Thursday, December 29, 2011

Poop and Parenting

Life with a baby is a journey of discovery. It's mostly uphill, but every once in a while the view gets a little better. Childhood development is truly rewarding to observe, but a baby wailing at 3am can be merciless in every sense of the word. There is no resistance possible to such incessant crying, only unconditional surrender.

Forty minutes after a parent is pounded into complete submission through an unstoppable bout of endless crying, the baby often stops spontaneously (sometimes with a cheeky grin), leaving the parent in a confused state of mental disarray. And then as if plunged into a cloud of ether, the parent hits the pillow in narcotic slumber, before the next scheduled barrage three hours later.

The three major challenges for parents are sleepless nights, an extended state of vigilance needed throughout the day and diverse encounters with Baby Poop™.

Of these three challenges, a fascination with the gastrointestinal process often lands me in a dazed fixation on the topic of poop. Though I find baby droppings to be not entirely repulsive, I'll keep such photos off this blog, lest Baengy rediscover them many years in the distant future.

Basically, it's a mushy yellow substance dispensed in unpredictable bursts with an aroma that can best be described as humanised natural yoghurt.

To manage appropriate household responses, I've devised the Farrand Level Alert for Poop (or FLAP, for short). It's a code to quickly categorise the magnitude of a detected nappy event, with severity scale as follows:

Category 1: False alarm, flatulence.
Category 2: Mild peppering of the loins.
Category 3: Medium intensity deposit. Weighted browning evident.
Category 4: Potentially damaging situation. Notify Mother-at-arms.
Monumental Poop: Deposit has oozed beyond containment barriers. Automatic response for all household members to DEFCON 2 level.
Mother Of All Poops (MOAP): Catastrophic devastation. Expect weeks of clean-up and counselling for survivors.

Fortunately, we at the Farrand household have only been subjected to a Monumental Poop on two historical occasions. Both events were preceded by excess milk consumption, had tummy rumblings as an immediate forewarning and were followed with aftershocks of flatulence.

While Baengy will occasionally take interest in other household fluids, such as beer, her ingrained lactophilia means inevitable rejection from her Bumbo table. 

Very rarely will anything remain on her Bumbo table for long, before being thrown on the floor.

Her interest can be aroused by stirring, as we've found when mum scrambles eggs.

And also when mum stirs jjajjangmyeon.

Babies have excellent intuition when it comes to knowing what is important to adults. Trying to entertain a baby with jingling keys will rarely last 30 seconds, whereas clipping your own fingernails will evoke intense fascination and a futile attempt to grab the clippers.

Similarly, a plethora of colourful toys on the ground will not nearly be as fascinating as two bowls of hot soup on a table. And no matter how many times her inquisitive paw from below is swatted away, it just comes creeping back.

In a failed attempt at reverse psychology, I have indeed pretended to clip my nails with keys, and engaged in mock dining of colourful toys on a table. But babies are wily creatures. 

They'll just give you a stare that says "What on Earth are you doing?"

One thing that rings true for both first-aid training sessions and babies, is that dummies and slings can work wonders.

I guess the prehistoric sling was the monkey mother's arms, while the prehistoric dummy was the monkey mother's nipple. From this, all I can conclude is that our prehistoric ancestors were incredible parents.

I don't know if a thousand-yard-stare is a sign of enjoyment, but Baengy sure is quiet when slung. 

It also magnifies her comedic appearance when wearing hats.

This is a ParentCam shot, taken from a natural perspective when slinging. Baengy will often stare at me like this, for minutes on end. 

I have no idea what she's looking at, and I've found that staring back just prolongs the engagement.

And walking around in a sling will magically put her to sleep in around 5 minutes flat. Maybe it's the warmth of the human body, or the close sound of a heartbeat. The result is always the same.

Knocked out like a butterfly in chloroform.

Autumn passed some time ago, taking with it the maple colours around Jahayeon, the campus pond.

We managed to squeeze in a picnic with homemade kimbap and boiled eggs. When I was young, I always wondered why parents liked tupperware so much. Now I know.

As a person who likes pointing out firsts, having a baby is a great thing. Baengy's first picnic was met with approval, but she was completely fixated on us and not the nice surroundings. 

Next time we could just have a picnic in the living room.

Those who agree to babysit for the Farrands receive an automatic Order of Merit. Heather's mother has done it on more than one occasion, resulting in her status rising to Hero of the Farrand Family. 

But in a puzzling turn of events, sometimes when babysitting has been organised, we squander the precious time by running in charity marathons.

Heather's father may have something to do with that. Just like my old man, Heather's old man likes to run around.

But we did our ten kilometres in rather nice weather and felt pretty good about it. Father-in-law's time was one hour and six minutes, which is great for a man of his age.

Oh look, he's eating natural yoghurt.

There's a little playground near our house that Baengy isn't quite tall enough to romp around in. So we just carry Baengy from place to place and she seems to enjoy it enough. These days she's eating a lot and growing fast. 

Our developing morning ritual is to exclaim how much she grew overnight.

Our day at the park ended in tiny smiles, those frequent yet immeasurable rewards for tireless parenting. We're looking forward to a lot more of them over the months to come.

The Farrand Family Korea hopes you had a merry Givmas/Festivus/Christmas, and wishes you an exciting new year.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Baengy Bathtime!

It could be said that babies are like an industrial processing system for milk, from which useful nutrients are extracted for growth and development.
Liquid output is then excreted from every orifice in the repertoire of their miniature human anatomy.

In biological terms, we could think of them as compact milk bioreactors.

Baengy spends much of the day crying, drooling or otherwise liquefying a normally dry environment. To avoid the yuck factor, I simply remind myself that drool is just a dollop of orally hydrated glycoproteins, while boogie is much the same but of a nasal origin.
While being somewhat hypersensitive to household cleanliness (spotting a hair on the floor from a distance of eight metres), Heather suffers from no such aversion to baby fluids, including poop. Baby poop smudged on surfaces normally unassociated with baby poop are nonchalantly dismissed as 'Just Poop.'

For this young blogger, the wonders of nature continue to amaze.

Cute as Baengy's face is, it often needs a wash. We experienced three phases of bathhood behaviour from our daughter, as follows:

First 2 months: Oblivion
2 to 3 months: Rebellion
3 months until present: Acceptance

As with many Koreans, Heather is of strong conviction that there exists a build-up of dead skin (때) on everyone, that must be removed daily for one to remain of good standing in the community. For Baengy, this means that mother ensures a thorough cleaning of every bodily sanctuary where 때 might possibly exist.

The (hidden) neck is an area of particular focus.

Unfortunately Baengy has developed a taste for soapy bathwater, and much as we try to discourage it, she'll often sample her surrounds by giving her hands a dip. 

"Today's hors d'œuvre: a succulent baby thumb dipped in warm bathwater."

May Thor strike me down for doing so, but I've been roughly estimating Baengy's developing intelligence levels in comparison to familiar animals. As a keen biologist and animal enthusiast, it's an irresistible temptation. At the time this photo was taken, I estimated that her quiet blank stare was indicative of the IQ of a turtle. Nowadays, she's closer to a domestic cat. 

We're expecting a baboon within the next few months.

Baengy enjoys a good scrub, along with the accompanying baby-talk happily provided by Mrs Farrand. Seeing her in the tub like this reminds me of that old rhyme:
Three men in a tub,
And how do you think they got there?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick-maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato,
'Twas enough to make a man stare

As a parent, I'm experiencing the pleasure of reuniting with past songs and children's stories, the entertaining poignancy of which I had long since forgotten. Dr Seuss books are providing exceptionally good material.

I recommend The Foot Book.

And with a bit of soap and water, every baby is looking their best. Baengy's bathtime ritual has been repeated almost every day for the past six months, to which we must credit the Lady of the House. This despite the not-so-infrequent semi-submerged kicketty kicks that send arcs of soapy water in her general (and now unflinching) direction. 

Decidedly less bemusing after so many recurrences.

When I'm home in time to witness these events, I often receive Baengy straight after the wash, with a freshly cleaned body reminiscent of a samgyetang chicken. I then proceed to pat her dry with towels, before dressing her for bed. Babies, in general, seem to prefer nakedness over cloth and when especially alert will often resist being clothed with admirable yet futile protest.

This coming Christmas will be the first such event with our daughter. I guess that means we'll be making some extra special festive food, like Santa's Rice Porridge and Rudolph's Formula Milk. 

Now there's something to look forward to.