February 12, 2010

Three Short Stories About Ronan

It’s been a while. When I get stressed, I stop blogging, and I’ve felt very stressed lately. Sorry! I’d like to write every day but stress kills my writing abilities dead. It’s just like RAID for bugs.

Anyway, we’re older, we’re colder and Ronan is a toddler. We’re deep into potty training, and for the sake of future teenage Ronan I won’t go into details, but it’s a lot harder as a parent than I remember as a toddler. I do remember falling into the toilet and screaming and my Dad laughing but I remember potty training taking a short period of time. We’re only technically in our second week but I feel like we’re been doing this forever and it’s not fun. On the plus side, I’ve gotten over my phobia about touching other people’s poop. Yes, I’m aware that’s not much of a plus side.

The three short stories I’d like to tell you about are cute and not about potty training.

First, Terry has a new job, and while she likes it very much, we’re all exhausted from the commute to and from work and day care. We don’t live anywhere near our day care, so Terry takes Ronan on the bus across town and I pick him up and bring him back. It take about 45 minutes to an hour each way. Ronan seems to love day care, which is good. He also seems to miss Terry terribly, which is bad. He was playing with his toys. Almost all of his toys are transportation toys. The other day he was playing with a car, a train with Curious George on it, and a plane. Apparently the train was headed off to day care. The train didn’t want to go; Curious George wanted to stay home with his Mom. “You can’t stay home with your mom.” Ronan said, as the plane, “you have to go to day care.” Curious George responded, I don’t want to go to day care!” Ronan, playing all the roles, said, “you have to go to day care, and you can’t see your Mom.” Of course, when I related this story to Terry, she was heartbroken. (Way to go, Dad!) We’ll be talking with Curious George (and Ronan) as a proxy to discuss feelings this weekend. My school’s psychologist said this was quite normal, positive even, and we should let him “externalize” which is a word that means “get your feelings out.”

The second story is about marshmallows. We just had a snow day here, and it was fun to have a paid day home from school. I did manage to get some work done, and because the worst of the snow was in the afternoon, we eschewed the outdoors for hearth (well, radiator heating) and home and cocoa. Unfortunately, while I heated up the cocoa, Ronan learned how to manipulate twist ties and ate a ton of marshmallows, which made him sick, which he then spewed all over the living room. I immediately lost all interest in adding marshmallows to my cocoa, and he lost all interest in eating for the rest of the day.

Finally, we have been trying to teach him “please” and “thank you.” He gets the concept – he will say “PLEEE” when prompted. We’re trying to teach him to say it without being prompted, and to use the full word. Terry was helping him pronounce “Please” by telling Ronan say please with an s-sound on it.” Ronan’s response: “PLEE with an s-sound.” We’ll continue to work on it.


October 14, 2009

Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block is a terrible thing. It’s been a month since I posted and while there are many wonderful moments, none of them have inspired an entire blog post. So here’s some random thoughts.

Ronan fell in the playground yesterday. He has a fat lip and a bruise and a scrape on his cheek. That’s terrible enough, but what’s worse is I forgot about it. When I pulled his shirt off last night, I hurt his bruise all over again. Not a good day for poor Ronan.

Terry’s parents got Ronan clown shoes. More like secret clown shoes, because they look like regular shoes but squeak when he walks. He loves them! I’m glad they are too big for him now. I wonder if we will ever get him to take them off.

Suddenly, Ronan is much more verbose. Terry is better at understanding him than I am. We feel bad for him because sometimes he is quite frustrated not being able to express himself the way he wants.

Ronan is trying hard to use a spoon. He is quite adept, but sometimes he will revert to eating with his hands. When we say “use a spoon” he will pick up the food with his hand, place it on the spoon, and eat it off the spoon. Technically, this fulfills our instructions.

This summer I discovered that my parents do not read this blog. I don’t know why.

Every night, at bath time, Ronan is undressed and then herded towards the bathroom. This involves him running naked through the apartment, trying to get out the front door, and then hiding behind his crib. Then we repeat the process all over again, running from the front door to the crib to the front door to the crib until Terry gets bored and blocks his way so he has to run into the bathroom. He giggles the whole time.

I found a part-time PhD program in History. I really want to apply but I have to take language courses first and I don’t know how to pay for it. And I have to commute to the Bronx after work. Other than that, it’s perfect.

There are 1,603 comments on my blog, of which seven are actual comments. The rest are spam.

September 14, 2009

What Are You Doing?

Ronan has started asking us what we are doing. Again and again and again. Ad infinitum. As in:

Ronan: What are you doing, Dad?

Dad: I’m fixing your lunch.

Ronan: (Immediately.) What are you doing, Dad?

Dad: I’m spreading peanut butter on bread.

Ronan: (Immediately.) What are you doing, Dad?

Dad: I’m spreading strawberry jam on the peanut butter.

Ronan: (Immediately.) What are you doing, Dad?

Dad: I’m pouring you milk.

Ronan: (Immediately.) What are you doing, Dad?

Dad: I’m washing your hands.


Yes, he actually says it like that. Loud and stretched out; not yelling, but kind of because it’s fun, apparently. Almost all day long, he wants to know what we are doing. Every five seconds until he ends up practically yodeling.

I would imagine that even the most patient parent (which my wife will readily tell you, I am not) would go crazy with all the questions. But it’s actually kind of fun. When we get bored of the questions, we just ask right back.

Ronan: What are you doing, Mom?

Terry: I’m sorting the laundry.

Ronan: (Immediately.) What are you doing, Mom?

Terry: I’m sorting the laundry.

Ronan: (Immediately.) What are you doing, Mom?





Terry: Well, What are you doing?

(Ronan just stands there, looking happy or confused, or both.)

I have no idea where this behavior came from. I’m sure baby books would tell you that this is normal baby behavior as they realize and process their surroundings. But those fuckers don’t have to spend endless hours answering the same question over and over again. They just roll in the money they made from writing baby books.

Last Year in Marienbad is considered by some critics to be brilliant. Others consider it among the worst films ever made. I’ve never seen it, but the script excerpts I’ve read make me think of it often as I narrate my life.

Perhaps, to demonstrate my madness, we’ll do a Garfield Minus Garfield and delete Ronan’s repetitive question:

Dad: I’m fixing your lunch.

Dad: I’m spreading peanut butter on bread.

Dad: I’m spreading strawberry jam on the peanut butter.

Dad: I’m pouring you milk.

Dad: I’m washing your hands.

See? Any sane person would recognize that narrating your everyday life is a sign of psychosis. Now, picture being with me (or Terry) for hours on end, just listening to us narrate the overly mundane activities of our household.

Clearly, Ronan’s screaming of the question is a reaction to his parents walking around the house, babbling to themselves. He’s just asking us “What are you doing?” to keep up the pretense that we’re sane.

August 28, 2009

Get That Poor Lone-Some Cowboy Outta Here!

I`m a poor lone-some cowboy,
I`m a poor lone-some cowboy,
I`m a poor lone-some cowboy,
And a long way from home.
I ain`t got no brother,
I ain`t got no brother,
I ain`t got no brother,
To ride the range with me.

— Unknown


Terry bought Ronan a great little cowboy doll. Very cute. Very age-appropriate. Very fun, right? Wrong.

Perhaps the delivery method was incorrect. Terry left the cowboy in his crib while he slept, thinking he would play with it. Instead he woke up with a lifeless brother, we guess, who creeped Ronan right the fuck out. Poor lone-some cowboy got tossed and tossed hard as soon as Ronan woke up. Ronan threw his sorry butt right out of the crib, and that cowboy ain't welcome here no more.

Actually, we’ve tried to encourage him to rethink the anti-cowboy animosity by leaving poor lone-some cowboy around to play with, but Ronan just beats him up and throws him out of the way for good measure. Leave poor lone-some cowboy in the toy stroller? Haul his ass out and put in a Metrocard. Yes, that’s what I said, a metrocard. Ronan prefers playing with a metrocard to an actual toy.

Poor lone-some cowboy didn’t have a chance. Perhaps the anti-cowboy thing has to do with Ronan’s love of technology. It’s not surprising that with two highly technological parents (we have more computers than rooms in our apartment) he would be interested in technology. Ronan loves watching plane videos. Since our recent trip to visit the grandparents, he can’t wait to go back to the airport, even if he did get a little scared when the plane home took off. He’s obsessed with planes. Every sighting leads to shouts of “Plane! Plane! See? Right there!!” One night he wouldn’t go to sleep because he was watching the moon, so it could be astronomical as well.

But why hate on the cowboy? That’s a question we will probably never know. Perhaps he was trampled by a steer in a previous life. Perhaps he was left for dead in a hanging, only to live to hunt down those responsible. Perhaps once he lived by the laws of the West and poor lone-some cowboy didn’t.

Or perhaps the cowboy doll is actually a little creepy, and we just can’t see it from the perspective of a two-year-old. Whatever the reason is, that damned cowboy is never going to be welcome on our ranch.

August 9, 2009

Dyker's Island



This attractive institution is our local library. Yes, that's barbed wire along the top. It’s actually a nice place, despite looking like a prison. It seems to be a popular gathering place for residents. The library has a great selection of children’s books, and Ronan gets free books for attending reading sessions, where a librarian reads books to him and other children while their parents ignore what’s happening and talk amongst themselves.

The Dyker Library location was selected in a poll of Dyker residents, who wanted it to be where it is in 1968. It opened in 1974, which was a good year to be in the concrete business, because architects loved concrete in 1974, although they had less artistic creativity than, say, the Romans.

However, I have two questions:

1.) Did the Brooklyn Public Library “spruce” this up by committee to make it as absolutely foreboding as possible? Is this the picture they show people who fail to return their books on time? I can just imagine a library cop (if they exist) saying, “If you don’t pay your fines, we’ll send you to Dyker!”



Dyker was designed by Daniel Laitin. All I know about Daniel Laitin is that he was born in 1909 and died in 2008. I’m assuming those are his life dates, since that’s the only Daniel Laitin I could find who died in Brooklyn. I’m assuming he died of embarrassment that the Brooklyn Public Library turned his creation into a prison.

Seriously, what is the point of the barbed wire on the roof? Did someone break into the roof between 1974 and 2008, so BPL got a committee together and they said, “We’ll show ‘em! No one will ever steal library books through our roof again! Razor wire for all!”

The library on the other side of town, which, I grant you, is another story taller, does not have barbed wire. The main branch, which has many stories, has not one strand of barbed wire. So it’s a one-story thing. Perhaps the barbed wire causes intruders to fall onto the wrought-iron fence.

Daniel is either laughing or rolling over in his grave.


2.) What the fuck is up with parents who use story time to talk and conduct business? Do you mind? Could you shut off your phone for the ten minutes the librarian is reading The Snowy Day? Could you not discuss your hairdresser/work/lack of work/etc. and just pretend to pay attention? Is reading time just babysitting time for you?

Please shut up and sit down. I swear to God, I’ll throw you in the barbed wire.

August 4, 2009

Ronan's Vocabulary

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As we move from babydom into toddlerhood, Ronan’s vocabulary has exploded recently. He comes up with words that I’m not sure I have ever used with him, meaning he’s listening to us much more closely than I ever imagined. Here’s a few of his favorites (and by that I mean my favorites) with translations:

Big Hug – We don’t have any “small hugs” or “medium hugs” or even just plain “hugs” in our home. They are all big. I realized that most of his books use this expression in a complete sentence. For Ronan, it’s just “Big hug! Big Hug!” usually while we’re heavily occupied with something else. Most popular and rare are the three-family member hugs.

Ostrich – What Old McDonald had on his farm. Terry’s father thankfully found the sound an ostrich makes.

No no no no no no no no no! – I do not want apple juice, only milk. Ronan hardly ever drinks anything but milk.

Plane! – Look! Up in the sky! It’s an airplane!

Done! – I have completed the meal and wish to leave the table. (Accompanied with hand motions that look like an orchestra conductor.)

Read a book! – Let’s read a book together. Usually Richard Scarry’s Big Book of Endless, Never Ending, Perfunctory Lists of Objects.

One Minute! – I require more time (in the bath, in the potty, for window gazing, for play.) Equal to ten to fifteen minutes.

Watch TV, watch TV! – I would like to watch television.

Watch planes, watch planes! – Dad, please surf to airplane videos on your computer.

Itschy, Itschy! – I have an itch.

Beans! – I would like more food. (This is fading fast, if not already gone.) This is because for a while he would eat nothing but beans.

Pleastz! – Please. Accompanied by shaking his head “yes.”

Where did all the people go? – I enjoyed the recent visitors, why did they have to leave?

Leesha! –I miss Mom’s friend Alicia.

Papa T. T.  – My father, Ronan’s grandfather, is named Terry also. (So I’m married to Terry and my father’s name is Terry. They’re both nicknames, so there’s nothing Freudian about that.) For some reason, he decided he wanted Ronan to call him Papa T. T. (which my brother quickly changed to “Pop a Tittie.”) After we all laughed at him, or behind him,it turns out that that was such a great name for Ronan to pronounce, all the grandparents are Papa T. T.; grandmothers too.

You! – Me. As in, when Ronan sees photos of himself, instead of exclaiming, “That’s me!”he yells “You!” And then we say, “Me!” and he says “You!” and then we say “You!” and point to him and Ronan says “You?” and looks a little confused. Thenwe try to explain that me is for yourself and you is for others. And then I take migraine medicine.

“Wake up!” – Usually yelled when I’m deeply asleep and everyone else is up. May include a poke.

“Poke!” – Ronan likes to point out when he pokes people.

More sounds are available at his Soundboard.

July 21, 2009

Poison PEG

 So Ronan had debatable levels of anemia, and doctors couldn’t agree on how to treat it. One pediatrician suggested we increase spinach and lentils and other iron-rich foods. But that wasn’t the first doctor we saw. The first doctor ordered iron drops.

If you didn’t click on that link, the short story is that the iron drops caused Ronan a lot of pain, especially when he pooed, and eventually he needed a laxative. So the Pediatric GI we saw put him on Miralax. The chemical name for Miralax is Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). Our regular pediatrician had recommended this, but we wanted to consult a specialist. Ronan hates the specialist because his first visit was quite painful as he performed a comprehensive physical. (I’ll leave the details to your imagination.)

We gave him the generic Miralax, which was cheaper with our prescription plan. We had three pediatricians recommending it, so I was pretty confident that this was an okay drug. “I give it to my own kids.” One of the pediatricians told me.

It’s probably not an okay drug for anyone. Well, the drug is fine, but the manufacturing process is not. Part of the process of making PEG involves 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen. Even the CDC says it’s not particularly healthy, and may cause cancer or liver and kidney damage.

Yipes. YIPES! (I’d swear here but people have told me I swear too much.)

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics goes further, in a report that was covered by the Washington Post and other newspapers. 1,4-dioxane is banned in the European Union.

None of the three pediatricians knew anything about the CDC report, the Washington Post article or the EU ban.

I contacted the manufacturer of the generic PEG. They responded, basically, by saying that PEG is not approved for use by children, and if we were giving it to our 2-year-old, than any cancer is just not their damn fault. They probably left out the “damn.” They also claimed their levels of 1.4-dioxane is within FDA limits.

The CDC basically disavowed their own web page, saying that they couldn’t state that PEG for children was bad. Or good. “You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.” They offered to have a CDC chemist call me to explain how and why the warning page was written. I’m still waiting for that call.

So we’re freaking out. Ronan is a happy and healthy baby, but if he gets liver or kidney damage somewhere down the line, we will hold ourselves responsible for not checking into the real consequences of PEG. Or maybe move to Europe, where they seem to take these things more seriously.