Monday, March 29, 2010

Play Time!

I think I have finally learned that, at Olive’s age, toys are useless. Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say, at Olive’s age the WORLD is a toy. Leanne and I have spent quite bit of money on toys. Well-meaning friends and relatives have definitely chipped in with some blocks and teddy bears and dolls and various things that light up, play music and beep. Now Olive does play with her toys (and by "play" I mean "chew on") but usually it is because there is nothing else within arm's reach. I should have learned this lesson earlier, considering her favorite toys when she was only a few months old were spoons and measuring cups. About a month ago she made toilet paper her own never-ending roll of fun. This is in addition to the regular remote control, cell phone, and kitchen towel obsession. But her interests have progressed as she has aged.

Here are some of Olive’s recent playthings.

She can entertain herself turning on and off the Xbox for a good 10 – 15 minutes.

Who says you shouldn’t let kids play with plastic bags? This bought Leanne and I enough time to make dinner!

It should be noted that about three feet from where she is standing is a whole box full of toys. But she had a blast emptying her drawer full of pants and socks instead. You might take note that there is actually a toy RIGHT NEXT TO HER! It never got touched.

You know, I should probably just leave this one alone. Way out of my league.

Unfortunately, Olive also gravitates towards anything that is dangerous. We have done a pretty good job baby-proofing, but if there is an electrical cord or a bag of trash waiting to go outside or a wine glass on the coffee table, she will find it.

Of course, even with all this photographic evidence, I still couldn’t help myself from buying a toy for her birthday next week. I should probably return it and wrap up some TP and let her go at it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

European Vacation

Olive went on a little vacation to her grandparents recently. Translation: Leanne and I abandoned Olive, complete with an ear infection and a hacking cough that required an inhaler, at my parent’s house while we went off and traipsed across England and Ireland for six days and nights.

We are not very good at this parenting thing.

We have left Olive for a weekend away before, but never for something this long. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that leading up to our departure date we were a bit nervous about flying across an ocean and leaving our 11-month old behind. It also didn’t help that torrential rains the three days before our scheduled flight left our unfinished basement AND my parents finished basement a little, well, moist. Oh yea, don’t forget that on the day we were supposed to leave, Olive got prescribed two separate medications that she would need to take three times daily. Needless to say, Leanne and I had a long conversation about not going on our trip.

It was my mom who convinced me it would be okay. With her flooded basement I wasn’t exactly eager to shoulder her with a sick baby for six nights.

“Nothing that hasn’t happened to every other kid I have watched,” she said to me. “She’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.”

And she was right. My mom raised four kids of her own, is the nanny to two more, and is now playing a significant role in the lives of four grandkids. Olive was probably better of staying with her and my dad than she would be with us.

Being away was hard (well, hard other than the being able to sleep in, take an afternoon nap, string together 6 days without getting poop on my hand, have several adult conversations without ever having to pause and say “please don’t eat that” or “goo goo la la di dum”, and being able to drink several Guinness knowing that if I had a hangover, I would probably not be woken up at 5:30 AM by another human being screaming as loud as possible).

Neither of us had been away from Olive for that long, and we already felt guilty that we were living her sick and medicated. We were able to talk to my parents daily to get updates. When we had internet we were able to set up video chat and watch Olive walk around or bounce in my mom’s lap. You would think that Olive would be excited to see and hear her parents talking after being away for a few days. But she really had no interest in virtual mommy and daddy and was far more interested in hitting the buttons on the keyboard, grabbing the monitor, and eating the teething biscuit my mother gave her to keep her from crying. Those chats really made me feel loved.

My dad sent us pictures throughout the trip, apparently as a sort of proof of life. Sometimes the pictures were adorable and let us know that Olive is happy and well cared for, like the one below.

Other pictures, not so much. Like this one we received when my parents watched Olive while we were away on an earlier trip.

I mean, at least give the kid a good beer!

But six days after leaving, we were back to Olive and back to our lives as parents. No more sleeping in, no more Guinness, much more poop on the hands. We had just started to remember what our lives were like before we had a kid, and now we had to get used to being parents again. But after seeing Olive’s face light up when the door opened at the airport and she saw her mommy for the first time in a week, I knew I was back home.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Fought the Floor and the Floor Won

Olive has started to walk. Not cruise. Not shuffle while holding on to mommy or daddy’s hand. Walk. Like, plop her down and watch her go. This is at once wildly exciting and terrifying.

Part of the terror stems from the fact that, with walking, comes a whole heck of a lot of falling. I have spent the last 11 months of my life cradling this little pile of chub and protecting her from any possible bumps or bruises - well, kind of. Now, I need to come to terms with the fact that her nose’s primary role for the next few months is to cushion the fall for the rest of her face.

Olive visited my office this past Friday and, in an effort to show off her still fledgling walking skills, fell forward and bounced her forehead off the industrially carpeted (read: extremely hard) floor. I now know what most of my internal organs taste like.

Floor: 1 – Baby: 0

But over the course of the weekend Olive has made amazing, er, strides. Just a few days ago you needed to stand her up, set her balance, and maybe give her a bit of a nudge before she would take a couple steps and then plop down on her tummy or butt. Now you just put her on her feet and she runs across an entire room. These pictures were taken today as she would wobble from Leanne on one end of the dining room, to me on the other. If it weren’t for the thresholds between rooms she would be doing laps of the house. Of course, this means that Leanne and I need to run around the entire house with her.

Next task: figure out ways to either attach pillows, balloons or foam to Olive’s body or, alternatively, cover my entire house with wrestling mats.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Teaching a Young Baby New Tricks

I have a co-worker who is going to have a baby in a couple months. I was telling him to get used to the middle of the night wake-up calls and the lack of sleep and the regular handling of poop. I let him know that once they start moving you are going to be chasing them all over the place and you’re not going to be able to go away for a weekend as easily as you did before. I was basically reveling in a “I am a parent and I know more than you” moment.

“Oh, I know,” he said. “Remember, I got a puppy this past year.”

Okay, so dogs and baby’s are very different for a few reasons, including: 1) babies are human 2) dogs are housetrained within months, babies take years 3) dogs do not feed from the breast 4) putting a baby on a leash is socially unacceptable.

BUT, I did see some striking similarities. My co-worker DID spend quite a bit of time being woken up in the middle of the night by his new puppy, having to escort him outside and then try to get him back to sleep – not unlike waking up to feed or comfort a newborn. He did have an early wake-up call on mornings that he REALLY didn’t want to get out of bed. He has definitely handled his amount of poop and has spent months trying to keep his dog from chewing on things he isn’t allowed to chew on – like babies. It is a good start.

Right now, Olive is in the trick-learning stage (I think Freud put this as spanning the oral and anal stage) so it is hard not to compare her to a pet. If you put a dog and a 10-month old in a room, both have an equal chance of being told to roll over, sit down, give someone a kiss, or to not chew on that.

Leanne and I will sit with Olive for a half hour just rotating through her current tricks: waving, clapping her hands, playing peek-a-boo, stomping her feet, giving kisses, making various pop, click and raspberry sounds with her mouth. We have been trying to get her to blow kisses, but she mostly just laughs at us.

We’re hoping that eventually she can be like that kid who knows all the state capitals or that dog that catches Frisbees.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Playground Avatar

Sunny. Fifty degrees. Light breeze. Weekend. Every parent with a child born within the last 12 months emerged from a long winter bunkered down in their homes. Pale skin saw the light of day for the first time in months. And Olive spent two days at the playground.

No, there isn't a lot that Olive can do at playgrounds, you know, since she can't walk, but she can go on swings!

What I learned spending a couple hours watching Olive at two different playgrounds is that there is a delicate dance that parents play when interacting with each other at playgrounds. You see, we never actually talk to each other. Well, we don't talk to another parent without first talking THROUGH our child. If parents just walked around saying hi to eachother, asking how the day was going, saying things like "cute kid!" or "Oh, what is your daughter's name?" it would basically turn the playground into one big, creepy, depressing swingers club...with slides.

Here is an example of how it works. Your child is on a swing. She stares over at the child on the swing next to her. Both parents, dutifully pushing their kids, notice this as well. But they don't say hello. They don't ask how the other is doing or comment on the weather. One finally looks at their child and says:

"Can you say hello? Can you say hello to the little baby next you you?"

No, the child can't say hello. Your child is 11 months old, and does not know how to use words yet. But the other parent just plays along. They look at THEIR child and say:

"Honey, can you smile at the cute baby? Isn't she a cute baby?"

And the conversation continues like this. Each parents using the pint-sized, non-vocal avatars to converse.

"What a cute little baby!"
"Can you say thank you? Can you say thank you to the cute little baby?"
"Are you having fun in this nice weather?"
"It IS beautiful weather, isn's it?"
"Can you ask the baby's name, honey?"
"Can you say your name?"

And so on and so forth.

The REALLY awkward moment comes when the child wants to get out of the swing and do something else. You try to keep the conversation going through the babies.

"Do you want to go somewhere else? Can you say bye-bye? Say bye bye"
"Say bye bye to the cute baby."

At some point though, you catch the other parent's eye and then you actually need to say something.

"Um, have a good one."
"Yeah, you too. Cute kid."
"Yours too."

And so it continues. At the swings. At the slide. In the sand box.

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Olive to Love...

Arm rolls. She has arm rolls. You thought leg rolls were cute on a baby? Wait till you see these little forearms of chub.

Yes, we have already covered that my once skinny little baby is now an official chubster. But let's just look at the photogrpahic proof. Here is Olive modeling some of this summer's latest fashions in swimwear.

And here is Olive hanging around about eight months ago, showing off the ribs.

The transformation is amazing! It is clear that the only explanation is that some other baby came along, stole Olive's face, and then ate her.

I know, I know, baby's grow. But this is getting ridiculous. I mean, arm rolls? Seriously? I need to stop feeding her jelly donuts for breakfast.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Morning Edition

Olive decided to get up at 5:00 AM today. Early wake up calls quickly set off an interesting battle of wills and a series of strategic moves between Leanne, Olive, and myself.

Usually we can tell when Olive has just woken up because she was uncomfortable or needed to move around or had a bad dream about Elmo and Abraham Lincoln or something like that that. Surprisingly, we can tell that she isn’t really ready for the day because she is crying. How often do you wake up screaming a crying and then hop out of bed refreshed? So Leanne and I usually roll over and do our best to simply ignore the crying baby. (I know, we are horrible parents, but at this point I have dealt with roughly 330 days of crying baby and am getting a pretty good handle on what is a “normal” cry and what is a “dude, get out of bed and pick me up!” cry.) Our ability to fall back asleep with a screaming baby in the other room has really been impressive lately.

We can tell when Olive is really awake for the day when she starts babbling. Sure, there is a little crying and screaming mixed in, but mostly it is a bunch of “ba-ba-ma-ma-goo-goo-da-da.” Which in Baby means: “Boy, I had a wonderful sleep. Now if one of my parents could drag their tired ass out of bed and get me some food and change my diaper it would be great. I would do it myself but, come on, I pee myself on a regular basis, you expect me to make my own breakfast?”

But there are mornings, of course, when Olive wakes up babbling and, well, we just ain’t ready to hear the babble. This usually happens anywhere between five and six in the morning. We deem the hours before six simply UNACCEPTABLE for a person to be awake. I mean, Sesame Street doesn’t even go on until six. What child wants to wake up and watch the morning news?

So first, Leanne and I ignore the pre approved-wake-up-time babbling. We just lie there listening, motionless, with our eyes firmly closed. Neither of us makes a peep for a few minutes, perhaps hoping that we can will Olive back to sleep with our minds. Sometimes, it works. Really, though, we are doing our best to fall back to sleep so that we can wake up an hour later to a screaming baby and pretend we didn’t hear happy awake baby an hour before. (Like I said, HORRIBLE parents. Seriously, if they licensed people to raise a child we wouldn’t get past the written test.)

So when waiting out the babble doesn’t work, one of us finally turns to the other and makes an astute observation: “Olive is awake.” We then both pretend to be more tired than we ever have been in our entire life, hoping that the other one picks up on this and volunteers to get Olive. It becomes a battle of wills. Little passive-aggressive jabs are thrown: “Man, I didn’t sleep well last night” or “Are you going out tonight? Am I watching Olive?” Maybe one of us pretends to have a headache or mentions that they have a full slate of meetings at work that day. Every once and a while a haymaker is thrown: “I got up with her the last three mornings!” or “I’m going to have to get up with her ALL weekend!”

It doesn’t matter if any of this is true, by the way. One morning last week I told Leanne that she should get up because I had gotten up “all week.” She then pointed out that she had been the first out of bed two out of the last four mornings. I knew this, but was just hoping she was groggy enough not to remember.

All the while Olive is babbling away, practically begging to get out of her crib.

Sometimes one of us will throw in a little reverse psychology. “Oh, Olive is awake. I’ll get up. You sleep.” This is the toughest one to read. Are they really just being nice? Have I been getting up a lot lately? I could call the bluff, roll over, close my eyes and say “Okay, go ahead” and risk being labeled an insensitive prick; but at least I would be an insensitive prick who gets to sleep for another hour. Do I respond with “Oh no, don’t worry, I’ll get up” hoping that the other will see this as such a nice gesture that now they really DO want to let me sleep? Meanwhile, the same type of maneuvering is occurring on the other side of the bed. How many times should I insist that I should be the one to get up before the other believes that I’m sincere. I want to go right up to that line.

All this while little Olive is staring at the ceiling wondering why she is STILL in bed.

So 5:00 AM this morning comes and Olive is, yes, awake and, yes, babbling like Jodie Foster in Nell. Leanne makes the first move to get up. I make the second move, saying that I, the gallant man, will get up. Then she floors me. She calls my bluff and rolls over! I’m stunned. It was an inspired play by Leanne. I was stuck, there was no room for me to maneuver, I already had my feet on the floor. I HAD to get up. I heavy-foot it out of the room. Not trying to be quiet in the least. I think I purposely by-accident knocked a few things over in Olive’s room.

A battle lost, but the war continues.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's a Great Way to Lose a Few Pounds...

Olive has been sick a fair share in her ten short months. A few colds here and there, the sniffles, a cough, pink eye, an ear infection. Every new little ailment is a new adventure and sends Leanne and I running for the internet or the medical guide we have or to the phone to call the doctor. After a couple days, everything is fine.

Well, Olive and I repeated that pattern this week.

I picked up Olive from day care on Wednesday and my provider greeted me with words that shook me to my core: She threw up today. Just once. But it was a lot.

Now, first let me talk to you about how much I hate vomit. I am a thirty-year-old man who has never thrown up from drinking too much. I was so scared of over indulging and puking that if self-control was an Olympic sport, I would have won the gold as a college freshman. When I was a little kid I threw up once after having Rice Chex for dinner. Wouldn’t eat Rice Chex for years.

Basically, I hate puke.

“Well, you never know,” I thought as I strapped her into the car seat and pulled away from day care. “Maybe it was just that once.” Then she puked in the car. Something in me dies. Oh yeah, and did I mention that Leanne was on a business trip for a couple days?


So I take Olive home and change her out of her clothes. It was the first of three costume changes for her and two for me.

It didn’t take me long after getting home to realize, I have absolutely no idea what to do with a puking baby. I don’t even know what to do with myself when I’m puking. Should I hold Olive over the toilet when she pukes? How am I supposed to know this stuff?

So I call my mom. Even though she raised four children, has four grandchildren, and babysits two other kids two days a week, she really didn’t know what to do with vomiting ten-month old.

“I don’t allow that,” she tells me. It is true; my mom has often said in the past that she didn’t allow vomiting in her house. Apparently I listened to my mom. Man, she is good.

Really, no one could really tell me what to do. After consulting two books, the interweb, and my doctor’s office, the best advice I got was to watch her and if she gets dehydrated, give her some pedialyte. Apparently, everyone is so used to this throwing up thing that taking care of it is second nature. You can find reams of information on how and when to feed your baby – a pretty normal, everyday action – but ask someone about that food coming back out and they shrug and say “It’ll pass in 12-24 hours.”

After a quick trip out to Rite Aid to get some pedialyte – the apparent cure-all for stomach bugs -- Olive seemed to calm down enough for me to try an give her a couple ounces of formula. I sort of expected it to come shooting out of her mouth like a gastrointestinal geyser, but she took it down and she fell asleep. “Well, you never know,” I thought after she had slept quietly for about an hour. “Maybe it was just a six hour bug.”


Olive starts crying a couple hours later and I race up the stairs, jumping six steps at a time, and encounter a scene straight out of a high school keg party. I have to change the sheets, her pajamas, the changing table cover, her blankets, and wash her hair (another thing Olive now has in common with her mom – I have washed vomit out of both of their hair).

Relatively clean and calm, though a little shaken and certainly exhausted, it didn’t take much to get her back to sleep. I, however, spent the night hoping up to check on any cough or gurgle I heard coming from the monitor. By the next morning, everything seemed to have worked itself out of Olive’s system. It did turn out to be about a 12 hour bug. By the end of the day she was taking full bottles and eating some solid food.

Stomach bug conquered!

I can be so na├»ve. Apparently stomach bugs are more contagious than ebola. It also doesn’t help that as a parent, you can’t really quarantine a sick kid. Unfortunately, carrying your child in a sterile plastic bag, is neither safe nor socially acceptable. I also can’t lock them in a sterile safe room for the duration of the illness. If Leanne was throwing up I could stay a safe 15 feet away at all times, occasionally yelling “I’m here for you, honey!” from behind my medical face mask while Lysoling the remote control for the 18th time. Olive, however, actually puked ON me. After she threw up I would hold her close, cheek to cheek, apparently simultaneously calming her down and laying out a welcome sign for the stomach big to take residence in my own virgin gut. I would end up drinking more of the Pedialyte than the little one.

So while Olive got over her illness by Thursday morning, I spent Friday night running to the bathroom. On Saturday, Leanne tried to be a good wife and give me an afternoon to lie on the couch and recover. But by five that afternoon, she too was doubled over.

By Sunday morning, after a half a week of meals making unannounced and unwelcome second appearances, we officially had the worst smelling house in the Eastern United States.

Luckily, the bug seems to have passed through us all and we all lived to tell the tale. It has fluttered off to infect some other unsuspecting family and torture some other underprepared, overmatched, and irrationally queasy father. If I can give him a little bit of advice it would be this: don’t worry, it will pass in 12 – 24 hours.