One Rough Day

I almost called this post “Worst. Day. Ever.” I decided against it not only because I realistically have had worse days (though not as a parent), but also because the Comic Book Guy Simpsons references are a little tired, aren’t they? Anyway, this post is not about today, but yesterday. As some of you might have seen, my wife commented on this post about our daughter’s nightly sleeping routine that Lucy had had pretty bad gas, which was probably why it took her so long to fall asleep. Yesterday, we woke up pretty normally and had a good run for an hour or so with lots of smiles and laughs coming from Lucy. It looked like it was going to be a good day.

Wrong.

As the title explains, it was rough. With the exception of a few exhausted naps and feedings, Lucy wound up screaming most of the day. At first I wasn’t sure what the deal was, but then I felt her stomach and it was pretty hard, a sure sign of gas pain. I gave her some anti-gas drops, which didn’t seem to do a whole lot. I tried leaning her forward, rubbing her tummy in a clockwise motion, walking her around, everything I could think of. The only thing that really seemed to distract her from her pain was me playing my acoustic guitar. She’s been enjoying that in general lately, but I think the loudness of the guitar caught her attention.

I’m sure this is something every parent has dealt with and I’m sure I’ll have to deal with it again, but it really is a singular experience. Usually when someone or something is screaming at you, you run away, scream back, punch them in the face or work it out and quell the screaming, none of which are appropriate ways of dealing with a sad baby. They’ll cry and cry and cry and can’t tell you why (sounds like a country song).

This is one of those parenting lessons, the bold-faced realization that, at least for now, your child is mostly a walled-off entity unto themselves. Sure, she’ll let you know when she’s hungry or happy or bored, sorta, but the nuances of human relationships aren’t there yet. She can’t tell me what’s up. Obviously, I knew that going in, but this was a pretty clear slap in the face from reality.

I guess it’s time to start studying up on those sign language flashcards.

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Nap Time Or Something Like It

While we have totally lucked out when it comes to Lucy sleeping through the night, we’re on the other edge of that sword when it comes to her taking naps during the day. I’m lucky to get a half hour out of her with ones of equal or lesser value throughout the day. She’s usually sleepiest after eating–something else she might get from me–so I’ll offer a pacifier when she dozes off on the bottle and either lay her down next to me on the couch or more likely in her crib.

In a scene probably familiar with most parents, I carefully lay her down and do that hopeful yet hesitant thing all parents do when they want their darling child to just lay down and give them a few moments of peace. Er, I mean, get some rest so they can tackle the day. Sometimes she’ll go out right away, while others I know deep down it’s not going to work, but try anyway. Those usually result in squirming “I’M AWAKE!” sounds screeching over the baby monitor.

I like keeping her nearby, hence the couch nap spot. I can keep an eye on her and also help if she spits her pacifier out while sleeping. Sometimes that lack of of a pacifier is what winds up waking her up. So, if I can stand watch a little bit, then I can, in theory, help the nap last a little longer. There are a pair of obvious problems with this set up, though. First, she could roll off the couch. Now, she doesn’t roll quite yet, so it’s not as much a problem just yet, but it will be. I’m pretty much stuck in my seat when she naps out here. The second problem is that I have to keep the noise down to some extent. I don’t want to turn on an old episode of Doctor Who that winds up waking her up. Sometimes I’ll transfer her, but that’s a tricky operation.

So, the best option is laying her down in the crib in her bedroom with the baby monitor on. With her in baby jail, there’s no worry of rolling out. The negative here is that she can easily wake herself up with a stray hand to the face or lack of pacification. I try to run in when I hear her stirring, but by then the damage has usually been done and I’ve got a baby giving me eyes in an effort to break out. It always works. I’ve thought about swaddling her for naps, but also don’t want her to always have to be tied up like a mental patient to fall asleep.

At this very moment, I’m using an idea that my buddy Justin recommended in the comments to the post I linked above. He said we should get a white noise machine. I’ve heard these things work quite well and have even used TV static once or twice to help put her to sleep, but the TV actually shut itself off and told me that I wasn’t on an actual station, damn things are getting too smart. Instead of buying a machine, though, I instead found a website called SimplyNoise that plays a few versions right off their site. You can also buy apps and whatnot that can be downloaded as well as sound files, but I’m going to see if this works first before I buy anything.

Lucy’s lying on the couch next to me on a blanket with a pacifier in her mouth and looking out through slits in her eyes, as if she’s challenging sleep or maybe me to do something worth staying awake for. I’m not sure if the white noise is helping or not. Today’s not really the best day to test a new theory because she’s had a helluva bad day with gas and crankiness. There goes the pacifier, but she finally looks like she’s out. Let’s hope this one sticks for a while.

The Big Sleep Question

If all goes as planned, this will be posted around the time Lucy wakes up. No, I haven’t mastered time travel, but I have mastered the scheduling function on WordPress. Doc Brown would be jealous. Anyway, the one question every single fellow parent asks us–whether we know them or they’re strangers at the deli striking up a conversation–is how well we’re sleeping. They ask it with this knowing and supportive tone of voice and look, like we’re all members of the same fraternity and had to go through the same hazing rituals.

The truth of the matter is that Lucy sleeps like a champion and pretty much has from the beginning. After the nighttime ritual that my wife and daughter go through, the kid winds up sleeping through a good deal of the night. In fact, sometimes my wife has to wake Lucy up when she gets up in the morning before work to feed her. I’m personally very glad she does this because I can only guess how early Lucy would wake up on her own.

As it is, she usually wakes up around 8:30AM. It’s not so bad. If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind a little more time. I’m a complete night owl and before she was born–and even up to just before my wife went back to work–I got pretty used to waking up at 10. I don’t expect sympathy from anyone, but it’s a change for me to get used to.

Anyway, she usually starts squealing–not really crying, just making noises–around 8:30. I get up, pour milk from the breast pump into a bottle, fill my big red cup up with water, sometimes get the French press going and then go grab her. Every time you let her out of the swaddle, her arms shoot up into the air as if she just won the gold medal, it’s hilarious. I take her into her room, change her soaked diaper and then we move into the living room where she gets a bottle. Eventually I get my coffee and get to work and we have a generally pretty good day. That’s about it.

The Nightly Routine

Over the past few weeks–maybe month–my wife has gotten into a pretty solid routine for getting Lucy to go to sleep. For a while there, we were just staying up with her until 10 or so when she’d get tired, the missus would take her into the bedroom, breastfeed and she’d be out soon enough. After a while, she moved the time table up to 9PM, because it seemed like Lucy would take to it, but also because my wife wanted to theoretically have some time in the evening to relax a little. Or pump. Or do work. You get the idea.

The general drill includes one of us turning on a not-very-bright nightlight so my wife and I can see what’s going on in the middle of the night if we wake up or Lucy does. The Itzbeen and a cup of water are placed on the bedside table, then my wife grabs her Breast Friend (which she only uses for nighttime feedings), a burp rag and of course the baby and starts the process. Basically, she feeds the baby in the dimly lit room until the kid falls asleep. Once sleep is achieved, Lucy is placed in a Velcro-assisted swaddle and placed in the bassinet next to our bed. We learned pretty early on with our daughter that, at least for now, she needs to be wrapped up, otherwise she’ll accidentally smack herself in the face and wake up in a few minutes.

As I wrote this, I can hear that it’s not going well. My wife has been back there for almost 90 minutes, which is 30-40 more than usual. I’m not sure what the deal is. Sometimes the cat wakes her up just as she’s about to fall asleep. Sometimes the baby just doesn’t want to go down. I can relate. Sleep doesn’t always come to me easily and almost never when I have to work within someone else’s schedule. I hope my genes aren’t wreaking too much havoc in that little peanut. Let’s just blame the cat.

5 Comic Book Gadgets Every Parent Really Wants

With San Diego Comic-Con wrapping up yesterday, I figured it would be time to toss out a few real world, parental applications for some of the gadgets I’ve been seeing in comics since the second grade (and even earlier on TV). To set a few parameters, I’m keeping these solely to human inventions. That might not seem like a big distinction to people unfamiliar with comics, but if I opened this up to everything in the pages of comics, it would have just one item: a Green Lantern ring. That sounds like kind of a dull idea to me, so I’m working within some limits. Let’s hop on in!

SANDMAN’S GAS GUNAssuming it’s got no side effects–and we’d expect nothing less of brilliant golden age inventor Wesley Dodds, better known to the world as Sandman–I don’t think there’s a parent in the world who wouldn’t mind a little back up when the kid’s screaming so loud her face is turning purple. Even if it weren’t safe for the kid, maybe mom and dad could point the knockout gas gun at themselves and finally get a solid nap.

SPIDER-MAN’S WEBSHOOTERSNot a day goes by that I don’t wish I had Peter Parker’s most ingenious invention. In the world of Spider-Man, he built a super strong web fluid that can shoot webs he uses to swing around the city. Sure, it would be cool to websling around town, though it would be a little difficult where I live as there aren’t too many tall buildings. What I really wish I had the webshooters for is to grab things just out of reach around the house. I constantly find myself sitting somewhere, holding the baby and needing to grab a pacifier halfway across the room. Webshooters would be a fantastic fix, but I think it would make a mess of our place.

MR. TERRIFIC’S T-SPHERESA member of the Justice Society of America, Mr. Terrific is a super genius with 14 PhDs and Olympic gold medals. He uses his mental and physical skills to help people all over, but the tech he built that would be a lifesaver for me and other stay at home parents is the T-Sphere–a floating spherical, voice actived computer that also throws out holograms to look at. That would definitely solve the “not enough hands” part of being a dad and a  writer. I’d also use one as a baby monitor and maybe have it do my grocery shopping.

DOCTOR OCTOPUS’ ARMSIf the T-Spheres don’t work out, I could definitely do with Doc Ock’s extra metal appendages. Who wouldn’t want another pair of arms or two? I’d probably trade the crazy metal claws with more human like hands so I could type and also cover them in something fluffy so as to not accidentally bonk the baby. I’d also prefer the kind that don’t bond to your skin and make you go insane.

BATMAN’S UTILITY BELTOh man, if I ha a utility belt like Batman’s I wouldn’t have to worry about carrying around a diaper bag. Instead of carrying tear gas pellets or shark repellant, I’d keep wipes, extra diapers, pacifiers and milk in there, but also probably a batarang or two just for funsies!

7 Cartoon Heroines I Watched That Lucy Can Look Up To

Right up front: Jem, She-Ra and Rainbow Bright will not be on this list. It’s not because those characters are lame or bad role models or what have you, but because I didn’t watch their cartoons when I was a youngin’. I think I’ll save those ladies for another list in the future, maybe after I do some more research (ie sitting around watching cartoons). This one’s all about the rad animated females who brought an air of feminine mystique and radness to the toons of the 80s and 90s aimed at boys. Bear with me because most of these entries will be based on the some pretty old memories. I don’t pretend to be an expert on these gals, but do think they kept it class while kicking butt. If anyone wants to send me DVDs to correct any mistakes I’ve made, I have no problem with that.

APRIL O’NEIL (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

It’s never easy being the only girl surrounded by a bunch of immature dudes, but April O’Neil handled herself with grace, poise and a badass attitude that let her in the thick of interdimensional and mutant conflicts for decades. Sure, the Ninja Turtles had to come to her rescue from time to time, but April handled herself well and was also a professional newscaster. Heck, anyone who can get a job wearing a one-piece yellow jumpsuit should be lauded, am I right?

STEELHEART (Silverhawks)Like a lot of the women on this list, Steelheart was usually the only woman on a team full of men. Back in the 80s–and probably still today to some extent–cartoon and toy makers didn’t think boys would like watching girls in the their shows or buy female action figures. Still, some broke through the glass ceiling and made an impression. The twin of fellow Silverhawk Steelwill, Steelheart (a.k.a. Sergeant Emily Hart) not only threw down against Monstar and his goons, but was also a gearhead!

LADY JAYE & SCARLETT (G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero)I’ll be honest, as a kid I didn’t really pay attention to the names of characters, especially when I had them in toy form. However, I do remember G.I. Joe members Lady Jaye and Scarlett. One had red hair and the other threw javelins at people. One dated Flint while the other was all about Snake-Eyes. Anyway, the point is that they were tough chicks fighting the international terrorist organization Cobra. At least that’s my memory of it all, but it turns out that Lady Jaye got knocked out a lot. I might have to watch these again before showing Lucy. I guess I need to pick up Shout Factory’s DVD sets!

TEELA (He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe)Even with the skimpy costume and the fact that she always played at least second (sometimes third and fourth) fiddle to He-Man, Teela still earns a spot on the list for not only being Man-At-Arms’ protege, but also because she at least went out there and got her hands dirty. Sometimes trying is enough, you know?She was also a pretty good fighter and always spoke her mind, especially when it came to giving Prince Adam trouble for being a lazy coward. Turns out She-Ra was more of a badass, but I didn’t know that growing up. I do have some of the DVDs, though, so Lucy and I can watch them when she gets a little older.

GLORIA BAKER (M.A.S.K.)

While her name might bring up images of an 80s politician rocking perfectly coiffed hair and shoulder pads, Gloria Baker was actually an integral member of the M.A.S.K. team. But, she wasn’t just the token lady, she was also a black belt, drove badass sports cars that turned into submarines, helicopters and planes and also rocked a helmet called Aura that could throw up a force field. Eat it fellas. Thankfully, Shout Factory has most of Gloria’s adventures coming to DVD so dads like myself can share them with their kids.

CHEETARA (Thundercats)

Unlike a lot of the other women on this list, Cheetara wasn’t the only female in her group, the Thundercats. She was joined by what we would now call a tween Thundercat named WilyKit. A huge part of the team, Cheetara sported super speed, excelled bo staff manipulation and was no slouch when it came to hand to hand combat. She was also a kind and loyal member of the team with the ability to briefly see the future. More importantly, Cheetara wasn’t always at the mercy of her male counterparts. She’s pretty much the best member of the team and that earns her the top spot on my little list here. Cheetara for the win!

Shots, Shots, Shots-Shots-Shots-Shots-Shots

The title of this post is a reference to a somewhat obscure club song called (of course) “Shots” by a couple of rap nerds who go by the name LMFAO. Here’s the video, which is completely inappropriate, but the chorus of which always gets stuck in my head when I have to take Lucy in to get vaccine shots. I warn parents, grandparents and the easily offended to just skip it and move on to the story below.

As I mentioned in a pair of posts about Lucy’s first and second trips to the doctor, we wound up splitting up her vaccine shots. That seemed like the good and responsible thing to do at the time, but what I wasn’t thinking about was the fact that splitting them up meant that I would have to take Lucy in on my own. Thanks to our home birth, there was another set of shots that we were off by an appointment or two. No big deal.

Well, it was kind of a big deal for me because I got super nervous. Last week was the first almost-full week that I stayed home with Lucy on my own while also trying to get work done (we were in New Hampshire on Monday visiting my wife’s parents) and yet our first day together included not only me trying to write a bunch of stuff for my various gigs, but also taking Lucy to the doctor’s office. I got her all set and we went over without incident. She fell asleep on the two minute ride down the street. I sat with Lucy next to me in the waiting room and one little boy kept coming up and looking at her or playing with some of the dangly toys I have on my diaper bag. I smiled at him, but I really wanted him to back off. Sorry kid.

Anyway, the wait took about 20-30 minutes. I know that’s not too too bad when it comes to doctors, but I prefer when they run on time or closer to it. Don’t bullshit me, just tell me when I can come in and get my kid injected. I live down the street it’s no big deal. Maybe I can have them Tweet me in the future when they’re ready? Anyway, the shots themselves were with the doctor we liked thankfully and only took roughly one minute. Seriously, she’s like a ninja with those syringes.

I had to go back this week as well. It didn’t take quite as long this time to get into the office, but once again the appointment itself was with Dr. Ninja, so it took probably a minute. The most impressive part, though, was that Lucy didn’t even cry for this week’s shot. She made a noise, looked a little miffed and that was it! She’s tougher than I am when it comes to shots. She must get it from her mother. All in all it was a good experience, Lucy had no more than an irritable evening as a result of the shots and we’re all caught up now. I’m so proud of her!

Mail Bonding

I’ve been a fan of the mail for a long time. When I was a kid, my mom and dad got me one of those books that listed several different things you could send away and get either for free or for a couple bucks. I would generally stick to the free things because I’ve been cheap–let’s say frugal–since way back. Getting birthday or holiday cards or gifts from friends and family was also a high point. Later on I even got a pen pal or two, but I can’t remember anything about him or her.

Even now, I get jazzed about getting the mail, which lives in a big metal box along with everyone else’s mail in our condo complex until we free it. Part of the reason I like online shopping so much as well as trading comics via a website called Sequential Swap is because I still get really excited about getting the good mail. Sure there’s a lot of bills and junk, but the days I get something fun–or better yet one of my freelance checks!–is a good day.

Even with being super busy with work lately and only leaving the house for meals or doctor’s appointments, I still enjoy running out to the mailbox. With Lucy around now, I take that time to get both of us out of the house for a brief time, get a little sun and maybe even instill the same love of mail that I have in Lucy. If nothing else, it gives us a good airing out.

The Afternoon Delight Test: “Alright For Now” By Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

This one might need some explaining unless you’re already a fan of Arrested Development. If not, there was a scene in an episode called “Afternoon Delight” ( you can and should watch here) in which Jason Bateman sang a karaoke version of “Afternoon Delight” with his niece at a company Christmas party. They’re singing the nice, sweet song originally recorded by Starland Vocal Band and soon enough they get to some lyrics that turn a nice duet between uncle and niece into something unintentionally creepy.

I explain all this as a way to introduce a new feature on Pop Poppa called The Afternoon Delight Test. Sometimes I’ll be singing a song that has the word “baby” in it to my daughter only to realize that it’s a love song and therefore not the most appropriate thing to be singing to your kid. In an effort to help others not make the same mistake I have, I’ll do one ADT post a week with a PASS or FAIL grade. If a song passes the ADT, that means it’s okay to sing to your kid, if it fails, avoid the dedication and sing to no one in particular.

The first song I’ll be testing is a personal favorite of mine. It’s called “Alright For Now” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. I’ve dug this song since high school when I bought the Petty box set Playback through my buddy who was a member of some record club (hey, look who’s dating himself). The other day I started playing it and was feeling pretty good with opening lyrics like “Goodnight baby, sleep tight my love/May God watch over you from above.” Seems pretty safe, right? Practically a lullaby. Well, here’s the song:

It definitely PASSES the ADT in my book. You can scope out the rest of the lyrics here, but I don’t see anything that would make singing “Alright For Now” to your kid accidentally creepy. The line about not repaying what the subject of the song has done for the main character might not make a ton of sense, but people do talk about their kids that way. Anyway, I’m glad it passed because, as I said, it’s a favorite of mine, but also I was singing it to Lucy the other day, she really liked it and there’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a song and hitting that awkward set of lyrics. Success!

Pregnant Pauses: Wedding Drink Trickery

As I mentioned in my last Pregnant Pauses post (that’s fun to say out loud), my wife and I found out she was pregnant the weekend we went to New England for her cousin’s wedding. Not wanting to tell too many people right away, we kept the news a secret from everyone but parents. I think we wound up waiting until the two month mark to actually let the rest of our family and friends know.

Anyway, I know it was hard for the inlaws to not say anything at the wedding, but we all kept our lips zipped and no one caught on. “How?” You ask especially considering the most obvious indicator that a woman is pregnant at a wedding or party is the lack of an alcoholic drink, right? (Assuming she drinks, of course). It’s like holding up a big sign that only other women can read that flashes “KNOCKED UP” in foot-tall glowing neon red letters. Before the wedding my wife and I confabbed. She told me that she would ask for a Cosmo when I went to the bar, but that meant she really just wanted cranberry juice. When I went to the bar, I made sure that none of the immediate family members were around, I’d order my drink and then a cranberry juice and the casually stroll back with the cocktails (or one cocktail and a mocktail). I felt like James Bond! And the best part? It worked! My wife’s not a big drinker anyway, so no one figured it out.

So, that’s one way to keep your pregnancy on the down low at a wedding if that’s what you’re looking to do. With a few tweaks, you could use this trick at parties too, just make sure you’re pouring your own drinks and people probably won’t notice. If they do, throw your drink in their face and run away.

Welcome To The Working Week

First off, a little Elvis Costello while you read, if you like:

Man, it’s been a crazy few weeks. As I’ve mentioned, my wife went back to work last Tuesday, so it’s been just Lucy and me during the days. As if that wasn’t enough to get used to, it’s also the busiest time of year for geek news thanks to this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Convention. If you’re unfamiliar, this is the biggest comic convention around that not only draws legions of fans, but also every major comic book company, toy company, collectible creators and even a few Hollywood movie studios, though I hear less this year than previously. Anyway, a good deal of the companies have what’s called a panel where they get up on stage with a bunch of the writers, artists and editors and talk about what they’ve got coming up for the rest of the year, into next and beyond. It’s a huge time to drop news about upcoming comics, creative shifts and new initiatives.

As I write about comics and toys for a living, that means this can be a pretty busy time. Sometimes pre-con announcements are worked out so they stand out from the rest, other times the various outlets work with the companies to get the news ahead of time and write the pieces up so they’re ready to post as soon as the panel is over. It’s a way to keep up on all the news and get it out to people as soon as possible. Every place I have ever worked has done this in one way or another. It makes sense, but it also makes a lot of work for writers. I’m not complaining about this, mind you, I’m just using it as a way to explain that I’ve been busier with assignments than I probably ever have been in my career, like triple my usual workload roughly.

It’s pretty cool actually, but I admit, not the easiest workload to balance while also watching our darling daughter who doesn’t like going down for naps longer than 45 minutes (and that’s when I’m lucky). Last week was crazy busy and so is this week, but I’ve gotten enough done so that I feel like I’m in a pretty good space and think I’ll be able to get it all done–assuming not too many other new projects pop up. Also, being so busy has made me really appreciate weekends and the break they give again.

I mentioned before that my biggest worry with all this is looking unprofessional while on phone interview if Lucy starts screaming. That’s still there, but I’ve really lucked out and been able to schedule most of my phoners for the 6:30-7:00PM time slot which means my lovely wife is home and watching the baby while I talk about top secret comic stuff. That’s worked out really well so far. My new worry is that I’m not being present enough for Lucy. I try to entertain her and keep her smiling as much as possible, but there are definitely times when I have to lay her next to me on the couch and type away. I’m looking forward to things slowing down a little bit so I can hang out with her a little more, work on a few other evergreen assignments, get back on a regular schedule, relax and maybe even do a little creative writing for myself. I can’t keep complaining to myself about not being a big time fiction writer if I continue to not finish anything!

Anyway, as this is the beginning of my first full week of working while also watching Lucy, I’m feeling pretty good about my workload. I’m still not showering in the mornings on a regular basis or keeping up with some of the chores around the house as well as I should, but I’m maintaining. As thousands of comic fans are waiting with baited breath for San Diego either because they’re attending or watching the sites for news, I am looking forward to getting back to a more normal workload. But, hey, have fun with it!

Real Fathers Of New Jersey

This post won’t be for everyone, but will hopefully be fun for those of you who love or hate Bravo’s reality show series The Real Housewives Of New Jersey. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the show, cameras follow five women around from an affluent part of New Jersey. The editors focus on the drama most of the time, but every now and then you get some genuinely legit, real moments. For some people they’re too far and few between, which I completely get. To each their own. I was watching tonight’s episode–yes, I’m a fan all on my own, it’s not like I watch it only because my wife does–and I thought it would be interesting to run down the fathers on the show and mention a thing or two I’ve learned from them. Mind you, I try to learn something from everything I do, even when it’s what not to do. There’s a lot of that when it comes to the fathers on this show, but also a few guys I actually quite like.

I will note right now that I’m not trying to judge these people. Aside from living in a glass house and not wanting to toss stones, it’s also ridiculous to assume you know someone from watching them on a TV show for what probably doesn’t amount to more than a few minutes a wee (especially when it comes to the men, who aren’t the focus, obviously). There are a lot of hours in the filming day and only 45 or so minutes make it into the episode, so there’s a lot that goes unseen. I’m just going on what I’ve seen.

CHRIS LAURITA (Jacqueline’s husband, CJ & Nicholas’ father, Ashley’s step-dad, Caroline’s brother)I actually like Chris quite a bit. He either doesn’t like being on camera much or his scenes aren’t particularly interesting because he doesn’t appear too much. In fact, I don’t remember seeing him with his two boys much, but again, that’s not a commentary on their relationship. I do however like how he’s handled Jacqueline’s daughter from a previous message Ashley. She seems like a really spoiled brat. I have no idea when she started down that road, but Chris seems to be trying to straighten her out a little. Last season, he tried to get Ashley to stop hurling insults at then-Housewife Danielle which was just causing trouble for everyone and this year he tried to explain to her how you don’t just get handed an apartment in New York City, you actually have to work for it. I don’t know if any of it really gets through to her, but he’s trying. He seems to be the strong, silent type which can carry its own sets of problems (what parenting style doesn’t?), but sometimes the law needs to be laid down. I like how nicely he treats Ashley. He could be a lot harder on her, but he seems to take into account the fact that she’s dealing with being split between her mother and father’s families.

RICH WAKLIE (Kathy’s husband, Victoria & Joseph’s dad)Rich comes off as a goofball with his huge glasses and exposed-chest-with-cross-necklace, but I think he’s got a good heart going on. He’s a new addition to the cast this year thanks to his wife Kathy becoming one of the newest Housewives. Most of his scenes involve him talking a big game about doing something while paying other people to actually do it (putting up Christmas decorations) or taking his wife’s idea of starting a small catering company and blowing it out of proportion into buying a restaurant for her. There was one episode a few weeks back where he and Kathy had a very real and honest conversation with their kids Victoria and Joseph about using drugs and drinking. In the past, their kids had signed a pledge about abstaining from such things, but with them getting older (17 and 15 respectively) they had the kids actually write up their own this time. I thought that was an interesting route to take and can see the merits there. Overall the kids seem relatively well adjusted so he and Kathy must be doing something right. That’s one of those really difficult conversations to have, but their family seemed close and honest enough to have it. It might not have exactly gone as Rich and Kathy would have liked, but at least they had it.

JOE GIUDICE (Teresa’s husband, Gia, Gabriella, Milania & Audriana’s dad)Joe’s kind of a question mark for me. He makes it seem like he’s this stereotypical Italian guy who leaves the rearing of the kids to his wife. But I think he’s something of a softy inside. Like most of the other dads on the show, you don’t see a lot of him with the kids. I remember a few times where he goofed around with his girls, giving them kind of a hard time, but it seemed to be in good spirits. I’m not sure how good of a role model he is considering his drunk driving arrest, seemingly bad attitude and how much he lied to his family about their financial problems. I also get the feeling that maybe, being the big tough guy that he is, that he might have trouble getting close to his daughters, but that’s just a guess. He’s the kind of guy that could be a great or terrible father, it’s just hard to tell based on the show.

JOE GORGA (Melissa’s husband, Antonia, Gino & Joey’s dad, Teresa’s brother)I have a strong dislike of Joe Gorga. He’s that typical, male asshole who expects his wife to stay home and be with the kids no matter what. Sure, he’s kind of nice about it, offering to build his wife Melissa a recording studio because she wants to be a singer when she grows up, but I get the strong impression that, if she really wanted to have a career or follow her dreams, he wouldn’t allow it. I’m reacting more to the way he treats his wife than how he treats his kids, but that can’t be a good environment for the kids. You do see him with the kids hanging out on occasion but I disagree with his general ideas on male/female relationships. For me, a marriage is a partnership where the two people elevate each other and do the same with the kids. It seems to me like he’s keeping his wife down, but distracting her with recording studios and lavish parties. Of course, it’s a two way street and she doesn’t exactly seem to be fighting it. Marx said religion is the opiate of the masses, but it looks like cash is the opiate of the trophy wife.

ALBERT MANZO (Caroline’s husband, Albie, Lauren & Chris’ dad)Unlike Joe Gorga, I actually really like Albert Manzo. His wife Caroline and their kids are my favorite part of the show and probably the only reason I keep watching as the series devolves into an endless series of pointless catfights that only rich people have time for. We learned an episode or two back that Albert took over the family business when his father died at 19. He’s worked hard to build the Brownstone up and it’s a huge success. All that work probably kept him away from home more often than he’d like, but he built a secure life for his family, which is commendable. At the same time, his children all have a really strong work ethic and drive to do, instead of have done for them. Heck, even goofball Chris wants to open his own carwash…a sexy carwash, but it’s something I guess. Albert seems to be a good, strong man who has raised children of the same ilk along with his wife and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Pop Poppa Review: Itzbeen

When my wife first told me about the Itzbeen, I thought it sounded ridiculous. Who needs a device to keep track of how long ago you changed, fed or slept your baby? Like pretty much everything baby-related, I deferred to her wisdom and she wound up getting her own Itzbeen thanks to Amazon for around $20.

And thank goodness she did because now that I’m both watching Lucy on a daily basis and busier than I’ve ever been as a freelancer, this thing has become indispensable. When you’ve got a lot on your mind, it’s really easy to forget the last time you changed a diaper or put the kid down for a nap and this thing keeps track of it for you. Basically you hit the assigned button for change, feed, nap and a fourth bonus button and it restarts the clock from zero so you know how long it’s been (get it?) since the last time you did whatever that thing is. There’s also a clock, switch on the bottom to help women remember which side they last breastfed on, nightlights, optional sounds (which we have turned off) and a lock so you don’t accidentally hit a button when it’s rolling around in your diaper bag. Yes, I have a bitching diaper bag, but I’ll get to that when I’ve got more time.

More tech-savvy folks might just as soon use use an app or some such to keep track of these things. I would assume that kind of app would keep track of everything that happened in a day, collate that information and give you a detailed read out of your kid’s pooping habits for the week. I don’t have a smart phone or an iPad or an iPod Touch so that’s not an option, but I will say that sometimes having a gadget at your disposal that does one thing and does it quite well is an asset. If I had to fumble through a series of icons to find the one I wanted and then tap the right button with my fat fingers while I’m trying to respond to an email and figure out if the baby is crying because she’s hungry or tired or poopy, I think that might be too much. I’d much rather grab the white thing on my coffee table, glance at it, get the info and move on. I just wish it didn’t look so much like our baby monitor, that gets a little confusing at times.

Of course, the efficiency of the Itzbeen completely relies on how disciplined you are with hitting the buttons. I’ve forgotten to hit the button on several occasions (heck, several times today), but overall it’s a great little tool to use when you’ve got a million things going on in your head at once. If I had a stamp of approval, the Itzbeen would get it. Hmm, now I need a stamp…and a logo…

And now, the Barenaked Ladies video for “One Week” because it pops into my head every single time I write, say or think about the Itzbeen. And it’s all because of those first two words.

I was 15 when that song came out in 1998, it will be 28 years old when my daughter is the same age in 2026. Almost everything about that sentence makes me wince.

A Few Social Media Doohickeys

My internet geek-fu is not as strong as it might seem. Sure, I’ve got a few blogs under my belt and write for a slew of websites, but the whole social media thing has never really been my bag. I have no problem with things like Facebook or Twitter, but didn’t really find myself interesting enough to keep the world posted on my comings and goings. Until now I guess. I always said I’d get more into it when I had something to promote and I think Pop Poppa’s worth talking about. So, with that in mind, I’ve set up a Twitter account called Poppa Dietsch (or, I guess @PoppaDietsch, right?) and a Facebook fan page. If you’re so inclined feel free to follow and like those things respectively. I’m still getting used to all this so take it easy on me. I believe I linked this blog to both of those accounts, so those are pretty good ways to keep up on Pop Poppa, of course you can also sign up for email updates (there’s a link up there to the right) or the RSS feed (higher up on the right), which is my preferred way of keeping up with the internets.

Pregnant Pauses: Telling Our Parents

Welcome to what will hopefully be the first in a series of posts called Pregnant Pauses where I’ll step away from the day to day of being a work-from-home dad and tell a few tales about those nine months leading up to actually becoming a dad. When the missus pointed out last weekend that we were coming up on the year anniversary of us finding out she was pregnant, I thought it would be fun to relate the story of how we told our parents. We had actually found out the morning we planned to leave for New Hampshire to visit her parents to celebrate her dad’s birthday and go to a family wedding.

My father in law had asked for some family tree research for his birthday, so my wife signed up for one of those websites and found a bunch of things out. She decided to make a family tree using different scrapbook paper. She also had a flash of brilliance and decided to put “Baby Girl Dietsch, 2011” at the bottom between our names. I fully agreed with this incredibly clever way of telling her parents we were expecting. We were both pretty nervous during the four hour drive to the Hampsh. My wife had called and told her dad that it would be in his best interest to be awake when we got there (he usually goes to bed pretty early and we weren’t getting in until 11 or so).

When we got there we were tired and nervous and excited. My wife practically threw the wrapped family tree at her dad. He opened it carefully and was impressed. At the same time, my mother in law was mixing mojitos in a blender. The noise didn’t help with the nervousness and my wife asked her to stop. She finished the drinks and handed one to each of us. My wife casually held hers, while I took s a few long, much needed drags. We stared at her dad as his eyes moved from name to name, expecting a huge smile or a look of shock to spread across his face. Instead, nothing but a pleased smile. He was just about to hand it off to his wife when my wife suggested he look at the bottom. That’s when the surprise hit and he said something along the lines of “You’re pregnant?” That was followed by lots of hugs and whatnot. At the wedding we were all on the same page, but had sworn her parents to secrecy so we didn’t mention a thing. There’s a story in there for another time I’ll get to shortly.

The first picture of us after finding out my wife was pregnant, with her parents at a family wedding.

But then we had to figure out how to tell MY parents. As it happened, we had planned for them to visit the next weekend or possibly the one after that. It’s a nine hour drive from where they live in Ohio to where we live in New York. I spent that whole day kind of anxious. We were only telling our parents and not anyone else at this point because a lot can happen in the early weeks/months and God forbid something happened, we didn’t want to have to tell everyone. When they called to tell me they got a late start, I apparently sounded perturbed. I was trying to keep cool, but I guess that wasn’t happening!

I don’t remember if my wife or I came up with the idea (probably her, she’s crazy smart), but as a way to tell my parents we decided to get a baby life jacket and give it to them saying we had seen it at the store and thought of them. My parents have a cottage on a lake in Michigan which has been a big part of our lives for years, so it seemed like a great way to tell them the good news. They finally got to New York and my wife finally got home from work. This time I was the one who practically threw the present at them. They were pleasantly surprised that we had thought of them, but had no idea what was inside.

Lucy unsure of her lifejacket. At Devil's Lake 2011.

As you can see, it’s not necesarily the most obvious of products. When they opened the bag they had no idea what it was. Sure, they knew it was a life jacket, but the first thing my dad asked is if it was for the cat. I couldn’t believe that neither set of parents got our gags right away. We weren’t trying to be THAT clever. As I was smiling and saying a leading “Nooooo” my mom screamed “You’re having a baby?!” I’m not talking about just a polite yelp here, but a full-on scream. It was so loud that I was worried the neighbors would think we were taking lives instead of talking about new ones.

Of course, all the parents–now grandparents–were very excited and have been great during the whole process, helping us out whenever we needed anything. The closest we came to being clever about telling anyone else about the new bundle of joy didn’t come for a few weeks at a friend’s birthday party, but that will be a story for another day.

Lucy’s Biggest Fan

The title of this post is a bit misleading as I clearly am Lucy’s biggest fan. However it’s a fun play on words I just couldn’t resist. My wife and I have been joking for a while now that Lucy thinks the ceiling fan and the bookshelf are her real parents. She spends a lot of time staring at them and making faces. We noticed while visiting my inlaws this weekend that her love of ceiling fans isn’t specific to ours, but apparently all of them. My wife told me that, in the middle of the night, Lucy started making eyes, cooing and laughing at the fan in the room we were staying in to the point where she wasn’t eating or sleeping. Apparently this is a thing with babies as you can even buy onesies espousing their virtues. Any other fan fans out there?

Tummy Time Trials

I get the point of tummy time, even though it’s a phrase that involuntarily makes my eyes roll every time I say or hear it. You’re supposed to put your baby on his or her stomach and they’re supposed to roll themselves over onto their backs. It has something to do with muscle control and coordination because they need to use both their arms and legs to succeed and eventually crawl. Great. Here’s the problem though, babies don’t understand any of that. If they like being on their stomachs, they’re just hanging out, if they don’t, they’re freaking out. I guess that freaking out might fuel their desire to roll over, but once again, they’re babies and have no idea what you want of them. There’s no real way to convey what you’re trying to get them to do aside from doing it yourself and I’ve tried that. The result? Blank stares from a 10 week old.

My wife has been doing the tummy time thing mostly with our daughter, but with her going back to work, it’s up to me. I gave it a shot our first day alone and the stupidity of the whole thing landed on me when I realized that Lucy–who is actually quite strong and can pull herself forward with her arms if you hold your hands out in front of her–just doesn’t get it. Or, if she does get it, she doesn’t know how to tell her hands and legs what to do. Coordination isn’t her thing just yet.

There’s a disconnect in the process that makes me think there’s got to be a better way to do this, right? I have faith in Lucy that she will figure out how to roll over without being left on the floor to do so. However, since I told the missus that I’ll keep it up, I guess I will.

Our First Day Without Mommy

I know I went on and on about how Tuesday was the first day of the rest of my life. Well, forget all that, today was the real big day: the first day my wife went back to work and Lucy and I fended for ourselves. To add to the pressure of the day–as if taking care of a helpless child wasn’t enough–I’m also getting slammed with work. I wrote about yesterday’s work load on my other blog if you’re interested. Anyway, the point is that I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire work-wise. Add to all that taking care of a kid and the fact that the three of us are leaving for New England later tonight which will effectively take me out of the game for most of Friday and next Monday and there’s a lot of pressure.

So how did it go? Well, Lucy didn’t go to bed after her morning feeding with my wife, so I got up and hung out with her as the missus got ready for work. I know all of this is really hard on her, but hopefully knowing I’m here with Lucy helps out. After she left, I rocked Lucy for a little while on the rocking chair my father was rocked on and she dozed off. I swaddled her, put her back in her cradle and we both got a few more hours of sleep. Thanks Luce!

After that, though, things were a little rough. For one thing, I didn’t set up a bottle for her before going to bed, which was stupid on my part. My wife has been pumping for a while now so we’ve got a pretty good stockpile in the freezer, but frozen milk doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. I was told by our midwives to just put some hot water in a container and put the frozen packets in there, that will do the trick. And it did, but it would have worked a lot better had I done it last night or this morning. I’ll have to work on my timing with these sorts of things, but it was crap today. Nothing’s worse than carefully thawing out and pouring milk into a bottle, trying not to waste a single drop while your baby is red-faced from screaming.

Bottles aside, Lucy decided not to take much of a nap today, which made actually getting work done rather difficult. I can’t really hold her and type much more than an email and I haven’t gotten a good sling yet. Sometimes, I lay her on her back next to me on the couch which works, but won’t once she starts getting a little more mobile. I also put her on her playmat for a little while, but that didn’t last long. She’s thankfully sitting quietly in her bouncy seat right now, but that didn’t work much throughout the day.

She did go down for a few short naps, which was great, but it’s funny how priorities change when you’ve got a baby around. Should I shower during this nap? Write up an article? Send a bunch of emails? Enjoy the quiet for a minute and maybe do something non work related? Pack for our trip? It’s too much to do during 15-20 minute naps. I still managed to get a good deal of work and packing done, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

There were a pair of things I had hoped to do today, but those goals turned out to be too lofty. I wanted to go out and grab lunch with Lucy, but her short naps were all around lunch time, so that didn’t quite work out. I also wanted to take a shower, but opted to write, pack, make and eat mac and cheese and a few other things when Lucy dozed and she was wanting to be held when awake.

So, I might be kinda stinky and might not have gotten as much work done today as I intended, but the baby’s still in one piece, my wife’s almost home and I’ve got a long weekend just ahead of me, so altogether the day was a success!

Lucy’s Second Doctor’s Appointment

If you’re curious or interested, I wrote extensively about Lucy’s very first doctor’s appointment yesterday in anticipation of her second appointment later that day. The two appointments couldn’t have been more different as both the nurse and doctor we talked with this time were incredibly nice, helpful and good at explaining things.

One thing I forgot to mention about the first appointment was the nurse. Again, like the doctor, she was nice enough, but would not let us leave the office without taking some free formula. As I’ve mentioned here and there, my wife is breastfeeding, which we explained to her saying we wouldn’t need any formula. She said something like “Well, what if you did?” We stared blankly at her, realizing she wasn’t getting it and just said “Whatever you’ve got.” Our plan was to leave it and the bag of pharmaceutical advertising swag we were provided with in the exam room so they could give it to someone who might actually use it. We would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that pesky nurse who couldn’t take a hint to save her life. Like I said, nice, but not exactly the kind of medical folks we were looking to work with.

Yesterday however, everything went swimmingly–interesting considering we were put in the Noah and the ark exam room. We went in thinking that Lucy would be getting three vaccines, two shots and one orally because that’s what we were told. This new nurse mentioned something about four shots and one oral vaccine, which we were clearly surprised by. She picked up on this right away and asked if we wanted to split them up, which we both agreed to and appreciated. We’re definitely not opposed to vaccines, but we’d like to spread them out in case Lucy as an adverse reaction. That way we will have automatically narrowed down the potential culprit. By that point we were already better informed and advised than in all of our previous appointment and we were only about five minutes in.

After not having such a great experience the first time around, I called the doc’s office to find out what the deal was. We really liked the first doctor we had interviewed with and assumed we’d be seeing her and didn’t want to deal with the one we had seen the first time around. I didn’t harp or pitch a fit, I just calmly asked what the policy was on who saw which patients. The administrator I talked to was really nice and accommodating and explained to me that they wanted us to be happy and comfortable and to just let them know who we wanted to see when we made our appointments. Since our second appointment was supposed to be with the nurse practitioner, I didn’t need to make a note of who we wanted to see.

But I think they might have noted it anyway because the original doc came in after the nurse left. Mind you, I didn’t say which doctor we had seen and weren’t happy with or even the one we originally met with, but I assume they’ve got all that on file. She came in and was just as great as we remembered. She did pretty much everything different including how she gave Lucy her shots, only one of which seemed to bother her. This doc was clearly a pro. Everything went well and we felt good knowing she would be Lucy’s doctor which makes me feel good because we’ve got three more appointments in the next month to get her caught up on her shots. As it turns out there’s one more she needs because we’re a visit behind because she wasn’t born in a hospital. It’s not a big deal, just something that needs to be factored in. All those shots would have been pretty rough if they were with a doctor we weren’t very comfortable with.

Even though Lucy took the shots pretty well–only crying out with the second one which had a lot of stuff in it by my estimation–she wound up having a pretty rough day after that. She seemed just generally unhappy and uncomfortable, crying a lot more than normal. It was really hard for my wife and I because there’s not much you can do but hold her, rock her and hope it passes, which is basically what happened.  By evening she felt better and so did we, not only because she wasn’t crying so much but also because we knew we had a good doctor in our corner.

Welcome To Pop Poppa!

Hello and welcome to Pop Poppa. Some of you might know me from my blog UnitedMonkee.com where I talk about pretty much everything from movies and music to video games and television while others might actually know me or stumbled upon this new blog on accident. However it happened, I’m glad you’re here.

I guess I should say a little about myself. My name is TJ Dietsch, I’m a lifelong fan of pop culture and have found various ways to turn that into a career. Before all that, I went to school at a small liberal arts college (I’m sure that’s a shocker) in Delaware, Ohio called Ohio Wesleyan University where I met and eventually proposed to my future wife and also studied English (honestly, that’s in order of importance). A summer-after-junior-year internship with a comic book magazine called Wizard lead into a full time position in the research department the fall after I graduated. The job got me out to New York from Toledo, Ohio where I was raised by my parents. I worked at Wizard for a few years, doing some writing on the side and eventually working my way up to Associate Editor of Wizard‘s sister magazine ToyFare. Eventually Wizard went to a more freelance-based model and I got laid off, but that wound up setting me up for my current gig as a freelance writer which means I get to live the dream of working from home.

Keeping the pop culture theme going–what else would you expect from a site called Pop Poppa?–I’ve been getting paid to write about comics, toys, movies, TV shows, music, video games and a few other things ever since. The stay-at-home nature of the job laid the groundwork for me to stay home with our daughter now that my wife is going back to work (my fears of which I related here). I don’t know if I have anything particularly earth-shattering to say about the act of being a stay at home father, but I do hope that some of my stories and anecdotes are universal enough to make you chuckle. I also hope to get some reviews of baby/kid-related products, shows and movies going as soon as I have to immerse myself in them (Lucy’s only two months old right now, so we’re not yet to Dora or Wiggles territory yet). I also hope that readers will comment about their own experiences with what I’ve written about, even if opinions differ.

For now, feel free to scroll down and read some posts I have either re-purposed (copied) from UnitedMonkee or written and stockpiled fresh for this blog’s launch. I’m hoping to post at the very least once a day and hopefully more often as time and Lucy permit.

The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

Today is the big day. No, not just because I launched a brand new blog (this one, of course), but because today starts me on the road to being a work-from-home dad. My wife has been home on maternity leave for the past nine weeks, but she’s going back this week and I’m definitely intimidated. See, in addition to staying home and watching our two month old daughter Lucy, I also am a freelance writer. I get paid to write about comic books, toys, movies, video games and the like for places like Comic Book Resources, Marvel.com, Wizard World, Topless Robot and a few others. It’s a pretty cool gig that thankfully keeps me pretty busy.

Everything changed on May 2nd when our daughter was born, but today it REALLY changes. My safety net will be gone. It’s just going to be Lucy, me, our cat Milo and my assignments. It will be interesting. I have faith that Lucy and I will get into a good routine, but it’s getting to that established series of events every day that makes me a little nervous. My wife is breastfeeding, so she’s been taking care of the night feedings and gets up with Lucy in the morning. I tend to sleep in because I like staying up late. Sometimes I do work, other times I just watch TV. I am a night owl. With her going back to work and needing to leave pretty early, I will be taking her spot in the early shift. It’s not something I’m excited about necessarily, but something I know I’ll get used to. Eventually. I hope.

Aside from getting up early, the other aspect of being a stay at home dad that worries me is figuring out how to squeeze my work into the day. She’s so young that most of the time one of us is holding, feeding or changing her. She does nap, but not consistently or at a specific time every day. Part of my job involves interviewing comic book writers and artists. Most of that is done via email, a method that might not get as good results, but definitely makes writing these things easier. All that will be workable, no problem. I am worried about the occasional phone interview. Scheduling those things will be interesting. I keep having flashes of a really good phoner being interrupted by baby screams. I’m sure people–especially fellow parents–would understand, but it doesn’t sound very professional.

Don’t feel too bad for me yet, though. Thankfully, my wife is working from home today. The holiday week took out Monday, so we didn’t have to worry about that. She’s working from home again Wednesday, then going into the office on Thursday. Then, on Friday we’re heading to New Hampshire for a wedding that weekend, so things won’t be too bad. Yet.

Lucy’s First Doctors Appointment

Back on June 3rd, Lucy had her very first doctors appointment. In fact, it was the first time she had ever been in a doctor’s office including incubation time. As I mentioned when talking about our home birth, my wife and I had talked very early on about going the natural route assuming everything went as these things are supposed to. Because of that, instead of going to doctors every month, we went and saw our midwives in their very timely and comfortable house/office. After being so immersed in the world of natural and homeopathic medicine, getting back into the world of the traditional American medical system took some getting used to.

Before Lucy was born, my wife did a lot of research about doctors in the area. We narrowed it down to a few and then went through and interviewed the one we liked the best. The doctor we focused on had gotten great reviews online and also happened to be about two whole minutes from our place and about 10-15 from the town we hope to move to (glorious Cornwall). I called the office and the woman I talked to was very nice and said we could come in and talk to the doctor that day. I think the missus was about 6 or 7 months pregnant at the time. My wife and I went in and actually got a really good vibe from the doc and the practice. It’s pretty big which means there are enough exam rooms to take the sick kids so they’re not all sitting out in the waiting room recycling germs. She was also on the same wavelength with us when it came to vaccines, over-prescribing, breastfeeding and home birth among other things, so we were sold.

Fast forward to June 3rd. By this point Lucy is just over a month old. When we interviewed the doctor she said that we should call the day after our daughter was born. I guess this is standard for docs because they want to make sure the babies are all good. However, part of our plan with the midwives involved medical care for mom and baby for a month or two after the birth. They advised us to hold off for a month, hence the distance between birth and visit. The midwives gave us the go-ahead to see the doctors, so the next day my wife called, explained our situation and they had us come in later that day.

We hadn’t expected to be called in so quickly, but with my wife still on maternity leave and my schedule being pretty flexible we were able to make it. The waiting room was fine. They have tablet computers you fill paperwork out on which was kind of a bummer because we had actually filled out hard copies and had to do it again while Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel played (not as bad of a movie as I thought it might be). We didn’t have to wait long and wound up in a room with an under the sea theme.

A very nice nurse came in and did the basic stuff like weighing and measuring Lucy. We waited a few moments and then the doctor came in. But this was not the doctor we had met with, it was another one. She seemed nice enough at first, but when she opened Lucy’s diaper to check her out and seemed stunned by the fact that she was wearing cloth diapers, we started feeling a little funny about her. She was also a bit young, not Doogie Howser young, but you get my drift. The doc also automatically wrote a prescription for vitamins, but didn’t really explain herself well, something about breastfed babies not getting enough vitamins which sounds ridiculous considering we’ve learned mother’s milk is built specifically  for the child and can even include antibodies for sickness the kid is exposed to if they’re at day care or something. She wasn’t bad or mean or judgmental or anything along those lines, but we weren’t thrilled about her possibly being Lucy’s doctor. We still haven’t gotten the prescription filled.

I should note that my wife and I don’t claim to know more than doctors who went to school for a really long time and (hopefully) passed with flying colors. Since we never saw this doc’s credentials, I actually have no idea how qualified she was or how long she’s been practicing. However, from the research we’ve done and the conversations we’ve had, I’ve gotten the impression that doctors and their offices are so intensely paranoid about covering their asses, that they write prescriptions for maladies that don’t necesarrily require them–just like the vitamins for our baby who has shown absolutely no signs of vitamin deficiency. We do believe in vaccines and all that, which leads back to our doctor’s appointment as Lucy got her first shot.

She was freaking out from being naked and THEN had to get a shot. When she got it, I held her in my lap. I had a twofold sense of fear and terror. First, I knew that our daughter was about to feel her second or third real shock of pain (she had to get her heel pricked for a blood thing by the midwives and I’m guessing birth is a little tough). Holding her down while someone poked her and her having no idea what was about to happen was not easy for this poppa. At the same time, I had a strange regression to my own childhood when my fear of needles was at its highest. I used to literally hide behind exam tables to avoid shots which actually worked a time or two. I got over it when I started getting allergy shots in high school and into college, but at that moment, holding my daughter as imminent pain crept up on her, I felt the fear she will probably feel in the future in myself. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide behind the exam table. I didn’t want to get shot myself, possibly on accident. I did not want to be there. Neither did my screaming baby. A few moments later, it was all over and oddly enough the shot seemed to distract her from whatever had been making her cry before that.

I learned a lot about fatherhood that day. You can’t always protect your child and even the things you do do to protect your child can be painful and misunderstood. You can’t always keep them away from pain. Part of parenting involves betraying your child in one way or another. Their trust in you–especially this young–is so implicit and complete. It’s something that you earn by feeding them on a regular basis and cleaning their poop and making them smile. And then you’ve got to take that trust, get them in a room decorated like the prom from Back To The Future and let someone hurt them. It’s good for them in the long run, but you can’t explain that to a month old baby.

And I can’t explain it to a two month old baby when I have to do it again later today. I’m not looking forward to taking her to the doctor. Thankfully, my wife will be working from home that day and can accompany us. I know I have to be strong, but damn, that’s not easy. Especially when those big blue eyes of hers start filling up with tears. I gotta stay strong, though, that’s what dad’s do.

Music Lucy Likes…And Doesn’t

Originally published on UnitedMonkee.com May 24th, 2011

Ask any dad and he’ll tell you that he’ll try anything to stop his kid from crying. In my case, after changing our darling daughter and bouncing her around or trying to burp her, there’s not a whole lot I can offer. The missus is still breastfeeding and not pumping quite yet, so my options are limited. With her still home, that option is obviously open and I’ll practically be a bottle feeding ninja by the time she goes back to work, but as of right now, I’m trying out different music on Lucy to try and calm her down.She likes the Beatles, but the one performer who always seems to calm her down–with some accompaniment by dear old dad–is none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. For Christmas, my inlaws gave me the Legends box set, which is on my computer, as opposed to all the other Johnny Cash records I have which are on my iPod. For whatever reason, the other day when Lucy was having one of her mini freak outs, I decided to try playing Johnny Cash’s music and guess what? She loved it. Better than loved, she was transfixed. The first track on the first record of that set is the classic “I Walk The Line.” I’m not sure if it’s the staccato guitar playing, Johnny’s deep voice or me singing along that gets her or all of the above, but that one track seems to always calm her down. Now I’ve just got to learn every other non Super Hits track on the records to be in a place where I can warble along with the master and hopefully calm the kid down.

I’ve tried some other music with differing results. I was hoping the faster aspects of The White Stripes or The Raconteurs would appeal to her delicate sensibilities, but that wasn’t the case. I also tried a little Fall Out Boy because I know all the words, but she was lukewarm to them. Finally, after somewhat successful forays into Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, I hopped over to the weirdly smooth tones of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, but she wasn’t having any of that. Maybe I should start her out on something a little jazzier like A Saucerful Of Secrets. I can forgive her for that as she seems to get a little bored with the solos and just wants to hear the lyrics. She’s definitely my girl. I do my best to vocalize the solos to keep her interested. You should hear me do “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” I’ve got the violin and guitar solos down better than some of the words.

Needless to say, most of my music listening has been predicated on her moods and what I think might lead to less screaming and more sleeping. I’ve got a LOT of music on my iPod and a good deal on my laptop to try and go through. She also seems to be as big a fan of Stephen Kellogg as I am which is good because I know a good deal of the words to his songs. The only downside I’ve found is that singing some of them–like “A (With Love)”–make me a little teary eyed and she doesn’t like the interruption in my singing. I’m starting to understand why people think they’re good enough to go on American Idol, especially if their kid thinks they’re a good singer. My daughter’s only a few weeks old and I think I could fly to the moon on the slightest, possibly-from-gas smile I get as I sing along to “Ring of Fire” or “Octopus’s Garden.” It’s shocking how tightly we can get wrapped around those tiny little fingers, isn’t it?

The Kinect Is Great For Dads, But Could Be Better

Originally published on UnitedMonkee.com on May 16th, 2011

The Kinect for Xbox 360 isn’t the kind of thing I would have bought for myself. But, my lovely wife liked the idea of it and we wound up getting it for Christmas. We played and enjoyed the game that came with it and Dance Central, but the pregnancy kind of deterred her from playing. I could write that it’s not the kind of game I would play on my own, but to be honest, there were a few days where I’d shake my booty before she got home and I had to start making dinner. It’s actually a pretty good way to work up a sweat. Anyway, I was most interested in seeing how the Kinect would change the way I use the Xbox overall. While I do play my fair share of video games–usually at night after everyone’s gone to sleep–I mostly use the ‘Box as an entertainment center to play Netflix Instant movies and shows. Initially, there was no Netflix capability for the Kinect which was kind of disappointing because I had visions of flipping through my queue like something out of Minority Report. Recently, Netflix got updated and can now be used with the Kinect, but it’s far from perfect. Now that my hands and arms are quite literally full with our darling daughter, I was hoping to be able to wave my hand, take control of the Instant menu, flip through my queue and find something I wanted to watch. Instead, the Kinect-enable Netflix menu shows me things it thinks I want to see and, unless I’m just completely clueless, does not give you access to your actual queue which is annoying. And even if it did, flipping through the list isn’t nearly as smooth as I would like. You’ve got to hold your hand up on an arrow and wait for it to move on to the next four or five selections. Someone get Steven Spielberg on a redesign! But, it’s not all bad. The Kinect allows for voice commands, which I didn’t even know were available. The missus and I were watching Veronica Mars, one of us said something and we saw a tiny microphone graphic show up on the TV. That’s when I remembered reading somewhere about voice commands. All you’ve got to do is say “Xbox” and then any number of commands and it does what you want. Blammo! Now this is excellent. While I can’t flip through my queue using my dulcet tones, I can tell my Xbox to pause, play, fast forward and whathaveyou, which is incredibly helpful when holding a sleeping baby. The only risk is talking so loudly that you wake the kid up, but thankfully Lucy doesn’t seem to mind. So, while the Netflix/Kinect combination isn’t quite as good as I would like, it has offered me hands free control of my Netflix account to some extent. I’d like there to be more, either through voice activation or hand waving. Even so, it’s a pretty good trade off for having my TV look like Johnny Number 5’s fatter cousin.

Birthing At Home

Originally posted on UnitedMonkee.com on May 11th, 2011

“Dad Stuff” will be a recurring column I’ve had in my mind for quite a while. As I’m sure you can surmise, it’ll be about my experiences as a dad. I’m thinking it’ll include stories, anecdotes and maybe even some dad related reviews. I figured the best place to start would be at the beginning. About nine months back after realizing we were expecting, the missus came to me and said she really wanted to do a natural birth. Her mom had had her and her brother at a birthing center with a midwife, but that apparently isn’t an option in our area. So, the only way to do a birth with a midwife was at home. The concept spooked me to be sure. What if there were complications? What kind of training do midwives have? What happens if I pass out from all the blood and whatnot? What if it was messy? I had my questions and concerns, but it was clearly something important to her, so I went along with it.

From there we talked to a few different midwife groups and decided on one that fit really well called River and Mountain Midwives. The missus watched a few documentaries about birth like The Business of Being Born (on Netflix Instant) and I saw one or two myself like The Orgasmic Birth, and I was convinced. See, I haven’t been around babies much. I’m an only child and my younger cousins were all born in hospitals. I figured the normal way to give birth was to head to a hospital, get some shots, have the baby and go home. But it turns out it’s a lot more complicated than that. I don’t want to get into the horror stories, but I bet if you started asking your friends and family how their hospital births went, you probably won’t get 100% positive responses. The main point that talking to the missus, the midwives and watching the movies made for me, though, was that birth is natural and should be handled as such unless there are circumstances that present themselves that require medical attention. People have been doing this for millions of years right?

From there we had regular meetings with the midwives where I learned more and more and saw my baby grow and grow. We also went to a birth class with three other couples in our general area who were also having home births, so I really got a crash course in all this stuff and met other like-minded folks that gave me a pretty good feeling going into the birth.

As I’m sure everyone is aware, word got out on Sunday May 1st that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated. We were pretty fascinated by this and even though the details wouldn’t be made prominent for a couple days (and even longer for us), we staid up to watch the news. The missus had planned to go on pre-maternity leave starting the previous Friday, so she staid up later than usual. Eventually we turned the TV off and I did some reading. Not much further into the evening I heard a pop and thought “Oh man, I bet that was her water breaking,” but she didn’t say anything and it’s good to sleep through some of your labor, so I didn’t say anything. A few moments later, she was up and said “I think my water just broke…yeah, it broke.” That’s when I kicked into stereotypical dad mode and started pacing, playing with my hair and wondering what I needed to do. That was at 1:23AM.

I got control of myself, got her a towel and then called the midwife. She said to try and get some sleep, but it soon became evident that it was very uncomfortable for her to try and go through a contraction while lying down. We also noticed–thanks to an app on her iPod Touch–that the contractions were coming closer together than we expected, but not alarmingly so, so we waited to call the midwife again. Around 4AM, after finding a good laboring place in our hallway bathroom, things were starting to move faster, so I called the midwife again and then called our parents. The original plan was to have her mom there for the birth with her dad waiting in a hotel, but that wasn’t in the cards. I called the midwife again at 4:30AM and she said she’s be there in a half hour to forty five minutes. Right before she did get here, the missus went through one helluva contraction that brought out a whole different sound than the others. Thankfully, the midwife got there and everything was moving along just as it should have been.

The hardest thing for me during the home birth was seeing my wife in such pain. She says now that the contractions and pushing weren’t super painful, but that’s not how it looked or sounded to me. I completely understand why the time-saving birthing procedures were created and why people schedule C-sections after all this because there really is no schedule to go by and I am a fan of such things.

However, the most amazing thing about the whole process was how my wife seemed to instinctively know the perfect way to move her body to not only get through the contraction, but also to arrange herself in the perfect way to maximize the efficiency of every movement. She said afterwards that she honestly could not have imagined giving birth in one of the more uptight hospitals that make you lie on your back during labor (a fairly unnatural practice when you think of how everything’s laid out) because the very thought of doing anything different than what she did was not working for her.

So, all in all, it was a great experience. I saw things I never thought I’d see and didn’t even pass out. The missus went through everything like a champ and wound up tired but felt great about what she had done. Plus, our baby got to be born in her own house without all those crazy lights and noise. It was just the three of us in a tiny bathroom. She also didn’t come out feeling the effects of any drugs and got to see things pretty clearly right away. Big ups to both of them and our midwife Susan for doing such a great job.