Monday, February 15, 2010

Perhaps we can reach them by carrier pigeon?

Given that it's very name is a byword for enormous and slow moving, you'd think it wouldn't be very difficult for me to get a decent picture of the blimp that skulks around my neighbourhood in the evenings.

For those of you asking why, precisely, my corner of LA is a haven for antiquated aviation devices, I must disappoint - I have no idea. I like to believe that it's manned by a gang of Prussian centenarians who never got word of the Armistice in 1918.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who says science can't be ridiculous?

Despite Monday's debacle, Sana and I returned to the baby lab today. This is the video they played.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Next time, we're putting her in a giant maze with cheese.

With Amynah being a scientist, and me having a professionally symbiotic relationship with science, we decided early on that we would enroll Sana in pretty much any baby-development study on offer at UCLA. We didn’t have long to wait – we received a card seeking the use of our baby in the mail from “The Baby Lab” when Sana was five weeks old. A week after we sent it in, we got a call asking us to bring her in.

So yesterday, I tramped up to the UCLA campus, pushing Sana in The Mangler through the drifting crowds of cooing undergraduates. We got into the lab, where the professor in charge was in the midst of a meeting with his undergraduates. I was handed a great sheaf of papers to read and sign (“I understand that there are no risks associated with these experiments beyond those associated with everyday life” - I was going to mention that I had, in the course of my everyday life earlier that morning, been training Sana as my apprentice in my new career as a bullfighting skydiver, but thought it prudent to just sign the form). Despite the new environment and her approaching lunchtime, Sana was pretty quiet. I quickly changed her diaper, and we went in for the experiment.

The idea, I was told, was to test infant’s understanding of the continuity of form – whether they understood that if a box passes over a rod, that the rod will still be intact afterward. To do this, they track baby’s pupils – the longer the baby stares at an object, the more likely they are surprised by what they see.

We were say in front of a tv screen outfitted with a special camera designed to track Sana’s eye movements. To get set it up, they played a video of singing muppets, then a series of beeping shapes and video snippets. After that, the test would begin.

This was the muppet video:

Here’s how it went.

“Ba na ma na”

Happy baby

“Shapes and beeps” – crying. Perhaps she was startled by the sudden change? The technicians were understanding, and started over.

“Ba na ma na”

Happy baby

“Shapes and beeps” – crying.

I informed Sana that she was being unreasonable, and setting back the forward march of human knowledge. She seemed chastened. We resumed our place by the screen, determined to do better.

“Ba na ma na” started again, and Sana watched, calmly, perhaps even bobbing her head along a little.

The shapes and beeps started. Sana watched as they moved, corner to corner, beeping and bopping. Her brow wrinkled. What was this – some sort of avant garde cinema? Where was the music, the characters, the great themes? This was just abstract posturing. She started to squirm, then her face reddened. She started to holler.

“That’s uh, two thumbs down,” I said, as I bundled her out of the lab.

She won’t make it as a scientist perhaps, but she might have a future as a movie critic.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Stay at home parenting: Day 0.5

5:55 AM – Sana hollers me awake. Today’s the day when Amynah goes back to work, albeit for only half the day. Amynah’s convinced Sana knows it, and thus has been particularly needy throughout the night: “She woke up at 2:30, and didn’t really go back to sleep,” said Amynah, wearily. I try to look sympathetic, while inwardly congratulating myself for my foresight in not developing breasts. Reading my mind, Amynah vindictively demands that I change Sana’s diaper.

7:00 After a quick nap, I wander downstairs to prepare breakfast, while Amynah puts Sana down to sleep again. Amynah comes down, thanks me profusely for my labours. The enthusiasm of her gratitude makes me think that her sleep deprivation has made the act of toasting a bagel seem to her a work of culinary genius.

7:45 I hop in the shower. After five minutes, Amynah pops her head in the door: “Bye!” I then here her run downstairs. The front door slams. I wait for it to open again and for her to yell “Just kidding!”

7:51: Still waiting.

7:52: It appears that she meant it when she said, almost every day since December 10, that she was going back to work. It’s just the baby and I, and I have no breasts with which to defend myself.

8:00: I peek my head into the room where the baby is sleeping, a transistor radio playing static to keep her calm. As I look at her face, her eyes open a crack. I yelp and run away.

8:30: Attempting to write. Have run upstairs to check on her three times so far. She’s fine, but I think I pulled a muscle in my leg.

9:09: Writing. Email arrives from Amynah “Hey sweetie, I miss you and Sana very much.” Me and who?

9:14: Baby crying! I plug her noise hole with a soother, and bring her downstairs. Now she’s sucking away, and looking at me like I’m an idiot. Clearly, something else needs to be done.

9:20: Baby crying, slowly, clearly and emphatically, so that Idiot Parent understands. I investigate the diaper, to find much treasure therein. By my calculation, she has gone through roughly 7,000 Pampers since making her appearance in this world. Really, it shouldn’t still be this upsetting for her.

9:35: Have spent ten minutes trying, and failing to capture her smiling as she lies in her favourite place in the world – the Poop Deck. I don’t want to upset her with the flash, and my stupid camera’s too slow with the flash off.

Actually, that came out ok

9:36: On to the play mat, where she stares at the various hanging rattles, mirrors and noisemakers without having the faintest clue what to do with them. I try to write with one hand while shaking a bead-filled plastic doughnut for her amusement.

9:38: She is not amused. The crying starts again. Time to feed.

9:40: I’m set up on the couch. Magazine – check. Cloth to wipe spilt milk – check. Agitated baby – check. Milk – Damnit! Out of reach in the kitchen.

9:41: Milk retrieved, she’s sucking on the bottle as if she hadn’t been fed in three days, instead of three hours. I realize that with one arm holding her, and one holding the bottle, I can basically only enjoy the magazine by pulling it close on the table with my feet and reading the page it happened to be open to over, and over, and over again. It’s an ad for a European investment bank.

10:25 – Bottle’s empty! Not sure if she’s done, but it should hold her until Amynah comes home at lunch. I put her in the swing, and immediately get on the phone to open an account with Banco Santander.

10:26 – It is deeply unnerving to have a baby stare at you when you’re trying to work.

10:27 – Still staring.

10:28 – I turn the swing around so she’s looking out the balcony window.

10:29 – She spots me reflected in the glass. She stares.

10:30 – I might be going slightly mad.

10:45 – I peek over the kitchen counter, behind which I am hiding with my laptop. Sana’s eyes are closed, so it’s safe to return to my desk.

11:30 - She’s starting to fuss again. It could be a rebellion against the MIDI versions of classical music beeping through her swing’s sound system or it could be a signal for a diaper change.

11:31 – Diaper change.

11:38 – she’s calm, if somewhat too active, while I struggle to introduce her to clean underpants, but as soon as I get her pajamas back on, she starts to fuss. Then cry. Then shriek like she’s being tortured. Of course, this is when the phone rings.

11:39 - It’s Amynah, on her way home. Just in time! I put Sana in her stroller and make a mad dash for the bus stop. As soon as we’re rolling, the crying stops – she’s awake, eyes wide open, with an expression on her face that says “I’m calm now, but you better know you’re on thin ice, buddy.” I pass three other Dads out pushing their kids around the neighbourhood. Doesn’t anyone in this city have a job?

11:50 – Amynah! Sana’s visibly relieved. Day one as a stay-at-home Dad, and we both survived. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.

11:52 – Amynah informs me she’s working a full day tomorrow. Sana immediately starts to cry.