Monday, June 30, 2008

Greetings from the surface of the sun

When Kitty and I were planning how our baby was going to turn out, we obviously picked what we thought were our own best qualities to pass along to him. Kitty would provide the brains, the compassion and the looks while I would provide the body odor, the lack of patience and the enduring love of completely meaningless trivia. Unfortunately, it does not appear to have worked out according to our plans.

The boy got his first taste of summer this weekend and I think we can now safely say that he's got his daddy's tolerance for the heat. The tolerance of an elderly snowflake. He started crying around 5 pm Saturday evening and is still going strong as I type this. Ever since the Great Seattle Freon Collapse of 1965, houses in Seattle have lacked air conditioning. Instead, like a city under siege, the entire population migrates into the basement to wait out anything over 80 degrees. Kitty and the boy slept down there last night while I sweated it out upstairs. Today, to try and fight off the heat so we could all sleep together like normal surface dwellers, I covered our westward facing bedroom window with an emergency blanket. Nothing says "class" like an emergency blanket hanging in your window. Ask everyone that happened in/over/around West Seattle today. They're sure to have seen ours shining like a beacon of refinement and taste.

Of course, it's tough to pin his displeasure entirely on the 90 degree heat when it happened to coincide with his first head cold too. At least we think it was a cold, based on the amount of nostril taffy I pulled out of his face with that little nose vacuum, even though it was mostly cleared up by today. It could also be his formula, since we recently made a switch from the entirely disgusting hypoallergenic Enfamil to the slightly less disgusting organic milk-based junk. Or it could be bites from the fleas that Tango and Cash have introduced to our ever expanding family. The cats have obviously been feeling lonely and neglected and needed some more friends. I'm pretty sure I pulled one of their friends out of the Ninja's nose on Sunday.

Whatever the cause, it hasn't been a pleasant introduction to summer. I can only hope that this doesn't mean that the boy ends up with the rest of my worthless traits. I don't think the world needs another skinny, Beverly Hills 90210-loving, Journey fan with a penchant for pink shirts.

I'd kinda like this kid to have friends.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Our kid is a genius

The Ninja's favorite movie is American Anthem. He's a huge Mitch Gaylord fan and ever since he watched the movie, he's been in training for the inevitable sequel. Being excellent parents, we're assisting him in realizing his dream. Below is a film of the progress that he's made. With some assistance, he can now sit and stand. We've scoured the historical archives, and we're pretty sure no other child in the world has ever done this so well.

Make sure you watch all the way to the end for his signature dismount.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Move Over Gene Simmons

My 12-week (and counting) war with breastfeeding is approaching a stalemate and although I still haven’t thrown in the spit-up covered towel, I’m getting very close. My quest to leave no stone unturned and no dollar unspent means that in the end I will have tried just about everything including, to name a few…lactation specialists, an MD who specializes in breastfeeding, tongue clipping, physical therapy, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, massage, pumping, bottle-feeding, a galactagogue and even a pharmaceutical to stop vasaspasms (don’t ask).

It’s pretty crazy that I haven’t quit yet, but having an ex-Marine for a father seems to have rubbed off on me. I mean obviously the health benefits were a big factor for me and I was (am still) committed to reducing Finnja’s chance of sharing my allergy woes. We’ve already blown the cost saving argument sky high. So why am I still torturing myself with the endless grind of trying to nurse, bottle-feed and THEN pump at every feed time? To be perfectly honest I am still hanging on to the Boob = Bliss dream for both of us. We’ve actually come a long way from the early days when he was starving and I was screaming. Recently I’ve had a glimpse of what it is supposed to be like and let me tell ya, nothing shuts up the boy like the boob. He is usually pretty easy to calm, but there are some nights when his cries defy any swaddle, shush, bounce, sway, song, pacifier Woody can throw at him and guess what? The boob is the magic bullet. Goodnight moon, goodnight Ninja. I just have to make sure I’m ready when Woody pulls the Heisman and retreats to man cave to drink beer and blog. I think that might be all he does these days.

I’m heading back to work July 7th so it feels like the end is near. It might be time for me to gracefully let go knowing that he was at least partially lining his insides with liquid gold for three months. But if you know me at all, then you are already laughing at the idea of me “gracefully” letting go of anything. Just wait for the future blog on his first drop off at daycare for an example of that.

The kid ain’t hurtin' either way. He will eat anything even if he really does love the boob. The supplementation has paid off and Finnja has climbed back into the 50th percentile for weight and jumped into the 95th percentile for length. Clearly those don’t add up to a Buddha baby, but he does look less like Gollum than in the early days.

At least I can return to drinking tequila knowing that my perseverance in the war with breastfeeding has paid off. With two tongue clippings under his belt, the Finnja can now be a genuine rock star when he grows up. He is pretty impressed with his new tongue capabilities and hopefully I have saved him from future speech, sinus and dental development problems. You wouldn’t believe how many people are telling us that they now realize that their children were tongue-tied after reading the blog. One thing is for certain, the future Finnja will not be writing into the Playboy Advisor (July 08 Issue) complaining about his tongue tie!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Over the river and through the woods... in adorable clothes

While the past (almost) three months have been chock full of developmental milestones, we achieved two major ones this past weekend that deserve acknowledgment:
  1. First trip to the cabin for the boy
  2. First pair of overalls
I'm honestly not sure which I'm more excited about. From the minute Kitty told me she was pregnant, I could only think of two things. A little high-five for the boys downstairs (they got discouraged after 2 1/2 years of disappointment) and babies in overalls. I wanted a closet stocked with enough Osh-Kosh to clothe an adorable baby army, or at least enough to cover him through that awkward period where overalls no longer look cool on a dude. From the looks of Tommy Lee, that period can pass a lot quicker than the dude in overalls realizes, so I have to hurry up.

On Friday afternoon, we tricked out the Ninja in a little khaki number and we hit the road for the cabin. Even back in the olden days, it was tough to get out of the house for trips to the cabin. Between our crap and our passengers' crap, we always had the wagon and the Space Case completely filled. At this point, there's no way we're getting anyone else in this car with us. Here's a lousy cell phone pic of about half of our traveling gear (not pictured: infant carrier, beer, baby, food, beer, cooler (for beer)) for a weekend. The real camera was somewhere in that pile.

It took us about two hours, including several naps for everyone, to get out of the house. We were concerned about how the boy would handle his first 2 1/2 hour car ride, but he did it with surprising
aplomb. In other words, he slept the whole time. One rest area break for bottles all around and we were up at Snowline with plenty of daylight to spare. Finn seemed to really enjoy his introduction to the cabin. So much so, that he celebrated the moment by launching a whole new level of Poop Tag. Kitty, the hammock and the cabin deck are all currently "it."

Here's a pic of Kitty and the Ninja right before he decided to up the stakes. I couldn't find anything strong in our limited cabin stores to disinfect the scene, so I had to improvise with Clorox toilet bowl cleaner. Please note: while those angled spouts do make it easy to get under the toilet bowl, they make aiming the stream anywhere else extremely difficult.

The rest of the weekend went much more smoothly. The boy enjoyed horseshoes, tennis and s'mores, all from the comfort of his stroller and/or Bluebird. Nothing makes you feel like a quality parent more than rolling your child's stroller over to the side of the horseshoe pits. Or should I say, nothing makes you look like a quality parent more than that.

Now we're back home, and I'm back at work full time. It was a great break, but it's over. Back to the grind. Of course, in my case, "the grind" means showing up late and leaving early to be with the boy.

I sure hope no one from work reads this blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Competitive parenting

We hosted PEPS at our house this week. Given the fact that PEPS is a group of relative strangers trying to establish a connection via weekly meetings, my thinking was: if ever there was an event that called for tequila shots, this was it. But tequila shots are frowned upon at PEPS events, so we had crudité. Vegetable platters are the "new parent" equivalent of booze. It makes me sad inside.

As if it weren't tough enough to do this whole thing without liquor, you then spend the two hours hearing about how perfect all of the other PEPS kids are. They're sleeping through the night. They're breastfeeding properly. Their diapers smell like candy canes. They're all obviously lying, but I can't hold it against them. They're just trying to win PEPS. That's the only reason any of us are there. We're all holding out hope that we've got the best baby so we can feel better about the lack of sleep / free time / coherent thought.

Aside from our feeding issue, I used to be certain that we had the best baby. That is, until I started receiving the "Your Baby This Week" emails. In the beginning, I enjoyed them. Even if they did continuously refer to me as "mom." When they told me that my baby would start smiling, it gave me something to look forward to that week. When he did start smiling, I was thrilled. However, our baby is
apparently no longer getting the memos. Last week he was supposed to start examining his hands intently. The only way Ninja notices his hands is when they spastically punch him in the face. I'm pretty sure that's not what they meant.

Next week, I'm going to tell everyone at the class that Ninja's already doing the hand jive.

I'm totally going to win PEPS next week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Finnja would like to send a shout out to all the Fathers and Grandfathers that made it possible for him to be here today!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Save the Ninja, save the world

Finn got his first vaccinations on Monday. He is now protected against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP) and the rotavirus. It was one shot and an oral vaccine, and he slept through the shot. I couldn't even watch, but he didn't move. He's a lot tougher than I am, apparently. That brings the list of those tougher than me up to three: girls, bunny rabbits and now 2-month old babies.

In the unlikely event that you haven't noticed, vaccines are a hot-button topic at the moment. Time magazine recently dedicated its cover to the debate over vaccine effectiveness and risk. In fact,
the two greatest thinkers of our time cannot agree on whether they are a medical miracle or a shortcut to autism and other unspecified childhood ailments. And if two pithy, and hilarious, advice columnists can't get this one straight, what help is there for the rest of us? (OK, one pithy & hilarious advice columnist, and one slutty former advice columnist.)

Normally, I'm the kind of guy that relies on others to do my thinking for me. It's why I watch TV. However, when it comes to parenting, there are far too many conflicting opinions out there for me to confidently base all of my decisions on soundbites from Entertainment Tonight. There are 50 different answers to any given question, each with a study or a survey detailing why its response is the only valid one. You begin to wonder if there are any right answers, or by extension, any wrong answers. It's like that philosophy class you took freshman year. You know, the one you signed up for because you figured it would be full of girls and you thought they would think you were totally cool for being into philosophy but then it turned out that the class was at 8 AM so you only ever attended the first one? Yeah, it's like that. Except the stakes are a lot higher, so the idea that there aren't any wrong answers seems a little far fetched.

A key argument in the pro-vaccine camp is that the shots benefit more than just the baby being immunized. They benefit society in general. Even if the chances of your baby actually contracting diphtheria are relatively small (and they are in the US), the argument is that if you don't get your baby vaccinated, you weaken the herd. If lots of people opt out of vaccination, the chances of the disease gaining a foothold and once again becoming a realistic risk to your child and society as a whole is greater. So it's not enough that you need to worry about your baby, you now need to also be guilt-tripped into protecting everyone else's babies too. Awesome.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends a schedule of 10 vaccines against 14 diseases with as many as 30+ shots between birth and age 6. According to their recommendations, a 2 month old baby should be receiving a total of 6 shots at their 8 week checkup. That's a lot of needles. Even if you think the ruckus being raised over vaccines is a little overblown, that's still a lot of crap to be putting in a little tiny baby's bloodstream in one sitting. We did our research and opted for a less shot-intensive, more drawn out schedule. We are still getting him vaccinated, we're just trying to be smart about what he's being vaccinated for and when it's going to happen.

He was great on Monday, but unfortunately the alternative schedule has us back in there next month for two more shots. And the month after that for another. I don't think we'll be so lucky during those visits. It'll probably only take one major shot-related meltdown to convince me that maybe we should be taking vaccine advice from Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn.

Until then, we're just going to continue doing our research and hoping that we're making the right decisions. Even if there are no "right" answers, we're going to try our hardest to keep away from those that just feel wrong.


If anyone is just dying to read up on vaccines, their ingredients, the diseases they are intended to prevent and the studies that have (or haven't) been done on their safety, allow me to recommend The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears. It's not beach reading, but it's informative and accessible. Neither Charlie Sheen nor Denise Richards appear anywhere in its pages. Of course, if they ever make it into a movie...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The “Shut up” factor

Newborns have 2 speeds according to Woody – No matter what it is they either hate it or they don’t hate it.

For the first 10 weeks I’d like to think we have acted like most new parents (with some notable exceptions including tongue clipping, cat nannies and duct tape) who will do anything to turn off the “hates it” speed and flip it to “doesn’t hate it”, especially in a public place. When Finnja is not happy (read: being a hater) we will do anything possible to alleviate his fussiness and pretty much anything goes with the exception of booze (for the baby, not us) and duct tape. Actually EVERYTHING seems to be off limits these days. What the hay did people do in the olden days? According to most “experts” we shouldn’t even leave Finn alone with the cats for an hour to go on a dinner date. Tango and Cash are fully trained in CPR and “letting the baby cry it out” so I think this is ridiculous, but what-EVER! When his squawk reaches a decibel I fear might incite an Orca Super Pod revolt in the Puget Sound, I find all my predisposed notions about the correct way to rear a child have flushed themselves down the toilet and all that’s left are their screams of “save yourself” and “abort mission”.

Now let me tell you, when this sweet little miracle was stewing in my stomach for 9 months I made all kinds of promises about things I would never do like letting him drink out of a plastic BPA bottle, be parented by a battery-operated toy or video or, god forbid, eat anything not organic. Oh hell no, this child would be worn in a sling on my body and exposed to educational opportunities 24/7. Well that’s all out the window and I mean on the outside, because it’s freakin’ cold here in Seattle and the windows are not being left open. The nursing problems have left the boy drinking out of the plastic Dr. Brown’s bottles because the nipples (yeah I said nipple) and the distribution system are the ones he doesn’t hate and the new Dr. B’s glass bottles keep selling out before we can buy them. But our biggest surprise is the Fisher Price “Flutter and Chime" vibrating, musical chair, A.K.A the “Blue Bird”. We were promised magic with this hand me down, but I was dubious because my kid hadn’t been fooled by technology yet. Boy was I wrong. This kid can cry and writhe in our arms and he will only stop when we put him in this chair. Finn thinks he has found his soul mate. I mean he is really in LOVE. I have no idea what he is saying to that blue bird, but she makes him laugh, she listens and she’s monogamous so she’s okay with me.

I credit my sister Kelly with the term, the “shut up factor” and it may sound cold, but it speaks to all the expectations flushed down the toilet and out the window. It’s a rite of passage and the ultimate and ongoing test for all parents. It is always something to consider and it is always on the table. When the baby is losing weight am I really going to worry about whether his formula is organic or what bottle he drinks out of? No, I’m going for the “shut up factor” which also happens to be help him gain weight in this case. When I am exhausted and just need to make one phone call am I going to worry about whether I should be reading Mozart sheet music to my baby? No, I’m going to consider the “shut up factor” and let him sit in his chair and coo at his hootchie blue bird. He’s happy and I’m sane for a few precious moments.

I know that as he gets older the there will be many more shut up factors to consider on a daily basis. Do I let him play video games when he should be outside playing? Do I give in to the tantrum and let him have the sugary treat or toy in the store to avoid a public melt down? Do I let him borrow the car when…? Oh my god I can’t even go there yet. It’s liberating to acknowledge that I don’t have the answers and I don’t care about being Parent of the Year (just kidding I really do need all of your votes). For now I’m content to just roll off the sanctimonious high horse that I rode in on and slug it out in the poop ditches with the other parents.

I’m happy to report though that Finnja has moved beyond the 2 speed world into a fabulous world I like to call the “Baby Crack” zone. He’s got that full body smile going where he writhes in ecstasy and laughs when he sees me and it’s SUPER addictive. I’m told I can’t wear a hole in his head from kissing him, but that sounds like challenge to me…

Monday, June 9, 2008

What's that smell?

The boy invented a new game today. It's called Poop Tag. I'm sure you can all figure out the rules.

Turns out that I am now "it."

This game is terrible for so many reasons, but primarily because I can't tag back. That just wouldn't be right.

It's not fair.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Managing expectations

I started my second round of paternity leave last week. It's been slightly modified since we originally decided that I would take four weeks off following Kitty's (at the time) eight weeks. When her leave was extended, I decided to change mine to allow me to be in the office twice a week. Don't ask why I voluntarily decided to keep going in to work, because I don't know. I'm obviously a very stupid man.

I think part of it had to do with the realization, during my first two weeks, that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I foolishly thought that I'd be able to take care of the Ninja on my own during these four weeks, all the while staying on top of work via email and the occasional conference call. Heck, maybe I'd even throw the baby in the carrier and we'd go hang out in the office while all the office ladies clucked over us both. Yeah. I'm a moron.

About 15 minutes into my first leave, as I was wiping vomit & sweat off my face while frantically searching for a new diaper and wondering whether the baby was really supposed to turn that color, it dawned on me. Work is the quiet, safe place to be. I know how to handle those problems. And my coworkers very rarely throw up on me. So in the interests of holding onto both my job and my sanity, I modified my original plan.

This was just the first case in which my original expectations and the reality of the situation didn't quite line up. At this point, I've changed more expectations than diapers. Whereas my original goals had been to manage the baby, laundry, finances, house cleaning and work, I now have just one goal: keep the baby alive. If I can pull that off, I'm both surprised and thrilled. The laundry will wait. After all, I only need to leave the house twice a week.

Monday was our first day with just me and the boy. Kitty had appointments most of the day, so his survival really was on my hands. It was a banner day. Hanging out with the boy right now is like hanging out with a stoner. He babbles incoherently, he's happy to just sit and stare at his face in the mirror, contemplating each eyelash, he laughs at everything I say, and he loves naps. In fact, we took two of them on Monday. I haven't taken two naps in a day -- well, ever. It was exceptional. I thought I was doing an awesome job. Sure I was getting a some help from a little babysitter I like to call Mr. Duct Tape, but for the most part, I was on top of my game.

I was surprised by the need to take two naps, however. The number one question that people ask you when you've told them you have a baby at home is, "So, you getting any sleep?" They seem disappointed if you tell them that you have been. And I have been. Kitty's doing all the midnight feedings and even if she wanted me to participate, I wouldn't wake up if she placed the baby on my head. Believe me, we've tested it. But for some reason, I'm still exhausted.

The sheer focus required to raise a baby is so taxing that eight hours of sleep just isn't enough. My eyes are never off of him for more than a second and I'm constantly worrying that he's not breathing/peeing/blinking enough. That kind of worrying is exhausting.
I guess I never realized that the days of just sitting on the couch watching TV with a beer in my hand would be over. I mean, really, really over. It's a shame, because I'm really good at sitting on the couch watching TV with a beer in my hand. I mean, I'm, like, an expert. So much talent, wasted.

I suppose that there's still hope for me and TV. Maybe the Ninja is a TV prodigy and will be ready to discuss The Simpsons and 90210 once he can actually string together more than drool. Of course, since I'm not allowed to let him watch TV, this will be a difficult goal to achieve. I might need some help distracting Kitty.

I wonder if Mr. Duct Tape is up to the task.

Monday, June 2, 2008

May poll closed. Send your checks today!

Thanks to everyone for voting. And a special thanks to the 17 of you that will be sending checks for $500. I know who you are. Don't make me send someone significantly bigger and scarier than I am to come after you. Someone like Kitty.

In other Ninja news, the boy attended his first baseball game last weekend. The surprisingly efficient Mariners stopped the Tigers (for one out of the three) and the boy made it through the whole game and the subsequent dinner and sunset.

That's my boy - not letting something like fatigue or hunger get in the way of cocktails.

A true Parker.

Also, the first known sighting of a Ninja at Safeco Field. Note his concerned expression. He's not sure about being held at arm's length over the nasty concourse floor just for the photo op.

I'm sure he'll get used to it.