Monday, December 21, 2009

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Ah yes, the first real, meaningful snow of the season. Like other rites of seasonal passage, like pitchers and catchers reporting, or the first BBQ, or the first day of school, it is something to be cherished – even though the other three don’t cause me to wake up the next morning with a sore back (well, depends what the BBQ is like).

Leanne and I have been waiting with baited breath to take Olive out in the snow for the first time. We love snow. Leanne has a plan to have Olive on skis before she can walk – how else will she make it to the Olympics? We had the snowsuit all ready. The hat. The warm footed pajamas. The camera. All we needed was the snow. Well, New England delivered yesterday with a good foot of the fluffy stuff and so we were able to take her out and let her experience something she will either grow to love or hate over the years.

Like most things parents are excited to introduce to their baby (shopping for a Christmas tree being the most recent), Olive really didn’t care. She cracked a smirk when daddy threw a shovel full up in the air and watched the flakes fly around. But mostly, she was wondering why she was in a snowsuit that was way too big and why mommy and daddy were so excited about this cold white stuff. She sat motionless, almost in protest: “Okay, this is silly, it is cold outside. I’m not going to be your dancing monkey so snap some pictures and get me back inside.” As you can see from the pictures, the youthful joy and enthusiasm is practically bursting out of the little fluffball like fireworks of pure excitement.



And yes, I moved her arms and legs in an attempt to make a snowangel…

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We've Got a Screamer

Olive is loud. Our day care provider tells us that when the older kids are trying to go down for naps, Olive likes to squeal and scream, waking or keeping up the room of tired toddlers. Of course, she is smiling all the time. Of course, we already know that she likes screaming and yelling when she is happy. Others, particularly sweet four-month-old little girls still getting used to the world, do not know this.

Yesterday, my mother was watching Olive and her younger cousin, Lucy (who is getting cuter and cuter by the day. She smiled at me yesterday and I remembered what a thrill it was to see Olive cracking those virgin smiles for the first time). Well, apparently the two of them were playing quite nicely until Olive decided to say hello to Lucy in a way only Olive can.

As I heard it told, Olive was sitting facing Lucy and both were playing quite nicely on their own. Two cousins laying the foundation for a good long relationship. Olive then stops playing, stares at Lucy and lets out a quick, loud, high-pitch AH! Olive does this a lot. Probably because we do it right back at her when she does it. We like to get into contests. Admittedly, not the best parenting to encourage squealing like this, I know. I should probably be encouraging soft baby talk and reciting Shakespeare and having her listen to Dave Brubeck and stuff. But it is fun, and we are rookies, so deal with it.

Well, Lucy apparently wasn’t expecting this sound. For comparison, it sounds a little like the noise someone would make if they were jumping out from behind something and trying to scare you – except 37 octaves higher. Lucy then startled, shook like a leaf and started crying from – apparently – sheer terror. It took my mother a good five minutes to calm her down and dry her tears.

I can’t wait to tell this story at Lucy’s wedding, when, Lucy will be a beautiful blushing bride and my daughter, judging by her early screaming ability, is probably going to be a punk rock musician or a successful conservative AM radio talk show host.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We Have Movement

Things are happening. I can see them happening. Slowly. When Olive is sitting down she will stare at an object half-way across the room and then, like a swimmer diving into a pool, lunge towards it with both hands. Her legs push up and for a couple beats she holds herself up, arms pushing her away from the floor, one leg extended back, one leg folded in front of her, straining for stability. Eventually she falls flat onto her stomach and stays there, stationary, kicking her feet and desperately staring at the ball or toy or remote control or parent that she is trying to get to across the room.

Olive wants to move. She wants to move and she is slowly figuring it out. She can hold herself up pretty well now if you put her hands on a table or the seat of a chair -- causing me to rush to lower the crib mattress last weekend. Instead of sitting and playing, now she wants to stand and play. She still hasn’t figured out how to move her feet to transport herself to an object out of reach, though, or really to take a more stable stance. Most times she just stands and plays until she leans back too far and falls on her bum, or until her slowly sliding feet get far enough apart that she is about to perform a baby split. This ends in screaming.

But sometime last night she did something she has never done before. We put her down to sleep on her back, with her head facing the left end of the crib. This morning, when she woke up, she was on her stomach, facing the right side of her crib. I’m not sure I want to know the process involved in this baby twist and turn, but it is at once exciting and a little frightening.

She is moving! Oh my god, she is moving?

Finding her like that this morning was a little bit like that scene in a scary movie where someone walks into their kitchen and the poltergeist has opened all the cabinet doors in the kitchen. How did they move by themselves!? Things are happening. Soon, I’m going to have a walking, running, stair climbing toddler.

At least I think so. I don’t think poltergeists move babies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Time is Here...

Ah, baby’s first Christmas. So much to do. So many traditions to lay the foundation on. This year is Olive’s first Christmas tree (as if her view of the world isn’t confusing enough as an 8-month-old, now we put a tree in our dining room and fill it with a bunch of small, mildly frightening representations of talking piles of snow, jolly elves, and white women with wings – Snowmen, Santa and angels, keep up with me now). This year is going to be her first time hearing Christmas carols; songs that she will hear thousands of times for the rest of her life. It is her first time that she has seen things like stockings and reindeer and fruit cake. We really need to make sure we do this right.

Unfortunately, after taking her to get our Christmas tree and snapping this picture where she seems to be thinking “I can’t believe my mom is embarrassing me already”;



after sitting down at our piano and singing Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus only to have her be far more interested in trying to jump off the piano bench; after trying to show her the majesty of our fully decorated Christmas tree only to realize that I just put about 100 chocking hazards within arms reach of my desperate to crawl daughter; after all this did I realize that she isn’t going to remember any of this.

Don’t get me wrong, it has been a lot of fun going through the Christmas motions. Leanne couldn’t be happier bringing Olive along to pick out a tree. Leanne is also almost Grinch-like in her disdain for Christmas music, but will spend an hour trying to get Olive to dance to Jingle Bell Rock. Picking out Christmas dresses has been fun. Showing Olive off at holiday parties is too, even though I know I’m probably upping her chances of getting the swine flu exponentially every time she gets passed around a room full of holiday revelers.

But it was a few weeks ago, when I was doing some Christmas shopping, that I had a frightening realization: Olive won’t really know what to do with her presents. She won’t fall asleep on Christmas Eve with drowsy anxiousness, sugar plum fairies dancing in her head. She’ll fall asleep calmly on her mom’s shoulder, with visions of Similac and bananas. She won’t go racing down the stairs looking for all the presents that Santa brought. She will wake up babbling or screaming, beckoning me to come find the present she left for me in her diaper. And she won’t go tearing into presents, sending paper and bows flying. She will probably be sitting on the ground hoping that someone lets one of those shiny things get close enough to her that she can snag it and see what it tastes like. Presents and gifts and Santa don’t mean anything to her. But they mean something to us! This is our chance to get her presents! We WANT to spoil our daughter and buy her cool stuff! This is my right as a dad.

SOOOOO….

Since buying presents, putting them away for three weeks, wrapping them, and then opening them up yourself at a later date seems silly, Leanne and I came up with a plan. I love our plan. I’m sure many many new parents have thought of it before, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

Leanne and I are both going to buy a couple presents for Olive. But I’m keeping my purchases a secret from Leanne, and visa versa. I will wrap my presents that I bought for Olive and Leanne will get to open them. And visa versa. It gives us the thrill of buying for Olive and feeling like we are surprising someone. And it gives us both a couple more surprises on Christmas morning.

Everyone is happy. I’ll be sure to let you know how the presents turned out. Needless to say, I did my best to avoid Babies ‘R’ Us this year, and somehow succeeded. Though it was tough when I came home from a local baby store and realized that I probably could have bought the same toy at Low-Standards ‘R’ Us for about half as much. But hey, it is Christmas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Open Letter to Babies "R" Us

Dear Babies “R” Us:

First, let’s start off with the positive.

You are close to my house. You have ample parking. You have provided me with food for my child and with the products that help me transport my child safely in the car, and sleep warm at night. You stock more organic products than I first expected. You sell the Nintendo Wii, which undoubtedly has allowed thousands of men to somehow slip that onto a baby registry. For all of these things, I thank you.

But we really need to have a talk.



First, let’s cover the products you sell. How can there possibly be a need for an entire wall of bibs and three aisles of strollers? How am I supposed to tell the difference between the Triumph DLX, Triumph LX, Triumph Advance, Symphony, Symphony 65, Tribute, Titan, and Titan Elite car seats (and those are just the choices from one brand). Why is it that you stock roughly 19,659,308 toys that all do the same thing – play muzac versions of Bach, flash, vibrate, rattle, and prop up the Chinese economy, all while offering six textures, 8 colors, and creepy pictures of cartoon jungle animals – but only 12 books? Why is it that every doctor and nurse and child-rearing expert tells new parents not to put anything in their a babies crib yet all of your display cribs are decorated with enough bumpers, blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and toys to smother a linebacker? I’m sure you would respond by saying, “Hey, we are just a merchant; we aren’t here to tell people how to raise their child.” Well, you kinda are. You tell people how to safely install car seats, you don’t sell bottles with BPA in them, you even have “Helpful Hints and Safety Tips" on your website, so why ignore the medical advice on SIDS? OK, so you sell bumpers and sleep positioners and the like, right. I’m sure that is because a lot of parents still want them. You are just meeting consumer demand – more capitalist power to you. But do you really need to put it on your “must-have” list for a registry?

Now let’s talk about your customer service. I have always been impressed with Babies “R” Us and your ability to hire and train the most apathetic of employees. You certainly have a talent there. Very little work above the minimal seems to be done. Help you find a price? Sure, just wait a second. Help with a mattress? Sorry, I specialize in bath tubs.

The most disturbing the about a store full of people that apparently “R” all about babies is that none of them really seem to like children. I can’t count the number of times I have been in your store, and looking back, I also can’t remember seeing an employee ever acknowledge the existence of a child. Other stores that focus on a niche usually hire people who like that demographic. Every time I went in to Petsmart to buy cat food someone would ask me about my cats. How old they were, if they were brother and sister, how long we had them. They would pat dogs when they came in and they would talk to you about their pet iguana. They keep doggie treats at the counter for Pete’s sake. It seemed like the employees of PETsmart actually liked PETS. You wouldn’t hire someone to work at an auto parts store if they hated cars, so why hire people at Babies “R” Us that seem allergic to toddlers? Sure, maybe working at Babies”R”Us makes you a little numb to kids. Maybe it even makes you really sick of them. But you do work at a place with “Babies” in the name. Shouldn’t you at least be able to tolerate mini-human beings?

Would it kill you to give my daughter a little wave when I ask where I can find the Baby Einstein videos? How about asking how old she is while walking me over to the land of gliders? When my wife and I were in your store making up our registry (you know, that thing that encourages our friends and family to spend thousands of dollars at your store and not other stores) not once did someone ask my wife “Hey, how are you feeling?” or “Is this your first?” or “Are you going to find out if it is a girl or a boy?”

That kind of stuff can go a long way.

Right now your customer service is terrible, and just ok customer service isn’t going to cut it. Really, your employees need to be better at customer service than everywhere else. Why? Because your customer base is full of wackos like me. Parents tend to be in a hurried state of distraction/frustration/ready to bite someone’s head off if they don’t find that package of flash cards and diaper cream before little Madison needs to be fed again. We probably aren’t the easiest customer base to work with. We usually have a screaming infant/toddler hanging from us, or maybe our breasts are engorged, or maybe we were dragged out of the house by our wife to pick up nipple shields and we realized that the game just started but we can’t find our wife and child in the store because we are stuck in the changing table section and they are trying to find someone to help them figure out which is the best sippy cup to buy out of the 3000 you offer. So that means when your computer goes down at the checkout, like what happened at our last visit, that you shouldn’t stare at it and hope it comes back to life. Or when, also on our last visit, a coupon doesn’t scan right the first time, second time, third, fourth and fifth time you try, please, in the name of all that is good and holy, do not try and scan it a sixth time. Just go get someone to take the F’n dollar off of my bill.

I really shouldn’t forget to tell you about when we made our first attempt to set up a registry and we made the mistake of coming in 45 minutes before closing. We were told that we couldn’t get a scanner because they require them all back to the front 15 minutes before closing so they can get ready to close. “We want to go home too, you know,” the employee scowled. Really, I wasn’t trying to hold her up, I was just trying to spend lots of money at your store. After ten minutes of cajoling and letting her know that we didn’t want to keep her at the store any longer than she was contractually obligated, she relented and gave us the scanner. She then spent the next half hour making announcements on the loudspeaker: We are closing in 30 minutes, please return all scanners. We are closing in 20 minutes, please return all scanners. We are closing in 15 minutes…you get the idea.

So, Babies “R” Us, you seem to have cornered the market. As much as I despise your store and all it stands for, I was there this weekend, spending money. Congratulations. But there is nothing pleasant about shopping at your store – do you really want to be the place that no one CHOOSES to go but where they HAVE to go? Maybe you are trying to prepare expectant mother for child birth by putting them through this trial by plastic. Maybe forcing us to deal with unhelpful, unfriendly, and unresponsive employees is your way of thickening my skin so I can deal with a teenager someday.

Really, it wouldn’t take much to turn this around. You have so much potential, so much to offer. Just look at how Wal-Mart and McDonalds have been able to upgrade their image. People want to buy your products, we shouldn’t walk out the door pledging never to go back.

So take the first step, Babies “R” Us. If you really believe in that joke of an "Oath of Office" that says you "proclaim your allegience to kids everywhere and champion their right to a childhood filled with magic" then get your heads out of your behind. Try listening to your customers, take some extra time to help a few out, and maybe, just maybe, say hi to the kids.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dropsy Game

Olive has recently learned that dropping things is fun. Not sure why this is fun. I get angry when I drop things. Of course, I don't have someone who will follow me around and pick up everything that I drop. When she really gets going she will sit in her high chair or the chair we have attached to our kitchen table and drop things over the side. Then wait for mommy or daddy to pick them up. She then immediately drops them again. The video below will give you an idea. video

Friday, November 20, 2009

My New Mantra


I said in my last post that one of my irrational fears was Olive missing developmental goals. Really, Leanne and I have done a pretty good job of cutting that one of at the pass when we feel it coming on. It is a little mantra that I have started to repeat to myself and have shared with other parents.

Anytime we think Olive is having trouble doing something or we start getting worried that she isn’t doing something when she should, we just tell ourselves, that “Well, she isn’t going to be an 18-year-old that – fill in the blank”.

For example, Olive shows absolutely no desire to crawl right now and every once and a while we start wondering if this is going to slow down her being able to walk, ask ourselves if we should put her on her tummy more, and in general, we start worrying about inconsequential stuff since Olive has been developing her gross motor skills just fine. So we say, “It’s okay. Olive won’t be an 18-year-old that just sits motionless on the floor.” It works! You immediately feel better. We have used it for everything. When it seemed like Olive was teething for weeks without any sign of a tooth we would say “Well, she isn’t going to be a toothless 18-year-old.”

You can also use it to help prepare you for some bad times too. A friend of mine would probably, referring to one of my other irrational fears, recommend that I tell myself that Olive will not be an 18-year-old who has never had diarrhea. When we heard that she made another kid cry at day care by taking his toy I said to myself, well, she wasn’t going to be an 18-year-old that never made another kid angry.

As parents, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the perfect job and raise the perfect child who develops right along with the books and the charts. Reality doesn’t play itself out like that. We, as first time parents, are a portrait of naiveté. We think we know everything but we know very little. And our kids know even less, the certainly don't know what timeline they are supposed ot be following. They just do what they want, what feels good, and what comes naturally along the line. A lot of times, we are just a long for the ride. Somehow, everyone comes out okay.

Olive rolled over really quickly. But now she hates being on her tummy. Some kids will sleep through the night before others. Some will tolerate food better. Some will potty train and walk and talk later or earlier than others. But so far we have a healthy happy child, and there is no reason to believe that these things won’t come in time with good parenting. Mistakes allowed.

After all, Olive probably won’t be a toothless, non-vocal, bald, 18-year-old who can’t walk and poops her pants.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Irrational Fears of a New Dad

I like to think of myself as a laid back Dad. You know, the kind that doesn’t rush to grab my daughter after every little wimper; the kind that takes getting poop on his hand in stride; the kind that isn’t afraid to let her play in the leaves even though leaves are “dirty”. I am also apparently cool enough to let my daughter hang out with what looks like, from this picture, to be a dingo. Luckily, pirates don't eat strawberries.



But being a dad can make you think strange things. It can make you afraid of any item the size of a Hershey Kiss (including Hershey Kisses) because they are choking hazards. Over the last seven-plus months I have developed into an all-scared, all-the-time kind of person. I might hide it well, but I have become more neurotic than Larry David. And so, to give you some idea of what bother a father of a seven month old, here is my list of completely irrational fears:

1. Other Kids – They carry germs, for one. They also do things like hit and grab. This irrational fear is particularly troublesome since Olive spends three days a week surrounded by other kids in day care.
2. Crooked Teeth – They are starting to come in. So far they are straight, and they aren’t permanent anyway. But each one is just another role of the dice. I just don’t want to have to nickname her snaggletooth.
3. Sugar – While I feel bad trying to feed Olive the plain whole-milk yogurt, I’m pretty sure giving her the kind with fruit and added sugar will cause her to become diabetic at age 1.
4. Non-Organic Food – The baby food section of the grocery store puts the choice right there in front of you: Organic Carrots or Poison Carrots.
5. Mountain Lions – Okay, I admit, I’ve been scared of those for a while. But now that I have a baby, I’m even more scared. At least I don’t live in Phoenix.
6. H1N1 – Maybe this fear isn’t exactly irrational – I heard today that 7% of all hospital visits in Massachusetts were flu related last month. The normal amount at the peak of a normal flu season is 1%. So you can be sure that every time Olive sniffles she is going to be getting a thermometer in her butt.
7. Growing up to be a stripper – As a wise man once said, if I can’t keep her off the pole, I have failed as a father.
8. Getting Too Cold/Hot – I have no idea how to dress my child. It will be 60 degrees outside and I’ll have her in three onesies, a pair of pants, a jacket, mittens, a hat, and a blanket. But the next day it will be 30 and I’ll take her outside naked. I am really looking forward to the development of speech when she is finally able to say – “I’m cold.”
9. Missing a Developmental Milestone – Child rearing books will have these lists telling you what you baby should be doing at each month of development. If Olive somehow falls behind I immediately start training her. "Olive! You should be sitting up by now! No, more sleeping on your back…you will sleep in a chair until you learn to sit up! All the other sitting up kids will make fun of you!"
10. TV – Okay, we have the TV on a lot in our house. For a while we wrote off Olive’s fascination as no big deal, she just likes things with bright colors. Now I’m convinced that her first words will be “Turn off ESPN!”
11. Diarrhea – Olive has never had it. And I am going to do everything in my power to prevent it. I have seen normal baby poop, and I really don’t think my brain has the capacity to understand what baby diarrhea must look like. It must be the worst thing ever. Right now I just can’t imagine it. It is like asking me to imagine having a billion dollars, or telling me about the “nice” parts of New Jersey.
12. Car Accidents – I’m THIS close to getting a Baby on Board sign. Or a tank.
13. Superstitions – Maybe I should just skip this number.
14. Doing Something Wrong – Am I not reading to her enough? Is she the only kid in the world whose parents listen to NPR while they feed her? Will she start to salivate if she hears Carl Kasell’s voice 10 years from now? When am I supposed to switch car seats? Is she napping enough? Maybe she is sleep deprived? Why don’t I see other parents letting their kids play with knives?
15. Allergies – She is trying lots of new foods now, and as far as I can tell is allergic to none of them. But after each bite of a new fruit or vegetable I wait a second to see if she turns blue like Violet from Willy Wonka. “Olive! Your turning Olive, Olive!”
16. Tripping While Holding Her – I have been walking for about 29 years…I’m pretty good at it. But There are time I definitely heel-toe it when she is in my arms.

Okay, that’s what I can think of right now, but trust me, there are a lot more. Parents? What did I miss? Let me know what other irrational fears haunt your dreams now that you have a child.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weight Gain and The Fever

So it is time for me to start catching up on writing about my life. I haven’t been writing because, well, life is happening.

Olive keeps growing. We know this because she has added a second chin to her repertoire and because she has been to the doctor three times in as many months. The first was a regular appointment and she weighed in at a whopping 14 lbs 14 oz. This moved her up to around the 25th percentile. Those of you that know Olive or have read this blog before remember that she was at one point the Lindsey Lohan of babies, staking out her spot in the 5th percentile of weight. Yet, like a little infant Kirstie Alley, she continues to grow. A month later, Olive weighed in at 16 lbs 3 oz. Whoah. That put her into the 35 percentile. She was beginning to look like a normal baby!

Unfortunately, the reason that she was in the doctor’s office and getting a little weigh-in was that she developed the first fever of her young life. Leanne and I knew something was going on and after one of the worst nights of sleep in the past seven months, we decided that she was indeed sick and took her temp – 101. After immediately WebMD diagnosing my daughter with everything from H1N1 to polio, we decided that the best thing to do would be to give her some children’s Tylenol, put her to bed, and see if the fever changes. Next morning – 102. Okay, now I was sure she had polio.

Later that morning we found ourselves at the doctor. If you haven’t been in a doctor’s waiting room, especially a pediatrician’s waiting room, in the Swine Flu era, I can only describe it as a cross between a MASH unit and the opening scenes of a zombie movie where everyone is starting to become infected. Kids who are way too old to be cradled by their parents are being cradled by their parents. Every face the complexion of Robert Pattison in Twilight. Nurses walking around with masks on their face. Purel everywhere. Just a pathetic and sad scene. Luckily, Olive did not have H1N1 and was diagnosed with a common cold.

Sure enough, a day later the fever was gone, but the stuffy nose remained. Nothing is more pathetic than an infant with a cold. Their little mouths hacking out a mini-cough. Snot running down their lips because they haven’t figured out how to wipe or blow their nose. Sometimes, usually after a couple minutes of crying in the crib, you get the trifecta of facial fluids. Little cheeks and chin soaked with snot, tears, and drool.

Unfortunately for me, every time Olive gets sick, I seem to get stricken as well. And this last one hit me hard. Leanne, however, always comes out clean, which leads me to believe she is the carrier, or part of an alien race that is immune to the rhinovirus.

But there is lots to write about and lots that has happened in about the last month or so. Here is a little preview about what you can expect to see in upcoming episodes:
• Halloween! Little babies in ridiculous costumes!
• Teeth! Olive has two!
• The irrational fears of a new dad – H1N1, diaper rash, mountain lions, oh my!
• My new mantra: Olive will not be an 18 year old that…

Friday, October 23, 2009

Are you not entertained!?

One of the great recent turning points with Olive is the giggling. Babies are cute no matter what they are doing. But for a little while they just kind of stare. Then they smile at you and it rips your heart out and squishes it. Then after a little while they start making little noises when they get excited, little squeals that, if you are in another room, can sound exactly like the start of a cry. But now you get giggles. And it is awesome.

The issue is that no you know when baby is having a good time and when baby is not having a good time. And they don’t mind telling you. This means that you must be an entertainer, or at least a master of ceremonies, for your little baby patron. You don’t always need to be right in front of her, playing the court jester. But since she can’t move yet, you either need to move her to different spots, walk her around, or have a pitching rotation of about five different toys for her to play with. Reading a few books takes up some time, playing peek-a-boo does too. But you need to have a lot of arrows in your quiver. If you can keep her at one activity in one spot for 15-20 minutes, you win.

The end of the day is usually the toughest because she has already grown tired with some different activities; she needs new stuff. We have our nighttime routine pretty well down now. Olive gets picked up at daycare. We play with her for a while – which basically consists of sitting in front of her and handing her things to put in her mouth. To help development along we identify the things.

-Are you putting that rattle in your mouth?
-Does that slipper taste good?
-Ooooh, a remote control!

Then we usually walk around while Leanne or I make dinner. At this point she is probably starting to get hungry. So right as we start to eat, we have to work pretty hard to distract her from boredom AND hunger. If boredom creeps in, Olive realizes that she should be eating too.

After we shovel food in our mouths like it was our first day home from fat camp and pour a glass of wine down our throats we get Olive set up for dinner. Unfortunately, dinner requires you to have the baby motionless. So for a while she eats like a Viking. Chomping down unidentifiable, smooth, food-like substances. Then, she starts to get bored, and she finds other, more interesting ways to keep herself occupied. Last night she realized that she could reach the tray of the highchair with her mouth. So if I took too long to get more food on the spoon after a bite, she would snap down at the waist and start gnawing. (Still trying to figure out why babies do this. I spend 9 hours a day in front of a desk, never had I wondered what it tastes like). Then she saw a washcloth in my hand and decided that she wanted to play with that. This is when dinner time becomes much less efficient.

The next half hour or so usually goes pretty well. Bath time and getting her changed usually keeps her occupied. Then comes more playing, maybe some book “reading”, a final boob or bottle, and off to bed.

We have all the infant entertainment technology. We have the Exer-saucer (which one friend calls the Command Center and another calls the Circle of Neglect), we have the books, and the rattles, and she still likes chewing on measuring spoons. We have started to get some cause-and-effect toys. You know, the ones where you hit a button and something pops up or if you pull somewhere then music plays. But all those only buy you a limited amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, it is a blast playing with Olive. But you do get a little tired of identifying every item and asking questions that you know the answer too and that you don’t get responses for. It is a constant battle to entertain, and you have to mix it up. But every once and a while you stumble upon something that really gets her going.

Last night Leanne was out for a girl’s night to see a movie. I was an army of one in the boredom war. Olive had eaten and taken her bath and was starting to get grumpy but I didn’t want to put her to bed quite yet so I decided to change the scenery. I put her on her back on a bed upstairs. On a whim I rolled her over. From her back to her stomach and back onto her back. Like what you do when you roll down a grassy hill.

Then she looked up to me, smiled, and then cackled.

I mean laughed like a teenager laughs at fart jokes. Like a democrat laughs at Sarah Palin bumper stickers. So I rolled her over again. More laughing. You could almost her future self saying, “Again! Again, daddy!” We repeated this pattern for about 20 minutes. I rolled her over and rolled her back. She cracked up. I mixed up the routine. I rolled her from her back to her stomach and left her there. She paused on her tummy and then finished rolling by herself and laughed even harder.

It was great. Eventually I think she just started getting dizzy and the stomach full of oatmeal and bananas was telling her to stop rolling on the bed. So the laughter slowed down and I eventually calmed her down, fed her and put her to bed. But last night was a good night. Not only did I get a smile. Not only did I fend off the boredom. I kicked boredom’s ass. I had her laughing. I had her laughing so hard that she was out of breath when we stopped playing. But today is a new day. I may have won the battle, but the war continues.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sleeping Ugly

The sleep gods are angry at my wife and I. You see, Olive was born a good sleeper. I think my first entry in the blog was about how much sleep my wife and I got and how we felt like we didn’t know what it felt like to have an actual baby. Alas, the sleep gods did not like such hubris, and have decided that we must know what it feels like to be so tired that you forget your way to work the next morning.

Somewhere between being a perfect sleeper and becoming a screaming, crying, wake-up machine, Olive decided that she wanted to wake up in the middle of the night for a snack. No big deal. Especially for me since I wasn’t the one feeding her. She had beeen a perfect sleeper for months, we can throw her a nipple every now and then. She'd have a little snack and go right back to bed. Well, then she decided that she would get up in the middle of the night, and then get up again at 4:00 AM and then not go back to bed. That did affect me. Then she had some nights when she just didn’t want to sleep at all. She really thought that 3:45 was a perfect time to cmile and play with daddy.

Of course, we are not without fault in this matter. Along the way we probably made some strategic mistakes.

1. If she woke up we either fed her, bounced her in our arms while walking back and forth, or we did both. We did this until she fell asleep.
2. If she woke up when we put her down, we immediately scooped her back up and kept walking and bouncing.
3. We flew to Chicago and stuck her in a strange hotel room in a strange crib, the same weekend she came down with a case of the sniffles.
4. If she woke up early in the morning, we either brought her to bed and let her sleep on our chests until morning, or we gave in and brought her downstairs and played with her cause she is so damn cute.

Most of these things were really designed to get us some sleep. We walked her and bounced her because she fell asleep right away, and if we did it for long enough, she would stay asleep when we put her down. Feeding her was always a sure-fire solution to get her to calm down. Sometimes when she wouldn’t let you put her down on her back, she would fall asleep on your chest. SOOOOOO…why would we stop doing any of these things. She fell asleep. We fell asleep.

Well, the problem is that over time, every time she woke up she wanted mommy and daddy to come in a hold her. And she refused to be put down. She knew that if she screamed, we would pick her up and keep walking. So why wouldn’t she scream? This came to a head, conveniently, the night before Leanne and I ran the Chicago Marathon. Olive didn’t know or care that we had to be up at 5:30 AM to run 26.2 miles. She just cared that her nose was stuffed and that she didn’t want to sleep in the strange crib. So we walked her. And we bounced her. And Leanne kept feeding her. It was the same the next night…except we didn’t walk her as much because neither of us was walking very well.

So recently we have been trying some new techniques. We try to put her to bed or down for naps when she is awake. Inevitably, she screams her head off. But we do our best to let her cry for five minutes. (And here is a little tip for non-parents. Never, ever, ever, ever, in a million years, even dream of thinking about possibly ever telling a parent to let their child “cry it out.” It isn’t that it is bad advice. It is probably good advice. It is just that listening to your child lay alone in an empty dark room, screaming until tears run down her cheeks, is not exactly as easy as it sounds. Yes, it gets easier, but only because eventually they don’t cry as long. Non-parents tend to make it sound easy. Sometimes telling a new parent to let their baby cry it out is like a skinny person telling a fat person to not eat so much.) After five minutes of screaming we go inside and we tell her it is going to be okay, and we rub her chest or her forehead. She usually calms down. Then we leave again, pledging to return in 10 minutes if she is still crying. This technique, as corny as it sounds, has started to work. Olive usually falls asleep within five minutes now. If she wakes up, we tend to let her cry for a couple minutes before going in, and a few times she has just fallen back to sleep on her own. For about 5 days we had limited the wake-up calls to about one per night.

Last night the beast returned. She woke up at 3:30 and wouldn’t fall back to sleep. Leanne threw her a boob and then tried to put her down at 4:00 (the times may be a little off, because Leanne tells me that in the middle of the night I tend to lose all reference to the time-space continuum). Eventually, we started doing the whisper-yell at each other. You know, where you are whispering, but trying to do it in a way that the person knows you are pissed. It happens a lot in places like movie theatres and kitchens on sitcoms.

-Why don’t we just pick her up?
-Cause we are trying to let her cry it out.
-She has been crying it out for an hour!
-It hasn’t been an hour…
-Yes, it has!
-Well, I have been the one getting up!
-Oh, like I don’t get up and help her ever?


Ah, parenthood. Olive ended up falling asleep on Leanne’s chest at 5:00 and slept for another two hours. My perfect baby that slept through the night at a week old is now just my perfect baby that sleeps four-five hours at a time. Things come in phases with a baby. What may happen one day or one week or one month, may be completely different the next. Everything I thought I knew about Olive and parenting a few months ago seems completely irrelevant now. Right now it may feel like I’m the one that needs to cry it out, but I’m sure that will change in five minutes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Food is an adventure

This is Olive's first try of carrots. It was her first vegetable. She loves them now though. Go figure.



The roll call right now is:
Carrots: Like
Sweet Potatoes: Like
Pears: Love
Rice Cereal: Will tolerate
Oatmeal: Like, but love when mixed with pears
Peas: Would rather eat her own poop. Seriously.

I think we are trying peaches tomorrow.

Flying Baby

Last week my wife and I did something that I think every parent gets excited for and sick over. We flew with our baby. Yup, Olive took her first plane ride to go visit her auntie and watch her, along with mommy and daddy, run the Chicago Marathon.



Flying, from everything I have heard and read, is not usually a pleasant experience for either baby or parents. Websites list "survival tips" for flying with an infant. So this is basically on par with riding out a hurricane and climbing Everest. But we were bound and determined to be prepared. It helped that my parents, or as they are now known, mima and papa, were on the same flight and sitting in the same row. It also helped that we got a row with a little extra leg room. Those were things going for us. The things going against us was that air travel makes most adults cranky, pushes some to tears and others to violence, and we were dealing with a six-month old who screams if she isn’t allowed to put a diaper in her mouth.

The preparation really began a couple nights before. We started packing bags for the trip and realized just how much “gear” we would need. We needed stroller and we needed her car seat. We needed enough diapers to get her through a day (we were forgoing the cloth diapers – I like the environment and all, but there has to be a law about transporting poop across state lines, right?) We needed a bottle for the flight. We needed some food for the hotel room; enough toys to cause sensory overload, a blanket, a burp cloth, a change of clothes for the plane in case her bum exploded somewhere over upstate New York; and we needed an enormous amount of patience. We also needed to get all this through airport security. You know, the people who pop a vein if you try to bring four ounces of Pert Plus on a flight.

Now, I used to travel fairly frequently for my job. My wife travels monthly. We both consider ourselves expert flyers. Personally, I can have my shoes off, my little baggie of toiletries out, my laptop out and in its own container, my belt off, my pockets empty and my bag on the belt at the security line before you can say “Al Qaeda sucks!” Few things annoy me as much as slow security lane people. Slow mall walkers – maybe. So if I saw me and my wife pulling up to security, with enough more stuff then many pioneers had in their wagons, I would have either switched security lines, or tackled them. So it was no surprise that when we got into our line, that no one followed us.

But we made it through the security line in record time. Even though the diaper bag contained a full bottle of formula and two small Tupperware containers of unidentifiable white powder (formula and rice cereal, pictured here. I still think it would have been funny to pack these in about 50 small plastic bags, but that is just my sense of humor).



At the gate we continued to get stares from fellow passengers. The best came from business travelers who were staring down our cargo and wondering who they were going to have to trample to get there carry-on in an overhead bin. Everyone else was praying to whatever God they pray to that we were going to sit 20 rows away from them. Once on the plane, entertaining Olive proved to be pretty easy at the beginning. She watched all the people walk down the aisle. She got smiles and baby talk from everyone who realized that they were, indeed, 20 rows away from us. For all she knew, she was just in a really cool new place and she would be home in her own crib soon enough.

But then the grumpiness ensued. People had all taken their seats, no one left to watch walk down the aisle. She wanted to get up and explore beyond her seat, but she had to deal with being entertained by mommy and daddy and mima and papa. We weren’t cutting it anymore. So as we started to taxi we pulled out the bottle. Now, everything you read about flying with an infant tells you to feed them at take-off and landing. Babies can’t pop their own ears and sucking on something help them regulate the pressure. If you don’t do this, well, I think the baby’s head may explode. That, or there is a chance they will be fussy until their ears pop. One or the other. Well, luck would have it that we were in a line of about 10 planes waiting to take off, and Olive finished her bottle about 30 seconds before we took off. I panicked. This was the one thing we were supposed to do and we failed. Now my baby’s ears weren’t going to pop and her head would explode. I started to hand out plastic ponchos to people around me like they were at a Gallagher show. Leanne nursed her for a couple minutes, but Olive was already full. But then the darndest thing happened. Nothing. Olive was fine. Maybe her ears popped, maybe they didn’t. But she was fine. We were flying with a happy baby.



The rest of the flight was, sorry about this, uneventful. One thing about traveling with an infant is that the wonders of flight are completely lost on them. They don’t want to look out the window or go see the cockpit. They just want to do the same stuff they do every day. She played. She fussed a little and Leanne got up and walked her up and down the aisle. People smiled at her. She smiled back. She fussed a little more. She got happy again. I want to send a special thank you out to the mis-guided but well-meaning flight attendant who gave us a pair of pin-on wings to give her. Yes, sir, I’m sure they give you these to hand out to children, but my six month old really doesn’t need a bite-size pointy object with a needle attached to it. Thanks!

Soon enough we were descending towards Chicago. Leanne nursed her and Olive fell asleep for the landing. We had to wake her up when time came to get our bags and get off the plane. No one on the flight told us how good she was, but no one shot us dirty looks as we walked up the jetway either.

Really, flying with Olive was not something I looked forward to in any way. I had to talk myself down a few times and there were more than a couple occasions that I broke out in a sweat thinking about dealing with a screaming baby and 100 angry airline passengers in a confined space for 150 minutes. But looking back, it wasn’t that bad. I’m not booking a flight to Sydney anytime soon, but I think that with the right preparation, helpful parents, a little luck, and the promise of a stiff drink at the other end, flying with a happy baby is possible.

(No, we didn't fly with her in a towel. I just thought the picture was cute.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Color Blind...

It is hard to imagine seeing the world through the eyes of a 6 month old baby. Everything is new. Everything is different than the time before. So many times are the first time. I was pushing Olive on a run this past weekend and realized that she has never seen the leaves on the trees change color. They have always been green to her and no they are becoming orange and yellow and red. I took her out in the back yard and a few days ago and sat her up on the grass. She played with the grass for a half an hour. Pulling up clumps, rolling it around in her hands. Brushing her fingertips over the tops of the blades. It was new, it was something she had never felt before and she was trying to absorb everything about it. Sometime you never know what is going to catch her attention, or why.



Which brings me to this point: Olive seems to really like black people. We aren’t sure what it is, but she takes a quick liking to those blessed with a little more melanin. I think we first noticed it while we had a Presidential press conference on TV and Olive seemed transfixed. Now, Olive gets transfixed by lots of things, but we started to notice a pattern develop. She would see an african-american in a store or in a park and immediately smile or kick or start talking (talking right now is just making noises, she isn’t that smart). My wife brought her in to her office on a few occasions and Olive immediately took a liking to her company’s office manager, who happens to be black. It was like Olive was reuniting with a long lost friend. She was smiling and talking and cooing. She didn’t care about anyone else in the room. We’ll be pushing a stroller down the street and Olive bird-dogs any black person that may walk by. I immediatly went and bought a big bottle of self-tanner in an attempt to get on her good side.

The first thought, of course, is that she is curious about people that look different from mommy and daddy. I have tried to look up experiments on how babies view race, and haven’t been able to find anything. Kenneth and Mamie Clark ran the famous “Doll Experiments” in the 1940s which showed that children may internalize racism they have seen or felt. Black children more often preferred to play with white dolls and would often draw pictures using a lighter than accurate skin tone. A really sad outcome, especially when you think that the experiment has been redone as recently as 2006 with similar results. Maybe Olive is rebelling against that and represents a new, more color-blind society!

Really, we have no explanation for it, but it has been a blast to try to prove our theory. I tried turning on BET one night, but they were playing The Matrix for some reason. We live in a diverse neighborhood, but when we are on our front porch, Olive is more interested in watching cars drive by than people walk by. I feel like printing 10x10 pictures of varying races and seeing if she reacts differently to one or another. It might be the only way. But barring turning my daughter into an experiment in latent racial biases, we’ll never know! She could have just liked the color of Barack Obama’s tie, or the bracelet that the office manager was wearing, or her smile; maybe the people she saw in the store were just really nice to her and she reacted in kind.

Or maybe, Olive, as a 6 month old, is ready to explore any new thing she can lay her eyes or hands on. Maybe she realizes that every new person, new face, new toy, new tree, new food, new picture, new color, that she sees is something to learn from and to absorb. Hopefully she stays just the way she is…

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Snap to it

Baby clothes are wonderful things in many ways. Footed pajamas, elastic waistbands, stretchy necklines, wearable sleep sacks, and extremely soft, fuzzy, fabric are all things I would welcome in adult clothing. Alas, none of them are socially acceptable. Well, maybe the footed pajamas, which were a hot item in two of my Christmas yankee swaps a couple years back.

But there is one thing I wish would be barred from all non-onsie baby clothes. I have a dream that we could somehow organize a parent boycott and force manufacturers to upgrade their technology and move the baby clothes industry forward. I have a dream that I will be able to put pajamas on my daughter in under five minutes. I have a dream that snaps will forever be banned from baby clothes!



Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

Drill, baby, drill! Drill, baby, drill!

(Just wanted to be bi-partisan)

I understand and appreciate the use of snaps on a onsie. Onsies are wonderful inventions. Basically a t-shirt that never rises up. It requires only three snaps and provides quick access for a diaper change. No argument with snaps on those. But three is my upper limit of snap usage.



For other outfits, especially full-bodied, footed pajamas, snaps become a huge pain in the baby-soft bottom. We have zippers, we have Velcro, we the ability to make this easier. Olive looks really cute in these pajamas, but those things have snaps from neck to toe! You can get them off in a second, but it takes you a half hour to re-construct them. Really, think about how many adult clothes have snaps on them – basketball pants and cowboy shirts. Both are designed to be opened quickly, by drunk cowgirls and basketball players respectively. But do you ever see Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant snapping their pants back up? NO! We need to educate parents about this better than we are!

And don’t get me started about actual buttons on dresses for little girls. I have a hard enough time buttoning the cuffs on my dress shirts every morning and you expect me to button the microscopic buttons on the back of a little girl’s dress while she squirms and screams. Sorry, she is getting wrapped in burlap and tied with a bow and she is going to like it!

Every time I pull the duty of getting my daughter ready for bed, I immediately shoot for the two pairs of pj’s that are zip-up. I know that right before bed my daughter will scream her face red as I change her, and I know that it will take me five tries to snap each little snap on her leg while she kicks and squirms. The zipper takes me roughly 7.4 seconds.

So let’s see if we can make some change here, people. Forget about covering the uninsured and fixing the economy, hours of lost American productivity could be restored if 4 or more snaps were banned from baby clothes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Olive loves her food - Video Proof!

I told you Olive got a little better. Here is a little video of her mashing rice cereal all over her face. We have fed her a few time since then and each time a little bit more seems to make it down the hatch.
video

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Dinner Bell Has Rung

Time for dinner. Olive has reached yet another milestone. Scaled another development Everest. Conquered another chapter in What To Expect in Your First Year. My wife and I finally made the decision that Olive was ready for (drum roll, please) FOOD. We of course needed to consult three books, four websites, and a doctor before doing this. We knew from this info that most babies start solid food sometime between 4-6 months of age. We were trying to hold Olive off for as long as possible, mainly because we were traveling so much and wanted to be stationary for a couple weeks to help get her in a routine. She had already been displaying all the signs of a baby that wants something to eat that doesn’t come from a bottle or boob:

• She puts everything into her mouth
• She sits up well and holds her head up like a champ
• When we eat a meal she stares at us like a 14-year-old boy stares at Megan Fox. And drools like one too
• Most importantly, she was getting harder and harder to satisfy with just breast milk or formula.

Now, I have read conflicting reports that eating food will help a baby sleep or go longer between feedings, but we figured that since she is almost 6 months old, and she has been sleeping like a 60-year-old with a prostate problem, that we would give it a try.

So at about 6:30 PM, comfortably far enough away from a feeding that she would be peckish, but not famished, we set the scene. BebePod seat (great inventions) set; small spoon at the ready; bib firmly attached so as to effectively guard against spills, but not impede airflow; cloth diapers at arms reach to mop up messes; camera battery charged; and, of course, a bowl containing one tablespoon of rice cereal mixed to a sufficiently disgusting and mushy consistency with a few tablespoons of formula.

For the uninitiated, rice cereal is usually given as baby’s first meal for a number of reasons, primarily because it is easy to digest and it does not contain gluten. As an added bonus, it is also possibly the easiest of foods to spit out, spread between folds on a baby’s neck, splatter across a table and generally create an epic mess. Needless to say, I was ready to run a bath. If it were earlier in the summer I may have just brought her outside and hosed her down. We chose the Earth’s Best brand of rice cereal that has the picture of the creepy babies somehow farming in diapers and picketing about genetically modified food. Apparently, babies fed organic food develop much faster than regular babies; I mean, Olive can hardly sit up, never-the-less till the earth and grow squash).



First spoonful. Right in the mouth. Wow. She is good at this…oh, wait, coming out. Yup. Out of the mouth. Down the chin. Onto the bib. This was basically the process for the next 25 of so spoonfuls. Every once and a while she would grab a handful of the cereal off the spoon and rub it on her face, in her ears, up her nose. I also forgot to mention that while looking benign enough, rice cereal dries like rubber cement. I swear you could spackle with that stuff.

At the end, Olive had probably ingested about 4 calories worth of food, and was surrounded by a three foot diameter blast zone of rice cereal. It was as if someone filled a water balloon with the stuff and then took aim at it with a shotgun. But, that is how it is supposed to go. I mean, Olive has never actually chewed anything. She has never been given anything off a spoon. Think of your first time ice-skating or skiing and think of how long it took for you to pick up a completely foreign action. Now imagine that you are covered in rice cereal (just kidding, that’s gross).

The next two nights didn’t go much better. One, I was going solo, so I think Olive could sense the fear. Second, Olive knew what was coming and could guard against the rice cereal entering her mouth all together. Only a few spoonfuls in on the second night she through up her hands, karate kid-style, and waxed on and waxed off the spoon out of the way.

But Olive did get better. The fourth night was a success. We emptied one bowl and even mixed up a little more (we estimated that only about 29.6 % actually went in her mouth). Now we are confidently striding down the path of solid foods. Next week we will start feeding her cereal twice a day, breakfast and dinner; a couple weeks after that we start her on fruits and veggies. Then, after that, nachos. My little girl is all grows up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breaking Bad

Olive had reached the breaking point. A weekend on Cape Cod. Then a weekend staying with her grandparents while her parents abandoned her to go fly across the country to drink beer and ride bikes and talk like adults. Now we had dragged her 5 hours in the car up to Bar Harbor to spend a weekend with her other grandparents. She was going to put her foot down.

One of the most difficult things to get used to as a parent is not being able to communicate with her when something is going wrong. This also opens you up to a world of unsolicited advice from anyone within a half mile radius of a crying baby.

I think she has a tummy ache.
Oh, that baby is definitely teething.
She needs to be picked up.
I think those cloth diapers are bothering her.
Wow, she is over-tired.
Wow, she obviously isn’t tired, why are you putting her down for a nap?
She is over-full.
She is hungry.
She doesn’t like the car seat.
There is sun in her eyes.
She is cold.
She is hot.
She wants to play.
She is over-stimulated.
She wants her mommy.
She wants her daddy.
She wants her toy.
She wants a different toy.
She is wet.
She needs to poop.
She has gas.
She needs to burp.


Usually these little suggestions are also directed at the baby, in an attempt, I guess, to not seem too overbearing. People don’t say to the parent:
I wonder if she is wet.
They say to your child:
Does little baby need to be changed? Do you have a little wet dippy-dipe?

My two favorite are the teething and the tummy ache. They are easy excuses and they have no cure, so it explains away every instance of crying. People immediately latch on to the teething excuse if they see a baby drooling or putting something in their mouth. While those are signs of teething, they are also signs of being a baby. Olive drools enough that if left unattended in an empty bathtub, she may drown herself in saliva with hours. She also tastes every object she can grab, particularly if it is a hotel remote control or anything virtually guaranteed to give her the swine flu. If she is teething, then she has been doing it since she was about 7 weeks old.

The tummy ache excuse is also convenient because there is really no way to tell. Usually, the tummy ache comment is followed up by a full dietary examination of the mother.

What did you eat yesterday.?
Um, some yogurt, a turkey sandwich, an apple, and then pasta with broccoli and…
AH! There it is! Broccoli! That is why she is crying. You ate broccoli yesterday!


This is the point at which my wife wants to drop to the ground and sweep your legs out from under you. Apparently nursing mothers must limit their diet to bread, clear liquids, and non-citrus fruit. I have determined, by process of elimination, that these are the only items that don’t give babies tummy aches. Broccoli is the number one culprit. I’m surprised anyone eats the stuff as just its mere essence in the breast milk can rend a baby useless for hours!

Anyway, we heard, and uttered, most of these excuses while in Bar Harbor. Olive cried during the day and wouldn’t let us put her down. She woke up every two hours and wouldn’t go back to sleep. One night she slept on Leanne’s chest, as she wouldn’t let us put her down without doing her best imitation of a horror movie victim. All this uneasiness was exacerbated by the fact that we had my in-laws sleeping in the next room and there were other guests at the Inn on both sides of our bedroom. We didn’t want to get kicked out because our normally super sleeper was keeping everyone awake. Letting her “cry it out” wasn’t an option.

When we are tired, or hungry, or cold, or hot, or have a tummy ache, or a tooth ache, or when we have pooped our pants, we can tell someone, we can notify the authorities, we can change our underwear, and we can remedy the problem. As parents, we need to guess. Yes, it is an educated guess. You do get to know different cries. When your baby is farting like a tuba you can be pretty sure that there is some digestive problem. Yes, some parents teach their kids sign language. I’m sure it is amazing. We aren’t those parents. So what you are left with is the two of us frantically walking and bouncing Olive around a dark room at 1, 2, 4, 4:30, and 5:30 in the morning asking ourselves if she is hungry, overtired, cold, or teething.

Really, she was probably just getting a little thrown off by being in a different place again, around different people, with a slightly different routine. I mean, how many of us have digestive trouble when we travel? How many of us are grumpy after a long car ride? Babies got to be the same, right?

Luckily, after we returned home, all seems to be returning to normal. Only up once last night. I guess she stopped teething and her tummy feels better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vacation or Abandonment?


So my wife and I went on vacation this past weekend…without Olive. Yup, we flew across the entire country and left our daughter 3000 miles and three time zones away. Now, we didn’t leave her alone. We only do that when we are in the same time zone. She was with my parents. We were gone for three nights and my parents raised four kids for approximately a combined 45,260 nights. Needless to say, we can trust them with our daughter.

We left all the instructions and all the phone numbers and all the favorite toys and chairs and pajamas. We had each spent time away from our daughter, but never for this long and never together. We knew it was going to be tough – and it was.

That isn’t to say my wife and I didn’t love our time together. We did. We slept in, we drank beer, we went for walks and bike rides, we went out for a breakfast and read the newspaper. We spent an entire 72 hours without once making a fart noise. But we never stopped thinking about the little girl we had “left behind.” We talked about her more than anything else. When we went shopping at a bookstore we immediately went to the children’s section. We couldn’t avoid it.

Even if we tried to let our guard down a little, my dad kept sending us pictures and updates from his iphone (including the two pictures seen here). Cute Olive taking a bath. Cuter Olive laughing. It was like sending a picture of a steak to a kid at fat-camp. Every time we got a picture we wanted to hop the next flight home.

We are, and forever will be, parents. We can fly across the country but we can’t leave that role and those feelings behind. I also couldn’t shake the feelings of guilt (blame it on my Catholic upbringing, but my wife was raised Methodist, and she had them too). We had abandoned her. We had left her alone. What if we miss something? What if she remembers driving away without us and that is her first memory? Maybe this is going to stunt her emotional connection to us. Maybe she is going to hate us when she is a teenager and she won’t know why but it is really because mommy and daddy left her behind as a 5-month old to go “have fun” so she never felt adequate or accepted. Do we need to start co-sleeping to make up for the lost attachment? Oh my God, are we stifling her? What if she becomes a stripper? It is all my fault! Why did we go on vacation?

Of course, none of these things will happen – at least not because of our three night vacation. But I do think seriously about how much time one should and can spend apart from their child, especially one as new as mine. I have friends that after a year have almost never spent a night away from their child. I have friends that never went back to work after their first child was born. They are, from all evidence known to me, great parents. Meanwhile, while we go on three night vacations, periodically travel for work, and three days a week drop Olive off at day-care for nine hours. I think my wife and I are pretty good parents too, but I’d be crazy if I didn’t question what I was doing every now and then.


But my wife and I needed that time. It was good for us. And it was good for Olive too. She doesn’t get to see her grandparents all the time. She is too young to remember this trip, but some of my best memories from childhood were staying with my grandparents, or having them stay with us. I think she needs to grow up knowing that there is an entire family that loves her, not just her parents; that there is an entire world to explore and a huge pallet of experiences and points of view, not just the ones she sees with her parents; that she can take care of herself and not turn to mommy and daddy at all times; that mommy and daddy love her, but that they also love each other.

Maybe spending some time away -- a night, two nights, three nights – will help her grow up independent and empowered, but maybe it will cause her to grow up feeling ignored. Maybe if we spent every day with her she would feel loved, and we would be able to teach her the world we want it to be taught and she would grow up with her parents as her trusted advisors and closest friends, but maybe it would make her push us away or stifle her growth. As parents we think about this stuff, for better or worse. We constantly compare our lives to other parents, or methods to other methods, and our actions to other actions. I don’t think I have screwed up Olive too much yet, but this is the first time I have ever been a parent, how am I supposed to know what is right? There is advice out there, and people – mostly moms, where are the dads? – talking about this. As I’m learning so quickly, there is no right answer, there is just what you feel is right.

When my parents picked me up at the airport (my wife came in on a later flight after a business meeting) I jumped in the backseat with Olive. She looked at me, examined me, and broke out a huge smile. Heart officially melted. Everything okay. So glad to be home.

Friday, September 4, 2009

20 Random Thoughts About Thing So Far


Here are some random thoughts or lessons that I have had floating around in my head. Can’t think of a topic for a coherent entry, so why not just offer up an incoherent one.

1. Toys are useless. So far, the toy with the record for the longest period of time holding Olive’s attention is – drumroll please – a spoon. Apparently Baby Einstein knows shit.
2. As a parent, you can easily get as much done in the two hours your baby is napping as you could throughout an entire weekend pre-baby.
3. The moment right after you answer your cell phone in a public place and your wife on the other end says, “Here, talk to your daughter!” is likely to be the second most uncomfortable moment in any father’s day.
4. The moment right after, when you start quietly talking baby-talk while hoping no one notices, is the first.
5. You can’t control what your child likes or doesn’t like. If she wants to play with your nose instead of the $20 lab-tested, hand carved, eco-friendly wood rattle you just bought, too bad. If she gets really happy when she is on the changing table without a diaper on, well, let her be naked for a while. If she doesn’t like being thrown up in the air, don’t throw her higher.
6. Don’t be surprised if you and your wife finally get an hour alone to enjoy a glass of wine and all you do is talk about your kid.
7. You will, without a doubt, absolutely, no ifs ands or buts about it, most definitely, appreciate, admire, and respect your parents more after you have a kid.
8. You will also feel a huge rush of guilt for all the times you did or said things you shouldn’t have.
9. I now actually say things like “I’ll never let my daughter leave the house looking like that!” and “What are those damn teenagers doing hanging out in the park this late?” I can’t believe I haven’t punched myself in the face yet.
10. I think baby girls look kinda freaky in dresses. I think it is the bald head.
11. Dresses are also the most impractical baby clothes known to man. They are made to bunch up around the armpits anytime the baby goes in a carseat or stroller. Also, be prepared for that pretty dress to become a chew-toy about .67 seconds after putting it on.
12. I now watch “Toddlers and Tiaras” with a whole new kind of terror. I try not to judge, but I’m pretty sure if you are on that show that you have failed as a parent.
13. It disappoints me that my daughter won’t remember all the fun she is having right now.
14. I don’t take enough pictures.
15. Why do old ladies feel the need to touch a baby’s hands? My daughter has her hands in her mouth roughly 78.3% of the day. You rubbing her hand is basically the equivalent of me saying hello and then spitting in your mouth.
16. Is the sense of taste the most dominant of the five senses in a five-month old? Why does every new object she encounters need to go straight in her mouth? When does this compulsion go away? I can’t remember the last time I saw a non-food item and said “hmm, I wonder how that tastes.” My daughter routinely asks that question of items like spoons, floors, hands, blankets, dresses, eyeglasses, noses, diapers, and couch cushions.
17. I would be a stay-at-home dad in a second.
18. Everyone warns you for years about the cost of college. No one warns you about the cost of day care. Google “Saving for college” and you get 238,000 hits, while “saving for daycare” gets only six. Meanwhile, my daughter goes to day care three times a week and next year I will be paying over 50% MORE than the average tuition at a 4-year public college. What kind of long term economic effect does this have on families? The American workforce?
19. As a parent, your tolerance for bodily excretions will reach an all time high. Getting poop, pee, drool, snot, or vomit on your clothes soon elicits little more than a resigned sigh. Not since my freshman year of college was vomit such a common companion.
20. Babies R’ Us is my version of hell.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Records, CDs, Ipods, and Child Development

Olive welcomed a new cousin this past weekend. Adorable. My parents now have had three grandchildren born within a year to go along with their four year old granddaughter. The three new additions were all born close enough that they will likely be in the same grade. They could play each other in sports, they’ll all go to college the same year, and they’ll all get their license around the same time. In a few years, you won’t be able to tell which one is older than the other.




But right now they couldn’t be more different.

The oldest is about 10 months old. Olive is almost 5 months old. And the new little one isn’t even a week old. Right now she is a motionless, eating, crying, blob of cuteness. Seeing my new little niece wrapped up like a burrito in the white, blue, and pink striped blankets,a nd seeing her parents trying to figure out diapers and clothes and a floppy neck brought back a lot of memories. Less then five months ago, that was my daughter, and that was me and my wife. Olive couldn’t smile, didn’t look at us, couldn’t summon the strength or manage the coordination to grab a rattle. She slept for most of the day and pooped or peed what seemed like every 15 minutes. It took almost an hour to nurse her and if you gave her a bottle it was only 2-3 ounces. You couldn’t pick her up or move her without sliding a gentle hand underneath her head and cradling her like an overfilled water balloon.

Now? She stares you down; won’t take her eyes off you, even from across the room. She can make noises when she is excited or happy or sad that don’t have any resemblance to crying. She rolls over and even pushes herself forward when on stomach. You can’t give her a kiss on the forehead without running the risk that she’ll grab a clump of your hair. She sucks down eight ounce bottles and it takes 15 or 20 minutes to nurse her. She smiles when someone she knows comes in a room. She bears almost no resemblance to her newborn cousin or that person she was not too long ago. I almost can’t remember what it was like.

Her older cousin, however, can stand up. He crawls around the floor like a bat out of hell. He laughs out loud. He not only eats solid food, but sits up in his high chair and grabs at little yogurt bits and biscuits. He is playing with toys that Olive can’t even get her little hand around. And the size of him. He just seems so much bigger and more stable. You can toss him in the air and tickle him and roll around with him. I simply can’t imagine Olive that way. How will she become that baby?

But it will happen. In a few months she will be crawling. Soon after, walking. And I’ll look back and not be able to remember the time when she couldn’t do either.

As a parent, it is easy to miss the day-to-day development. Sure, you notice when they first roll over or when they crack the first smile. But when did rolling over become routine? When did I start seeing that smile so much that I started taking it for granted? She’ll spend a half hour on her tummy playing with a toy, but not too long ago she would scream the second we put her down. When did that change and how come I didn’t notice.

It is like music. If you are around my age you probably grew up a lot of records in your house. Then you moved to tapes. But do you remember the first time you noticed there wasn’t a record player in your house? I remember distinctly the Christmas my brothers and I got our first CDs – Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and Genesis were all involved – but how in the world did I amass a notebook full of CDs in only a few short years. When did it become the standard? I went to college in a car without a tape player and a CD holder on my visor. Now? Everything is on an ipod. I remember getting my first ipod, but I can’t remember when decided that CDs really didn’t belong in my car anymore. How did I go from mix-tapes to mix-cds to shuffle on my ipod so fast?

When you have a kid you remember certain moments and certain events. But day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, things move so quickly that you just can’t keep up. But now Olive has a pair of cousins that will act as bookends. I can remind myself of the things that I have a hard time remembering, and prepare myself for moments that I won’t want to forget.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Child is Born...(Part Two)

So when we last left off, my wife had just received her epidural and things were going swimmingly. We were told Leanne would dilate by about a centimeter an hour. Since she was at about 3 cm when we started the pitocin, we figured that the baby would be flying out by about 7-10 PM at the latest. But one thing you can only plan on one thing during child birth: that you can never plan on anything.

But we did have a few hours of tranquility. I remember I was able to watch some of the Red Sox home opener. A few of my friends texted me to say that if the baby was born then the middle name would have to be Ortiz or Pedroia. But soon, the excitement would start. Really, neither me or my wife remember too much from the next few hours. They were calm, uneventful, and a little bit surreal. We were in the middle of labor, but nothing was, well, happening. The stillness did not last long.

First, my wife’s nausea started to come back. The epidural didn’t seem to be working as well as it once did, and her back was starting to hurt. One side effect of not being able to feel the lower half of your body is that you tend to be put in some really uncomfortable positions without realizing how uncomfortable they are. Eventually, other parts of your body that you can feel start to hurt. Also, even though you can’t feel it, your body is being put through a wringer. My wife started to ask for a bucket again. She would push the button on the bed to raise her back up, puke, and then put the bed back down. Five minutes later the bed comes back up, I run over with the bucket, she pukes, bed goes back down. Five minutes later…we were actually starting to get into a pretty good rhythm.

For the uninitiated, the epidural is not just a shot, but it is a teeny-tiny tube that is put into the back. The tube is then attached to a pump that automatically administers anesthesia. Very cool. Except that the tube went from my wife’s back, up over the top of the bed, and into the small portable pump on a shelf behind the bed. Meanwhile the puking keeps going and my wife keeps raising and lowering the back of the bed. One time, she raised it a little too far and the pump was pulled off the shelf and crashed to the ground. Not good. We hit the button that is supposed to manually administer extra drugs. No worky. Not good.

We paged a nurse. Unfortunately, the quiet labor and delivery ward that was so quiet and peaceful and full of unripe cervixes the night before, was now full of ripe cervixes and women pushing out babies left and right. While earlier in the morning we were able chat with our nurse about the weather or her grandchildren or the Red Sox, now the nurse was rushing in sweating and tearing off gloves. She hurriedly tried to fix the pump. Not working. She called in another nurse who also tried to figure it out. The conversation went something like this:
-Well, did you prime the doo-hickey.
-Yeah, but don’t I put the bag in first.
-You need a new bag?
-Don’t I?
-Well, I’m used to the other model.
-I know, me too. Do I press this button?
None of this was instilling confidence in my wife who could swear she was starting ot get feeling back in part of her leg. The nurses decided to get the anesthesiologist to put humpty-dumpty back together again, except that he was in the middle of putting someone down for a C-section and might be a while. Not good.

While all this was happening, it was decided that our baby had turned over inside the uterus and was therefore “sunny-side up.” The prime positioning for giving birth is to have the baby facing towards the mother’s back, letting the narrowest part of the head enter the birth canal. Sunny-side up babies are facing the mother’s front, letting the widest part of the head enter first. Trust me, you want don’t want words like “wide head” or “big” or “large” associated with your child birth. Have a baby facing front can also cause a considerable amount of back pain. You really want to do everything you can to get the baby facing back. At this point, if a woman was going through birth without drugs, the nurse or mid-wife would have the mother get up and move, try a few different position, maybe do some wiggling to try and turn the baby. But my wife can’t feel the lower half of her body, so all that is out. So the 55-year-old, 100 pound nurse decides to roll my wife on to her side and prop her leg up onto a table and a few pillows in an attempt to rotate the baby.
-Would you like some help, I ask?
-Nope, I got this.
Really, nurses are amazing people with thankless jobs. A limp leg is not the easiest thing to toss around, especially when that region does not exactly smell like roses at the time, but she just jumped in and did it.

Luckily, my wife’s nausea subsided. The anesthesiologist arrived sooner than we expected and gave my wife and epic dose of drugs. Pump repaired. Babies were delivered in rooms around us and then L&D ward calmed down. I got a cot delivered and made it up and we both tried to get a nap.

Our nurse for the night, let’s call her Suzy since I can’t remember her name, came in to introduce herself. Suzy looked like she just graduated from high school and weighed approximately 80 pounds if she had a couple handfuls of change in her pocket. Great, I thought. Biggest moment of my life and we have a rookie stuck on the night shift guiding us. My first impression could not have been more wrong. Suzy continued to prop Leanne’s leg up on the table and pillows. She took the time to answer all of our questions and make Leanne feel as comfortable as someone in her situation and position (physical and mental) can. She told us at about 10:00 PM that things were progressing, but that Leanne wouldn’t be ready to push for at least a few hours. She adjusted the pitocin to help hold off my wife’s nausea. She let us know that we should get a few hours sleep and that she would check on us at about 1:00 AM. Amazingly, we both managed to fall asleep.

The room is full of beeps and pings and is never fully dark. Any sleep you are able to get in a Labor and Delivery room isn’t restful sleep for a number of reasons. I remember being woken up by the light coming into the room as Suzy opened the door at around 1:00 AM. She examined my wife and told us some good news. The head was “right there.” All the contractions had basically pushed baby into launch position. All that there was left to do was push. Let’s get going!
-Well, the doctor is asleep, so I think we’ll just let you labor down for a little while and then we’ll see where you are at 2:00.
Right. Okay. Another hour to wait and “labor down” – which I guess means, let the baby travel down the birth canal at its own, slow, painful, don’t-want-to-wake-the-doctor, pace. But we did just that we waited.

Then the doctor comes in. The thing about OB/GYN’s is that they are surgeons. They cut people open and deliver life. So my guess is that regular birth is kind of boring to them. They are used to climbing Everest and most people only expect them to climb a hill. But it is necessary to have them there, and her presence signaled to us that we were ready to go. She gave my wife a quick exam and then said,
-Yup, I think we are ready to start pushing.
Suzy looked over at me as she was grabbing my wife’s right leg.
-Okay, so you grab her left leg and we are both going to pull them up to her chest when the doctor says push, okay?
Timeout. I kind expected to be up in the bleachers for this part. If I hold her leg like you are asking, I am putting myself right there on the field. I mean, I am on the front lines. Everything is right there.
-Ready? Grab the leg, we are going to push.
Leanne. Suzy. The doctor. They were all in there. Fully committed to their jobs. So this is a little message to all the guys who expect to be in the no-splash zone during the actual delivery – prepare yourself.

My wife pushed. They got her an oxygen mask to put over her mouth while she rested between contractions. After a minute you would here the doctor say, “Okay, let’s get ready” and we would all man our battle stations and my wife would bear down. We could see the head. You thought the end was so close, but you forget that when you see a little bit of the head, that there is a lot more head behind it. Time went by and things started to get a little strange. The nurse and doctor started to look at each other in-between contractions as if there was something they both wanted to say, but couldn’t out loud. The doctor told us about the possibility of using a vacuum to help out. They started to make my wife roll on to her side in between contractions and they were losing the heartbeat for a few seconds after each big push. When you see your nurse moving the monitor around looking for a heartbeat and saying “Come on, come back. Come back.” It tends to make you a little uneasy. But then I started to notice more people coming into the room. Another nurse started to prepare the warming table. Another one brought in some instruments for the doctor. The doctor looked at the nurse and said,
-Well, looks like I should go get dressed.
This confused me initially. She was already wearing scrubs and gloves, did she need to put on a tux? Was I underdressed for my daughter’s arrival. She then put on a paper gown, more gloves, booties, and facemask with a clear plastic shield covering her eyes. I looked at her, apparently preparing for Shamu’s performance at Sea World, and then back at myself, in slippers, pajama pants and a t-shirt. I was only about two feet away from where she was sitting. I started to franticly look around for a plastic bag or a hockey helmet. Nothing to be found.

At 3:45 AM the doc looked at my wife and said,
-This baby WILL be born by 4:00 AM. You hear me? That is your deadline.
She looked over to me and said.
-Look, there is a possibility that the cord is wrapped around your daughter’s neck. If that is the case I am going to have to cut it myself and take her straight over to the table. But if not, would you like to cut the cord?
-Sure.
I hadn’t really thought of it, and really, all I wanted was for my daughter to come out healthy.

And then it happened.

3:59 AM. One minute before the deadline.

One big push and the head came out. The next and her body slipped out. I remember thinking, “that thing is huge!” It is embarrassing, but my first thought was one of admiration for the physical feet of giving birth. Babies, though they look small when you hold them, do not look small immediately after being squeezed through a vagina.

Sure enough, the cord was wrapped and they grabbed her and took her away. I kissed my wife. I went over to the table to see my daughter. I will steal a line from author Roddy Doyle – when I saw her for the first time I finally knew I had lungs, because there was no air in them. My wife was crying. I was stunned into submission. It is every bit the moment you imagine or remember it to be.

Except for the doctor stitching up your wife’s vagina --- still can’t get that image out of my head.

A nurse looked at me and said:
-Would you like to cut the cord?
She held out a pair of scissors. I looked down.
-No, I’m all set.
The cord had obviously been cut and clamped already. She wasn’t asking me to cut the cord, she was asking me to trim it. And why in the world would I want to do that? But then the scissors were in my hand, so I trimmed. My wife remembers watching this interaction and laughing.

Then we held her. Close. We took pictures. We smiled. We laughed. She cried. We touched her nose and called her by name for the first time. We looked at each other.
-This is our baby, we said.
-We are parents, we said.
All the fear and confusion and pain and exhaustion from the last two hours, two days, nine months, just disappeared into the ether like vapor. Gone. Replaced only with a new kind of happiness that we had never felt. We had no idea what we were in for. What do we do now?

We introduced ourselves to our baby.
This is mommy.
This is daddy.