29 August 2012 – Venturing out

It is a beautiful late summer day in Chicago. Way too nice to stay inside. Sweetie and I are rolling – we are venturing out.

I waited until after the noon feeding and out we went. The first test was the five blocks to the park. That went well, so we went around the park. That went well, so we checked out the north end. That went well, so we took the long way home (and even hung out in the back yard garden for a bit).

It is laughable to think that I am afraid to take this little one out of the house. I know life is waiting for her out there. But I feel like I am getting used to everything in a new way, even something like a walk to our local park. (The little voice in my head is saying, “No kidding…it’s called parenthood”). And each new experience, even the most basic, has something profound for me to chomp on. It felt great to get out of the house today and take our first father-daughter walk – it was a simple kind of milestone for this stay-at-home adventure that we are beginning.

All ready to go

Baby’s East, Sleep & Poop Journal

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Baby’s Eat, Sleep & Poop Journal is an easy-to-use tool for all parents. Wife and I have recommended it to parents-to-be, and I especially recommend it to stay-at-home Dads. The straight-forward name of this activity log sums up its purpose – it helps you track your baby’s eating, sleeping and pooping. The pages are laid out in well-labeled columns, starting with date and time. You organize the other entries according to the time they occur. The meals are tracked by nursing duration or bottle amount; the sleeping by “sleep” time and “wake” time; the movements by type, wet or poop. The opposite page is conveniently blank for making notes.

We started using our log on our first recovery day in the hospital and we quickly learned its importance. We weren’t allowed to leave the hospital until Sweetie had accomplished the three feats that are tracked in “BESPJ” (wow, like they planned that). We continued the log once we returned home and kept it up until around seven months.

So we learned in the hospital that this daily tracking started immediately. Go figure, it continued at the first pediatrician visit (on so far through the whole first years’ appointments). The journal has proven useful for these visits because this information is important in the wellness checks. Having the information about her feedings, like ounces and frequency, allow us to specifically answer the doctor’s questions and focus proactively on Sweetie’s milestones. And knowing she was having regular bowel movements kept us aware of her overall good health (oh goody). It has been settling to track this stuff but also to speak with the doctor and know we have the information right there.

So, why is this so important for a Stay-At-Home Dad? According to Sister Younger-Older, a Mom’s heartstrings are thick. Because of this, the simple question, “How was your day?” translates to so much more. There are questions behind that question: 1.) Did you feed my daughter?; 2.) Did my daughter poop (and did you clean her)?; and 3.) Did you keep my daughter on her sleep schedule? At our house we go through the checklist when Wife gets home and is hanging up her coat. It is very nice to have the answers ready to go and to get Wife caught up. All joking aside, tracking this information helps us keep Sweetie healthy, on track and moving to the next milestone. And the information is there so either Wife or myself can pick up the routine. The journal itself is ¼ the size of a sheet of paper, so it fits in a diaper bag or a jacket pocket. You don’t feel like you are lugging around a book.

Baby’s Eat, Sleep & Poop Journal lays the foundation for monitoring your child’s well-being (which parents try to track forever, right?). We got our copy as a shower gift, but we bought a second one after filling that first one. There are plenty of tracking journals out there, so chose one. This one has an easy to follow layout, is a good size and has useful note pages. This one worked for our family. Check them out at www.eatsleeppoop.com

Renewing the commitment

This is a break from the usual format of the posts, but I have not put anything up in a while. During that while I have had some good conversations with other parents and we took Sweetie on her first road trip from Chicago to Florida. The time got me thinking and now I am writing.

I was reminded of the reasons for starting this blog. In talking with other parents I enjoyed the parenting tips we were sharing. And walking around our hotel in Florida I watched as countless people smiled and talked with Sweetie. She and I also shared some great family adventures. I realized that it is all this stuff, all of these side streets in the detour, getting stuck in my notebook when they should be out in the blog.

Time on the road is good for me, travel hang-overs and all. This trip had some great moments, some good existential reminders and a couple of challenges as well. There is definitely more to come and more to write about our time on the road. But I wanted to drop a quick note because I am renewing my commitment to this blog. I have been reading from others who show more discipline in their posting, and others whose content is great. These are great examples and challenges and I want to rise to that standard. I am going to shoot for two posts a week – here goes. I found myself thinking about the blog while I was driving and getting stoked for its growth.

So thank you to you, the readership, for staying with me on the ride. Me – a stay-at-home Dad, a humble husband, a blog rookie. Thanks for keeping up with Sweetie and me as we move through her infancy. This is all for now, Sweetie is up from her nap. But spring is here in Chicago and I am ready to see where we go next!

20 August 2012 – The Sandman Always Wins

Sweetie is not always ready for a nap, even when her eyes are closing and all systems are going in to “sleep” mode. Watching her fight can sometimes be tough. Other times it’s all I can do to not laugh out loud. I tell her it’s no use – when it’s time to sleep, the Sandman always wins.

We have a good nap schedule and Sweetie follows it well. There are the occasional times, though, when she starts nodding off during meals or while playing. This is usually after a nice busy afternoon or some other special circumstances. Much like her snoring, I am the source of this quirk as well. Sleep stories from my childhood include crashing out behind the Christmas tree, nodding off while sitting on the stairs and napping on a power boat ride. I know this is not true narcolepsy, but is this tendency genetic?

Sweetie usually naps in her crib. And we are working hard to put her down before she is asleep to help her develop the ability to put herself to sleep. Overall it is working well. The times that she falls asleep in your arms or on the circus mat are priceless. And I think laughing at those times is harmless, more as enjoying the moment than mocking the child. In fact, I believe the Sandman gives a little chuckle whenever we finally give in and nod off.

...always

…always

19 August 2012 – The Bottle Dilemma

Sweetie just won’t take the bottle and drink it like she is supposed to. She can’t get with the program and we are having a bottle dilemma. She cries and fights and struggles and generally carries on. Feeding time can really cut into an otherwise good day.

Sweetie was nursing exclusively until two weeks before Wife returned to work. She is used to the real thing when along comes Dad. And I bring the silicone nipple and plastic bottle and re-heated expressed milk that is hopefully 98.6 degrees. Yeah, it’s just not the same. And I am all for various techniques; skin-to-skin, correct bottle temperature, changing eating locations and all that. But again, me and my bottle are still not Mom (even with my shirt off and an adoring look in my eyes).

At first I was a bit upset by this, I thought I was doing something wrong. After a while I actually got a little bent by it. Like, “Hey, why does my daughter act like she’s too good for a bottle?” Then a couple of things happened. First, Wife’s mother tried to give Sweetie a bottle. It did not go well. And honestly, if su abuela can’t get Sweetie to do something, it isn’t supposed to be done. (After raising three children of her own and helping with countless others, the woman is like a “whisperer”.) So at least I knew it was not just me. Then, I looked for help in a couple of key books, only to find that this dilemma is pretty widespread. I was just making it dramatic when it is in fact common. So ultimately I had to face a natural fact – the bottle is just not Mom. And it occurred to me, it’s kind of like eating fresh fruit versus canned fruit.

Personally, I love fresh fruit. We currently have two apple trees and a plum tree in the backyard garden. If plans go well for our enclosed porch, we’ll be adding a dwarf lime tree and a dwarf tangerine tree. I will eat any fresh fruit, and can’t think of any I don’t enjoy. I fully intend to force fresh fruits in to Sweetie’s diet until she decides to love them too. I am not so keen on canned fruit though. If, for example, you offer me some nice, syrupy canned peaches, I’ll pass. The processing, however minor, just ruins the fruit for me. And so I get a little glimpse in to Sweetie’s resistance. This is something I can understand.

Well, here is the good news that I took away from the situation. This bottle transition dilemma is not my fault. Dr. Oz and Dr. Ari Brown (Baby 411) agree with me and support me in that position. But there is also bad news, Dad – there is nothing you can do to force the bottle. You just have to stick with it and keep trying. As one of our pediatricians told us, “she’ll take the bottle when she gets hungry enough”. So I keep trying the techniques and continue to adjust and try to find the things that make mealtime better. And I count the bottles she takes easily. And I count on the transition because the doctor said it would come. And really, the next mealtime is only a couple of hours away.