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When it comes to scuba diving, I agree that redundancy = good as far as life-saving devices are concerned, but, uh, is it just me, or is this a little out of control? Please note that this room is our "office". Also, stubbing your toe on a metal tank hurts like a fucker.







Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I feel like I've missed out on some important trends sweeping the nation. I don't know what the hell a "Nintendog" is, for instance, and have no idea what all the fuss is over this Serenity movie. I do not own a colorful rubber bracelet or a bumper sticker ribbon declaring my devotion to any particular cause, and I haven't seen Lost since that one episode where it totally seemed like that hobbit guy died and it was all sad and shit but then it turned out that he was miraculously still alive, lame, I hate shows that jerk my chain like that.

I'm behind the times, is what I'm saying, and it's not because I'm so cool I can't be bothered - on the contrary, I'm eager to ride on any bandwagon that will slow down long enough for me to clumsily scramble on board. So while I'm not exactly on the cutting edge here, let me tell you how I have recently embraced the teachings - nay, the RELIGION - of Dr. Karp.

Who is this Dr. Karp, you ask? Well! Only the baby whisperer to the stars, that's all. He's been on Oprah! Or Dr. Phil! One of those! He's the mastermind behind the Happiest Baby On the Block; the book, the DVD, the philosophy. Hollywood is totally down with Dr. Karp, just check out famed actor Pierce Bronsnan's completely unscripted declaration of support: "Dr. Karp offers insightfulness into parenting by combining ancient and modern wisdom."

Boy, if a second-rate James Bond said it, it must be true!

Essentially, Karp preaches some methods to get babies to stop crying and sleep longer. Kind of a slam-dunk topic choice when you're selling something to new parents - I can personally attest to the fact that those particular challenges are almost always inhabiting every section of my physical brain including both the pineal gland and thalamus. Riley doesn't even cry all that much, but seriously, even five minutes of crying is about four minutes and forty-seven seconds more crying than anyone wants to hear.

While Karp's managed to produce a full-sized book, a video, and presumably about a million speaking engagements out of the Happiest Baby stuff, it basically boils down to a few techniques that he calls "the 5 S's". I can never remember what all 5 are, except that the 5th "S" is for Sucking. Har! No, really. Babies need to suck. Haaaa! God, they seriously DO suck, sometimes. Hey Riley, you suck! Pacifiers and bottle nipples, that is! Oh ho HO!

Ahem. So one of the methods of soothing a baby is to feed them or give them a binky, which, doy, but the others are less intuitive. Another is to swaddle them, which involves wrapping your child like a burrito so their arms can't flail around like mindless squid tentacles. We used to unwrap Riley the minute he started struggling under his swaddle blanket, because we sort of felt as though we were treating him like a mini Hannibal Lecter, lying there in his straitjacket and all, but the first night we left him cocooned and immobile he slept FIVE HOURS. In a ROW.

Dr. Karp also recommends "shushing", which is making a "SHHHHHHH" sound near the baby's bleating little head like you're in a movie theater, maybe watching that Serenity flick, and right in front of you there's some jackass talking on a cellphone saying how he's totally seen this movie like four times now, and hey, the part where the guy gets killed is coming up; that's the kind of loud-ass shush noise you're supposed to make (something about making babies think they're back in the womb, where apparently they were constantly SHH'd by tiny intrauterine librarians). I was highly skeptical of this, but in fact it does work, if only by distracting Riley from whatever he's complaining about: if I shush him in the midst of a cryfest he'll go all saucer-eyed and stare off into space, probably wondering why the hell I'm huffing coffee breath all over him.

The shush thing doesn't work for very long, though, probably because blowing on your kid like he's a trick birthday candle gets old after about ten seconds, and so we typically move straight ahead into the jiggling. Jiggling, or swinging (that's the third...fourth? "S") is moving the baby rhythmically, like bouncing them on your lap or jiggling them in your arms or making them do The Robot.

Note that I am not talking about shaking the baby; as you know, babies should never be shaken. Unless, of course, you're putting them in a plastic bag for the purpose of coating their delicious, delicious skin with some ranch bread crumbs, then baking them at 375 until they're fork-tender and juicy. I recommend candied carrots as a complementary side dish.

Oh, not really.

After all, plastic bags can be harmful to babies! Try a paper bag. And spray the baby with butter-flavored PAM first.

Anyway, the jiggling/bouncing is like infant Demerol. Riley will be blaring away at top volume, so much so that the dog will have slunk down the hall to her bed to escape the noise and the cat's tail will be puffed up, and if one of us puts him on our lap and starts bouncing him a little - man, it's STFU in a can. He especially likes it if he's tipped sideways (SIDE - that's the last "S"! Something about fetal position blah blah comfort something) and jiggled gently, we've actually seen little smiles drift across his face then.

I'm telling you, that Dr. Karp is a smart dude. I'm sure he just collected together bits of tried-and-true baby calming methods that millions of mothers have figured out on their own and slapped a marketing-savvy catchphrase on it, but for clueless parents like JB and I who have seen babies on TV, maybe, but never had to interact with one before we produced our own, the Happiest Baby stuff is awesome. I recommend skipping the book and going straight to the DVD, which has the added benefit of showing Dr. Karp performing his voodoo on real live babies, which is sort of interesting to watch. JB thinks they had "stunt babies", but I BELIEVE.


I do have a couple of my own tricks for quieting Riley, which I will tell you about for free:

• Putting him near the utility room while the washing machine is running
• Vacuuming near him
• Blow-drying my hair
• Waiting until 6 PM when JB walks in the door and after twelve hours of wriggling and crabbing and demanding attention, Riley falls into a beatific sleep and JB wonders how I didn't have time to go to the store and jeez, what's for dinner?



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