Saturday, October 29, 2011

Strange Encounters of the Infant Kind

The other day at work, I was looking at photos of my daughter when my phone rang. The caller ID indicated it was my wife. I picked up the call but it cut off, so I rang back.

"Baengy dialled your number, she was sitting on the phone."

While that little moment was the first definitive attempt at First Contact, there have been other occasions where I felt communication was attempted. Unfortunately the language of babies is cryptographically advanced and nobody I know has the cipher key.

From what I can tell, babies communicate through a combination of hypnotism and semaphore. They'll stare straight into your eyes, intensely but blankly, conjuring some kind of abyss that penetrates the mind. At the same time, they'll wave their arms around mechanically in simple morse code. When the receiver fails to decipher the message repeatedly, tears and wailing break out, which subside only when the baby is picked up and comforted.

The other day when this happened, I realised what the original message was: "It's time to hold me!"

One of the advantages of the Bumbo is that it allows the preparation of food.

Immobilisation of a baby is a marvellous thing, and is situationally more advantageous than having half your DNA rolling around on the living room floor.

It's rare these days for Heather and me to be able to enjoy a nice sit down meal at home. We're either exhausted or out of groceries. Luckily, this crafty chef knows that chopping a lot of veges and a bit of boiling can be passed off as cooking to an unsuspecting clientele.

I'm convinced beyond reasonable doubt of a supernatural link between babies and grandmothers. In some parallel world where babies are rockstars, grandmothers could be their hordes of adulating fans. This revelation struck me when I realised that rockstars often greet delighted fans with an air of nonchalance, while being generally dismissive of other rockstars.

Rockstars and fans also wear very different kinds of hats.

Hmm, yes.

Definitely some kind of rockstar.

We went for a walk in Geumjeong Park not so long ago, where I was witness to an historic event. Three generations of women from the Jung family, engaged in the ritual of babyslinging, Korean style.

Baengy enjoys being slung. She'll keep an eager watch from her new vantage point, like some kind of autonomous periscope scanning from left to right.

And I've noticed that she doesn't seem to stare for any specific purpose. It's just staring for the sake of staring, especially at passers-by. It has reaffirmed my belief that all humans, if stripped of social entrainment, bias and knowledge, would probably spend most of the day staring at other people's faces.

Baengy's head recently surpassed average Korean Pear size. That was a big milestone in our books.

We hope it stops somewhere between grapefruit and watermelon.

The first thing that a baby probably learns about themselves and other youngsters is that they're less adept at motor control than adults.

Luckily Baengy has learned to blink. Cousin Yujin will often launch an affectionate assault with very little warning.

And to round out this little post is a short task for our dear readers (and leaders?)

Match the emotive descriptions to the facial expressions above:

a) Delight
b) Accomplishment
c) Disgust/Horror

Good luck and see you soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hey Cockalorum!

Aye 1 (also ay)
An affirmative vote or voter.
Ex. The ayes outnumber the nays on this issue.

An expression indicating surprise, dismay, discovery, etc, or calling for another's attention.
Ex. Hey cockalorum! (To view the definition of Hey cockalorum, activate your Merriam-Webster unabridged FREE TRIAL now!) ...

Let us pause for a moment to marvel at the emerging business strategies of free online dictionaries.

Okay I'm done.

Not long ago, 'Aye' and 'Hey' went down in history as the first identifiable words to emerge from Baengy's mouth. Audibly, they were more like "aaaaya" and "aaheey", but the author of Lee's Korea Blog is not one to deny credit where credit is due. One could endlessly debate the age old enigma "If a word is used unknowingly and completely out of context by an infant with no concept of words, is it still a word?"
To which I would say "Definitely. Please."

After all, if someone mumbles some meaningless nonsense in their bed while dreaming unaware, it's certainly enough to get them arrested by the Thought Police.

And I like to think that Baengy is actually expressing an early desire to participate in democratic process, while expressing her surprise and/or dismay at the general state of today's political landscape.

We pseudoinherited this babywalker from Heather's second sister. Pseudoinheritance is when a hand-me-down must eventually be returned to the giver, because the giver is pregnant with another baby on the way.

In the photo above, Baengy is greeting the walker with her customary gesture. For suckling reasons, the mouth is the most developed tactile organ of the human infant. As such, babies often investigate new objects by placing them within the mouth cavity, or for larger objects, by sucking on them. And I've observed that it's not always done in the most elegant way.

More like the early days of Soviet spacedocking, a bit of a hit-and-miss affair.

The woollen hat Baengy's wearing in this photo was knitted by Heather's mum. I prefer to call it a Brain Cosy.

Also note the emblem on her jumpsuit. I couldn't help but notice that it seems like the baby version of Amnesty's logo.

Along with attempting to revive words deserving of more attention, this young blog author also indulges in the forgotten art of frivolous nicknaming.

The blue patch on our daughter's left foot is a birthmark. Somewhat comically, I happen to have a similar one on my right hand. Baengy Bluefoot is my newest nickname currently doing the rounds. Earlier, her common household name was Milkytongue - due to her habit of finishing milk sessions, but somehow neglecting to perform the final swallowing action. This results in her tongue remaining visibly milky.

Here's Baengy Bluefoot, passed out on her mother's lap. We've long since learned the folly of waking her too soon, and her entire body is littered with motion sensors.

The indentation at the top of her forehead is called a fontanelle. It's a membranous part of a baby's skull that allows the bony plates to flex during birth. It also pulses with her heartbeat. Eventually it closes up and becomes bone (ossification), which coincidentally renders her entire brain impenetrable to ultrasound imaging. In other words, her skull becomes an acoustic fortress... which I'm only saying because it's fun to say.

Fontanelles are the reason why Heather's mother calls Baengy daechu-mori, which means Jujube1 head.

 1 Ziziphus zizyphus, a dried Korean date.
Fontanelle means fountain in French. These ones near the Hoam Faculty house caught Baengy's eye for a good five minutes. One could imagine that sparkly, stimulating objects would hold her attention the longest. But that isn't always the case. I've observed her to be fixated longest on the most unlikely objects, namely bits of discarded fruit peelings and the wrinkles on my forehead.

Baengy likes looking at things, and I like showing things to others. That's why I have this blog. We're a good match. I try to narrate my showing sessions to Baengy in an NPR-documentary style.

"And this is a device for aiding sausage consumption, colloquially referred to as a barbecue plate..."

I often have to work on the weekends, and sometimes wife and baby come along for a visit. To my knowledge, Baengy has successfully stared at every piece of furniture.

They'll often wait around and watch me like this until I'm finished.

Here's the new chairman of the board, sitting in my spot. The politically correct term would be chairperson, or a word I have recently coined myself:

A baby who presides over meetings and ensures business is conducted in an orderly fashion.
Ex. "This meeting's chairbaby is none other than the amazing Ashley Farrand, with a full one hundred days of life experience. The meeting shall begin when she says the word 'Aye'."

When not chairing meetings of dubious outcome, Baengy can often be found slung to her mother in prominent Seoul locations. Wikipedia just told me that in this particular situation, we can say that the mother is wearing her daughter. How interesting.

She's like a little hot water bottle during these cooler autumn nights.

Baengy is a fine little baby, and Heather is a fine mother. I do what I can to clean poopies and make funny faces, but Heather is the real star. Credit where credit is due. I've recently decided to strive to be a more helpful nuisance around the house.

And so, Hey cockalorum! I guess that's the end of this blog post.

*For those wondering what cockalorum means, it's a noun. A little man with an unduly high opinion of himself

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

100 Days After The Big Bang

The feeling of grogginess experienced by someone who has just awoken, but whose body and mind is in need of further sleep, is called sleep inertia. At the Farrand residence, sleepless nights precede sleepy mornings on every day of the week ending in the letter Y.
Perhaps as some kind of ethereal compensation I have yet to understand, it could be said that the rocky road of early life is paved with abundant milestones. Ashley recently reached 100 days of age, giving us time to pause and reflect on the road we've covered.

Here are some videos from along the way.

This is the family that Baengy was born into. When this video was taken, Heather was only a few months pregnant, with Baengy just a suspended morsel of fragile life. Three female toddler cousins and numerous uncles and aunts ensured a consistent dull roar in the background, for Baengy's developing neurons to ponder.

The first thing that surprised me about Ashley was that her little gums were a single line of upright flesh. I guess I should have known, but I previously imagined gums to be rather flat in the absence of teeth. 

And like all babies born à la Homo sapiens, she came into this world blind as a bat. Although it often seemed that she could see us in the early days, what was really happening was that her eyes were looking in the general direction of where sound was coming from.

Crying is the first word in an infant's vocabulary. The younger they are, the cuter the pitch. So far we've translated the following definitions of crying:

"Waaaah, waaaaah" - I am hungry and/or sleepy
"Waaaah *hic* waaaaah *hic*" - I have hiccups
"uuu-waaa, uuu-waaa" - I dislike train rides to Busan
"A-a-a aaaa, a-a-aaaa" - I cannot see any adults and would like a cheek rub
"AAH! AAAAAH AYAAAHH!" - My prior requests have been ignored

Heather's voice at this stage must have sounded like garbled nonsense, although one would imagine somehow familiar and reassuring. She's saying "Are you hungry? Ooooh yes, you're hungry. You want some milk..."

These are the kicketty kicks that Baengy does when she's upset. When she first started doing them, it was with her right leg only. I therefore surmised that she was right-handed. When she's angry nowadays, she can cycle her legs like she's riding a bicycle.

Balance is something we adults take for granted.

A Bumbo is a device for immobilising a baby in an upright position. Baengy cannot yet locomote in any appreciable way, but the Bumbo is handy in that she is often happier when she's upright. That's because Baengy's newest hobby since she received the gift of sight, is looking.

Looking is another one of those free things in life that most of us take for granted.

These days she's getting more responsive and displaying primitive forms of curiousity. Items that have held her interest are often left with a complimentary smear of drool.

Baengy can touch her face with her hands, but has yet to figure out the dubious link between having one's eyes covered, and the diminished ability to see.

This is Baengy's newest trick. Evidently aware of the dangers of being smothered, she has developed her own close-in weapons system, which is a kind of primitive short range acoustic device. Good for repelling pirates and boisterous mothers. 

All things considered, we're having a grand old time with our daughter, and the irritability of sleep deprivation is at least somewhat alleviated by the odd giggle or a brand new facial expression. The next milestone we're both looking forward to, and simultaneously dreading, is when Baengy receives the gift of self propulsion. We'll be sure to inform you when and how it happens.