Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Our Dynamic Jethro turns three! Two months ago…
July 19, 2011

I imagine that it has been remiss of me as a father to publish a blog about fatherhood and my son, without marking the passing of my son’s third birthday.

I didn’t forget it was his birthday, I just didn’t write anything about it.

We considered taking him to the reknowned Edinburgh Zoo, but it was a miserable rainy day, and walking about looking at soggy animals would not improve matters. Instead we decided to visit Our Dynamic Earth.

Our Dynamic Earth is a museum, but it’s also an interactive show. The website describes it as the “Mother Earth of all adventures,” but the website doesn’t really do the place justice. It is quite an incredible experience.

Or rather, it is designed to be an extraordinary experience, but the design-team didn’t really consider carefully what a three-year-old might think of certain bits of it.

Near the beginning of the journey through the place, we entered a “time machine” that took us back to the beginning of time to witness the Big Bang. We stepped out of the time machine onto the deck of a space ship and watched as matter coalesced, stars and galaxies were formed, and I’m not sure what else because Jethro totally freaked out.

“No no want to go to space!”

We were forced to take the emergency evacuation route into the Precambrian Period, where the gently bubbling primordial soup was much more to Jethro’s liking.

You see, if you put a kid who is three into an environment that looks convincingly like a spaceship bridge, play loud convincing spaceshippy sound effects, and darken the room and flash lights convincingly, you can convince a three year old that all that stuff is real. You can probably do it with much less effort. Three-year-olds will believe anything.

Now, if you had just stepped into what seemed like an elevator (something you are quite familiar with), and suddenly found yourself in deep space at the beginning of time, wouldn’t you freak out? Damn right you would.

As a result of this initial rattling, Jethro was wary of any display that had potential to be overwhelmingly immersive. That was a lot of the place. It is a really awesome place. It is immersive. It immerses you in the wonders of the natural world. It uses unique environments and multimedia effects.

At least, this is how it appeared to me as we gave each dramatic exhibition a wide berth.

Jethro greatly enjoyed the exhibits that posed no noisy or flashing threats. He loved the bubbling mud, the seismometer measuring his own stomping-induced earthquakes, jungle wildlife and full-scale dinosaurs.

We will be going back, but I think I’ll wait until Jethro is at least eight to make sure I don’t miss half the show.

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Stink
October 21, 2010

When you were here before,
There was no strange smell
You were just like an angel,
Not some demon from hell

You laugh like a munchkin
In a beautiful world
But I think your butt’s stinky
So very stinky

Your nappie needs a change!
Your ass needs wiping!
Why the hell won’t you sit still?
Just trying to clean you.

I don’t care you say no
I wanna have control
Wanna be the perfect parent
Wanna set the perfect role

I want you to listen
When I say sit still!
Your butt’s very stinky
I wish it weren’t stinky

Your nappie needs a change!
Your ass needs wiping!
Why the hell won’t you sit still?
Just want to change the… ooh, ooh

Poo Pooooooo pooooooo!
There’s pooo pooo
He poo poo poo poo poo…
poo… poo…

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
Your butt’s still stinky
I wish it weren’t stinky

Your nappie needs a change!
Your ass needs wiping!
Why the hell won’t you sit still?
Just want to change you.

Just want to change you…

Apologies to Radiohead. I doubt this was their vision for this song.

To be sung to the tune of Creep by Radiohead.

The Evils of Branded Merchandise
March 12, 2010

The original and best

Winnie the Pooh is a wonderful, and much-loved character. Many people are fond of the related characters too (my personal favourite is Eeyore). Disney are fond of producing merchandise and selling it to all these enthusiastic fans. There isn’t a lot of merchandise for the original E.H. Shepard drawings, but I’m guessing this is to do with big media corporations not holding the rights to them.

The original illustrations are better, but what is my opinion against the churning of the Disney marketing-machine?

A number of my friends have been sucked into the machine by the currents created by the churning. No way I’m going to buy that crap, I thought. I’m a strong swimmer in these treacherous marketing depths.

I underestimated this marketing machine. Despite holding Jethro above my head, well away from the dangerous water, he still got splashed a little. It was enough to make him brand-aware. He’s not even two-years old yet.

Disneyfied Pooh

The propaganda started with Megan. After Jethro was born, her Winnie the Pooh zeal compelled her to shower Jethro with Winnie the Pooh gifts. It seemed to have no effect. I was pleased my protective influence was working.

In December, while visiting my parents, things escalated. My Dad decided to get Jethro a DVD to watch, featuring “My Friends, Tigger and Pooh!” All of a sudden. Winnie the Pooh is a CGI animated character, wandering about and solving mundane mysteries (like where can we find a lemon for some soup). They’ve added some other characters too. Christopher Robin has fallen out of vogue, and is replaced by an über-cheerful girl, and she owns a little terrier-type yapper-dog.
So even Disney’s take on A.A. Milne’s characters has morphed into something else. What’s next? Emo the Pooh? Though, in that case, all the characters will just resemble Eeyore.

Pulling back from the digression, the point is that Jethro now had a voice and movement to associate with all that merchandise he’d been accruing. Realising how awesome it was, he wanted more.

For a while we couldn’t walk passed a window featuring Pooh and friends without whining demands. At one point, we were buying clothes for him and he noticed a Disneyfied bag. While Angie was selecting shorts and shirts for him, he pulled the bag off the rack (deviously placed within reach of little people) and marched about with it triumphantly. Any attempt to take it from him was met with the most furious and vocal resistance. Now he has a Winnie the Pooh bag that he carries with him everywhere.

Purple Dorkosaur

Winnie the Pooh I can live with, but now Barney the Purple Dinosaur has come into my life.

This is entirely the crèche’s fault. They have a TV there—something we don’t have at home. For some godforsaken reason they pay Barney DVDs to the children. It really should be a crime against a humanity, but the children seem to love that dorky-purple-prehistoric-reptile.

Winnie the Pooh took a back-seat, and everything became Barney Barney Barney. Jethro has Barney books. He has a Barney plush-toy/bag. He has Barney balls (these aren’t so bad, because one can at least give the ball a good kicking).

The crèche assures me that Jethro will eventually tire of the lure of Barney by the time he turns six.

SIX! That is four more years of Barney fever.

Plush Toy Rabbit

I really tried hard from the beginning to steer Jethro down a more alternative route, where the mass-media propaganda would have no impact. The only sanctioned propaganda would be mine.

Jethro received a soft, fluffy plush-toy from his Aunty Jen. The rabbit is super cute and kind of looks like the image on the left (not exactly, but close enough). As part of my campaign I named that rabbit “Frank,” a reference to Frank the Rabbit from the cult classic film Donnie Darko.

Frank from Donnie Darko

I had planted the seed. One day Jethro would ask why Frank had been named Frank, and if I felt he was ready, I would tell him.

But no! Friggin’ happy happy Barney and Pooh have totally stomped all over my carefully tended garden, crushing the seedling I as nurturing.

I just cannot understand why there isn’t more Frank the Rabbit merchandise for kids.

Image credits: bibliodyssey; cr9245; ekonon; beautifulcataya; dclaudiob

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1 Year and Counting
June 3, 2009

Jethro's Cake was less conventional than expected

Jethro's Cake was less conventional than expected

Angie and I are rather proud of ourselves because we’ve managed to keep the little sprog alive, well and kicking (and now even walking, although only just a step or two at a time).

Jethro’s birthday flew by on Wednesday the 27th. Parties were scheduled for Saturday — two parties.

Um. Yes. Two parties. This doesn’t count the poker party I attended the same evening, but that’s another story that lies more at home in the Waffle Group.

At first we thought we’d have one epic party, inviting everyone imaginable. When everyone imaginable numbered over 35 people, we re-evaluated our plan and decided on only family.

But now, without the additional people to dilute the potential friction between Angie’s formerly married parents, we ran the risk of a most unpleasant birthday celebration. Our risk assessment complete, we opted for two parties, accepting the costs of additional admin in exchange for the benefits of a pleasant day.

It worked — with my parents obligingly agreeing to attend both parties in order to give each party a seal of authenticity. My mother even procured two Number One cakes — one cake for each party. Both cakes were similarly inaccurate in their depiction of the numeral under consideration, but both cakes were rather delicious. I ate a little too much cake that day, and there were sugar-rush/peculiar dressing implications.

I’ve split the pics into three galleries.

  1. Before the party.
  2. The first party — featuring Bill.
  3. The second party — featuring Sandy and Winnie (and Megan who declared herself family, but we don’t mind)

Enjoy:

Jethro’s 1st Birthday
Jethro’s Birthday — Party 1
Jethro’s Birthday — Party 2

Jethro picks a fight. Gets a bite.
May 5, 2009

Lurking behind a door

Lurking behind a door

I thought I published this a month ago. Seems it’s been sitting in drafts all this time. I was surprised there had been no comments. Fixed now. Happy reading.

One wouldn’t think that something as cute as the munchkin holding on to the door in the picture would be causing trouble at crèche.

That’s pretty much how we saw things, until we received an injury report from Tiny Town.

I wasn’t alarmed to discover that there was such a thing as an injury report. We have, after all, been receiving a daily log sheet ever since Jethro first started going to crèche. The daily log includes charming input fields such as “Number 1’s” and “Number 2’s ,” where the teacher on duty checks the time at which said excretory output occurred.  We encourage Jethro to save the Number 2’s for the crèche, but he doesn’t always cooperate.

The alarming thing wasn’t the injury report itself because accidents do happen and it’s good the parents are informed, it was rather that “Bite” is such a common injury as to have its own place on the list of possibilities, along side the more expected “Cut,” Bruise,” and “Graze.”

I found the injury report thing quite amusing  (have a look at it below). From my perspective, Jethro was pulling a little girl’s hair, and received fair retaliation for his efforts (he doesn’t have enough hair at the moment for the girl to pull back on). Angie didn’t see it that way. She went all motherly and defensive, vowing to kick the little girl the following day when she collected Jethro. A little morally reprehensible, I thought.

Angie calmed down though, and even if she hadn’t, I’m completely certain that she wouldn’t take to drop-kicking infants about the crèche playground. It would probably get Jethro thrown out of Tiny Town, and then we’d have to look for another crèche — and that would be real pain. And they’d probably warn the other crèches about us, so we’d have to move to another city and look for other jobs.

What actually happened when Angie returned to the crèche was that she discussed the situation with the teachers. It seems that Alexia and Jethro are a little obsessed with each other, and seem to like chasing one another around, with resultant hair-pulling and arm-biting. Certainly Jethro is instigating mischief as much as anyone involved.

Chasing after the ladies already? He’s going to need to refine his technique a little though, unless biting is what he’s looking for.

Injury Report. With Biting!

Injury Report. With Biting!

Daily log sheet (Why no No.2's Jethro?)

Daily log sheet (Why no No.2's Jethro?)

Anxiety
April 3, 2009

Sometimes, after dropping Jethro off at the creche, I worry that I didn’t actually take him to creche. I worry that, instead of taking him, I just left him at home in his cot and then drove directly to work.

It is disconcerting.

Boy has a tooth
February 9, 2009

Jethro’s first tooth to break through his gums appeared on Saturday.

Excitement if you care about Jethro!
Otherwise not.

He’s quite coy about showing it at the moment, and is continuously flicking his tongue over it making it almost impossible to photograph.

Once he cooperates better, I’ll post a pic.

Jethro in his first theatrical production
January 1, 2009

Stage backdrop close-up

The absurdity of some of the things that the creche that Jethro attends strikes me as quite amusing.

Before the end of last year, Tiny Town sent us a newsletter informing us of the upcoming end-of-year play, taking place at the end of November. Jethro wouldn’t yet be 6 months old by the time the play was due to take place.  Since the crèche takes children up to the age of 6, Angie and I felt that it was safe to assume that Jethro would not be attending because what the hell could he possibly contribute? His skill-set at that point in time extended to sitting on the floor, bashing small objects haphazardly into other nearby objects, and saying, “Daaa da da da” as the bashing ensued.

So we were a little surprised when Angie went to the crèche to collect Jethro one Friday, and was handed a package with Jethro’s costume for the concert, taking place the next day.

“What concert?” asked Angie incredulously.

She was met with wide-mouthed, dumbfounded stares. “The end-of-year concert,” the teacher managed to force out of her larynx.

“But surely Jethro is too young?”

More hurt facial expressions.

In the end, we just accepted our fate and rescheduled our plans for that Saturday. When we got to the crèche, with Jethro all kitted out in his autumn sapling outfit, there was nobody there. We phoned the organisers to discover that the venue was at a nearby church hall. Mad rushing ensued, and we eventually made it, even getting there on time.

To be honest, it was actually quite fun to watch the show and have Jethro paraded around in a little pram to some peculiar “Four Seasons” musical score. I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed and could relate to watching the other kids perform and proud parents being ridiculously proudly parental, because I was one of them. I belonged in this place where I never before saw myself belonging. This place where fathers made home videos that no-one else would care to see, and this place where parents rushed forward to stage to get into a better position to take a photograph when their child came on to the stage. Complete idiocy, but idiocy that just felt right.

6 month milestone
December 10, 2008

Smiley

Smiley Jethro

Jethro is just over 6 months old now, and that calls for a look at my experiences, Angie’s experiences (as I perceive them), and Jethro’s development during that time.

When I started writing that line, it began, “Jethro is approaching 6 months now…” which just goes to emphasise how little time I have to write anything these days. By the time I finish this review of the last 6 months, Jethro will probably be 2 years old — but I’m not going back and changing the beginning again.

The last time I published something substantial on Paternity Ward was just after Jethro was born. Since then I just haven’t had much time (and in cases where there was time — no energy) to write a meaningful discourse on what has happened. Pushing out some photos was easier, but even that felt like an effort.

Without doubt the last six months have utterly changed my life, and I’m buggered. I really feel for Angie because she’s had to deal with the last six months and the nine month before that. How she manages to hold a coherent conversation with me, I really just don’t know. I feel like I’m babbling and drooling a lot at the moment (a little like Jethro is, except his excuse is teething). I certainly make nonsensical noises on a regular basis — that smile it elicits from my son strongly reinforces the behaviour. Soon I may not be capable of speaking any English at all, which I doubt will be good for Jethro’s development.

I’m not really going mad, and although I complain about my fatigue to anyone who is willing (or obliged) to listen, having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I can easily see why people have more than one. I can also easily see why many people wait a respectable period of time before doing so.

It is also good to report that I rate myself as a competent parent. This couldn’t really be said about my earlier parenting experiences. Mostly I felt out of control and certain that I wasn’t doing anything right. When Jethro cried, it seemed to be the same generic cry. The paediatrician had explained to us that the cry could mean one of four things — feed me, change me, put me to bed, or wind me.

The First Few Weeks

It seems pretty damned simple. Four possibilities. You don’t even need to use both hands to count them. Just follow a systematic procedure of trial and error and the problem will be solved, right?

Feeding in the early days

Feeding in the early days

Things went a little like this: Jethro wakes up screaming, as if fire-ants are biting his feet, but actually he’s just hungry. “He must be hungry” was always the first guess, and was usually the most reliable source of restored tranquillity. No more banshee wails. Just gentle, soothing, suckling sounds. Halfway through the meal, it was prudent to switch out the nappy for a clean one, side-stepping some of the uncertainty that struck soon after.
Then his immature digestive system turns the infant milk-based formula into gas, bloating his little body and making him Angry. Crying ensues.

Winding by the pros, and it still doesn't look comfy

Winding by the pros, and it still doesn't look comfy

Winding a baby is an acquired skill. There is nothing obvious about it. One flings the infant over one’s shoulder/knee and goes about beating its back and/or bottom in a vigorous manner until the infant burps or farts, and if one is really fortunate, vomits. It seems abusive, and yet is not.
Winding a baby is an arduous process. One often goes about beating the child’s back for between 30 minutes and an hour, and just when it seems that successful winding is yours, and you can put the baby down and go back to bed — the wailing ramps up again.

Our first major worry with Jethro was when he got constipated. We were giving him iron fortified formula, and according to the books, this can sometimes lead to constipation. A constipated 3 to 4 week old baby is not a happy little creature, and when young babies aren’t happy they cry.

Feed, wind, sleep, nappy. The four noble truths to baby nirvana, except now, none of them work. Even worse, it isn’t immediately obvious that constipation is the problem. Off you go, thinking the problem is wind and using the solution to wind — beat it out of him. After a considerable amount of time has passed with no baby contentment apparent, you remember that you haven’t changed a shitty nappy for a few days. You figured he’d just been leaving them all for his mother (good lad!) but now you aren’t so certain. As it turns out, Mum had made similar assumptions about the baby’s toilet regularity.

In case you are interested, the solution to really young infant constipation is a drink of water (with a teaspoon of brown sugar) and an application of Vaseline to a strategic area, using a cotton-bud.

The first few weeks at home we kept a feeding log, where we’d note the time Jethro finished drinking and how much of his bottle he drank. The hospital had done this, although this was because the nurses worked shifts and the previous shift needed to inform the subsequent shift about what had gone into (and what had left) any particular baby.
Angie and I had one baby, but we were still working shifts. We were parents-in-training, and the log helped us feel in control. We’d both mastered writing a long while back, so writing down numbers that related to our parenting a activities was reassurance that we could do something right. The log also helped because we didn’t get a lot of uninterrupted sleep at the time, and with us alternating feeds it was difficult to remember when we’d last fed our child.

Now that we’ve got the hang of this

Bashing action shots

Bashing action shots

It’s bizarre to consider how far we’ve come. The tiny little creature who started off weighing less than three kilogrammes now weighs almost eight.
He can sit unsupported. He’ll be crawling soon (gulp). He smiles and laughs at almost everything. He goes to a crèche where he charms everyone he encounters. The days of guessing what his problem is are mostly over. He doesn’t cry like he’s being savaged by wild animals unless something serious is wrong. Hungry Jethro just whinges a bit, and gets a little grumpy. There is no catastrophe because he knows he will get food.
His food is solid a lot of the time now, and meals with Jethro are messier than when he was only drinking milk.
He tries to grab everything in reach and, if successful, either attempts to chew it or whack it into something else. He is developing into quite a basher — something his cousin Callum was. I worry about the longevity of the ornaments in my home.
He really loves bathtime now.

Bathing

We were told that bath time was a relaxing time for babies, and that our baby would be calm after a bath and easily drift off into a deep sleep. More lies. There are a lot of pregnancy and parent expectation lies out there. Be careful. and trust no-one.

Can sit in the bath now

Can sit in the bath now

The bath itself was just fine. Jethro really enjoyed being in the water even when just a few weeks old. The problem was that there was no way to get him out of the bath completely dry and clothed — unless we didn’t put any water in the bath. Since June is not the warmest time of year in South Africa, and South African homes have no central heating, Jethro become quite upset as soon as we plucked him from the warm bath water. Angie and I teamed up to get him immediately from the water to fluffy towel ensconcement, but it did very little to keep him content. The screaming he made and the red colour that came to his scrunched up face as we dried and dressed him never seemed all that restful to me.

Things are much better now. He splashes and just goes nuts with his floating bath toys, totally loving every moment. He’s fascinated by flowing water — can’t quite seem to understand how such a phenomenon is possible when I pour a long stream of water on to him from a cup held up high.

A day in the 6 month-old life

For some reason, Jethro still isn’t sleeping through the night consistently. He’s pulled it off twice so far, but seems to have lapsed back to waking twice a night, demanding something to drink. This is a little frustrating, but hopefully will come right soon. We’ve got him in a good routine.

Lick attacks are entertainment

Lick attacks are entertainment

A day in the life of Jethro proceeds roughly like this.

5:30 a.m. Jethro has had enough of this sleeping nonsense, and no he doesn’t just want a drink. He wants entertainment!

5:45 a.m. Angie or I (usually Angie) drags our resisting body out of the bed and shuffles it to Jethro’s room, whose gurgly nonsense talk (or perhaps we adults are just too obtuse to understand him) has gradually become more insistent.

6:00 a.m. Jethro sits on the bed, playing with some toys, or his Dad, or pulling the fur of one of the dogs, or is defended against lick offensives by Kelty dog.

6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Mum leaves for work, after having mysteriously succeeded in preparing bottles for Jethro, packing his bag, and leaving out clothes for the day, and feeding the dogs. Dad gives Jethro a bottle, dresses him in the provided clothes, and packs him into his car-seat and then into the car.

7:30 a.m. Jethro is delivered to Tiny Town creche by Dad.

7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Jethro rocks the party at creche. They feed him porridge and the food we provide, play games with him, change his nappy, and give us a report. A check list indicating times of feeding, times “Number 1’s” and “Number 2’s” were dealt with, and notes about anything else of interest. Every one at the creche is “Teacher Cathy” or “Teacher Susy” or something along those lines. I find it weird, but the people are nice and Jethro seems to enjoy himself.

2:00 p.m. Mum picks up Jethro, after working a challenging half-day, takes him home and still manages to find te energy to keep him entertained until 5 p.m.

5:00 p.m. Dad gets home, and feeds Jethro supper solids.

5:45 p.m. Bath time!

Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Bed time, occasionally featuring Story Time! We really need to make story time a more permanent feature, but every day is a long day these days.

Some point in the night — wakes for a drink, then straight back to sleep.

Kelty: Patron Saint of Infants
June 11, 2008

Since Jethro’s arrival home, Kelty has developed some obsessive compulsive behaviours.

He has abandoned his sleeping place on the floor next to our bed, and taking up position in Jethro’s room (aka “The Nursery”). He barks when Jethro cries. Actually, he barks when Jethro makes the slightest whimper. It is rather endearing at times. It is less endearing when Jethro is not enjoying a nappy change at 2am in the morning.

When we put Jethro in his pram for the afternoon on Sunday, he took extraordinary interest in Jethro’s welfare, almost climbing into the pram to make sure that Jethro was sleeping peacefully. He needed to be physically retrained.

Eventually we had to move the pram out of range of a couch so he couldn’t attempt any jumping.

Later in the week he managed to jump into the cot. He jumped up from the feeding chair, onto the table with the changing supplies, and into the crib to lie at Jethro’s feet. Jethro’s panicked screams alerted Angie to the situation, but we don’t think Jethro was ever in any danger. Kelty’s intentions are purely benevolent.

However, taking a photo of the event wasn’t a priority.