Sunday, April 30, 2006

Owen's Sweaty Id

This afternoon, we decided to pay a visit to my in-laws, who live just minutes away. And like most old-timers here in sunny Palo Alto/Menlo Park, they don't have air conditioning. As a result, Owen -- now almost 17 months old -- sweated buckets. He had to strip down to his underwear and was damp to the touch, though neither the heat nor his stickiness seemed to bother him at all. If anything, it seemed to energize him. While I got duller and sleepier as the afternoon progressed, Owen got more frantic and loud. He would wriggle like greased lightning out of my arms, stumble crazily around the living room and tried to climb on top of the coffee table. "PO-PO! PO-PO!" He pointed at my mother-in-law. "EEEE-OH! EEEE-OH!" He sang and danced to Old McDonald. Owen grabbed his great-grandmother's feet (she's in a wheelchair) and tried to bang them together, ruby-slipper-like. He yanked a walking cane from his great-grandfather, and gleefully struck it against the wall. After he received a goldfish cracker, he shouted "MORE!!! MORE!!! MORE!!!" When I tried to hold his hand, he jerked it away, exclaimed "NO!" and wobbled away. And all the while, his head got slicker and slicker with sweat.

It's times like these that simultaneously horrify me and fill me with pride.

When I was little, I was nothing like Owen. According to my parents, when I was my son's age, I would sit quietly and play with pieces of cardboard. (Apparently, my parents kept a shitload of cardboard around.) My father actively encouraged my inactivity. Like the stereotypical Asian dad, he wanted me to be sensitive, smart, and non-athletic (so as not to break any fingers needed for operating a graphing calculator in the future). I did not run around. I did not roughhouse. At the park, I didn't play with the other kids. Instead, I clung closely to my parents and picked flowers. "That's what you wanted to do!" my parents keep telling me.

So when Owen bounces off walls and shrieks and makes faces , I worry that he'll be a hyperactive brat, constantly seeking attention and stealing things from old people. But I'm also secretly happy that Owen's free to fully give in to his id (for now, anyway), and just run around until he collapses in a puddle of his own sweat, drool and snot. Isn't that what being a toddler is all about?

Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves

The Rice Daddies would like to give a big shout-out and welcome to our sistahs-in-the-struggle [the struggle to raise happy, proud, confident, and self-aware Asian American children in a world that doesn't always deal well with difference, that is], the Kimchi Mamas.

According to their introductory post, this collective of "Korean and married-to-Korean mothers" are, like their namesake food, "a little spicy, plenty fiery, and sometimes? We like to get pickled." [Wait, nobody said your blog's name had to have some deep, symbolic meaning! Um, yeah, rice is...uh, rice is... oh, forget it.]

You'll recognize the names from their solo blogs, which have been enriching the Asian-American-parenting-blogosphere for some time now. [Yeah, I guess we can actually call it that now, since we started this thing three months ago looking for it and now there aren't one but two group blogs written by AsAm parents!] You'll also see that many of them are frequent commenters here on Rice Daddies, which we greatly appreciate, ladies. We're sending the love and props right back atcha.

So go check 'em out—that is, all half-dozen of you readers who aren't actually the Kimchi Mamas themselves. It's a small blogosphere after all....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

American Girl Place Gives Me The Creeps

So we were down in LA at the grandparents' yesterday, and we went for my mom's customary morning coffee at the old Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax before heading back to Bakersfield. My mom had been talking about how the new American Girl Place store had opened up last week in the humungous space previously occupied by F.A.O. Schwartz in the Grove, the outdoor mall/faux streetscape next to the Farmer's Market. Apparently, lines had been out the door for days and management moved employee parking to a building miles away (connected by shuttle) to open up the employee parking floor for the anticipated hordes of chaufferred doll aficionados coming for their "Afternoon Tea" with their dolls. Well, the store opens at 9:30 in the morning, before most other mall stores (guess it's never too early to buy matching pajamas so you can dress like your doll), so we strolled over to check it out after coffee.

I thought the F.A.O. Schwartz that was in the space before was creepy, what with the animatronics and the non-stop music. But this takes it to a whole other level. First of all, let me say that I'm not the most receptive audience for this. The whole girl-empowerment thing is great, but combining it with crass mass commercialism ["Buy matching clothes for you and your doll! And don't forget the accessories!"], not so much—and then add in my favorite problematizers, race and class, and, well.... Let's just say that The Pumpkin won't be taking her doppleganger doll to high tea there any time soon.

Everything is some shade of pink. All the saleswomen, smiling and quick with a greeting, seem creepily...doll-like. And everything, every object, every experience, is for sale. A giant display of dolls "Just Like You" advertises your little girl's ability to find a doll-ppleganger with the appropriate combination of hair color, hair texture (no naturals for you African American girls, though, only pressed or curls, sorry!), eye color, skin color, nose shape (couldn't tell if there were different eye shapes, but noses seemed limited to "regular" and "a little flatter")... Teeth, however, seem to be universally buck-. And don't forget the accessories, and the real-girl-sized clothes to match! And right next to that display is the...wait for salon. Yes, hair salon, where a row of miniaturized salon chairs sits on a counter, behind which stand the "stylists" waiting for their inanimate clients. Upstairs, you've got a cafe where you can eat three meals a day, book a birthday party, you can watch something (don't know if it's video or live, wasn't paying attention) in the theater, get your photo taken with your doll, buy a baby doll (and accessories! two-pack twins and a matching two-seater stroller!), buy doll-specific books, and check out/buy from the company's vaunted Historical Collection.

This 10-doll collection of characters from American historical periods from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, complete with novels, has been lauded for its sort of "girl power" version of fictionalized social history. In the last few years, they've added an African American (runaway slave), a Latina (New Mexican), and Native American (eighteenth century Plains)to the collection. Just out of curiosity, I checked the on-line store to see what matching clothes you could get to dress like your historical dolls—"Dress like a run-away slave!"—but, alas, it's mostly nightgowns. Except there's nothing for Nez Perce warrior girl Kaya—and I was so looking forward to buying The Pumpkin some faux buckskin jammies.

Angry Asian Man wrote last month about this Sacramento Bee article about Asian American girls and their parents who have started a campaign to get American Girl to add an Asian American character and story to the historical line. While I always applaud young activists and work on the issue of pop-cultural representation and diversity, I gotta say, I don't know what I'd think about, say, a 1940s-era Emi doll complete with a family i.d. number tag around her neck and a matching suitcase in which to put only what she could carry. Heh. Already I'm sorta uncomfortable with the "diversity" of the historical collection—I know they have to start somewhere, but in a collection of 10 dolls, in which the white dolls range from servant to elite and from colonial times to WWII, the non-white dolls are one black doll who's a runaway slave, one Native American doll who wants to be a warrior woman, and one Latina doll who's on a New Mexican ranch. It just seems a little too pat, a little too easy. And of course, I'm viewing this with the back-drop of last year's uproar over one of their contemporary dolls, Marisol, who, after the historical Josefina, was the company's second Latina doll. The Mexican-American character's backstory included her family's moving from Chicago's historically Latino Pilsen neighborhood to the suburbs because the old barrio was too dangerous and had no place for her to play. That, obvioulsy, didn't sit too well with proud residents of the ethnic enclave.

This year's "Girl of the Year" doll/character happens to be Jess, a biracial white/Asian 10-year-old, whose accompanying story/novel focuses on her family's vacaction in Central America. I have no idea if her racial/ethnic background comes into play in her story at all. But, surrounded by a whole lot of Jess dolls and Jess books at the store, I have to say... Sorry, American Girl, she may have a bridgeless nose, but she looks like a white girl with buckteeth. (As I mentioned earlier, apparently all the dolls have the same teeth.) It's interesting to note that the hapa girl in the article linked above, who wants an AsAm historical doll (and even plans to study history in college because of American Girl), said of Jess, "She looks almost Native American or Hispanic." When told she was AsAm, she said, "That's crazy." Um, sweetie, I know we all look different, but have you really not been asked if you speak Spanish yet? Or, with that interest in history, haven't you read about the settlement of the Americas by people from, um, Asia? But either way, that doll doesn't look hapa to me, though the illustrations for the book do.

At any rate, I'm not buying The Pumpkin an American Girl doll any time soon, regardless of how racially ambiguous I could make it look. [At a year-and-a-half, my babygirl's years too young anyway—and barely taller than the dolls. She was uninterested in the baby dolls aimed at toddlers and younger girls, only wanting to push the doll-sized stroller out of the showroom, sans doll.] And that store gives me the creeps. Too many clothing items that eight-year-olds (their target audience) should not be wearing—the Jess collection has her signature halter top, and I swear I saw something on the rack that looked like a tube top and hot pants or something. Nuh-uh. (Don't we have enought problems with the Pussycat Dolls joining the Bratz on the toystore shelves?) And the resemblance of the employees to their smiling, cheerful products, at 9:30 on a Monday morning, yeah, no thanks. No tea-with-your-doll for me.

Not that they're losing business from me. Apparently, the afternoon tea service is booked for months.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"How To Adopt a Baby From China"

I didn't mean to come back to this topic again but I saw this on "How To Of The Day". Just to put this in perspective, the WikiHow advice on Chinese adoption was sandwiched between "How to Create Stereo Photographs" and "How To Choose a Good Office Plant."


Do The Right Thing (or: Go Ahead, Tell Me I'm an Idiot)

We just got back from our pre-nap morning errands (The Pumpkin fell asleep in the car). So, we're about to start a kitchen remodel (plus plumbing, plus doors and floors...aack!) in our 1952 ranch house—demolition is scheduled in two weeks, so I'm sure you'll hear a lot more about SAHD-ing a toddler in the middle of a remodel, both here at on my solo blog. But anyway, The Pumpkin and I stopped at the local big-box "home improvement" store [that's in quotes 'cause I am so not handy and I hate those places 'cause I can't ever find anything and nobody's helpful and...] this morning to pick up the sink la dra. and I have chosen. It's a nice, big, deep undercounter sink, white ceramic on cast iron, from a well-known name-brand. And the big-box price was $200 less than the manufacturer's list price on their own website. So, I thought, good deal, right?

Well, I finally find someone to help me maneuver the thing on top of the cart (doesn't fit in the cart, which is one of those ones with the little kiddie seat/platform attached in front to free up cargo room, which The Pumpkin loves), and I manage to steer the whole thing to the check-out. Well, the young lady helping me scans the bar code and says, "39 dollars." Excuse me? She shows no sign whatsoever of thinking that maybe a humongous cast-iron, name-brand sink doesn't cost forty bucks. It's only my surprise that clues her in that maybe something's wrong here.

Now, I could've just let it go. I could've walked out of there with basically a free sink, the first (and probably only) break in an ever-upward-spiraling remodelling budget [did you know that you shouldn't put bamboo flooring, which is a fast-growing grass, over a concrete slab that has a 50-year-old radiant heating system in it 'cause the heat and humidity will basically destroy it? neither did I, till the honest flooring guy said so right before we were gonna cut a check in his showroom]. But I said something like, "Really? Is that right?" Knowing, of course, that it wasn't. But if she wanted to give it to me, fine, right?

Except, of course, she decided to ask another checker, who asked if the UPC was on the box or was a sticker. It was a sticker. Removed, it revealed another UPC which didn't come up in their system. (The sticker, by the way, did come up as "sink" or something like that.) So she went to the other side of the box and scanned another UPC, which came up, correctly, as $309.

So, F-Bomb and ThisIsLarry and anybody else going through, about to go through, or who has gone through a renovation, did I do the right thing? Or should I have basically stolen that sink in front of my sweet babygirl, and would I have found myself writing now about being wracked with guilt over displaying such back ethics in front of a toddler?

Yeah, right. Tell me I'm a frickin' moron.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Dairy Queen Dreams

Saw this new Dairy Queen commercial featuring a pregnant Asian American couple eating the new DQ DreamPie Blizzard the other night and thought I'd share. [Okay, fine, it was during "Dr. Who" on SciFi, what did you expect, I'm a big nerd.]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Baby Pix Re-Up!

It's time to update our blog banner with more baby pix from you.

Upload here.

Preferred submission guidelines here.

I'm especially looking for baby photos from some of our newer Rice Daddies who haven't gotten their kids in the mix yet.

Authentically Asian

I'm not trying to start a fight but I speculate that we'll get some pointed feedback on this. I was planning on posting something about the NY Times article that came out last month (NYT charges for it now but *hush* you can read it here). Talking about trans-racial adoption, especially from Asia, is a hot button topic that tends to generate a lot of heat but not always much light.

My general impression - and I'm quite open to be illuminated on this - is that with the recent generation of Chinese adoptions (vs. the older generation of Korean adoptions) by non-Asians, the adopting parents are at least aware enough to recognize that racial difference might play some kind of role. However, I don't think there's a uniform response as to how to resolve that tension (though ignoring it is probably not the best option) and personally, I think it will be very interesting to see what happens as this generation of Chinese adoptees come of age over the next 10 years. Personally, I predict a wave of self-made films and documentaries exploring the topic (as there already has been amongst Korean adoptees).

I mentioned this several years ago, but I was also struck at how normalized the practice as become within American popular culture. There was a wave of TV commercials a few years back that all were based around Chinese adoption by white parents and let's not forget the Sex And The City subplot with Charlotte and her second husband adopting a baby from China as well. Personally, I found the fact that it became so normative, so quickly, to be rather facile - any time Madison Ave. and Hollywood can absorb a potentially contentious social phenomenon faster than the rest of America, one should take notice and be wary.

The thing is, the common explanation (read: defense) of the practice is a hard one to argue with, at least on the surface: "we're giving these children better lives." I mean, sure, I'd rather grow up in Park Slope or Noe Valley than a Zhuzhou orphanage (especially if I were a woman) but the defense is deployed in such a way to shut down any concerns about how transracial adoption creates its own set of challenges for the children involved.

I'm not implying that the adopting parents aren't aware of this on some level, but their "solutions" can sometimes be painful. I don't think folks in our community want to turn a deaf ear to attempts by non-Asian parents to span the culture gap but it doesn't mean we can't roll our eyes once in a while when we read things like this:
    (this comes from a friend who helps run a Chinese American organization in the Bay Area. He frequently gets emails like this from non-Asians adopting Chinese babies.) link

    "My husband and I are in the process of adopting our first child from China. We will be visiting San Francisco next week and would like to see Chinatown, or at least the non-touristy, more authentic parts, as part of our education. Do you have any suggestions for a tour we might take and/or a good local restaurant for lunch and a few shops where we could purchase a cheongsam for our daughter or other traditional dress? We want to be authentic as possible."

To quote from the NYT piece (this being from someone who specializes in transracial adoption workshops):
    "It is one thing to dress children up in cute Chinese dresses, but the children need real contact with Asian-Americans, not just waiters in restaurants on Chinese New Year. And they need real validation about the racial issues they experience."

Baby's First Protest

"Baby, can you say, 'Sí se puede'?"

The Pumpkin and I joined nearly 10,000 people here in Bakersfield, and 2 million nationwide, who rallied and marched in support of immigrants' rights and against draconian legislation being considered and debated in Congress on Monday, April 10. It was a beautiful day and a spirited, peaceful demonstration, marked by multigenerational families in white shirts waving American, Mexican, and UFW flags.

Among the thousands, I did see hints of support from beyond the Latino community, but the handful of black, white and Asian American protesters were quite outnumbered by their conspicuously absent cohorts. Besides me and The Pumpkin, I saw a couple leaders of the local Sikh community, and that was about it for Asian Americans. Asian American responses to the immigration debate, and discussion of the glaring lack of organized support by and in our community, have been popping up in the postings of our colleagues in the blogosphere, from transracial adoptee poets and hapa science fiction writers to hip-hop cultural critics and panethnic community magazines and hapa media watchdogs, and even us parentbloggers. Most interesting has been a challenge to young activists to move beyond the politics of symbolic representation to organized action on issues, like the criminalization of immigrants and their allies, that affect the real-world, lived experiences of real people based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and other categories of difference that are used to keep some in power and others out of it.

The Pumpkin was hardly the only baby out at the protest, and that, hopefully, should send a message to The Powers That Be that this isn't just about individual workers or international economics or border security—to those in the trenches, this is about family, and you just don't mess with someone's family. Maybe I should make up some onesies that say "Activism Starts At Home," or "Social Justice Is a Family Value," huh?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Daddy Confidence

I've decided a lot of daddy-ing had to do with confidence. Confidence to be able to hold the little guy without dropping him, smacking one of his soft spots, or not cradling him in such a way that he makes a beeline toward my milkless breasts. Confidence to be able to diaper without being peed on. Confidence to be able to calm your frustrated, anxious, or outright crazy little one. Since my wife had a C-section, I was the one attending to our little Squirt for the first week and the three days in the hospital--being creative. As an only child and a second generation immigrant with no extended family in this country, I had virtually no experience around babies. The first 72 hours were exhausting but I've got four or five tricks to try when the little guy goes ballistic. The smoothering face into my chest hold, going Milli Vanili song and dance routine to the music playing, the calf-extension elevator jiggle, the straightjacket swaddle, and my most successful, the Barry Sanders hold that allows me to straightarm/gather laundry with other arm.

I'm the anal-type that has read through the encyclopedic baby volumes, daddy books, went to baby care classes, and even sat through the obnoxious videos (proud Oprah found the Asian-Am Man/African-Am female couple.) But what is really needed to instill confidence for the average daddy is a 20-25 page how-to pamphlet on daddy responsibilities and how to carry out the job (short enough not to frustrate or bore.) Home Depot instruction manual style with a list of different options. Not the politics of why or a metastudy of research in the area - just the how. To allow daddys know what to do without feel frustrated or out of place. Confidence, that's what is all boils down to.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Case for Tummy Time

My wife and I are lucky enough that we live within 40 minutes of both sets of grandparents. They are also excited enough about our little Squirt that they will alternate being our daycare. We are truly blessed. They visit often, bring goodies and give us needed respites. As baby novices we've tried to glean some tips from those that have weaned us. I mean we turned out okay didn't we? What we've realized is what they were taught flies in the face of what we read in the baby books now. They are all about formula and were floored when my wife popped her hulking mammaries into Squirts mouth. They keep pulling him out of swaddles and undoing his wrapped hands, so he can be free. They wanted to sleep him face down.

This information coupled with the stories of our friends leads me to a bold prediction. Our friends have one year olds who with the flat hammerhead syndrome from laying in one position all the time and who can't crawl or sit up because they are always on their back. I speculate in 10 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics will recommend side sleeping or maybe suspended animation sleeping (Mike Jackson's chimps are ahead of their time.)

Don't get me wrong I still sleep Squirt on his back, although he always ends up on a side. It just seems to me that so-called baby experts know a lot less than they pretend. Take Dr. Karp with his 5 S'S - cute marketing gimmick. I have the book and watched the DVD more times than Do the Right Thing, my favorite movie. I practiced the 5 arts and feel pretty adept at them. But he wraps so tight that I'm sure earlier generations would call it being bound and tied. His head jiggling as shown in the DVD would amount to shaking for other pediatrians. His shushing in the ear is comes pretty close to I'm going to blow off your eardrum until you shutup. And then my ultimate question is yes, I can usually quiet my baby with his techniques - but then what? It NEVER puts him to sleep - just in this dazed/what the hell is going on/deer in headlights calm that lasts at most a matter of minutes. The same thing happens in his video.

So I've decided on serious tummy time for our munchkin: on my tummy, on the bed, in his pack n play, and his crib. He struggles and will eventually cry but you can see him get stronger and smarter as he tries. I'm all about physical activity - I see too many of my middle school students live on a diet of flaming hot cheetos and Code Red Mountain Dew. The back is just preparing him for the couch. The couch is a carb(thanks KP). Formula from a bottle prepares him for the the fast food nation. Work that nipple honey, go get it. So when he's out grown the breast, I'm just gonna spray some milk on the table and he'll go lick it up.

Black Korea II: Bruce Lee-Roy

My baby has made some milestones. He turned a month old yesterday, so we celebrated by relegating him to the crib instead of co-sleeping. We were ready for a night of hell but of all things, he just did it. Two or three hours at a time just like in bed. We were so proud and rested. Of course, then he had a diaper explosion in the swing that somehow showered the whole seat, padding, and white buckles with his distinctive saffron colored offerings. He sounds like a barn now. He does the Daily Show Dick Cheney penguin, gaggle of geese, Mr. Ed, and plenty of goats. Gas I guess or me constipated?

Just for Daddy in a Strange Land, here is a great piece on Hines Ward, the Amerasian half-Black, half-Korean Superbowl MVP winning wide receiver for the Steelers. He went back to Korea with his mom and received a hero's welcome but tried to spotlight the intolerance that non-ethnic Koreans receive in South Korea. The whole reason his mother refused to move back when she divorced his father and had to hold down 3 jobs to raise him in Atlanta where she couldn't even speak English. Its heartening to know Hines appreciates her struggle and we of course get reference to his Asian work ethic and humbleness. [The USA Today article].

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rice Baby Meet-up: The Pumpkin Meets Squirt

The D.I.S.L. familia was in San Diego for one of la dra.'s medical conferences this weekend, and we got to go meet Squirt, the Rice Daddies' own Mr. Maestro's month-old bundle of joy. The Pumpkin was enthralled with the little guy, repeating "baby, baby, baby" like a mantra and displaying empathetic discomfort with every cry. We were especially amused when, while Mr. Maestro's estimable spouse, the Headmistress [hey, they're both teachers, and we all know who runs their house, yeah? and anyway, he never picked a nom de blog for her, so he can pick another one if he wants] was breastfeeding Squirt under a receiving blanket, The Pumpkin kept looking under the blanket to make sure "bay-bee" hadn't disappeared. (Well, maybe the Headmistress wasn't as amused.) Anyway, all are well (as well as the family of a one-month-old can be expected to be, that is, but hey, we've all been there), and la dra. got to share her knowledge of workplace breastpump etiquette with the Headmistress, who's returning to work next month. Mr. Maestro was at home for two weeks, then was back in the classroom for a week, and is now finishing up spring break. He promises that he'll try to post more about the joys of new fatherhood, in between lesson-planning and paper-grading and diaper-changing and wife's-shoulder-rubbing (I added that one, Headmistress, so thank me later). Anyway, Squirt's a cutie, with hair that does naturally what his daddy tries to do with liberal applications of gel. Welcome to the jungle, Maestro family. Things'll never be the same, and you wouldn't want them to be.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Best. T-Shirts. Ever.

(click images for larger versions via Muk)
It's a Slope thing....ya wouldn't understand. (courtesy of The Muk Report)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Jeff Fatt phatter than Chow Yun Fat? At least among the tykes

Just a quick post to note that The New York Times Magazine had a lengthy story today on the "world's number one preschool band," which would be, of course, The Wiggles. (The color-coordinated quartet booked a cool AU$45 mill last year from their prodigious output of performances, shows, and licensed chazerai--a haul that has apparently made them the current best-paid entertainers in Australia, topping Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, both Minogue sisters et al. Even "Passion of the Mel" Gibson? Shocking. It helps that the Wiggs have begun to franchise.)

So, anyway, it strikes me that Jeff "Purple Wiggle" Fatt may actually be the most beloved Asian performer in the world. There are other actors, musicians and the like who may be more famous, but as the most popular member of the most popular kiddie group in creation, he commands a degree of starry-eyed, unquestioning adoration of which few celebs can boast.

My own take: The Wiggles are pretty great--at first I was a bit creeped out by them, but they are far from untalented, write catchy songs with positive if limited messages (veggies good...dancing good...friendly pirates very good, arr), and seem to earnestly care about their pint-sized fans.

Can't say I dig the whole "Wake Up Jeff!" thing, though.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The simple joys of telecommuting

Greetings from the new dad on the block!

Me: author of columns on Asian pop culture for the San Francisco Chronicle's website, proprietor of a mailblog called Instant Yang, father of 2.5 year old Hudson, and now, occasional guest contributor here in electric daddyland. Since January 15, I've also been working for Iconoculture, a consumer trend advisory company based in Minneapolis--which means I've been telecommuting now for about two and a half months.

There's something richly fulfilling about working from home. Now, if only someone would tell me what that something is, I'd be set. Those of you who complain of office jobs and commutes (and yeah, I was one of you, once upon a time) don't know how good you've got it--the price of rolling out of bed and being in your office is that you're, like, always at work and never at work at the same time.

Still in grind mode at 2 am? Sure, because it's not like there's a Flintstones quittin'-time bird to whistle your blessed release from the quarry.

Someone need to sit around waiting for the cable guy, pick up clothes from the dry cleaner, watch over the contractors to make sure they aren't riffling through the underwear drawers? Guess it's you--you're home anyway. Which means half the things you had to get done slide off the workday schedule...ensuring yet another night of late-night grind.

As far as kidcare's concerned...Dear Wife commutes to Long Island, and someone's got to make sure Hudson is fed in the morning, his teeth brushed, chewable vitamin tucked into one cheek, lunch prepared, dropped off at day care wearing sufficiently warm and unembarassing clothes, etc. Sadly, mornings, toddler style, do not conform to Outlook calendar demands--which leads to some awkward professional moments.

Take yesterday: Dear Wife on early call at hospital, so no toddler-wrangling partner. Son Hudson wakes me at 7 am, demanding eggs for breakfast. When presented with said eggs, refuses to eat them, demanding instead a bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is made, and he says he wants dried apples in it. Cut up apples, mix, and he emits a top-of-lungs EEEWWW (even though he eats oatmeal with dried apples every other froggin' day).

I tell him that he can eat eggs or oatmeal or both, but that he has to eat something. He begins to cry at the sheer horror of being asked to consume nutritious comestibles.

Aware that the original plan was to get him to school 15 minutes early so that I could be on time for an important teleconference, I soothe him until he stops crying, and tell him he has to eat if he wants to get big and strong. He takes one bite of oatmeal, smiles, and shows how big and strong he already is by throwing the bowl on the floor, neatly splattering his hair and sweater in the process.

By the time I get him and the floor halfway cleaned up, it's 9:05 and one of my teleconference colleagues is calling me wondering if I'm dialing in. I apologize and touchtone the code, shushing Hudson in the background, and leading the meeting while trying to sign-language him into eating some of the eggs. As I'm trying to spoon a fluffy yellow mouthful into him, receiver tucked between chin and shoulder, he reaches over, grabs the phone, and clearly and politely tells my teleconference: "A robot bite me!" (Note: He and his cousin Evan have curiously invented a world of friendly yet occasionally carnivorous robots, which need to be zapped with the TV remote to prevent them from going nuts and attacking.)

I remove the phone from his fingers and apologize to the meeting, which has broken up in laughter. Great icebreaker. I oughta rent him out for coporate retreats. I explain the situation to my colleagues, put them on hold, and give him a Donkey Kong Gogurt stick, which he gulps at while sitting on the potty. I tie up my meeting and take him to daycare, half an hour late.

I'm still getting earnest messages from my Minneapolis-based coworkers inquiring on the state of Hudson's robot bite.

It's fine.

Mommy kissed it all better.