Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Got milk?

Back before I was a father, milestones were mostly the big things: getting married, earning a promotion, having my car pass the state inspection without needing to fix anything, etc. But having a baby changes your perspective in life. A friend of mine, who has a six-month-old, told me he has redefined a "successful day." He used to work in finance, where success lies in how much big money you can bring in. Now, success to him is sleeping through the night or not getting spit-up all over his clothes. It's the same thing with milestones, and this past weekend our household was ecstatic as Kyle made the switch from formula to whole milk. Granted, this development isn't as exciting for Kyle as the day he moved from a size 2 diaper to a size 3, but it's awfully close.

I do have some concerns about how much I was looking forward to this day. In fact, one of the first things I said to Jennifer when we woke up Sunday was "Happy Milk Day." I took pictures leading up to the Big Event (though not of the feeding itself; Kyle wouldn't have had any if there were a camera in front of him). The only thing preventing me from getting a cake for the occasion is the fact that Kyle hasn't had cake yet. That's to come later. On Cake Day. Kyle drank the milk just like he drank the formula. He might not have been able to tell the difference.

(Above: "There's nothing like an ice cold bottle of milk to get me through the day.")

My excitement over the switch may have been overblown because lack of sleep is making me a wee bit crazy, but believe it or not there IS a real reason to welcome this day: formula stinks. I remember the first time opening up a glass jar of the pre-made stuff and thinking to myself, "I have to feed my child this?" It looked like chocolate milk but smelled like a dead animal. Our child drank it nevertheless. Once Kyle went on a formula-only diet, we started using the powdered kind, which smelled a little better but had its own hangups. The powdered formula comes in a canister similar to those that hold Kool-Aid, except these canisters cost about ten times more. They're a lot scarier, too. Unlike Kool-Aid, these canisters warn that failure to follow their intricate instructions can cause "SEVERE HARM," such as a bad stomach ache, limb dismemberment, or addiction to reality TV. The label also says that the formula spoils unnaturally fast, so if you don't shove the bottle into your child's mouth as soon as you make it, you're too late and you must go out and buy another three-hundred-dollar canister.

The worst part was actually mixing the stuff. First of all, the water had to be pure, so each morning we had to boil a day's worth of the brown stuff that runs through our old New York apartment's pipes. Once the stuff cooled down, we had to measure the precise amount of water with the precise amount of powder to prevent the SEVERE HARM. Our kitchen quickly became cluttered with measuring cups. Traveling with the stuff wasn't fun, either. Because of the formula's spoiling power, we would take the water and powder separately, to be mixed on location. The powder we'd put in little sandwich bags, which we'd twist tightly and seal with a trash-tie. It looked like we were carrying narcotics. Between the powder bags and our bong-shaped baby bottles, I'm surprised we weren't stopped at airport security more often. All that prep beforehand didn't always pay off, as sometimes half the powder would end up on my lap during the mixing process.

But now that's all a thing of the past. We've thrown out our last container of formula, and now we're living in the age of whole milk. There's only one stage left on Kyle's path to feeding utopia... I'm sure Chocolate Syrup Day is just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grad drool

This was an exciting weekend for Kyle, as it involved some of his all-time favorite things: car trips, grandparents, going outside, and playing with funny hats. The little guy was so excited at times we feared he was going to burst on the spot, or at least spit up all over everyone. Fortunately, neither happened (we did get covered in slobber, but that happens even when he's bored).

We drove to Massachusetts this past weekend to watch my brother and his wife receive masters degrees in their fields. While I looked forward to seeing my family again, there was a part of me that was nervous about the weekend because I wasn't sure how Kyle was going to handle it. The little guy doesn't always do well when he's forced to sit for long periods of time. He wiggles around in church, cries at restaurants, and throws tomatoes at the opera. Yet, to our delight, Kyle not only tolerated the graduation ceremony, he seemed to love it, clapping and yelping throughout. He even got a kick out of the caps and tassels... and even the gown, which is not all too surprising, since the little guy thinks our shower curtain at home is hilarious (I do have serious concerns about his sense of humor).

(Above: Kyle sees what a person can get with an expensive education: yellow rope)

While the graduation went well, bedtime that evening was a little more rocky. Putting Kyle to bed was like diffusing a bomb. Our kid had little sleep throughout the day because his nap time was interrupted by the ceremonies and dinner, and he was overtired. The slightest noise or jolt could set him off. My mom started the calming process by reading him a story. Then Jennifer quietly gave him a bottle as he relaxed. His eyes became heavy as he slowly, slowly felt the energy of the day slip away. Once the bottle was done, Jennifer picked him up and he leaned against her, ready for bed. Then my father walked into the room.

"HEY BUDDY! HOW ARE YA?" he exclaimed as he got up close to Kyle's face. Kyle jolted awake and smiled widely at his grandfather. Both my parents then barraged my son with kisses, getting him excited again. After that, they gave him back to us so we can put the now-wired 11-month-old to bed. Suddenly it was no longer a mystery as to why my parents always have a hard time getting Kyle to sleep whenever they babysit.

Our son cried and cried. He did not want to be in bed when there was so much fun going on with his grandparents in the other room. In the end, my mother was a great help, picking up Kyle and rocking him back to sleep. The little guy also got a glimpse of what we were doing, and saw that we were just watching the Celtics lose miserably to the Magic. I think he realized that it wasn't worth staying up for that, and he fell asleep. I wish I had done the same.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No place like home?

Yesterday I wasn't feeling well. Monday's slightly scratchy throat evolved into a blocked nose, stomach ache, fatigue, and an uncontrollable desire to watch The Price is Right. I don't believe I had the swine flu, though I must say I did have a heightened craving for bacon. I have had this kind of illness before; it's the kind of thing that happens when I don't get a good night's sleep for 11 months, and I'm running around all day following a kid whose crawling speed is starting to rival that of a NASCAR driver.

Days like this do present a predicament, besides trying to figure out what daytime soap I should be stuck watching. We have a little boy who has needs I can't exactly attend to. Our closest relatives live four hours away. Most of our friends are at work, and those who are home have yet to experience the horror of a dirty diaper. That means, on days I'm sick, we have three choices before us: 1) Jennifer stays home during this weak economy and threatens her job security; 2) we send Kyle off to daycare; 3) I stay home with Kyle and keep him in his crib all day, stopping by occasionally to feed him, which would entail dumping baby food on him and hoping I hit his mouth (I won't get into how I'd change his diaper). Needless to say, we went with option two.

Daycare can be awfully traumatic for a child such as Kyle, who spends all of his days at home with parents who love him very much. He is suddenly thrown into a new environment with new faces, and his daily routine disappears. His mom and dad, who are always there whenever he cries out for them, are suddenly nowhere to be found. Kyle, who is used to getting all the attention because right now he's an only child, has to share a room with other children his age, all of whom have their own needs and demands. As you can see from the pictures taken at the daycare center, Kyle had a very difficult time adjusting.

This was just the second time Kyle had gone to daycare, though it was his first time at this particular facility, which is closer to Jennifer's work. The first daycare experience was more than a month ago, too, and there's a chance that Kyle doesn't even remember it. I certainly won't forget it. I was there, filling out all the necessary forms in triplicate, dropping off all of Kyle's food and diapers, and reporting our son's sleep habits, feeding habits, and favorite rock bands. After all that was done, I turned to my son for our big good-bye, as we were about to leave him with strangers for the first time in his life. Jennifer and I became a little choked up. Kyle already was busy playing with some toys on the floor, and he didn't even look at us. I guess he's not one for sentimental good-byes.

When it was time to pick Kyle up yesterday, we received a "report card" from the daycare center, describing how our son did that day (Eating: B, Interactions: A-, Astrophysics: C+). Kyle did seem to have some fun there: according to the report, he apparently was too excited to drink his snack-time bottle, or sleep much (nap time lasted all of ten minutes). The report card also said that "Kyle had a wonderful time exploring a new environment and making new friends." It then went on say that our little guy befriended a girl his age, and was hoping to see her again sometime, maybe for a cup of coffee or something.

I am thrilled that Kyle seemed to overcome his anxieties and found a way to not hate daycare. He must be relieved to be back home today, following his routine, sleeping in his own crib, and making silly faces with his dad (who's feeling much better). Unfortunately, Kyle probably will have to go to daycare again for one reason or another, and I'll have to brace him for it. We'll deal with that later. I'm sure eventually Kyle will learn to love whatever time he spends at daycare, though I know it will never be as much fun as the time he spends with his mom and dad at home.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

You can't handle the tooth

Apparently we don't feed our kid enough. The oatmeal and fruit in the morning, yogurt and more fruits or veggies in the afternoon, and meats and veggies in the evening just don't do it for Kyle. Neither do all the bottles we give him throughout the day. For some reason, our little one needs more wood in his diet.

Kyle is a habitual crib muncher. Every time he's behind bars, the top rail becomes a magnet for his mouth. At first he merely soaked the wood with his saliva, but now that he has some teeth, he's actually digging into it. The grating is loud enough to be heard through the baby monitor, so we no longer need him to cry to tell us he's awake from his nap. We're hoping it's a harmless exercise - for him, not the crib. It's too late for the crib. Kyle's ruining any chance we'd have at re-selling it at a decent price:

Maybe we're not giving him enough fiber. Or maybe he was a dog in another life and misses the taste of wood. Or it just could be that he doesn't know what to do with his new teeth. Eventually he'll be able to use them to chew gum, eat Charleston Chews or attack small animals, but for now his diet is mostly limited to mushy things, like pureed green beans and caviar. We have given him some cereal and toast, but he has yet to become a huge fan of finger foods (he prefers his fingers). Perhaps he's just satisfied with digging into the crib... and other things.

Last week I was carrying him to his changing table when all of a sudden I felt a sharp pain in my chest. "YEEHOW!" I screamed as my life flashed before my eyes. I considered calling 911, but it turns out that I wasn't having a heart attack; it was just Kyle, digging into my skin. I learned then that my son has powerful jaws that attack like a snake after a mouse. Thank goodness he doesn't have venom, or else he'd be a travel hazard. I was just glad I had the presence of mind to not drop him when I felt the pain.

We're trying to teach Kyle the proper ways to use his teeth before he starts attacking our guests. He still hasn't quite grasped our lessons yet, but I'm going to give him some slack, since he's still less than eleven months old. If he doesn't get the message by the time he becomes a teenager, then we probably have a problem.

So maybe it's best that he digs into the crib instead of a person, especially since his top front teeth are now coming through. The top of the crib rail is already showing the scars. Hopefully this phase will end before he destroys the crib completely. Until then, I guess we'll just have to call him our little termite.