Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dad: Back to the Future

Picture this: It’s October 26, 1985 and you and your buddy are hanging out after hours in a mall parking lot. He says he brought something to show you, something he’s been working on, and before you can say, “I already told you I don’t want to see your one-man Broadway show about Aquaman,” he whips out a remote control and pilots a silver DeLorean into the empty parking lot. He says it’s a time machine, you call BS and then your jaw hits the ground as he sends his dog Einstein to the future and back before you can finish saying, “DOC WTF HOLY SH—”.

Then, just as you’re about to take the Time Machine DeLorean for a spin, a crazed gang of Libyans shows up, guns down Doc and then points their AK-47’s in your direction claiming you’re the one that stole their plutonium. You don’t even know the periodic symbol for plutonium, but as we all know, Libyan terrorists are notoriously ornery so you get your ass in the DeLorean and gun the accelerator. The next thing you know, blue sparks are flying at the windshield and you just crashed into a pine tree that wasn’t there two seconds earlier. Also, it’s now 1955 because, oh yeah, time machine, right.


How did Marty get hooked up with this guy in the first place?

“What just happened?” you may ask. “Just a second ago I was a hip semi-adult wearing a sweet jacket that looked like a life vest. I could make out with my hot girlfriend whenever I wanted, and the biggest problem in my life was that damn cue-ball principal who liked to bust me for showing up late to class. Now I have no idea where I am or what I’m doing and I just want to get back to 1985 so I can listen to the rockin' tunes of Huey Lewis and play Nintendo.”


It runs on garbage and plutonium? Sure, sounds safe.

And so, the first 30 minutes of one of the greatest movies of our generation becomes the closest parallel I can find to being a new parent. No, my wife is not a wide-eyed, white-haired hermit mad scientist, and no, I haven’t had to outrun any Libyans (yet), and no, the scene of the crime didn’t take place in a parking lot (we are both tall and find that the backseat of most cars doesn’t provide enough leg room for that). But there comes a time during the first few months of parenthood when you’re so tired that you can’t see straight, so frustrated by your own insecurities and lapses in confidence, and just so overwhelmed by the goo-gooing, drooling, laughing, crying, teething, smiling life change that’s currently NOT napping when she is CLEARLY SUPPOSED TO BE NAPPING, that you take a step back and say, “What in the hell just happened?”

People tell you that a baby will change your life. Most parents-to-be just nod their head and say, “Oh yeah, I know,” but they never really know because it’s not something you can really fully explain. Yes, you can expect to lose some sleep. Yes, the baby will cry, sometimes in public, and it’s going to be up to you to calm her down. Yes, you will get poop and spit-up all over you, often at the worst times and in places where you don’t even know until you walk into work one day and your co-worker asks you what all that dried yellow crap on your shoulder is (that time it was spit-up, not poop, but I now check myself every day before I walk out the door).

Like Marty McFly discovered that crazy October day, things can get away from you in a hurry. Your free time slowly disappears until you don’t even notice that every free minute you have outside of work is devoted to playing with the baby, making bottles, washing bottles, working on that massive list of house work (that never seems to end and which you can never seem to make a dent in), mowing the yard, entertaining visitors who want to see the baby, shopping for the baby, and, when possible, deciding whether to stay up just a little bit later to hang out with your spouse for a few more minutes or to just go flop in the bed so you can get enough rest to be the slightest bit aware of your surroundings at work the next day. In short, things are a lot different now than they were 6+ months ago when Mary Jane and I still had time to unwind on the couch after work.

Also, bear with me here; this all sounds negative, but I’m slowly getting to a point. Please, don't stop reading here and make your boyfriend/husband get a vasectomy.

Marty McFly soon finds out that everything he does in 1955 has some sort of effect on his life back in 1985. Some are insignificant – that pine tree he hit? The name of the mall changes from “Twin Pines Mall” to “Lone Pine Mall” when he gets back to the present. Some are way more significant – Marty saves an 18-year-old version of his father from being hit by a car, setting off a chain of (hilarious) events that includes several narrowly-averted makeout sessions with an 18-year-old version of his mother and nearly ends with Marty totally screwing over the space-time continuum while also butchering the guitar riff to “Earth Angel” in front of a rowdy crowd of high-schoolers at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. It turns out that Marty’s got a lot of responsibility to make things right, and not just for himself. 

Best sock hop ever.

Being a parent is a huge responsibility.  I’m of the firm belief that babies come into the world with a blank slate. It’s your job as a parent to mold them. Yes, there are other factors that shape people into who they become (who they hang out with, what they read, role models they follow, etc.), but ultimately who your kid becomes – for better or worse – is a reflection on you as a parent. Everything you do for your kid, especially within the first few years of her life, can have unforeseeable consequences on how she turns out. Should we breastfeed or formula feed? Do we rush up to comfort her when she’s crying in her crib, or do we give her a few minutes to figure it out? Is she in the right daycare? Should one of us just quit our job and stay at home with her instead? These questions come and go daily, and depending on what you read and who you ask, the answers aren’t easy to come by. It’s a lot of pressure, and six months into the job, I don’t think there’s any way you can truly prepare yourself for it.

But something occurred to me shortly before Susan was born when I felt bogged down by the sheer volume of information that’s available to first-time parents. One day when I was feeling scared shitless of the responsibility that was about to fall into my lap and fighting to get a grasp on the conflicting advice from books, friends and my own parents, it occurred to me that being a parent was pretty simple if you boiled it down a few things: show your baby that you love her and be confident in your abilities. Parental instincts are a powerful thing, and you can learn the rest of the stuff along the way. Sure, you should seek advice from other parents, friends and relatives, but take it all with a grain of salt and know that the final decision on whatever issue you’re wrestling comes down to you and your spouse, and nobody else. Of course, the publishers of What to Expect wouldn’t make a lot of money if that’s all the advice they gave (although they’d save a ton on printing costs), so they’re going to keep packaging several hundred pages of baby advice as long as people keep buying it.

So if I had access to Doc Brown’s DeLorean, I wouldn’t go back to that wild and crazy vacation in Topsail that produced the baby who’s currently asleep upstairs (like she’s supposed to be) and warn our younger, na├»ve selves of what they were getting into. No way in hell would I do that and deprive them of the joy Susan has brought into our lives. Instead, I’d go 25 years into the future to see what kind of person Susan turned out to be and how good (hopefully good) of a job parenting MJ and I did.

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads...we need diapers.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mom: Baby Stats at Six Months

On Wednesday, September 19, sweet Susan Louise turned 6 months old!  Halfway to one!  I really cannot believe how fast the time has flown by.  In 6 more months, she will be a year old.  Wow!  It was a busy month for the kiddo and her parents.  Here are her stats.  As you can see, she is a sturdy baby.  I like "sturdy" because it doesn't sound too offensive.  But soon,  I will quit saying anything at all (and give evil looks to those who do) because I never want to pass on the body image complex that I have.  She is beautiful, inside and out!

Weight:  21.5 lbs (100th percentile)
Height:  28.4 inches (100th percentile)
Next Appointment:  12/20 at 9 months
Teeth:  2 (lower central incisors)
New Foods:  zucchini, apples, avocado, sweet potatoes - she DOES NOT like brown rice cereal.  But she loves everything else.  We have tried a few combination purees:  apple/pear with cinnamon and avocado/banana.  She loves both.  She is eating solids 3 times a day - 1 serving in the morning, then two at lunch and dinner.
 Bottle:  4 times a day, ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 oz.
Clothing:  9 months
Diaper Size:  4
 Sleeping:  10 to 11 hours at night, Naps depend on daycare.  At daycare, she sleeps maybe 2 to 2.5 hours total.  She crashes in the car on the way home, and then sleeps for another 1.5 to 2 hours.  On the weekends, two 1.5 hour naps in the morning and afternoon, followed by catnap from 5-6.  Still about 14 to 15 hours total
Favorite Toys:  "Elmerellie;"  Sophie the Giraffe; Stacking cups, musical blocks
Likes:  Kisses, dancing, standing on the couch and jumping up down, peek a boo, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, bath time
Dislikes:  She doesn't dislike having  her diaper changed but now she wants to roll over and explore the world around her, sans diaper.  Her little baby butt is adorable but it is getting old, FAST!
Milestones:  Sitting up unassisted.  Rolling around to a piece of furniture, then reaching up as if to try and pull-up.  Still air swimming.  She can scoot a little on the carpet and has been working really hard at getting her belly up off the ground.  She has done it a few times.  We have bought all baby-proofing gear.  So far, we have put in all the outlet covers.  She is still babbling, but also discovered she can gurgle or make sounds from the back of her throat.  Kind of like creepy breathing except she is really excited when she does it.

She totally poses for the camera!
 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mom: Essential Items Part 2

In my opinion, researching your baby products before you buy them is critical. Just because that swing or gadget looks fun to you, the adult who doesn't actually ride/play with it, doesn't mean it's fun for your baby.  I learned a long time ago the importance of reading customer reviews online.  So when it came time to create our baby registry, Chris and I read parent reviews of all of our selections (except one - and based on a previous blog post, I bet you can guess which product we forgot to review).

So, this post is tilted toward the big ticket items - all of the big baby gear.  First, I would highly recommend the Fisher Price Snug-A-Bunny swing.  Susan loved it!  However, at about 3.5 months of age, when she started doing crunches every time someone laid her on her back, the swing was done.  There are other swings, like the one that my parents bought secondhand, that are more conducive for older babies because they are more upright.  Susan couldn't use the one at my parents house until she was about 4.5 months old, but she can still swing in it now and loves to.  But I would still highly recommend this swing and, if you can find one that suits both newborns and older babies plus gets good reviews, then get that one.

video


Second, I would recommend the Fisher Price Rock and Play sleeper.  I know I spoke about it in an earlier post, but seriously, it only costs about $40 and YOU NEED ONE.  Trust me!  It is light, portable and a great place to put your newborn!  Susan slept in hers day and night for the first four weeks. We transititioned her to the crib at 4 weeks, but the rock and play was still essential after that.  We didn't put it up until later.  And we even brought it to the beach.  GET ONE!  (It is one of the most well-reviewed products I have ever seen).

Love it!

You can seriously take it anywhere!

We eventually bought two, one for upstairs and downstairs.
Next, I would recommend our travel system, or really any travel system.  We bought the Chicco Key Fit 35.  We bought it in pink (in hindsight, I wish we had bought gray or green but live and learn).  Gracco and Britax also make travel systems.  Travel systems are basically a carrier, a stroller and a car seat base.  You can order an extra base for your husband's car.  It is great because you simply put baby in the carrier and click the carrier into the base.  Once you reach your destination, you can unclick baby and click her into the stroller.  Or just carry her in the carrier.  You can use the carrier for babies up to 35 pounds. We stopped using ours a little sooner because Susan was outgrowing it in length.  She is a sturdy girl (99th perecent in height and weight).  But I would still recommend the system.  And even though we aren't using the carrier anymore, we love the stroller!  It is not too heavy for me, and it's very simple to open.
You can't tell, but she is snoozing on a picnic table at a rest area on the way to
Charleston while the rest of us ate lunch.

I can go anywhere, including Mama's office!

I would also recommend the BASIC Pack and Play.  We bought the $65 Gracco regular Pack 'n Play.  There are a lot of fancy pack-and-plays out there.  Feel free to buy one, but I wouldn't.  Susan used her Pack 'n Play in our bedroom for naps for a little while.  We put it up for a few months and have just gotten it back out to use as a corral pen because she is about to start crawling.

This is about to happen!

As far as high chairs go, we love our space saver high chair.  It fits into one of our kitchen chairs and doesn't take up any extra room in our kitchen.  Plus, it later converts to a booster seat. When we feed her at night, she gets to sit in her spot and eat while we eat our dinner.  It is great.  The tray is easy to clean, as is the chair cover.  And Susan really likes it.  Ours is a Fisher Price, I believe, but I know other brands make them.  Just be sure to read the reviews.


We have also bought a few big ticket toy items for Susan.  One we bought on eBay second hand.  It is the EvenFlo Exersaucer.  The original, not the new souped-up Exersaucer that is available now.  She loves it!  It is by far one of her favorite toys.  We don't let her spend too much time in it, but she does get to play some.  We also got the EvenFlo Jump-n-Go.  It is a doorway jumper and she gets such a kick out of it!  I would definitely recommend both of these products.
Fun times in my Exersaucer!

Just jumping around.  This has been great fun since we had to put the swing up.
I guess my biggest recommendation is to make sure you read customer reviews before you buy products or put them on your registry.  We didn't read the reviews of the Baby Bjorn.  We should have, because we ended up buying a Britax baby carrier.  Lesson learned.  Next time, I'll include my list of favorite smaller items.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mom: Priorities

 On August 29,  my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.  In July, my in-laws celebrated 32 years together.  In October, my grandparents will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

Chris and I have been married for 4.5 years, and we are so blessed to have these amazing marriages to model ours after.  Watching my mom and dad over the years, I truly learned what it meant to work at your marriage every day.  On our wedding day, my mother gave me really good advice.  She told me that if we each wake up every morning thinking and planning, "How can I make his/her day better," then we would be okay.  Putting the other spouse first every day is essential.





Also, essential to a strong marriage is putting each other first above your children.  Sounds radical right?  Especially in this day and age where parents' lives literally revolve around their children.  My parents were not like that, mostly because their parents weren't like that.  I remember the conversation I had with my mom about marriage.  I think I might have been a freshman in high school.  Maybe a friend's parents were getting divorced because I don't really remember why or how the topic came up.  But I remember my mom telling me that her relationship with my dad came first, before me and Philip.  Making time for each other and doing things together -  that was a priority.  Because like my mom said, without the two of them, there would be no family.  The marriage is the glue.  I remember knowing as I grew up that Philip and I came in second to the relationship my parents had with one another.  They went out on a date every single weekend for as long as I could remember.  When we moved to Florida, away from my grandparents/baby-sitters, they decided that I was old enough to babysit Philip for 2 hours while they went to Chili's and walked around Lowes.  (No one ever said a "date" had to be a huge event.)  I was 11.  They still go on a date every weekend.  And every year, they go away together.  Even if it's just for a quick weekend trip, they make a point to go somewhere, away from us, every year.  Just like they make a point to go on a family vacation, where there is a lot of family togetherness and bonding (serious about the bonding), every year.

This is probably an anomaly today.  But it was really important to me that we model our marriage after my parents.  I wanted a family and children with Chris, but not at the expense of our relationship.  I wanted Chris to still feel like Number 1 and wanted him to continue to treat me like the most important girl in his life (no offense kiddo).

So even before the 9 months of super fun pregnancy, we discussed the kind of marriage we envisioned after we had children. We talked about making sure that we continued to be the priority for the other.  Neither one of us wanted to let having a family and children mean sacrificing the relationship we have with each other.  We wanted to continue to go on dates and weekends away together.  Since we have been married, we have gone on dates most weekends (when Chris' work schedule will allow) and we have definitely gone away together every year, even this past year.  We went away before Susan, and we went away after Susan.  When Susan was 8 weeks old, we went to  a wedding in Rock Hill, SC and left Susan with my parents for two nights.  Not many parents (especially mothers) would do that, but we felt it was important for us to spend that time alone and away together.  We missed her like crazy, but it was so worth it.

Now, all of this is to say that Susan has definitely changed our relationship.  I have definitely learned the true meaning of partnership as we both have relied heavily on the other while she changes everyday.  And we have had some pretty big fights (we had some before Susan).  Accepting and acknowledging that Susan is a stress on our marriage doesn't mean that it's a bad stress.  But by acknowledging it, we have been able to actively work on how to still make each other feel really important. 



And not only do I believe it's important for us to treat each other like number 1, I think it's important for Susan to know that she does not have that much power.  I have seen parents whose lives revolve around their kids.  And it is not healthy for those kids to know that they have that kind of importance.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think that there is an important family hierarchy that should be respected, and I can remember my dad reminding me, "You are the child and I am the parent."  And yes, sometimes there will be sacrifice.  Chris and I won't always get to do exactly what we want to do, when we want to do it.  But we can still make the other person the number 1 priority, even if back-to-back dance recitals and soccer games keep us from date night that one particular weekend.  That just means the next weekend, instead of letting Susan have a sleepover, she gets a baby-sitter and we get to dine on Wild Wings and walk around Home Depot.

I love my daughter.  Words literally cannot describe how she has changed my life.  She has truly completed our little family in a way I cannot describe.  It is hard to remember our life before her.  But it is important that she does not become our whole life.  The two of us, dad and mom, wife and husband, are the glue that hold this little family together.  And I believe it is important to work everyday on making that glue stronger.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dad: Helping Hands

You know those claw games in the store where you put in a dollar, try to win a stuffed animal and then get ripped off as the claw repeatedly (and purposely, I’m convinced) drops your SpongeBob doll back into the toy pit, even after you’ve meticulously maneuvered said claw into ideal SpongeBob-grasping position? Well, Susan has surpassed those in terms of motor skills as she can now hold onto things for more than two seconds. Unless, that is, we’re seated in a restaurant. If that’s the case she’s constantly (and purposely, I’m convinced) grabbing everything and dropping it all onto the floor, if for no other reason than to make us pick it up and give it back to her so she can repeat the process all over again. This has made eating out very difficult for us, and incredibly fun for her.
Ever since Susan has figured out that she has complete and total control of her hands, the girl will grab ANYTHING that’s in front of her, whether it’s her toys, MY toys, the dog’s toys or a hot cup of coffee. Of course everything ends up in the same place, as the next logical step for our baby (and all others) is to take whatever object she just grabbed and jam it directly into her mouth. So far, Susan has eaten newspaper, a permanent marker, the dog’s leg, her bib (which, in her defense, was covered in mashed bananas), my nose and, the wash cloth, and of course, her own feet. And that’s just what we’ve caught her eating. She's like a shark. Or a billy goat. Or our dog around goose poop.

It’s like our daughter has no sense of possession or personal belongings. It’s very selfish. Dad’s cup of coffee? That’s mine. The dog’s leg? That’s mine. Mom’s earring and the earlobe to which it was formerly attached? Mine. I’ve caught her eyeing my fingers and salivating over them the last few days, and I’m not really sure how to handle that.


I’m never really sure what she’s thinking, but I have a hunch that she’s just trying to help us accomplish whatever we’re trying to do with a given object. Except I don’t think she actually understands what we’re trying to do. For example:

“Dad, your Moe’s burrito looks delicious! Were you trying to throw it on the floor? Here, let me help.”

“Hey mom, your hair is beautiful! I’ll remove some for you.”

“Mom, you’re laughing really hard at your funny Janet Evanovich book. Here, let me rip out pages for you.”

“Wow guys, these mashed pears taste yummy, but do you know what would make them even better? If they were on dad’s work pants. Like this.”

And so on. At this point in our short careers as parents, things are drastically different than they were a month ago. Our responsibilities have gone from, at four months: feed baby, put baby to bed, don’t lose baby;
to, at five months: feed baby, put baby to bed, don’t lose baby, don’t let baby stab her own eye with a fork, don’t let baby get a hold of any part of your face, don’t let baby destroy things that belong to the library, protect the dog from baby's vice grip and fresh new razor tooth, and just generally, don’t take your eyes off the baby EVER.

You underestimate the sneakiness.

You might think, “Oh, she’s just a baby. You mean you can’t keep her from grabbing stuff? And why are you letting her get anywhere near your delicious steak Homewrecker?” And to that I say, she is like a freaking ninja. I’m not sure whose side of the family she gets it from, but I’m confident she could snatch a hummingbird mid-flight. And then probably eat it.