Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yes, We Are Going To Be Surprised...

…just hopefully not in the delivery room. My wife and I are finding out the sex of our baby. In fact, we find out next week. Had the date marked on the calendar for a month. If you could tell me now I'd love it. If the home pregnancy test could have told Leanne whether it was going to be a boy or girl, she would have found out and then gone shopping for clothes that afternoon.

What is funny about the “find out, don’t find” out decision, is that it seems to be the first in a long line of parenting decisions that other parents LOVE to question. Until this point, no one asks you if you are refraining from eating soft cheeses, or if you are trying not to yell, or if you are doing pre-natal yoga. But after someone finds out that you are having a baby, almost the first question they ask the mother or father is: Do you know what you are having? Are you going to find out?”

(Quick aside: it sounds really weird when people ask “what” we are having. We are having a baby, that’s what. They are small, floppy, frequently-pooping versions of adults. If you would like to know if we are planning on finding out if it is a boy or a girl, then ask us if we are finding out the “sex” of our baby. Sorry, pet peeve.)

No matter your answer, you are bound to disappoint, maybe offend, a bunch of other people.

“Yeah, we are going to find out. We can’t wait for the ultrasound,” gets responses like:

  • "Oh, but it is so much fun to be surprised!”
  • “We didn’t have ultrasounds when we had our kids. We did it the old-fashioned way.”
  • “I know someone who found out they were having a girl, and then they had a boy!”
  • “We waited to find out for all of our kids and it was the best decision.”

“Yeah, we have decided to wait,” on the other hand, gets responses like this:

  • “Really!? I can’t imagine waiting! How can you possibly do that! Your will-power is SUPERHUMAN!”
  • “You know your kid is going to be wearing green and yellow for the first 12 months of his – I mean her – I mean, whatever, I just hope you like ducks and frogs.”
  • “Well, you know, you are surprised either way. This way you can plan. Maybe you aren’t a planner.”

A parent’s favorite pastime, other than sleep, is questioning other parents. This debate opens the floodgates. Soon comes breastfeeding, co-sleeping, blankets in the crib, day care, going back to work or staying home, television watching, whether or not to dress your son up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween, soccer or football, public or private school, where to send them to college, etc etc. Someone is going to hear your decision and walk away going “I can’t believe they are doing that.” I’m certainly guilty of it, and I am assuming that most people are nodding their heads because they are too, or they know someone who is.

I have friends and family who have found out, and those that have waited. All of them are wonderful parents and are pretty darn happy with what they have. For us? We can’t wait. Whenever you find out it is a surprise, right. We just hope they don’t see one of each.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

These Things Cost Money...

This post is another blast from the past. I wrote this soon after Leanne and I found out that number two was on the way. Enjoy.

I don’t know about anyone else, but after the first month of trying to get pregnant and then not actually getting pregnant, I lose all hope that we will EVER actually be able to get pregnant. I think back to all the years I wore tighty-whities and what that might have done to our chances. I start thinking about the number of Phish concerts I have attended and what that might have done to our chances.

Really, it isn’t that I think Leanne and I will never conceive another child, it is just that I kind of lower my expectations. You get that first negative test and you think, “Oh yeah, this could take a while. I mean, people try to get pregnant for months. Why do we assume this will be easy for us.”

Leanne, though, is a woman who likes goals and deadlines and calendars. She knows the exact day that she can first take a HPT and its likelihood of producing an accurate result on that day. The second month, this day coincided with Leanne returning from a business trip. Olive was already in bed. She comes in the door, puts down her stuff, smiles, and says “Hey, do you want to get me to take a test. It will be 80% accurate today.” To which I, with an excasperated and indignant sigh, reply: You know those things cost money, right?”

Yup. Actually said that.

In my defense, we only had one test left (cause we used three -- all negative -- the month before) and I was pretty sure that this one was going to be negative (with me remembering all the hours I spent with a laptop on my lap, or standing close to a microwave, or talking on my cell phone, or riding a bike.).

Also, those things DO cost money. I mean, pregnancy tests are expensive, especially the fancy digital kind (tip for all you kids: always buy the digital kind. Better yet, buy the most expensive pregnancy test you can find. You buy the generic paper towels and ibuprofen. You definitely don’t skimp on two things: condoms and pregnancy tests. If they sell a pregnancy test that is encased in gold, made by Apple, can stream Netflix, and comes with a home nursing visit, get that one). So I wasn’t all that excited about wasting one and then having to run out three days later and wait in line at the Rite-Aid with a pack of gum, a Vitamin Water and a package of pregnancy tests cause we wanted to “make sure” that it wasn’t a false negative.

Leanne didn’t appreciate this comment very much. Turns out, I was running out to Rite-Aid that night anyway...because the test was positive. For those of you that have taken these tests actually hoping for the two lines or the plus sign or for the word “pregnant” to appear, when it actually happens there are few greater moments. It is one of those times when words can't describe the emotion.

Leanne and I laughed and hugged. We silently screamed because Olive was asleep one room away. We each welled up. We are going to have another baby, we whispered. Then we looked deep into each other’s eyes...

...and we saw fear.

We are going to have another baby? What the @#*% are we doing!?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Re-living the Past

So I mentioned a few posts back that when Leanne and I decided to try for baby number two, that I kept writing short blog posts while we were trying. Well, not WHILE we were trying, but, you know. (Okay, sorry about that. I couldn't help it.) I didn't want to post them at the time, of course, but I thought it would be fun to look back on the summer.

Early July – Really, Time Magazine? You need to do a cover article on the benefits of having an only child a week after Leanne and I decide to try having our second? Really?! If you never saw the article, it does a pretty good job of convincing you that one kid is far superior to three or four. Even that you would be NUTS to have more than one kid. It even references a study that claims couples with one child are happier than couples without children, but also happier with a couple with more than one child. One child is the happiness sweet spot. So basically, Time just told me that it is all downhill from here. Great.

Late July – We are closing in on the end of the first month trying. Boy, am I tired! (Okay, I'm really sorry. That is gross. Promise, no more procreation humor.)
Coming to the end of this month means that Leanne has already taken three home pregnancy tests. All negative. But, of course, these things aren't 100% correct, so you can always take one more!
“Do you want to be pregnant, Leanne?”
“At this point, I don’t care, I just want to know if I am or not. I just want to KNOW!”
This means I need to go out to the store to get the fourth pregnancy test in four days. I think I should think about going to Costco next time.

Also, has anyone at Rite Aid noticed the irony in putting home pregnancy tests right next to the various flavored KY products, condoms, shady erectile dysfunction elixirs, and sensual massage oils? Isn’t that like stocking cholesterol tests next to bacon? Diabetes lancets in the candy aisle?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trick or Treat

Halloween doesn’t mean much for an 18 month old. To parents it usually means a chance to dress our kids up in adorable costumes and show them off. I guarantee that November 1st sees the highest number of little kid pictures on Facebook than any other date. Of course, Leanne and I are guilty of that too. The kid doesn’t know what is going on, they can’t eat the candy the get, and they don’t understand that the scary thing is just a person in a mask.

I tried to resist posting Halloween pictures here, but I really can’t. I mean, come on, look at these cheeks.

Old women would elbow each other out of the way to pinch those things.

Also, I love that the costume Olive is wearing was originally made for Leanne when she was two years old. Coolest hand me down we have.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Daddy Depression

My friends are multiplying. If you know me and my friends, you understand this is a rather frightening proposition, but that is beside the point. We recently got together to watch a football game and the room was filled with two pregnant women, a two month old, an 8 month old, and an 18 month old. Another friend, who has a two year old and another on the way, couldn’t make it. It is mildly depressing when you can’t go over to a friend’s house to watch a football game anymore without spending 35% of your time making sure a weebling wobbling little person doesn’t get their hands covered in buffalo wing sauce, or “accidentally” pick up an open can of Bud Light while you aren’t looking.

But it also means we can now, pretty unabashedly, talk about parenting and kids while we pick over nachos.

One friend said something that got me thinking. With a little hesitation, and a little bit of what seemed like residual shame, he said that it took him a while to bond with his newborn. Weeks, in fact. It surprised him, and he wondered if he was the only one.

It was the first time I heard a dad say something like that. Woman have been given free rein to talk about issues with bonding, post-partum depression, and feelings of helplessness after birth. If any of you read the “mommy blog” -- and if you haven't you should check it out --you know that the devotion of the audience is at least partly due to Heather Armstrong writing openly and honestly (and with a great sense of humor) about her struggle with post-partum depression. It struck a chord with a huge audience, and likely helped Armstrong and countless other women through a tough time.

So why can’t guys (or why don't guys)talk about this?

Does it have to do with the whole macho, I don’t show my feelings stuff? Do we think that any post-partum confusion is relegated to the other sex? Have we been instructed that the woman’s role as mother is so much more involved, so much closer, so much more difficult than the role as father that we don’t really need to worry about bonding? I think it is the latter.

I still remember sitting in a breastfeeding class with Leanne (yes, one of the most awkward classroom experiences of my life) and having the instructor go through a whole litany of ways nursing aids the bonding process between mother and daughter. She then said that the father can bond with the child by…

wait for it…

giving the kid a bath.


So my wife actually FEEDS my child. Provides her sustenance from her own body, food that her body produced. She does this for 12 hours a day. Every day. For a year. And that experience is supposed to be replicated by me dipping my crying child into the kitchen sink for 20 minutes every couple days? Somehow I don’t buy it.

I think a lot of dad’s feel the same way my friend did. He loves his daughter more than light right now, but it took him a while to make the connection. When Olive was born, I remember feeling completely useless when she was crying. I couldn’t do anything to sooth her. But as soon as Leanne got a hold of her, we had a calm baby again. Of course, most of that had to do with Leanne being the one to feed her, but I can’t help but think my daughter wanting to be with the comforting figure, and at that point in her life it was mommy. You would have to be the tin man for that not to effect you a little bit. You are a first time father and your child scream uncontrollably while you rock her and sing to her and hold her, but as soon as mommy is there everything is fine. The first thing that pops into your mind is that you are a bad dad. Tough to take for anyone sometimes.

It will be interesting to see how I handle having another little one to bond with in six months. Will my knowing now what I didn’t know then help me look for ways to bond? Will having an understanding of the process ease some of my parental uncertainty?

At least now I will be able to look at my two year old daughter and ask her to give daddy and hug and a kiss and know that everything works out soon enough.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Number Two

Leanne and I know a lot of folks who are only children. Some of them are good friends. All of them turned out to be wonderful people, despite what society thinks they should be as only children. As a parent, I know how easy it is to spoil your one and only child, but I have learned to reject the notion that somehow, only children turn out to be spoiled adults. All the people we know who are only children are kind, humble, outward-looking individuals who really care about making a difference in their community. None of them give credence to the stereotype surrounding only children.

Knowing these people gave Leanne and I a lot to think about as we debated having another kid. Olive is wonderful. A sibling would be nice, having a gentically similar playmate doesn’t necessarily guarantee she will grow up to be a good person or eliminate the possibility that she could grow up spoiled and/or self-centered.

So why not just have one kid, we thought? Apparently, having a single child is a trend among our generation -- probably because it makes a whole boatload of sense. Certainly, a single child is cheaper, easier, lets you get more sleep, and provides more flexibility in your life than having multiple kids. At the very least, having one kid means you can use both hands to restrain them and both eyes to watch them and make sure they don't touch knives or electrical sockets or fire. It was tough for Leanne and I to think of reasons to have another kid.

Except when we looked at Olive.

When we watched her play and eat and smile and cry. When she started saying MAMA and DADA and TANKOO (that’s thank you). When we looked at pictures of her at 1 week and 1 month and 6 months old and remembered how much fun, without forgetting how much work, it was at each of those ages. When we watched her give her cousins kisses or give the little boy at the playground hugs. We would look at each other and know that we wanted another child.
That all the work and worry and exhaustion was worth it in spades. Parenthood is a drug and we are junkies. We also knew, despite the temptations of additional time and money, and despite the living, breathing, well-adjusted only children that we knew, that we wanted Olive to have a brother or sister.

Both Leanne and I have siblings. Her – an older brother. Me – two older brothers and a younger sister. Neither of us can imagine our childhood, or adulthood, without what they brought to our lives.

Also, we realized it might be nice to have a back-up kid in case Olive ends up on the pole.

The reasons may be silly, they may be trite, but they are our reasons. And they are the reasons why Leanne and I are expecting a new little one this spring.

Yup, Olive is going to have a little brother or sister.

Okay, truthfully, I have no idea what we were thinking. Parents who have more than one kid are probably having a difficult time reading this right now between their fits of laughter (“Oh my God, they are having another kid? They have NOOOOO idea what they are getting in to).

I am at once terrified, excited, nervous, panicked, and overjoyed – go ahead, put all those words into the thesaurus, write down what you find, and I’m probably all those too.

Once we decided that we were going to try for number two, we also decided that we wanted to “get it over with” – i.e. we wanted Olive and her brother or sister to be close in age. Lots of reasons for this: They get to go to high school together. We don’t need to put the diapering stuff away and drag it back out in a year. We want our kids out of the house by the time we are 50.

This little “development” will obviously change the blog. This is now going to be the “Education of a New Dad and the Re-Education of the Expectant Father.” I already have some blog entries that I wrote during the time we were trying to get pregnant (not while we were actually trying to…well, you get it) and over the first couple months of pregnancy that I will be posting over the coming weeks. I’ll also probably be talking about the pregnancy as much as I talk about Olive and the challenges of figuring out how to raise a toddler. This is going to be a fun six months and beyond.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sleep Patterns

Sleep. If there is one thing that tests every new parent at some point, it is sleep. How to get it. How to keep getting it. How to persuade your young one to submit to it.

I have said this before, but if there is one thing I’ve learned about parenting it is that nothing lasts forever. Patterns shift and change. Likes become dislikes. A favorite toy gets discarded like a used tissue (or maybe for a used tissue, which has somehow become a more entertaining plaything). Kids go from breastmilk to formula to milk to pureed veggies to small solid foods to mouthing an entire apple in a matter of months. As soon as you get used to one, it is time to introduce something different. Everything happens fast and everything changes, usually just as one routine becomes, well, routine.

Sleep is a perfect example of changing habits.

Olive started out as a great sleeper. I wrote about this early on in the blog. We didn’t think we had a real baby. We never woke up exhausted and bleary eyed from late night tussles with the Sandman. Life was good.

But soon Olive decided she wanted to know what the world looked like at 4:00 AM. Then she decided that she liked sleeping with, or on, mommy and daddy. Then came the days when she would sleep easily from 7:30 PM – 6:30 AM – we call them the Golden Days. During this time we fell into a nice bed-time pattern. Change into pajamas (sometimes after a bath), brush her teeth, bring her downstairs, put her in to a sleep sack, and give her a bottle. By the time Double Jeopardy started, you were climbing the stairs with a limp and drooling toddler slung over your shoulder. Sing a quick rendition of “Hush Little Baby” and she was out.

But recently we eliminated the bed-time bottle, and everything went haywire.

When do we put her in to the sleep sack?

How do we give her milk at the end of the day (a moot point since she refuses to drink milk at all from a cup)?

How do we transition from dinner to playtime to bedtime without her thinking it is still playtime?

We struggled with this for a while. And we ended up with some ugly bedtime battles, some early mornings, and a tired toddler. But we think we have solved it for now.

New bedtime routine (which will probably only last for the next four weeks before changing again): bring Olive up to her room to change into pajamas (or get a bath), brush teeth. Shut door to her bedroom and lower lights. Read a parent-limited number of books, usually two or three, in a calm and sleepy-like voice. Put Olive into sleep sack and sing a long song with the lights off. Put in bed. We also spend a lot of time saying things like “…then you’ll go to bed” and “…but after this is time for sleep” and “It is time to say goodnight to daddy soon.”

The last few nights this routine has worked remarkably well. Reading the books seems to give her the time to just sit and decompress and get ready for dreamland that she WAS getting while drinking the bedtime bottle. Closing the door to her bedroom prevents her from running all over the house and thinking she is playing.

We’ll see if this works long-term – long term meaning until Thanksgiving – but the early returns are good.

What have been some of your bedtime routines for toddlers? Go ahead and leave a comment here on on the Facebook page.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who Likes Oranges?

I'm sick and Olive is sick. Which doesn't make for a very pleasant house. Though I did go out and get one of those fancy battery-powered nasal aspirators and now I can't wait for Olive to get up from her nap so I can powersuck some snot. That will make my day.

You know what else makes my day? This picture.

I'm petty sure my mother-in-law took this a few months ago. I mean, come on, you couldn't fit more cuteness in the frame without adding bunnies or kittens.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Hearing Olive talk has always been fun. Seeing her pick up more and more words is a thrill. She is at the point now where she can imitate almost anything you say, as long as she is in the mood. As you can see from the last post, she is becoming a girl that knows what she wants and is starting to be able to SAY what she wants. Where as we used to have to focus on reading her sometimes indecipherable, sometime obvious sign language, not she can firmly say yes and no (or more accurately “eh-eh” and “NNNNO!”). 6 months ago she would run around the house mumbling and you would fumble with various remedies to her distress.

“Do you want this ball? No? How about a drink? Not that either. Okay, how about a piece of cheese? An Apple? Do you want to be picked up? Do you want daddy to punch himself in the face?”

Now she runs up to you, grabs your hand and says “Apple” or “Juice” or “Cheese” or “Ball” or “Up”. It has made catering to her every whim and need SOOO much easier. Of course, you do need to deal with her whining and saying “Up!” over and over again while you push her in her stroller. And you need to figure out ways to get through the rest of the grocery shopping trip after she sees an apple and decides that is the word she wants to say for the rest of the stay. But overall, language is definitely a good thing.

Except for one little pesky word: MINE!

And it really should always be in capital letters like that because she rarely whispers it or says it in passing. It is almost always exclaimed with ferocity that only capital letters can really convey here.


Short. Abrupt. To the point. And she says it a lot. We aren’t sure where she picked it up, but we are assuming daycare. No matter how many toys or how few kids there are in a day care, I think that kids learn really quickly to take possession of certain things. No way I’m letting you play with these blocks or those dolls or these books. These are MINE! Ownership. It is core to our humanity. If the apocalypse happened tomorrow you would bet that we would all be hording water and Spam and gasoline. MINE! Kids in daycare are just little, cuter versions of our imaginary post-apocalyptic selves.


She says it about her crayons, her dolls, her dinner, her shoes, my dinner, my shoes, etc.
But MINE! Became a precursor to an exciting event last night. It was a gateway word, if you will. While in the bath, Olive was claiming ownership over her various toys. MINE! MINE! MINE! When she very clearly said: “My Duck!” I’m going to go ahead and count this has her first two word statement (I’m ignoring “I love you” which really comes out more as “Ahluvoooo” and “Buh-Bye” which is really one word).

So it won’t be long until MINE! Is replaced by “My ball” and “My cheese” and “My apple”. And then you know what happens next, right? Yup, she goes to Harvard.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I now can't leave the house without Olive chanting "Hat! Hat! Hat!" and pointing to her head. I am, of course, very happy that she is talking and learned the very useful word, "hat." I also like that she has started to like hats -- an essential fashion accessory. But this love started towards the end of the summer, when the sun's rays were less intense. I wish she would have liked hats for the first two summers of her life, when she HATED wearing hats, and when the sun's rays shone intensely on what tiny amounts of melanin her skin possessed. I couldn't pay her to wear a hat (of course, that might be because she isn't even two years old and money means nothing to her). I was contemplating getting one stitched on at one point.

Now she hasn't met a hat that she doesn't like.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Olive is Back!

Okay, so it has been a little while since the last post. I recently had a friend ask if Olive had some sort of watermelon-related disaster that caused me to stop posting. Really, it is just that my life has been crazy and the thought of editing videos and downloading pictures and thinking of witty things to say seemed a little daunting. Leanne and Olive and I went six weeks at the end of the summer without being home for a weekend. We had loads of fun, but things like mowing the lawn and dishes and laundry and blogging kind of fell by the wayside. But, Olive is back. The blog is back. I promise.

This is also a bit of a milestone for me as a novice blogger. This is my 100th post. So maybe the pressure of getting the 100th post up just got to me and I froze. Anything is possible, I suppose.

So what is up in the life of Olive? Well, lots. I'll be reviewing the end of summer activities in the coming days, but it is hard for me to figure out what happened when without a calendar and a log of gas station receipts. So let's just try to review this weekend.

Leanne and I took Olive apple picking for the first time. Actually, it was also my first time apple picking. I know, at some point, apple picking became a go-to autumn activity for New Englanders. Well, I never got around to doing it. I don't think my parents were negligent, or biased against farmers, or trying to shield us from the harsh world of tree pruning or something like that. I just think that with four kids, our fall weekends were filled with soccer or dance classes or hockey or some sort of manual labor like raking leaves or painting fence pickets or making Nike shoes. Either way, this would be the first time I had been to an apple orchard.

If you have never been, apple picking is a little like migrant farm worker fantasy camp. You pay $20 for the privilege of walking up a hill and picking apples from the tree. Why we do this, I don't know, especially considering there are bags of apples, from the very same orchard, being sold for the same price, just steps away from where you hand over your money and someone hands you an empty bag. But the kids love it. I guess.

Like other apple orchards there was also a variety of non-apple activities: farm animals, a playground, a fish pond, etc. There was also a pumpkin patch. It isn't, of course, where they actually grow the pumpkins, it is just where they take pumpkins and scatter them in a field to give you the impression that you are actually picking them. Olive decided that to properly pick a pumpkin you must both try to pick it up and, for some reason, sit on it.

Despite leaving $50 poorer after the morning, we did come away with some pumpkins, a bag of apples, and 6 apple cider donuts that I am now officially addicted to. And, yes, Olive did seem to love everything about the day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Olive is an eater. She’ll give almost anything a try but she definitely has her favorites. Banana. Tortellini. Peas. Even steak. But few foods can eclipse the gastronomical passion Olive has for that elegant and gigantic green fruit, the Cadillac of the melon world, that savior of mouths parched by summer heat: the watermelon.

My in-laws knew of this love affair when they sat Olive down for an afternoon snack this past weekend. They decided to see what would happen if Olive was confronted with not the usual handful of pieces, but with a half of an entire watermelon. Shock and awe ensued.

Olive is presented with the bounty.

“Really, this is all for me? You are joking right? Is this a dream, you know, like that movie Inception?”

“I can’t believe it! My head is about to explode with joy!”


Now down to business...

No, they didn’t really let her eat the entire half of the watermelon. Eventually they stopped laughing and taking pictures long enough to give her an appropriate serving size, but something tells me she wouldn’t have had a problem mouthing that whole thing.

(Photos courtesy of my mother-in-law)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Screecher Creature

My in-laws are in town this weekend to see Olive. As you may know, they live about a seven hour drive away in northern Maine. Where in northern Maine, you ask? Do you know where Canada is? Yeah, right next to that. So needless to say, Olive doesn’t get to see them every weekend.

Well, apparently she was fairly excited to see them yesterday cause she decided to put on a little screaming show. Now this wasn’t screaming like sad or upset screaming. Olive was in a great mood for most of the night. This was screaming in place of almost every other command or action or emotion. This was, “Look at me! Look at how entertaining and loud I can be! Hi Mimi and Grampy!”

Want more food? Scream. Want to flip the page of a book? Scream. Want to get in your chair? Scream. Want to get out of your chair? Scream. Happy? Scream. Tired? Scream.
And these weren’t little wimpy baby screams. These were full-on blood-curdling, ear-popping, teeth-rattling screeches.

And she was loving it. Every second. Big smiles every time she let one out. We weren’t quite as happy, especially if she let one out next to your ear while you were holding her. Would make you lose your balance. I wish I had a picture or a video for you, but I was afraid that she might have cracked the lens if she really went for the upper register.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fashion Backwards

So I have read and seen and heard a lot about this new “designer diaper” trend. If you actually HAVE a life and aren’t fully abreast of this development, some Huggies diapers now come in a designer jeans pattern. No, of course it isn’t real denim. I mean, kids poop in it and then you throw it away – THAT would be silly. But they are meant to look like jeans. This, of course, is for the parent that…that…well, that likes paying 40% more for a diaper that makes a kid look like they are wearing daisy dukes, I guess. Either way, they are selling. A lot.

It didn’t take long for Pampers to respond to Huggies opening fashion salvo by announcing that Cynthia Rowley is going to design a line of diapers for that company. I don’t know much about Cynthia Rowley (until about an hour ago, nothing actually) but apparently in the past two years she has signed on to design diapers and uniforms for flight attendants. (Quick aside:How is this viewed in the “design world”? Aren’t designers supposed to be artists? Isn’t this kind like John Irving putting out a series of greeting cards or Martin Scorcese directing an episode of “Two and a Half Men”? Think actresses are beating down her door to dress them for the Oscars? “Oh, Cynthia, please, I need something regal. Something old Hollywood. Something elegant and simple. Something I can piss in and not have to worry about rash.” Okay, back to your regularly scheduled reading.)

I know, I'm about a month behind on this story, so I will spare you the commentary about whether or not this is ruining our country (it isn’t ). And this designer diaper thing is also not a quantum leap for parental consumerism…I mean, does anyone remember this post?. So let’s not take this too seriously.

But what has surprised me about the dozens of news articles and blogs I have read about this is how few stories mention that cute, multi-colored, fancy designer diapers isn’t a new idea. Diapers with polka dots and butterflies and pastel colors have been around for years. They just aren’t disposable.

Olive wears pink and orange and green and yellow and blue diapers. She has a bunch of “trendy” cloth diaper covers. We just bought a friend a diaper that has the Boston Red Sox logo and “Little Sox Fan” embroidered on the butt. And the best part is…you don’t need to throw it away after using it once.

When we chose to use cloth diapers for Olive, the “cute” aspect wasn’t really a factor. I mean, over 90% of the time the diaper is covered by something else – usually something FAR more fashionable. But it doesn’t hurt that the diapers are cute too. So if fashion really means that much to you when choosing a method of collecting human excrement – leave the faux jean disposables on the shelf and swing by or click on to Diaper Lab in Somerville, MA. They don’t have Cynthia Rowley – but really, who the hell is she anyway?

Thursday, July 29, 2010


One thing that I wasn’t prepared for as a parent (along with the frequency of getting poop on my hands) is the amount of teaching you need to do. With an infant, teachable moments seem few and far between because there is so little give and take. Yes, you talk and read and point things out, but there is no interaction.

With a toddler, it is constant.

At around a year, you need to be an ever vigilant teacher. Olive is constantly pointing, picking things up, tasting things, and talking. Yes, I can just let her play with those blocks or paw at flower petals without telling her what color the blocks are or showing her how to smell flowers, but I have this constant fear that my daughter is going to go through life without absolutely vital skills, like knowing what sound a pig makes or that grass isn’t for eating.

It can be exhausting. If Olive picks up a ball and starts playing with it, you have to make a choice. Do I just let her play quietly by herself, without Daddy hovering over her -- or do I start teaching.

-Yes, that is a ball.
-Can you say ball? B-B-B-B-Ball?
-It is a green ball, isn’t it?
-Can you throw the ball?
-Throw the ball to daddy, Olive.

Then she throws the ball and you need to confirm with her that, yes, that was the action you requested.

-Good job, honey. You threw the green ball to daddy. Oh, now you want to play with the puzzle?


And this isn’t just during playtime. This is when she is eating (Are those good blueberries? What is that? Is that a fork?) When we are in the grocery store (Yes, that is a banana). During bathtime (I’m washing your hands now, Olive. Can you show me your hands?).When we are in the car (Do you see the school bus, Olive? The yellow school bus? Do you see the douche bag who just cut daddy off, honey? How many fingers is daddy holding up, Olive? One! That’s right!). See what I mean about it getting tiring.

And we teach our kids absolutely useless information. Children’s books are filled with references to animals that live on farms or entire other continents. Why does it matter if Olive knows that a sheep says “Baa.” I’m pretty sure that sheep are never going to play a major role in her life. And hate to break it to you, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, but no one cares what you hear. You are going to be extinct by the time Olive goes to high school anyway.

But these teachable moments do have a payoff. Olive is picking up new words slowly but surely. She is starting to be able to perform tricks like pointing to her nose and stomping her feet. One of her favorite activities is grabbing books from her bookshelf, walking over to the middle of the room, sitting down, and starting to “read.” When she flips open the book she babbles, I assume imitating mommy and daddy reading out loud to her.

She doesn’t exactly have the longest attention span though…so now I just need to teach her that books have more than one page.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Country Bumpkin

As mentioned in a of previous posts, we had a fantastic family vacation to the northern reaches of Maine over the fourth of July. Why let a little disfigured toe get in the way of a good time.

Olive was exposed to all things Northern Maine.

1) Camouflage overalls

2) Riding lawnmowers

3) And of course, fully operational mini-cannons (at least Olive got dressed up to go play with artillery)

My mother-in-law took most of these pictures and I kept asking her to send them along, to which she would reply: “Why, so you can make us all look like hicks up here!”

What do you mean? I would never do that! I just want to make my daughter look like a hick.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Boo Boo

Leanne and I never really went through a weekend of baby proofing our home. Our strategy was to wait for Olive to point out potential dangers to us and then we would fix them.

-Ooops, looks like we forgot to cover that electrical socket.
-I guess she can reach that drawer full of knives now. Should probably do something about that.
-Did you know that string on the blinds are a strangulation hazard?
-You know, now that she is walking we better get a gate or the top of the stairs, huh?

The result is that, over the last 15 months, our house has become relatively baby proof.

Unfortunately, you can’t baby proof the world.

Over fourth of July weekend, we took Olive on vacation to see her grandparents up in northern Maine. We had a fantastic time and Olive loves nothing more than seeing her Mimi and Grampy and running around their gardens and playing with her cousins. The second day we were there, though, Olive decided to put a little damper on the fun.

The nice thing about grandparents, especially ones that don’t get to see their granddaughter a lot, is that any time with Olive is time well spent. Change her diaper? Sure! Wake up early with her? No problem! Give her a bath? I’ll give her three!

The second morning there, Leanne and I were just waking up from a restful sleep at, gasp, 7:30 AM to hear the little pitter patter of Olive’s chubby feet running around the floor above us. Ahh, vacation. We get to sleep in and Mimi and Grampy can groggily entertain the early riser. Then we heard a horrible THUD and Olive crying. Uh-Oh. Leanne hopped out of bed like she heard a starting pistol and ran upstairs, probably covering five steps at a time.

Olive had been playing with her grandparents and apparently thought that a full-length mirror leaning against the bedroom wall was a door and decided to, well, close it. In an instant, before anyone could react, Olive pushed the mirror over, slamming it into the ground. I wasn’t there, but I can imagine the helplessness that my in-laws felt as they watched the mirror make its slow-motion journey to the floor.

Looking back, we are lucky. The end of the mirror landed on Mimi’s hand (she had been laying on the ground playing with Olive) and caused a nasty bruise and a lot of soreness, but no major damage. The other end of the mirror slid back and clipped Olive’s foot, opening nasty gash in her toe you can see below, but nothing else. No broken glass, no bonks on the head, no trips to the emergency room. But you never want your daughter’s foot to look like this:

We got Olive cleaned up. Well, Mimi, Grampy and I got Olive cleaned up as Leanne couldn’t look at her daughter’s bloody foot without almost fainting. I think the person who felt the worse, though, was my mother-in-law, who somehow felt she should have adopted the reflexes of a mongoose and speed of a jungle cat to pop up from her position on the floor and catch the mirror mid-fall. There was really nothing anyone could have done once Olive decided to push. We called the doctor to make sure we were doing everything right, and before we knew it we were laughing and Olive was walking around the house, bloody toe and all.

Two weeks later, Olive’s toe is healing well. She lost her toenail today (just in case you wanted a nasty mental picture to go with the actual one above) but she is really no worse for wear. Babies, I have learned, are accident magnets (and luckily, quick healers). They seek out the most dangerous item in a room and immediately see if they can a) knock it over, b) put it in their mouth, or c) stick their finger in it. Sometimes you can stop them before anything happens and sometimes you can’t. No matter how hard anyone tries, we will never baby proof the world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Olive's Boy Toy

This past weekend I took Olive to a little public beach on a pond close to our house. On a Hot a humid day, a quick dip in the water seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, the hot and humid weather was also producing thunderstorms somewhere in the area and the lifeguards need to clear the water for a half hour every time they hear thunder. So due to a distant storm, instead of playing in the water, Olive played in the sand and in a sprinkler watering the grass of a playground next to the beach.

As little kids have a tendency to do, Olive attracted the attention of other kids and other parents. One mom decided to bring her little boy over to play in the sprinkler. We started chatting and the kids seemed to hit it off. So the mom decided to take the plunge and change her son into his swim diaper and have him cool off. So off comes the shirt. And then off come the shorts. And then off comes the diaper.

Olive froze.

Olive stared.

She turned and looked at me and you could tell she was thinking “Ummm, Dad. That little boy just dropped trow in front of me and, well, what’s all that junk down there?”

It was a little embarrassing to stand there talking to the mom while Olive stared at her son’s package, but I figured it was completely harmless, right. Plus, for the first time all afternoon, Olive was stunned into both silence and stillness.

So then on went the swim diaper and Olive broke out of her trance. She went up to go play with the boy. Except she didn’t want to play with the boy as much as I think she wanted to play with his boys. She went straight for the waistband of the diaper.

“No, honey,” I say, pulling her hand away as she tries to pull down his shorts. “You can’t just pull at his pants.”

Olive backs off. Then heads back in for another try. This time with both hands. Pulling at the waistband and obviously making an effort to peer down into the nether region. Olive’s curiosity was peeked and now she wanted to see where all that fun stuff went.

Eventually I was able to distract her with the sprinkler and all was good.

I just kept thinking to myself that all this stuff is cute now when she is 15-months-old. When she is 15-years-old…not so much. Ahh, the joys of having a daughter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Screen Time

Since Leanne and I are dirty, crunchy, granola-eating, garden-growing, bike-riding, Patagonia-wearing, tea-drinking, Obama-voting, pinko hippies, we always thought that we would severely limit Olive’s TV watching. We would prance around as a na├»ve, childless couple going “TV is bad!” and “We’ll never just stick OUR child in front of the TV” and “I hope she never knows what a princess is!”

We would normally say these things while watching our fourth episode of The Hills or arguing whether or not we watch a recorded episode of Little People, Big World or America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Umm, do as we say, not as we do, honey.

When we had Olive we took one major step towards less TV by downgrading our cable from the regular 4,729 channels to about 50. Oh, and no more DVR. (On a side note, this seems to have punished ME more than anyone cause right now we get no ESPN, no NESN, no Food Network, no Discovery Channel. Therefore, no Sportscenter, no Red Sox, no food porn, and no Deadliest Catch or Cash Cab. But we somehow manage to get the Style Network, the WE Network, and some channel that constantly plays re-runs of What Not to Wear.) For the first year or so of Olive’s life it was pretty easy to keep her from TV. We usually fed her and then gave her bottles while watching the tube, but she was probably only in front of it for a total of about 30 minutes a day.

But things were simpler way back then six months ago. Before then, you could just set Olive down with some toys and she would be happy. No need for a TV cause she really didn’t show much interest in it. Plus, for almost the first full year of her life she was relatively immobile. If she wasn’t plopped in front of the TV, she wasn’t watching it.

Oh, the good old days. More and more I find myself flipping on the set as an emergency calm me down for a cranky Olive. More and more I find myself enjoying sitting on the couch with my arm around my daughter and watching Curious George. Before, we used to give her a morning bottle with Sesame Street on in the background and then get up and do something else after she was done. Now, Olive finishes her bottle and she re-positions herself onto the couch to keep watching. Hell, we even bought her a little easy chair and put it right next to the couch, facing the TV. The AAP recommends that kids under two years old watch NO television. That seems impossible if you have a television in the house.

I thinkt he trick is closely monitoring what and how much they watch, and the good news is we still limit pretty strictly what she watches. I’ve quickly figured out that the best shows really are on PBS. Sesame Street has changed a lot since we were kids, but, in my opinion, is still the best kids show on television. Though I cringe when I see Elmo on everything from juice boxes to crackers to toilets, I have kind of grown to like the little red guy. Curious George is a simple cartoon with a simple story. Peep and the Big Wide World is the same thing. They don’t need crazy animation or storylines that seemed like they were written while on an acid trip. Those are pretty much our standbys. We get four different PBS channels so chances are I can find one of those whenever I need it. (Of course, I think I watch these shows a little too much, cause things start to bother me. Things like: why doesn’t the Man in the Yellow Hat realize that leaving George alone is just a BAD idea? He KEEPS leaving him alone! It is clear your monkey needs supervision. It is only a matter of time before George rips someone’s face off.)

Olive still hasn’t really watched too much other TV. Sure, the news will be on in the morning, and Jeopardy is almost always on when she is getting ready for bed. We do get other kids channels, I think Nick Jr, but she really doesn’t watch. I can see the future, though. Olive watched her first movie a couple weeks ago when she was sick. She sat on the couch for over an hour and watched a cheap Elmo flick we took out from the library. She likes TV. WE like TV. As militant as we like to think we will be about “Screen time” the fact is that we are going to watch it and she is going to watch it. For better or worse, it will be our babysitter at times. Eventually she is going to discover the Disney channel and start watching whoever takes over for Miley Cyrus once Miley’s sex tape comes out. Then she’ll want to go to a Demi Lovato concert and a Justin Beiber poster. Then Olive is going to want all the Disney Princess videos and she is going to want to be Ariel for Halloween and before you know it I’m going to be dressing my four year old in a bra made out of shells.

Yes, it is a slippery slope this television, but I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t like to slide down slippery slopes.

So what you’re your views on kids and televison and screen time? Am I slowly poisoning Olive’s brain and sentencing her to a life of ADD and obesity. Or is TV and wonderful cure-all that gives us parents 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to actually make dinner or drink a bottle or two of wine? Choose!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy and Sad...

It has been a pretty steamy summer here in New England. We have had a few chances to bring Olive to the beach, pools, ponds, and in the backyard kiddie pool. It always takes her a while to warm up to the water, but if you stick it out, she usually loves it. Judging from these pictures though, I’m guessing she is more of a pool girl.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teddy Ruxpin Redux

Olive has these two stuffed animals that talk to you. And sing. And ask you to hug them.

In the olden days we had Teddy Ruxpin – basically a tape player surrounded by a frightening animatronic bear. What kid didn’t want to have one…and then get nightmares about one!

Well, these two bears (and she has two of them because we got them as gifts) are WAAAY more advanced than Teddy Ruxpin. On one of them, you press the feet and it says “Foot”. Convenient. You press its ear and, you guessed it, it says “Ear”. Both of them play songs and giggle and have some sort of interactive feature. One bear can actually be hooked up to your computer to allow you to choose your child’s name, favorite animal, food, color, etc. So I was able to program the bear to say “Hi, Olive! I looove Pumas. Do you? I can’t wait till we get to eat some black-eyed peas!”

So, with all of these wonderful features. With all of this technology that was unavailable to me when I was growing up. To Olive, the most fascinating thing about these bears is that they have a battery pack stuffed into their back. She will play with the bears appropriately for a little while then she will inevitably turn them over, rip open the Velcro running down the spine, and start exploring the innards of the bear. Eventually, they get left on the floor like two victims of a black market kidney theft. Some day, I’m going to find them in a tub of ice with a note attached to them telling the bears to call 911.

I would have never done that to you, Teddy Ruxpin.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gentle Touches

Olive is a hitter. It is just how she greets other children, and sometimes, their face. We have tried to get her to stop, but whenever you give her a firm “No!” she tends to laugh in your face. When you put her in timeout she greets you with giggles and kisses after the minute “punishment” is up. We try to teach her about “gentle touches” and “playing nice” and “being soft” and “babies are fragile” but she still thinks this is all a game. “Fragile” is apparently baby talk for “begging to be slapped in the back of the head.”

You can tell that she is a happy kid, so very rarely do these hits come from malice. She just thinks this is a game and, to her, the slaps and hits have no consequence. But make no mistake, they connect pretty good. Like a good boxer, sometimes the punches come when you least expect them. Just yesterday she was hanging out with her cousin Lucy. When Lucy came in the door Olive poured on the cuteness, you know, to lull her into a sense of calmness. Then she reached for Lucy with both hands, immediately springing me into action. I can’t let Olive get off on the wrong foot and smash her 10-month-old cousin in the face (and a cute face it is) two minutes after she gets in the door. But Olive faked me out. She wasn’t going to hit Lucy. She reached out with both hands. Gently grabbed her face, and gave her a kiss. A minute passed and Olive was going after her again. This time I was sure a left cross was coming. Nope. This time she grabbed Lucy, pulled her in, and gave her a big hug.

Not bad. Maybe we have turned a corner. Maybe this gentle touch shit was really working.

Then Olive, with huge smile on her face, poked Lucy in the eye, stuck her hand in her mouth and started grabbing the inside of her cheek, like she wanted to rip the lips off her face. Great.

How do I tell my 14 month old to try and remove other children’s tonsil’s gently?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Defense! Defense!

The last two nights we brought Olive to a big playground about a mile away from us. We have a small playground right across the street from us, so why do we drive to a different one? First, the playground across the street is usually patronized by the two five-year-old creepy twin girls who like to try and kidnap Olive, bring her down slides, and use her as their personal cabbage patch doll. I am terrified of them. They remind me a little bit of Middle Eastern versions of the twins from The Shining. And Olive is pretty scared at this point too. If they come within two feet of her she turns and runs for mommy and daddy, hands straight up in the air, screaming like a banshee. I may consider allowing her to carry mace. Or maybe one of those whistles they give to girls their first day of college.

Also, the point of bringing Olive to the playground at all is to get her to run around, climb up some stuff, and tire her self out so she’ll go to sleep as soon as we get home. The playground across the street is a little small and, more importantly, covered in woodchips. Olive likes to eat woodchips. She runs around for about five minutes and then plops down on the ground to start her meal. Not achieving our mission.

If she manages to avoid the attraction of delicious shredded cedar, Olive gets distracted by the tennis court next to the playground. If people are playing on it, she points, says some form of the word “ball” and makes a bee line for the court. Only she doesn’t want to watch. She wants to play. Active tennis courts aren’t the safest place for a child Olive’s age. The woodchip and tennis court scenario always usually end up with us picking up a crying Olive and heading back across the street.

So every once and a while we pile in the car and take Olive to this huge playground where there are fewer distractions. No creepy twins. No tennis balls being batted around. And the entire thing is covered in the squishy rubber stuff they make running tracks out of – no woodchips.

On Monday, Leanne and I both brought Olive. Tuesday, I flew solo. This is when I started to realize the difference parent to child ratio plays in the playground experience. First, this place is massive. Lots of open space to run around. Lots of steps and slides and ramps to run around. It is a great playground for a kid Olive’s age because it doesn’t try to emulate a Navy SEALS obstacle course. So she takes advantage of it. She roams all over the place and has to touch EVERYTHING. With the parent to child ratio at 2:1, Leanne and I were able to play zone defense. I watched this opening in the ramp and she watched the monkey bars. I was at the bottom of the slide and she was at the top. Sure, there was one small breakdown in communication where I almost let Olive take a fall from a three foot high platform, but we were positioned well enough that we could close in pretty quick.

When I took Olive there alone, I had to play straight man-to-man. I spent the entire time no more than two feet from Olive’s person. I had to follow her up to the top of the slide, send her down, and make a quick dash for the bottom. If she went up one side of a ramp, I couldn’t walk around and wait on the other side, I had to stay on my man. When she zigged, I had to zag.

Monday was a much more enjoyable experience. Probably for me and for Olive. Really, as Olive becomes more independent, the day I look forward to the most is when we can take her to the playground and I am comfortable enough to sit on a bench, read the paper, and keep an ear out for the occasional thud and scream.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reading the Signs

So when you first become a parent, one of the tougher things to deal with is that babies are non-vocal. They can’t tell you what they want or what is bothering them or what hurts. They just cry and it is your job to figure out why.

This detective work does get a little easier as they get older. First, you start to figure out what their cries mean. One cry means they are tried, another hungry, another means they are in pain. Then they start pointing or shaking their head at things. Then they start saying things like “no” or “ball” or “juice.” It was a blessed day when Olive started saying no to things. I know, it seems contrarian, but it is a huge help when your child is crying and you can eliminate a toy or a drink or something else as a possible solution by having them shake their head no.

If you are ambitious you can teach your child sign language. I hear it works great and allows you to communicate with your child long before they become vocal. We tried teaching Olive for a couple weeks, but then the library book we took out came due and, well, Leanne and I are kinda lazy a didn’t really keep on top of it.

Also, if you wait long enough, kids make up their own signs, their own ways of letting you know what they want. For example, I’m pretty sure this meant that Olive wanted her milk.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup Edition

This summer is Olive’s first experience with the World Cup. Although she has watched about forty five seconds of soccer, with thirty of those seconds spent trying to figure out if Elmo was somewhere on the TV (I think he plays for Brazil), I can still try to get her in the spirit. I’m trying to teach her some chants, plan on buying her one of those plastic horns (so I can burn it) and am trying to use some time at the playground to teach her proper hooliganism. “Ok, Olive. No kick that scrawny kid, elbow him in the throat and yell ‘OY!’”

So this weekend we made it a soccer weekend. We started the day of the long-awaited England vs USA match by visiting Minuteman National Park. We walked the battle road, visited the site of Paul Revere’s capture and saw plenty of plaques honoring unnamed fallen British soldiers. You know, never too early to teach Olive about how we as Americans can kick some colonialist behind.

Later we broke out the soccer ball. She hasn’t quite figured out the kicking thing yet. Really, she just wants to pick up the ball, take a few steps, lick it, and then throw it. Maybe she just wants to be a keeper?

Ole, ole, ole, ole!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good Morning!

When you are about to become a parent you really don’t think about the 6-week-old pooping and eating machine that doesn’t acknowledge your existence.

You think about what happened this morning as I left for work. Olive following me to the front door, waving goodbye and then pressing her hands and face against the glass of the storm door as I walked to the car. I could still hear her saying “Dada! Dada!” from across the street. Not a bad way to start my day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


So we all know things have changed since we were kids. I promise, this is not going ot be a “Those were the good old days” posting where I say things like “When I was your age we used to watch REAL cartoons like Mighty Mouse and Tom and Jerry!”

It isn't hard to notice that Olive is growing up in a world that has undergone some major changes in the last 30 years. Technology, media, globalization, the Red Sox no longer being loveable losers, etc. Sometimes, though, it is the seemingly minor shifts, the ones that occurred while we weren’t looking, that are more interesting.

The one that hit me the other day is the telephone. I don’t think Olive has ever seen someone talk on an actual telephone. We don’t have a land line in our house. We use our cell phones for everything. And I know we aren't the only parent where that is the case. If we want her to play with a phone, we need to get a little fake cell phone or else it will be like someone having given me a telegraph to play with when I was a kid. Millions of toy telephones that were stuck into attics for when the grandkids were born are now useless.

What we do with our phones has changed too. Olive loves playing with my Blackberry (who doesn’t), but she imitated me typing on it months before she started holding it up to her ear. Now she will grab the phone from you and walk around smiling, texting away. She also really doesn't know what an actual ringing phone sounds like. Even though mine immitates an "old-fashioned" phone, Leanne's ringtone is some version of a hip-hop song. Every other ringtone in the world is a song or a combination of various beeps, tones, and melodies. No standard telephone ring.

For some reason, I’m also just figuring out the massive shift in playground building materials that occurred sometime in the last 15 years. Yeah, we all know that pressure treated wood was found to emit arsenic, but when did this huge playground building boom happen!? I missed the cranes going up in suburbs around the country to replace my wooden playground with one with climbing walls and twisty slides, and obstacle courses fit for Navy Seal training. You can’t find a wooden playground or a metal slide or wildly dangerous rocking animal on a rusty metal spring ANYWHERE these days. How is Olive supposed to go through the ritual rite of tearing her thigh open on a stray bolt while crawling through a splintered, arsenic-leaching fun house? Everywhere now is plastic, which I assume we will discover gives us cancer in 15 years.

What kind of small changes have you noticed since you were a kid?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Word to your Mother

Have you bought your flowers yet? It is this Sunday.

Mother’s Day, obviously, has some new meaning to Leanne, and to me, now that we are parents. Sure, Leanne was a mother last Mother’s Day too, but there is something about having done this for a year now that makes our parental status more official.

(Fair warning: I'm about to become sappy and sentimental)

You learn things as parents. You become part of a club. It is like getting married or going to college or anything else that someone does that you can’t really explain to people who haven’t done it. I have this shared experience with legions of the living and the dead. Everyone who has held a child knows how I feel when I hold my daughter. My father. My grandfathers. They did the same things I did. I watch Leanne do the simple things that a mother does – hold Olive just a little closer when she cries, brush her hair away from her face, tickle her feet, giggle at her half toothless grin – and I know that my mother and my grandmothers and her mother and her grandmothers did the same thing. The pit in your stomach as you cradle a sick child, rocking her back to sleep. The comfort you get from leaving the bedroom door open a crack to hear her breath, in and out, after she finally gets to sleep. I’m not the only one to have felt like this.

My mother and father raised four kids. Having just one child in my life makes me realize that no gift I could ever give my mom, no flowers or trips to brunch, would make up for those gifts she has given me. It also makes me wonder how, for 18 years, she successfully restrained herself from smacking me from here to Tuesday.

This is someone who would wake up in the middle of the night to hold me and rock me and sing me a song, even when all she wanted was a just a little more sleep. She giggled at my crooked smile. She wiped the hair away from my eyes.

She held my hands as I learned to walk and made sure that my food wasn’t too hot. The little things DO matter, you know. She got me to school every day and didn’t let me settle for what she and I both knew was well enough, because I COULD do better than that. She kissed my bruises and bandaged my cuts – and my ego.

She got me to practice on time…and then stayed for the scrimmage…and then washed my uniform…and then folded it. Then she yelled at me when I didn’t put it away.

She let me make my own mistakes even though, I know now, not being able to break your child’s fall is like being in free fall yourself. Letting kids help themselves renders you helpless. She didn’t let me stay out let and get into nothing but trouble, even though it broke her heart to hear me say that someone else’s mom was cooler or better.

I do these things, or will do these things, for Olive. And just the same, she really won’t appreciate the love, the sacrifice, the pain, and the joy that go into them. I now know what my mom meant when she would explain her actions to me by saying, “You’ll understand someday.” Mom, I’m getting there.

Now, when Olive does something particularly cute, Leanne and I look at each other and say “Aww, someday she is going to say, ‘I hate you, mom and dad.’”

It is our way of forcing ourselves to realize that it won’t always be this easy and that big challenges lie ahead. We also joke about it because at one point or another we both thought it or said it to our own parents, without really knowing what we were saying – and now we can’t imagine how we could have been so stupid.

All those wet towels on the floor. All those dishes left in TV room after a snack cause mom will get them later. All those useless arguments. All those times I put my parents through the wringer for reasons I can’t remember and probably didn’t even understand at the time. All those nights I ignored my curfew thinking that 15 minutes wasn’t a big deal. All those years I just didn’t know how much someone can love someone else. I cringe. I cringe at what I didn’t know.

When you become a parent you know.

You know how much you put in to trying to do this parenting thing right, and how much you have invested in your kids. It makes you want to spend equal time thanking and apologizing the people that raised you and somehow did do it right.

So to Leanne, to my mom, and to all the mothers – Thank you. And I’m sorry.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Again? Really?

If Olive were born in, say, 1809 instead of 2009, and if she had somehow grown up to become someone famous, and if I were writing a biography of her, somewhere in the first few pages of that biography would be this line:

“Olive Candura was a sickly child…”

Two hundred years ago she would have been that kid that got scarlet fever or had asthma so bad that the family was forced to move to where the air was better, like Vermont.

But she wasn’t born 200 years ago, she was born last year, and we have vaccines and soap and Purell and stuff like that (The Velveteen Rabbit taught society valuable lessons about both love AND infectious diseases). So what it really boils down to is that Olive has another ear infection. I think that makes for four ear infections THIS YEAR. She has also had pink eye twice and has had a cough so bad that she required an inhaler. And that says nothing of the colds, sniffles, and the teething. Oh God, the teething.

I don’t think it is a good sign when your 1.083 year old daughter, upon seeing you pull out the dropper of infant Tylenol, opens her mouth and strains her neck like a baby bird fighting for food. I think she may be getting a little too used to this medication thing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fun with Chasing

There is oil washing ashore in Louisiana, Tennessee is under water, Boston had no clean water, and the Red Sox are three games under .500 – but there are still good things in the world.

One of those good things is the ability to make a child giggle uncontrollably by sneaking up behind her and snatching her into your arms. Too much.

No Pressure...

My wife, Leanne, is a little competitive. She always wins at Monopoly. Playing Scrabble with her makes my hair fall out (literally, tiles will be covered in little strands of hair, their lifespan cut short by the stress of not being able to form a word longer than four letters). She rarely backs down from a challenge and hates it when other people are doing things that she can’t do. It is one of the things I love about her. Her competitiveness really comes out when she sees someone else doing something that she hasn’t done and knows she can.

This is not good news for our daughter.

As a parent, it is hard to check yourself from comparing your kid to all the other kids or to what the books tell you your child should be doing. Walking, talking, crawling, eating the right foods, making the right gestures, they all need to be done on a very strict timetable. Put enough pressure on yourself and your kid and they are going to end up one of those kids that cries when they get an A- and then an adult with massive performance anxiety. We know this and Leanne and I both try to keep ourselves from getting too carried away, but, it isn't hard to lose yourself. And remember, Leanne is a little competitive. I mean, she read somewhere that you can start toilet training after 12 months – the next day Olive had a little toilet in her bedroom.

The other day Leanne was at the playground with Olive and there happened to be two other moms there with their little girls. Both girls were within a month of Olive’s age, but they were doing things that Olive hasn’t even attempted. They were shooting down the slide on the tummy, getting to the bottom and heading for another run. They were climbing up steps. They were, in almost every way, dominating the playground. These kids were the Lance Armstrong and Tom Brady of playgrounds and Olive was just sort of standing and watching, every once and a while pausing to try and eat some woodchips.

Leanne got home and told me the story. The other kids were doing so much more than Olive. Their moms were letting them go down the twisty slide, by themselves! Leanne then promptly looked at our daughter and said, “Olive, we have some work to do. Let’s get practicing.”

God help us when Olive starts playing sports.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Metric System

Since Olive turned one, I have been trying to figure out how to tell people her age. Right now, I can get away with, “She just turned one.” But once May 8th rolls around, we have some decisions to make. Most people will say that she is 13 months old. But I’m getting kinda tired of counting months. When do I stop counting months? I don’t say that I am 368 months old.

I think little kids have the right idea. Ask a six year old her age and she will give you a fraction – “I’m six and a half” or “I’m six and three quarters”. When I was in elementary school we even celebrated half birthdays, for people who – like me – had birthdays that fell in the summertime.

I think I’m going to follow the lead of the fraction system and start referring to Olive’s age using decimals. So on May 8th I will say that Olive is approximately 1.083 years old. It is just easier this way. Less counting. It is like the metric system for ages.

Who’s with me?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Proper Bath Technique

So, I have been at this a year, and there are obviously more than a few things that continue to baffle me about child care. You know, things like, how do I keep my one year old from laughing furiously every time she pinches my neck, why does Olive love to eat dirt so much, and should I be scared that my daughter’s favorite liquid seems to be Infant Tylenol?

Given these and other issues I have been having, I decided to reach out for some help. It may seem trivial and I’m definitely putting myself out for ridicule, but questions need answers. So, this is a question to you, loyal dedicated reader(s).

How do you wash a toddler’s hair without a) performing a dangerous balancing act with a slippery wet baby is a slippery wet tub with slippery wet hands that results in said baby falling back into the water; or b) pouring cups of water into the child’s eyes.

I still bathe Olive in her infant/toddler bathtub. I do this because it allows me to lean her back in a reclined position to pour water over her head. Unfortunately, she is quickly getting too big for the tub and I feel like by now she should be in the regular bathtub. I mean, at some point she needs to transition. I just can’t figure out how to wash her hair. Am I missing something here? How do other parents do this without drowning their child or temporarily blinding them? There has to be a simple technique to this that I haven’t figured out. So I am reaching out to you, my diminutive blog-o-sphere community, for a little help. What does a father do?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just Another Marathon Monday

The first steps are so wonderful to watch, but after that, having a little mobile baby is a little more trouble than your first think. This last weekend marked Olive’s SECOND trip to the Boston Marathon to cheer on the runners (No, Leanne and I didn’t run, we got our fill of that in October). Last time we went out to the course she slept comfortably in her car seat as we pushed her around under roughly thirty pounds of blankets. She was only a couple weeks old and really didn’t do much other than sleep, eat, and shit. As long as we kept her well fed, warm, and managed to contain the excrement, we had nothing to worry about.

This year was a different story. Sure, it was fun to watch her clap for the runners and sit and watch them run and/or limp past. But keeping her contained proved to be a little work. For a little while, all she wanted to do was set off running along with the crowds. Leanne and I took turns sitting behind her and preventing her from playing out some weird version of the running of the bulls (Running of the sweaty people in short shorts? Running of the Gu-eaters? Running of the baby tramplers?) The rest of the day was a quest to keep her entertained cause, you know, she doesn’t really sleep as much as she did when she was three weeks old.

I mean, at this point it is just tough to keep track of her. You need various strategies and accoutrement. So I think the way things worked out was this: Leave home, car seat, to the stroller, to being held, standing, held, standing, held, stroller, standing, sitting, standing, sitting, held, Ergo on daddy, standing, ergo on mommy, stroller, car seat, ergo on daddy, standing, stroller, carseat, home.

There was some playing and eating and a couple diaper changes in there somewhere. Also some sleeping, but not much.

Overall it was a great day. Walking Olive is a lot more work than non-walking Olive, but she is also a heck of a lot of fun. And it is great that we have started a little tradition of watching the marathon as a family. Who knows, maybe someday she WILL join the crowd running past.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 366

What is a dad of a one year old to do?

That is the question I can’t seem to get answered. As we all know, the world is littered with self-help books, advice websites, and television shows telling you how you should live your life. Those focused on parenting tell you how to guide someone else’s life (and probably turn them into an over-protected, wildly timid, friendless dork, but that is an entirely different posting). Go ahead, Google “parenting advice” and have fun sorting through the 29.3 MILLION hits. You get everything from the site for Parenting Magazine to WebMD to the sites for Dr. Phil and the SuperNanny. Advice topics range from birth to dealing with college students and beyond. The vast majority of the sites, though, are focused on dealing with newborns.

That is my problem. I have a toddler now. I admit that I turned to the internet and to some trusted books for advice on what to do in certain situations. Heck, I’ve never done this child rearing stuff.

But now we have survived the first year. And that means that most of the websites I turned to to figure out what to do when Olive had a fever or what are appropriate finger foods, have simply kicked me to the curb. Sorry, Jeff, we have to cater to the clueless, tired, vomit and poop covered masses dealing with the little ones – you’re on your own.

I realized just the other day that the one parenting book that we own What to Expect the First Year only covers, well, the first year. We are in the second year now and apparently are experts at this parenting thing.

I figured all this out when I tried to do some research this week on giving Olive cow’s milk for the first time and introducing foods that have been verboten until her first birthday, like eggs and KFC’s Double Down sandwich. I was given very little guidance. It was almost as if all these advice-mongers were just saying “Yeah, give her 16-24 ounces of milk and just deal with it. She might get sick, might get diarrhea, might not take to it right away, but you have dealt with all that stuff before.”

Not helpful.

But I just need to man up. I must embark on the beginning of Olive’s second year without my training wheels. No more running to the computer to check at what point Olive should be gaining this motor skill or that motor skill, no more flipping through the pages of a book to find the symptoms of various childhood illnesses. At this point I’ll need to rely on myself, Leanne, and our vast parental experience.

I’m lying of course, I’m already searching amazon for good books on toddlers.