the little things

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 30, 2005 | , ,

Juniper is pointing at things now, too. She sees the wedding photo of Wood and I on the wall and she points to it and says, dad. In my arms, her face and eyes close to mine, she points to my painting of Charlie Chaplin and says, dad. She points to Wood's autographed photo of Harry Truman and says dad. Her world is full of father figures, it seems. Either that or she has no problem confusing me with guys who have hitlerstaches or no hair.

One of the female providers at Juniper's daycare told me that yesterday the guy who takes care of her asked her where her daddy was and she looked towards the door, but then the woman also told me in her pidgen English that Juniper calls him dada and he says, No, I'm not your dada. No, not me. The guy himself has enough sense not to tell me this, but he can't keep this Chinese broad he works with from breaking my heart.

When I get home from work Wood sets her down by the door to the hallway where I come in soaked from the rain, where I slip off my wet shoes and drop the mail and hold out my arms for her as she crawls down the hallway to me, stopping at my holey socks and pulling herself up by my pantlegs, pushing against my shins before wobbling backwards with her arms in the air, begging to be picked up. Her mother says, daddy's home and she looks at me and mumbles dada before burying her face in my wet shoulder, a shy girl suddenly. I hug her and put my lips against her neck and bounce around the apartment while she laughs and giggles in a voice that hints at what she will talk like when she is a big girl, when's she's too big to hold like this or toss in the air and swing upside-down. I try to squeeze as much of that voice out as I can on nights like tonight with such little time before she has to go to bed, before the nightly battle over sleep challenges me to remember the sweetness in her eyes when she first saw me home, the crinkle in her nose as she crawled across the floor to greet me.

She hasn't said mama yet, but she can say ma when she puts her lips against the back of her hand and kisses it, MMMaaa! She kisses the porcelain of the bathtub and says, MMMaaa! She kisses my hairy belly and says, MMMaaa! She imitates you when you do it on her cheek, on her forehead. She has learned to wave goodbye. She sings when you take her socks off.

In the mornings, after Wood brings her to our bed for the first feeding of the day, and after she wakes from it and stares at us in astonishment that we would sleep like such shrews hiding from the cusp of the morning, she reaches out for my face and I feel her fingers on my nose, across my eyes and into my mouth, and dadadadadadadadada is the first sound I remember hearing every day. Sometimes we wake to find her making raspberries with her lips. It is getting dark earlier and earlier in San Francisco these days, but still, each evening I call Wood when I get off the bus and when I turn the corner, across the avenue, I see Junebug's face in our window, peering for me in the darkness. By the time I am halfway across the avenue she has found me, and I see her fists banging up and down on the couch and her mother's natural smile above her tells me all I need to know about what Junebug's moving lips are saying. I stand down there, below her face in the window, and I smile and wave and mouth words to her. I would stand there in any kind of rain.



These are just little things, I know, like the curious look of mistrust she gives me when I run a comb through her hair (it's getting longer), or the way she holds on to her mother like a little naked koala when she is fresh from the bath. But they are the little things that all together overcome you with the sensation that this is all so worth it, that this is the best thing in the world you could be doing, that the love you feel for this little person is more powerful than any words you could possibly use in a fruitless effort to contain it.

Thursday Morning Daycare Report

Posted by Wood | Thursday, November 24, 2005 |

Juniper was eating lunch with her friend and then Juniper was looking at her friend clapping his hands and then Juniper smile and clapped her hands too.

Juniper picked up a cheerios on her table and I thought she was gonna give it to me but she took it back and put it in her mouth.

Juniper was holding a blue ball on her left hand and she knock the xylaphone with the ball while she tried to say something and then throw the ball and watch the ball roll and one of her friend came and took the xylaphone, Juniper raise out her hand to take it back but she couldn't and then she yell out softly, and she got it back she turn around with the xylaphone.

When I put her to sleep I was about to humming her to sleep and Juniper would vocalize right away.

I was changing Juniper's diaper and then Juniper was holding a toy with mirror on it and she hold it with two hands straight up in front of her face and she put the mirror closer to her face (it looks like as she's kissing herself). Then she take the mirror off her face and look at herself and she smile and tried to say something.

The human body, materially considered, is a beautiful piece of mechanism, consisting of many parts, each one performing its own vital function irrespectively of the others, and yet dependent for its vitality upon the harmony and health of the whole. It is, to a certain extent, like a watch, which, when once wound up and set in motion, will continue its function of recording true time only so long as every wheel, spring, and lever performs its allotted duty, or till it has run or been broken down.

For much of a young man's life, the body ticks away without so much has a thought to its various gears and mechanisms. However, once a man becomes a father, his body suffers in untold and often unacknowledged ways. For children, despite their reputation as good-natured and inherently cute and kind, can, on occasion, be ghastly, tiny hellions who inflict such drastic violence and injury that if one were to do a survey of the injured at any local hospital and learn the true source of all of the poked-out eyes and sore backs and bloody nipples one would be forced to conclude that the children of our dear nation are more dangerous to our collective well-being than all the tatars in Crimea.

Children, particularly infants, throw a wrench into the well-oiled gears of the human body's wondrous mechanism, debilitating the body's natural harmonies and, like the proverbial unwound watch, leave a man stumbling through life run down and broken. The little devils, in repayment for all their parents give, shower their parents with untold injuries and sore muscles and tiny little teeth marks. The following is a guide to these oft-unacknowledged injuries and ailments, with their tell-tale signs along with recipes for salves and poultices to ease the secret pains of parenting.

Aches and Pains

Dorsus Dolendus Incunabulis (painful crib-back)

A silent but destructive injury, suffered by both mothers and fathers of fussy little cherubs. This injury occurs when the parent bends repeatedly over a crib or a cradle, rocking or singing or soothing their little sucklings to sleep, spending hours and hours in this uncomfortable posture over the course of the infant's first months. Signs include dull aches and pains in the lower and upper back and a tendency for the injured to walk like a tin-man.

Dorsus Infractus Infantus Adferre (back injury from carrying the baby)

There is a considerable art in carrying an infant comfortably for itself and for the parent. If carried improperly, the parent will grow excessively tired, and the back fatigued. For her own comfort, a good parent will frequently vary this position, by changing from one arm to the other, and sometimes by laying it across both, raising the head a little.

The Common Black Draught is the best cure for either injured back. To make, use the following ingrediants: Infusion of senna (10 drachms); Epsom salts (10 drachms); compound tincture of cardamums, compound spirit of lavender, of each 1 drachm. Families who make black draught in quantity, and wish to preserve it for some time without spoiling, should add about 2 drachms of spirits of hartshorn to each pint of the strained mixture, the use of this drug being to prevent its becoming mouldy.

Bites and Scratches

Infants, while very soft on 99 percent of their surfaces, have incredibly sharp little nails and viciously harsh little teeth. Be wary of ever placing your fingers, ears, or nose anywhere near the infant's mouth, for if you do he could easily snap your finger in two or take a chunk right out of your nose.

Dentition is usually the first serious trouble, bringing with it violent gnashing and vile chewing upon both common surfaces, objects, and human flesh. With dentition comes the first cruel application of the new teeth to the nipple; often the little gremlin finishes his meal and decides to try a wee bit of the wet-nurse for dessert. The nipple may bleed, but applying a mixture of equal parts lime-water and linseed-oil should soothe the agonizing pain of bit nipples, although it will not stop the bleeding.

Be also wary of the infant's fingers, and take care to frequently shear the brutally sharp little nails that grow there. An infant's fingers are not only dangerous in their ability to scratch mercilessly, but many infants would not have a qualm about grabbing spectacles or a monocle from a man's face and place them in their germ-filled mouths, muddying the glass with their noxious spittle. After accomplishing this, such a rude lil' imp will often further think nothing of attempting to grab a man's eye-ball itself, or pull away at eye-lids or eye-lashes. It is best to lure an infant's fingers from one's face with the temptation of sweet-meats or a half-sour gherkin.
Be wary of allowing your babies to eat with a fork and knife. They understand these utensils are weapons, and they are not at all afraid to try to use them against you.

If a baby-inflicted scratch or bite is serious, or takes place on some delicate part of the body, such as near the eye, the treatment is very simple in most cases: simply apply a liniment made of finely-scraped chalk and olive-oil, mixed together to about the thickness of cream. Bathing the part bitten with warm turpentine or warm vinegar is also of great use. If the victim feels faint, he should lie quietly on his back, and take a little brandy-and-water, or sal-volatile and water. In a few weeks everything should be fine.

Communicable Diseases & Parasites

Children and infants are generally filthy creatures who spend all manner of time in the dirt among the live-stock riding geese and preparing mud-pies aplenty. Is there any wonder that they return home so worm and parasite-ridden a mother must get out her crocheting needle and inspect each child for hookworms and ticks, lest their filthy, abominable habits result in such a pest finding its way into her own gastronomy? The general symptoms of a vermin infestation are an unnatural craving for food, even after a full meal; costiveness, suddenly followed by the reverse; fetid breath, a livid circle under the eyes, enlarged abdomen, and a strong desire to pick the nose.

Children bring all manner of foul ailments to their parental hosts which they pick up from their filthy chums while playing hop-scotch and jack-in-the-box in the sandlot. They bring the common cold, influenza, scrumpox, scabies, thrush, pemphigus, scarlet fever, phthiriasis, nits, lice, fleas, pruritis, rubeola, bronze john, bloody sweat, bloody flux, chilblain, grippe, typhoid, blackwater fever, croup, grocer’s itch, cachexy, dock fever, dropsy, quinsy, scarlet rash, scurvy, spongy gums, St. Anthony's fire, hematuria, trench mouth, inanition, quinsy, and black vomit. A parent's best bet for her own safety is to simply quarantine her household by locking all children up in their bed-chambers immediately upon returning from school or from playing stick-ball or doing the jump-rope, and fumigating her children's clothes and rooms with a healthy amount of arsenic and phosphorus.

Psychological Maladies

Among the worst injuries that babies inflict upon their parents are those of the psychological variety. The following is just a brief list of the many psychological torments that parents suffer:

Orbis Maturis (old-guy-in-the-mirror syndrome)

This common parenting malady occurs not long after the first child is born. The parent goes through her days with a certain vision in mind of what she looks like, imagining it to be not so different from how she looked when she was a carefree member of the childfree set, attending cotillions with a full dance card and living a life that did not revolve around scolding the wet-nurse for eating the eel-pie and monitoring the servants' hand-washing of the children's crinoline slips and cambric dresses. Then one day she takes a seat at her vanity and sees the fine lines and wrinkles spreading from the corners of her eyes that no amount of satin powder can cover, and she spends the next 3 hours inspecting her ringlets of hair for the faintest streaks of gray. It is not that mothers and fathers actually grow older upon parenthood, it is simply that the little beelzebubs in the cribs and the prams steal years off the ends of their lives.

Clamitatus Coitus Interruptus ("won't she stop crying for ten minutes?" syndrome)

Instead of the more traditional
interruptus, under these circumstances it is the wailing and crying of the infant in the next room that prematurely draws the act to a close. Although its long-term effects are not serious, the immediate, acute psychological damage caused by this common affliction can be absolutely devastating, particularly to the husband.

In Zombie Parentis

This pychological disorder is one of the most serious afflictions that tiny babies can inflict upon their parents, it arrives after a combination of all of the injuries, bites, scratches, aches, pains, vermin, viruses, and maladies described above combine with severe sleep deprivation to completely replace loving, doting parents with catatonic, staggering zombies who fall asleep at 8:30 in the evening and then spend the hours when reasonable people should be sleeping pleading with their daughter to sleep, bent over the crib, cursing like grumpy old sailors, coughing, blowing snot from their noses praying that things will be back to normal.

Thursday Morning Daycare Report

Posted by Wood | Thursday, November 17, 2005 |

From this week's reports. As always, verbatim:

Juniper was holding an icy chewing toy and she put it in her mouth and hold on to it with her mouth and crawl to the mirror and look at herself and she takes the icy out to hold it and she hit the mirror with the other hand while she talk.

Juniper was eating breakfast and she dropped one cheerios on the apron and Juniper grab the apron that holds the cheerios and put the cheerio in her mouth.

Juniper has a lot of runny nose today.

Juniper went outside after her breakfast and awhile later Juniper look inside and saw me and she would cry so she came back in to have bottle and nap.

I just come in and look at the pictures of mom and dad w/Juniper and point to the pictures and say, "Mommy, Daddy" and Juniper look at the entrance. Later I did the same thing again and I thought I heard Juniper say in a very low voice "Daddy."

The Sleep Wars, Round Two

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, November 15, 2005 |

When last we informed you of the status of the savage ideological fisticuffs going on between our favorite pugilistic pediatricians Dr. Sears v. Dr. Weissbluth, we were poised to give Weissbluth's cry-it-out method a second look and really buckle down and let her cry. The results?

Miserable failure. Weissbluth has hit the mat face first every time we've tried to cry it out. This kid has the endurance of Prefontaine when it comes to crying.

One of the things I loathe most about Weissbluth's theory is the draconian rigor by which he expects his readers to schedule and standardize their babies' sleep patterns, to the extent that parents risk screwing up their babies forever by letting them sleep in slings or in arms or in a car seat or anywhere other than in their own beds at the same times every day. "Screw it up once and he sure as shit won't get into Choate," Weissbluth writes (p. 191). "Screw it up twice and he won't even get into Swarthmore. Three times? You'll be supporting him for twenty-eight years while he gets his MFA from a diploma mill in the Midwest."

Why is it that Attachment Parents are so often portrayed as freaks with their 4-year olds breastfeeding and still riding in hip slings, when it is the strict Weissbluthians who apparently never leave their homes during the first six months of each child's life? That's some serious Boo Radley shit. We just couldn't do that. We had to be out and about and if that meant Juniper took many a nap slumped against my chest in the baby bjorn like that guy who'd get drunk and pass out on our attic steps at parties in our ramshackle college house, so be it.

And with both Wood and I working, Juniper spends a good part of each day in day care, where she takes 2-3 naps a day. They can't let her cry it out in the crib room full of other babies trying to sleep. They rock her and bounce her and sing to her, just like we'd like to do before we set her into her crib for the night. We realized after a few harrowing nights of crying it out that our efforts were being undermined at day care. We were not presenting a unified front, forcing her to cry it out at night for an hour and forty-five minutes, and the next day having her day care provide snuggles and singing and rocking her to sleep like we wanted to, like we oh so wanted to with our hearts dragging across the floor and our ears on the door to the bedroom, analyzing the timbre of her screams and the daggerlike stabs of rollicky, billowing choking and phlegm-heavy coughing, knowing full well that her cheeks were glistening with tears and that her head was full of the vague pain of abandonment and cold. For an hour and forty-five minutes every night we tried, Wood fled outdoors to walk halfway from the Ocean to the Bay and I paced through our one-bedroom apartment, searching for some audial deadspot to escape her screams but I couldn't. It's just too small. Her screams were everywhere. And they didn't stop like Weissbluth said they eventually would. They just never stopped.

We love this lifestyle, this city life a block from the coffee shop and the mom & pop supermarket and the sushi restaurant; we love this apartment. We're not complaining. We chose to live somewhere where extra bedrooms are an unknown luxury. We chose to live underneath an obsessive compulsive South African woman who within 12 hours of my moving in complained about the noise of my guitar, telling me she kept hearing this incessant, unmelodic droning through the floor. She does a freakin' tap dance on the hardwood every time Juniper wakes up during the night, just to let us know she's woken her up too. Because so many of you had so many good things to say about crying it out in the comments to our last post, I'd really wanted to give Weissbluth the full treatment, but I just don't think we can do it with this life we've chosen. Maybe with the next baby. The bottom line is Weissbluth may work great for people with real houses, but it simply can't apply to everyone's situation. What does Weissbluth suggest for people who live in one-room apartments? He suggests you drag your bed into the living room and sleep in there until the baby has cried it out.

[ding, ding] Weissbluth down on a Technical Knockout [okay, I tried to make him look like he was all beat up, but instead he just looks like a one-eyed Muslin cleric with a Selleck-stache] There's just no way we're sleeping in the living room. Let Weissbluth deal with the tap dancing South African upstairs who won't tolerate a full night of crying it out.

So Dr. Sears is sitting down over there in the corner, getting spritzed with water and rubbing a t-bone on his head wounds, cocky, a prizefighter who has come to town and just knocked out the local heavyweight, his barker roaming the crowd to see if there's any burly hero who'd be willing to take Sears on in his weakened state.

Well, we've watched him take on a few new competitors only to knock them down easily in the first round. A friend gave us "The Baby Whisperer" before Juniper was born saying she'd wished she'd had it for her first baby, but I had my doubts right away. Who does this Baby Whisperer woman think she is? What are her credentials? Why would I take parenting advice from a woman who writes her text with the voice of a toothless old hag selling cabbages at a London street market? "Aye, luv, I pull'd this 'ere babbit from tha cabbage patch meself, I did. She's sweet, an ripe, an moist, she is. Aye, luv, you'll ne'er fin' yerself a sweeter, mor' gentle babbit than the uns Tracey Hogg be whisperin' to, no Guv-nuh, 'tis not bloody likely anyhow. I speak in a babbit language only we understan', I do." (p. 23)

I don't mean to speak too ill of the dead (I didn't realize that she died last year until after I'd photoshopped her into that bikini), but Hogg's program just wasn't for us. The scheduling program she calls, "E.A.S.Y"--- (eat, activity, sleep, your time), is actually pretty fucking H.A.R.D. to implement. Hogg talks about "taming" babies like you're actually dealing with wild stallions or cape buffalo or something. We read it, tried it, picked up a few tricks and gave up. We looked into the No Cry Sleep Solution and same thing. Why isn't this baby responding like the hypothetical babies in these books? Why doesn't she fit neatly into someone else's theory? Wood has nearly had it. Coffee is the only thing keeping her sane, triple espressos every morning on her way to work. Juniper is still waking up to feed 3-4 times a night, and waking up for good at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning. At night Wood falls asleep on the couch early, exhausted. Juniper wakes up a couple times and I go to her from the computer. We've deflated our yoga ball and given up on the bouncing, which we see as a small victory. When she wakes crying, I usually just bend over her crib and sing to her loosely-swaddled form, her tiny voice crying out for a few seconds then merely whimpering as I rhythmically pat her backside to let her know I am there, that I am touching her and that she is safe and warm. I like to think the feel of that rhythm reminds her of that safe place she first knew, her mother's heart and glistening viscera pounding down upon her with that same rhythm, the drifting in and out of my song like the thousand muffled conversations she heard while we touched Wood's belly in the excitement of waiting for her. Eventually I stop the tapping and my voice lowers to a mere whisper, and I sneak away from the crib and back to the computer. Sometimes it only takes few moments to get her to sleep, but sometimes it can take the greater part of an hour.

We can't keep going like this. But we just don't know what to do.

. . .but not before I take this last shot:


Feel free to iron it on a onesie, print it out and plaster it all over Park Slope, or just call me an asshole. The truth is I don't really give a shit if people want to spend $850 on a stroller, I just like to needle them a bit and I wanted to make a graphic that replaced some Os with that symbol the Bugaboo people stole from that movie where Naomi Watts is a hot single mom who wears little shirts that show her nipples and the little wet girl is trying to crawl out of the television to kill her. At least three of my favorite parent bloggers are admitted bugaboo pushers, and they know I'm only doing this because it's Saturday and it's just so friggin' easy. Here were my other potential slogans:


"My Other $900 Vehicle is a 2000 Honda Accord"

"But it's got great resale value"

"I have to push my stroller through the snow to get to Whole Foods!"

"Shocks and Awe"

"You're just jealous, bitches"

In the end, "conspicuous consumption" had the most Os and the least verbiage. Got any other ideas?

Thursday Morning Daycare Report

Posted by Wood | Thursday, November 10, 2005 |

My favorites from this week:

Juniper was standing in front of the mirror and she was looking at me in the mirror and I look at her and Juniper smile.

Many times I worry when she doesn't drink much milk.

Wood, you were right about Juniper going underneath things because she tried to go between my legs.

Juniper pick up one of the drumstick with her left hand and started to hit the drum and then Juniper looked at the drumstick and started to put it in her mouth, and then I called her name and she took it out and smile.

Juniper crawl to her friend and look at her friend knocking the toy and she tried to say something.

I was building a tower of big blocks and then Juniper was watching and she crawled to me and then she crawled to the tower and then knock them down, and look at me and smile.

Whenever someone near her cried and Juniper would watch them for a long time and it looks like Juniper wants to cry too.

Posted by Wood | Monday, November 07, 2005 |

Anybody who's been reading this blog knows Dutch is cheap. He buys everything (and I mean everything, including work clothes) in thrift stores or on eBay. Whenever I come home from Target or another big-box store with my latest-baby-related-purchase, he throws up his arms in exasperation. "Did you even consider eBay?", he'll exclaim. No, honey, I didn't. I didn't consider buying diapers, wipes, and bottles on eBay. How silly of me.

But, in addition to being cheap, he is also one particular son-of-a-bitch. Especially when it comes to clothes and shoes. While I settled for the first wedding dress in a bridal store that looked decent and was within my budget, Dutch spent months scouring eBay before selecting a brand-new Versace tuxedo that I must admit fit him perfectly and looked damn good. He's always bragging about the new Battistoni shirts he gets on eBay for ten bucks and when it comes to thrift stores (as he wrote not long ago), he can spot a good bargain hiding on the back of the rack in a small-town Salvation Army store with the skill and finesse of someone who for all intents and purposes probably shouldn't be straight. I have to admit that many of the staples of my own wardrobe were found by his eagle eyes, even long after I'd given in to thrift-store-exhaustion and was rolling my eyes as I stumbled along behind him.

While I can acknowledge that his thriftiness saves us money and that I have benefitted from his style particularity, when it comes to shoes, this man has gone too far.

When Dutch and I first started dating, he confessed that he saw no reason for someone to own more than one pair of shoes. At the time, his shoes of choice were Timberland leather deck shoes, and he wore them everyday for the first few years I knew him. His next pair of shoes were Doc Martens that he purchased in Ireland (and thus saved 10 whole dollars over the US markup!) and wore for three years. When the thick rubber soles finally gave up, Dutch was righteously pissed, and denounced the entire brand. Those were the most expensive shoes he'd ever bought, and he only got three years of wear out of them. Imagine!

His current shoes, however, demonstrate the worst of this trend.
Despite the fact that he probably has at least 20 pairs of vintage sneakers in his closet in a huge variety of colors that he's bought at thrift stores over the years, for the last four years he's been wearing the same pair of gray generic sneakers. They were already well-seasoned when he got them, and he's worn them almost every day since he pulled them off the shelf and handed over $1.98 to the transexual cashier at the Ypsilanti Value World.

As Dutch will tell anyone who will listen, he loves these shoes in particular because "they don't have any brand!" He'll challenge his friends to search the shoes looking for a word, any letter of text, in any language, and when they admit that the shoes are indeed brandless and logoless, he'll extol the virtues of the "golden age of generic products" back when K-mart and Hills and Meijers made their own products---from shoes to breakfast cereals---all in black and white packaging without any flash, Repo Man style.

From Dutch's perspective, eventually the big evil supermarket chains caught on that such generic labels and packaging lacked "marketing" or "brand" appeal, so they came up with their own brands of cereal with stupid brightly-colored faux-cartoon characters to sell them to little kids and shoe brands with names like "MTA Pro" or "Trax" to follow Nike's lead. Dutch LOVES his generic shoes, which were probably sold at a supermarket for less than five dollars 25 years ago with a plastic tie keeping them from getting separated.

As you can imagine, these shoes have seen MUCH better days.
Last year for his birthday I bought new laces and had them re-soled. Before they were fixed, his socks were poking out of the sides. The tread on the bottom was so bare that his feet hurt if we walked more than a couple of miles around town. If he accidentally stepped on a sharp pebble, he yowled in pain as though he were barefoot on a bed of hot coals. But after half a year of wearing the fixed-up generic shoes, the socks are again sticking out the sides, and the shoes look worse than ever before. Now that he's aware of the Chinese shoe-miracle-man, he's talking about bringing them in himself. But we'll see what he does when he realizes it'll cost at least $50 to fix them. Will the thrifty side yield to style and the generic aesthetic? I've got my money on the Dutch side.

His ancestors wore wooden shoes, for chrissakes.

I love street urchins. That much is clear. Every Friday I post a picture from my collection of vintage street urchin photographs. This Halloween I dressed my nine-month old daughter as a soot faced guttersnipe. Street urchins, guttersnipes, newsies, bootblacks, ragamuffins, street arabs, waifs, riffraff, offscourings, dock rats, street rats, lil' imps of darkness: whatever you want to call them, I love them.

Mrs. Helen Campbell, a late nineteenth-century progressive activist, provides us with a worthwhile taxonomy: "Homeless boys may be divided into two classes, the street arab and the gutter-snipe. The newsboy may be found in both of these classes. As a street arab he is strong, sturdy, self-reliant, full of fight, always ready to take his own part, as well as that of the gutter-snipe, who naturally looks to him for protection. Gutter-snipe is the name which has been given to the more weakly street arab, the little fellow who, though scarcely more than a baby, is frequently left by brutalized parents at the mercy of any fate, no matter what. This little chap generally roams around until he finds some courageous street arab, scarcely bigger than himself, perhaps, to fight his battles and put him in the way of making a living, which is generally done by selling papers. In time the gutter-snipe becomes himself a full-fledged arab with a large clientele, two hard and ready fists, and a horde of dependent and grateful snipes."

Years ago I moved to Dublin, Ireland just to get out of my hometown. I enrolled at Trinity College and rented a flat on Lower Mount Street just off the canal. On my walk to class every day I detoured down an old Victorian alley that connected with Fenian Street through a few blocks of rowhouse tenements that were the closest things to the hutongs of Shanghai that I have seen in any western city. They looked like the set of a Chaplin film. I lived in Dublin before all that Celtic Tiger crap, before Dublin became rich and fancy and expensive like it is today. From what I've heard, all the tenements on Fenian Street were seen as a blight by the Corporation and they've since been torn down and replaced with hotels and office buildings. But praise the lord I got to experience old-school Dublin characters on this street every day, the kind of people they have probably shipped out to the suburbs by now. Those cobbled streets were always filled with urchins. They weren't homeless, you could see their mothers hanging laundry outside their windows or watching television on stools set up on their stoops. But they were urchins in adidas runners and dirty jumpers. And a gaggle of them would follow me around when I walked through their neighborhood, peppering me with questions about America in their little Dublin accents. They were always breaking things in the deadend alleys or lighting things on fire or writing things on the bricks with magic markers. I loved those kids. They were the only people in Ireland who would talk to me. Despite the bullshit "friendly" stereotype, the Irish really are a bunch of unfriendly cunts if you're an American. I took to buying these kids toys at the pound stores on the northside and when I'd walk through their neighborhood they'd swarm me and I'd emerge from the alley onto Lower Mount Street smiling and empty handed. One time I bought them all yo-yos and they took to calling me the yo yo man. If I ever return to Dublin it's going to break my heart to see fancy hotels and offices on that street. I just hope the Ginger Man pub is still there.

There was a lot of poverty in Dublin then, and I would take long walks north and out past the circular roads to the places where poor people lived. Generally I found they were much friendlier and nicer than the contemptuous Dubliners and snooty Kerry bogfarmer's kids at Trinity. I thought about how these were the people who had distant cousins and great-uncles who'd immigrated to America. We got the dregs of Dublin, the people who found hope for the future in a distant place. Living in Ireland gave me a great deal of perspective on what it means to be an American.

A few years ago, while visiting New York City for the first time I headed straight for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, described by a friend as "the greatest museum" she'd ever visited. Basically, they take you into an old tenement on Orchard Street that hasn't been renovated or changed since the 1930s. For my $15, I expected greatness. I expected young actors dressed as street urchins and bootblacks to pop out of the shadows offering me a shine, guv-nuh! I expected to see haggard rows of moppets huddled together in a single bedroom. I didn't expect it to be just a bunch of empty rooms with moldy wallpaper. I expected more than the stories the docents dished out about Sicilians sewing and Jews taking on lodgers. It was cool, but I left disappointed . I missed the streetfight fisticuffs of Fenian street. I missed the laughter of the kids who must have lived there despite the depravity and lack of light.

Some people like the "idea" of pirates. Some like the "idea" of ninjas. I like the "idea" of street urchins. I generally think that people who like pirates or ninjas don't need to explain it (beyond "ninjas are cool.") but because Llamaschool has asked, I will try. I love the silent films of Mary Pickford and Hal Roach. I love the urchins in the writings of Dickens and Dreiser and Crane. I love the photographs of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis. I own all kinds of progressive literature from around the turn of the century that describes the terrible conditions of their lives, but also the general sweetness and innocence in their dispositions. It may all have been bullshit. It may have just been spin that the WASPy activists put on the miserable lives of these pint-sized waifs. But the pictures don't lie. These were kids. They managed to still have fun, to save pennies to visit the freakshow theaters on Bowery or in the early days of the 20th century see Fatty Arbuckle films. They managed to survive in a society that left them to sleep on hay barges and fight like sea lions for space on steam grates. Eventually the progressive movement began giving them homes and educations and even shipped them off to adoptive families in the midwest on the orphan trains. These kids are part of our history. They are part of the fabric of this country.

My wife never fails to remind me that there are still street urchins in this world, that all this may not be all that funny or cute. She's right. Her actual job is to help today's street urchins (she spends her days fighting the state on behalf of foster youth and homeless children). I know she's right. I make up excuses. I say I'm not laughing at their cute little clothes or smudgy faces. I say I love the old Lewis Hine photographs simply because I am an advocate of "contextual parenting," meaning that if I look at those pictures of immigrant families living ten to a room in squalor without running water or jobs to put food on the table, that makes our little one bedroom apartment feel like a palace. I say, "that little urchin didn't have an exersaucer and neither did Abraham freakin' Lincoln!" I tell her I look at those little urchins and how hard their lives were and I don't feel so bad if we've already fucked up little things with Juniper, that we're giving her a good life. But these are only half truths.

As I've written before, I love Chaplin. I consider him the greatest genius of the last century---greater than Joyce or Einstein. I love the way he was able to take that familiar and even contemptible stereotype to contemporary audiences---"the tramp"---and use his trademark pathos to transform himself into a universal everyman. Did Chaplin use humor to translate this life into something palatable for his audience? Of course he made fun of the tramp and of course he relied upon stereotypes for aspects of that humor. We laugh at the tramp. But clearly there is something more to it. We identify with him. We love him.

I see the same thing working in the idealized street urchin, the plucky Horatio Alger waif who struggles with poverty and homelessness only to get on a train and get transplanted from Manhattan's harsh five points to the farmland of Missouri or Michigan. In their pictures you see that they are still children, bright eyed and so full of hope and humor. Ever since I saw a little three-foot tall fellow hawking newspapers in my U.S. History book in the eleventh grade, I wanted to know more about this time in history. How did these kids get from there to us? I love them, these castoffs of a snooty old world ready to start fresh and survive in a new one. They are a part of our history, with the cowboys and Indians and the Pilgrims and the Chinese guys who built the railroads and the Spanish conquistadors looking for El Dorado. They are part of our heritage, a legacy that still exists with the integration of thousands of immigrants from other parts of the world today. I find them iconic in that way. I love them. Do I laugh at the pictures of street urchins? Sometimes. Do I think they're cute? Hell yes I do. But there's more to it than just that. I promise.

Here's my list of the greatest street urchin movies of all time.

Thursday Morning Daycare Report

Posted by Wood | Thursday, November 03, 2005 |

Highlights from the last week, and as always, transcribed verbatim. Perhaps you find these gems fascinating for their insight into ESL writing, or maybe you're able to see what I see -- an amateur poet recording his observations of babies. Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy them. We do.

Juniper look at the basket w/toys inside and then she pull the basket out of the shelf and raise the basket up w/two hands and bite the basket and then she put the basket down and reach her hand inside the basket and take the toy (a ring) out and put the ring on the floor and then picked it up and put it in the basket again. -- Cognitive.Juniper picked up the toy that is a mirror and she looked at herself in the mirror and she smile, and then give it a bite and then she hold a mirror on one hand and picked up an egg shaker and bring the two toys together.When I was giving her the bottle and she heard and look at the children on the other classroom eating snack and talking and she pull her bottle out w/two hands and try to say something to them.Juniper crawled up the slide on one leg and her other leg is on the stair and then she crawl into the ball pit and she sit up and pick up two balls and hold two balls on two hands and knock the two balls together.Juniper was playing and she heard another child was crying and so Juniper crawl to that crying child and raise up her left hand and softly touch that crying child's face.