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.

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.