Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review by The MVP: Where is Baby's Belly Button?

by Karen Katz
Copyright 2000

Though published a decade ago, the persistent popularity of Karen Katz's seminal work makes a thoughtful examination relevant and, in my case, timely. Though customer reviews have been generally positive, such reviews are rarely thorough enough to capture the nuance that marks the difference between an acceptable effort and a great one. And nuance, gently crafted by the hands of an expert, can turn an experience on it's head in a way that can linger long after the initial exposure. In Karen Katz's hands, the story of Baby's Belly Button slowly transmogrifies from what, at first, seems a piece of navel-gazing pulp schlock, to a suspenseful tale of mystery and, finally, a journey of self-discovery that will cause you to question your assumptions about what is important in life and the meaning of existence itself.

The story begins, in deceptively unassuming fashion, with the first in a series of questions: Where are baby's eyes? This question is quickly answered [Spoiler Alert: under her hat], and the herky-jerky plot continues with the next question. As each mystery unravels in rapid succession, the imagination is challenged to see its connection to the last, making the plot seem somewhat disjointed. However, while only the most astute of readers will guess the final twist before the prestige, deliberate consideration of the whole sequence after the denouement will reveal the logic of the construction.

But it is only upon multiple readings that the genius of Katz's work becomes apparent. When the suspense of the mysteries is obviated by repeat consumption, the mind is freed to consider the philosophical implications of the disappearing and reappearing self.

Experts in the field of child neurology often refer to the acquisition of an understanding of "Object Permanence" as a critical milestone in cognitive development. Katz's work will challenge the notion that this is any sort of progress. Even the dullest of adults "understands" object permanence. But only the truly elightened ever move beyond this basic assumption to true philisophical reflection.

Consider the well-known metaphysical riddle - If a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? To quote the Buddhist monk Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo:

Whatever appears is your own mind. Your mind from the start is free from fabricated extremes. Understanding this, do not take to mind [inherent] signs of subject and object. This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

In a "pop culture" context (so my parents can understand), consider this well known homage to the Buddhist monk Huineng:

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

And yet the so-called "experts" look down their noses at infants for failing to conform to the box of object permanence. Ms. Katz, understanding that nuance exists in nature as well as in literature, refuses to pigeonhole her subjects.

For bending herself I award Ms. Katz, and her excellent book, 5 MVPs (out of five).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Toilet Paper Diaries

Ok, first a video and a couple of pictures, and then I'm bringing the C*R*A*Z*Y.

The MVP really likes toilet paper.


Taste the rainbow, son.

As you can see, we don't bother with, you know, toys.  

Ok... and now for the crazy.  In what may be the last straw for us in condo living, the last few nights The MVP has been awakening frequently due to noise coming from the upstairs unit until 2AM each night. This unit is occupied by neighbors we'll call "Mr. Nice Guy" and his wife "Blondsamnida".  This issue has resulted in very poor sleep for The MVP and even poorer sleep for V-Train and me.  I sent Mr. Nice Guy a very friendly e-mail yesterday, suggesting that surely it wasn't their fault but sound carries so much and The MVP is such a light sleeper, would they mind being extra quiet after 10PM?  This is what I got in response:


I am very sorry.  I am going through a divorce with Blondsamnida.  She drinks and purposefully makes noise at night so I cannot sleep either.   I actually sleep on the floor in the master bathroom to avoid the noise myself. 

I will discuss this with Blondsamnida.  Please let me know if this continues.  My apologies.
Mr. Nice Guy

Not sure what we're supposed to do with that, but let's just say that resolution does not appear to be imminent.

Friday, April 23, 2010


We haven't been posting too much lately, and I'm mindful that we owe you a few updates and a LOT of pictures.  By golly, you're going to get them, plus a sentimental favorite treat.

The MVP hit some big milestones recently.  While I was away in the Philippines, he sat in a high chair at a restaurant for the first time, and he started picking up objects and putting them in his mouth.   That's a big deal, because that's how babies learn how the world tastes.  For example, the toy alligator tastes sweet for some reason, while daddy's bluetooth earpiece is an odd combination of salty and bitter.

And not long after I got back last week, he also said his first word!  It was "goolsbee!"  At first, I didn't know what he was saying but then I remembered that we had recently watched an episode of The Colbert Report featuring Austan Goolsbee, the Chief Economist on President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.  While I was pleased that The MVP was showing an early center-left leaning, I was disappointed that he'd chosen to name an empirical economist rather than a New-Keynesian like, say, David Romer.  But V-Train reminded me that children have to choose their own paths and sometimes, the best thing we can do as parents is just to let go.  Sigh.  I guess it could have been worse.  He could have said "Tea Party".

The MVP also had his four-month doc appointment and is now weighing in at 15.5 lbs with a length of 25 inches.... comfortably above the median on both counts.  When the doc asked about his eating habits, before letting us answer she said "well, I know he isn't going hungry."

Anyway, while I was out of the country, V-Train's childhood friend, "Whodat", flew out from her bayou home and stayed with V-Train.  And since Whodat is a better parent than we are, she taught us all kinds of stuff.  For instance, bathing the MVP was always this massive two person job, because one person had to hold him with both hands so he didn't fall into the three-feet deep tub of water we were bathing him in.  As it turns out, if you fill the tub only six inches, the bath becomes so easy even I can do it by myself.  The MVP enjoys it more, too, freed from the mortal peril of previous baths.  And in case you were wondering how you could be sure you'd put six inches of water in, she showed us a neat trick.  If you measure up six inches from the bottom of the tub, there's a line that says "do not fill tub past this point."  You can use that line as a marker to make sure you get the depth correct every time!  Hooray for experience!

On to the pictures:
Grandad, Abuelita, and the Grandkids - let the spoiling begin!

A nose-crinkle for Grandad.

Son, some day you'll like it when a beautiful woman kisses you

....aaand that was fast.

Whodat?  Whodat?  Whodat say dey gonna read dem books?

It's like that dream where I get locked in an FAO Schwartz after hours!

"Sup, Moochie.  Mind if I chill right here?" "Sure, dawg.  Ain't no thing."

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod... I hope I hope the judges use the save on Big Mike!

I'm sure you're all wondering why I've asked you here today...

Thanks, Auntie Meddlesome for bringing me this knit cap from Disneyland.  It's just... well, shouldn't I be the one going to Disneyland and bringing you a knit cap?

Here's one of Peapod, The MVP, and The Edge from lunch at Bob's Big Boy today.   Quick story - just before this picture was taken a woman walks by and looks at The MVP and The Edge (who turns one tomorrow) and says - "Oh how cute, are they twins?"

Peapod and The (clearly fraternal) Twins

Ok, and here's a delayed post from the wayback machine.   My Grandad, The MVP's Great Grandad, passed away just a few years ago, and just few years after The MVP's Great-Nana.  One of my many fond memories of Grandad is that he used to read to us from The Standard Book of British and American Verse.   Nana and Grandad received the book in 1940 as a wedding gift from a close friend.  I always loved hearing "The Walrus and The Carpenter," by Lewis Carroll.    But Grandad's favorite was definitely "You Are Old, Father William," another Carroll classic about a yoga-practicing lawyer.  (Sound like anyone you know?)

Grandad and Nana earn their book.

Unbeknownst to me, before Grandad passed away he left instructions to deliver the book to the first-born great-grandson to put the "P" in MVP.  When his Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle visited us from Cheeseheadland in March, they delivered this important family heirloom.  Then we sat around and read some old family favorites and remembered Nana and Grandad.

Yes, this heirloom right here.

I'm sure the MVP's Grandad looks forward to introducing him to Father William some day soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We have the technology...

I recently had to spend some time in the Philippines.  No matter.  These kids today are very technologically advanced.  The MVP and I kept in touch via GChat.

Hiya pop.  Wanna try a virtual diaper change?

Friday, April 09, 2010

A funny thing happened last week...

Dad stomped his foot and made a face.  Get it?