April 28, 2005

So, you may recall that a few months ago, our friends Zach and Sara had this baby. And a few weeks ago, they were at our housewarming party when Sara said to Iggy and me that she wanted to ask us a favor. She wanted to take this class on a Sunday afternoon in a couple of weeks and that usually her cousin watched the baby for her but on that particular day--

"We'll do it!" I interrupted. "We'll take her!"

I used to babysit quite a bit when I was a teenager, but never for a baby so young. Iggy, however, has a young niece and nephew, so his baby skills are fairly up-to-date, except for diaper changing, the one aspect of baby maintenance his sister-in-law insisted on shielding him from. I had changed diapers before, but not for at least 15 years, so I asked Sara for a quick refresher before she took off. The concept is still the same, but diapers have gotten a lot fancier. They're made out of cloth-like paper now instead of shiny plastic, and the tabs are made out of some sort of velcro-like substance, which means you can check the diaper and then close it back up again! The wonders of modern technology!

So, everything went OK for the first 10 minutes, and then the inconsolable screaming set in. I tried to give her her bottle, but she wasn't interested. But luckily, I had a secret advantage--I was a fussy baby myself, and to this day, my mother tells me about all the tricks she had to employ in order to shush me, so I know a few things about quieting babies. And the next thing I tried worked: I put her in her stroller and rolled her back and forth over the bumpy hardwood floor until she was lulled to sleep.

I took advantage of her nap to make my weekly phone call to my parents. When I told my mom I was babysitting, she asked "how long do you have to keep her?" I informed her that we liked having the baby, and she said "oh, well, then how long do you get to keep her?" Then my dad came on the line and I told him we were babysitting. "How long do you have to keep her?" he asked.

The nap didn't last long, and soon the fussing began anew. She still wasn't interested in the bottle, so I pulled out what Sara had said was her favorite toy: a plush star that played music and had flashing lights. I set the switch to the "on" position and as the lights began to flash, I was stunned to hear the opening notes of...a MIDI version of the same piece I had recently played with the chamber orchestra at work, Bach's 4th Brandenburg Concerto! Anyway, the baby really did seem to like it, and soon she nodded off again.

Then, more fussing. This time she took the bottle and drank quite a bit. Iggy had been taking a nap while the baby napped, so after she finished off the bottle, we took a walk into the bedroom and sat down on the bed to wake him up.

"Did you burp her?" he asked. "No," I replied, "I don't really know how." Iggy said he would do it, so I brought him one of the small cloths Sara had brought with the baby stuff. He propped the baby up on his shoulder, and began to pat her back. This went on for maybe twenty seconds, and then BWARRRRFFF. An impossibly huge bolus of baby puke engulfed the cloth and began rolling down Iggy's sleeve. I cupped my hands and held them out at the bottom of his arm to catch the stream of puke before it got on the sheets. It worked! I really hate doing laundry, so getting baby puke on my hands was well worth being able to put off changing the sheets for another few days.

Shortly after that, I finally did have to change a diaper. Iggy chose to again refrain from participating, but I told him he'd have to do it the next time. "It's an important life skill that every adult should have," I lectured him. "What if you're stuck on a desert island with a baby and a case of diapers?" But as it turned out, she only needed to be changed the one time.

Overall, I think it went OK. I'm not so sure the baby was crazy about us, but we had fun and returned her to her mother reasonably unscathed. When Sara came to pick her up, I showed her the above photo as evidence that her baby didn't care for us too much, but Sara claimed that she makes that face at her all the time, too. I'm not sure if I believe it, though.

And then this week, the big excitement has been that our couch finally arrived from IKEA (it's the model pictured, but with a purple velvet slipcover). And it's actually pretty nice despite the fact that it's from IKEA, but it still has that IKEA smell which is making the whole apartment smell like particleboard. I'm hopeful it'll wear off soon.

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