harmed myself. After soundly defeating Alden at swordplay, Cannon's mom delighted her with bubbles.
Then Alden mowed the living room lawn.
And tried valiantly to enjoy her first piece of turkey jerky before realizing that her two and a half teeth were unequal to the challenge.
And then it was time to go. Because I was exhausted. And still am. The little punk woke me at the crack of dawn this morning, ate, and promptly went back to bed. But once I'm up, I'm up. And so I'm up. Bracing myself for the next slate of demands from the tiny dictator.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:44 AM
March 01, 2009
Since Robbi departed early Thursday morning for Philadelphia, it has just been Alden and me. All told, it has been a smooth and uneventful span of days.
Fortunately, Alden seems to be her mother's child when it comes to sleeping. She has not been waking up until almost 10:00 each morning, so I've managed to get a few hours of work in before she wakes. When she wakes, the eating ritual begins. Hot cereal with frozen cherries. Cheerios. Baby yogurt. The kid can chow. She makes me proud. After breakfast we play with plastic objects in the living room until she's ready for a nap. While she naps, I work. When she wakes, we go for a walk and complete some minor chore (post office, bank, grocery store). When we come back, we play some more, eat some things from jars, and then go down for another nap. I work. She wakes. We eat. We play some more. She goes to sleep again, this time for the night. I try to do a bit more work, but eventually submit to the day and turn in myself. And so on. It has been nice, really, to spend so much time together.
We have been having our share of fun.
Alden has lately been very interested in getting to know her animal friends. To our shock, Lily, who is always surly, has uncommon patience with the baby.
Even when her tail is pulled with glee.
Iggy is far less certain that she has any interest in getting to know the child.
Alden, however, is incredibly motivated to learn about Iggy, especially her ears.
Iggy, because she is good and patient, quietly suffers the indignity. But it is clear to me, from the look in her eye, that all she wants is to be left alone.
I don't know how to break it to her that there are years of this to come. That this menace is only going to get bigger, and quicker, and ever higher on the food chain.
As I mentioned, we've been doing a lot of eating.
Alden has been exploring frozen peaches.
And I have been exploring heaping pans of nachos.
It must be hard to be a baby, not yet eligible for nachos. Consigned to suck on empty spoons.
Yet make no mistake about it, Alden takes great pleasure in repast.
Just now we had a bit of a breakthrough, Iggy initiating a bit of contat, I thought. Moments later, I discovered that what I had mistaken for affection was mere gastronomical impulse. Alden had a bit of food in her ear, which Iggy gladly helped remove.
Baby steps, I say.
Thanks to those of you who have written with words of support (or was it concern?). The child and I are doing very well. Only one more week of this to go. If the current pace holds up, we both will be very fat and very well rested when Robbi comes home.
Posted by bogenamp at 07:14 PM
February 26, 2009
The Little Gym
Last week, Cannon invited Alden to accompany him to his weekly class at the Little Gym. Given that her alternatives included crawling around on our living room floor or crawling around on our kitchen floor or crawling around on our studio floor, she decided to take him up on the offer.
Consequently, she crawled around on exercise mats instead.
And crawled under the bars.
And contemplated the balance beam.
Cannon tried to show her how much fun it was to crawl through the tunnel.
She thought about it.
But then found something much more fun to do.
Then it was time for the educational portion of the class:
...a lecture on the beneficial properties of glycerin.
Alden wanted to give it a try.
Mary Lou Retton, she is not, but it's fair to say that Alden's first foray into the world of gymnastics was at least better than the alternative.
Posted by bogenamp at 06:48 PM
February 15, 2009
Moving Up in the World (And Down Again)
Alden has discovered a new favorite pastime. It started with standing sneakily at the bottom of our very short flight of steps threatening to climb up.
This quickly evolved into actual climbing.
Punctuated by intermittent pauses and additional sneaky looks.
Like Sisyphus, she is not content to gain the summit, but once atop the stairs, wants nothing but to come back down again. In reverse, of course.
It occurs to me suddenly that pictures of babies climbing backwards down stairs look an awful lot like the ones of them climbing up. Minus the sneaky glances, which perhaps are not possible in light of the relatively greater amounts of concentration required by the act of descent.
When not climbing up and down stairs, Alden spent her Valentines Day not enjoying her Valentine from Grandpa John and Grandma Judy.
What a churl. Her indifference was palpable. When does adolescence officially begin?
Posted by bogenamp at 09:11 PM
February 14, 2009
This year, Valentine's Day takes on a whole new meaning.
For the first time I didn't have to put on the red pajamas and cardboard wings and pose on the worktable. But I did have to hold the backdrop when we moved from the "candid" to "studio" portions of the photo shoot.
Alden wasn't sure about the backdrop, at first. But after a while, she seemed to forget all about it.
I've got a whole new kind of love this year.
And just when I think I've got it contained, it keeps moving about and getting bigger.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:59 AM
February 05, 2009
Here's a riddle for you:
What's better than a picture of Alden in Robbi's genius hat?
Stumped? CLICK HERE to find out.
Whether or not you got the answer right on the first guess, it's always good to remember that even babies (being a subset of the group "everything") are better with bacon.
Posted by bogenamp at 04:57 PM
February 04, 2009
Alden's pal Cannon came calling today.
For a while, the two of them were content to hang out on the couch.
But then they got hungry. Fortunately, Cannon's mom Rebecca was prepared.
Alden ate Cannon's lunch (guacamole with black beans and yogurt mixed with bananas) with such enthusiasm that his parents suspected that we do not feed her.
"The face" has all but disappeared from Alden's repertoire in recent days, but she must have been feeling particularly feisty in the wake of so much consumption.
Cannon, unflappable fellow that he is, did not protest.
Later, Alden was like, "Dude should we get in the pie safe?"
And Cannon was like, "Only if I can get on the bottom shelf."
Some day Alden will not fit on the top shelf of the pie safe, and it makes me sad. I suppose that it's one of those lessons we're supposed to learn as parents, that childhood is fleeting, that I'm supposed to cherish these days, that they will soon be gone forever.
Blah, blah, blah.
I prefer to get a bigger pie safe when she grows out of this one. I know they make them.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:33 PM
January 23, 2009
Up to No Good
Is it just me, or do these two look like common ruffians from the streets of Liverpool?
Cannon grew out of his skelly sweat suit and donated it to his little partner. I've heard that the corrupting power of peer influence spreads to the manner of dress. The outfit has altered Alden's bearing and demeanor dramatically. So much so that whenever she wears it, I've been keeping an eye on my valuables.
This photo was taken a moment after I suggested that playtime was over and that Alden and Cannon start cleaning up their toys.
Needless to say, I backed down in an instant. I think she has officially entered adolescence. From what I read in the books, the next 17 years are going to be awful.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:56 AM
January 21, 2009
A Father Can Dream
Although she remains entirely illiterate, I can't help wonder if someday Alden might someday notice something like this about me.
Robbi sent me the link from the blog A Practical Compendium of Random Things. Was she trying to help me look ahead to those endearing days that will come to pass as Alden learns to read and write?
Or was she trying to let me know how she feels about the color of my armpit hair?
In other news, Alden's campaign of sesame oil seems to have had its intended result. We took her to the doctor for the weigh-in yesterday and learned that she gained nearly as much weight in the last two weeks (8 oz) as she had in the preceding three months (9 oz). She is up to 14 pounds, 10 ounces, still not big enough to find herself on the lowest curve on the growth chart. But the progress was enough to satisfy the doctor's curiosity about whether or not she was capable of getting any bigger.
So the child is on her way. Though I suspect that some of the credit must go to the banana, almost certainly Alden's favorite fruit.
She has eaten no fewer than two every day for the past two weeks. I fear that Chestertown might run out. I don't want to be the one who has to explain it to the baby if they do.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:35 PM
Throughout our lives, we will each be asked to recount where we were and what we were doing at the moment when Obama became president. Some will tell of having been at the Mall, like my friend David, who sent this shot of his vantage of the Capitol.
Others will recount the moment through lenses of personal experience, seeing Obama's election as the surprising affirmation of struggle, perseverance, and unflagging hope.
Alden will have her own version of the event, though it is unlikely to include much detail.
She fell asleep at 11:54am and woke twenty minutes later to a new world.
And to a visit from Cannon, which from her perspective, is more exciting than any inaugural festivities.
But looking at their faces, I see a sense of wonder and surprise, as if they somehow know that something has shifted in their young lives, that things are going to be very different from now on.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:26 AM
January 20, 2009
It's Her Future
Alden has been waiting for this day all her life.
I only wish she could understand just how big a deal it is.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:43 AM
January 14, 2009
Alden loves her cats, though she seldom gets to spend quality time with them. Her crawling skills, while passable for a baby, are no match for Oscar and Lily, whose interest in being admired by the baby is very low. When she comes charging across the floor, full of love and dying to shower attention, they either flee for the safety of the cat tower or escape through the cat door beyond which the baby is not allowed to go.
Alden simply cannot grasp the concept.
It's hard being nine-and-a-half months old.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:43 PM
January 12, 2009
The Look, Part 2: Explanation
I received an email from my good friend Christian just now, in which he endeavored to explain his theory for the origin of "the look" that has been appearing on my child's face with alarming frequency in recent days. His explanation required no words. Instead, he sent this photograph, taken a year or so ago when Christian, Emily, Robbi, and I went to roller derby in Baltimore.
Emily and Robbi were, I believe, emulating the teeming badassery of the ladies on skates. My child, it would appear, is gearing up for a life as an eight-wheeled bruiser.
I couldn't be more proud.
Posted by bogenamp at 05:36 PM
January 11, 2009
One of Alden's more delightful and consistently gratifying developmental milestones has been the introduction of "the look", a scrunched-up face that she employs of late when she is feeling feisty.
We have been daunted in repeated attempts to capture the look, as the appearance of the camera invariably causes it to evaporate. But our friend Beth, who visited today, caught Alden unawares, producing the above documentation to share with you.
And here is Alden with Beth's dog Spud.
The baby was entirely puzzled by Spud, so dissimilar is he from Iggy, her only frame of reference for dogs. He is about the same size as our cats, but much more amiable. In the end, I think her attempts to understand Spud gave way to her enjoyment of his company.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:47 PM
January 10, 2009
We're running out of obvious containers in which to place the child. And so today, I thought she might enjoy trying on Robbi's boots, which have been sitting unused throughout this snowless winter.
At first, Alden wasn't convinced that this was a good idea.
But as soon as she realized that the boots didn't prohibit pursuit of her new favorite pastime (investigating the contents of any cabinet in reach), her attitude improved markedly.
Her very favorite new game is puling the dishcloths down from the handle of the oven door.
This game is great fun for the baby.
And somewhat less thrilling for whomever has to keep hanging the towels up . . .
. . . that they might be pulled down once more.
The world, to this child, is a magical place of towel bars that replenish themselves, diapers that become clean, and bowls that suddenly fill with food just when the hunger strikes. It must be so disappointing on that day when we realize that this isn't how things actually work, that eventually one must hang up her own towel and clean up her own mess, regardless of how large a pair of boots she's wearing.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:56 PM
January 09, 2009
Checking in on day three of the Baby Fattening Project. Here is Alden, on the final lap of a breakfast, after already consuming a handful of cheerios and a full bowl of rice cereal fortified with two teaspoons of sesame oil.
The new rule: both hands must be full of foodstuffs at all times.
She seems to be enjoying this.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:44 AM
January 08, 2009
The barn in which we live is foremost a pottery studio and shop owned and operated by Robbi's parents. One of the nice things about this setup is that they get to see Alden all the time. She probably thinks she has four parents. More often than not, when Robbi and I are passing through the downstairs on our way in or out from an errand, Bob and Seiko will step aside from their industry for a few minutes to spend some time with A-Chan.
Seiko is one of the preeminent potters of Ikebana (Japanese traditional flower arranging) containers in the country. In spite of this, Robbi has never shown an inclination for working with clay. We are wondering if the spark of potter's genius might be of the sort that skips a generation.
Early evidence suggests the child might have an interest.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:35 AM
January 06, 2009
Post or Die
I received this email just now, from a college friend who reads this blog from time to time.
"Are you in a Hallmark version of Speed where if you post fewer than four cute pictures of Alden each week your barn will blow up?"
The truth is, yes, if I post fewer than four cute pictures of Alden each week, the barn will blow up. This is how it feels inside my heart.
And this is what I look like with my shirt off:
It is so good to be understood, finally, to have my endless plight be a shared one at last. Thank you, David, for understanding, for being there for me.
As I march bravely toward meeting this week's quota, I leave you with yet another shot of my overphotographed charge.
May the poor thing survive her tortured childhood.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:13 AM
January 04, 2009
Alden received several hats for Christmas this year. Three are of particular note.
Here is her flapper hat, hand-knit by Grandma Judy. (Notice as well the Kansas bib not hand-knit by Grandpa John.)
This picture was taken just after its subject awoke from a long nap, hence the gravity of her expression.
And here is her Dr. Seuss-like handmade creation from Aunt Ming, who claims this wonderful hat as her very first piece of knitting.
And surely the lime green helmet hat from Aunt Andy deserves an encore. Robbi put the hat on Alden at some time during the night (it has been cold in Chestertown) and so I was greeted to the unexpected sight of Alden ready for the gridiron when I plucked her from the crib this morning.
What better way to start the day than to play with one's garishly colored, tastelessly decorated, sound-producing entertainment center?
At least there are hats to offset the scourge of molded plastic. It is a small, important consolation.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM
December 19, 2008
Distinctively Different and New
We were pleased tonight to come across an article In ForeWord Magazine, a publication devoted to reviewing independently published books.
The fair in question was the 21st Annual Independent and Small Press Expo, which happened a few weekends ago in NYC.
Robbi and I decided to make an appearance and see if we could meet some new people. As is always the case at fairs like these, we were allotted a six-foot table in a row of other six-foot tables. The lay of the land looks something like this.
The Idiots'Books table looked something like this.
The weekend consists of standing behind our table while people wander by. Some stop to read our books. Some even buy them. Others walk on by. Occasionally we meet people who are truly interested in what we're up to and have long, encouraging conversations. We met a number of wonderful folks at the fair, including one kindred spirit from Connecticut who invited us to come spend a week in artists' retreat at her guest home in the woods.
Although it is engaging and enjoyable to talk to people about our books, it is somewhat taxing to do so while entertaining a baby who has recently discovered how to yell and kick, and so Robbi and I took turns exercising her in an unoccupied corner. Eventually the baby grew weary, but we lacked an adequate place to put her down for a nap.
And so we improvised.
Yes, Alden snoozed in her plush blue lion suit for the better part of two hours as the bustle of the book fair continued above and around her.
The underside of a table doesn't really qualify as a container, I suppose, but it served as a more than adequate crib.
If you aren't the sort that tends to go to book fairs, I recommend giving one a try. The world is full of books beyond those that may be economically shelved at the local Barnes and Noble and equally teeming with people whose devotion to books and publishing borders on the eccentric. I proudly count Robbi and myself among them.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:35 PM
December 09, 2008
There has been a recent flurry of interest among the readership in placing their babies inside of various containers and photographing them. Apparently, people are not content to let Alden and Garcia duke it out alone. There is, in fact, a great deal of competition.
Our friends Cathy and Neil, whose child Emily is little more than a month old, decided to enter the soup tureen category.
Apparently, Cathy and Neil then looked around their house for other things to put wee Emily inside of and settled upon this plastic bin before noticing the label.
Apparently it is not safe to put a baby in a plastic tote. I'm not sure if I believe it.
Here is Alden's new boyfriend Cannon. His parents took a more liberal approach to defining "container" for the purposes of this contest.
It is hard to deny that Cannon is "contained" by the walls of his baby prison.
Our friend Brian didn't really understand the way this competition works, I think, as only a tiny part of his child Leo is "contained" by the object with which he appears.
Nevertheless, the photo, titled "sausage making", wins major style points in my book.
Here is the latest contribution from Gina, a photo of Garcia in a guitar case.
I will respond to Gina's feeble attempt by quoting Paul Hogan in his great film Crocodile Dundee, "That's not a photo of a baby in a guitar case. That's a photo of a baby in a guitar case."
Frankly, Gina, I had expected stiffer competition.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:44 PM
December 01, 2008
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Tomorrow morning I am heading to Williamstown, Massachusetts, a place I called home for almost ten years. Today I called up my good friend Gina Coleman to let her know that I was coming to town. In the course of our conversation, she informed me that she and her husband Michael (proud parents of Garcia, who is just a week or two younger than Alden) had decided to do battle the Robbi and me. Apparently, they are convinced that they can take more and better pictures of their baby inside of containers than we can.
I took offense to the suggestion and immediately started talking smack. As those of you who have read these pages in weeks past well know, we are unafraid to put Alden inside of any container we come across, be it recycling bin, Priority Mail box, or water pitcher.
Needless to say, I was notably shaken when I received this photo via email just now. Apparently the battle has begun, and these people mean business.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:07 PM
A few weeks ago we were having brunch with my mom at the Village Bakery here in Chestertown. We were eating and talking and trying to have a good time, but Alden was obviously distracted by someone sitting at the next table. It was this dashing young man, name of Cannon, who happens to have been born this past March 20, exactly four days before Alden.
Such was the extent of the Alden/Cannon attraction that Robbi and I exchanged phone numbers with the young man's parents, vowing to get together for another brunch soon.
This morning we made good on those plans. We seated the youngsters next to one another that they might get to know one another better.
Cannon was clearly a smooth operator. He was like, "Hey, baby."
Alden thought he was aiming to hold her hand and, not wanting to be the kind to play hard to get, decided to go along with it.
Little did she realize that Cannon had ulterior motives.
Clearly, his plan from the start was to grab her binkie and have a taste. Alden was so deeply offended as to be struck speechless. But then, by way of making things right, Cannon's mom shared some of his freeze-dried yogurt bits with Alden. And all sins were quickly forgiven.
They sat there for a while in lopsided equilibrium, Alden munching on Cannon's snacks and Cannon snacking on her binkie.
It was kind of like the baby equivalent of getting to first base. Or maybe even second?
A second date is in the offing, though the when and the where are yet to be set.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:13 AM
November 24, 2008
Learning to Eat
Robbi and I go through a lot of paper in the course of any given day. Trimmed bits of books, rough drafts, rejected doodles, pizza boxes, etc. We have a large can that we use for paper recycling, but more often than not it overflows by the end of the week. So we've been trying a new method of recycling some of the paper in-house.
It's a slow and inconsistent process, but every little bit helps, I suppose.
The other major flaw in this system is that the baby will eat only so much paper before demanding a blow pop. Often my blow pop.
Green apple is her favorite.
Now I don't begrudge the child a taste or two as a means of getting the inky pulpy taste out of her mouth. But she has yet to develop the concept of "share."
Nor does she feel any shame when I point out her shortcomings.
Beyond paper and blow pops, her palate has expanded to any manner of fruit and vegetables, pancakes (of which she had three for breakfast this morning), yogurt, rice, various pre-packaged baby cookies, pizza crusts, cheerios, Japanese rice crackers, miso soup, and apple pie. She will eat literally anything that she can get her hands on.
Of this omnivorousness, I am tremendously proud. I am wondering daily whether the time has come to buy her her first Chipotle.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:43 PM
November 21, 2008
My child is growing and learning. She crawls across the floor with speed and dexterity. She sits. She kneels. She pulls herself up against things and balances in a standing position using just one tiny hand. She eats anything and everything. And yet...
She does not seem to understand that she has but one mouth. And that sometimes the laws of nature necessitate simple choice. I try to counsel her in these trying moments, but, already willful, she refuses to listen, pretending that all she really wanted was to bang her baby cookie against her bink.
I get the sense that it is hard to be a baby.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM
November 12, 2008
So we got an unexpected package in the mail today.
Neither of us had any idea what it could be. I shook the box. It sounded kind of like a jigsaw puzzle inside.
"Are you going to open it?" Robbi asked me, clearly impatient to have the mystery solved.
I pulled the "pull here to open" thing off.
And looked inside to find...
Someone had sent us a baby.
It wasn't what we expected.
But it seemed nice enough.
"Should we keep it?" I asked.
"As long as it stays in the box," said Robbi.
I've searched the box. There are no instructions. No return address. Is anyone willing to claim this thing?
Posted by bogenamp at 08:58 PM
November 04, 2008
Robbi and I both felt good after casting our ballots this morning, but Alden was a bit more stoic. We did some exit polling to find out what was on her mind.
"I'm still numb from the stunning disappointment of 2000," she confided. "I won't smile again until Anderson Cooper calls this thing for the good guys."
So it was back in the pumpkin as soon as we got back to the barn, to howl some more and wait for the Virginia polls to close at 7:00pm.
For all of our sakes, let's hope her guy wins.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:53 AM
November 02, 2008
For a long time now, we've been talking how fun it would be to put the baby in a pumpkin. And so on Halloween Day, we headed out in search of a really big one. There is a "pick-your-own" farm just outside of town, but when we got there, the pumpkins were lined up in rows, waiting for adoption. We found the right one immediately and were particularly pleased to find it was on sale, on account of the fact that the time for carving pumpkins was rapidly coming to a close.
We loaded it into the car.
And drove it home. On the way home, we stopped at Geno's, the place where we get our car fixed, which also doubles as a dealership. We did not stop on account of an ailing car. Rather, we were compelled by the sign advertising free cabbages.
That's right, Geno's was running a very special promotion on Halloween day: free cabbage to anyone who took the time to stop. We didn't even have to test drive a car or listen to a spiel about a timeshare.
I love this town.
We took our free cabbage and headed home.
First, I cleaned the pumpkin.
And then I put my baby inside.
Things didn't go exactly as we had hoped. Apparently, the baby didn't think it was fun to sit inside a slimy pumpkin. We decided to let them have a bit more time to get acquainted. First Alden looked into the pumpkin.
Then she crawled on top of the pumpkin.
At which point she gave it a purposeful kiss.
Sensing that the relationship had gotten too serious too quickly, she then crawled away from the pumpkin
It seemed like the perfect time to put her in the pumpkin again. The second effort was much more successful.
It was clear that she wanted to say nice things to the pumpkin.
Things like, "Wow, it's so great to be in here." Or, "Orange you glad I'm sitting inside of you?"
In fact, she got so comfortable, we worried that she would not be willing to come back out.
Eventually, though, it came time to light the pumpkin, which necessitated the extraction of the baby. Who was quickly dispatched to the tub.
At the risk of redundancy, I'll show the pumpkin again.
Though Halloween has come and gone, we've left the pumpkin glowing on the porch the last few nights. It helps to ease the minor nostalgia I already feel for the baby's first Halloween, already gone. We probably won't be able to find a big enough pumpkin next year.
It's galling how she grows.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:18 PM
October 30, 2008
Open Studio this Weekend
This weekend, Robbi and I will be participating in the Artworks Studio Tour, which means we will be sitting in our studio from 9:00am-5:00pm this Saturday and Sunday (Nov 1-2) and next Saturday and Sunday (Nov 8-9) just waiting for you to come by and see us.
As this is our first studio tour, we are not entirely sure how to behave. Robbi plans to put on her overalls and make clay monoprints, thinking that some people might enjoy watching the process.
Here's a clay monoprint:
I plan to alternate between writing words on my computer, tending to my child's various needs, and trying to maintain order among the swooning fans who are likely to clog our studio.
All of our books will be on display, as will a number of prints. We will also be running a looping slideshow of Robbi's illustrations. Perhaps there will be light snacks, but don't count on it. Mostly, we're looking forward to showing off our studio, shown here a lot cleaner than it is likely to be this weekend.
If you have the time, please feel free to stop by.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:27 PM
October 29, 2008
Baby With Bag On Head
Alden seems to like the mundane objects that litter the barn more than the cleverly molded plastic items we purchase for her.
Sometimes a paper bag is more than just a paper bag.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:59 PM
October 13, 2008
As someone who enjoys writing about the events of my life, I am sometimes struck with the tension between doing and recording. One must be wary of walking through the Sistine Chapel with a camcorder, for example, the risk being that one might not actually get a glimpse of the frescoes until safely returned to the TV in the living room. Sometimes, admittedly, our lives are shaped in tiny ways by the prospects of blogging. I would not likely have taken quite so many photos of my battle with the inflatable clown had not the prospect of sharing the story with you crossed my mind at the time.
All this is to justify my guilt for not having posted in about a week. I have been busy doing, you see. And now that I am done with all the doing, I can turn my attention to recording for a while.
We have just returned from a weekend in Connecticut, where we witnessed the marriage of our good friends Dahna and Sarah. I'll post some pictures of the event as soon as Robbi exhumes them from the camera. Today, I want to share some photos that have been sitting on my desktop for weeks now.
I have previously posted photos of Alden in her Bungee Baby Bouncer. Usually we attach it to a beam in the living room and allow her to bounce merrily on the area rug. A few weeks ago we noticed that the large beam in our studio would also be a prime perch from which to hang one's baby. And so we gave it a try. The beam is so high that Alden, once attached to the hook, was nowhere near the floor. And so we placed a stool beneath her feet and let her dance atop it.
The stool sits right in front of the large window that looks out onto Queen street, roughly halfway between Robbi's desk and mine. From where I sit and type, this is my view of Alden as she bobs and dances on the stool.
Actually, that's Robbi's view. When the baby's back is to me, the window is on the right.
The child loves to dance.
The instructions clearly state that the Bungee Baby Bouncer is not a "babysitting alternative" and that, out of respect to baby's small, weak leg muscles, one ought not allow baby to bounce for more than 15 minutes at a stretch.
Whoever wrote that hadn't met Alden. After fifteen minutes, she's just getting started.
I am taking a moment to enjoy the Bungee Bouncing, because I know its days are numbered. Alden is now crawling with determination. Every day her speed and dexterity improves a bit more. I can see that soon she will protest the proposition of merely bouncing, when her arms and legs provide such compelling alternatives.
But for this time on this day, she is my bouncing baby. I will miss these tiny, tiny feet.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:45 PM
October 03, 2008
First of all, we are back from San Francisco. Plenty of photos will be posted as time permits, but here is one of my favorites, taken at the cliffs near the Point Reyes Lighthouse.
We are busily at work producing inventory for this weekend's Small Press Expo, at which we will be hawking our wares on Saturday and Sunday. Any of you in the vicinity of Bethesda this weekend should come by and say hello. SPX is, after all, "North America's premiere comic and cartoon arts festival."
Also, any of you who missed it might want to check out Wednesday evening's episode of Lipstick Jungle which just happens to feature our good pal David Turner, star of the Broadway stage.
David, who plays one of the assistants to Brooke Shields's character, describes his work for Lipstick Jungle as, "the absolute pinnacle of my acting career--after my contributions to Sock Puppet Theater Episodes One and Two, of course."
Those of you who are pressed for time will be pleased to know that David's scene takes place in the first five minutes.
Posted by bogenamp at 02:27 AM
September 24, 2008
Today is Alden's six-month birthday.
On hand to witness the celebration: Grandpa John
And Grandma Judy
There was a present to be opened.
Alden took the challenge of opening it seriously.
Lacking the dexterity to remove the wrapping paper, she decided to eat her way to the gift inside.
The gift was a mirror surrounded by soft creatures, a perfect present for a child whose two favorite pastimes are rolling around on the floor and looking at herself.
After the present had been thoroughly enjoyed, we proceeded to the birthday gruel.
Alden is proving to be a very enthusiastic eater.
She clearly wants control of the spoon and resents very much the fact that she still needs assistance getting it into her mouth.
The rest of the half-birthday will involve a trip to Washington where we will spend the night with some friends in anticipation of an ungodly-early departure for San Francisco tomorrow morning. We are headed West for a week to celebrate the beginning of the second half of Alden's first year.
Coincidentally, Robbi's brother also happens to be getting married while we're there.
More on that to come.
Meanwhile, can you do this? It's Alden's newest trick.
She taught me how to do it.
Material for hours of fun, believe me.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:28 PM
September 14, 2008
For almost ten years now, I have been picking the weekly NFL games in a pool with my friend Christian. I am an average football picker, given that I am an utter dilettante and Johnny-come-lately to football fandom. I have been aided by the fact that "my" team, the New England Patriots, has been on a winning tear of historical proportions for the past seven seasons. Thus, my homerism has worked to my benefit. I was the overall picking champion of our group once, early on, when the group was small. There are now more than 40 people in the group, mostly relatives of Christian's large extended family, including a few new arrivals.
That's right, Iris Vainieri, all three-and-a-half months of her, is making football picks this year. Of course, when Alden heard this, she demanded to participate. I had no objection. My only concern was how Alden, in her pre-verbal state, was to indicate her preference when picking teams. Christian had the answer. He printed out images of the helmets of each of the league's 32 teams and presented the images relevant to each matchup to Iris, giving her the opportunity to express a preference. I was somewhat skeptical of the plan, but could think of no better strategy.
I am happy to report that babies know more than enough about football to make informed decisions about football contests.
At first Alden was not sure what to do.
But she quickly caught on. For example, she clearly favored the New York Giants in their contest versus the St. Louis Rams.
And there was no ambiguity about her preference for the Cleveland Browns in their confrontation with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
She did her papa proud in choosing to back the underdog New England Patriots (in spite of the loss of future hall of fame quarterback to injury in last week's game) in their intra-division grudge match against the New York Jets.
It was less clear which side she favored in the Minnesota Vikings/Indianapolis Colts matchup.
According to the rules we have established, Robbi is called upon to adjudicate in the case of an ambiguous result. It was decided that Alden favored the Vikings. Which, I can tell you now late afternoon on Sunday, was not a wise choice.
For most of the matchups, Alden's picking style was fairly straightforward. Sometimes she would tap the helmet she preferred. Other times, she would issue a knowing glance in the direction of her chosen victor. But when we brought out the helmets for the Houston Texans/Baltimore Ravens matchup, the child went wild. She quickly pushed the Texans helmet away and grabbed eagerly for the Ravens.
Although her choice was clear, she proceeded to demonstrate the full extent of her enthusiasm by attempting to consume the Ravens helmet.
She is clearly a fan. I don't have the heart to tell her that today's contest, which was to be played in Houston, was postponed on account of Hurricane Ike.
She picked the results of all 16 contests and then decided to hang out for a while in Robbi's wicker basket.
I wasn't sure if I approved of such behavior.
But then I remembered that of course I did.
And all was well.
Posted by bogenamp at 05:18 PM
September 11, 2008
I'm convinced that the prime motivation for having a baby is the pleasure of finding new and unusual ways to pose and photograph it.
For example, last night we ran out of rice. I felt that it would be a shame to allow the bin to remain empty.
Alden fit perfectly. And whether it was the intoxicating smell of rice dust or the satisfying texture of the rubber sides, she seemed to enjoy her sojourn far more than one might expect a small child to enjoy time spent in a rice bin.
I wish that I was small enough to fit inside a piece of tupperware. Or conversely, that I had a tupperware bin large enough to crawl inside for a while.
I can think of far worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:52 AM
September 08, 2008
Separated at Birth?
I was there in the delivery room and don't think that Robbi had twins, but I saw this fellow walking down the street the other day and couldn't help but notice the striking resemblance he bore to my child.
Posted by bogenamp at 03:48 PM
September 04, 2008
We are at my mother's house in Andover tonight, visiting my mom and my sister Lindsay and meeting my nephew Orin for the first time.
Here is Orin, about three and a half months old.
And here is Lindsay, whose birthday was yesterday.
We had cake and presents and those paper things you blow into in order to heighten the sense of festivity.
Earlier today we loaded the babies into their strollers.
Lindsay's husband Casey and I took the wheel while Robbi and Lindsay handled the dogs. We have Iggy.
Lindsay and Casey have Egg, Purple, and Atlas.
The babies played together in the park.
The jury is still out on whether or not they like each other.
Or perhaps the matter has already been decided.
Given the sunny day, the green grass, the blue sky, and her adventurous mood, Alden asked me, somewhat sheepishly, if she might try her first jump.
And so I held her high.
And let her give it a go.
And up she went.
And down again she came.
We both agreed.
It was a very good jump.
Later on, we went out to dinner to celebrate.
Alden had her first sip of miso soup.
And now we are watching the republican nominee give his acceptance speech. To commemorate the occasion, my mother pulled out presents for each of her grandchildren.
The babies seemed cheered by the message.
And suddenly unified, cousins and friends, perhaps inspired by the spectacular display of bipartisan sentiment to which we have been treated these past few nights.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:53 PM
September 01, 2008
Alden has been spending a lot of time with our neighbors Donald and Ann. A whole lot of time. In fact, Alden spends so much time being walked around Chestertown by Donald that Robbi and I have, on several occasions while walking around Chestertown with Alden, been asked what we were doing with Donald's baby.
In any case, Alden was spending time with Donald and Ann this evening. All was going well when, without warning, she became a vile, loud, and disconsolate. And so she was returned to us, frowning and snuffling bitterly.
We put her in the bed with her favorite stuffed moose and she was out in 30 seconds. We suspect that we did not adequately nap her before handing her off.
Alden felt remorseful when she woke, and so penned a note to Donald and Ann, which I will include for your enjoyment.
Alden is seldom a full-on booger, but when she is bad, she is horrid.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:04 PM
Robbi's brother is getting married later this month. And while we are of course delighted and overcome with joy at the prospects of his nuptials, Robbi is perhaps more excited about the new camera she was compelled to purchase so as to capture the joy as artistically as possible. The sudden upgrade from our point-and-shoot to the single lens reflex is pleasing to behold. And so today, without pretense or contrivance, I will simply share some rather nice photos that she took the other day.
Weddings are such nice occasions.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:40 PM
August 29, 2008
We went to a party tonight to celebrate the opening of another Washington College academic year with the members of its art faculty (of which Robbi is a periodic member). While there, we caught up with our friend Aileen, who has been on leave for the past year. She had a gift for Alden.
In light of a recent burst of improvement on the manual dexterity front, Alden decided to take a crack at opening it herself.
She stuck with it, and eventually...
...opened the box inside.
The gift was a bib.
But not just any bib. Alden sensed the significance of the date printed on the fabric, but did not quite grasp its specific import.
And then suddenly she understood.
And she was very pleased.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:13 AM
August 20, 2008
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Alden finds herself torn, like Solomon's baby, between several fierce grandparental allegiances. On one hand, her Grandma Elisabeth is a devoted Duke basketball fan, Red Sox fan, and Patriots fan. On the other hand, her Grandpa John is a Kansas Jayhawks basketball fan, a Kansas City Royals fan, and a Kansas City Chiefs fan. Fortunately, her Grandpa Bob and Grandma Seiko probably don't even know what a layup, grand slam, or field goal are, so one could argue that this tangle of conflicting loyalties could be much worse.
There are those beyond the family sphere who dare to compete for my child's sporting preference.
My colleague Clifford, for example, who placed the orange socks of his beloved Baltimore Orioles on Alden's legs.
Emboldened by her failure to protest, he draped a tee-shirt of even more garish orange across her tiny, defenseless frame.
Clifford took one look at the Orioles/Alden combination and declared that she was obviously a fan. I begged to differ. To settle the argument, we took her straight to Camden Yards to see for ourselves whether she would cheer for the Orioles or Sox.
At first, she couldn't see over the rowdy Orioles fans in front of us. And so I helped her to a better vantage.
As the game progressed, the score was knotted at 0-0. Alden looked anxious. Clearly she cared.
But who was she cheering for?
At the top of the second, Boston slugger Jason Bay hit a towering homer to put the Sox on the scoreboard. A few batters later, Boston's catcher and captain, the great Jason Varitek, who has been struggling all season, came up to bat and hit a homer of his own.
I looked to Alden, trying to read her reaction to the events of the inning. She was not unhappy with Boston's success, but neither was she elated as one would expect a true fan to be.
I considered the question thoroughly unanswered.
In the bottom of the fourth, Baltimore's slugger Aubrey Huff belted a fastball over the fence in center field. I looked to Alden for response, and suddenly we had our answer.
Even though Boston still had a 2-1 lead, she was clearly dismayed. I tried to console her, to tell her that it would be all right, that baseball is just a game, that life is full of peaks and troughs, that true character comes from turning the other cheek, that important lessons can be learned from loss. For a moment, it seemed as if she understood. But as Huff crossed home plate and the scoreboard registered the Baltimore run, it was clear that the Red Sox fan lodged deep within my child's tiny heart had just been unleashed.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:22 PM
August 19, 2008
Where Babies Come From
I have heard many theories about the origins of life. Some babies arrive by stork and others are found in baskets left on doorstops. Or else they arrive like mine did, mad and determined to defy the seeming laws of physics.
But just this evening, after bringing the groceries in from the car and starting to unpack them, I discovered yet another way that babies may be delivered into our lives.
There between the olive oil and the wheat squares...
...was a real live baby. It was an appealing sort of thing, sweet smelling and amiable. I checked my receipt and found I had not paid for it. And yet I did not want to return it to the Super Fresh.
I put away the cereal and the onions and the cottage cheese, but did not know exactly what to do with the baby.
And so it stayed inside the bag, as it seemed to prefer.
Later we spotted it again, this time under a pile of toys.
We like this baby. We're going to keep it.
But I'm not sure how soon I'll be going back to the grocery store.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:58 PM
August 14, 2008
Something New at the Barn
For her first 142 days of life, Alden's diet consisted of one thing and one thing only. Think about that for a moment. I mean, how awful. I have been feeling terribly guilty, feeling that it is my duty to expose my young daughter to the richness of life's bounty. I long to share such delights as Chipotle, ribs, and Procolino's pizza, but have been heretofore thwarted by the ironclad counsel of our pediatrician, who declared her immature digestive tract not yet up to the challenge of these exciting foods.
When we took Alden in for her four-month checkup, however, we were told that we could try introducing her to small amounts of rice cereal. We were cautioned that babies her age are not always able to figure out how to swallow. His advice was to give her a small bite to see if she knew what to do with it.
Robbi has been staying up all night this past week working on the illustrations for Volume 16. She is a madwoman who finds her purest artistic zone from the hours of 2am-6am. And so I have been taking care of Alden in the mornings while Robbi gets her sleep. When Alden started wailing the wail of the mortally famished around 9:00 yesterday morning, I felt pangs of pity for sleeping Robbi and decided that the time might be right to test Alden's readiness for the mysteries of rice cereal. Bob and Seiko happened to be visiting, and so we had a 3:1 adult-to-baby ratio working in our favor.
I mixed the rice cereal per the instructions on the box, Seiko manned the spoon, and Bob took it all in.
Seiko offered the first bite. We waited to see what would happen.
The jury did not tarry long in making a decision. Alden liked it. She liked it a lot.
Bite after bite, she liked the heck out of that rice cereal.
Until finally, it was gone.
In some ways Alden takes after me, in other ways, after Robbi. When it comes to eating, she is surely my child: enthusiastic, daring, and insatiable. She clutched the silver spoon expectantly, even after the bowl had been washed and returned to the cabinet.
Dr. Ramirez has told me that Alden's first Chipotle will have to wait until Alden has teeth, etc. This disappoints me, if only because I hate to think of her missing out on life's good things for so many more months. I will grudgingly oblige, if only because even in its thin, watery blandness, the rice cereal seems to bring her such genuine joy.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:32 PM
August 06, 2008
We had a bit of a college reunion the other night. Our friend David Turner is in town, visiting from NYC, so we all drove over to Baltimore to visit with Christian, Emily, and Iris, who celebrated her arrival at the two-month marker a few weeks ago.
It was David's first time meeting little Iris.
And although they have met before, it was the first time that Alden and Iris were able to interact with one another in any meaningful way. It was fascinating watching them together.
For example, at one point, Iris was unhappy about one thing or another.
And Alden was like, "Dude, cheer up. Life gets much better in the fourth month."
To which Iris responded, "Thank god, because it totally sucks not being able to hold up my head for more than a few seconds at a time."
To which Alden said, "So, do you, like, wanna be best friends?"
To which Iris responded, "Uh . . . yeah."
At which point they both turned to the collective parents, asking, "Like, can we be best friends forever and always? Like, can we?"
We decided to test their budding friendship by letting them hang out together in Alden's travel bed.
At first, things went well.
"Hey this is great," Iris said.
At which point, Alden clocked her with a sneak uppercut.
I expected Iris to crumble. Instead, she gave Alden the stiff-arm and a spirited, "Oh no you didn't, Fathead."
We thought about separating them at that point, but decided instead to let them work out their differences. It soon became clear that the back-and-forth was nothing more than the dawn of a genuine affection.
"You're number one, Alden," said Iris after a while.
"No, you are," said Alden.
We let them parse the fine points as they got to know one another. Before long they locked arms, affirmed their lifelong allegiance, and started gossiping amongst themselves.
Iris even let Alden sit in her little green chair. Which Alden loved.
And then suddenly hated.
Babies are such mercurial creatures, already in intensive training for adolescence.
But the friendship of Alden and Iris has been set in motion.
So much lies ahead for these two. I, for one, cannot wait to watch.
Posted by bogenamp at 04:41 PM
August 03, 2008
After some initial resistance, Alden has settled into a cheerful accord with her Baby Einstein.
Each day she discovers some new way in which it can be manipulated by her tiny baby hands, a process of discovery which, in turn, delights and gratifies us. But her tenure in the Einstein usually only lasts 15 minutes or so, leaving us in search of other means of stimulation.
And while the lure of the recycling bin is strong, we have so far resisted the temptation to repeat the experiment. Fortunately, we have discovered another, even better, even more gratifying way to divert one's baby.
A box arrived in the mail the other day, the contents the result of a long bout of Web research done by Robbi.
Behold the Bungee Baby Bouncer:
For those not content to wait until their child can actually walk, the Bungee Baby Bouncer creates the illusion, both for the benefit of the wildly gratified parent and the suddenly dexterous baby.
All one needs is a barn and a beam.
And a Bungee Baby Bouncer
We got the Bungee Baby Bouncer in hopes that it would entertain the baby (which it does) so that it would free us up to do other things (which it has not). The problem is the extent to which it is delightful to watch a baby enjoy her newfound ability to dance. Whenever Alden is strapped into the Bungee Baby Jumper, there are suddenly four adults sitting there watching her with adoring eyes.
There may be no more satisfying way to spend one's time.
Damn you, Bungee Baby Bouncer, entertainer of babies, beguiling killer of productivity.
Posted by bogenamp at 04:21 PM
July 30, 2008
First off, the answer to yesterday's puzzler. I must commend our friend Ming for coming up with "breastfeed," which, while quite long and able to be typed with the left hand alone, is not quite as long as "stewardesses."
As for the baby, she has suddenly emerged as a conscious being, possessed of a more comprehensive awareness of her surroundings and a corresponding hunger for stimulation. In Alaska, this was easy. One could merely stroll over to a stuffed bear and the kid would be impressed.
The one shown here, which stands perpetually motionless in the Anchorage airport, is the Guinness Record holder in terms of skull circumference.
But back in the Lower 48, in the confines of our dull and dusty barn, she has begun to demand a less wholesome form of diversion. I made the ultimate mistake of not accompanying Robbi when she took Alden to target yesterday. The story goes that as mother and child were strolling the baby section in search of a modest teething ring, Alden let out a shriek of infant joy at the sight of the Baby Einstein Musical Mobile Activity Jumper. She was entranced and demanded the immediate purchase of the colorful plastic monstrosity. And instead of exercising the disciplined brand of tough love for which my campaign of fatherhood will known, Robbi caved to the insistent appeals of nascent American capitalism, and brought the thing home.
It was my unhappy task to assemble it.
Alden heckled, providing no real assistance.
After many struggles and missteps, the Einstein seemed to be complete.
Alden seemed pleased with, if somewhat dwarfed by, the apparatus. Although the Musical Mobile Activity Jumper was rated for "ages 4 months to 25 pounds", only one of her tiny feet can touch the floor at a given time when she is properly seated within. It is therefore impossible for her to rotate the thing as must be done to achieve maximum infant joy. So we helped her move from one garish colorful station to another. She seemed to enjoy the mirror the most.
Already a narcissist.
After her five-minute joyride in the new toy, she burst into tears, demanding more and better entertainment. We were at loggerheads. What could possibly be more delightful than the Einstein?
I don't remember now which one of us had the brilliant idea to put her in the paper recycling bin.
But regardless, there can be little doubt that her enjoyment of it trumped her experience in the Einstein.
We haven't yet decided whether to actually recycle her. Our weekly pickup of paper, plastic, metal, and glass happens Friday morning. Probably best just to recycle the Einstein, reclaim our lost living room, and accept the fact that baby will suffer a few paper cuts along the way.
The price of baby happiness is steep, but it can be kept in check by learning from the mistakes of others.
Those of you with children, be advised that serious savings can be realized by seeing if your child can be satisfied by the cool galvanized walls of an Ikea trashcan ($10) before shelling out $79 for a plastic eyesore.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:23 AM
July 13, 2008
I tell you, this fishing has really been interfering with my blogging of late. Salmon are such an inconsiderate breed. We have been fishing so frequently that sleep has only been happening in short, intense bursts. Alden and I have enjoyed some satisfying power naps together.
She has been spending more and more time with other members of the family, learning essential skills. Such as:
How to put one's entire fist inside one's mouth.
How to read.
How to lounge in the hammock chair.
And how not to hold a baby.
It takes a village...
Posted by bogenamp at 09:45 PM
June 25, 2008
Farewell, for Now
We leave tomorrow for Alaska and are in the midst of furious packing. Robbi is out buying produce before the Super Fresh closes. As there are no grocery stores along the desolate stretch of beach known as Coffee Point, we have to bring any fresh fruits and vegetables that we care to eat along with us.
Earlier today Robbi was over at her parents' house and found an old album of pictures from her childhood. After a few minutes, she stumbled on an image that cleared up the looming question of where Alden got her tremendous cheeks.
Here is Robbi at seven months.
And here, again, is Alden at three months.
Like mother, like daughter, it seems.
As for the fate of this blog in the weeks ahead, I will do my best to find a way to post. Tomorrow night we will be sleeping on the floor of the Anchorage airport. Provided the airport has a wireless connection, I will do my best to document the unwholesome affair.
If no network is available, you will have to use your imaginations, which might make for a better story anyway. The floor of the Anchorage airport, while uncomfortable, is no different from the floor of the Newark airport, for example. It is a mundane sort of discomfort, nothing at all like the kind of unpleasantness we will experience once the fishing begins in earnest.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:46 PM
June 23, 2008
Sad Days Ahead
I have been reluctant to say it, but as we approach the eleventh hour, I feel it only fair to give you a few days to prepare for the sober fact that I will be leaving you very soon. On Thursday evening, Robbi, Alden, Iggy, and I will board the first of four flights that will carry us from our fair coast to the barren Alaska tundra. Once there, we will don rubber suits and engage in a family-run commercial fishing enterprise. For those of you who do not know, for more than three decades, Robbi's family has traveled each summer to Coffee Point, a non-town on the bluffs overlooking Bristol Bay on the Alaskan Peninsula, to harvest sockeye salmon by the tens of thousands of pounds.
I've documented the process here. Have a look. It's pretty neat.
In any case, even though it's hot and horrible here in Maryland, Seiko called the other day to let us know that it was 35 and snowing in Coffee Point. She was very concerned that we bring proper attire for her grandchild, and so Robbi went online and ordered a full-blown snowsuit for Alden.
Alden didn't like the snowsuit. She didn't even pretend to like it.
Although the thing seems enormous, it is so full of stuffing and comfort that the interior was just about Alden-sized. Try as she might, however, she wasn't able to move the arms.
It's pretty much a baby straight jacket with the added benefit of warmth.
Later on, we relaxed in the bed, and she seemed to have found her happy place again.
The smiles are more regular now, and they are starting to feel less arbitrary. She is consistently amused by bookshelves of any variety. Something about them strikes her as endlessly funny. Ceiling fans have also become a reliable source of levity.
Mom and Dean have been visiting for the past few days.
We took Alden for a walk by the water to see the Schooner Sultana.
Dean, who is an ER doc, spent most of his time with the baby teaching her some of the more erudite aspects of emergency medicine.
She was an attentive student, engaged and clearly interested in the material. She fared miserably on the pop quiz, but Dean vows not to give up on her yet.
Mom and Dean have continued southward to Fort Bragg, where my brother Alex is currently awaiting the start of his Special Forces training. He survived the gauntlet known as Selection, and has been chosen to move forward with the training.
Robbi and I have been busy binding Volume 15, which will be ready to send out just before we leave town on Thursday. Which brings us back to the point at hand. Come Thursday, things are likely to change in Barnstorming land. At least for a while. Alaska lacks roads, electricity, and public water supply, let alone a reliable internet connection.
Last summer I was able to catch a stray signal from a nearby cannery from time to time by parking my four-wheeler behind a sand dune and holding my computer at a very specific angle. Perhaps this will once more be possible. But perhaps not.
If, in the weeks ahead, you find the blog not updated as frequently as you would like, I ask to to understand my predicament, to be patient, and to look fondly toward the trove of new Alaska pictures that will be posted upon my return in late July.
Additionally, I invite you to return to this post as often as you care, if only to look fondly at this photo of a moment that might well be my favorite moment of parenthood to date.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:13 AM
June 20, 2008
Alden and Iris
We drove in to Baltimore on Wednesday, I to work and Robbi to participate in a long-anticipated baby summit. You may remember that when Robbi, Alden, and I visited Christian, Emily, and Iris in the hospital when Iris was not yet one day old, Alden was barred from entering the maternity wing. It has taken about a month to convince her to drop the grudge.
I was not present for the baby gam, but Robbi was good enough to document the proceedings.
The difference in ages is writ bold in the size of their heads.
They had surprisingly little to say to one another.
But the moms had fun, from the look of things.
On the way home, we stopped for a visit with the Democratic Family Westbrook. Matt and Alden shared a moment.
Then Barbara and Jennifer had a turn.
Kira Westbrook was not present when the photo above was taken on account of her just having been thoroughly vomited on. It's Alden's new favorite trick, returning half of each meal to the world. I suppose I should be pleased to have such a selfless and generous child. But Kira Westbrook's shirt will need a good wash.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:41 AM
June 16, 2008
It was back to work today. I'm in the midst of a big writing/editing project and had to buckle down. Only, it's not as easy to sneak off for quiet hours of writerly contemplation as it used to be. Ever curious and increasingly interested in participating in family affairs, Alden joined me at my desk. At first she was content to observe.
For a long time, she asked no questions and made no comments, but after a while it became perfectly clear that she disagreed with some of my editorial choices. Eventually she asked for a highlighter, and I indulged her.
Once she started marking up my draft, it quickly became evident that we disagree on some fairly fundamental matters: she uses AP style and I'm a Chicago guy, for example. She says "potayto" and I say "pototto." But I soon realized that, with the two of us hacking away together, the work went a lot more quickly.
Editorial standards be damned.
With Robbi already vying to make Alden an illustrator, I feel compelled to start lobbying her to join the writer camp now. Though she's not yet much of a speller.
Just like her old man.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:51 PM
First Father's Day
I awoke this morning to a gentle, if insistent, taping on my back. I turned to see my young daughter, earnestly wishing to give me my Father's Day present.
In spite of the early hour, I rose to the occasion and opened the package, feeling more like a dad than ever before.
I was pleased and overwhelmed with the gift--an illustrated elephant made from Alden's inverted hand print and a few added pen marks by Robbi.
Here's a close-up.
I can't imagine a more wonderful way to wake up.
The rest of the day was just as nice as the beginning. Our friends Cathy and Neil are visiting. They are expecting a baby of their own in October, and have come to town to examine ours and to pick up a few pointers.
We decided to take a walk in the nature preserve near Kennedyville this afternoon.
Neil spent a few minutes going over the rules with Alden in the parking lot before we set out on the walk, drawing particular attention to Clause F, which prohibits the "making of public nuisance."
Alden was fundamentally opposed to Clause F, and let us know right away that she had no intention of following it.
The day was sunny and clear as we walked through cornfields.
When we got to the beach where the Sassafrass meets the Chesapeake, I took Alden out for a Father's Day swim, hoping it would go better than her introduction to the ocean at Dewey Beach last weekend.
The water was warm and, to my surprise, she was perfectly content.
It was an awfully nice way to spend one's first Father's Day afternoon.
Back on dry land, Alden made it clear that she is a beach girl in the making. She "laid out" baby style.
While Robbi played paparazzi.
On days like today, there is nothing as blue as the sky.
And nothing as green as the corn.
I was not the only one to receive a present today. Back home, Alden opened a gift from Cathy and Neil.
Curious about the contents, she took a closer look and decided that the only thing more fun than looking in the bag was getting into the bag.
Eventually she found the gift, a book her dad enjoyed quite a bit way back in the day.
Let's have another look at that elephant, instantly among the most important things I own in this world.
May it be but the first of many collaborations between my girls.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:46 AM
June 11, 2008
We spent the past weekend in New York City at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art festival. I would love to write about our experiences there but, unfortunately, cannot. I cannot because we forgot to bring our camera and so there are no pictures of the many exciting happenings. I cannot because I know that, without photos to look at, the Barnstorming is of no use to you. I have a solution to this problem, but it will take some doing, so today I'll talk about our trip to Dewy Beach, which was amply photographed and can, therefore, be shared.
Dad and Judy came to visit. They claimed to be visiting us, but they were actually visiting Alden. We can accept this. The five of us headed for the beach for the post-wedding celebration of some old friends.
Almost immediately, Alden demanded to be taken into the water. In spite of her having no swimming suit other than the one she was born in.
There is an outstanding movie of Alden's first moments in the ocean. It contains outstanding footage of her tiny feet recoiling upon contact with the chilly water followed quickly by outrage as an unexpected explosion of surf douses her from crown to rump. I'd show this movie except for the fact that 1) I don't know how to post a movie to the blog and 2) our friend Veronica, who is a pediatric social worker, might use it as leverage to remove the child from our custody.
Instead I'll show this photo of the aftermath. Alden has been dried and soothed but is still none too happy with the situation.
It took long minutes of lounging in the sun with mom to get her back to her happy place.
The rest of our time at the beach was spent in other forms of slothful indulgence.
We ate a lot of potato chips.
We ate crabs on the roof deck as the sun set.
Mostly, Robbi ate the crabs.
While I love how crabs taste, I hate getting my fingers sticky. Yes, I know that this is a lame-o trait. I've always been this way.
Grandpa John worked hard to reconcile with Alden in the wake of the unpleasant baby-dousing incident.
His attempts to appease Alden by lifting her high into the air were only marginally successful.
But he managed to earn her forgiveness by introducing her to the pleasures of the hot tub.
It put her in the mood for a nap.
Which put me in the mood for a nap.
In spite of not being much of a fan of beaches, I had a fine time. I think there are many otherwise unpleasant experiences that can be redeemed in the presence of a tiny child. Perhaps I will keep her near when we do next year's taxes.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:17 PM
June 04, 2008
Daddy's Little Plucker
I've mentioned here before that I was once the proud member of an old time jug band called The Motherpluckers. We had a fiddle and banjo, a mandolin and stand up bass. We had a drummer sometimes, and then there was me, limping along on rhythm guitar. I could never quite keep the chords straight, but the other fellows tolerated me on account of how nice I look in a sundress.
Some thoughtful friends of ours, J.T. and Stacey, saw fit to promote Alden's allegiance to her dad's band of yore, and had a Motherpluckers onesie made up for her.
We're not sure if she's pleased or embarrassed to be associated with the Plucker name, or with me at all, for that matter.
And I'm not sure what instrument she'd play, if it comes to that.
Given the size of her cheeks, it might have to be trumpet.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:07 AM
May 27, 2008
Alden's New Name
I've already covered the legendary origins of Alden's name elsewhere on these pages, but today I'm happy to report that she has been given her Japanese name by Grandma Seiko. The "L" sound in "Alden" is particularly challenging for Japanese-speaking folks (it might come out sounding something like "ah-rue-den"), and so Seiko has coined "A-chan" (prounounced "aah-chan," with the stress on the first syllable) as a Japanese-friendly alternative. I happen to like the sound of it quite a bit, and any of you who would like may use it in addressing or referring to the child.
In other news, Robbi drove across the bay with Alden a week or so ago to spend the afternoon with Emily who was at the time on doctor-mandated bed rest during her last week of pregnancy. Emily practiced basic baby-care mom tasks like changing Alden and comforting her quietly.
When Christian came home from work, he practiced basic baby-care dad tasks like riling up the baby and teaching her how to yell.
Aware of the importance of Alden's 1/4 Japanese identity, Christian and Emily searched high and low for apparel that would adequately communicate Alden's complex mixture of pride at being partially Japanese and wistful regret at not being somewhat more so.
Here's a closer look at A-chan in her new duds.
Posted by bogenamp at 08:49 PM
May 24, 2008
Today is Tea Party in Chestertown, the commemoration of a supposed revolt in the vein of the better-publicized Boston-based incident. What this means for those of us who live here is that the streets are teeming with hordes of funnel cake enthusiasts and that Iggy is banned from the public byways.
There are parades, of course. And we spent our requisite five minutes on the curb partaking of the hubub.
I'm not much for parades. I shrouded my child from seeing such unsightly spectacle as the dancing plush crab.
Robbi has enough enthusiasm for parades to cover the entire family. She is incorrigible.
After the parade had come and gone, we came back inside. The family hijinks that ensued are worth sharing, I think.
First Alden sneaked up on Iggy.
To which Iggy objected, not without cause, I would argue.
It got dicey for a while as they wrestled.
But as the minutes passed...
...they settled into a comfortable equilibrium as Iggy realized that compromise is better to the harassment of a curious baby.
In other news, my sister Lindsay gave birth to my nephew, Orin Alexander Zawicki yesterday late morning. He weighed in at 7 pounds and some ounces. I can't remember now. He has a lot of hair and seems like a jovial little fellow. Photos will be posted as soon as they are sent my way.
Welcome Orin. The world is abundant these days.
Posted by bogenamp at 04:25 PM
May 15, 2008
Basically Just a Cute Photo of a Baby in a Hat
Today was going to be a day of industry, a day of progress on a number of fronts. We had a babysitter lined up (neighbor and baby-whisperer extraordinaire Dr. Donald McColl), and we had a large empty van with which to complete our errands. Since Chestertown is so tiny and lacking in major retail opportunities, we often drive to Dover, Delaware to conduct our commerce. And so we drove. About an hour, it was. We pulled up in the parking lot of the Home Depot, got out of the van, beaming with lusty enthusiasm to tackle the first item on our day's lengthy TO-DO list, and realized that neither one of us had brought a credit card. Robbi had $40 cash in her back pocket--a kind of miracle. But not nearly enough to make an honest showing at the bold schemes we had hatched. And so we drove home in the silence of the shamed.
Robbi, being far more resilient than I, decided to return to Dover. I was left to tend to the baby while nursing my wounded pride. I strapped her into the Snugli and walked about town, visiting many friends, including Tom and Sarah and Bookplate. While there, I took this photo, that is really the central justification for chronicling this story.
I love that hat, that big floppy hat.
Later, hours later, after Robbi's return, we both realized that we were desperately hungry and headed to the store in the wrong frame of mind to make rational decisions. We bought a lot of rich, filling, comforting foods. At the time it seemed like a good idea.
Alden was disgusted with the whole affair, judging us with her eyes, scornful of our apparent lust for processed meals.
I like to think she'll be the type to buy healthy ingredients and cook from scratch. I like to think she'll avoid the trap of high-fat, calorie-rich stupor that so frequently afflicts her parents, but then she has never tasted macaroni and cheese from the deli counter, or slow-roasted rotisserie chicken, or those frozen Pillsbury biscuits that rise like magic to buttery freshness in just over 15 minutes.
Her menu to date has been frightfully limited. In just over two months we'll be able to introduce her to a thin gruel, apparently, not something that will likely do much to redeem our diets in her mind.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:55 PM
May 12, 2008
The weather is terrible here tonight. Which is to say wonderful if, like me, you are a fan of rain and tumult in the skies. Perhaps as a result of the overcast, the wireless signal is weak and spotty. And so I will resist my usual inclination to the verbose and share but one image.
Robbi has been asked to pitch some illustrations to a potentially exciting project. The project itself is not "potentially" exciting, but in all ways exciting. The "potential" (or lack thereof) part of the equation comes from the fact that landing the project is something of a long shot, and Robbi is never one to count any chickens.
But given the excitement generated by the mere potential, Robbi was at her drawing table tonight, looking for inspiration. Alden insisted on getting into the mix. While her tiny, fumbling infant hands are not yet capable of producing credible illustration, her critical skills are already well honed. Perhaps she is bound to be an art director. In any case, I thought I'd share a photo of my girls at work.
Oh, the potential.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:59 AM
May 07, 2008
The following entry reveals why each of us needs a competent photographer to follow us around and document our lives. Christian's cousin Anthony is a more than competent photographer with a really nice camera and a tendency to document the lives of those around him. Anthony was a guest at Christian and Emily's baby bowling shower a few weeks back, and so a tiny slice of our lives was beautifully photographed. Not surprisingly, Alden captured the lion's share of Anthony's attention. It was, after all, a baby shower, and the baby being honored had yet to emerge.
And so our baby had to do in a pinch.
She spent a long time hanging out with Anthony's wife Kelly.
She had a nap. While she slept, her fingers were photographed.
I earnestly hope that no one photographs my fingers while I sleep.
This shot is for Alden's various grandparents to look at and feel misty.
After Alden slept, she shrieked. She is a baby. It is her wont.
And lastly, here is our pal Christian, the proud papa to be. Emily is due to undergo a dramatic transformation in about two weeks now. Rest assured you will be informed when the big day comes.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:29 AM
May 04, 2008
Cause and Effect
We passed a rather nice milestone a few days ago. I finally got a chance to feed the baby.
We were cautioned by doctors, midwives, and lactation consultants alike not to give a bottle to the baby too early on, lest she succumb to the dread malady of "nipple confusion." The estimates for when she would be able to keep the various nipples in her life straight varied wildly, but the most consistent time frame seemed to be four-to-six weeks. So at five weeks we decided to give it a try. Alden was not confused, I think, but perhaps overwhelmed by the bottle. There was a lot of leaking of milk all over the place. There was a lot of desperate gulping of air. There was ensuing abdominal pressure, baby angst, truly heroic belches, and, in the end, a milk-coated, ill-fed, grouchy, gassy baby.
What does one do with a baby in this state? Throw it in the tub, of course.
I took Alden into the big tub and found that she is a natural swimmer. She was able to float comfortably on her back and really seemed to like it in there. And then, all of a sudden, she started shrieking inconsolably. And family fun bath time was over.
It was nothing that the Pooh Bear jammies couldn't fix, apparently.
To make me feel better in the wake of the botched bottle feed and the sad bath, Robbi cooked up a batch of strawberry shortcake.
For those of you who don't know, the strawberry shortcake is, in the Behr home, a cross between art form and feat of endurance. The helpings are large and the ingredients are not on anyone's list of low-calorie snacks.
On a proper Behr shortcake, one gets both ice cream and whipped cream.
There's really nothing moderate about it.
Oh, and in Behr terms, the shortcake is not dessert, but the meal itself.
Though it still tastes like dessert.
Eventually we went to bed, bracing ourselves for the sleepus interruptus that had been our bittersweet plight each night for the past five weeks. Only...it didn't happen. 7:00am rolled around and we learned, to our mutual delight, that neither of us had been woken by the baby and her endless needs. We felt like celebrating. So Robbi did. The only way she knows how.
I swear I'll start writing (at least occasionally) about something other than baby antics soon. As soon as something other than baby antics happens to me.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:19 PM
May 01, 2008
Sense of Perspective
You know you're a baby when the flowers are bigger than your head.
These great big pink suckers grow right outside the door to the barn. I'm supposed to remember what they are called. Robbi reminds me constantly, but it just doesn't seem to stick. We brought Alden over to give the flowers a sniff and noticed that they outclassed her in size.
Though certainly not in volume.
The child makes a noise that belies her tiny stature.
Though already one can say that she used to be much smaller.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:14 PM
April 30, 2008
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.
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:
The progress is uneven, with lots of precarious listing from side to side, as shown:
To the left
To the right
She is trying hard, it's clear. We're pleased with the sheer effort.
Another endearing quirk, which cannot be seen as a sign of progress, is her inexplicable tendency to suddenly go horribly cross-eyed.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gina was intrepid in her baby care, nimbly navigating the twin challenges of the Snugli and the "Norwegian Excursion" at the local coffee shop.
Later, she and Grandpa John teamed up to teach Alden a thing or two about football.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's simply not her style.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:10 AM
April 25, 2008
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.
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.
I get the sense she liked it in there.
The time came for the exam.
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.
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.
And Alden slept through her party.
Seiko made a strawberry pizza for dessert.
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.
Later on, when things quieted down, Alden enjoyed a little down time with Iggy, who consented to share her dog couch for the occasion.
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.
There was great enthusiasm for their first grandchild.
Grandpa John brought Alden the smallest Kansas Jayhawks 2008 Championship commemorative t-shirt he could find.
And Grandma Judy brought a beautiful handmade quilt she has been working on for months.
We were blown away by the needlework.
Alden was pleased by the fact that it was soft and enveloping.
There was a lot of hugging and beholding and admiring.
And then more of the same.
And even more of the same.
Alden was wary, skeptical, looking to me for grounding in this mad world of senseless adoration.
I took her home for a nap. We were exhausted by it all.
The next day we went to the health department to pick up Alden's birth certificate.
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.
Aunt Gina came to visit, bringing a jade plant that we are sure to kill.
Grandma Judy tried to kidnap Alden, who was, by this point, growing accustomed to the largesse.
The day was quite sunny, so we bought Alden a sunbonnet.
She was kind enough to let me try it out.
For one resplendent moment I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Which traumatized my small daughter, who expects me to be masculine and sturdy.
That night we got a half-bushel of steamed crabs, which I tore to pieces with my bare hands.
It comforted Alden, who felt that sanity had been restored to her fragile universe.
The next day we drove to Baltimore to attend Christian and Emily's bowling baby shower.
Alden met Rich, who rocked her world.
Christian wielded his Steelers bowling ball, which spelled sure doom for the pins.
After the shower, we had some raw oysters and steamed mussels in Fels Point. Alden was unimpressed.
She is surprisingly unadventurous when it comes to diet.
The rest of the grandparent visit was a lot more of hugging and such.
Alden suddenly fit perfectly into her Jayhawks championship garb.
And posed for a picture with Grandpa John.
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
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...
...to happy baby...
...to quietly unconscious baby...
...in about thirty seconds. What's not to love?
Posted by bogenamp at 10:53 PM
April 17, 2008
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.
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?
There is a kind of pleasure in building a cake upside down.
The sisters made themselves useful while we baked.
When we were done with the "top" of the cake, we added the "bottom".
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."
And so we shucked off her knickers and took her to the bathroom.
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.
She was not graceful in defeat.
We finished our business and tried to show our benevolence by wrapping her in a clean white towel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
She wasn't entirely convinced that it was a good idea.
Come on, I said, I'm lots of fun. Let's do this.
She immediately became completely focused and alert.
And then fell into a profound slumber.
You're making me look bad, I said. Come on, now.
She mustered a modicum of enthusiasm.
I decided to turn on the charm. When charming, I am irresistible to babies.
But perhaps my own child is immune.
My bag of tricks depleted, I had no choice but to despair.
Robbi, shrewd veteran mother that she has become, suggested that I try to cast a spell on the baby.
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.
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.
In other news, there was a parade today in Chestertown.
It was a tiny parade. One banner, one drum major, one small band, and one small group of flag waving people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Which compelled Alden to try her hardest to summon the dark powers of Lucifer.
Things got ugly for a while, but eventually Robbi and Alden decided to call a truce and have a nap together.
Later that day a package arrived from our friends Garet and Matt, and the lobbying for college allegiance officially began.
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.
Apparently Alden will be influenced not only by people who went to Williams but also by small plush bears in Eph garb.
Last Thursday, Alden made her first trip to the pediatrician.
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.
Later that day, the college lobbying began from another direction.
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.
Friday brought a visit from the democratic family Westbrook. According to their egalitarian ways, each got a chance to hold the baby.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alden insisted on donning the pink Duke bib to please her.
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.
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.
For a two-week-old, the kid's sure got her priorities straight.
Posted by bogenamp at 01:27 PM
April 04, 2008
A Hint of Things to Come
This is not a smile. It's too early for that.
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 01, 2008
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.
Inside of which were two sets of beautiful handmade booties.
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.
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.
Once unwrapped, her gift was revealed to be a wonderful, whimsical sausage-like doll thing.
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.
According to the alternative physics that defines the Behr universe, strawberry shortcake is not a desert, but a perfectly acceptable noontime meal.
Alden wasn't feeling quite up to eating hers, so I helped out.
I'm trying hard to be that kind of dad.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:14 PM
March 31, 2008
Baby's First UPS
Perhaps the most resounding affirmation of her young existence to date, Alden received a FedEx package addressed to her today.
It contained a beautiful book from a generous friend.
Robbi and I enjoyed the book a great deal, but Alden responded with utter indifference. She seemed to be preoccupied with the other UPS package addressed to her. The one that contained a terribly cute pink shirt with neatly coordinated brown pants.
And two tiny pink barrettes!
We found three strands of hair and clamped one on right away. And did the child even say "thank you"? One week into life, Alden already owns more fashionable outfits than I or Robbi ever has and yet she seems to be taking her good fortune entirely for granted. Grandpa Bob has been grumbling regularly about how she's getting spoiled, and I have to say I agree.
Today at 6:29pm we had a one-week birthday party. By "party," I mean we sat on the couch looking ungroomed and sang "Happy Birthday" with slight word adjustments.
Again, Alden was unimpressed. I get the sense that she was expecting a clown.
Later, while Robbi and I were over visiting the cats in the barn for a few minutes, Grandma Seiko was placed on babysitting duty. While we were gone, she taught Alden how to use the pacifier, which pleased both baby and grandmother a great deal.
Prior to tonight, Seiko's greatest babysitting triumph had been teaching Christian's and Emily's dog Ruby how to shake.
Alden practiced her new trick for a long while, finally demonstrating a shred of honest enthusiasm as this first full Monday of her life draws to a close.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:57 PM
March 30, 2008
What's in a Name?
I've gotten a number of queries about Alden's name. First and foremost, Robbi and I like the name and how it sounds. Second, and, I suppose, the reason we know about the name in the first place, is that Alden is my middle name. Alden is my middle name because my paternal grandmother, Mary Swanson, has done a great deal of genealogical research into the Swanson past, and discovered that we are, in fact, descended from John Alden.
Who is John Alden, you ask?
I will direct you to the Wikipedia entry for the full story, but John Alden was one of the Mayflower Pilgrims and original founders of Plymouth Colony. He is remembered primarily for being a character in the poem The Courtship of Miles Standish, written by Longfellow, who was a descendant of Alden's. In the poem, Alden woos his eventual wife Patricia Mullins on behalf of his pal Miles Standish but then ends up with the girl himself.
John and Priscilla had a lot of kids and ten who survived to adulthood (including John's son John, who was accused during the Salem witch trials). Theirs is the largest of the original pilgrim families, and so their family tree has many branches and many people trace their lineage back to John Alden.
My Alden, for example.
And Longfellow, of course.
Can you see the family resemblance?
Both John and John Quincy Adams.
It's like I'm looking at a photo of my daughter.
Dick Van Dyke
A couple of other guys.
And every last one of the Baldwin brothers.
It's an awesome responsibility, being related to the Baldwins, the Bushes, and (possibly) a witch. I only hope that Alden can stand up under the withering pressure. She is already saddled with the indignity of being related to me.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:22 PM
March 29, 2008
Pretty in Pink
We frustrated a number of people by deciding not to learn the gender of our child when we had the opportunity back at the 20-week mark. Many people, it turns out, depend on this crucial piece of information in order to make color-appropriate gift choices. As a result, the clothes that were gifted to us prior to Alden's arrival are decidedly color-neutral. She has a lot of yellows and creams, onesies with white backgrounds and playful prints that might successfully decorate either a boy or girl, but nothing that screamed boyness or girlness to the exclusion of the other possibility.
Yesterday, our very thoughtful next door neighbors presented us with a box that contained an unambiguously feminine outfit. And though it is rated for the 6-9 month age range, we couldn't help put put Alden in it to see how she cut it as a proper little girl.
You be the judge.
Posted by bogenamp at 09:11 PM
March 28, 2008
The Other Baby
It was a beautiful day in Chestertown, warm and bright, the air clear and smelling of springtime. We made our way out to the back porch to take in some sunshine. Here's today's family portrait.
But something is missing from this picture of domestic bliss.
That's right, Iggy the formerly jovial family dog, has grown abject and detached. We tried to warn her in the weeks leading up to Alden's arrival that things were about to change, but she seemed unwilling to heed the warning signs.
We've been trying without much luck to introduce the two. Iggy seems to regard Alden as if her new sister were a head of cabbage, not even worth an honest sniff. Today as we had lunch, we gave them the opportunity to get acquainted, but Iggy's indifference could not have been more palpable.
Perhaps her scorn is merely meant to mask a searing inner sadness. She has spent the week consigned to the porch, a rude demotion for a dog used to lying between us on the couch. By the end of the meal, a bit of progress had been made.
Later, we made more concerted attempts to broker a truce. Ever gracious, Iggy offered the olive branch.
Alden did not reciprocate.
I tried to console my demoralized dog.
While Alden said something along the lines of, "Talk to the Hand, Iggy" though she said it in Finnish, which is, apparently, the language that all newborns know how to speak for the first week of life, at the end of which they forget it entirely. Except for Finnish babies, who begin their lives speaking Swahili.
In an attempt to lift Iggy's crushed spirits, I took her for a run over the Chester River Bridge into Kingstown. She worked off some of her misery, I think, and I worked up a good sweat. Which was fascinating to Alden, who had never seen anything quite so magnificent.
When I kissed, her was speechless.
Even her Finnish failed her.
The balance of power between the two sisters is still grossly tipped toward the 6 pound, 14 ounce one. As I type, Iggy is curled in a misshapen, stinky, undersized dog bed on the cold, poorly lit back porch, while Alden lies comfortably between Robbi and me in the cozy second story bedroom.
It hardly seems fair. Such is the life of a dog. Such is the life of a baby.
Posted by bogenamp at 06:11 PM
March 27, 2008
Don't Eat the Baby
We had a fine day with Alden, all of us continuing to get acquainted. There was a lot of eating and sleeping, pooping and peeing. It was that kind of day and I loved every minute.
There were a few highlights.
Early afternoon, Grandpa Bob and Grandma Seiko came to deliver the mail, catching Alden in the middle of a nap.
The mail brought a package from Robbi's Aunt Mimi.
She opened it to find a beautiful hand-knit blanket Mimi had made for Alden--or for Tarzan, had Alden turned out to be a he. I'm assuming that Mimi's beautiful work was not completed since Monday evening.
Alden was eager to give the new blanket a try, and promptly settled in for another nap. It's what she does. She's good at it.
When she woke up, she wanted to come hang out with me in the big bed for a while.
We were sitting there in bed, chatting amiably, when I heard the telltale sound of #2. I took Alden to the changing table to clean things up, but made a real botch of it. I'm new to the diaper changing game, see, and didn't realize that a new mess can be produced while the old one is being cleared up. Three diapers and 20 wipes later, I gave up, threw all of her clothes, my clothes, and the changing table cover in the laundry, shucked Alden down to nothing, and decided that the time had come for her first bath.
Robbi, who is less prone to breaking things, took the lead. There was some scrubbing.
And some rinsing.
And through it all, discontent. I pulled out the big guns: the oversized fleecy green swaddling thing I bought at Target the night we went to ply ourselves with baby gear.
And still she was far from her happy place. And then, all of a sudden, the skies cleared and all was well once more.
We had dinner down in the kitchen tonight, Robbi braving the stairs, partially motivated by the opportunity to visit with Iggy, who has spent the past few days hanging out in relative solitude on the porch.
Alden relaxed in the car seat while we ate.
I tried to interest her in a toy, but her hands aren't really working yet. She's basically just a bundle of unfocused nerves, all instinct and impulse. I kind of admire her honesty. She cries when hungry, sleeps when tired, looks about for answers when the world throws mysteries her way.
She isn't smiling yet, but today the camera caught her in fleeting expression that kind of looked like one.
I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that she is my child and I am her father. It may seem like no epiphany given that I have had nine months to prepare for this fact. But biology and common sense aside, it's shocking to think that I am a dad. Talk about a paradigm shift.
I am so fond of this little creature, I kind of want to eat her up.
But Robbi won't let me.
Posted by bogenamp at 11:35 PM
Baby's First Movie!
After dinner last night, Grandpa Bob wondered if we might want to watch a movie. Alden was in a sleepy, agreeable mood, so we decided to give it a try. But the pressure was high to make her very first movie a good one. We pondered.
Some of you who know me well may have heard the story of my long unsatisfied desire to watch the Wayans Brothers 2004 masterpiece White Chicks, starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans, two fine American actors.
In this film, they portray two hardscrabble FBI agents willing to go the distance to solve the "Heiress Kidnapper" case. How far, you ask? This far:
That's right, Shawn and Marlon go way undercover, spending the weekend in the Hamptons in full white chick regalia in an attempt to solve the crime. Hijinks ensue.
I have been drawn to this movie with an irrational exuberance ever since I saw the trailer, four years ago now. Could they really make a feature film with such a preposterous premise? Apparently so.
Anyway, I have been pleading with Robbi for years now to watch White Chicks with me. Admittedly, I could have watched it alone, but the real triumph would be to sit on the couch watching the film with my loving wife. When we signed up for Netflix a few months back, I quietly added White Chicks to the queue. Strangely, it never seemed to reach the top.
But lo and behold, checking the mail yesterday after arriving home from the hospital, there it was a Netflix envelope containing the prize I had sought for so long. Robbi claims that she was being benevolent. But I wonder if in the midst of all the labor, childbirth, etc, she merely forgot to move something above it in the queue.
In any case, the question of what should be Alden's first movie became moot. She is, after all, the perfect candidate for the film: a chick, and mostly white, but not all white. She more than many other American viewers represented the demographic Keenan Ivory Wayans was hoping would see this important film and thus internalize its vital commentary on the issue of mixed-race identity in our land.
We settled in. The credits rolled. "White Chicks, " I thought to myself. "Man oh man, is this my lucky day."
We positioned Alden for a clear view of the screen. She was riveted, clearly, as the action began. And then, to my extreme disappointment, she fell asleep, missing what could have been a seminal moment in her young life.
Next up? I'm trying to decide between Airplane and Austin Powers. I'm taking this child's education seriously.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:15 PM
The day started with another sumptuous hospital breakfast for Robbi and beef jerky for me.
I shouldn't complain. Alden was on day two of straight up colostrum. Can you say "yum"?
The OB visited, as did the pediatrician. They both gave the ok for us to go home. So after some baby training videos, one of which was produced in 1986, we loaded Alden into the car seat (thank you Jose and Luciana!) and said our farewells to the amazing maternity staff.
Alden wailed like bloody murder as we left maternity and continued down the hallway to the elevator, during the elevator ride, and from the elevator to the front of the hospital. One would have thought we were torturing her.
By the time she and Robbi made it to the curb, she seemed to have run out of fight.
She is still very small.
We pulled out of the parking lot. Two minutes later we were home. Actually, we were at Bob and Seiko's house, where we will be spending a few days until Robbi is feeling back to full strength.
Alden and Iggy made their first acquaintance.
Alden insisted on being carried inside.
Our makeshift nursery is Robbi's childhood bedroom. I like the symmetry of it.
We put the crib by the window so that Alden could get some sunlight (an important factor in preventing jaundice, apparently).
She slept for a few hours, giving us a needed nap.
When we all woke up, Seiko made us a delicious dinner, which we took in bed. The luxury.
Here she is at two days old. Robbi just pointed out that it's never going to happen again.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:34 AM
March 26, 2008
The Chester River Hospital Center has some fairly strict rules about visiting. There are three hour-long visiting times each day, and only two visitors are allowed at any one time. These rules are in place to protect the moms and babies, who, as a rule, tend to be more exhausted than baby-crazed visitors realize.
This afternoon, we played by the book. First Ken and Betty, Robbi's honorary uncle and aunt, came to visit. Since we had willfully refused to discover the sex of our child in advance, Betty had had no choice but to buy presents for both possible outcomes. We now have a set of girl clothes and boy clothes; we now have a girl snuggly towel and a boy snuggly towel.
I am hoping that Alden is the kind of gal who doesn't mind wearing hues from the "boy clothes" spectrum.
Then our friend Sarah came to visit.
She brought Alden a soft book full of wonderful textures. We had an initial read. I'm hoping Alden is the kind of gal who will read a soft book now and then.
Afternoon visiting hours ended and we spent some time snoozing. At one point I went home to take Iggy for a run and check in on the cats.
But tonight we had the perfect storm of visitors. Christian and Emily drove over from Baltimore to do some baby research.
Emily is due in the middle of May and was interested to see just what lay ahead.
I'm glad they came, because the seem woefully confused about baby's needs. Their gift?
Jack Link's Premium Original Slow Cooked Beef Jerky and a Tastykake lemon pie.
I didn't have the heart to tell them that baby Alden lacks teeth.
Not long after Chris and Emily showed up, Bob and Seiko came back for their second visit of the day. My hunch about them liking Alden grows stronger.
Christian and Emily brought presents for Bob and Seiko, too: an aromatic candle with calming and deodorizing properties (as babies can be both stinky and stressful) and a clear plastic self-illuminating Buddha that is meant to be plugged into one's car cigarette lighter, presumably to stimulate a Zenlike calm when grandbaby is yowling like a harrier jet in the back seat.
And then our good friends and neighbors Donald and Ann showed up, bringing these tiny Canadian shoes.
Donald and Ann are proud Canadians and fans of the TV show 24, which stars famous Canadian Kiefer Sutherland. Donald and I often pretend to be Jack Bauer when we pass one another on Queen Street. I bet you had no idea Chestertown was so much fun.
Soon we had a full-blown party on our hands. It was lucky that I had gotten some pizzas.
Alden had been fussing for the better part of an hour, and we had just gotten her down to rest as visiting hours began. Consequently, she lay quietly, serene and uninteresting, throughout our festivities. I kept crossing my fingers that she would wake up and be delightful, but no dice. Eventually I had to peel her out of bed so that Emily and Christian could get the practice they had come for.
They look like naturals to me.
Folks, prepare to see a recreation of this shot in two months time, only with a different baby.
When Christian and I were roommates in Garfield House at Williams College in 1994-95, I'm pretty sure neither of us foresaw the day when we'd be standing in the midst of a raging baby-themed pizza party in the Chester River Hospital Center taking this picture. And yet, look where life has led us.
Eventually our friends and family returned to their homes, leaving us to prepare for bed. Alden is very interested in eating, but once given the opportunity, frequently falls asleep without much actual nourishment. In order to stimulate alertness, we were instructed to remove her Pooh Bear jammies.
I like her best like this, wrinkly and soft and pliable.
Alertness was achieved.
And later, something like tranquility restored.
My favorite times so far are those when she is calm, yet alert, her eyes open, trying to focus, taking small sips of her new world. She seems to be lost in contemplation, mired in deliberation. I wonder what her thoughts are like, whether there is anything like fear or love in her heart. Maybe these things come later, or maybe the seeds have already been planted. Whatever the case, I'm falling in love all over again.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:52 AM
March 25, 2008
Apparently, the Chester River Hospital Center provides one free meal to the father of the newborn child. I was given the opportunity to choose between lunch and dinner today. I chose lunch. The sooner the better, is usually my mantra.
I chose the strip steak and Robbi the cornish game hen. They don't mess around at the CRHC.
We even got a congratulatory cake.
Grandma Seiko and Grandpa Bob came for noontime visiting hours.
Alden slept like a rock most of the time they were here, but did manage a little gratifying activity near the end.
By the time they left for home, she was downright animated.
We're trying to figure out who she looks like.
She seems to have inherited Robbi's cheeks and my nose. Perhaps the worst possible combination of our features...
Posted by bogenamp at 02:07 PM
Because I've heard that some of you are checking in every five minutes...
Those of you who read this blog for vivid tales of masculine exploits, rest assured, they will return in time. But if you don't much care for pictures of babies, I'd lay off for a week or two. I'm kind of in the baby frame of mind these days...
Posted by bogenamp at 11:50 AM
The Morning After
Alden, Robbi, and I have survived the first night. The three of us actually got a surprising amount of sleep, considering the prevailing horror stories.
Here is Her Smallness this morning, sans swaddling.
Check out the feet. They are like your feet and my feet, but impossibly tiny.
Here is a closeup. Her face is a lot less mashed this morning than it was last night.
Robbi was presented with a spectacular breakfast this morning (complete with bacon).
I was offered no bacon.
But I found other things to be happy about.
Here is Alden in her Pooh Bear hat, the stocking stuffer from Grandpa John and Grandma Judy this past Christmas, back when we were all just dreaming about babies so far from actually arriving.
I have just returned from tending to Iggy and the cats. I brought one of Alden's hats for Iggy to smell, supposedly a helpful step toward easing the transition as the family gets one person larger. Iggy tried to eat the hat. I consider it a positive sign.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:31 AM
March 24, 2008
It's a Girl!
Robbi arrived at the hospital around 3:45 this afternoon. After about three hours of not much fun, the big moment came. There was some pushing and much excitement in the delivery room. A few minutes later, at 6:59pm, Alden Elisabeth Swanson came into this world, yowling and wet and very much in need of a bath.
I cut the umbilical cord, which was not quite as distressing as I had expected.
She weighed in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
I liked her from the very beginning.
So did Robbi, apparently, in spite of the yowling.
Alden has curly dark hair and a vaguely Asian appearance, which seems wholly appropriate given that she is vaguely Asian.
Grandma Seiko and Grandpa Bob were the first to visit. I get the sense that they like Alden, too.
The nurses gave her a good scrub.
We like her even better now that she's clean.
At one point today, there were eight people in this delivery room. Now it's just Robbi, Alden, and me, our first night as a family.
We're tired, of course, especially Robbi. She and Alden are snoozing together as I write this. I'll be taking my place on the pull-out daddy futon in mere moments, but for now I'm having a very nice time just taking in this tiny person I've been waiting so long to meet.
Posted by bogenamp at 10:48 PM
As proscribed, we spent the afternoon walking. We visited Sarah at Bookplate, we deposited some checks at the bank, we visited our accountant to finish up our 2007 taxes, we went to the grocery store to buy diapers and delivery room snacks for Robbi's birthing partner, and stopped at Subway to get lunch for the same fellow. Our last order of business was to have been a walk with Bob, Seiko, and Iggy in Wilmer Park, but before we could set out, the contractions got the better of Robbi.
And so we headed back to the hospital, where Robbi is valiantly enduring a progression of contractions that don't, from my perspective, seem to be much fun. The OB came in about a half hour ago and forecast about two more hours before Robbi reaches active labor. So the countdown is officially under way.
Posted by bogenamp at 04:55 PM
The Walking Cure
For those of you just joining us, Robbi is officially in labor, though a subtle sort of "kinder, gentler" labor. After a few hours in the hospital, she was released by her OB, who proscribed a rigorous regimen of walking, walking, and more walking. So Robbi walked right over to her mom and dad's house for some apple pancakes.
Before walking some more down Queen Street back to the barn.
It is a spectacular, crisp, cold day in Chestertown. A good day on which to be born.
We'd better hope that tomorrow is also such a day. The doctor has said that the chances are good that there will be no true fireworks until late tonight or early tomorrow morning.
After a few hours of rest, we are heading out now to walk in earnest.
Posted by bogenamp at 12:02 PM
If It Ain't Broke...
...but it is. Robbi's "water" that is. At 5:30 this morning I was abruptly awoken with the news that either her water had broken or she had peed all over herself.
I pointed out that, given her advanced age, it was likely the former option. Given the opportunity to smell the liquid in question, I had the strong impression that it was, indeed not pee, but rather amniotic fluid. It smelled to me like the beginning of time.
We called the Chester River Hospital Center and nurse Jen told us to come on in.
Robbi's due date is still 10 days off, and both of us have assumed (for no good reason, I suppose) that she is going to be late. So we haven't packed a bag and haven't really prepared emotionally or otherwise for the "going to the hospital" part of this. Even though the water had broken, we had the sense that the baby's arrival was still weeks off. So we got dressed without much urgency and arrived at the hospital about an hour later.
We rang the bell at maternity, and were admitted.
Robbi was promptly stripped bare and ordered to bed in this fetching little getup.
She has been poked and prodded, tested and examined and we have learned that the baby is, indeed, preparing to make its entrance into this world sometime today or tomorrow.
Here's what we know about the baby so far. It has a heartbeat and it moves from time to time.
The nursing staff is wonderful and we feel in very good hands. We're both excited but still in disbelief that this is happening now. I'll post updates as I can.
Posted by bogenamp at 07:28 AM