“Why yes, as a matter of fact I am just the cutest thing. Thank you for asking.”

I really, really hate it when grown-ups feel like they have to babble incoherently and say nonsensical things to babies simply because the babies are so young. But…when confronted with a face like this, voices perform an involuntary two-octave jump and give up any semblance of articulation.

I’m going to continue going through the links in my sidebar, but not tonight.

MCF interviews Baby Happy

Greetings, marriage fans! This is MCF.
Your regular host, The
Happy Husband
, graciously allowed me to interview that most reclusive of
celebrities, his own offspring, Tater Happy. I had more than a few questions
for the precocious young fellow, and he had some fascinating responses:

You’ve dabbled in writing, even before you were born. Would you consider
following in your father’s footsteps? Would you like to be an artist like
your mother? The world wants to know: what does Tater want to be when he
grows up?

Whatever vocation I eventually pursue, the manner of my pursuit will surely bear the indelible stamp of both my parents. How their influence will manifest itself, I cannot say. Undoubtedly, I will develop many interests that mirror theirs and form numerous attitudes and opinions based on the ones they demonstrate daily. I will also, I am sure, inject a unique perspective into their lives as well as my own as I make my way in the world. Mama will teach me to draw, Daddy will teach me to write, and I will manage and invest my money in such a way that I will have several hundred thousand dollars to my name before I graduate high school. I will then put myself through college in three years on a football scholarship, then restore the Dallas Cowboys to their former glory by dominating every offense in the NFL from the position of linebacker. When I retire at the age of 28, I will return to medical school and devote myself to curing diseases previously impervious to all treatments. After I turn 50, I will write and illustrate my memoirs, which will receive honors from literary and artistic organizations worldwide and be dedicated to my loving parents.

How do you like living with Mr. and Mrs. Happy?

I know of no other way to live. That being said, let me also say that in all the exercises of my waking and unconscious imaginings I have conjured far worse situations but none even nominally better.

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15, and 20 years?

When Daddy read this question to me, he commented on it with some words I had not heard before and, says Mama, I should never hear again. It seems he has heard this question from every prospective employer with whom he has spoken, implying that every professional position in the marketplace has as a prerequisite certain powers of prophecy concerning one’s own life. In answer to a previous question, I laid out a tentative plan for my life, but I am currently focusing all my energy on eating and exploring myself and the world around me.

What’s your favorite kind of music? Least favorite?

My favorite kind of music is the kind Daddy sings to me. His songs never fail to calm me in my fear or delight me in my comfort or inspire laughter in my happiness. I suppose, then, that my least favorite kind of music is all the others that I have heard, though the notion of “least favorite music” is akin to “least favorite soft blanket.” I have not yet heard a song nor felt a soft blanket that offended me in any way.

With your whole life ahead of you, what sort of action plan do you have in
place to avoid having any regrets in your elder years? Is this even a
realistic goal?

I know nothing of regret, even in the abstract. If it is something to be avoided, like a bath, perhaps I would do well to keep myself clean and stay away from any container of water larger than a drinking glass, but perhaps not. I have so far found myself wholly unable to avoid baths; I hope to do better with regret. In any case, I trust my parents to guide me through this and all the other perils of growing up.

You’ve already seen quite a bit of our great country at a young age, having
lived in New York and Texas and enjoying a road trip between the two. Do you
have any travel plans in the future, places you’d specifically like to see?

As of yet I have not studied the possibilities, so I cannot give a definitive answer. Daddy speaks quite fondly of a place called “our very own house,” and it sounds wonderful, so I think I should like to see it some day.

Who is the last person on Earth you’d want to be stranded in an elevator or
on a desert island with? Who is the first?

Approximately a week after my two-month birthday, a woman in a white canvas jacket stuck me in the leg three times with a needle. If I never see the wretched beast again, I’ll be glad of it. On the other hand, I would count myself the king of an infinite domain were I locked in an elevator with Mama. No matter where I might find myself, her arms are the safest place in the world.

Cats, dogs or other? What would be your ideal pet?

From what I have observed of animals, I believe I would enjoy living with a dog. They possess a contagious exuberance for life that I admire and hope to emulate.

A cow says….? A dog says…? A cat says…? A duck says…?

The nearest approximation I can form of a dog’s word is “woof.” The others are beyond my ken.

If a train is traveling toward you at 95 MPH from a distance of 2.75 miles,
what is your favorite diaper brand?

I have never worn any diaper other than Pampers, and I have no complaints. Daddy informs me, however, that when a train bears down on a person at a speed of 95 MPH, diapers are of little consequence.

Are you offended when people attempt to take your nose without asking, fail,
and then make false claims that what’s clearly their thumb is, in fact, your
detached proboscis?

What a bizarre question or, giving you the benefit of the doubt, absurd sort of practice. Do adults really do that? I think I would definitely take offense. Grown-ups can behave so strangely sometimes.

If a man had a hat, and the hat was tan, what is the biggest word you can
spell, and what does it mean to you?

One of the delicious ironies of my literary life is that I can neither read nor spell. The metaphysics involved in communicating my thoughts to Daddy so that he might adequately express them in writing are best left unexplored. I would like to point out, however, that I have spoken several words aloud: bahgo (a chemical compound consisting of barium, mercury, and oxygen), apple, and ding. They of course meant nothing to me when I uttered them, but I uttered them nonetheless.

What would you consider the most important facet of life known to your
generation but forgotten by many adults?

I often stare intently at apparently empty space and either smile or laugh. Daddy is enamored of the possibility that I smile not at the air but rather at an angel visible only to me. I do believe the possibility intrigues him more than the fact would, so I will neither confirm nor deny his hypothesis. I will say simply that my actions and motivations in those situations are things forgotten by adults, to their detriment.

What’s the one thing about being an adult that you’re most looking forward to?

Walking. It is my fondest, deepest desire to stand right now and walk wherever I would.


The conclusion of this interview will be posted tomorrow (Feb. 23) at MCF’s Nexus of Improbability. I will post the link once it appears.—Curt

Smilin’

When I woke up this morning, Mrs. Happy had just finished feeding Tater and had
him resting on top of her. He was looking at me as I opened my eyes, and he seemed
to get more precious by the second. I said to him, "Did you get cuter overnight?"
He answered me with this expression:

He’s been smiling a lot lately. I don’t understand how he manages to keep
getting cuter.

Family extended

I have an uncle whose name is Bob. At one point in my life, I thought everyone
had
an
Uncle
Bob because everyone actually seemed to. There’s also a British phrase that
goes "Bob’s your uncle."
I’ve never figured out exactly what that means, as people here in the States
only
say
it
in
pathetic attempts to
sound British, but I’ve always taken it as an indication that there must be
an awful lot of Uncle Bobs out there.
There’s only one Uncle Bob Hendley, though, and he’s a ventriloquist and a
magician, among
other things. I took him to show-and-tell when I was in first grade, and he
showed my class how he could remove his thumb. I saw through the trick immediately
of course, perhaps because I was sitting behind my uncle when he performed
the trick, but the other
kids were too dumb (as I thought at the time) to understand reality. What I
found more impressive was his skill with a ventriloquist dummy named Amos Matthews.
That little wooden puppet delighted me throughout my childhood.

Anyway, I was going through my e-mail just now and came across an exchange
that ocurred between Amos and Tater a couple of weeks after Tater was born.
I thought I’d
share it here. Keep in mind that in addition to being highly educated, Amos
has always lived in rural Texas, so he knows a lot about
life
in the
country.


Dear Tater:

I realize that "Tater" is not your real name, but I think it will
do you just fine. Knowing half of your father’s ancestry, you could be "Irish
Tater," "Scotch Tater," "English Tater," "Danish
Tater," or even "Rotten Tater." However, looking at your handsome
photographs, I conclude that you must have inherited your "tater" traits
from your mother because you definitely look like a "Sweet Tater" to
me.

Your father referred to your mother
as a stud
. He also referred to equine
traits she has. Would you please pass on to him that you have it from good
authority
that a stud is a male horse used for breeding purposes.

So ends your first
communication from your cousin through confused linage.

Amos Matthews


Dear Amos,

Thank you for your interest in setting Daddy straight about studs. I believe,
however, that he was using the term as a loose metaphor and in a modern vernacular
in which "stud" means "one who is strong and formidable." My
mama is certainly that. The metaphor breaks down when scrutinized, of course,
as all metaphors do. There is really no single word that adequately describes
Mama’s proficient and immediate aptitude in dealing with a new baby.

My daddy
has told me about you and how much joy you have brought to so many children.
I look forward to meeting you in person some day.

Sincerely,
Tater

Unexpected developments

Before my son was born, I had plans about how to take care of him and raise him.
Few of them stood up to reality.

I’ve read some ardent arguments written by serious zealots who insist that
children must sleep in the parents’ bed until the age of five. They state this
as a matter of irrefutable theology, though from what I could tell, their main
point was that families in Jesus’ day typically had one bed for the parents
and small children while older children slept on the floor. Since I don’t walk
down dusty roads in sandals and speak Aramaic, I didn’t see why I should follow
that particular custom either. Whenever people fervently insist on a particular
religious practice that has no biblical
foundation,
I unconsciously tend to do exactly the opposite. While Tater was still gestating,
I silently decided he would never sleep in our bed for more than a couple of
hours, and then only if he were recovering from a nightmare or something.

So far, our baby has not slept a full night out of our bed. Even in the hospital,
he spent at least half of every night in bed with his mama. There’s no deep
reason for this—we just hate the thought of him waking up and feeling alone.
We tried to put him in the crib on his first night at home. I couldn’t stand
not being able to monitor his breathing, so I kept getting up and checking
him, which usually woke him. It’s just easier having him next to me. It makes
feeding easier too. Eventually (maybe when he’s six months old or so), I’ll
calm down about his breathing
and he’ll understand that just because he can’t
see
us
doesn’t
mean
we’re
not
around.
At that
point,
we’ll
put him in the crib to sleep.

Before the birth, we also decided not to give him any formula. Breast milk
is what God intended babies to eat, and no artificial concoction has come close
to duplicating it. Trouble is, it took him a while to figure out how to get
milk from a breast. He lost a pound in his first two days of life. From what
I understand, that’s not unusual, but it’s also a little much.We had to break
down and give him a bottle, which made the process of learning to breastfeed
even more difficult. A lactation consultant told us that the key factor for
success in breastfeeding is the mother’s determination, and my wife epitomizes
determination, so Tater soon learned how to avail himself of the good stuff.
His appetite outstripped the natural milk production, however, so we still
give him a bottle or two per day. (Our bottles have slow-flow nipples, which
supposedly makes the back-and-forth less confusing for the baby.) I actually
like the fact that I get to feed him sometimes. It’s a good bonding experience
for
us.

Another thing we planned never to do was give our baby a pacifier. We had
heard that early pacifier use can hinder dental development. Plus, it looks
kind of silly and our baby needs to look cool. It turns out that the sucking
motion is very calming for a baby. Since all he had to suck on was a breast
and a bottle, he ended up eating more than his stomach could hold and so spat
up a lot. Not to mention that all the feedings were making my wife horribly
sore. We found a soft, odd-shaped pacifier that claimed to be dentally sound
for newborns.
When
we
know he’s
had enough
to
eat and
that
his
diaper
is clean, if he’s fussy and tired, all he needs is the pacifier to relax him
a little so he can sleep. We figure it’s better to give him a dentally sound
pacifier than to have him start sucking his thumb.We can eventually discontinue
the pacifier; a thumb is more difficult to take away.

So another thing my baby has (re)taught me is that research and intentions
often don’t stand up to reality.


On his one-month birthday, I sat my son up on the couch and he stayed sitting,
perfectly content. Yesterday, he rolled from his belly to his back on a flat
surface all by himself. We donated his cord-blood in the hospital for
research in treating genetic diseases, but now I’m worried that they’re going
to use the umbilical cord stem cells to clone super-babies.

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed

Yesterday I was thinking about fatherhood and the relationship that’s developing
between me and Baby Happy. One thing
I found funny about him in his first two weeks of life was that he hated having
a
messy
diaper, but he hated diaper changes even more. He would fuss in a matter-of-fact
sort of way to complain about the fact that he was wallowing in his own filth,
but then he would wail and flail and do his best to make the mess even worse
when I removed the nasty diaper and cleaned him off. I, of course, had to work
through
the unpleasantness, immobilizing his legs and feet so that I could wipe away
the nastiness and
install a clean new diaper. I never meant to make him unhappy, but I wasn’t
about to leave him in a wet or poopy condition just so he wouldn’t cry.

He sometimes felt miserable in his condition. He had to be changed, but the
change was more troubling than the problem itself. However, he
always calmed down afterward, perhaps realizing
that things had gotten better.

I don’t know if he has come to understand the purpose of diaper changes or
if he’s just mellowed out, but he accepts them with more patience now. Or he
just trusts me more.

There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

I can’t stop posting baby pictures!

As of today, when these pictures were taken, Tater is 25 days old and he has
grown cuter on every one of those days.

Already, he is obviously pondering some pretty serious questions…

…and holding his own bottle.

These pictures were not in any way posed. He doesn’t actually
pick up the bottle and put it to his lips, but he does sometimes grip it in
both hands while he’s being fed. His grip is so strong that he can actually
hold the bottle in place for several minutes.

I know I’m obnoxiously proud, but how could I not be? Regular
blogging will resume shortly.

A few things…

If there’s one thing fatherhood has taught me, it’s that a baby leaves you
little time or energy for blogging. Also, you have to get control of his feet
before removing a diaper. I guess that’s two things. I’ve also learned (this
brings us up to three now) that a really good baby can make all kinds of interesting
facial expressions. He
can look intelligent and ponderous and still have trouble finding his own thumb.
He will find it eventually, though, with spectacularly cute results.

But if
there are four things fatherhood has taught me so far, the fourth is that
if
you
can’t
get
noticed
by Glenn Reynolds,
the
next
best
way
to
draw
new readers is to post baby
pictures. That simple act
can
increase
your blog traffic by up to 50% even if you write less.

I guess that’s all.

Baby dreams

A friend of mine recently posed the
question
"After
winning a karaoke contest, you’re awarded the grand prize from a local
radio station: you get to perform ONE song alongside your favorite group! Who
do you sing with and what song?" I answered Enid, by Barenaked
Ladies. I’m changing my answer. I’d still go with the same band, but I’d sing
their song When You Dream:

With life just begun, my sleeping new son
has eyes that roll back in his head
They flutter and dart, he slows down his heart
and pictures a world past his bed
It’s hard to believe
As I watch you breathe
Your mind drifts and weaves

When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
Do you dream about
music or mathematics
or planets too far for the eye?
Do you dream about
Jesus or quantum mechanics
or angels who sing lullabies?

His fontanelle pulses with lives that he’s lived
With memories he’ll learn to ignore
And when it is closed, he already knows
he’s forgotten all he knew before
But when sleep sets in
history begins
But the future will win

When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
Are they colour or black and white,
Yiddish or English
or languages not yet conceived?
Are they silent or boisterous?
Do you hear noises just
loud enough to be perceived?
Do you hear Del Shannon’s "Runaway" playing
on transistor radio waves?
With so little experience,
your mind not yet cognizant
Are you wise beyond your few days?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,

It’s so weird. He obviously dreams. His limbs and head move too deliberately
to be random muscle movements. It’s also odd to realize he moved exactly the
same way when he was in the womb. I just wonder what he thinks, and what he
dreams.