Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sleep training

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Finn had cut his first tooth. It now appears that the first tooth brought a friend to the party and this second guy is a real jerk. I don't know what he's done to the Ninja's cry-hole, but over the past week and a half it's been WAY more active than normal. We've had to dump an entire baby pharmacy into his face in a futile effort to get our smiley baby back.1

This is a very inopportune time for this level of discomfort to arrive as we were just about to embark on some "sleep training." Finn will be six months old this weekend and we still swaddle him as tight as a tourniquet to get him to sleep. Failure to do so results in DJ Spazzy Jeff 2 instantly punching himself in the face and waking himself up. He has a total inability to stop moving for even a second. Jena thinks he's got a wicked case of Restless Leg Syndrome, but unfortunately they don't make Baby Mirapex so we're stuck with the swaddle.

To complicate matters further, Finn's first order of business when put down for a nap or night-night time is to flip himself onto his stomach using only his legs. He's gotten really good at this and can have himself flipped over and crying before anyone can say, "Let's have a glass of wine before we pass out from sheer exhaustion." Not surprising, considering how long it takes to say that, but when you're this tired you run out of clever and/or concise things to say.

In the beginning this stomach-sleeping sans arms freaked us out. We still live in constant fear of SIDS and the idea of a kid sleeping with his face planted in his mattress and no easy way to pick it up made sleeping tough for us.
It quickly became clear that his neck and back were plenty strong enough to lift his face up, even without the benefit of arms, so that crisis was averted. However, every sound he makes wakes us up, and even when he's not making any sounds, we still wake up every hour or so to make sure he's still breathing. The only option available to save our sanity, other than just tossing him out the window and being done with it, is to move him out of our room and into his nursery. Finally.

This is a great time to do this, since I recently finished decorating. Check it out.

Just in time for spring training 2009.

Anyway, we decided it would be a bad idea to try the put him down for the first time without his baby straitjacket in an unfamiliar room, so we opted to do it in our room instead of the nursery. And would you believe that it worked perfectly?

I hope not, because that would mean you're an idiot. It didn't work at all. At least not the first night. It has gotten progressively better since. Last night he slept for almost 4 hours with one arm out of his swaddle. That was huge. Granted, I woke up at 2 AM to see him wide awake trying to crawl around the co-sleeper and had to wrap him back up, but it was still an improvement.

Our new goal is to get him in the nursery by early October, since Grandma Parker arrives mid-month and we'd like to make him accessible for her 24/7. Getting between her and her grandson is like getting between an investment bank and a bailout offer.

Yowza - topical zing alert! I should sell that one to Leno.

Here's the champion sleeper taking a break from his training to do an imitation of a 13-year old New Kids on the Block fan, circa 1990. Hangin' tough, indeed.


The great thing about baby drugs is that they're so little and the boxes all have cute pictures of babies on them. Which means, of course, that even though they're half as strong they cost twice as much. I gotta find a way to get into this racket.
2 Forgot that one last time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Ninja by any other name

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Parker household is very fond of nicknames. In fact, I would wager that half of our friends don't know Kitty's or my real names. And did you know that our cat "Tango's" real name is Richard?


Finn acquired a nickname long before he saw the light of day. We're not alone in that; many people saddle their babies-to-be with cutsie nicknames that the mother gently whispers to her bell
y, which she repeatedly insists that the father feel, even though it freaks him out and drives him to drink. At least, that's what I've heard.

Ninja didn't lose his pre-partum moniker when he came wheezing out. In fact, he's only picked up more nicknames in his first six months. We'll alternately refer to him as Ninja, Little Bud, L.B., L.B. Sure, The Boy, Finnja, Finn D. Lou Who, H.R. Fussnstuf, and Dylan McKay. OK, maybe not Dylan McKay, but seriously, what's up with Luke Perry snobbily shrugging off any suggestion that he would return to the show now that it's been revealed that Dylan is the father of Kelly's baby? I mean, how lame is that? And what's up with Kelly calling her little sister by her last name? Silver? That's stupid.

What, you're not watching the new 90210? You say that you have lives? I don't believe that for a second.

Meanwhile, back at the point: The problem that we are now faced with is that as a result of all of these nicknames, Finn does not appear to know his actual name. In fact, upon applying the time-tested infant IQ test of "Is my kid smarter than my cat?", the boy is coming up well short. Tango & Cash both come when called... eventually... at dinner time. Finn doesn't even acknowledge that you've spoken. According to the internet's smartest anonymous baby experts, he should be writing his name in Kanji by six months1.

Thank goodness for daycare. At least someone is trying to learn this kid properly. If he knows his name by the time he can talk, it will be thanks to Jena & team. At our house, it's more likely that he'll start responding to "Tango."

It's obvious that we should be trying harder to teach him his name, but therein lies the rub. The things that we should be doing aren't nearly as fun as the things we'd rather be doing. I'd rather be speaking back to him in his nonsense pidgin or screeching along
with him like a caffeinated hyena than trying to teach him how to pronounce "shoe." I'd rather be running in and out of the room in a manic game of peek-a-boo to keep him laughing than trying to settle him down for bedtime.

I'm sure this is just a sign of things to come. I just hope that his math teacher is OK with the fact that the only support he's getting at home is tutoring in the calculation of on-base-percentage and win-shares. You know, the important stuff.

Speaking of baseball stats, here's another shot of Finn from the Yanks game a couple of weeks ago. Someone on his left is calling his name, hence his look to the right.

1 Incidentally, "Finn" in Kanji is spelled "Finn." "Ninja" is spelled 忍者. See? Nicknames are much cooler.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So this is what life used to be like

I feel guilty posting this, since this is the Ninja's blog after all, but we just got done with a Finn-free day and I'm feeling very refreshed. It was 80 degrees in Seattle today, surely one of the last days of our summer, and as we spent the last five and a half months trying to keep the harsh rays of a cruel Seattle sun off of our darling boy's alabaster skin, we decided at the spur of the moment to play hooky on Uncle Rob & Aunt Holly's boat.

We dropped Finn off at Jena's this morning and as we were driving to the boat launch Kitty and I were both very unsettled. We didn't exactly feel guilty as much as we felt that something was missing. After nearly six months of parenthood, I can safely say that I no longer remember what it was like in the before-time -- the long-long-ago -- when we weren't responsible for another's happiness.

As much as I enjoyed the day on the boat, I enjoyed even more seeing Finn back at Jena's. I don't want to get all sappy here, but I've gotten very used to spending every minute with that little a-hole. Even now, I'm happily listening to him coo up in his crib when he's supposed to be sleeping.

Dear Finn: GO TO SLEEP!

Here's a pic of Kitty, with Holly, enjoying her one adult-entertainment day allowed this year. I apologize for the lack of Ninja content, but we've added some pics to the slideshow to make up for it.

And congratulations to Derek Jeter for bypassing the Iron Horse for the most hits ever in Yankee Stadium. Even though we don't have October in its final year, we've still got history.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

You say po-ta-to, I say diet-ary in-toler-ance

The word from the naturopath is in, and it ain't pretty. As I've already discussed ad nauseum, we have to juggle plenty of special dietary needs here in Ninjaville, including dairy, wheat and sugar/fruit. Eager to make his mark in the family, Finn has decided to add his own meal-plan-crippling issue. The results of the "Carroll" test say that he can't have potatoes.

Now I'm no scientist, but I think I read somewhere (O Magazine?) that it's against the laws of nature, not to mention illegal in Ireland, for a boy named Finn to not eat potatoes. Oprah wouldn't lie about that.

When faced with this, I did what I always do in an effort to come to terms with grave news. I immediately went about trying to debunk it. I considered sitting him in a pot of potato salad, but mayonnaise doesn't come off easily with baby wipes. French fries down his pants would probably be uncomfortable too. So I scrapped those plans in favor of some good ol' fashion interweb research.

Turns out that the Carroll test is not administered by a lady named Carol, but rather was developed by a doctor named Carroll. He was a physician and electrician back in the olden days, the two disciplines apparently tightly intertwined back when both medicine and electricity were still considered magic. He developed a method for testing digestive intolerance that has proven quite successful among many of our friends' children.

Considering the track record, I'm willing to play ball. It would be easy enough to just eliminate potatoes from his diet, since he doesn't eat them, but the problem is that we also need to remove anything that is made from potatoes, distilled from potatoes or that went to high school with potatoes. This includes pretty much every ingredient under the sun. Luckily the only thing that he's eating right now is formula, so we don't have too many ingredient lists to scour. Unluckily the ingredient list for formula is about 4,000 items strong.

But if this clears up his perennial problem with boogersnots and helps him sleep better, then it will all be worth it. If not, then maybe I do need to find a woman named Carol, or Linda, or Diane to see if they've got any other tests we can administer.

In the meantime, here's a video of Finn eating his potato-free rice cereal that I'm sure you'll enjoy.


Editor's note: I would like to take a moment to clarify one point from the last post. As I reread it, it occurs to me that I could have been misconstrued as whining about the Yankees having missed the first playoff run in eleventy-million years. I'm sure you think there's nothing worse than a whiny Yankees fan. I would argue that there are several things worse, including serial killers, the Beverly Hills, 90210 season 3 Christmas episode, and people that put pineapple on their pizza, however that's not the point. It's not me that's whining, it's Finn. And since this is his blog, I can't censor that. I'll try to teach him to be a gracious loser, I'll just need someone to teach me first.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Damn Yankees

I'm sick and only part of it is due to Cold #347 deposited into my sinuses by my darling little son. The balance is due to the final, crippling revelation that for the first time since the strike-shortened '94 season, I will not be watching the Yankees play in October.

The first time that the Yankees overcame the awfulness of the 80's and early-90's and made the playoffs happened to coincide exactly with my move to Seattle. In fact, the game 5 of the 1995 ALDS that they lost to the Mariners (the single greatest thing that has ever happened to the M's, if I am to believe the daily reminders from every Seattle sportscaster throughout every baseball season since), was one of the first nights in our apartment. The sting of the Yankees loss was soothed a bit by the fact that we went out later that night and ran into Tino Martinez (then a Mariner) and Vince Coleman at a bar. Tino shook my hand and Vince Coleman didn't try to explode me, so it was a great night.

I had really wanted Finn's first Yankees game to be under different circumstances. When I bought tickets to this game, the Yankees and Mariners both were bathing in the early season glow of naive optimism based on unproven pitching staffs. I got online and bought Finn a Jeter t-shirt timed for his age/size and started counting down the weeks until it would finally be September. Alas, it was not the September either team wanted to be playing.

It was also apparently not a game that the Ninja wanted to be attending. Finn's first game was easy. He was so small that he could pretty much sleep in his Baby Bjorn. This one was a wee bit more difficult. Our little shortstop was fussy from the get-go, which I attributed to the fact that the Yanks were en route to losing the series against the worst team in the American League. Turns out that more likely it was due to the fact that he had acquired the aforementioned cold and had, as we discovered later that day, decided to cut his very first tooth.

I had assumed that the first indication of an incoming tooth would be a human tooth1. Nope. The first indication was a tiny little tiger/crocodile/dinosaur fang that he apparently stuck under his gums to stab me with when I put my knuckle in his mouth.

What? I suppose you've never played "bite my finger." If not, you don't know what you're missing. Don't look at me like that.

Here's a camera phone pic of the boy taken during a brief moment of happiness at the game. Sorry the picture is so blurry, but we had to take it in a hurry before he started crying again.

Now c'mon. Bite my finger.


1 That is, the first indication other than the drooling & fussiness, which I just take for granted these days as an indication that he is still, despite all of our stretching exercises, a baby.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Ninja Training Begins

Finn discovered his new favorite toy and luckily it helps develop key ninja-ing skills, like silent stalking and acrobatics. You will never hear this kid coming....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Formula: goes in a lot easier than it comes out

The Ninja took his first trip to the witch doctor last week. Keeping with the Things Seattle People Do theme, it is also required that everyone have at least one alternative healer on staff. This alternative healer can be in the form of a naturopath or masseuse (beginner Seattleite), acupuncturist (you're getting there), or reiki master or rolfer (head of the class; come pick up your Subaru Outback). Since Finn is only five months old, we're still in the beginner stages and have only gone so far as to engage a naturopath to complement his regular doctor.

I buy into the tenets of naturopathy. It seems like common sense medicine; treat the system and not the symptom. If your tires keep going flat, rather than returning over and over again to get them patched, it probably would be smarter to stop driving through the Broken Glass & Nails Factory. I'm not a big picture man, though, and I've got a real hankering for indulging myself. It just so happens that the Broken Glass & Nails factory has the best pale ale in town, so I'm back at the tire repair shop often.

With this working against me and with Kitty's tendency to allergy, it probably makes sense that we get the kid into the alternative healer community ASAP. At this point, we're focused mostly on environmental allergens - specifically food. Kitty is allergic to everything in the "Delicious" food group, which includes dairy. Since we are now on formula for most of our feeding, and since most formulas include dairy, we wanted to get him checked out.

Not all formulas contain dairy. For the first few months, we splurged on super-hypo-allergenic formulas, but those run $25/can or ~$300/month and smell like a seeping septic tank. That's no good. We went to a soy-based formula, but that resulted in some weird green diapers. We then figured we'd go with the dairy, which worked relatively well. It didn't smell like raw sewage and was affordable, which were pretty much our only two criteria at the time. But he threw it up a lot and started waking up every half-hour during the night. The throwing up I can handle, the waking up I cannot. We finally found a nice organic, lactose-free formula that was only half the price of the hypo-allergenic stuff and that actually tasted OK and didn't result in any additional vomiting.

In fact, it didn't result in any waste removal for a good 3-4 days leading up to Labor Day weekend. We headed back up to the cabin for the weekend, so it was in the beautiful scenery of Mount Baker that I feel that we truly became parents. On Saturday morning, the little guy's poop chute was 3 cm dilated with 4 days worth of backed up and dried out poop and it was not moving. We tried sweet talking it, spraying water on it, chipping off pieces of it and squeezing his hips to pop it out, but nothing worked. Needless to say that he was not pleased with the situation. All of his crying and struggling to push eventually tired him out and he fell asleep with his little concrete turtle still poking its head out. While he slept, I ran down to the country store to score some chamomile tea and prepared for the worst.

An enema. With chamomile tea. Apparently, it's soothing no matter which end you put it in.

We brewed the tea, we prepared the room (lots of plastic) and we repurposed his favorite nasal bulb syringe (won't be putting that one back in them nose holes any more). When he finally woke up, we geared up and got ready for battle, but something was wrong. He was smiling. A quick check of his drawers confirmed that he had passed the Diaper Rock of Gibraltar in his sleep. Crisis averted. But needless to say, he was back on the dairy. I'd rather get thrown up on every half hour 24-hours a day than deal with that again.

So while we await the final verdict from the naturopath, we're hedging our bets and alternating his bottles between dairy and lactose-free. Hopefully, the nappie boulder was just a result of our having rushed his system into taking a new formula and is not indicative of something else.

In the meantime, here's a pic of the boy chowing down on some sure-to-be-constipating rice cereal in his super fancy, Swedish high chair. I'd hate to have to put it in hock just so we could keep him in formula that tastes like toilet water.