Monday, December 31, 2012

Teaching Children to Behave Badly -- with Aunt Sharlot & Nan

On the eve of a new year, on communication

"Oh she can speak alright … not English yet, but …"

I've said this many times, with boundless pride. My girl is a talker, there's no doubt. And I've enjoyed with equal boundlessness the odd fraternity of a constant companion who speaks another language, neither of you completely understanding the other.

My earliest experience of this was probably a family exchange program to Italy when I was about 11. The family we stayed with — an Italian businessman, his wife and their two kids — spoke no English and we spoke no Italian; yet we managed to get along in a cheery, if awkward manner. I remember that the mother and my mom both spoke broken Spanish, which simplified matters (although to me it was kind of mind-boggling for some reason).

I remember that — due to jet lag — I would wake up before anybody else, except the Italian mother. And I would wander my way downstairs to find her in the kitchen, and she would offer me coffee. I'd never had coffee and didn't find it appealing, but her version — rich and milky — was a treat. We'd share in this delight, a young American boy sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter of an Italian housewife; not speaking a word of the same language but finding ourselves quite content — morning comrades, of different ages, genders, languages.

Ever since Libby Lee started "talking," it's been like this. I can't think of any greater joy than the sound of stirring. For her, it's usually a mildly jarring squeal, as if she's been jolted back into "this world." The first line in one of my favorite chapters of fatherhood, which I get to read variations of, over and over.
Coming into her room, to find her standing proudly at the rail of her crib (also often dazed with receding slumber), waiting patiently for … engagement. First it's a meeting of the eyes, then often a broad grin, possibly followed by outstretched arms. "Pick me up, pick me up!" Sometimes it's enough for her to simply stand there and survey the room, while I open shades and doors. Lately, this is followed by a brief time where I whisk her out of the crib and lie down on the nearby couch, installing her in the crook of my arm, head resting on my shoulder. It's quiet here, for a few peaceful breathes… then she'll start craning her neck up to peek at me, grinning. And my heart explodes. 
There's so much to be said by this little foreigner. There's lots of pointing, some of it almost ritualistic. "Nose. Eye. Hair. Ear." These were a liturgy after a bottle, before naptime. All carefully referred to by a tiny index finger touching Dad's face, almost solemnly. And then "Chair. Light. Door. Window." All studiously pointed out from the little foreigner on my lap.

One of the earliest indications was towards any microphone I tried to place near her crib. Let me be clear: a tiny microphone. Always, it would be found out, with almost preternatural glee, she would intervene. No microphone was allowed to persist unmolested.

But the most entertaining by far has been the babble stage. I don't think it's even fair to call it that. Maybe The Bebop Stage, because some of her speeches, pronouncements, entendres have been so rhythmic, almost finger-popping.

Little humans. We feel like we're teaching them the language: "Chair. Light. Door. Window." But they're teaching themselves, I feel certain — maybe just to do the translation for the bibble-babble language that is so delightful to my ears.

I'm going to miss that language. I'm in no rush for her to speak English, and I don't so much try to teach her words as simply reply to her inquiries. She can keep inquiring as long as she likes, and I guess that's the biggest part of my job: to manage inquiries.

I guess it'll be more convenient for the whole household to speak English, but I hope it's as entertaining — as exhilarating — as it's been playing host to The Little Foreigner.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mick Jeffries shared an Instagram photo with you

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"The Pirate Sessions: Umpteenth Edition. #libbylee "

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Libby Lee Action

This is Libby Lee Jeffries, age one year, one month and one day. She is completely awesome.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Watching Libby Grow"

I've always envied songwriters, for some reason — maybe just because I haven't yet had much luck with the medium. I paraphrased the title from Bobby Goldsboro's "Watching Scotty Grow," about a father and son. It's interesting to notice songs that are obviously inspired by the arrival of children. (Talking Heads' "Stay Up Late," might be another example.)

While not a songwriter, I guess I'm a chronicler of some sort — or at least it seems important to me to be one. I guess this blog attests to that. (Although just yesterday I had a panic attack thinking that I needed to somehow transfer the content here to some sort of scrapbook — something that might survive a magnetic pulse weapon.) I've never felt so much like this as I have with this beautiful little girl around.

I can barely call her a baby anymore; she's thoroughly the most pint-sized of human beings now. I can see more than ever the justification for the concept of the "fourth trimester." Little babies — even up to six months — are really just kind of eating/pooping/sleeping machines. This … little girl … is much more than that now: a joker, an explorer … an analyst, for sure, just consumed with picking things apart.

These days march on … and here comes the miracle of personality, of desires, of exploration, joy, curiosity, irritation. It's just so amazing to watch. Some of our best times, "The Girl" (as we like to call her sometimes, in some kind of hostage parlance) and I, are when I simply lie on the floor and let her climb all over me. She doesn't care about me per sé — I'm just kind of a warm, soft jungle jim — a base of operations from which to conduct other business. The business of climbing over … and then climbing back over. And repeat. The gimme-that-iPhone business (a very popular business, that one — at just over a year old, I have watched her slide-unlock it. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't watched her carefully and intentionally slide that arrow graphic from left to right). The I'm-right-behind-you business has become very popular lately, which has a strong element of the peekaboo business as a component. The help-play-ukulele business is thriving, too.

Libby Lee remains my biggest fan, in fact, where ukulele is concerned, and I do believe that she's developing some favorite songs, if dancing and head-bobbing are any indication. At the top of the list seems to be my rendition of The Kinks' Victoria, which — you know — it's hard to argue with that kind of taste.

I confess — even boast — to a lack of sentimentality on some fronts. For the longest time, I didn't think "dah-dah" meant me (but I'm starting to think it does now). I don't think she looks like anybody in particular but she sometimes looks a little like a lot of people — glimmers, flashes. I wouldn't have thought that a one-year-old would have what you'd call a "favorite song." But I love seeing facets of all those things in this little diamond of genes.

I love how sturdy she is — a little tank of a creature. I almost savagely fling her down on our big bed — to her great delight — and then proceed to crash her brutally down again and again … to increasing peals of laughter and attempts at escape. I always let her escape and recede back into jungle jim mode … until it's time for more savagery. I like to tell myself that I'm preparing her for the world by creating obstacles for her — but obstacles that she can overcome by simple persistence and determination (to build confidence). I wonder if this is me projecting and infecting her with my own stubbornness, which I know came from MY mom and dad. And so it is, out of my control.

I was reflecting with sadness and joy the other day with some other parent and together we laughingly and reluctantly confessed to unhearing childen: "this is as good as it gets, kiddo. it's all downhill from here." Which isn't as bleak as it sounds because the triumphs and failures of Life are each of ours to grapple with — and revel in.

But to see the unmitigated thrill of a happy 1 year old … well, it may just be as good as it gets. And it feels really good to me, too — better than anything I've ever felt, in fact. And the unsentimentalist in me says: "That's chemicals, probably. Love chemicals to keep you caring for the tiny human who can't care for themselves … yet." Whatever it is — to enable that, to facilitate that; to change diapers, to prepare bottles, to be climbed upon, to arrange naps… to find my baby awake, standing inside the crib waiting in nearly excruciating anticipation … for me to appear and to do it all some more.

That unfiltered ecstacy.

Me, too, baby. Me, too.

Random bits:

  • I'm not 'Daddy' yet but I might well be 'Dada.' Lucy isn't quite "mama" yet, but getting there — sometimes "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma." For a brief and funny time, Mama was "dah-disch" — almost a yiddish femininization of "dada." So, yeah — "Daddy and Daddisch." That's what I'm pressing for.
  • She sleeps like it's her job, and I know better than to complain about that — On her front, butt stuck up in the air, arms tucked under — I now see where the yoga position "Child's Pose" comes from. Duh. Head to one side, then the other, sometimes she wiggles her butt to self-rock. There's a vexing bi-product of this position which is a gradual scooching forward in the crib, which leads to her eventually often becoming "jammed up" in the top of the bed. I've learned to identify a certain sleeping squawk of frustration — and see an opportunity to facilitate by taking ahold of her still-corpulent thighs and dragging her backwards a couple of feet. 
  • And then I pat and pat her back, rub her back. She's usually completely asleep. But I can't stop. I remember my own mom rubbing my back when I was much older — maybe 5 or 6. There's something deeply satisfying about rubbing your baby's back.
  • Certain strangers are instantly engaged verbally, accompanied by a direct eye contact and a tone of 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mick Jeffries shared an Instagram photo with you

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""hey bartender!" @managerflo"
(taken at Columbia Steak House)

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Mick Jeffries shared an Instagram photo with you

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"Fire Prevention Parade — there's a new Cap'n in town…"
(taken at Kentucky Theatre)

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mick Jeffries shared an Instagram photo with you

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"The Winners."

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Mick Jeffries shared an Instagram photo with you

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"Aunt Dana on Point( s). Libby Lee: Day 359. #libbylee"

The Instagram Team

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two Wheels! The beginning of a new chapter in mobility!

After a week of home-street practice and the arrival of Little Nutty helmet, we're rollin! (background: the incredible delightful Yepp Mini seat all the way from The Netherlands)

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Yes, I see your 'hidden' mic."

"Yes, I see your 'hidden' mic. I see it every time, no matter where you hide it. Now give it to me for it is my prize. Give it to me NOW."

"Tell me more about these 'not' dogs. So, they're not actual dogs?"

"As an added service — at at no extra charge — I made this pail be completely empty."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Some Little Things

It's so easy to lose track of little things, and I guess it's just a fact. I continue to live in denial of that fact and find myself constantly making little notes in my head, notes that are often not followed up on.

Here are a few:

  • You love switches, buttons, levers, latches, clasps. I would love to find some sort of box that is wildly festooned with an array of these. That would be cool.
  • Some of your favorite toys aren't toys. Some top-rung favorites include: a plastic spaghetti grabber, several wooden spoons, a coiled XLR patch cord, the upright guitar stored behind your great-grandparents' slide case, your great-grandparents' slide case, a pair of plastic safety glasses, a cheese grate, several pie tins, and whichever TV remote control is currently being used by mom or dad.
  • at naptime, for as long as I can remember, while taking a bottle, you've methodically "clicked" one of dad's fingernails using your own thumb and forefinger. Since you were very little.
  • Before ten months, you tended to suck down a bottle and knock right off, with possibly a few strings of baby talk. After ten months, you're just as likely to lie quietly and still, eyes open but with heavy blinks, in daddy's arms for a few minutes before nodding off. Or you might infrequently perk up and have a lot to say, including pointing. When this happens it usually involves a corner lamp or the ceiling fan, both of which you hold in high regard.
  • There's no greater joy than coming to greet you after nap time. You're always standing, usually at the end of the crib, both hands on the rail, and as soon as you see the face of your mom or dad, you break out into a broad smile and buck up to your full height, with the greatest of pride!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Another Moment from the Golden Age of Cell Phone Videography

Having crazy fun with 8mm, this iPhone app that creates decayed, antique video. Who'd have thought we'd have regressed so far? Then again, maybe our childhood memories are best if they're kind of torn and blurry…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Sweet Baby is Ten Months Old Today. Why is this Happening!?!?!?

what a gem she is. And how strange that — even though her mom and I are responsible for her every need, I don't want her to keep growing. My sweet baby Libby Lee…

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Of Bottles and Rattles

Libby Lee has a couple of pairs of things that are what might be called daddy pacifiers:

  1. Two bottles
  2. Two rattles
The first is probably kind of hard for any parent to believe, but yes -- Libby Lee has two bottles. She used to only have one, in fact. To be accurate, she's actually got probably closer to eight bottles, but I never use those. I only use her two Avent bottles. Not because they're so great or anything, but for reasoning bordering pretty clearly on superstition. The simple fact is that the Avent bottle worked first. And exactly one time early on, the Medela bottle (the one I have eight of) did not work. She balked. 
I never tried again.
I just made sure I had the Avent bottle, and if it got left at Mamaw and Papaw's, I went and GOT it. Eventually I went and bought a second one to try to avoid another head-on collision with my improbable superstition. Now I'm sort of constantly aware of whether or not both Avent bottles are in known locations. Usually they are not. Usually, one is missing. And as soon as I stumble upon it, the other one sneaks away.

Similarly, Libby Lee has two rattles. Two. A cool red one that reminds me of Russian nesting dolls and sounds like it's full of bb's, and a beautiful wooden one made by a friend which I suspect of containing 2-4 pennies. They are very different from one another but I prefer for some reason that they both be on hand at all times.

They rarely are.

The ideal is that they're kept near the crib and I hand them to Libby Lee with some small cheerful pomp after I find her awake after each nap. I like this because she looks at the rattle and then looks at me as if I'm presenting her with the Hope Diamond. Who knew that babies actually liked rattling rattles? I didn't. This baby sure does. Each time, she'll put down whatever bauble she's got and slowly close her fist around it, look at me with wonder and begin to shake it up and down with simple delight, as if she's
never seen it before, never known such fulfillment. Lately she's learned that she can drum it across the spindles of the crib, like the most cheerful inmate of the happiest solitary confinement block in baby prison history.

I want BOTH of each of these around. They give me some comfort that's probably not too hard to understand if I think about it. It's a kind of continuity, a regularity that lets me bask in the ultimate illusion of parenthood: that my baby isn't growing up. 

Because she is, damn it, she is.

I don't know why I don't want her to grow up. Babies require a lot of care, obviously. Wouldn't it be easier if she could walk and feed herself and talk and get dressed? I will find out before too much longer. But I never dreamed I'd love doing everything for her, taking care of her like this. And I still remember what I thought in the hospital when they put those hospital ID bracelets on her and on us. I thought: "You're with us now." And we will do everything -- because we're hard-wired to do so -- to keep you safe and fill you with a sense of security ... and by extension, with joy. Or is it the other way around? I don't know. I feel so secure knowing that I'm her father. It's the best job I could ever think of. I don't mean being "a parent," though that may be true. I mean being her dad.

And that means carrying her and feeding her and talking to her and dressing her. As she gets older, I'll gradually be relieved of these tasks, these simple services. Instead, I'll be called upon for murkier responsibilities, like setting an example of how to behave or ... i don't even know, but it scares me. I don't know if I'm qualified or if I'll ever be smart enough or grown up enough myself. I hope I can be a good dad to this girl as she keeps growing. If she must. I hope I can keep having two rattles and two bottles... or two of whatever turns out to have a similar magic.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Aspirations with a Stranger's Unlocked Jeep

Mirror Wall (El Rancho Tapatio)

Popsicle Diptic

Mother/Child Reunion Diptic (8 mos.)

High Chairin' with Mamaw Triptych

Truman Capote Diptic