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A while back, RR started noticing our cats. Yes, cats. Two of them. No, you don’t get pictures. Why? Cause our cats are embarrassingly large. No, really. You’re thinking, “Nah, surely you must be exaggerating!” But, sadly, I’m not. Our cats are prime candidates for “The Biggest Loser: Family Edition.” They need Weight Watchers, or Spanx. They didn’t used to be behemoths. Before we got a dog, they raced around our house playing with each other, up and down stairs, in and out doorways. They had rib cages and necks. But then the dog came, and through a fit of depression, they locked themselves in the spare bedroom with an uncontrollable catnip habit and the munchies. We tried weight loss food, but it prompted serious backlash. Now, through one’s urinary troubles, we’re now investing more-money-than-was-budgeted for special cat food. Side effect? Clean pipes, but weight gain. Sigh.
So, back to RR.
She’s always noticed the dog. How could she not? Every day, it’s a chorus of “Stop licking the baby!” and “Drop. Drop! DROP!!!” He’s a permanent fixture, all up in her face, all of the time.
But the cats. The cats are slow-moving (duh) and make curiously loud purring noises when they come close. They mosey around the house, and whenever I’m holding RR on my lap and I see her eyes light up as she’s looking behind me, I’m certain there’s a cat to blame.
They also have no fear of RR. They’re quick to jump on my lap, or hunker down on a couch cushion next to her. They’re unfazed, even with the touching, which is new to both them and RR. Why Pat the Bunny when you can pat an actual animal, hanging out within arms reach? The cat she’s most fond of touching is very patient – she sits relatively still when RR plants her whole hand on her shoulder, and then I can supervise the petting before the flat hand turns into a whole fist of orange fur. They’re warming up to RR much better than they did to the dog. That’s good on so many levels, but mostly because, they can’t afford to gain any more weight.
So much to say, but I’m feeling scattered and still a little wounded from the whirlwind that has been the last few weeks. That said, we’ve finally stopped spinning long enough to realize that Christmas is merely a week away. How did that happen?
The tree has been up for over a week, but just today, we put on the ornaments. Ornaments that are (well, with the exception of one picture collage from my wife’s college years) rather sophisticated – hand-blown glass animals, an intricate acoustic guitar, a variety of snowmen, a small shiny bottle of whiskey (from last year, as a token for my non-drinking self), and snowflakes galore. Some prompted tears – of sadness, the ones from now-dead Grandma; of joy, the one for our first house, the one from a memorable trip back to DC just two years ago. Now we have one baby’s-first-Christmas ornament prominently displayed in the front. We have our first taste of Christmas ornament parenthood, as RR’s angel from school is perched on the branches at the top – her big round head cut out and pasted on a paper and popsicle stick angel frame. One day, our sophisticated tree will turn into a receptacle for handmade ornaments.
This morning, with Christmas music playing, and RR sitting (sitting!) in her playpen, we decked the halls. There’s still about an inch or so of snow in our front and back yards, so the long grass and leftover Fall leaves mock me every time we pull up in the driveway. Is it frowned upon to rake and mow in December, when the snow melts and we have a less-than-freezing day?
We have from now until New Year’s Day to ourselves, and I’m not sure we could be happier. We shopped today, like normal people, with our non-fussy baby. We popped in and out, darted into parking spaces, made a list, checked it twice. We came home and my wife (and her invisible elves) turned out an impressive amount of homemade goodies, with more to come tomorrow. I can’t wait until RR is old enough to sample the fudge and toffee with me, though, she most certainly will be propped up on a stool and enlisted to stir something while trying to avoid knocking the candy thermometer.
RR’s stocking is hung by the chimney, with care indeed. This is the only year that her present (shh, don’t tell) can sit by the front door without her noticing.
A week from now, we’ll be having Christmas dinner, just the three of us. And a ham. And our animals (plus one more dog, who will be visiting – I think he heard about the ham). RR will be exactly six months old. The other day, when I made reservations for a beach vacation in July, it seemed so far away. But if it goes half as fast as the last six months have, we’ll be sitting in the sand, watching our one year old make a primitive sand castle in no time.
Happy Holidays, folks.
This post is brought to you by RR’s favorite pajamas, and, apparently, the Mardi Gras appearance of the background of this picture, which just so happens to be our dining room. Cue the Zydeco!
Why yes, she is in the Bumbo ON the dining room table as specifically stated as a DEATH HAZARD on the side of the thing which I read every time we sit down to have a meal. She is often the centerpiece of the table when we’re eating, which makes me wonder who will win on Thursday – her or the turkey? Can they cohabitate? Will someone mistakenly ask for the baby when they really want the stuffing? Would you be disappointed? Those cheeks are delicious.
My wife has inquired about flying tips (thanks, wife!), and wheres I’m less worried about them arresting us for transporting a powdery substance, I’m perplexed as to how to feed Little Miss Traveling Meltdown a pleasantly warm bottle or changing her rear-end explosions after we’ve reached our cruising altitude. We’re talking eight hours total plane-time, involving three planes, four airports, and then a car and two hour ride over the ice-covered roads of the Continental Divide when we reach our destination. This is the child who can meltdown between the ten minute ride home from school. I’m not sure why traveling by wagon wasn’t reconsidered more before we bought tickets. I LOVE my in-laws, but they could have moved to a more convenient location. Like Antarctica. Or Mars.
Any ideas as to how warm bottles on the go? I’ve heard suggestions from bring hot water in a thermos to buy pre-mixed ready to eat room temperature formula. Any idea how to change a baby in an airplane bathroom? This is all on top of the anxiety of how many diapers to pack and what kind of clothes to bring for our baby who is lucky if she gets a hat on her bald head in these cold Virginia mornings. She does have a pink snow suit that she might live in the whole time.
Of course, then we have a whole slew of obstacles once we actually GET there, but… first things first.
No, we’re not moaning. Neither is RR. But all of her schoolmates do, and I’d like to know why.
RR has five schoolmates in the baby room, four boys and one girl. The four boys are eight months (and crawling), six months (and HUGE for his age), almost six months (and the most moany), and one who is two (maybe three?) months. The other girl is two months old. The fact is, though, that most all of the moan constantly. OK, maybe not constantly. But whenever we arrive to pick-up RR or drop her off with a full house, there’s a substantial am0unt of moaning.
The moaning is usually coming from the boys. I know – it sounds sexist, but the one other little girl lets out a shriek every so often, but is nothing compared to the chorus of moaning boys. They moan while they are in their cribs. They moan while they are being fed. They moan while they are bouncing in the exersaucer, or on the ground playing with toys, or trying to crawl. They moan when they’re happy or sad or hungry or delighted or tired. RR is often the only quiet baby in the room – often sitting in a swing, or laying on the ground playing with something, or sitting up in the boppy observing the waves of moans. Her teacher yesterday told us that when she is not cooing to herself, she is often sitting quietly, staring at others around her, contemplating the sound of one hand clapping.
The teachers are attentive. They are two of them, and six kids total. They’re on top of the moaning with food, diapers, burps, changes of scenery, rocks, swaddles, and anything that quiets the moaning. But even happy, there’s an undercurrent of moans in the room.
So why is there so much moaning? Will RR turn into a moaner eventually, or will she turn into a zen master? I’d say the moaning was attached to teething, but not all who moan are teething. I would just like to prepare for the upcoming moaning times if they’re coming, or get RR a tiny statue of Buddha if not.
So far, I think we’re doing a pretty good job as parents. RR is a pretty happy, smiley, and now occasionally chuckling, kid. You know, as long as she’s well-rested and fed, which we try to take care of before she turns into a demon. She spends her weekdays at school, from around 8:15am-5:15pm, Monday through Friday. Her room at school looks much like any daycare, I would imagine – cribs for the babies, and brightly-colored toys for miles and miles. Mats, gyms, stuffed things, bouncy chairs, a swing, an exersaucer – all in shiny reds, blues, and yellows. No wonder RR’s eyes light up when we drop her off, and she’s oftentimes deep in a nap when we come to pick her up. Compared to our house, school must seem like Wonka’s chocolate factory.
I took off Friday of last week to stay at home while two very nice men installed carpet in our basement. 572 square feet of our basement, to be exact. When faced with the fact that our main living area upstairs is not particularly infant-friendly, nor do we have any toys in stock other than whatever we throw in her pack ‘n play with her, we thought we’d dedicate some of that 572 square feet to potential Wonka-like toys to be bought and to provide a soft, crawlable, rompable space for RR to spend on her evenings and weekends. How generous of us, I know.
This morning, I was prepared to go online and buy some kind of overstimulating contraption to break in on our newly cushioned space, but have found myself numb by all of the choices. Mid-week this week, RR will turn four months old. She enjoys tummy time, laying on her back, shoving things into her mouth, knocking herself in the head with rattles (or anything else she has in her hands), kicking her feet, and standing up with some assistance. She also likes things that crinkle or light up. We don’t know if she likes things that make noise on their own, since we don’t own anything that does that. She (still) hates her swing.
Aside from polling her teachers at school at what her favorite toy is when she’s there, I though I’d ask you nice folks if you have any recommendations. What toys/activity contraptions have your kids (four months and older) really enjoyed? Is one playmat the same as any playmat? Anything you’d steer clear of? Thanks, in advance.
We have been nursing some sort of illness in our house for almost two weeks. It started with my wife a couple of weekends ago (salmonella? virus?) and then last weekend RR came down with projectile vomiting. We had to import the sister-in-law to visit on Sunday so that I could have my birthday dinner with someone else who could eat solid foods, and help me make a dent in my birthday cake. My wife and RR both got better after a couple of visits to the family doctor (where, again, I praise the use of a family doctor over separate doctors for both us and her), and I thought we were on the mend until I woke up early Wednesday morning praying to the porcelain God and sleeping away all of yesterday, only to spend all of last night battling Operation: Constipation.
I’m beginning to feel better, and am grateful for a house already well-stocked with Jello, Gatorade, chicken soup, and a baked potato. Oh, and RR pooped twice this morning before school. I’m hopeful that we’ll all be 100% for this coming weekend, in order to take advantage of the forecasted beautiful weather to actually go outside and see this so-called sun. Wish us luck!
For the first mornings after RR was born, the nurses would drop her off with me around 4am. Who knew 4am was the time parenting began each morning? They would turn on the bathroom light, which would flood the room with a gentle glow, and then I would hear the squeaky wheels of the plastic bassinet (RR’s chariot) being pushed into the room. From 4am until 8am, we would wait for my wife to come join us. I sent my wife home every night to preserve some sanity with the dog, as well as to allow one of us to be relatively well-rested. It also helped that we live mere moments away from the hospital, so her comings and goings didn’t take very long. RR and I patiently counted down the hours until my wife would arrive, since, unless I wanted to hit the nurse button, we were trapped there together on the bed. Trapped, in a good way.
The C-Section made me more immobile than I could have ever imagined. Between the IV’s, catheter, leg compression gadgets, I was bed-bound until Saturday morning (approximately 28 hours after delivery), when a very bossy (and nice) nurse unhooked me from all of my contraptions, and got me seated in the glider with RR in my arms. Even then, though, I couldn’t get out of the bed or the chair without help, most certainly if RR and I were alone. So there we sat, RR and I. Her on my belly or my shoulder, taking turns sleeping, nursing, having naked time, and texting early morning pictures to my wife. There was no TV, no iPod, no laptop – only the two of us, and my not-very-smart cell phone.
The room was quiet and dark until about 5:30am, when we could see the sunrise through an inch-tall gap at the bottom of the mini-blinds – the outside world begin to lighten up gradually, starting with a dark shade of blue, and making its way to being sunshine world-colored. Those four hours were blissfully serene – it was before the magic 8am hour, when breakfast was delivered, and the parade of doctors and nurses would start. When my wife would arrive, she would open the blinds, and take RR by the window, where she would gaze and bake in the sunshine. We blame this for her outstanding bilirubin levels.
Ever since we’ve been home, she still wakes up to start the day around 4am. It doesn’t matter when her last feeding was, or if she’s wet, or if she was just up at 3am – 4am is when her morning alarm clock goes off. We’ve been going to bed around 10pm or 11pm, and then my wife gets up with her for the late-night 1am feeding. The 4am shift, though, is usually all mine. Sometimes, I can convince her to go back to sleep by 5am, but most of the time, she prefers to stay up until around 5:30am/5:45am, right when the outside world starts to turn that familiar shade of blue as the sun rises. She’ll go back to sleep, seemingly, after the sun is almost fully up, and then we both go back to bed until 7am or 8am, when the day officially starts for the whole family.
It’s certainly a good thing we like her so much – there’s not a lot of things I can tolerate (much less look forward to) after being woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning on a never-ending daily basis, but feeding her in the dimly lit living room while we wait for the sunrise is something I might actually miss – that is, if ever she grows out of it.
What is it about recent parenthood that turns the world into some crazy time warp? No, not in this, “I can’t believe she’s two weeks old, already!” sort of way. But just a general time warp where the days go by so slow (is it 8am yet?), but then, all of the sudden, it’s July 9th – a date that seems so very far away from June 25th. I suppose after spending 10 months counting each week by painful week, to stop counting down to something seems foreign. Instead, we’re counting the days/weeks that she is old… that is, if we’re awake and aware enough to count, and be accurate at that.
We’ve learned so much in these two weeks: RR hates to get her diaper changed, but loves a bath. We also survived her ten-day-old growth spurt, complete with all-night feedings, coupled with a constant wardrobe of crankypants. You cannot properly swaddle a tiny human with hulk-like strength with a receiving blanket that is not square…or does not have chains and locks. She has just as many hiccups on the outside than she did on the inside. Driving anywhere by myself is incredibly, heartbreakingly lonely. There is not enough time in the world to properly (and promptly) thank everyone who has sent encouraging emails, comments, cards, gifts, etc. The animals have been really fantastic with RR – the cats ignore her, and the dog’s only vice is stealing the pacifier if it’s left unattended, or waiting at her feet for her to drop it. The dog also gets up with every night feeding to supervise and lay at our feet.
I would have loved having a son, but having a daughter is bringing me more joy than I could have ever imagined. You would think, being butch and pregnant, that I would have stereotypically craved a son to sit and watch football with, or dress up in tiny blue button-up shirts. But I’ve never been so delighted to buy pink outfits and shirts with ladybugs on them… although mostly, she lounges about in her diaper and a plain white t-shirt. Classic. I love our all-girl household, and can’t wait to put her in her Chris Cooley onesie come September.
In other news, being a parent means getting pooped on (sometimes several times), and not caring. There you have it.
One of the biggest sources of stress since RR entered this world has been tackling the world of breastfeeding. I breastfed the entire time we were in the hospital (she was born a little after midnight on a Friday, and we checked out at 11am on the following Monday).
At night, I would send her to the nursery around 12am/1am, and they would bring her back to me around 4am, with her grazing from each breast all other times. My wife and I (as well as the nurses) were diligent about keeping track of which breast she ate from, for how long, and what times. Every time the nurse came in to check my vitals, if she was feeding, they would also check in on her very perfect latch. If she was having trouble latching, the nurses would lend a hand (literally) and help her get on. I spent all of those days practically naked all of the time, sitting, draped by a gown in the hospital bed. My desire to breastfeed outweighed my modesty, even in front of my mom and sister, who were understanding, though took a little while to stop being creeped out by the constant boob show.
We met with the lactation consultant Sunday and she expressed her concern about RR’s weight loss, which was significant. Sure, her bilirubin levels were awesome (not a hint of jaundice), but she was thinning out, despite the constant and lengthy trips to the boob buffet. It was disheartening when, Monday morning when we went to check out, the nurse recommended that we supplement RR with an ounce of formula after every feeding. Not wanting to starve the child, we took the ready-made formula samples and headed home. Unfortunately, that’s where any source of formula-feeding advice ended, and we were left to fend for ourselves information-wise for the next few days.
This is where we get to talk about how RR is a lazy baby. This will become a recurring theme, as we’re often calling her a lazy sloppy baby. With love, you know. The entire hospital stay, we were pretty adamant about not even giving her a pacifier, so that she would really only associate nipples with mine. But as soon as we put that one bottle of formula in her mouth, her interest in my nipples only went downhill. She still had a perfect latch, but getting her to latch was comparable to getting her to walk the dog. Only with more screaming. Lots of screaming. So for the first several days at home, we played a game called, let the baby scream at my boobs, which was kind of traumatizing. Duh.
My milk had actually come in on Sunday, while at the hospital, which impressed and delighted everyone. But we were given no direction, really, when we came home as to how to determine how much she had eaten, other than to keep track of her diaper action. RR’s doctor recommended that I drink a ton of water, plus a lot of rich foods, in order to make the breastmilk more enticing. I drank mother’s milk tea, with milk-encouraging herbal supplements in it as well. I ate lasagna and lots of chocolate things (someone said babies like garlic and chocolate flavored milk). I pumped after each feeding to try and increase my supply. Sometime on Thursday, I broke down and called the hospital, begging for some help. The tiny tyrant and her boob-screaming ways was making my already emotional self out of control. Surprisingly, the lady who answered the phone for the “home visit program” phone number got her in her car and was at our house in about an hour.
When she arrived, she came with a scale, plus a lot of empathy and sympathy, which were worth the money paid for the visit. She showed us some tricks to getting her to latch (drip some formula or pumped breastmilk on my nipple to entice her), but when it came down to it, RR was not really just being a lazy baby, but was being a very smart baby – she knew my breasts weren’t giving her what she needed, so the screaming was just her way of communicating that. “Hi, mom? Your boobs are empty. Love, RR.” So we had a game plan in place to increase my milk supply and hopefully encourage it to come all the way in. I was barely pumping a half ounce every two hours – I’d scream at my breasts, too. Wah!
For 24 hours, we were on a schedule. She would eat every three hours – I would try to get her to nurse for 5-15 minutes, then hand her off to my wife to feed her formula while I pumped my pathetic supply. Although it was exhausting, by Friday we knew my milk wasn’t going to come in at a rate that would sustain RR’s needs. Even more disheartening. We went for another check-up with her doctor that afternoon (to check in on her weight gain), and found that she had gained .2 ounces from Tuesday, getting her closer to her birth weight. We love (no, LOVE) RR’s doctor (she is our own doctor as well, since it’s a family practice), who played half doctor, half therapist on Friday, giving us “permission” to abandon the breastfeeding, since it was causing so much stress, not to mention the fact that my breasts weren’t, and had no intention, of producing enough to nourish RR.
I’m obviously disappointed, but since we decided to abandon the breastfeeding (breastscreaming?), RR has eaten on a more predictable schedule, and has also allowed us to get a little more sleep, since we both don’t have to be awake every 2-3 hours to scream/feed/pump. My breasts are still producing milk (apparently you can’t turn them “off”), so I’ve been pumping every morning and night, netting about 1.5 to 2 ounces each time I pump. Considering she’s eating 2 to 2.5 ounces every three hours, you can imagine why she’d be so upset. Wah! We take the breastmilk, which I’m sure will gradually dwindle away (although I’ll continue to pump until they give up), and supplement the formula bottles she’s drinking. Much less exhausting, I assure you.
I’ll fondly remember the days of her nursing in the hospital – the gratifying feeling of feeding her something from my body, the warmness of having naked-time with her body pressed against mine. But in the end, the kid needs to eat. Much like the C-Section, my body didn’t want to cooperate on this one. Time to put my pride away and fatten her up. Also, the conveniences of formula-feeding help take some of the guilt away, since my wife can now experience the eye-gazing 3am feedings.
Butch… and breastfeeding? Not so much. But that’s OK.