Here Comes Trouble

Mar. 11 - Empirical evidence aside, I like to think of myself as a practical man. I'm therefore going to spend more money on duct tape this weekend than I probably have over the entire course of my life. I'll tell you why: Molli's in motion.

She's obviously not walking yet, or even crawling, but she's integrated a certain amount of wriggling and creeping into her old routine of rolling and spinning. On top of this, she's also developed a capacity for propping herself up on all fours, extending her upward reach an additional twelve inches or so and allowing her to aim herself in any direction without any forward or lateral movement. Add that all up and you've got a kid who's suddenly capable of moving halfway across a room in the time it takes you to run into the kitchen, grab a handful of paper towels, and realize you never should have left her alone in the other room.

This morning, for example, Molli was happily bashing the brains out of one of her toys in the middle of the living room when I heard my water boiling in the kitchen. I hurried into the kitchen, prepared a cup of instant coffee, then moved briskly back into the living room. Molli was a full five feet from where she'd been and was doing her best either to pull herself up into her old bassinet or pull the damn thing down on top of her. (I couldn't tell, and even if I'd asked, her answer almost certainly would have been "ba!")

Total time elapsed was—well, that's the problem. No time elapsed. Zero. I don't know how she did it. I don't know why she did it. I only know that the energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity that were always so delighful in our daughter are suddenly ominous and horrifying. This appears to be the part of Molli's development where I learn (again) just how wrong I was to think she couldn't possibly demand any more of my attention than she already does.

This seems to be a critical juncture. Up to now she's been largely stationary, rarely moving more than a foot or two off her play blanket. There's a set of appropriate parental behaviors for this level of infant (im)mobility, and the rules aren't hard to follow: keep an eye on the kid, keep all potentially dangerous stuff (i.e., anything that isn't made out of stain-resistant cotton or chewable plastic) at least three feet away from her, and listen very carefully whenever you're out of the room. But try not to spend too much time out of the room.

In the very near future, she's going to be extremely mobile, capable of wandering anywhere we haven't walled or fenced off completely. She may crawl tonight or she may not crawl until April, but I can't imagine there will be any further warning signs before the crawling begins, so we have to act as though she were capable of crawling already. (While we were in the states my sister observed Molli's then-primitive efforts at getting up on all fours and flatly declared, "she'll crawl in a month." That was about three weeks ago.) I'd been wondering what that playpen was for. . . we've mostly been using it as a toy chest. Suddenly that little Alcatraz makes a lot more sense—it'll certainly be a lot easier to dump Molli in there than to duct tape her down to the floor every time I have to go to the bathroom.

I may be mistaken in thinking Molli's about to crawl, but here's what we're looking at: she can roll from her back to her stomach and vice-versa, in either direction, at will. She can propel herself backwards with surprising speed, on surfaces that don't offer significant traction, merely by pushing off the floor with her hands. She can turn in circles, as I mentioned before, by propping herself up on her arms, twisting her body, and crossing her arms one over the other to swing herself around. When lying on her stomach in front of the various bits of furniture in our living room, she'll reach out, grasp the furniture as best she can, and attempt to raise herself up on it. She frequently draws herself up onto all fours, knees beneath her rump, and sways back and forth. She even tries to crawl, moving her legs in what appears to be the appropriate motion—but without using her arms to give her the last bit of assistance she needs to defeat the forces of gravity and inertia that have until now kept her in check. As far as I can tell, once she figures out that bit about the arms there's nothing left to stop her.

Oh—she figured something else out, too, although I've got no idea how. The other night I left her in her bouncy chair for a moment, in the middle of the living room, to finish preparing her dinner in the kitchen. Trine was already in the kitchen working on our own dinner. A moment later Trine wandered off into the living room with the salad or something. I followed a second behind her. Trine was frozen in her tracks, salad bowl in hand, staring down at Molli.

Molli was creeping around the hardwood floor about a meter away from her bouncy chair. I thought it was strange that Trine would have set the salad down on the floor, picked Molli up out of the seat, set her down on the hardwood floor instead of her play blanket, then picked the salad back up again and stood there watching our daughter vie for splinters. But before I had the chance to articulate my confusion, Trine turned to me and asked:

"Did you take her out of her seat?"

I suppose it's not surprising that Molli should have found a way out of the seat. I normally do buckle her in, but sometimes, when I've just plunked her down for a moment and then need to run out of the room for a second, I don't actually clip her in until I've returned.

What's surprising is the stealth and silence with which she did it. Believe me, my ears and Trine's are tuned to pick up the slightest bump or thunk from an unattended Molli, and there simply hadn't been any. Somehow the sneaky little demon child had slipped out of her seat and onto the floor without making a sound.

So on the one hand it's a very exciting time for us: our leaky little bundle of babbling flesh is about to become mobile. On the other hand... well, there is no other hand. We're screwed.

Clearly we're going to have to spend some time this weekend babyproofing the living room and fencing it off from the rest of the apartment. And we're going to have to do something about our beautiful, unfinished hardwood floors, which I loved when we moved in (you can actually smell the wood), but which now strike me as so many splinters waiting to happen.

And we're gonna have to buy a lot of duct tape.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Moron, you can't duct tape an infant! This is the modern era, and one simply doesn't do that kind of thing. Why, just think of the advances being made in velcro technology!"

Believe me, I've given the velcro option a lot of thought. It has a lot of advantages over duct tape, not least of which being the ability to attach and detach the infant to pre-established docking points with relative ease. (To say nothing of the absence of gummy residue.)

But in the end, you still have to attach to attach the velcro to the infant, and this is usually done by means of ordinary adhesive anyway—and anyone who's worked with do-it-yourself velcro projects in the past will tell you that the adhesive on the back of those velcro strips ain't got nothin' on the adhesive properties of duct tape.

My father wasted years of his life trying to teach me that anything worth doing was worth doing with duct tape. It's time to take his advice.


John Chapman was born in Massachusetts in 1774. Growing up during the formative years of American history, Mr Chapman became a fervent patriot with a passion for the welfare of his country. It was a country he loved in every respect but one: it was, he felt, insufficiently appled.

As soon as he was old enough, Mr Chapman ran for congress on a platform of More Apples. The electorate, alas, was already divided between Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans, leaving little room for Apple-Happy Chapmaniacs.

Being an American, Mr Chapman decided to take matters into his own hands. He kicked off his shoes, made himself new clothes from old sacks, and began wearing a tin pot for a hat (thereby becoming the spiritual founding father of the Reform Party). Instead of seeking office again, however, Mr Chapman began a grassroots campaign to spread his More Apples policy.

He changed his name to Johnny Appleseed and went to work.

He wandered the wilds of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, seeding the earth with apple trees.

Eventually he got sick and died on this very day in 1845.

Borscht Boy

At the end of the second world war, America dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Each bomb killed so many people so quickly and made the world so safe for peace-loving democracies that America began feeling pretty good about things and forgot all about being Depressed, etc. This caused the hula-hoop, the soda fountain, and Annette Funicello.

Not everyone could master the hula-hoop, however, and the alienation experienced by those who couldn't resulted in the development of an American counterculture.

Scoffing the traditional values of mainstream America, the counterculturalists experimented with bold new ideas. They forsook the established middle-class pleasures, such as wine, woman, and song, in favor of radical new ones, such as sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.

Born 83 years ago March 12, Jack Kerouac was a child of the Depression and a veteran of the second world war. He was therefore torn between these competing value systems and roamed the country aimlessly in search of grammar and punctuation.

The adventures described in On the Road were based loosely on his real-life travels with the infamous Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, whose insatiable appetite for borscht led Kerouac to dub them "The Beet Generation."

You can read my own version of On the Road, which includes—er, consists of—the longest sentence ever published in a work of American non-fiction, by purchasing my goddam book (The 5-Minute Iliad and Other Instant Classics: Great Books for the Short Attention Span), which might still be available from your favorite bookseller.


March 13 is the birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (the "L" is silent). Mr. Hubbard invented Dianetics, which eventually led to Scientology, causing Scientologists and Personality Tests. Scientologists are easily distinguished from Jehovah's Witnesses in that they don't ask you subscribe to The Watchtower and can often be seen in major motion pictures.

Standard time was established in the United States on March 13, 1884. Standard time was not well received at first. Americans were outraged at the soul-deadening conformity imposed by this new standard, an infringement on the natural liberties of a free people, and—look! A squirrel!

Birthdays and Holidays

Douglas Adams turns 53 on March 11. He shares his birthday with Sam Donaldson (1934), Rupert Murdoch (1931), and Lawrence Welk (1903). The 11th is Moshoeshoe's Day in Lesotho.

Along with Jack Kerouac, March 12 is the birthday of Darryl Strawberry (1962), James Taylor (1948), Liza Minnelli (1946), Barbara Feldon (1941), Al Jarreau (1940), and Edward Albee (1928). March 12 is Renovation Day in Gabon, Independence Day in Mauritius, and Youth Day in Zambia.

Sharing Mr. Hubbard's birthday of March 13 are William H. Macy (1950), Neil Sedaka (1939), William Casey (1913), and Percival Lowell (1855). The 13th is Revolution Day in Grenada and National Youth Day in Fiji.

Enjoy the weekend!

2005, The Moron's Almanac™

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