Infant Intelligence: Jack’s Brush with Genius

September 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm , by 

Nine months.

A few weeks ago when we were visiting my family, Jack had access to different toys in my parents’ living room. I have no idea where they even came from, but there was a set of Mattel’s “Little People” there. He was instantly drawn to one who we call “Nerdy Gerdy,” choosing her over the farmer and the firefighter. (A quick Google Image search just taught me that her real name is Maggie.)

She has remained one of his favorite toys ever since. In fact, it’s a ritual that I place Nerdy Gerdy in his right hand when I load him up for the trip to and from day care; he keeps a tight grip on her the entire time.

As I strap him into his car seat and pull the belt over his right shoulder, he transfers Nerdy Gerdy to his left hand so I will have enough room to clear his right hand. Subtle, but pretty impressive; to me, at least.

Jack does the same thing with Nerdy Gerdy when my wife dresses him in the morning; his hand won’t fit through his shirt sleeve until he switches her to the other hand. It’s funny because he can be in the middle of crying and he will still do the switch for my wife or me.

I’ve pointed out before how naturally easy it is to believe that your own child is the most beautiful baby in the world. On the same token, I’ve learned that it’s just as easy to believe that your child is ahead of the curve when it comes to their level of intelligence.

Of course, I realize that the “Nerdy Gerdy switch” does not qualify my son for the status of baby genius; neither does his ability to make a tire squealing noise as he pushes his snail-on-wheels, though at nine months old, he has no idea that boys should make screeching tires noises when they sharply turn their toy car. And that’s also not to mention the fact that he already responds to “no.”

I get it. I’m noticing the highlights of his advancements, not the things he is “behind the curve” on. As far as his ability to speak, “doy-doy-doy-doy” (toy?) is the only recently added word to his already existing vocabulary of “mehm-mehm-mehm-mehm” (Mommy) and “dada-dada-dada-dada” (Daddy).

Is my kid a genius? No, but for the fact he can operate a TV remote better than I can, I have to give the bambino some credit.

Unexpected Bonus!

I know my dedicated readers are accustomed to me giving away books every so often, but today, for the first time, I will give away a free toy. But not just any ole toy that you’ve heard of before: “Brush with Genius” by Colorforms, a toy company that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this November.

When your child dips the Brush with Genius in paint and moves it along a piece of paper, it can make a variety of sounds based on how your child touches the brush and the recently painted paper. The sounds I heard included a squeaky mouse, a creaking door, and a soaring UFO.

At the 2011 Toy Fair, Time magazine ranked Brush with Genius as one of their 15 Smartest Toys for Young Geniuses. Yes, it’s that cool!

Here’s how you can be the one lucky one who gets one mailed straight to your house. Be the first person to leave a comment naming the very small town where we picked Jack’s first Christmas tree. Additionally, you must follow-up by emailing me (nickshell1983@hotmail.com) your name and mailing address. Hint: The city starts with an “s”. (There is a search box on the right side of the page.)

Congrats to Kristen in Colorado! You earned it. Thanks for reading The Dadabase so faithfully- your genius gift is on its way

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Being a Handsome Man Vs. Being a Hot Guy

And why it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway thanks to a little something called “charm”.

Recently I asked my facebook friends via my status update, this question:

Females, I need your input for something I’m writing: What is the difference between a guy who is “handsome” and a guy who is “hot, sexy, etc.”?

To summarize the similarities of the responses, with a man who is “hot” there is an attraction (mostly physical), whereas  with a man who is “handsome” is someone who simply is a good-looking guy, though there is not necessarily any kind of attraction there.  Of course the ironic thing about this can best be summed up by what my friend Holly Arnesen said:

“if i refer to a guy as handsome, it usually means that physically speaking he’s nicely put together, but doesn’t necessarily mean i’m attracted. hot and sexy usually has to do with more than what a guy looks like. like some women think intelligence is sexy so, they’ll go for a smart guy over one that they think is nicer to look at.  i once heard someone say, ‘men fall in love with women they are attracted to, and women are attracted to the men they fall in love with.’ i’m not a guy, but i’m pretty sure this tends to be way things go.”

On the right, Bronson Pinchot, who played "Balki" on Perfect Strangers.

What enticed me to walk up to my future wife on October 5, 2006 and talk to her the very first time I saw her from across a large crowded room was her appearance.  Though it wasn’t until four months later to the day, on our first date (I knew it was a date but she didn’t until it was over), that she actually thought of me in any kind of romantic way.  My physical looks were irrelevant to the equation up until the point I made it clear I was interested in her, given that I’d shared with her my personality and character prior to day that we crossed the line from being friends to dating.

Until we started dating, I was just another average-looking dude.  A forgettable face.  Perhaps the most memorable physical trait would have been my dark hair.  Based on the celebrities that people have told me I look like in the last couple of years (“Cory Matthews” from Boy Meets World, “Balki” from Perfect Strangers, “Ross” from Friends, as well as David Arquette and Paul Rudd), I evidently have the looks of a Jewish-American comedian, which all of those Nick Shell look-alikes are.  Men that are remembered not for their looks, but for their personalities and talent.  Are those men handsome?  Sure, why not.  It’s irrelevant either way.

Ben Savage, who played "Corey Matthews" on Boy Meets World.

Speaking of David Schwimmer, I don’t believe anyone could have played the part of Ross better.  But to be part of one of the most popular romantic American TV couples ever, he was a very ordinary looking guy.  Fans of Friends always think of Ross and Rachel fondly, though never once have I ever heard anyone comment good or bad on David Schwimmer’s looks.  But regarding Jennifer Aniston, it’s not that way at all. Her looks were so relevant she actually started a hairstyle craze in 1995 called “The Rachel”.

When my wife and I reminisce on when we first started dating, she always says, “You always had interesting stuff to say so I knew we’d never run out of things to talk about.”  It’s possible that’s what won her over.  My quirkiness.  Some people would call it my ability to “think some crazy crap up”.  Others more reverently refer to it as “thinking deeply”.   My lifelong habit of daydreaming during math and science class definitely paid off.  I charmed her.

So if a guy is simply average-looking, how can he improve his situation?  The “Makeover Week” on the TV show The Biggest Loser would tell us he would need to slim down, get his hair cut shorter, shave off his beard, and wear nicer clothes.  But I know my wife always prefers me to wear jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap, and she never notices or cares whether I have a beard or not.  There’s really no official way for a schlub or average Joe to gain “handsomeness” or “sexiness” since that’s up to the girl they’re trying to attract.

The more colorful and eye-catching cockatiel bird is on the right. The female is on the left.

And I think that’s why it’s a guy thing to not care as much about our appearance as females do.  Because unlike male birds (which are always more attractive and attention-grabbing than the females they attract), male humans know they can attract a woman who is out of their league looks-wise as long as they are funny enough, smart enough, rich enough, strong enough, sensitive enough, or whatever else it takes to charm their love interest.  From Doug Heffernan to Barney Rubble, charm certainly has its advantages.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People and Good Things Happen to Bad People?

Slight of hand and twist of fate.

One of the most frustrating questions for people who are curious, yet skeptical, about Christianity is the fact that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  I can’t claim to have the answer to that impossible question, but I can at least take a stab at it. 

Throughout the history of humanization, “man” has struggled to bring glory to himself- if it means conquering and killing, abusing others, taking them as slaves, and any other hellish action that can be filed under the category of “Greed”.  Man has become rich, by taking from others.  Man has become rich, and refused to share with others.  But in the end, it works for man.  Because he gets what he ultimately wants- glory. 

Ultimately, being rich and famous isn’t about knowing that you’ll always have all your needs and wants fulfilled.  It’s knowing that you’re above others, in a carnal sense.  That you are special.  That you are envied.  That others want what you have.  That’s the glory of man. 

What a waste.

I equate the glory of man with bringing hell to Earth.  Literally raising hell.  Instantly, I can think of three Biblical examples when man tried to bring glory to himself, he ultimately was cursed by God.

Adam eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, after Satan telling Adam that he could become like God.  Cursed.  The future of man would suffer death, evil, and pain.

Moses using his staff to draw water from the rock for all the people to drink.  Then instead of saying this miracle was by the grace of God, Moses himself took the credit.  Cursed.  He didn’t get to live in the Promised Land.

King David taking a military census with the intention of realizing how powerful and successful he was.  Cursed.  God brought a plague and hundreds and hundreds of people were killed.

In all three instances, God wanted the glory, but man took it from God.

Why do good things happen to bad people? God is blessing them (with power, wisdom, intelligence, money, health, etc.) and they are taking the glory for themselves.  By taking the glory, they are refusing God’s true blessing.  And that may mean that  instead of blessing the people that the bad person influences, the bad person now brings on an earthly curse to them instead.  Of course, in the end, the man who refused to give God the glory will be the one who is cursed in the worst way.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Because in the end, if that person is willing to glorify God through it, the person will be blessed.  I equate glorifying God with bringing down heaven to Earth. 

God wants glory.  And so does man.  Good things happen when God gets it.  Bad things happen when man gets it.  But right now, God is allowing man to do what he likes.  Yes, God may choose to intervene.  But often He does not.  Because it’s possible that through a bad person’s bad actions, God can be glorified through an affected good person’s good actions- those actions include bringing glory to God through it, however they can find a way.

This concept even sheds light on why “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” is so important that it’s one of the Ten Commandments.  We can chose to use God’s name to sound cool (“Oh my God!”, “Jesus!”, “Lordy, Lordy, Tammy’s forty!” etc.) or we can chose to use God’s name to actually reference Him in a purposeful, postive way (“The only reason the Nashville flood didn’t get my house is because God spared me”). 

Because even everyday good people like us still run the risk of taking glory from God.  In our everyday, ordinary events.  I try to keep that in mind at all times.  For me right now, it’s about my wife and I trying to sell our house. 

We work hard to keep our ads active on Craig’s List twice a day.  And we keep a good looking “for sale” sign out front with a plastic sleeve containing colorful, creative flyers.  We keep our house in immaculate condition.  Plus, we know for a fact that our asking price is thousands less than everyone else in our neighborhood. 

Yet it’s all the other houses that are selling.  All around us.  Because they’re going through realtors and we’re not. 

Everyday, throughout the day, together and while we’re apart, my wife and I pray not only for the right person to find our house, but also that God will be glorified through it.  Because as opposed to us saying, “WE sold OUR house!” we can say, “Thank God!  He brought us the right person and they bought our house!”

But even if He doesn’t bring someone to buy our house, if He doesn’t bless our solid efforts to sell our house without a realtor, and we have to throw in the towel and pay thousands to a realtor, God will still be glorified through it. 

Our lives ultimately are about one of two things- raising hell (by taking the glory) or bringing heaven to Earth (by giving it to God).