17 Kisses.

17 Kisses. That’s how many kisses I got from Gianna this afternoon when I tried to put to down for a nap.

Usually, I’m lucky to get one kiss from her in a day–she has mastered the art of withholding kisses from her daddy. In fact, she Gianna Playingthinks its hilarious to whip her head sideways and play hard to get when I try to get one.

Today, things were different as she apparently learned a new use for kisses–I stupidly mentioned the words “Yo Gabba Gabba” (her favorite damn show) while I covered her with her Yo Gabba Gabba blanket. She had been lying down in her crib, ready for the nap, happy and content.


As soon as I said those fateful words, she sprang up and got to her feet as fast as she could. She tried a bit of crying to guilt me into slipping her out of the crib. This never works for her, but she still tried anyway. When I just stood there considering the situation, she leaned forward and stuck out her tongue in the beginnings of her baby kiss.

So I bent down and kissed her.

Right, I know. I shouldn’t have. But like a dummy, I did. Who’s going to turn down a baby kiss, especially from a munchkin who has mastered the art of withholding?

Apparently not me.

Then she kissed me again, laughed, and kissed me again.

I was truly so shocked that I just sort of stood there holding her, laughing. And she kept kissing me as she pointed at all the cool stuff around her room. She did her usual, and pointed at the Lord of the Rings poster that hangs on the back of her door. Instead of putting her back to cry (which is what she would have done), I indulged her and took her out into the living room. And she just kept kissing me–if I said “Did you just kiss me again?” she would do it again.

Over and over.Gianna Watching Clyde

So right now Gianna is crawling around the living room playing with her toys, when she should be taking a nap. As many of you know, she’s usually really good about naps and even walks herself into her room (she did this morning, in fact).

Boy, I hope she doesn’t think she can kiss her way out of situations she doesn’t like.

Next time that’s not going to work. I don’t know how I’ll handle it, but it’s not going to work.

What about you? What would you do? Tips? Tricks?


Video of the Day: Gianna Makes Me Laugh

Gianna's Tongue

Instead of a Picture of the Day, today I present to you a video of Gianna that just makes me laugh. I wish I had been able to capture her right before this, since she spent about twenty second caught between the couch and the chair and started crying. Instead of backing up, she always forges ahead and tries to force her way through. I got the camera up and running just as she managed to pry herself free.

From there, it was just silliness, since she can go from being angry and frustrated to completely happy in about 1.2 seconds. Then she decided she needed a nap.


I love this kid.

Gianna Loves to Take Naps

I have said it a million times in the last year, but we are extremely lucky parents (thus far).

Most of the time these last few months, as she becomes more alert and more independent, she is actually often excited to get into her crib and take a nap.

This probably won’t sound like something important to most non-parents, but it really has been nice, especially compared to the months when she refused to nap at all some days. On no-nap days, she gets so damn tired that everything makes her sad, upset, needy, whiny, fragile, you name it. Usually this kind of thing ruins your evening more than anything, but still, to put it bluntly, tired babies suck to be around.

But lately, Gianna has been excited to take naps, and even hurries into her bedroom to do so:


I tell you what. I sure hope this continues. Melissa says that since I took this video and posted it on here that she is never going to take a nap again. I sure as hell hope this isn’t the case.

*fingers crossed*

Uh Oh. Tantrums Already?

Gianna Baby

Ok, so kids become more and more independent as they get older, right?

I’m prepared for that (or at least I have been preparing for it), but now that Gianna is almost a year old–her first birthday is next Saturday)–I guess her time has come.

Throw Your Hands in the Air
Throw Your Hands in the Air Like You Just Don't Care!

It’s not that she is suddenly going through some new phase where expressing her anger or frustration is acceptable–it’s really not that. It’s just that as she becomes more independent, she is starting to assert herself more often, especially when she wants her mom (and can’t have her).

It’s not an issue at all when Melissa isn’t home, but can become a big deal when she’s close but just out of Gianna’s reach.

Yesterday morning, Melissa went on a cleaning rampage through our bathroom and didn’t want Gianna in there with her. Of course the kid fixated on being with mommy, and wanted nothing more than to hang out right next to her. In order to get things done, Melissa put Gianna in the living room with me and shut the door.

And . . . she threw a fit, complete with screaming, crying, and banging on the door like a caged chimpanzee.

I have to admit, that often throughout my 11-month stint of being a dad (wow, that still sounds so weird to me!), I haven’t really felt at a loss as to what to do. I have usually known how to handle most every baby-situation and I haven’t felt exasperated very often. The path has generally seemed clear.

But when faced with a screeching, furious baby, I had a bunch of options and I wasn’t sure which one to take. As usual, I jumped in and took charge of the situation. I got up off the couch and went over to her. When I picked her up, she got more angry and tried to push away from me. I tried a bit of nice-talk to calm her down, but that quickly went nowhere since she just screamed louder and tried to slip out of my hands.

At this point, here I was, holding her, thinking about my options and what effects they would have on her.

I knew I had some foolproof options that would silence her crying and calm her down: I could turn on Yo Gabba Gabba and numb her mind with tv, I could have dazzled her with pictures of herself (which would have really worked). I could have opened the door and stood there holding Gianna so she could watch her mom.

While I instantly knew that even though all these things would stop the current bout of crying, I also knew they would have done nothing to teach her how to calm down and deal with things she doesn’t like. If I started giving in to her tantrum now, she’d know that tantrums are the best way to get what you want–that’s the last thing I want or need. I refuse to agree that she should be indulged in throwing tantrums in any way.

That road just leads to more tantrums.

My solution thus far is to re-direct her attention to something immediate that requires us to interact. Tv is no good, since that’s

Baby Elmo Doll
Gianna's Baby Elmo Doll

just a crutch and is a convenient solution that will just help her become a mindless drone who you can’t pull away from tv (I see a lot of these tv drones these days). I also opted not to show her pictures of herself, although that would have worked very well and it would have required us to work together. It would have probably been just fine.

Instead I grabbed an Elmo doll and started playing with it. I kissed his face and tweaked his nose, loving him up. I had Elmo do the same to me, then when Gianna stopped crying and watched us, I had Elmo go over and give her a kiss too. Pretty soon, Gianna’s attention was diverted from mommy and into interacting with her buddy Elmo and with me. We played for about 15 minutes, switching to various toys. This pulled me off the laptop and away from what I was working on, but that’s good, since good parenting often requires us to give our kids attention when they need it. And once Melissa came back out of the bathroom, Gianna wanted to see her, but she wasn’t angry or frantic  to see her anymore.

My Elmo gambit worked! Luckily. It might not have, you know? It might not work next time, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Now, I could have ignored her and let her cry, hoping she would eventually just stop, although that never seems to work for other parents I see. I also could have babied her up and tried to soothe her into calmness–I sort of tried that at first, and just like whenever I do, it didn’t work. She usually just gets more mad that I’m trying to love her up when she’s angry. I think the problem with these approaches is that even if they work, they don’t deal with the problem. Especially the ignoring thing. Ignoring bad behavior from your kids (or your dog, for that matter) doesn’t teach them how to deal with situations they don’t like.

Oh Yeah!
Oh yeah! She's usually a happy kid.

So what do you all think? What would you have done? How do you handle this situation?

Give People a Break

Clyde the Great Dane at Elm Park

I don’t usually give people breaks, even if they deserve it.

No, I certainly do not. I tend to judge people very quickly and get caught up in getting things done, accomplishing goals, and making progress to the point that I hold everyone to the standards I set for myself (of course I don’t live up to my lofty standards all the time either, but that’s another topic).

I get fired up about things to the extent that I can be a bastard if I perceive that somebody isn’t holding up their end of the deal–I usually rip them a new one. I have a pretty well-deserved reputation for this, especially when it comes to MisCon (the science fiction convention I help run in Missoula).

When it comes to making the convention happen, I let myself become ruthless. If I think they’re not getting their work done, I might snap at people, hurt their feelings, etc.

I need to take some advice from myself: give people a break sometimes.

You know, sometimes, it’s good to give people a break, however small. You might be helping them out. I resolve to do so today at least once (if given the opportunity).

What about you? Do you give people breaks? Or are you the opposite? Do you let things slide too much?

Feeling Bad For Telling Baby “No.”

Gianna Sad Face

Last night I made a nice Jasmine Rice Pudding for dessert. Gianna loved it (recipe to follow).

After giving her about 15 or 20 bites, I figured she had eaten enough. I mean, this was just dessert and she’s only 11-months-old. She doesn’t need dessert at all, and she certainly doesn’t need too much. Well, she didn’t agree.  She pointed at the bowl and gave a soft grunt, which is her caveman-babyspeak for “gimme.”

When I didn’t give her any more and told her she had already eaten enough, she threw her hands in the air and screeched. Again, I told her no. Then she wrinkled up her nose, leaned down closer to the bowl, and sort of growled. Yep, Gianna growled–she lives her life among dogs, after all.

When I said “no” and didn’t move to give her any more, she snapped back up and sort of swiped both hands at my face (as if that would get her any more pudding, right?). I could see that she was on the edge of a sudden outburst, which is a new thing for her (she’s just starting to explore asserting herself).

At this point, I’d had enough, so I gave her a very firm “no,” and drew her away. She reached for the bowl with such a desperate expression that I immediately felt terrible. Still, I pulled her back, deepened my voice, and told her she had eaten enough. Her face crumpled up, turned red, and she started to cry. For a second I wondered if she would try to actually hit my face (she considered it, I think).

You know what? I felt just about as bad about it as she did. I didn’t want to deny her something that would make her feel good. And here I was being the Big Meany who for no obvious reason (to her) insisted on preventing her from getting more tasty rice and raisins (and sugar). I wanted her to have more, to feel good, to make happy sounds.

This was a first for me, really.

For a second, I considered giving her more since it would make her happy, but reason and good parenting won out and I instantly knew she was done for the night. She didn’t need more, and I wasn’t going to tolerate her micro-tantrum by giving in. She didn’t cry long (about a minute) since I diverted her attention, and pretty quickly, the world was good again.

The moral of the story: I had to tell Gianna “no” and let her feel bad so she’ll become a better kid. She needs to learn that tantrums get her nowhere. And if that requires me to feel bad for her, well, so be it. As a parent it’s my job to do what’s right for her development, whether I like it or not.

What about you? How do you handle tantrums? Did I screw up? Did I do the right thing? What do you think?

Jasmine Rice Pudding:

This is so easy you don’t even need a recipe, really.
1 cup Jasmine Rice (you could use whole grain or Minute Rice, but Jasmine becomes creamy when you cook it).
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Skim Milk (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2-1 cup Raisins
Optional: add a bit of half and half to thicken it. I did tonight, but I don’t think it needs it.
It’s simple: just cook the rice until it’s tender (about 15 minutes), then add the other ingredients and cook on low heat for a few minutes (until the mixture thickens). It makes about 4 servings.
My grandma used to make “raisins and rice” all the time. It was good, but the Jasmine Rice makes this a lot better. It’s creamier and smells good, so that’s all I use for this and stir fry, which I have been making a lot lately).


40 Years! In This Day and Age?

John and Cindy's Wedding Chapel

Today, my parents have been married for 40 years.

Hooray for them!

Boy they’re old! Well, they’re not really old yet, but they have been married a long damn time.

Mom and Dad on vacation in the 1980s
My parents, John and Cindy Barba, on vacation in Canada in the 1980s.

In a day and age where many people give up on each other, my parents have succeeded in creating a family who loves them, where everybody gets along. It’s pretty damn crazy that I can say that now, since this wasn’t always the case–my sister and I used to have explosive fights all the time. I mean real knock-down, drag-out fights. I came pretty close to wanting to kill her about when she was in high school (she wanted to do the same–we’re too much alike in many ways).

But these days, everybody gets along really well.

My mom:

My mom holding my brother Josh by Grandpa Bill's Bi-Plane
My mom holding my brother Josh by my Grandpa's Bi-Plane

She’s smart, kind, gentle, remembers almost everything, loyal, and she puts up with my grandma’s crap on a regular basis (which is really saying something–oh, the stories!).

She is an excellent mother and an even better mother-in-law. She has never been competitive with my wife Melissa, has never played any bullshit games with her, never done anything except welcome her into the family as a valuable member of the group. How rare is that?!?

And she’s also an excellent grandma. She takes care of Gianna Monday through Friday every week (free of charge), and is excited to do it. She is always disappointed when I decide to keep her with me at home (on days we’re not painting). There has never been any kind of issue about it, she never tries to tell us how to parent the baby, never second-guesses our decisions, nothing. She’s just excited to spend time with Gianna, which is a hell of a good quality in a grandma.

I also credit my mom with turning me onto fantasy stories when I was a kid by exposing me to Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the Hobbit, and other stories of magic and mystery. This has been a huge influence on my life.

Family Except Mom in Spokane
My mom took this picture of the rest of the family in Spokane decades ago.

And my dad:

He’s also gentle, loyal and kind. He’s a problem solver who does everything possible to fix things and works extremely hard to make sure everybody is happy. He’s a work-a-holic who can make/repair/build just about anything.


As an example of my dad’s ingenuity, talent, and skill, check out his 1969 El Camino Super Sport restoration project. He did every bit of work on the car from the ground up except he had the bedliner sprayed in:

[nggallery id=3]

So yep, my parents are great people, and they’re still married after 40 years. I managed to find this picture of the chapel where they got married:

John and Cindy's Wedding Chapel
My parents got married at this wedding chapel in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho in 1972.

Congratulations, guys!

Even though there are more divorces all the time, everybody knows people who have been happily married a long time. Please jump on here and share your own stories (or those of people you know).

CthulhuBob: From Arch-Nemesis to . . . Playmate?

Gianna Smiling

So a while back, I made a huge parenting mistake with Gianna.

She didn’t want my friend CthulhuBob to hold her. In fact, she wanted nothing to do with him. We were over at my parents’ house (my mom takes care of Gianna all day on weekdays, which is something I love since they’re 2 peas in a pod) one afternoon. Gianna hadn’t spent much time around Bob and decided that he was very scary. And no, it’s not because he goes by CthulhuBob. Or at least I don’t think that’s the case.

CthulhuBob Lovely and Justin Barba MisCon 25
CthuhuBob is sitting to my right, asleep.

She kept crying whenever he touched her, and I stupidly thought that if I gave every sign that Bob was ok, she should accept that and be fine with him too. So even though she cried, I had Bob hold her for about half an hour while she just got more angry and upset. I thought that to give up was to admit defeat and allow her to “win.”

Eventually, we took her outside, which always calms her down, and she calmed down and stopped crying.

As soon as we went back inside, she started crying again and wanted to come to me or my mom.

The whole damn thing was a huge mistake!

Ever since, Gianna starts crying every time she sees Bob. He terrifies her.

It’s almost funny funny how scared she is of him just from that one stupid experience. Of course it’s not funny at all, but in a crowd of 30 people, if she sees him, she instantly tries to hide her face and get the hell away from him. People laugh and jokingly ask what he did to her.

She wants nothing to do with him.

CthulhuBob Talking to Neil Gaiman at WFC 2011
Author Neil Gaiman wasn't scared to talk to CthulhuBob when we were at WFC 2011

At least this was the case until yesterday. He was over at our house with his daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Daniel-san (he’s not Asian nor does he look like Ralph Macchio, but we call him Daniel-san anyway), just hanging out in an effort to spend more time around her and see if she would finally decide on her own that he’s ok.

And she did!

CthulhuBob, Gretel, and Gianna
CthulhuBob, Gretel, and Gianna being friendly.

It started slowly at first, with her hanging out with Sarah (whom she likes) and sort of looking at Bob from across the room. Then after a while, she  waved at him. The waving grew fevered and she kept it up for a while. Then the miraculous happened: she walked over to him and started sharing her socks with him, moving them from one of his hands to the other. It was some sort of game only she knew the rules to, but she played with him for a good ten minutes.

It ended on a positive note between them, and we’ll see how it goes next time. So far so good, and she wasn’t scarred for life.

So have you done stupid parenting things like this? How did it work out?