PARENTAL TIP # 7 BABY BRAIN TEASERS
As the first few months of a baby’s life are probably the most important in relation to the development of the brain, I decided it would be a good idea to use some “brain teasers” to help augment Maisie’s development. Here are a few I used–feel free to use them to help along your own four-month-old…
1. Three times the width of a certain rectangle exceeds twice its length by three inches and four times its length is twelve more than its perimeter. What are the dimensions of the rectangle?
2. A rope rests on two platforms which are both inclined at an angle (which you are free to pick). The rope has uniform mass density, and its coefficient of friction with the platforms is 1. The system has left-right symmetry. What is the largest possible fraction of the rope that does not touch the platforms? What angle allows this maximum value?
3. Throw N balls at random into B boxes. Let (a) be the average number of balls, N/B, in a box. Let P(x) be the probability that a given box has exactly x balls in it.
(a) Show that ax e−a P(x)≈ x! Certain assumptions are needed for this expression to be valid. What are they?
(b) Show that if a is large, the above Poisson distribution essentially becomes a Gaussian distribution,
ax e−a e−(x−a)2 /2a P(x)= x! ≈ √2πa .
THE STORY I MADE UP AND READ TO MAISIE ONE NIGHT IN LIEU OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
Why lookee here, you too can become a children’s book author just like Hans Christian Andersen or Shannon Doherty…
Once upon a time there was a horsefly. This horsefly lived in Philadelphia in 1776 and resided in a barn that happened to be right across the street from the home of Jacob Graff. Now this happened to be very convenient for the horsefly because Thomas Jefferson had rented a room in the Graff home to write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. And the horsefly just happened to be somebody who was loyal to the British Crown and not the revolution.
Yes, a loyalist horsefly.
Now when Jefferson began to write about truths being self-evident and such, the horsefly could see this was big trouble for him and his other loyalist horsefly cronies. So he began to buzz Jefferson. First very lightly around the face. Then he zeroed in on the nose, and then the ear. Jefferson would get three or four words down on paper (maybe a “becomes destructive of these ends” or a “long train of abuses and usurpations”) then would have to stop to shoo the horsefly away. This happened a good eight to nine times before Jefferson bolted up from his chair and screamed,
“You damndedable fly, I will have your head.”
Jefferson stalked the room with heavy horsefly-hating bible in hand, looking everywhere but finding nothing. But little did Jefferson know the horsefly was hiding in his immense shock of red hair. So when he sat down to continue his most essential assignment, he had not even gotten the fourth letter out when he heard the buzzing.
Thomas Jefferson and his "Blow Dry."
…coming from within his own head.
“I will show this foul horsefly who is the dominant species.”
Jefferson then picked up a small piece of wood that served as a paperweight and began to bash himself in the head with it. He hit himself in the front part of the head, then the back part of his head, then the middle part, then the front part again, then over by the ear, then over by the temple, then finally when he didn’t hear anymore buzzing he put the piece of wood down and proclaimed.
“I have prevailed. I have killed the horsefly.”
The horsefly now seemed to be completely embedded in his ear.
Jefferson went back to his desk, more determined than ever.
“If I cannot kill the horsefly by the sword, then I shall kill the horsefly by the pen.”
Then Jefferson sat down and furiously inserted a new section into the Declaration of Independence of how all horseflies shall be “abolished and shunned to a place where they cannot reproduce and must live in Cruelty and Perfidy for a good long time.”
Then it happened.
The buzzing was gone.
It was amazing, a miracle really, at the exact moment when Jefferson finished that particular passage, the buzzing disappeared. And all was quiet. And Jefferson smiled to himself knowing that he had once again illustrated how the written word is a mighty weapon indeed. Of course his head was one giant welt, but that’s beside the point.
Oh and if you’re wondering what happened to the horsefly section of the Declaration of Independence, it was edited out by Congress along with most of the grievances against Great Britain, Parliament and King George III.
Oh, and one other thing. The average lifespan of a horsefly is about 30 days. The one that attacked Jefferson, he was about 31.
MOWING THE LAWN WITH AN OLD LAWNMOWER. I walked out into the backyard this morning and immediately saw that the lawn had achieved overnight full-on jungle status. There was moss, weeds, dandelions, giant radioactive bugs, lost civilizations, lost yard furniture and some nice yellow flowers that probably weren’t supposed to be there. Now me being mostly stubborn and mostly male, I steadfastly refuse to replace the rickety push mower that is 47 years old and rusted shut to the point where the blades only move when you kick them, and the blade wheel has frozen in the lowest position possible which makes cutting any grass bigger than a 1/32nd inch virtually impossible. So as I do every year, I brought out the weed whacker and downed most of the standing trees, then fired up the push mower (i.e. kick) and spent the next two hours mowing a 6-foot by 9-foot patch of grass. Like the crowds at Manassas, Aimee and Maisie come out to watch the spectacle–me throwing out the back out/pulling the arm out of the socket and giving me that “you are such an idiot” look. It looks like my favorite lawnmower days may be numbered as I can survive one weathering glare, but two is another matter. Will keep you posted.
The LawnAire 5000
This last week, Aimee’s brother Steve and his girlfriend/significant main squeeze Erika came to visit Maisie for the first time. Preferring the family names Uncle Renegade and Aunt Kiwi (Erika’s from New Zealand and Steve has tattoos), both were won over by Maisie in about 1.7 seconds. Steve danced for Maisie’s amusement and did an incomparable job of bottle-feeding, Erika rocked Maisie to sleep and taught her how to say seven in Kiwi (see-ven).
One interesting little peculiarity that surfaced during their visit is that apparently in New Zealand, they use processed meats as terms of endearment. “Sausage” became Maisie’s pet name with Erika. Others that weren’t used but are still available for future visits are salami, liverwurst, bologna and mortadella.
I especially like Erika and Steve because, well, I like them.
And Erika likes to clean stuff.
Today is Mother’s Day, and Maisie did her due diligence in an obvious attempt to suck up to Mom.
Maisie, after apparently sneaking out to the Florist and the Old West Portrait Place
Over the last few days, Maisie has been raising her left arm in a fist…almost in defiance… and looking at it like it means something important. Like “Go Ahead and Change My Diaper If You Dare” or “Baby Rights Now” or “The Class Struggle Necessarily Leads To The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat” or if she has a dirty diaper “Change Me Now, You Who Claim To Be My Parents” or if she doesn’t “Hell No I Won’t Go.” Whatever the significance, she does jut the arm out like it’s some type of political statement. Then stares at it for hours to reinforce the fact that she IS a baby with a cause.
Power To The Outstretched Arm
Anarchy On The Changing Table
Outstretched Arm Shall Not Sleep
The days don’t quite blur together, but they do kind of dissolve into one another and without realizing it, you unknowingly slip into the routines of babydom: feed every 3-4 hours, diaper change every 2-3 hours, burp after feed, wipe shirt after burp, boil water, mix formula, wash bottles, wipe slobber, misplace pacifier, put Maisie in swing, take Maisie out of the swing, etc. And as a writer, you search for an ongoing plot line that would make for more cohesive reading but there isn’t one. Aside from the meltdowns in the McDonald’s drive thrus, it’s really not page-turner material. This is compounded by the everpresent haze that surrounds your head. Because even on the nights when you do get enough sleep, it’s still not enough to make up for the three nights previous. So there’s a lot of Night of the Living Dead quality time.
But on the other hand, you’ve got your mornings waking up to a bright, unconditional smile which breaks through the haze and renders a plot unnecessary.
SWADDLING BITES THE DUST. It seemed that it was long past time to put the whole swaddling thing out to pasture since a) Maisie was spending half the night trying to get out of the swaddling which kind of defeated the purpose of helping her sleep, and b) I’m not sure if I ever did it correctly anyway. So the swaddling blankets have been downsized to just regular blankets.
The other thing that’s happened in the last few days is Maisie has turned into a drooling machine. She’ll just be sitting there looking content when BAM, 6 ounces of drool will come shooting out of her mouth soaking whatever she’s wearing and whatever her mother and father are wearing. Because of this, our new name for her is Droolie. Droolie Andrews. I don’t think she likes it too much.
DROOL TANGENT. We are also now conversing via spit. Masie blows spit bubbles out of her mouth. I answer back by blowing more spit bubbles. On extremely emotional topics, she spits and drools at the same time to which I answer by spitting and drooling at the same time. Upside of all this is by the end of our discussion, neither one of us have much drool left.
This afternoon I was putting Maisie down in her swinging chair to hopefully sleep. The chair is one of those things that plays music and gently rocks from side to side while above her hang birds and dragonflies and rabbits and other zen items which she can gaze on, study and with which generally be enthralled.
Then I had this thought. What if that wasn’t the case at all. What if every time we put Maisie in the swing, it scares the crap out of her. So basically while Aimee and I are thinking how much she loves her swing, inside Maisie is screaming, “AHHHH, OH MY GOD, NOT THE GIANT MONSTER BIRDS AND INSECTS AND RODENTS AGAIN. THEY’RE GOING TO EAT ME. GET ME OUT OF HERE.”
We’re in full laughing mode these days as well. Usually beginning with a slight giggle, then evolving into full-on hardy-har-hars. And one of the best ways to get her going is to sing to her. When her mother sings you can tell that she laughing out of pure innocent happiness, but with me it’s different. With me, she’s not laughing out of enjoyment, she’s laughing obviously to fight the pain.
“Ha Ha you think I’m laughing because I enjoy your singing,” she says to herself.
“No I’m laughing because your singing is on a par or worse than Yoko Ono’s. Ha Ha.”
“Ha Ha. When you sing, dogs have to leave the neighborhood because it hurts their ears. Ha Ha.”
“Ha Ha. When you sing, ADT records it and uses it as a theft deterrent. Ha Ha.”
“Ha Ha. Your singing is so bad, it not only breaks glass. It breaks gob.”
“Ha ha. Gob is what glass is in its raw form before its blown if you didn’t get that last reference. Ha Ha”
Yesterday I was sitting at the bar at Red Robin eating a burger when I got a text from Aimee saying that her and Maisie were listening to Aimee’s favorite band in college, They Might Be Giants. Finding that to be somewhat adorable, I texted back an “Awwww” on the I-Phone. Here’s what I didn’t realize. When you type in “Awwww” on the I-Phone, the I-Phone automatically self-corrects it to “Sewers.” So when Aimee told me that Maisie and her were listening to They Might Be Giants, my reply was… Sewers.
BABY TIP #74 SLEEPING THOUGH THE NIGHT
To help your baby sleep through the night try the following:
- Play her any Rick Steves PBS Show
This afternoon, Maisie giggled and giggled and laughed and laughed then fell asleep on my chest. Sewers.
Aimee may be suffering from Post Pregnancy Brain.
First I told her I was meeting Alyssa on Thursday after work and reminded her that Alyssa was the daughter of a friend of mine from high school. Then I told her not five minutes later that I was having lunch with Graham, a social media expert, who was a friend of Alyssa, to which Aimee responded…
And this was after telling her that I was meeting Mary, my friend from Microsoft on Friday. And I really wasn’t all that surprised when a couple hours later Aimee asked if I was meeting anybody after work on Friday. And when I answered Mary you pretty much know what came next.
“A friend of Alyssa’s,” I answered.
I then had to re-educate her on Mary, Alyssa, how to use a fork, etc but was really taken aback by her next question.
“Whose baby is that?”
OK, so maybe it’s not that bad, but the running count on the Who Is Alyssa question is up to seven. And that’s only since Monday.
THINGS THAT WILL WAKE A BABY UP AND MAKE HER CRY.
- Loud noises as in a door closing
- Alarm Clock
- Sneezing and Coughing
- A passing car
- Any talk of “going to bed.”
- An ant
- Loud Thinking
The last few days here in Seattle have been beautiful: sunshine, no rain, no clouds (I know, a sign the world is ending). Maisie and her mother and myself have been in the backyard lying around on the grass like hippies, looking up at the sky and just kind of experiencing it all except without any of the trippy drugs or free love. And I had another one of those amazing yet totally rational thoughts. This is probably the first time Maisie has ever seen a sky with that deep, deep shade of blue. I know I have danced around this point before, but it really hit me this afternoon. How crazy it is that she is seeing her very first cobalt blue sky (and again considering we live in Seattle, I do mean her very first cobalt blue sky).
Then a bird flew across.
And that was the first time she had ever seen a bird fly across a sky that blue in that way. Then I started paying attention to everything, looked at everything through uncorrupted glasses: the wind, rushing through the trees, the smell of grass, the ladybug landing on her leg, the weeds that will be there until Maisie is old enough to pull them.
What a concept. Truly. That there is a first time for everything, the first time that we see a color. The first time we feel the wind. Or hear is dog. And I get to re-experience it all through her eyes.
I get it now. What a gift. What an unbelievably amazing gift.
Maisie is at that stage when she is almost getting control of her body movements. Almost. Watching her struggle, you can just hear the conversation that is going on between her brain and the rest of the body:
BRAIN: Turn head to right.
BODY: Right? Which way is right?
BRAIN: The opposite of the way you’re facing now.
BODY: This way?
BRAIN: No, that’s down.
BODY: No it’s not.
BRAIN: No, right is the opposite direction, turn that way.
BRAIN: That’s up.
BRAIN: Tell you what, why don’t you just kind of bobble around for a while.
THE 90TH PERCENTILE. The four-month check up was today. And even though Maisie was on the doctor’s weight gain worry list at her first check-up, that problem has gone away. Like long gone. Like to the moon, Alice, gone. She is now in the 90th percentile as far as her weight is concerned (or as pediatricians refer to it–the beer gut percentile).
“What?!,” you say. 90th percentile? That’s like Biggest Loser territory isn’t it? This can’t be. You mean our little Maisie isn’t so little anymore?
Yup, Dr. Malaris couldn’t quite believe it either when she saw her. But to our relief said it was nothing to worry about, as we don’t seem like “90th percentile people.” She’s just a big old sturdy healthy kid.
Yup, just one big sturdy big boned 90th percentile kid. Rock on.
SHOTS REPORT: 3 shots, same result, loud.
We are flying to California see my side of the family and have come to the another realization–that the days of last minute travel are now a thing of the past. Our plane leaves Wednesday night. Today is Monday. If we leave now we should make it just in time.
Maisie posing with a picture of her real father.