Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dad: The Shot Lady

Parenting has many joys, but watching your kid gets shots is not one of them. Susan got her second round of shots on Thursday, and I think it was even more painful for her parents than it was for her. You know that whole thing about repressing childhood traumas without even knowing it? Well, I had a major flashback.

When I was a kid, my doctor’s office had a designated shot lady. This woman’s sole purpose was to stick little kids with needles, repeatedly and all day long. The character Nurse Ratchett was based in part on The Shot Lady.

Worst. Villain. Ever.

My doctors’ appointments started out the same almost every time. The doctor would do his usual routine, all chummy like he was your pal. Then he’d say something to my mom or dad and walk out of the room. Then the silence crept in. Whichever parent was in the room would try small talk in hopes of distracting me, but it was pointless. We both knew what was about to happen, we both knew that all the screaming in the world wouldn’t get me out of it, and we both knew that all the cheap candy suckers in the world wouldn’t make me happy about it.

The Shot Lady would enter carrying a light blue basket, not a shred of emotion on her face. In fact, I don’t recall her ever speaking a word. When you looked into her eyes, it was like staring into the face of Satan himself, if Satan were a massively built, middle-aged woman with a bad perm wearing nurse scrubs with happy bullshit trains saying stupid things like “Choo choo!”

She had a grip like a vice, and once she clamped onto your wrist, there was no escape. I think she was a brick layer before she got into nursing, or maybe she dabbled in competitive powerlifting. Either way, she liked to start things off slowly, warming you up with an annoying, but plenty painful, finger prick. She would take this tiny yellow thing with a metal sticker at the end of it, grab your index finger by the last knuckle and jam the needle right into the tip. Then she would squeeze your finger until blood ran out into this clear tube. I clearly recall her salivating and licking her lips while she did it, or maybe that’s just part of the recurring Shot Lady nightmares that plague me to this day. It all blends together now.

How the shot lady trains in the off-season.

 After the finger prick came the shot, or shots depending on how in debt you were to the ka,rma police that year. She used some sort of mind control to get me to voluntarily roll up my shirt sleeve and then she rubbed my arm down with this grainy alcohol swab that felt like sandpaper. Then came the needle, which she took out of a plastic wrapper. I can still hear the ripping sound as she opened the package. Nails on a chalkboard never bothered me, but that sound sure as hell did.

As a kid, you have the option of looking away during the shot or looking straight at it. I always chose to look straight at it, not because I’m some crazy masochist (although it’s a wonder that as an adult, I’m not more emotionally scarred from this), but because I just knew that if I looked away, The Shot Lady would start stabbing and stabbing and stabbing. Because that’s what The Shot Lady did and it’s what she was paid to do: walk into rooms, stab little kids with needles and walk out. You know who has a worse job than The Shot Lady? NOBODY.

Once I outgrew the vaccine era of my childhood, I figured I’d never have to see the shot lady again. I was wrong. We were on family vacation at Disney World one summer, probably on the way back to the line to ride Splash Mountain, when who do we see? Yup, The Shot Lady and her Shot Family. I was old enough to know that her powers had no effect inside The Happiest Place on Earth, but my younger brother Zack – who was probably between four and six years old – hid behind my father immediately.

To the amazement of both my brother and me, our parents went up to The Shot Lady and talked to her. At first I was astounded that they were engaging in friendly conversation with the sworn enemy of every kid that ever went to see a doctor, but I realized later that they were sacrificing themselves to protect us. Zack and I were both sure that The Shot Lady had two MMR vaccines in her pocket with our names on it, but with mom and dad blocking her path, she couldn’t get to us. That day, my mom and dad did their jobs. Last week, MJ and I didn’t.

On Thursday, Susan became acquainted with her own Shot Lady. Our sweet, happy, bright little baby got her second round of shots last week at her four-month appointment, and the lady who administered them looked remarkably familiar to the aforementioned demon of my childhood. Somewhere deep inside me, a tiny voice from my youth cried out, “RUN SUSAN RUN! GET OUT OF HERE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!”

Just as we predicted (based on the results of the two-month appointment), Susan did NOT like getting shots this time around, either. She got stuck twice, one right after the other, and screamed for almost 10 minutes straight. Mary Jane was able to calm her down, but she was left sniffling and red in the face as we exited the building. The whole ordeal went something like this:

If you think the shots were traumatic for her, think about her parents! Sure, she got stuck with a couple needles and screamed like a banshee for about 10 minutes, but then she slept for most of the day while her mother and I were left trying to convince ourselves that our daughter didn’t hate us

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dad: Vacation Part 3 - Saving Baby Susan

Mary already filled you in on how awesome our vacation was. I can’t disagree. I was actually surprised by how great it went. I figured at some point, Susan would either:

a)  Absolutely lose her shit on the airplane, thereby making us “those people.”
b)  Freak out in the new environment and not get a wink of sleep, making her and everyone else tired and miserable for the entire vacation.
c)   Get sunburnt, making us terrible parents of a lobster baby.

Miraculously none of those things happened. She was an angel on the airplane. She slept through the night the entire week. She escaped without a sunburn (Mary Jane and I, regrettably, also escaped without getting one inkling of a suntan because we are pale like vampires and allergic to sunshine). In summary, everything was dandy. Until the day we went home.

A trip that began with Susan laughing and playing on the way to Florida Tuesday ended with our baby screaming her head off in the car – like she never has before – on the way home Sunday. It was kind of like our own version of Saving Private Ryan, except instead of getting Matt Damon out of Nazi Germany alive, we were just trying to get our screaming baby home without losing our sanity.

It all started the second Mary Jane and I woke up on Sunday, which was the day vacation ended. Actually, no, it started 51 minutes before that because my alarm never went off and we overslept by almost an hour. That should have been our first hint that things would soon unravel that day, but alas, MJ and I were too busy passing blame back and forth (calmly and rationally of course, as most pre-6 AM discussions always are) to notice the signs. So because I blew the wake-up call, neither one of us had time to shower.

Susan woke up about 30 minutes after us, and by that time MJ and I had made up (it was all my fault…that’s all I had to say). Things were good again, and from then until we got to the airport, they stayed that way. We curb-checked all seven of our bags without any trouble, but as Mary was getting our boarding passes, I got the feeling that I’d forgotten something. We had all four suitcases, the Britax baby carrier, diaper bag and the baby carry-on with toys, diapers, change of clothes for mom, dad and baby. Cell phone? Check. Driver’s license? Check. Book that I had no chance of reading? Check. Still…I couldn’t help but think that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t until I strapped on the baby carrier that I realized I didn’t actually have anything to put IN the baby carrier. I turned around to see my father-in-law waiting by the car, just staring at me. “OK, now I’m ready for Susan!” I said. I'm not sure he bought it. 

When we got to the security check (Susan facing out in the carrier, bobbing in front of me), we ran into even more trouble with TSA. Let me backtrack a sec – when we went through our airport in Raleigh, Wife just told them that we had some baby formula in our bag. They said ok great, you go right on and board then. We could have also had liquid explosives and cocaine, but I guess we looked trustworthy enough to the RDU security crew to get the green light. The folks at the Fort Myers airport, however, take their jobs REAL serious. They pulled every single item out of our diaper bag, ran it through their bomb machine and tossed it all back in once it cleared (thankfully we’d gotten rid of the explosives and cocaine by that point). If you don’t know my wife very well, I’ll just say that she’s very “organized” and that every compartment in that diaper bag is for a VERY specific item. So 10 minutes later, after she put the bottles in the bottle pocket, the butt cream in the butt cream pocket and the random shit in the random shit pocket, we went on our way.

The flights home were fine. Susan played or slept the whole time and never cried. Then we deplaned in Raleigh, and I got the bags and left Mary and Susan at baggage claim with the bags so I could bring the car around and pick everyone up. I got the car and circled back around to the terminal, only to then find Mary clutching Susan at arm’s length in the universal “this baby just took a monster dump” hold. Mary waved me over and showed me some serious poo stains on her shorts. Susan was very proud of her work and gave me a big smile. Mary took off for the bathroom with Susan and left me with the bags. It took me three trips to get everything in the car, but it took Mary even longer to rid herself and the baby of the doodie. It turns out that Susan smuggled her own bomb through security.

Thankfully, TSA is prepared for in-flight diaper bomb emergencies.
We eventually got moving and headed back to Durham. We managed to weather the minor inconveniences with grace and dignity to this point in the journey, but the real problems started right about here. We had to pick up our dog from the vet at 6:30 p.m. SHARP, but it was only 4:30 p.m. when we left the airport. Mary Jane and I thought it would be a GREAT plan to stop by Target and get our weekly groceries while we waited, thus killing up to seven birds with one stone. As Mary would so eloquently put it later, “This was a good idea, in theory.”

I said earlier that Susan slept through the night in Florida. What I didn’t say was that she napped terribly. To a baby, naps are just as important as night sleep, and less of one or the other will eventually compound and turn your sweet happy baby into a fussy, crying siren. We failed to realize the level of sleep deprivation that Susan was dealing with, and she decided to let us know about five minutes after we finished shopping.

Literally the second that Mary Jane wheeled Susan out of Target, our baby lost it. She screamed. And screamed. And screamed. There was no soothing her. Pacifiers were powerless. Beautiful melody from mom? Might as well have cranked up Ashlee Simpson's greatest hits. A light, soothing touch? "DON’T TOUCH ME, ASSHOLE," Susan said. Then we figured if we started driving, she’d calm down. She didn’t.

At that point we still had about 45 minutes before we could get Oscar, and he was only 10 minutes down the road. So what do you do with almost an hour to kill and a screaming baby in the back seat? You drive around the Target parking lot, of course. And you drive in circles. But not regular circles. They have to be like special circles where the car doesn’t stop, but doesn’t jerk too much, either. Oh, and also, it’s Target so you’re going to have to dodge traffic and pedestrians, too.

Here is the plan my wife envisioned:

And here’s what I did:

Needless to say, I did not meet the stated goal of calming our baby. The conversation between my wife and I got steadily heated until it resembled something like this:

Husband: What do we do?
Wife: Just drive in circles!
Husband: I am driving in circles!
Wife: NO! Not like that!
Husband: I’m driving in circles like you said!
Husband: WHERE!?
Husband: OK LIKE THIS??

So we probably lost our cool a bit, but I think we did great under the circumstances. In all honesty, the whole scene could have been avoided if I'd followed my wife's instructions from the get-go, but I digress. Susan screamed the entire way home until we got her out of her car seat and into the house. It was like everything she was supposed to do on the plane – and for some reason didn’t – she saved up for the last two hours of the trip.

In the end, she really just experienced what we've all felt at one time or another, which is that coming home from vacation sucks. So let's be honest...all three of us were all feeling it; Susan was just the one who said something about it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mom: Susan's First Vacation - Part 2 - Enjoying Naples

For this part of the post, I am just going to do a photo dump.  The vacation went really well!  We had a great time.  Susan's naps were a little off, but she still managed to sleep through the night for most of the vacation.  One night we had to have a "special treat" and she didn't fall asleep until 10:30 p.m. but you can chalk that up to parent error.

One thing we both learned is that as Susan's parents, it really is our responsibility to speak for her.  When she was 6 weeks old or even 10 weeks old, she could go out later in the evening and nap almost anywhere.  Now that she is older, her bed time is around 8 p.m. and she likes for us to stick pretty close to that.  It makes going out to dinner with her a little tricky, but it can be done.  It is our job, though, as her parents to remind everyone else that while she is flexible, she is still a baby and likes to stay on her routine.  When it's time to wind down before a nap or before bed, that means little to no stiumlation so that she stays relaxed.  But it was a good lesson to learn.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip!  As you can see from the photos below, Susan had a great time!

Susan in her swimsuit and hat

Just relaxin' on the beach

In the ocean!

Having a great time on the beach!

Fine dining with her Uncle Philip

Her new favorite toy we found at the condo

Playing in the condo while it rained

With great grandmother Gig

With her great grandparents, Gig and Papa

With mom and dad on the deck

Smiling in her pretty white dress

Chris will be blogging tomorrow about what happened on Sunday (departure day) and what happens when Susan basically has no naps.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mom: Susan's First Vacation - Part 1 - Arrival Day

Last week, we took Susan to Naples, Florida for her first real vacation.  She actually went to Charleston when she was 6 weeks old for a quick visit, but that doesn't really count.  She was still a newborn!  Very different from the alert, active and involved baby that she is now!

Anyway, we were very prepared.  I read up on all this tips for flying with an infant and how to make the trip enjoyable for her.  The main reasons that babies scream and cry on the airplane is because their ears are bothering them.  So the trick is to feed them if it appears that their ears are going to bug them.

Our flight left at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.  We were flying Southwest from Raleigh to Orlando and  then Orlando to Florida.  I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get through security (especially since we overpacked by about 3 bags - lesson learned there.)  Chris dropped us and the bags off at the terminal and left to park to the car.  Susan was napping in her carseat but woke up fairly quickly.  She and I started playing.  Once Chris arrived, we inserted Susan into the new Britax baby carrier (Chris will have to blog later about his new love for our new baby carrier) and we made our way to Check-In. 

Once at the booth, we gave the Southwest Lady our preprinted boarding passes and this is how it went from there.

SW Lady:  Is she flying in her carrier?

Me:  No, she will be sitting in our laps.

SW Lady:  Alright.  I need her birth certificate.

Me:  Um, we don't have that with us.  (UM, "we" haven't walked the three blocks from our downtown office building to even pick it up yet.)

SW Lady:  You really need to be in the habit of bringing something with you with her name and date of birth on it when you travel with her.  That is our policy.

Me:  Ok....

SW Lady:  Ok so what is her name and date of birth?

Obviously, this was a SUPER strict policy.  NOT.  And thanks for the lecture SW Lady.  I love Southwest, but she was just a tad bit rude.  I am sure we looked a sight with the 4 month old strapped in the carrier and our 9 bajillion bags behind us.  But come on.

Anyway, we got Susan a lap boarding pass and made our way to security.  I was all prepared to be pulled aside because we had so many questionable things in our diaper bag.  I even told the guys at security "I have formula, medicines, and other baby items in this bag."  The guy just smiled, said ok and put everything through the scanner.  I guess they weren't too concerned about bombs in our stuff.

Once we reached the gate area, we had lunch.  Susan played in the carrier and basked in all the attention she was getting.  After lunch, I took her to the bathroom for a quick diaper change.  After this, she started getting  a bit sleepy.  And cranky.  So I held and swayed her at the gate and she immediately passed out. 

So far, this is pretty awesome!
Sleepy girl!

We were allowed to board early with this flight.  It was practically empty.  We snagged a seat near the very back (everyone else was about ten rows in front) and settled in.  I had read it was good to be close to the bathroom in case of an incident.  Susan stayed asleep until the flight attendants began  shutting the overhead bins.  She woke up a little after that.  But she still kept dozing.  As the plane began to take off, her eyes got HUGE as the engines started.  I was holding her and Chris was armed with a small bottle of formula (a 2 oz. nursette.) So I just started talking to her and telling her that it was okay.  And she didn't make a sound.  She kept trying to fall back asleep.  But then the attendants kept walking by with drinks and finally she woke up.

AND SHE HAD A BLAST.  Seriously, she woke up and started playing, smiling and just having a ball.  We couldn't believe it!  We were so prepared for her to just lose it on the plane!  But she didn't!  We even fed her at 3 for her regular bottle.  She took the whole thing and had great burps.  Thankfully, she didn't have any movements. 

This is so awesome!!!

Why were my parents so worried?

Surprise face!!!
Once we landed in Orlando, we knew she was pretty tired.  So Chris put her in the carrier facing his chest and we went off to the food court for a snack and celebratory vacation beer.  But Susan wasn't having it.  She is just so alert and aware now.  And she  wants to be able to see it all!  When she was younger, she had no problem just dropping off anywhere.  But now its a little harder for her to block out all the stimulation.  After our snack, we made our way to the gate and she started getting fussy.

Our second and last flight was short - only 30 minutes.  And it was FULL.  We grabbed a seat in the back again, just in case.  And Susan started getting cranky.  It was super hot and taking everyone WAY too long to board.  And everyone kept passing our row like we were lepers.  Eventually, I started swaying with her and that seemed to help.  As the plane began to take off, she finally fell asleep.  (Chris was still armed with a bottle just in case.)  She slept for the entire flight and woke up after we landed.

Once we landed, we made a beeline towards that baggage claim.  We knew my brother was waiting (we hadn't seen him since April) and I couldn't wait to see him.  And Susan was fine.  She was fine until it was time to get in her car seat.  By this time, it was about 7:00 p.m. which is usually when she has her last bottle of the day.  My grandparents keep two cars in Naples and my parents had driven both to the airport to pick us up.  They had already installed the car seat base in the CRV so Susan,  Chris and I piled in.  I decided to sit in the back with her (something I quit doing after she was about a week old - and after we bought the mirror so we could find the paceys and insert them if she needed them)  She was fine until we were about 15 minutes away from the condo.  Then she had had enough.  She was hungry and tired.  So I started feeding her in the car.
Riding to the car.  Right before Susan lost it.
Once we arrived at the condo, she finished her bottle and went straight for the bath.  After a somewhat strange bath (she is used to her little tub and Chris had to hold her up while I bathed her in my grandparents super deep tub) we put her to bed.  She was in bed by 8:30, only a little bit later than she is used too!

All in all, Chris and I were so proud of her!  She was amazing!  I have decided I don't want to win the lottery anymore.  Because we somehow won the baby lottery.   And that is all I need!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dad: The Day Susan Went Viral

If you were anywhere near Facebook on Friday, you probably saw this photo of our daughter:

Turns out, so did a lot of other people. Our daughter was probably the third most talked-about thing on Facebook that day, right behind Obamacare and how MISERABLY hot it was. 

Actual photo of our front yard Friday. I don't have to mow this week!
So every week, my office selects a “Duke Fan of the Week” from user-submitted photos and throws the picture up on GoDuke.com. I submitted Susan’s picture (along with a hefty bribe) to the judge, with whom I also share an office. The next morning Susan was the latest fan of the week. It was that easy. Should the NCAA come knocking at my door next week, you can all look forward to WAY more blog posts as I’ll have a lot of time on my hands after I’m fired.

After Susan earned the distinctive Fan of the Week honor, Mary Jane and I shared the news on our FB walls, and all was well. Then one of my other co-workers posted the photo to the Duke Athletics Facebook Page, and Susan went viral. As of Sunday night, the photo had gotten almost 6,000 likes and over 100 comments. Most of the comments were about how cute Susan was, although there were a few idiot UNC fans who had to make sure their voices were heard (I should note that not all UNC fans are idiots…only the ones who insult babies on the Duke Facebook page). I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’m pretty sure it was the most awesome thing ever posted to the Duke Athletics Facebook page.

I’d like to think that for a lot of people that day, Susan’s picture was a welcome distraction from the War of Words being waged among the closet Constitutional scholars on Facebook debating the Rise/Fall of America that will be brought on by the verification of the health care act. While I’m sure some people had valid points on either side, the emotionally-charged arguments lost their effect when they got sandwiched between photos of cute dogs and Magic Mike.

So if you log on to Facebook and don't feel like scrolling through 17 different political debates, go to the Duke Athletics Facebook page and get Susan over 6,000 likes. If I reach 6,000 I get a sizable raise, or at least that's what I'm going to try and convince my boss of on Monday.