Thursday, July 31, 2008

On a wing and a prayer

We made it home from our trip late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning. We're still recovering, but the important thing is that we survived. There are some scars, both physical and emotional, but we're mostly intact and that's something that even 2 weeks ago I was not convinced would happen.

Since the whole story is long and sordid, and since I haven't posted anything in a while (which is no way to run a blog, I tell you what), I'm going to break it into three parts. This will also allow me to catch some much needed sleep in between blogging, work, diapers, bottles and Project Runway (go Blayne!).

Episode One: On a Wing and a Prayer

It's no secret that I was totally freaked out about the idea of flying with the Ninja. In my head, I was weighing the potential options available to me should he have a major meltdown at 30,000 feet. No one wants to sit next to a crying baby, least of all his/her parents. I sweat when I'm nervous or overwhelmed (I also sweat when I'm over-caffeinated, watching baseball or trying to convince Kitty that I was in fact at the gym and was not watching baseball), and I was preparing to end the flight looking like I had participated in (and likely lost) a wet t-shirt contest in row 31. As it turns out, the things that I had thought would be huge problems were not so bad, while the things I hadn't even considered were crippling.

On the way there, the boy was a dream. He was smiling, playful and went down for naps easily. His only meltdown came as a result of us missing the timing on the descent, and not having a bottle/boob to help him equalize the pressure in his head. This sent him into a 10 minute screaming fit that was only broken when Kitty surprised him with a splash of water in his open mouth, which shocked him enough to take the boob (or convinced him that swallowing helped, if you listen to Dr. Kitty). On the way home, he slept the entire time. Even the two hours we sat on the tarmac at JFK. He awoke only to smile his winning smile at the flight attendant and cement his position as the best baby that has ever flown. Ever.

I don't have a picture of him on the plane to illustrate the smile, so I'm using this pic of him meeting his great grandmother Parker last weekend. I'm pretty sure that she thinks he's the best great grandson ever, but we'll get to that later.

With all of the focus on waiting for Finn to melt down midair, I hadn't even considered the stuff that turned out to be the real problem. Namely, the logistics of flying two adults and an infant in two coach seats. When I booked the tickets, I felt like I was getting away with something by not having to pay for his seat. When we were in midair, I would have paid $2,000 just to be able to set him down in the aisle for half an hour.

With the baby on the boppy and the boppy on the lap, there is very little room for anything else - person under the boppy included. Trying to juggle the boy, the boppy, the drinks on the tray, the headphones, the iPod and the magazines required a level of coordination & dexterity that neither Kitty nor I possess. Also factored in is the claustrophobia of being completely buried in all of this crap in a tiny space in a tiny metal tube flying through the air. I'm sweating just thinking about it.

Never again. From here on out, it's either First Class (still only two seats, but free drinks) or a seat for the boy in coach. We'll probably choose the latter, because it will be cheaper, will allow us to check more bags without taking out another mortgage, and if the Ninja does melt down, we can always just pretend he's a lone business traveler and that we don't know him.

Check back later this week for more pictures and stories about Finn meeting the rest of the family. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to change the name of the blog back to its original title as a week on the East Coast has screwed up the little guy's internal clock enough that we're back to the good old days of 2:30 AM awakenings/screaming contests and yoga ball endurance marathons.

At least he saved those for home. I'm not sure how we would have fit a yoga ball onto the plane.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dress rehearsal

We're taking our first flight with the boy this Thursday. We're heading back to NY, MA and CT for my cousin Lee's wedding and to introduce the Ninja to the Northeast relatives that have not yet met him. While I'm definitely excited to see the family, I couldn't be less thrilled at the prospect of our first five hour flight with what has turned into an unpredictable baby. Especially in light of the fact that he spent this evening stretching his lungs for the flight with his latest operatic piece, Baby Screams in the Key of Angry. He sounds like a tiny little Glenn Danzig. Actually, that's redundant, since the Ninja is probably taller than Danzig. In fact, that gives me an idea. With a Sharpie, I'll bet I could whip up some tattoos on the boy and try to pass him off as Danzig. That should be good for an upgrade, right?

Where was I... oh yeah.

Always game to try and find a way to reduce trip preparation time from "days" to "minutes," thereby maximizing stress the night before departure, we decided to once again pack everything we own into our Subaru and head up to the cabin for the weekend. The boy wasted no time voicing his displeasure over our choice of departure time and the subsequent traffic that resulted. If that 3 1/2 hour trip is any indication of what awaits us this week, I can only hope that we get a kindly old grandmother type as a seat mate. That, or Cesar Millan. I'll bet he knows how to settle a baby.

All was forgotten on Saturday, as the Ninja decided to treat us with a very special performance when he rolled over for the very first time. And to prove that he wasn't a washed up baby of (almost) 4 months after that career defining piece, he immediately did it again. Of course, he refused to do it once the camera came out, so you'll just have to take our word for it. It's probably best that you can't see it, since I'm sure all of you wet blankets would just point out that during the second roll his head is an infant hair away from cracking open on the wood stove's stone hearth. Not our proudest parenting moment, but what can I say? We were caught up in the excitement of the gnarly infant 360.

I'm sure that our trip back East will have far more exceptional moments to make us forget about the inevitable pain we'll endure getting there. For years, we've been big proponents of the school of thought that, "It's not about the destination, dude/man/bro/officer, it's about the journey."

Allow me to counter with my new dad credo: "I'll pay double if you can get me there before he wakes up." I think I'll file that one right under my other air travel motto: "And make it a double."

As I continue to freak myself out over the upcoming flight, please enjoy some relaxing pics of mom, dad and the Ninja up at the cabin during happier times. He's really digging driving us around Easy Rider style.

Friday, July 18, 2008

You can sleep when you're dead

Back in the day, (1996 and then 2000 - 2007), Woody and I could hardly wait for Spring to come so we could hop a plane to New Orleans for our annual Jazz Fest binge. One of my favorite NOJF quotes has always been, “You can sleep when you are dead.” During this long weekend marathon you are pushed daily to drag your hangover to the fairgrounds where you gorge yourself under the blazing sun on food, drinks and an insane variety of musical acts and then you push on through to an early show (8-10 PM start time and then a late night show (1-2 AM start time) that often keeps you dancing ‘til sunrise. After a few hours of sleep you lather, rinse and repeat, getting a little more delirious with both joy and fatigue every day. By the end you are shredded. Well this year we missed what would have been our 10th Jazz Fest to welcome Finnja into our world and I haven’t slept since.

Last week I started back to work after 3 ½ months off and my re-entry into the "real world" was far from graceful. I cried at my desk all day Monday. I actually cried on and off all week but it was by far the worst Monday EVER! Everyone at work was extremely supportive which only made me cry more like the babyless baby I am. I guess there are some folks who look forward to the return to work so they can catch a break from the endless grind of parenting and maybe have some adult conversations about “thinking outside the box” and paradigm shifts, but I could have easily spent another 9 months babbling incoherently at my smiling "stinking cute" son. It reminded me a lot of college. Now don’t get me wrong, I like work, or at least I did. I’m a Senior Program/Project Manager working on Infrastructure projects and although that sounds dead sexy, it really is challenging and enjoyable. But that was all before Finnja. Now work means that someone else is playing with my Ninja all day and will be experiencing many of his “firsts” before me. Just the thought of that makes me want to go buy $1000 worth of mega millions tickets to up my chances of staying home.

It does help that his new caregivers are my friends Jena, Leslie and Kate. At least I don't have to worry that the minute I leave in the morning they will lock him in a closet and go out for a smoke break. They would at least bring him with them. Baby likes his Camel Lights! Seriously, Jena's daycare is top notch and my only worry was that he would like his new Mommies so much he wouldn't remember me. Turns out he does. Monday when I picked him up he was his typical smiley lovey self and he even managed to survive the deluge of tears as I clutched him to my bosom mumbling something about being sorry for growing him in my belly when I planned all along to shop his smiles out to someone else 75% of the time. Hey, at least I said smiles and not stem cells.

The first week back was as awful as I expected it would be, but luckily the Ninja wasn't sleeping either and he so graciously offered to share his head cold with me, so...yeah, AWFUL. Gone were the carefree sleepless nights that were buffered by sweet daily naps with my baby, but hey, "You can sleep when you're dead", right? Turns out the quote doesn't make dead mom walking want to push on through. I want to sleep now. Woody tried to help by taking the first shift at night but it turns out that if my baby is awake and/or crying then I am also AWAKE! Actually, not only awake, but also itching to back seat parent because it might just get us all to bed sooner. So annoying. So hard to resist.

Just in the nick of time our Doulas Sharon and Dani came for a visit and let me tell you, they are truly the gift that keeps on giving. They gave us some great ideas about how to make sleep work for us regardless of what the Finnja does. We were so busy logging his patterns and trying to make sense of every change that it was making us crazy. That night I dragged my body pillow, sound machine and ear plugs into the spare bedroom and when I woke up 6 hrs later I didn't know where I was. I haven't slept that soundly for over a year. Hallelujah! Last night I did the same with the help of the boy who slept his longest stretch yet. The birth of a beautiful pattern? Doubt it. Tonight he may wake up every hr from 12 - 6 AM, but we've learned to cherish the good nights without over analyzing every variable. With a couple good nights of sleep under my belt the world is a different place and Jena was right when she said every day would get easier. Last week seems so far away now. I probably shouldn't even admit this but on Tuesday (now my 2nd week back at work) I pulled into my garage still engrossed in a phone conversation with my Mom:

Mom: Are you home?
Me: Yeah just pulled in.
Mom: Who's picking up the baby?
Me: D'oh! Oh my god. Gotta go.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ninja and the magic blog

I don't know how it happened, but the new name of the blog says it all.

Last night, the Ninja slept for 8 straight hours. That's his longest stretch ever by more than a couple of hours. We put him down at 9:30 pm and aside from two brief pacifier applications, he didn't wake up to eat until about 5:30 am. And boy was he hungry.

Obviously, one night does not a trend make, but if all it takes is blogging to fix problems, I would like to introduce my next blog topic: "The trouble with going to work." If all goes well, starting tomorrow, I won't have to go to work. Hopefully that won't mean that I no longer have a job, but like Pa used to say, "A man's got to take chances or he'll never amount to nothin'."

Now if you'll excuse me, we're off to Doc Bullfrog's for some celebratory mashed potatoes.

To close out the Emmet Otter references (Best. Muppet. Christmas. Special. Ever.), here's a clip of the Ninja dancing/being danced to his favorite Meters tune this afternoon. If you squint your eyes, you can't help but note the similarity between his dance and Wendel's walk.

This one's for the grandparents. See you all next week!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Sleep, Cry Solution

When last we spoke, I was going on and on (and on) about the predictability and compartmentalization of my life.

Ah, the good ol' days.

Since then, a new war has been waged in the Fussy dojo. Not content with the progress (or lack thereof) in the War on Breastfeeding, and with fat war coffers looking to be spent, the Ninja has now attacked on another vulnerable front. 4 out of the last 5 nights have included between 6-8 awakenings with varying degrees of intensity, up to and including an hour long yoga ball bouncing session at 3 am.

Of course, this isn't exactly new. What's new is the fact that I am now aware of it, since Kitty's back at work and my nighttime immunity has been revoked. Whereas I was previously as useful as a (mostly) non-lethal backstop for her to prop the baby up against during the night, we are now splitting duty. Of course, Kitty has given me a couple of nights free and clear on the weekends, and being the incredible husband that I am, I've now tried twice to make it all the way through the night. And since the baby books all define "sleeping through the night" as midnight to 5 am, I define "helping through the night" as 9 pm to 2 am. It's not my fault that Kitty doesn't go to bed at 9 pm.

We've tried all kinds of things to get him to sleep better. We've read the
No Cry, Sleep Solution, but we must be reading it upside down or backwards. We've tried setting schedules, reading stories, and baby massage. We've even tried liquor, but that just left us with hangovers, which are not helped by a crying baby either. The only thing that has worked is putting him in bed with us, but then again getting in bed with me has always put everyone to sleep instantly.

If this continues much longer, we will inevitably begin discussing that most dreaded of options for New Age neo-hippie parents... crying it out.
I'm pretty sure my parents let me cry it out, but that's not a fair comparison because I cried for the first three months of my life -- and have every October for the past 7 years. Mention "crying it out" among certain circles, though, and you'll get that special look of disapproval doled out to parents of questionable decision making capability from those that clearly know better. Of course, those are the same people that are still holding up the express lanes writing checks at the grocery store, so you don't worry too much about those looks.

Plus, Steven and Elyse Keaton were as hippie as they get, so you've gotta assume they didn't let Andy cry it out and
look what happened to him.

I'm sure I just need to keep it all in perspective. Everything is changing so quickly, and he did only wake up four times last night, which is totally acceptable at this point. Next week I'll be blogging about how lazy my kid is and complaining that he never gets out of bed.

And if none of this works, we can always fall back on the one thing we're really good at -- hiring people to do simple things at outrageous rates. I'm sure Seattle has a million baby sleep specialists that would be more than happy to take our money.

Here's the boy cheering on the AL in last night's All-Star Game. I don't think he's ever slept as long as the running time of that game. A fitting farewell to Yankee Stadium, even though there were times when I was wishing Joe Buck and the pregame ceremony would just get a room so he would stop making out with it on the air. Gross.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Life: now in bite-sized pieces!

Getting ready for a baby keeps you plenty busy. You spend hundreds of dollars on furniture, toys and conveyances engineered to move your baby from point A to point B, all of which are guaranteed to be universally despised by your child. You "score" hand-me-downs from friends, who were coincidentally en route to the dump with that crap in their car when you called. You read books and you take classes. Too many classes.

You try to buy your way into preparation, but there are some things that you didn't/couldn't prepare for because it was all you could do just to survive 15 minutes in the pit of despair that is Babies 'R' Us. Those afternoons sitting on your couch, watching baseball, and drinking beer? Those days are over. Spur of the moment plans to meet friends for dinner down on the beach? Not anymore. Need some decompression time after a long day at work or a little "me" time after a Fourth of July blowout? How about a screaming child with a poopy diaper instead?

There are no days off. In fact, there are no "days" anymore, since a newborn's life exists entirely in 3-4 hour increments. My previously exciting and spontaneous existence has devolved into a movie-of-the-week format, with 6-8 episodes daily and with each episode following a predictable path:
exciting opening sequence of angry awakening, rabid feeding, a little gratuitous nudity, a musical interlude with pterodactyl-like screeching, some manic flailing and then finally the slow descent into sleep (by way of lots and lots more angry crying). The credits roll, there's a short commercial break, everyone hits the bathroom, and we do it all over again.

Just to keep it interesting, the genre does change periodically. We've got comedies and action scripts. We've got horror masterpieces, with screaming, too many bodily fluids, and a certainty that someone is not going to make it to the finale. Usually, however, it's a lame TV movie. It's got some laughs, it's got some tears, but mostly it's just a boring story with boring characters muddling through boring situations.

And at the risk of getting all Lifetime on you, we couldn't be happier. Well, that's not true. I personally would be happier if we could get David Caruso to guest star, but I don't think our sunglasses budget is big enough.

A big shout out to the planet's newest star, Millie Grugan. Welcome to the show! Feel free to stop by our house any time. I've got a bunch of crap that I'm just positive you're going to hate.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth!

The Ninja would like to wish everyone a happy Independence Day. He's doing his part, supporting the troops and fighting terrorism with unbearable cuteness cleverly concealed in camo overalls.

He truly is a patriot.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy 3 Month Birthday Finn

Look who's holding his big brain up all by himself!

Finn David Parker, congrats on reaching it this far. It's really quite amazing when you consider your rookie parents. Good job!
That survival instinct is going to be crucial in the coming months and years.....