Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Haiku Baby

Fatherhood has changed me. That should be obvious. It has changed my blogging too. Therefore, I will be blogging about my most recent misadventures in fatherhood in Haikus. Enjoy.

My baby screams.
It's so late. What time is it?
She is so grounded!

That was disgusting.
She was just constipated.
It came all at once!

Warm bath before bed.
Bubbles in the bath water.
Homemade jacuzzi.

Driving to Utah
used to only take three hours.
A babe makes it five.

Where is my money?
Her closet is full of clothes
that no longer fit.

I'm writing a book
for my daughter to treasure.
Both, my pride and joy.

Many sleepless nights.
When will headaches go away?
Life is beautiful.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Increase in Patience

I can still vividly remember clutching my ears in bed as our newborn baby wailed through the night and thinking that I had been sentenced to a life of sleepless frustration and migraines. It was just a few weeks ago (Harper is just over 7 weeks old now), but I feel like those agonizing midnight marathons were much further in the past. That is because I gave exponentially grown in my capacity to be patient, and my expectations have changed about how I will sleep each night. I owe my increase in patience to being able to see my daughter for what she really is, a human being with needs. Not an object or a project, as soon as I began viewing my baby girl as a unique individual I came to the realization that she has needs similar to mine.

Where my dominant needs have "evolved" into daily cans of Coke, a couple free hours on Monday nights to watch professional wrestling, and time each day to read a book, Harper's needs should be respected and met too. Her cries are not curse words, shunnings, or outbursts of anger. I recently read that babies aren't developmentally capable of feeling such strong emotions. They are her way of telling Mom and Dad that a)she is hungry b)she needs her diaper changed c)she is uncomfortable (which can really mean a lot of things) or d) she is either overtired or overstimulated. Nowhere in the parenting literature that I have read have I come across a type of cry that means that baby is bored and wants to ruin her parents slumber too.

Fortunately, my daughter understands that her "Old Man" is very watchful and analytical in my approach to diagnosing a problem. She, along with most babies give her parents certain cues to let them know that she has a need that needs to be met. If I am not paying close attention to her (example: during the main event of Monday Night RAW), those subtle cues go unnoticed and escalate into more audible cries for help. Still, babies cry to communicate with caretakers, and I have learned to respect those once annoying shrills as my diapered bucket of love talking to her daddy. So, I talk back as I observe her body language and think through our routine attempting to pinpoint what need she wants met.

That leads to how my expectation about how I will sleep each night has evolved. The best thing that I have done to make the quality of sleep that I get better is changing my attitude about waking up at night. I now EXPECT to be woken up at some point during my sleep, and I look forward to comforting my daughter to the best of my ability. I enjoy those "crisis" moments when my brain focuses on the important information as a means of identifying a problem and creating a solution. No longer do I throw off the covers and curse the night air as I put on a happy face before stomping into the nursery to "quiet things down."

As a result of increasing my capacity for patience, and realigning my expectations, I have grown in my ability to love and be a supportive father and husband. As a third grade teacher, I often joke that managing 23 8 and 9 year olds is a lot less exhausting that taking care of a 7 week old baby. But honestly, I don't think there has been more than a handful of days at work that I haven't sneaked out of the building before my contract day is over. It's not because I hate what I do at school. I like it. It's because I love what I do at home more.

Monday, February 20, 2012


When I turned 25 only a few days after my daughter was born the only thing I asked my family for was a rocking chair. I was a dad now, for Heaven's sake. I wanted to join the rest of the parents around the world who must rock their child to sleep. Or so I thought. Wasn't that the best way to put an overtired baby to sleep? I thought so. But I soon found out that there were more effective ways for me to tuck my tuckered out daughter into her crib for a peaceful night's sleep . . .until the next feed that is.

Routine has become a key word around our home now that we are are racing around the parenting learning curve like everyone else does. We hang on that word as well as with these words: predictable, responsive, and communication. These four ideas stand as the pillars in our exciting, new life as parents. Where I seem to think about them most is at bedtime.

My wife and I tried, and tried . . .and tried to establish an evening routine for Harper shortly after we arrived home with our brand new bucket of love, but it was easier said than done. As each child (and parent) has a unique temperament (or way of responding to things) a bedtime routine has to be as unique as an individual's fingerprint. Through trial and error and error and error we honed in on what works best for our daughter and for us, and we are now finding a semblance of consistancy that allows mama and papa to go to bed at a reasonable time again.

Our routine was inspired by Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. Eat-Activity-Sleep-You Time (E.A.S.Y.) is about as easy as it sounds. Using Ms. Hogg's techniques to support her E.A.S.Y. methodology, my wife and I have found more patience with our child and with each other, and time for ourselves again.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your BabyOur E.A.S.Y. bedtime routine looks like this. Typically, I do the nighttime feeding since mama has been flying solo most of the day. It might sound backward, but I begin by burping our baby before we start feeding. I've noticed that she takes in a lot of air just through breathing, and this premeal burp tends to speed the intake of whatever's on the menu. As soon as she's expressed her ladylike manners or shown me that there wasn't enough gas buildup to burp I lay her head in the crook of my arm and offer her a bottle. I stroke her cheek to stimulate her sucking reflex (and keep her from falling asleep with the bottle in her mouth) and talk to her about our day and prepare her for what will happen from that point on until she is left to her sleep.

Once her tummy is satisfied (generally after a 4 oz. feed), we move on with our routine as I explain everything that is happening as we go along. "Now, I am going to set you down on your changing table and take you out of the clothes that you wore today. . .What pretty little legs you have. I can see that you are tired by the way that you are wiggling them. . .Before we go to the kitchen for your warm bath, I need to change your messy diaper. I know you don't like it much, but it needs to be done. So, I will keep my free hand on your tummy while I wrap you up in a clean diaper as quickly as I can."

Having had my wife fill up the sink basin with warm water beforehand, the naky baby express moves out there, and my wife and I bathe Harper together. This has become a nice bonding experience for the three of us as we watch and laugh as Harper responds her "my-size-hot tub" by flapping her arms and legs, eyes as round as gumballs. The conversation continues here as we let Harper know what is happening and even ask her how it feels.

From her bath we return to the changing table to dress her for bed while the blanket that we will swaddle her in warms up in the drier. At this point, she is definitely telling us that she wants to call it a day and hit the sack, which we expect and listen attentively to.

With a freshly-warmed blanket and a baby to swaddle, we complete our routine before going to sleep ourselves. I like to spend a little extra time next to Harper's crib before she goes to bed, shhhhhh-ing in her ear, offerring her a pacifier, and reassuring her that after I leave the nursery I will still be able to hear her if she needs me. After a kiss and an "I love you" I walk out of her room, Harper still awake so that she can have the opportunity to learn how to fall asleep by herself.

It is here that pass by my rockingchair too, unused after the sun has gone down. While there might be rocking during the daytime while her momma holds her or I read her a story, there is much more bonding and learning at bedtime as we go through the predictable steps of our routine. There is nothing as heartwarming as the sight of a slumbering baby, which is what I imagined holding as I wished for my rocker. But there is nothing as reassuring, as a new father, as knowing that getting to that sleeping child will be as E.A.S.Y. as it was the night before that and the night before that.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bibliophile Baby (or 1,000 books by age 1)

I love reading. It is an integral aspect of my life as an elementary school teacher. Books of all shapes and sizes. Now, I want to structure reading into my daughter's life as well. I hope it never becomes a chore for her to read. Rather, I want my free time to be interrupted with requests to come read to her, with her, or listen to her read to me. Naturally, I've introduced reading as a joyful experience to my daughter from the start.

When we first came home from the hospital I would read aloud to her whatever I was reading, which happened to be parenting books. Aware that the content of what I read doesn't have meaning to her yet, I was simply trying to calm and comfort her with the sound of my voice reading fluently and with inflection. However, my attention soon turned to the access to children's books available in the school's library where I work. I pass through there dozens of times per day to get to the teacher work room, the cafeteria, the office. It serves as a shortcut across campus and offers the benefit of walking under a skylight that floods the aisles between bookshelves with natural sunlight. Instinctively, I pass through as part of my daily routine. But I hadn't realized the opportunity for a teacher to take home books until this past week. So I stopped by after school to find a few stories to read to Harper at bedtime.

With Dr. Seuss' birthday around the corner, it seemed obvious to check out one or two of his tongue twisters. I brought home Oh, the Thinks You Can Think and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are. They both seemed to resemble the attitudes I have projected on my offspring. That evening, after her evening feed and diaper change, I laid out a blanket on the floor and cuddled up on it with my six-week old bundle of joy, and we read. She didn't offer her critiques of the books afterward . . . even though I asked her what she thought. But it fulfilled the "activity" requirement in our eat-activity-sleep routine, and I almost made it out of the nursery without turning a simple activity into a personal challenge.

I should have run out instead of walk. That extra time probably gave my brain the pause that usually turns ordinary into extraordinary. But the it happened, and the thought occured to me. What if I brought home just three books each day and read them to Harper. That would end up being somewhere near 1,000 books read to her by the time she turns one year old. And so a challenge materialized.

The next day was a Friday before a three-day weekend, and I stocked up--enough books to read three each day of the extended weekend. Not only had I decided to read to my daughter each day of her young life, I decided to start a journal to record the title of each book that I read to her to be given to her as something of a sentimental treasure down the road in her future.

I do not have empiracal, scientific proof to support that my 1,000 book initiative will rear a bibliophile like her dad, but the time that we've spent together on the floor or in my lap already has been worth the time. We've read Where the Wild Things Are, How Does a Dinosaur Say 'I Love You'?, The Listening Walk and more. I've actually read her all of the books that I checked out for our long weekend, and we still have a day and a half left. While my arbitrary goal is to create a list of books for my daughter to use as a boost to her confidence as she becomes an independent reader herself, the experience of laying down on a nursery floor to read my childhood favorites to my firstborn only to turn my head to see her gazing up at her bookworm of a dad is satisfaction enough for me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Momma went back to work today which meant that I had my first one-on-one day taking care of Harper. Some might call it "Mr. Momming", but I have dubbed it "DADurday." In my opinion, DADurday is the best day of the week.

This DADurday started around 2 a.m. when I got up for Harper's first "dream feed" of the night. Since Mama had a full day at the salon coming up, I decided to take the majority of the night shift feedings so that she could sleep. The silence of the night is a little dull, so Harper and I usually listen to Jack Johnson while she eats and falls back asleep. It has become a soundtrack to this part of our life that I will never forget.

While Harper usually eats quite regularly at three hour intervals, I was unexpectedly awakened at 4 a.m. by her grunts and cries through the monitor at my bedside. When I picked her up from her crib she wasn't showing any hunger cues. Instead, she was trying to pass gas. I laid her down on a blanket on the floor, rubbed her tummy, and tooted right along with her. I couldn't help but laugh, wondering if my sleeping wife could hear our shenanigans through the nursery monitor.

Hours later, as Mama left for work, Harper and I sat down for a hefty 100 mL breakfast in our P.J.s. Bathtime was next for both of us. Wrestling a greased pig is easier than trying to bathe a skinny, soapy, screaming preemie! I was impressed to find that our $10 baby tub had a jacuzzi setting, but soon realized that it was my well-mannered princess farting in the bubble bath.

Successfully dressed (and styling), we set off for a daddy-daughter drink date at Sonic. Me with my cherry Sprite and Harper with her bottle, we basked in the warmth of an unusually sunny February afternoon as we took the long way home.

The rest of our day was filled with dancing in the livingroom to Gwen Stefani and Gym Class Heroes, tummy time, and (best of all) Grandma Nalder's arrival from Salt Lake City for her first visit since Harper was born one month ago today.

While our DADurday isn't over yet, I can't help but think, as I look back at our pictures from the day and watch a loving grandma nap with her first grandchild in her arms, that today was one of the best day's ever. Isn't that what DADurdays are all about?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coping with Colic

Colic is a b*#!%--to put it politely. The past few nights have been filled with unconsolable crying for hours on end. And that has just been me. Harper's colic is a whole different issue. What a horrible trick colic is. The more I read up about it, the more I come to the conclusion there's not much you can do but cope. That's tough, especially when you don't do well when things are out of your control. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to understand how to cope with colic while it "rides its course" back to Hell.

Understanding the causes of colic helped me to seperate the crying from who my baby really is. As I understand it, colic is inconsolable crying by an otherwise healthy baby. In premature babies, it is believed that colic may be the result of immature digestive tracts, which cause gassy build up in your baby.

Before setting out to learn more about colic, my wife and I tried to calm our daughter's cries by constantly feeding her, changing her diaper, burping her, holding her, singing to her, on and on and on . . .with no success. During her first episode, I had to carry Harper from the bassinet in our bedroom to the crib in her nursery and let her cry while my wife and I sobbed from frustration, exhaustion, and a sense of helplessness (Was she crying because we were bad parents?). Surely not, but we didn't realize it then.

After our second night of listening to those colicky cries, I started looking for answers. That's when I learned that there is a limit to what you can do. Fortunately, there are things to do to ease the symptoms of colic. Swaddling, burping, and side/stomach holding are suggested, but the first signs of reprieve for us have come from an iPod. White noise, commonly associated with vaccums, radios, and air conditioners, has a tendency to calm crying babies. The idea came to my wife and I to Google search "free downloadable white noise mp3" and load a looped track onto an old iPod. We played that baby right next to Harper's crib all night long. Man, the sound of a washing machine has never sounded so sweet.

We listened to the faint, cyclical hum through the baby monitor that we put next to the crib and noticed a decrease in crying. For those instances where our daughter really kicked her crying into gear, and there was nothing more we could do, the monitor volume went down and the washing machine went up. We could still hear her crying, and responded to her needs, but simply moving her from our bedside and into her nursery next door was the best thing we could have done to start coping with colic.