Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Solid" Food Begins

Squash. Just say it. Seriously, say it right now. Out loud. Sounds gross. Squash. Even thinking of it as a food isn't appetizing. Squash is what you do when a mosquito lands on your arm. Then again, it makes sense. Mashed pulp.

I know, I know; all of you gourmets and farmers out there think it's wonderful. Good for you. To me, squash looks festive next to a pumpkin on a porch on Halloween. I am typically an open-minded eater. I have even eaten pumpkin in forms besides pie. There's just something about that name.

Our son is not crazy about squash, either. As his third "solid" food experiment, squash was served for three days. The first was rice cereal. Didn't go over well. Next came sweet potato which, on the second serving, was a success. Squash, however, didn't go so well.

When I get a meal and don't particularly like it, I'll often finish is just because I'm hungry, motivated by the beneficial nutrients being absorbed. My wife, on the other hand, will push the plate away if she doesn't like the food.

Jackson is down one more rung...maybe two. First, he'll begin avoiding the spoon and will look everywhere in the room but at you or the food. There's the radio, there's the refrigerator, there's a grain of rice on the counter from last night's dinner. Eventually, I coax his attention. I've tried the airplane thing. I've tried waving the spoon around, making various noises and faces. He looks at me like the idiot I'm being but pays no attention to the spoon.

As for the rice cereal, he ate for a bit and then just stopped allowing it to go into his mouth. The squash, however, drew tears. When he pulled away, I just figured he was being difficult. Trying again, he waved his head. Then he finally opened his mouth just enough. As I slid in the spoon, his face tightened and he started whining. Did I get the point? No. It couldn't be me or the food, I thought. I put the little silver-handled spoon with the pink rubbery head back into the the little plastic food cup. Another bite made its way into his hesitant mouth. Whining erupted and the river flowed. Squash leaked down from his mouth onto his white disposable bib. His eyes were slits and his hands were out to the sides as he yelled at me in his baby jibberish. "Enough is enough," he said. "Can't you tell I don't like it? If you think it's so good, you try it." Can't argue with that. Carrots are tomorrow. Wish me luck. If this doesn't work, maybe he can just eat formula for the rest of his life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bumpy Roads

It seems that children are clumsier than I am. I am 6'5" and, despite my athletic prowess, I have a propensity for falling down. Although said falls have begun to decline in frequency, they still happen, especially when playing on my men's league hockey team. It is highly entertaining for my friends, as I don't usually fall from contact, but from making some mundane skating move, like coming to a stop away from the play after the whistle has blown. There I am, down on the ice - the human Zamboni.

And yet, these little people, who stand less than four feet tall, trip over, fall over, stumble over, bump into, and scrape everything they come within ten feet of. Sometimes they fall for no reason at all. My son, my pride and joy, still has much to learn. Never mind that he's six months old. I am neither prejudiced with regards to age nor to sex. Today he managed to hurt himself twice.

The first incident occurred in the morning. We were sitting on carpeted floor across from each other, about two feet between us, rolling a ball back and forth. As best as possible, anyway. With no warning, he falls backward and hits the carpet head first. There was a bit of crying after that. But he's tough and didn't want to come out of the game.

The second incident happened in the afternoon. He was playing on my lap when it put him on his tummy. His hands reached down to the floor and soon he was in push-up position. That lasted only a few seconds as his arms gave way and he was soon kissing the wood floor. I don't want to say that it sounded like a golf ball bouncing on the floor, but. . . you get the idea. There was more crying after that. We went to the grocery store and he resumed his usual demeanor, flirting with all of the female shoppers.

Maybe I should go easy on the kid. I, of all people, should know how hard it is to grow into a quickly growing body. In reality, I probably just want what most parents want - for the child to improve upon the parents.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Romantic Getaway and Tearful Longing

My wife and I went to England for six days surrounding last weekend. We had been planning this trip for some time, as it was spurred by a friend of mine proposing to a Manchester native. I was part of the bridal party.

Before the baby was born, my wife had thought that it would be a good chance to get away. She thought that we would go for around eight to ten days. Our parents agreed to split time with our child, as we had no illusions about the difficulty in bringing an infant on such a journey.

I knew that my wife may have different feelings about how long to be gone. Even telling her so while she was experiencing pregnancy, she did not realize the attachment she would have.

Six weeks before the trip, we paid to change our airline tickets so we could come back two days early. The week before, I purchased a calling card so that we could talk to our parents and to our infant son every day. One of the last things we did was put together a photo album to take with. It served as a brag book, but more importantly, as a way to keep him closer to our hearts.

And we did call every day. We called to hear the report, though more in hopes of hearing his screeches or a laugh. He was accommodating. Even having all of our fun, we still missed him terribly. Fortunately, he had neither transition troubles nor separation anxiety. He, as my mother put it, was an, "Angel baby."

When we got home, my wife threw down her bags and ran into his room where his dirty diaper was being changed. We've been home for two days and it seems as though she has yet to put him down.

There seem to be parents out there who take trips to get away from their children. I do not deny to following: that we only have one child, that our child is well-behaved, that he is only six months old, that it is important to take time away as a couple away from the children. The last part is the most important reason to take trips without the children. It is essential to marriage that you stay friends and lovers. I can see how easy it is to become distant, where one works and one takes care of the house; a routine is established where you become passing ships, seeing each other for a few hours but become less involved in the other's heart and dreams. Other parents leave the burden of their children. We hope to make times to vacation as a family and vacation as a couple. That is as important as eating meals as a family, while other times going on dates and hiring a sitter. After all, part of good child rearing is surrounding the children with a home full of love. Part of my job is making sure that we make time for the family and time for each other.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Your overall score is...

It occurred to me that we don't have a good overall rating system for our infants. There must be a way to rank children, sort of like sports video games rank each individual player. For example, a basketball player could be ranked by his speed, agility, shooting ability, ball handling, jumping, dunking, passing, and endurance.

Besides babies' size and other such physical traits that are already ranked by doctors, couldn't we incorporate cosmetic and social skills? Let's see what we can come up with...

Height/length, weight, body proportion. Ok, those are easy. How about hair? Color and length are good, but what about consistency over their head? More points for fewer or no bald spots. And curls? Who doesn't love curls? But what about a totally bald baby? Also cute. That's like shooting the moon in hearts. And eyes? Everyone comments on babies who have big eyes. Hand and foot size. Dimples? Bonus points.

Then there's demeanor. Smiling is a must. General expressiveness needs to be scored. How about crying? Crying is not necessarily a bad thing, but how does it sound? Is it cute or is it a cry of terror, a piercing shriek? How about the faces they make when they cry? Does it last forever or can he be easily consoled? Does she laugh? Do they sleep through the night? Do they nap well? How do they do on car rides, long or short? How about several short trips in a row? In the grocery store? In a department store? How do they respond to different people? Do they flirt? Do they recognize other children? Too attached to her parents? That would lose points. Antisocial children are so...unpresentable.

We certainly have to consider dexterity in large and small movements. Rolling over, tummy time, crawling, sitting, standing. Can she roll both back to front and front to back? How about rolling both left and right? How long can he last on his tummy? Does he move or just stay in a push up position or lay on his face? Can he sit up or is he going to fall over? Can she stand by herself? Does she require assistance? Grasping objects while in different positions is important. Does he reach for things? Does he give up the first time he misses? Does she bat it or grab it? Can she grab a moving ball while on her tummy? Can he throw the ball with any direction, or is aim nonexistent? We have to know what kind of athletes these kids will be, for goodness sakes.

Finally, how well are these things done with respect to the child's age? Can't roll over by six months? That'll cost him. Still has to sleep with mommy and daddy at five months? No way you're getting into the upper echelon.

I think I'm going to fine tune this system. Then I can get it approved by schools and government. Hey, my child may not score well, but at least I'll know where he stands. And that's all that matters in the world, anyway.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Just in case

Thinking about dying can be difficult. I've thought about it many times. Frankly, I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of the possibility of the pain one may endure before death. The ones you leave behind suffer most. As of six months ago, my death (and/or the death of my wife) has taken on a new meaning.

What happens to our son? What happens to my wife if I die, or to me if she dies? These are some of the least pleasant things we can bother ourselves with. The reality of the people we love most losing their lives is, well, nauseating.

What would be more nauseating, though, is having to deal with it all in such an event. Even more so if no preparation has been done.

My wife and I have slowly been making such arrangements. As with all things, communication is key. The most obvious thing we thought about was money and general finances. Then there is custody of our son if we both die. Then there are medical treatment decisions. The list of possibilities gets long. But the more you think of now, the better off you or your loved ones left behind will be.

Talk to you family, too. People get crazy when tragedies occur. If they don't know what you wanted upon your demise, they may make life hell for your spouse. Or if you're the survivor, the emotional hell of your spouse's death may compound with the desires of family that you may not agree with. If you talk about these things and write them out, you'll save everyone headaches, especially yourself.

If you haven't started doing these things, start. Just talk about it. Do things like telling your spouse that, if you die, they can and should marry again. Most all of us have lost someone close to us. Have you ever said, "That's what they would have wanted." In this way, you'll know what they wanted and and vice versa. Hopefully, none of this will come into play until you're old and gray. In that case, it's another way to get to know your spouse better. And the most surprising effect - you'll feel better knowing that you've taken another step in better providing for your family.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Place for His Stuff

Updating a child's technology and belongings seems to be more frequent than anything NASA does. In only six months, he's outgrown his infant carrier (the biggest one on the market), his chair (papysan - sp?), his swing, and more clothes than Paris Hilton goes through in a year. We have yet to purchase a pack-n-play (his uncle has been waiting for us to pick one out).

Replacing these things has been at least on a 1:1 ratio, though he seems to need more as he gets older. Accumulating more toys, more stuffed animals, and more clothes, there seems no end in sight. He is beginning to eat solid foods and that requires special hardware. He will have fun toys and educational toys. We will likely begin his own DVD and music collections. Around the corner we will have sporting equipment and art supplies. There will be matchbox cars and pedal cars. High chairs and tricycles. You get the idea.

Currently, I am enjoying the smell of chemicals used to install granite countertops. On Monday, stainless steel appliances will be installed. The point of these improvements is to improve the saleability of our condo.

In turn, we will move to a house or townhouse. This move will allow us to spread out our recent purchases for our son and grant him greater space to roll, crawl, and stumble through. It seems to be an endless cycle. George Carlin has a bit about "a place for my stuff." Basically, you buy bigger places to house to greater amounts of stuff you accumulate. I'm sure my wife and I will accumulate a few more personal items, but our son has the greatest potential. He will have many hobbies that will come and go. He will require video games, musical instruments, and bicycles. He will need a place to study and a place to play by himself.

Consider the advances in technology that took place while I was growing up in the last thirty years. The next eighteen to twenty-five will certainly bring equal improvements and inventions. I only hope we can afford the place that will house this new stuff that will inevitably come into our lives. At least I'll get to play with the latest and greatest, too.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

City Living

Living in the city is great when you can go for a long walk and hit the Hershey store in the Gold Coast for a Reese's pieces and peanut butter cup sundae. It's incentive to get you and your son out when you just feel like sitting around.

If I could avoid the sundae, my butt would look so much better...

On Time for What?

Our son has learned how to sleep at night. Though not perfect every night, he sleeps for approximately nine hours, usually from 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM. Every morning, he wakes up needing a fresh diaper, then will join my wife and I in our bed and usually sleep for another hour. It is a system we are happy with, though all systems should be improved over time.

He requires two naps during the day. Ideally, he naps from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM, then from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Our days have obstacles that impair the perfect timing of our day.

At-home parents are not just parents, but household managers. We have to make sure that clothes are recovered from the cleaners, that clothes are purchased for the child, spouse, and self, while returning things that don't fit; that food is purchased, that food is prepared for meals that day and future days, and with proper nutrition and variety in mind; that the house is kept clean, that bills are paid, that finances are audited, that financial positioning is monitored, that the social schedule is remembered and responded to, and that there is time in the week for fun for everyone.

Many parents adhere to a strict schedule. I am far too selfish for that. I have to be honest: accomplishing the day's tasks from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM is not very realistic, even allowing for some in-house tasks to be done during nap times. Not only that, but going out only at those times make tasks the most time consuming, as that is shopping rush hour.

Our son and I compromise. There are times when I'll have to shop the next day. There are times when he has to bite the bullet and get his nap in the car or in the Bjorn.

He is a good shopping partner and deals with my inconsistencies well and I am grateful for his understanding nature. There are a few things that he does, telling me that I'm doing a good job. He smiles at me when I take him out of his car seat. He smiles at consumers and employees. He rarely cries. In turn, I make sure his diaper stays fresh and that meals are kept to reasonable intervals. There are times when I make mistakes in time judgment, but overall his needs are met before I hear excessive complaining.

And at the end of the day, after dinner, he sits with us until he rubs his eyes. We know it is time for bed. He is ready and appreciates some structure in his day, the time when it's time for bed. He goes down with no complaints, but rather with gratitude that his need was recognized and met.