Reading; Their Minds

I don’t remember how old I was when people stopped reading to me at my bedtime.

These days I get read to most nights.  At some point, the girls’ bedtime went from us reading to them to them reading to us.  I find the whole thing fascinating.  Both girls have always enjoyed books.  We went through all the same phases you went through:

Phase 1: Board books with 6 pages and giant colorful shapes and things.

Phase 2: Board books with 12 pages, 2 words on a page, and most of the corners of said pages worn down by drool.

Phase 3: Board books with 27 pages of rhyming “poetry” that we can read each night, sometimes twice, for 6 months straight.  This time, the corners have bite marks on them and many of the pages are “peeling” off of their boards from the drool.

Phase 4: Paper books that are square shaped with stories about our favorite characters.  Many of these pages have rips near the binding because, you know, everyone wants to help turn the pages and turning from the inside half of the page never results in a rip.

Phase 5: Gigantic hard-cover books with pages that fold out and pieces that move and inevitably get ripped out that you later read anyway and just pretend are still there even though Elmo’s body is missing his oscillating head.

Phase 6: Dr. Seuss books which tonight, will hopefully not be “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” because, and I’m not kidding, its like 350 pages long.

Phase 7: “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” for the 8th night in a row where you only read the left pages and don’t get caught.

Phase 8: “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” for the 8th night in a row where you try and only read the left pages but DO get caught.

This is the turning point…

Wait, did you just recognize the words were missing?

And so it goes.

More complicated books with more words leads to pointing my finger at each word as I go so we can all follow along.

Phase 9: We read Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” and harken back to our youth and how wonderful (but sort of sad) a story it is.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

In fact, you love “The Giving Tree” so much, you go for more…and you get something like this:

Happy Birthday by Shel Silverstein

Here we have a story with a beautiful illustration of a kid with lit candles buried in his head and hair that seems to be melting down his face laughing to himself about how much fun it will be when nobody shows up to his birthday party.

Sweet dreams kids.

That’s when you realize that maybe we should take a Shel-break but hey, reading is fun!

Phase 10: Break out some old board books and practice reading again!  You read this page and I’ll read the next page.

Phase 11: You read 2 pages to me and I’ll read 2 pages to you.

Phase 12: You suddenly realize that you can no longer spell words to your spouse when your kid asks “Daddy, where are going to take that shit?”

At this point, reading is underway.  You realize that there’s a very real possibility that one of these days, probably sooner rather than later, your kids will discover and really understand that you write a blog and have been documenting their childhood and want to read it and then roll their eyes at you.

Phase 13: We sit in bed and I listen as the entire book is read to me.  I’m told that we’ll “read and show.”  This means that she reads the page and then turns the book around to show me the pictures like in school.  This is cute but takes about 10x to get through the book and honestly, the plots in these books are not particularly compelling for me.

Phase 14: And here we are.  Now I sit and they read the entire book and just want us to be present.  They don’t need to show the pictures.  They just want the company.  Every now and then I get to read to them and its a pleasure.  Each night I’ll ask, “are you reading to me or am I reading to you?”

Tonight, Chloe wanted to read to me.  She picked out her book and brought it over to bed.  Sometimes its a chapter book and sometimes it is one that has pictures.  Tonight it was the latter…

…And I found myself staring at her, in a sort of awe, truly enjoying watching her enjoy reading.  She turns each page and then takes a few moments to look at the pictures.  She takes her time, really soaking in what’s happening before she starts to read and then gets into it.  In the off chance that she runs into a word she can’t pronounce, she just points at it and waits, knowing/hoping that I’m still watching and can help.  These help requests are starting to be few and far between.

I love reading and while I have always been confident that my kids would enjoy it as well, its so much fun to see it playing out.  I love going in their bedrooms at night to check on them and finding a book on their bed with a bookmark in it that they were reading after bedtime but before they were ready to fall asleep.

I love watching them figure it all out while realizing that there are endless stories to enjoy.

I love this moment:

Reading.

The end.

Independence Day

Today Chloe turns 6.

Hard to believe another year has passed.  Last year I wrote about how Chloe had essentially started to come out of her shell.  I think its safe to say that she obliterated that shell this year.

“Mommy, what do I need to do, right now, to make sure I don’t have a baby?”

I know what you’re thinking.  6 is probably too young to have a conversation about birds and bees.  I agree.  We didn’t.  In case you don’t know her, Chloe isn’t talking about getting pregnant.  She certainly doesn’t understand that concept (as far as I know).  She knows that babies grow in mommies’ bellies and then the doctor takes them out.  She’s not saying she doesn’t want to have babies at some point, just not today.  You get it.  I mean, she’s literally just 6 and has like, 1st grade and stuff coming up.

Chloe is, in my estimation, one of the more introspective and analytical kids I know.  She is a puzzle-solver, but not in the traditional sense as much as that she wants to know how everything works and always be prepared.  If she doesn’t fully understand something, she’s generally fine, but would prefer to hedge bets and play it safe.  No babies for her just yet.  When she asked about not having a baby right now, its her way of saying, “I don’t know what happens to get that baby into my belly, but I think its safe to say that I’m not interested in that right this very decades.”

My wife and I have always known her to be lots of fun but it has only been the last 1.5 years or so that she’s shared that side of herself with anyone.  Like I have mentioned here before, she’s not much of a spotlight seeker but has taken a strong interest recently in dancing.  She and Julianna both, as they get older, find themselves wanting to have their own time & space in the house.  We believe in that independence.  There are times when I will come to check on her and she’ll be by herself, in our living room, playing music in itunes or pandora (like Velociraptors and doorknobs…these kids), and just dancing.  In the past, if spotted, she would “shut it down” almost immediately and maybe even cry because she was embarrassed.  Now, more often than not, she will say something like, “Daddy, sit down and start the song over so I can show you the dance I’m ‘choreographaging’.”  And so I do.  I do start “All Star” by Smash Mouth from the beginning and watch a carefully ‘choreographicated’ dance…all 4.5 minutes of it…over and over again.  She even decided it was ok to teach Julianna the steps.  Then we got to watch it again.  Recently, she asked me if I had the song on my phone (of course), so I could play it so she could show the extended family the dance.  Who is this kid?

Then there’s the issue with the boyfriends.  Sensing a theme here?  Ever since kindergarten started, she’s got these boys lining up, wrapped around her finger.  A few months ago, I was in their school teaching Introduction to Computer Science to some 3rd and 4th graders (don’t judge).  After I was finished, I was on my way out when I ran into the school Principal.  He said, “Kindergarten is having lunch now, you should stop by and say hi.”  K.

I go into the cafetorium or whatever its called and can’t find Chloe.  My nephew, Ben, also a kindergartner, comes running over to help direct me.  I walk over to where he says and find Chloe, sitting 5 or 6 seats down from the other kids at her table, with nobody on her side next to her, directly across from a boy.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this boy is probably some sort of huge asshole.  I mean, BACK OFF.  The two of them, chatting away like my mother used to when this year’s Mah Jong card would arrive in the mail.  She barely gave me the time of day.  There was a time when she wouldn’t let me leave the room.  Now she basically said, “talk to the hand.  I got a boy sitting across from me in the cafetorium.”  This guy…I mean, who does he think he is?  They actively separated themselves from the other kids at the table.

Well, it turns out, according to her, as well as 2 or 3 other kids in kindergarten who told me at lunch that day, Chloe and “Shitlist Entry #1″ are in love and will be getting married.  Yada yada yada, great news, a few weeks later, they are no longer in love and they are no longer getting married.  It is probably because he doesn’t put the covers back on the markers.  Jerk.

Anyhow, it wasn’t long before another boy caught her fancy.  She gets all bashful, but confident, when asked.  She’ll happily tell me about how they sat near each other at Music class or that “he was on a swing 3 down from her at recess.”  I mean, give me a break with this.  I don’t need this sort of stress for at least another 30 years right?

Then I got this other kid, who we run into now and then, who is super nice.  When I say nice, I mean, he seems like he might actually be the nicest kid on the planet, genuinely.  He always says hi to me like kissing my ass is gonna win browny points with her or something.  He might be onto something.

But then, 2 weeks ago, she comes home from school and tells me that “#1″ from above is back in the picture, literally.  Turns out he drew a picture that had 3 hearts on it and told another kid in the class that the hearts were for Chloe.  Well, believe you me, that kid ran straight to Chloe to tell her.  Whatever, it won’t last, probably.

The sad part is, she’s got it all under control.  She’s got all of us wrapped right around her 6-year-old finger and she knows it.

Last night, she read me a book for her bedtime.  It seems that the days of me reading to her are probably more behind us than in front.  She wants to do the reading.

She’s growing up and gaining confidence and making me prouder each day more than the last.  She’s constantly making us laugh and she always, totally has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on around her.

My baby, you know, the 6-year-old who doesn’t want to have a baby of her own just yet…FYI.

Happy Birthday Chloe.

Love,

Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah… They all do that…

I think there is a conspiracy against all parents amongst medical professionals. Their answer to every question, without fail, is “Yeah…. They all do that…” I actually find it kind of amusing. They all always start with the word “Yeah”, have the same amount of pause, and finish out the phrase with those same four words. “They all do that.”

I’ve never studied a human being more in my life and that’s probably for the best. If I stared at anyone else this much, including my wife, I think it would be a little creepy. The result of staring at someone this much is you notice everything. Things like:

  • He cries after he yawns sometimes
  • His head and face turn bright red
  • He is making noises after every breath
  • His eye has so much “yuckahs” in it.
  • He makes a clicking noise that sounds half goat, half dolphin.
  • He’s sleepy at the breast.
  • He’s cranky at the breast.
  • He has dry skin.
  • His bones pop and crack like I broke something.
  • He gets violent hiccups.
  • He’s only opening one eye.
  • He doesn’t burp all the time.
  • He farts too much.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking… “They all do that.”   It turns out, you’re right.

 

Re-Entry

The days after Baby J was born were absolutely surreal. I found myself out and about in Beverly, MA for food, as the room service was pretty horrible. I felt myself feeling like I was walking on air. I was wondering why there wasn’t a parade happening in our honor. How come everyone isn’t high fiving me at Atomic Cafe? Why wasn’t there a champagne toast when I went in to Soma? I was literally walking around with so much excitement I could have floated off the Earth, but no one else knew. I wanted to buy everyone lunch at Atomic. I wanted to jump on the bar at Soma and announce Baby J’s birth to all. Alas, I resisted all of that and instead of going into debt or jail, I got food back quickly to momma.

Baby J will be one week old in 8 hours and I’m beginning to get some sense of normalcy back in my routine. I watched something on TV for the first time in a week. I took out the trash and recycling. Hey, I can even sit here and write a blog post. Not to say that was the case twenty minutes ago. Let me paint a picture for you.

I have a three room condo. A sleeping wife in one room, a sleeping Memere (grandmother) in the other room and I’m in the middle room with a screaming child. This child is inconsolable and has been screaming for quite a while. He’s rooting. Mom fed him literally 30 minutes ago. Mom has been feeding this child all day and really needs to sleep. She is still in recovery from major abdominal surgery after all. Memere also needs her rest and had been at it all day. I try to convince myself it’s not really hunger. I do the two point check. Pee or poop? I don’t see pee or poop, so I guess he’s hungry. I try to calm him down to make it to the “planned” 1:30 feeding. Cut to five minutes later and I have an SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) kit strapped to my finger to get 18ml of stored breast milk into Baby J through a tube strapped to my finger to hold him over. He sucked it down. He’s now absolutely silent. I marvel at my mad skillz!! Not only is Baby J satisfied but Mom and Memere are still asleep.

I’m now the only one awake in the house. I should also be sleeping but I’ll probably just stare at this beautiful boy just a bit longer.

 

 

Pride

Today Julianna turned 7.

Less than 48 hours ago, I was living vicariously through my friend Corey as he was literally hours away from going to the hospital with his wife to meet their 1st child.  I found myself easily reliving the emotions associated with the anticipation of the “about to meet my kid” situation.  He and I texted a bit earlier in the day about how “today you aren’t a dad but tomorrow you will be.”  I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling.  I’m sure Corey won’t either.

With that…

I haven’t written a lot recently, and when I have, life’s events have pushed me to write less “fun” posts than I normally like but I do seem to have this neat little tradition of birthday posts and discussing the year that was.

As you might know, although I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here before, Julianna doesn’t watch movies.  She has been to a movie theater 1 time (Winnie the Pooh) and cried during that.  I, on the other hand, love movies and have been to a movie theater, well, more than 1 time.  It isn’t that she doesn’t enjoy stories, or even that she is scared.  The “problem” she has is that she’s extremely sensitive and gets very emotional and uncomfortable when anyone (including a potential “bad guy”) runs into any sort of strife.  Some form of strife is a common theme in just about every movie ever made.  In the aforementioned Pooh movie, she became upset at a point when Winnie’s balloon floated away and he had to go track it down.

The one movie that she had true success with was Singin’ in the Rain.  She loves to sing and dance and entertain and in general, that movie is filled with that sort of stuff and the “strife” is pretty over-the-top comical.

We’ve tried, literally for years, to get her to watch movies.  We’ve tried bribing her to no avail.  Most of her friends enjoy movies and at her age, its starting to be a thing that they like to do together and my wife and I have feared that her lack of interest in movies would be an added hurdle in social situations.

Now, before we get on with the movie thing…

I’m not sure at what age one becomes able to be introspective about “pride”.  I believe we learn the definition of the word before we truly understand what it means.  I’m sure that happens at different times for everyone.  In retrospect, for me, I’m not sure I truly knew what pride was until I became a parent.  I’ve written before about witnessing various accomplishments that belonged to Julianna and to Chloe, outside of myself and outside of my control that gave me an overwhelming sense of pride.  Relatively speaking, these accomplishments are sometimes “large” and sometimes “small” but always awesome in their own ways.  Whether it was seeing her face on the stage as the curtain opened for her first ballet recital, fighting through the nervousness of getting on the bus on her way to summer camp for the first time, or getting out of my car on the 2nd day of kindergarten with a new-found confidence and resolve that didn’t exist 24 hours earlier, she continues to figure herself out and continues to create prideful moments for me.

As for me, I’ve never been a particularly emotional person, at least outwardly.  That being said, I’d be lying if I said that each time she has one of these types of accomplishments, it is all I can handle to not celebrate as if I personally just hit a walk-off homerun to win the World Series.

So, back to the movie…

A few days ago my wife suggested we try the movie bribe again.  The new Annie movie was available onDemand.  We would offer a trip to Toys R’ Us to get some of these [ridiculous] Shopkins toys that both Julianna and Chloe are into these days.  Annie was the big movie from last year that we tried to convince them to go see in the theater.  They have both seen parts of the original movie because, like Singin’ in the Rain, it is filled with singing and dancing…and a dog: the formula for a winning experience.

Okie dokie, we’ll give it a go.

I am in the car with the girls and propose the movie/bribe.  Chloe goes all in, immediately.  Julianna gives me the dramatic/tense pause and then says, “Ok, I’ll try.”

Mini-pride.

I call my wife.  Get the popcorn ready and fire up the tv.  We are coming in hot and need that movie playing seconds after we arrive home.

We sit down, the 5 of us (including Cassie The Dog – another story; another time), on the couch and the movie begins.  We are going to get through the next 100 minutes or so.  If you haven’t seen the new version of Annie, spoiler alert, its basically the same story as the original:  Little girl lives in orphanage/group home with nasty drunk lady (Ms. Hannigan in both) and for this reason or that goes to live with filthy rich single dude.  Dude, against everything in his nature, starts to enjoy having Annie around.  Nasty drunk lady plots in one way or another to scam the rich dude out of a lot of money by creating fake parents for Annie.  Everything gets figured out just as Annie is leaving with her “parents”.  Rich dude rescues Annie, adopts her, and gets together with his assistant.  Dance break.

We get about 5 minutes into the movie before Julianna starts getting upset because the girls Annie lives with are clearly not treated very nicely by that bitch Hannigan.  Even though Julianna knows the whole story and what happens next, she immediately says she wants to forfeit the toy store and she’d like to go in the other room.  We persist.  We reassure her that she knows the story and that everyone is going to be ok and that having these types of problems is the way the story is told so that we can better understand the happy ending.  She powers through that spell and spends the next hour or so quietly watching and occasionally even smiling.

We get to the fake parents portion of the movie and the water works are open for business.  Same deal as last time other than one thing:  She doesn’t ask to leave the room.  She doesn’t explicitly say so but I think she decided that she would own her sadness and just watch; she would really try to get through.

She cried for the next 20 minutes.  She was very sad that Annie was going to miss Mr. Stacks (formerly Daddy Warbucks in the original).  She was very sad that Mr. Stacks was going to miss Annie.  She was even sad that Ms. Hannigan, had realized that she had made a mistake and felt badly about it.

And then, they rescued Annie.  Dance break.

Here’s the weird thing, the movie wasn’t great but it was better than I thought it would be.  That being said, I found myself feeling slightly emotional at the end, but not about the movie.  Huge smile on her face.  High 5s for everyone.  She had done it.  She had sat through the entire movie, never once leaving the room or even getting up.  She powered through.  Toys R’ Us, here we come.

She didn’t win the Superbowl, invent a flying car, or cure cancer.  She watched a movie.  The whole thing; start to finish.  It was a big accomplishment for her.  The most recent of many I’m sure.

On the way to school this morning, Chloe asked her if she would want to watch Annie again any time soon.  Her response was a question to me:

“Daddy, is Cinderella (the new movie), available to watch on the TV?”

That’s my girl.

Happy birthday Julianna.

Love,

Daddy

Awaiting Baby J

Matt here.  This one is interesting.  Here is the 1st post from Corey Jackson.  Corey and I have been friends for a very long time, starting in high school through being roommates during and after college.  He was the best man at my wedding.  He just wrote this and I wanted to publish it before midnight.  He writes from a brand new perspective that I thought would be interesting.  This post is really fun, particularly if you are a parent.  Can’t wait to see what he writes next…

I just got in bed for what will most likely be a futile attempt at sleeping tonight. My poor wife has back pain, cramps, and the baby seems to have made a move downward increasing her discomfort tonight. Talk about feeling helpless. I imagine the only moment a man feels more helpless is during a vaginal birth. I won’t be experiencing that, however.

Tomorrow at 5:15AM, my alarm clock will go off. I will get my wife to the hospital for a planned C-Section by 6:30 and sometime around 8:30, I’ll be a father.  That’s the part I know. We’re kind of lucky that it’s all planned out for us, at least that far. This is our first child, so I’m not exactly sure what happens after that. I feel completely ill prepared for about everything that’s about to happen to us.

Not from lack of trying. I read books like Dr. Karp’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and “Baby 411.” We took breastfeeding classes, Infant CPR and visited the birth center at the hospital many times to go over everything with midwife after midwife. We have every possible baby product already in hand to use at will to thwart anything this wonderful dude throws our way. Still, I’m sitting here in bed with exactly zero clue of what’s really about to happen to us.And you know what? Not really knowing excites me more than anything. It excites me when I hear people tell me how life-changing and amazing it’s going to be. I know it’s going to be a beautiful moment and I know I’m going to love this guy more than I’ve loved anything in the world.  I know this is going to be one of those things I look back on as an incredible event in our marriage. I know he will be my pride and joy. Daddy’s little buddy. I just can’t wait to see his face. Will he be fugly or the cutest thing alive? Will he have dark or blonde hair? Will he look like me at all? Will he look like his mother?

So, I’m going to try and close my eyes and I’m sure, if I do get some sleep, the dreams will be all about Baby J.  Maybe I’ll figure it all out overnight.

If He Cries, He Cries

In the summer of 2003, I served as the counselor for my camp’s annual CIT trip. Typically, my camp (plus two others) took a pilgrimage to Israel. That year, we went to Maine—not quite the same thing. Instead of climbing Masada, we climbed ropes. Instead of floating in the Dead Sea, we floated down the Kennebec River … twice.

The campers? They felt cheated a little bit. Me? I LOVED it. Watch 100 kids in Maine or watch them in Israel? Hmmm. Potentially deal with moose or potentially deal with terrorists? Yeah, Maine was much less responsibility, which meant it was much more 21-year-old Ryan’s speed.

While I had a great time, I didn’t enjoy all aspects of the trip. In particular, one of the counselors from the other camps really got under my skin. I won’t name her here; that’s not the grown-up thing to do 12 years later … also, for the life of me, I can’t remember what her name was.

Anyway, on one particular day trip, that counselor and I ended up sharing a bus seat. Crammed between her and the window, claustrophobia and dread set in quickly. Then, even faster, she fell asleep. And slumped over against me. With a string of drool dripping from her mouth. Too nice to elbow her in the ribs, I tried a gentle nudge. And failed. With repeated efforts. Finally, I decided I was trapped and said to myself, “Well, this is it: my personal hell.”

Life in hell is often depicted as repetitive torture (for instance, Homer being forced to eat donut after donut on “The Simpsons”). If this were true, I thought that if I were to end up in hell, my punishment would be to sit in that exact spot on that bus—for eternity. (Hopefully, not naming that counselor’s name is what keeps me in Saint Peter’s good graces! Yes, I am Jewish. Why do you ask?)

For more than 10 years, that experience remained my personal hell. Then, my wife, Elmo, and I drove home after Christmas.

My in-laws live in Rochester, New York. It’s about six hours from our home in Boston. This was our fourth time making that drive in the past month (twice for Thanksgiving and, now, twice for Christmas). Needless to say, we didn’t make any of those in six hours. Our drive there for Christmas had been the worst yet, a 10-hour trek that included an hour and a half standstill. Elmo, miraculously, slept through that. The rest of the trip? He spent that screaming. Eventually, the journey spilled into his bedtime, so we at least drove the last couple hours in peace.

For the ride home, we weren’t nearly as lucky. We got a late start at 11:30 a.m. That meant we’d drive through the meat of the day. The main part of Elmo’s “awake time.” And “awake” he was. Unhappy too. After a brief nap to start the trip, he pretty much wailed the rest of ride every moment, bemoaning being strapped into his car seat.

Eventually, I moved to the back seat with him, trying to play with him, sing to him, or pretty much do anything to stop him from crying. For close to two hours, though, I mostly just stared at his tear-streaked face, beet red from his hyperventilating sobs. His eyes pleaded with me: “How can you sit there without helping me?” It was his personal hell. It became mine too.

Now, this was not Elmo’s only freakout during our vacation. It was merely the cherry on top of the shit sundae (at least when it came to him losing it; the trip and my in-laws were otherwise lovely!). During our week-plus there, Elmo did not make it through a single night’s sleep for longer than 2 hours before waking up, screaming for attention. One of those nights, I stayed in the room with him, hoping my presence would keep him calm. Hah!

Clearly, something had to be done to help our kid calm down on his own. The answer? We were finally ready to “sleep train” him.

“Sleep training” is a funny phrase. In my mind, it cues up a movie montage, likely set to a song by Survivor:

Scene 1: We see Elmo sitting up in his crib. I place my hands next to my head in the universal sign for “sleep.” He giggles, then looks at me quizzically.

Scene 2: We cut to Elmo, lying on his belly in his crib, kicking his legs, pushing up on his arms, and sobbing uncontrollably. I’m next to him, “coaching” him to sleep, i.e., doing nothing to help him.

Scene 3: We see my wife and I, staring at our monitor. Elmo is finally sleeping. We high-five. The noise wakes him up, and he wails once more. We hang our heads, and the audience laughs at our pain.

Of course, “sleep training” is nicer than the more descriptive term: “let your child cry until they’re so worked up they eventually can’t do anything but fall asleep (after crying some more, of course).” Yeah, “sleep training” is better marketing, for sure.

We hadn’t let Elmo “cry it out” yet for a number of reasons: “He’s just getting over a cold.” “He’s just catching a cold.” “He really needs a good night’s sleep tonight.” “I really need a good night’s sleep tonight.” However, after that trip, after that hell, it was time. No more excuses. (It also helped that it was new year’s week and we were both off work, so we really were out of excuses.)

I thought I would document our results here, running diary-style. Ultimately, though, things weren’t eventful enough for that. Not because it was a rousing success immediately—far from it! However, all of the entries would have seemed very similar:

11:30: Elmo begins crying. Wait the allotted 12 minutes

11:42: Enter Elmo’s room. Sing him a song, rub his back. Do anything but pick him up. Eventually, he calms down. Go to exit, while he’s still awake. He recommences freak-out.

11:46: Wait the allotted 15 minutes.

12:01: Wife’s turn. She enters Elmo’s room. Sings him a song …

That first night, we did this routine for close to two hours. It was tough, but if I’m being honest, not horrible. To that point, one of the hardest things about comforting him in the middle of the night was when you couldn’t actually comfort him. He’d wail while you held him, or worse, commence wailing the second you put him down. Surprisingly, the quasi-”no touching” rule made things easier. It didn’t feel “good,” but having a plan did.

The first night was the toughest. The next night, he cried for an hour after my wife first put him to bed. Then, he slept through until the morning. The night after that, it was a half-hour to start, then smooth sailing. The night after that, just fifteen minutes. Things haven’t been perfect; last night, he was up at 12:30 screaming for a half-hour, and as I write this, at 8:45 p.m. on a Monday , he’s started squawking. Still, they’ve improved. He’s improved. And that’s a big win.

Recently, my wife asked if, knowing what we know now, we’d sleep train hypothetical baby number two earlier. I honestly didn’t know. Ultimately, there’s likely no perfect time. It depends not only on when your child seems ready, but also when you feel ready. For me, it took time and experience to reach that point.

I had to go to hell and back.

The Common Cold

It was 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, and we were driving around town. For some people, that sounds like a regular night. For a new parent, it sounds like a loooong night.

When you have a baby, 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. essentially become one another. Now, at 10 p.m., you wonder why you’re still awake, but you’re pretty sure nothing good can come of it. At 3 a.m. you’re used to being awake, which is arguably the more depressing outcome in this body swap (the LiLo in this “Freaky Friday,” if you will).

On this particular night, the “nothing good” occurring was Elmo fighting off his third cold in the past four weeks. Googling ways to relieve his misery, I instead found a general article about babies and colds. It said the average baby catches between six and eight colds before they turn one. What? Six to eight?? Fuck you, Internet.

How many times in your life have you heard, “There’s no cure for the common cold”? Did it ever make you mad? Like, “we can put a man on the moon, but we can’t cure a cold?!” mad. I hate colds, but I can deal with them. When Elmo came along, though, I got to see just how terrible it is to suffer stuffiness when you can’t help yourself at all. Experience that six to eight times, and forget getting mad—you’ll get irate. Like, “we can put a U2 album in everyone’s iTunes library, but we can’t cure the common cold?!” irate.

As a result, you look for any reasonable solution to help. And then you try them … all of them. So, check out my running list of baby “remedies” for the common cold (at least the ones I can recall), as well as how successful each was:

Bulb syringe: Provided for free by the hospital when we took Elmo home. In theory, lets you suck mucus out of a baby’s nose. In practice, is worthless.

Nosefrida the Snotsnucker: A better version of the bulb syringe, even if it should have been named “Noseferatu” (“I want to suck your boogers!”). You place one end of this tubular device in the baby’s nose and the other in your mouth. Then,  you suck. Hard. This product’s box features line art of a smiling baby, because there’s no fucking way you’d ever see an actual baby smiling when this is in use. Elmo acts like I’m sucking his brain out through his nose, like a confused ancient Egyptian coroner. Also, using this makes me feel like I have the lung capacity of an 80-year-old chain-smoker. Depressing on all fronts … except it kind of, sort of, almost works!

Boogie Wipes Saline Spray: Use in conjunction with Nosefrida. It won’t necessarily get more boogers out, but the ones you get will be bubblier! The canister features a scented noozle or “schnozzle” (their term). It must smell pretty good, because every time I bring it to Elmo’s nose, he opens his mouth instead … even if I’m just moving it from one nostril to the other. Let’s all take a moment now to remember how stupid babies are.

Humidifier: We’ve run this in Elmo’s room every night of his life, so hard to tell if it helps or not. One thing I am certain of? You better disinfect this thing often. Who would have thought something that’s constantly damp would get gross? Yup—everyone.

Raise the mattress under baby’s head: Where’d all the towels go again? Oh, right. They’re soaking up the humidifier’s juices and propping up the baby’s head. Perfect.

Baby NyQuil: Oh, man, I wish this existed. It’d definitely be my favorite “Quil,” narrowly edging out “Peter” and that Geoffrey Rush movie. I do wonder if they’d call it “Baby NyQuil” or something more fun. I did some quick brainstorming and came up with “Tyke Quil,” which I like quite a bit as an extension to the “Quil” brand. My goodness, I’m tired.

Baby Vapor Rub: This Vicks product actually does exist, although the Internet seems to indicate its poison. Since I was short a pound of beeswax and the eight essential oils the homemade recipe called for, I rolled the dice on the store-bought version, dabbing it on Elmo’s feet before bed. I think this is my favorite remedy to date. Like with anything else, I have no idea if it works. However, thanks to its smell, there’s no way you won’t notice if you already put some on. Considering my now hazy ability to remember things, that’s a fantastic add-on feature.

Other options exist, including putting a plate of sliced onions next to the baby’s head. I haven’t tried that one yet. Luckily (?), it sounds like I’ll likely have a few more opportunities to do so—especially since Elmo has now moved on to cold number four.

If you have your own remedies, let me know! We can take back the night. Or at least take back 10 p.m., like a less ambitious Justin Timberlake. (We’ll see how much night-taking-back he’s doing when his kid arrives …)

Hello, my name is Ryan.

If you happen to go back and read the very first post on this blog, you’ll see that one of my goals in starting it was to have other dads write as well.  My experiences as a parent are obviously incredibly interesting but I always thought it would be fun to have more of a community.

I won’t do too much introducing here because, below, this particular dad is going to do that for himself.  I will say this: Spoiler alert, he has a 9-month-old son and its been years since this blog had any posts for kids that age so I thought it might be a nice contrast to the stage that my daughters are at.

Enjoy.

Hello, my name is Ryan. I’m new to this blog and to being a parent. One of these is more daunting than the other.

I’ve known Matt since I was 11 years old. It was 1993 and my first year at camp. Matt was my bunk’s counselor in training, along with Ari Gutman. I’ve not spoken to Ari since that summer … actually, there’s a strong chance I didn’t speak to him during that summer either. The fact that I even remember the name “Ari Gutman” is a testament to what my memory was before fatherhood. Nowadays, I’m lucky to know what day of the week it is. (It’s Saturday, right? I hope so; if not, I’m late for work. Actually, screw it—I hope I am late for work.)

Of course, staying in touch with Matt was a different story. Over the years, we’ve had somewhat similar paths: we held the same traditions at camp, we were both CIT counselors, and we both attended Syracuse University (go, Orange!). Fortunately, I managed to avoid information studies as a major (go, journalism! Something with an actual future, right??).

As fate would have it, I unknowingly followed Matt again last week. This time it was onto an outbound train from Boston. He caught my eye. Then, we caught up. A brief chat led me to follow in his footsteps once more: here, onto the pages of this blog. And I couldn’t be more excited about that.

When Matt described this site to me, he spoke of it as a place to track his journey throughout fatherhood. He said it’d be something he wanted his daughters to read when they grew up. I immediately thought of a different purpose for this space: an outlet for my frustrations. Being a parent isalways hard. But being a first-time parent when you don’t know anything? That’s impossible. And in the nine months since my son was born, it’s gotten to me. A lot.

Around every corner lurks a new frustration. Today’s? I just got my son to go back to sleep. Now, it’s6:00 a.m., and I’m wide awake. So, instead of getting some needed sleep, I’m writing this. (No offense, Matt, but I’d take sleep over you any day.) Of course, many new parents have positive ways to overcome these grievances. For instance, exercise! I briefly considered purchasing a punching bag (not a joke), but instead, I usually eat candy to cope … lots and lots of candy. I crush candy. (Coincidentally, I also play a lot of “Candy Crush.” I don’t think either is good for my health.)

Now, before I vent further, let me make one thing clear: I love my son. I cannot describe the feeling I get when he smiles or laughs or blows out his diaper (FYI: the indescribable feeling for that last one is different from the first two). My wife’s father nicknamed him “Elmo” before he was born, and that’s what I’ll call him here. From the few parent blog posts I’ve read, it seems standard to not call your children by their actual names, and I can’t bring myself to use “MLO” or whatever the standard term is. So, “Elmo” it is. And, you know what? The nickname fits..

Like the Muppet, my son can be friendly, talkative, and annoying as fuck. (He also likes being tickled.) Elmo was born without complications, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. However, he had a fussy start to life, responding poorly when he ate, slept, and well, that’s pretty much all babies do. He’s battled colds, infections, a flat head, and more since he was born. Now, almost nine months in, things seem better. But perhaps that’s because I seem better.

I think the toughest part of being a new parent is not knowing how you’ll react. What if you can’t take it? At times, I think no one can. I know I couldn’t. In these instances, your best bet is to find a way to overcome those feelings. Now, I have one: this blog. I’m looking forward to sharing my stories here with each of you. Hopefully, you’ll find them enjoyable, funny, and relateable. And hopefully, they’ll get you to share yours too. After all, there’s one surefire way to overcome any issues you might face: talk about them.

(Well, that and jelly beans. Oh, man, I wish I had some now. Who cares if it’s like 7 a.m.? I’ve been up for hours …)

Rise of the Nerd

I’m a nerd.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts (or you know me), you already know this to be true.

For my professional life, I’m a Co-Founder and the CTO of a company called Dunwello (www.dunwello.com).  I have been writing software the better part of like a hundred years and working for startups for much of that.  I went to college to be an architect.  I was absolutely positive I wanted to be an architect.  100%.  My plan was to get to school, do some Arts & Sciences, and then transfer into the School of Architecture (Syracuse University).  That plan was detoured in my 1st semester when I found a new school:  The School of Information Studies (which has since been renamed to the iSchool).  I always describe this school, which was relatively new, as Computer Science without the pocket protector and Business without the suit.  I went for a tour one afternoon after hearing about the school from one of my sister’s friends.  It was probably half way through that tour that I decided to fill out the transfer paperwork and get started.  I never looked back and I never even looked at the Architecture School.  It turns out, in retrospect, that what I was drawn to with architecture is the same thing I’m drawn to with software and technology:  I love building things from the ground up.  I love seeing things come together; construction.  Math & science have always been fun for me and generally, logic puzzles and problem solving in general are right in my wheel house.

It should come as little to no surprise that my daughters have at least some of those same interests.  It is not fully clear, at this point, to what degree yet but if you know them, you know that they are both sneaky nerdy and intuitive.  Chloe and Julianna enjoy giving each other math problems, building with whatever, and asking lots of questions about how things work (as many do).

So last week, the four of us are having dinner, and I’m talking about how I had a lot of meetings that particular day (I am generally not a fan of lots of meetings).

Julianna asks, “Daddy, were any of the meetings for someone who wants to come work at Dunwello?”

As a matter of fact, yes, one of them was.

“I want to come work at Dunwello when I’m a grownup.”

Awesome, that would be great.  I ask her what kind of job she’d like to do.

“I want to be a software engineer like you.”

And then Chloe echoes that she would also like to be a software engineer at Dunwello.

[melt]

Of course, l’m sure most kids would say something like that so I’m not going to hold them to this but, it magnified some thoughts I had already been thinking:  I work in an industry, doing a job, where the large majority of professionals are men.  Software engineering is just not a field that a lot of women have adopted.

Why is that I continue to wonder?  Jokes mostly aside, it can’t be that my male brain is bigger right?  Is it that I’m just less sensitive?  What’s the story?  My girls seem to love all the same sorts of things that I loved when I was their age.  What’s to say that they couldn’t or wouldn’t go down the same path that I did?

Where’s the disconnect?

I’d like to think I will be fully supportive of whatever career path they end up taking short of a few exceptions (Drug Dealer, Prostitution, Blogger, etc).  My goal isn’t to make sure my daughters become software engineers but rather to help to provide an environment where they can feel like exploration of any profession (short of a few exceptions) is acceptable without social pressure that this activity is for boys and that one is for girls and so on.

With that, a friend recently introduced me to code.org.  It is a website (check it out – highly recommend) that has all sorts of free resources for various aged kids to learn about the fundamentals of computer science.  There are lesson plans for teachers and interactive puzzles/games for kids.  There are videos and links to resources and all sorts of nerdy things.

I also recently heard about CS EdWeek from the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s Ed Foundation (MassTLC – masstlcef.org).  CS EdWeek (http://masstlcef.org/cs-edweek/) is designed to be a week to inspire and promote computer science awareness within the education system.  I, of course, love it.

Last weekend, I asked the girls if they wanted to do some puzzles on the computer and learn some computer programming.  They were psyched.  Resounding “YES”es from both girls.  I went to code.org and sat them down in front of the browser.  Maybe they’d enjoy it; maybe not.

For a bit more than an hour, they sat, going through puzzles.  They switched who had control of the mouse between each puzzle.

Julianna and Chloe's first try using code.org

Julianna and Chloe’s first try using code.org

I sat with them the whole time but let them play and work things out together.  It was a ton of fun watching them work through the puzzles.  The above photo is from one of the earlier puzzles that has an Angry Bird theme.  Later, we did some Frozen themed puzzles.

I have a meeting soon with the principal of their elementary school about the school’s thoughts/plans on incorporating CS into the curriculum in some way.

Like I said before, I don’t need them to become software engineers.  What I need is for them to be inspired, both educationally and creatively, to stretch and challenge their minds and figure out what makes them happy.  I don’t need or want to produce an army of nerds but an army of open minded critical thinkers with the tools and confidence to pursue whatever truly interests them down the road…

…well, that wouldn’t be so awful right?