Friday, November 30, 2007

For a more peaceful world (or, starting 'em young)...

Light Up Your Face With Gladness...

It's an odd feeling, being a parent. So frequently, in the first couple of months, all The Boy really and truly wants is attention: a smile from Daddy, or to be picked up, or just held, or just have a finger to squeeze. All of this "power" and responsibility is a little bit daunting, when you think about it. I mean, who the heck am I, to be the person in charge of this life?

This morning, The Boy was having a good old time, bouncing in his chair - as he is wont to do. (This was, natch, after he spent all night fussing at his Furry Cousins' house, staying awake until 1AM and screaming for a good chunk of the morning. Cie la vie.) He had a good head of steam built up and was just enjoying himself.

Yet, every time I looked over at him, he was staring at me. I looked at him and smiled, and he smiled that gorgeous, toothless smile that is so endearing and beautiful. He kicked harder, to show Daddy that he was having fun. I'd look away, then look back and smile, and he's smile broadly again at me. For about twenty minutes, he was looking at nothing but me, wanting only a smile and a touch.

You'd not think that that's daunting. Yet, it is. What's the catch?

The answer to that is obvious. The catch is the sleepless nights, the immense amounts of time invested, the money spent on clothes and toys that are used for a week and then outgrown... not to mention the wonderful attitudes displayed by teenagers, and then knowing you're sending your kid to college, where he's going to get drunk, just like you used to do, and do all of the same stupid things that you did. Back to the story.

The price is much less than the emotional profit, of course, It's immensely rewarding for me to be home with him. Granted, I don't know if it'll be that way at the end of the summer, when I'm sick to death of the house; but, right now, it's great. I'm looking forward to his first Christmas & his first Channukah (even though he'll remember neither and understand less), and you can bet your sweet bippy that I'm going to get a picture with Santa Claus.

It's just weird, that so much of parenting is so simple. A glance, some spoken words and some attention is all that is required. The trick is remembering to do it often enough...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oh, what a night...

I realize that most of my blog postings revolve around sleeping; the rest revolve around pooping, or the receptacles of said actions. That's just baby life. If I was working, I'm sure that I'd be discussing things revolving around work. Since the baby is my full-time job this year, my life revolves around naps, feedings and diaper changings. That's not to say that we don't have fun - we have lots of fun together. We play lots of games, and go for walks (mostly to the comic book store), and go for rides, and read books and watch the occasional tv show. (I don't feel guilty about that yet, because he can't see the screen - although I wonder about baby's vision and hi-def tv, which might be different than your standard 30 frames per second show.)

Today, we separated the laundry and started washing it, then replaced the sheets on the bed. We've been listening to holiday music while pursuing our separate agendum this morning: he's napping and playing in his chair (not at the same time), and I'm doing my classwork. I hate having a silent house when I'm home by myself or with him; it's a little bit freaky. Plus, I don't want him to get used to absolute silence when he sleeps, because I know that that's the time when I'm going to watch my shows or play my games (not to mention conversation / snuggle time with The Wife). I took a brief video of The Boy and sent it to the grandparents, because they need that sort of thing. Here it is:



Last night was a great night, as opposed to Tuesday night, which wasn't. He ate at 6:30, then fell asleep around 8 or 8:30 for the night. The Wife & I went into our room to watch a movie, and we both fell asleep at around 9:20/9:30. We woke up at 2 when he needed to feed; he was awake and playful, so he & I stayed up until 3AM, when he was sleepy enough to go back down. The Wife woke him at 6:30 to feed, and he slept in bed with me from the feeding until we both woke at around 8AM. Man, I actually feel good this morning, particularly since the clarinet lesson up north that I've been struggling to find a time for now seems to have a time. My Sunday is now stretched from 8AM until around 3PM, but it should be close to a $200 day, which makes life a lot easier.

It's hard, because I have three lessons that are close together in location, about an hour from my house. I'm up in that area three days per week, but I don't have an awful lot of flexibility on those three days. So, it's a matter of finding that flexibility or planning a 40-minute drive for a half-hour music lesson. I want to teach the kids - they're all great kids and I like being around them - but I don't like the drive.

Someone's awake... gotta go!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just nappin' along, singin' a song...

The Boy slept an awful lot today. There's no doubt in my mind that he's growing again, all things considered - I think that he sleeps more when he's growing. It's hard to tell, though, because I spend so many hours per day with him. But, still.

Last night, he went to sleep at about 9:30 - The Wife took him with her to teach a lesson and to pick up food at Trader Joe's. He likes the supermarket - lots of things to look at and sounds to hear. He slept all the way through until 7AM - first time he's slept that long in his life! When she put him down last night, he screamed until he found his thumb - then sucked until he fell asleep. Perhaps he's finally figured out how to use that as a soothing mechanism; I believe, according to the things that I've read, that his sleep-through-the-night thing is supposed to start sometime around now, anyway. This morning, he was awake for 90 minutes, then slept until 10:30; awake for a feeding, a trip to the bagel store and Babies'R'Us (where he got a COOL turtle / froggie / fishie / buggie mobile for his chair) and most of Home Depot, when he started to fade. He slept until about 1 o'clock, then another hour nap later. After eating and pooping and peeing A LOT, he went down for some Tummy Time on his gym - and fell asleep after struggling with it for five minutes or so. Lots of stress, I guess.

I mean, he's a busy guy - lots of bottles to drink, toys to play with and diapers to fill.

The cloth diaper thing really is starting to work, but it requires a higher level of vigilance than the disposables. The contact rash that he was getting from the perfumes and powders on the disposable diapers is gone, completely; the only big problem is an ugly moisture rash caused by pee-pee diapers left on too long. Still, that's almost cleared up - another day or two, and it should fade. But, it's ugly - peeling and red and gross. It's remarkable how cheerful he is, considering the rash on his nether regions.

We have three types of disposables - plain old double-fold, you-pin-em diapers; molded cloth with snaps (both of those require a cover to go outside in); and the Bum Genius diapers, which are incredible - the ease and absorbency of a disposable (times, like, three) with the reuse of a cloth. While he's home, I'm keeping him in the double=folds, mostly; this lets me monitor him and get him changed out of wet diapers quickly and efficiently, hopefully curing him of that rash until the next time I'm stupid and forget.

I do like the cloth diapers, in principle. They are a whole lot better for the environment than the disposables, I think. (That is, until the drought hits.) And, his skin is as sensitive as mine. I can't stand the perfumes and things in normal detergents.

From a musical perspective, he's got his first favorite song: "If You're Happy And You Know It." I sing it to him, and I clap his hands for him, stomp his feet for him (on my belly, natch) and say "Hooray!" for him (while giving his belly a gentle squeeze / tickle), and he loves it. He gets his big, wide, toothless grin and his soundless laugh and really enjoys it.

He's also a big fan of "The Story of the Rose / Heart of my Heart." That's a barbershop quartet standard, and The Wife & I sing it to him all the time, as a lullaby.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rollin', rollin', rollin'... keep them doggies rollin'...

Thanksgiving wound up being a smashing success by all probable factors. The dinner was about as ideal as it could be - the food came out tasting and looking great, and nothing got burned / forgotten / destroyed / whatever. The conversation was pleasant and challenging, and the baby was good-natured and well-behaved, as was expected.

Again, I've gotten very lucky. First, The Boy is an extremely good-natured kid. He takes changes in stride so far, and he is very adaptable. He's willing to allow himself to do lots of weird things without protest, as long as he gets his food, clean diapers and occasional nap. (...takes after his father on that last one - I've always been a napper, even early in life.) Second, my in-laws have really bent over backwards to make themselves helpful and available to us, without judgement. I know a lot of people who are continually fielding questions about the way they're choosing to raise their children, the choices they're making, and that sort of thing. Blissfully, my in-laws - and my own family - have not started any of that bullshit. That's probably the one benefit of being teachers - they sort of assume that we know what we're doing.

The interesting thing, in watching the family interact with The Boy, is looking at how different people interact with babies. Many people are truly awkward around babies and don't do a great job talking with them, listening to them and trying to get a feel for what they really want. Not that I'm the great "Baby Whisperer" or anything, but I think I do a pretty good job of listening to The Boy's signals, both verbal and physical, to determine what he wants and how he's feeling. I'm right most of the time. That doesn't mean he doesn't cry or anything like that; it just means that I can guess why he's crying or when he'll cry.

When my in-laws are around, my baby time is obviously curtailed. Grandma wants snuggle time, you know! I have no problem with that, obviously - The Boy needs his Grandma & Grandpa, and his Uncle & Aunts from that side of the family. He should be spending lots of time around them, because they're interesting and fun people.

I guess I was awkward around babies at one time, also. I tend to think I wasn't; even though I've always been and always will be overly self-absorbed, I've always gotten along well with babies. I'm trying to be a good relative and not correct every little thing someone does "wrong" with the baby - no "he doesn't want to be held like that" or "he wants to do this" or "he wants to do that." I don't want to be overbearing. I think The Boy can adequately show what he wants by screaming. This, he is not shy about doing.

Anyway, I hope your Thanksgiving was as good, healthy and happy as ours. We're headed to Uncle B's in the Poconos today (my best friend, whose wife was The Wife's maid of honor at our wedding) to play with more furry cousins (Cousin Coco and Cousin Ewok) and eat burritos.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Let's bounce...

The Boy is in his little bouncy-gym thing right now. It's a circular thing, with three posts with a chair hanging from the three posts on elastics, allowing the baby to push off with his feet and bounce up and down. On the chair is a whole bunch of toys and things that rattle, chirp, spin or are squeezed. In addition, there it a blue froggie hanging from one post, and a toucan from the other. It's pretty darn cool.

Of course, the problem is that The Boy's got short legs for his height... and he doesn't weigh a lot, for his height. This means that his feet don't touch the ground. So, I propped a box underneath, and he can reach the ground and make himself bounce by straightening his legs and pushing.

He is absolutely entranced by the blue frog. He has spent the last ten minutes staring at it intently, particularly since it bounces every time that he does. He really seems to like his blue froggie, and every once in a while, he reaches for it and paws at it a little bit. He doesn't quite grasp the concept of reaching for things he wants yet, though. He does it occasionally, but not often. I know this will change, but right now, he's darn cute.

Aww... he just smiled at his froggie, even though he seems a bit mystified as to why it isn't smiling back at him, like Mommy, Daddy & others do. What a great investment that little gym is - about $70-ish from Babies 'R' Us. The box underneath is an activity table that he's too little for - you really need to be able to hold youself upright to play with the table. Next month, maybe.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What is it that we're living for?

Applause, applause!

The Boy had his stage debut today. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

He woke at 4:30AM this morning. The Wife took care of him completely, as I had a slightly longer day than her on Sunday; he had slept since around midnight. They wound up leaving the house at around 6:30AM; there was a pancake breakfast at her school, and then she'd be heading north to our mutual concert. On Sunday mornings, I sing with an Episcopalian church choir in northern Jersey; this makes it difficult to watch him, so she kind of has him by default.

The first sound check was The Wife's quartet, at noon. The bass singer in her quartet had a 102-degree temperature; the baritone singer lost most of her voice the previous night. The sound check went fine, except for the sound guy arriving 15 minutes late; no worries. I took care of the baby while she was on stage, which allowed me to introduce him to a lot of other people that he hasn't met yet. She took him while I warmed up / sang with my two choruses. No problem, really - he slept through most of my time with him, considering he had just finished a 90 minute car ride. (The car puts him out as thoroughly as any medication imaginable.)

When it was the time for her quartet to sing with my chorus, The Boy was screaming his head off. He was wet (with cloth diapers, which is even more uncomfortable that you can imagine) AND starving, having just woken up from his nap. The show must go on... one of the guys from Reveille (a great quartet) walked him around until we were done, then she fed him and I changed him.

When her quartet was on (30 minutes later), I walked him around; no problems. A little bit of squawking, but that was just pre-nap fussing. Gave him back to her when she was done, sound asleep.

The end of the concert is a song sung by everybody called "Keep The Whole World Singing," and all performing quartets are invited out to sing. So, out she came - with The Boy! It was nice to hold him while 125 guys (and 4 ladies) sang this song. So, he made his debut in front of an audience of hundreds of people!

Since his birth, we've sung a song to him as a lullaby called "The Story of the Rose." This is a beautiful, simple tune expressing deep feelings of love; while the chorus is traditionally interpreted as being between two lovers, it is very easy to interpret that into parental love. We've both sung the song to The Boy - both separately and together - hundreds of times since he was born. At the afterglow, The Wife and I sung the quartet arrangement of that with two buddies of mine; he had been fussy and flailing about. When he heard the tune, sung in quartet form, he immediately quieted and laid his head on my chest and listened. It was a wonderful little moment that I believe will stay with me for a long time.

I wonder when the appropriate time is to bring a child onto the stage for a real performance. (Being held by Daddy / Mommy does not constitute a performance, really. That's fun for the parents and can be rewarding or terrifying or both for the child.) We've all heard the stories of the child actors that have come to terrible ends - look at the cast of "Dif'rent Strokes," for crying out loud. Burnout, drugs, alcohol, sex... they're all terrible things. I know of quite a few musical prodigies that burnt out long before their peak, and I know of many child gymnasts or skaters that burnt out before their 12th birthday.

I suppose the correct answer is, when he asks for it. If he wants to learn the songs and to sing with the chorus, then so be it. When he's ready to come on stage, then he will. If he expresses no interest in singing with the chorus, then he won't do it.

My son will play a musical instrument. That's a given. He will learn to read music efficiently and effectively, and he will learn basic musical interpretation. Those are not options; they are of hyper importance to the life of the parents, and thus they will be passed on to the child. These are skills that are helpful and rewarding to have, whether he follows his parents into music education or chooses a different career path. I'm undecided about when he should start piano lessons, and I'm undecided about when he should start playing an instrument - should he start Suzuki violin / viola / cello at 3 or 4 years old, or play piano until 4th grade, when he can start a wind instrument?

Not a decision we need to make right now; as far as I'm concerned, he can sing with my chorus as soon as he can #1: stand and #2: speak / sing words clearly. Once those two milestones are reached, then he has the potential to sing music publicly, and that's when he can join.

(Yes, I know that young children have little to no pitch-matching ability, and little to no vocal range; but those things are flexible. I've heard REALLY little kids sing the Star Spangled Banner clearly and in tune, and that has an octave and a half range, which is HUGE.)

(Another side note: not the first time he's been on stage with The Wife's quartet. As a matter of fact, he was with her during her quartet's performance at the Sweet Adeline's quartet competition last April - the only male on stage. He was in utero, but he was still there.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My momma done tol' me...

...when I was in knee pants, my momma done tol' me, listen, son.... ("Blues in the Night", Harold Arlen / Johnny Mercer, 1941)

Insurance bureaucracy sucks. And, for once, I'm not talking about the insurance companies. I have no complaints with my insurance company. They've taken care of everything I need to have done to me, and they've done it with no fuss, no muss and no bother. They are perfectly competent and functional.

Now, The Boy's doctor's office, on the other hand, has stupid insurance people. Let me backtrack.

The Wife and I have our own insurance, through our teaching jobs. When The Boy was born, she put him on her insurance - figuring that there was a fairly high likelihood of me leaving my job. (...which I have; my resignation takes effect on Wednesday; more on that at a later date.) Because of that, I never bothered to put him on my insurance, figuring that the transference, at a later date, would be a monstrous headache. One does not enter into the wheels of the corporate giant without sufficient reason.

Enter the mental giants.

So, when you're given the wife's insurance card as the primary, and the husband's insurance card as the secondary insurance, what do you do? Of course. Husband's insurance as the primary, wife's as the secondary. But, wait... husband has no child on his insurance... after submitting the claims to the insurance company, now the wife's insurance won't take them, leaving $546 in the air.

Fat chance I'm going to pay it. It's their screwup. Let 'em come after me. I'll win.

Mind you, I've been on the phone with them a half-dozen times about this same problem. I've told them the reason that they've having this issue, given them multiple copies of The Wife's insurance card, and they're still having this issue. I'm torn between writing them a letter along the lines of, "It's your problem, your screwup, stop bothering me" and just calling them and screaming to high heaven. Likely, I'll call them and explain it, then follow up with a letter.

Still, it's amazingly frustrating. Let's see... telephone call, fifteen minutes on hold (if I'm lucky), another fifteen to explain it to the lackwit that's running things... that's a half hour of my life on Monday that I'm not going to get back.

Lucky me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wond'ring where you are, and how you are...

("All Alone", Irving Berlin, 1924)

On the sleeping front, he made it all the way through last night, as well, thanks to the 11:30PM feeding. He spent the evening at my brother's house, hanging out with his kids (14 and 16) and the furry cousins - cousin Skye, in particular. The Boy didn't REALLY get to know Cousin Skye - one doesn't leave an 11-week old baby with an Alaskan Husky - but they met each other for the first time. The dog wasn't really impressed. The baby was. We got home around 10:30, and Mommy came home at 11-ish and fed him soon after.

A word, today, about Alone Time for babies. Babies love being held. They love being carried around, and they love being fussed over. They love it and thrive on the attention - I've read studies that show that babies that are spoken to, snuggled and fussed over grow bigger and healthier than those that aren't. I think that they need to know, from the beginning, that Mommy and Daddy are there for them at any moment, for any reason, including no reason at all. This is common sense.

Babies also need alone time. Now, this could be a bit of transference from my own personality. I get overstimulated by other people fairly easily. I always have. I like people, sometimes, but I get freaked out pretty easily. I can get over it fairly quickly by disappearing for a little while, recovering my equilibrium and returning to the situation. Sometimes a short bathroom break will do it, sometimes curling up with a magazine for twenty minutes is necessary, and sometimes going home and snuggling with my Playstation 3 for a couple of hours is what is necessary. It depends on the situation.

The Boy is turning out to be no different. He loves attention, snuggles and Daddy/Mommy time as much as anyone does; but, he does get overstimulated fairly quickly and needs alone time. Sometimes, the alone time can be riding in the front carrier for a little while. Sometimes, the alone time is sitting on a lap and being still. Most frequently, it's sit in his bouncy seat and kick around for a while; least frequently, it's go to his crib for a half hour and rest.

It's not that he doesn't want attention; it's that he wants a little bit of balance time. Speaking of, he's ready to be moved to his crib for his morning nap. Later! Hope you enjoyed the lolbaby picture from fifteen minutes ago.

Medium rare, with onion'd be nice...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Funny, that rainy day is here...

(Here's That Rainy Day, Burke & Van Heusen, 1953)

The Boy is asleep on my chest right now, having finished a stressful (for him) feeding and diaper change. Love this feeling. He's warm and snuggly, with his arms sprayed out to the sides. Babies are really good for moments like this, because this is a very tranquilizing thing. It's impossible to maintain stress when your baby is relying on you for a sleeping bed.

The Wife decided that, due to a rash on his bum & nether regions, The Boy should use cloth diapers instead of the plastic disposable ones. This will help his pelvis become a more comfortable area, the theory goes, because there's less chemicals and perfumes and stuff that his skin will react with. The sensitive skin comes from me, not from The Wife; my skin breaks out very easily when it encounters harsh detergents, makeup (from the stage, thank you) and other things like that. It looks like he's inherited that, as well; so, we use our Dreft detergent (made for babies! By babies! Out of babies!), no fabric softener, etc.

The cloth diapers come in several varieties. The one that The Wife wants is called the "All In One." I've done no research, so I don't really understand the difference; what I get is that it's a cloth version of a disposable diaper, with a removeable / washable lining that he can poop on. It's supposedly got a nice shape and nice fasteners, so that it's easy and quick to get on and off.

That's not what we have right now. Right now, we have your basic, old fashioned cloth diaper: a rectangular piece of cloth, thicker in the middle (for more absorbency, I'm assuming) that is fastened by folding it in the proper way and pinning it together. We have a dozen pair of rubber pants that fit over the diaper to help prevent leakage from escaping. Not that it works worth a darn, unless you fold the diaper correctly. This skill requires a bit of a learning curve, as the three outfits that the two of us wore yesterday will attest; he peed on me right through the extra absorbency and the rubber pant backup.

>sigh<

The diaper rash, I suppose, is looking better. To be honest, I don't really notice a difference. I will trust Mommy's Intuition, because she's got a MUCH better sense of these sorts of things than I do. This is coming from a guy that continues to hit his head on the same low-hanging things in his parents' house, despite the fact that they've been there for thirty years. So, I trust her and respect her judgement.

What I do know, and this is important for those considering using cloth diapers: The cloth diapers, unlike the disposable diapers, do NOT whisk moisture away from the baby's skin. With a disposable diaper, a little bit of pee or poop is transferred away from the skin, which means that the baby might not even be aware - and will certainly not care - that it's there. With the cloth diapers (at least the ones that we're using right now), that's not the case; the moisture sits there.

I think I've got a handle on it; it just requires more and quicker attention. And, you need a second diaper pail. The first collects the diapers for washing; the second collects the used wipes and such.

The reason that today's changings and feedings have been so stressful for The Boy is the fact that his diapers have been wet for much of the morning. This is very uncomfortable for him; he does not like the wetness around his middle. So, he spent ten minutes screaming like a banshee from a combination of hunger and wetness, while I was trying to heat up his bottle (a Starbucks mug half full of water, microwave for 60 to 90 seconds; put the plastic bottle inside of the hot - not boiling - water, leave it for five minutes) and wrestling with the diaper pins and folding the new diaper. Boy, this boy can REALLY scream! Takes after both of his parents.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Angels watching, e'er around thee,

...all through the night was the alternative title of the blog post, because last night was WONDERFUL. The Wife put the boy in his crib around 7:30 / 8:00, post-bath & story & songs. He slept - HARD - until around 2AM. I call this hard sleep because, as I've documented, he has a tendency to swivel around the crib as he sleeps. If his head starts at, say, 9 o'clock and his feet pointing towards 3, it's not strange to see his head at 12, 2, 4 or whatever, with his feet pointing in any which direction, including up. Last night, he slept in exactly the same position as he was placed, up to being picked up by Daddy for his feeding.

The 2 o'clock feeding went quickly (at least to me, who fell asleep immediately upon passing the football to Mommy), and he went back to sleep immediately afterwards. Then, The Wife woke him up at around 6:15 for the morning feeding.

Oh frabgerous day, kaloo kaley! I feel wonderful this morning. Still tired - after going to see a pre-screening of Battlestar Galactica: Razor, I stayed up to watch Heroes and to read the next chapter in my math textbook, so I didn't get to sleep until midnight-ish - but hope is on the horizon. Here's to getting a steady five / six hours of sleep on a reasonably regular basis!

(Isn't it amazing how quickly our priorities re-set... BC, I'd be happy with knowing that I'd get ten hours of sleep on the weekend. AD, I'm ecstatic at the thought of six hours uninterrupted.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Exercising

In about ten minutes, I'm going to go downstairs and work out in the home gym we have. The Boy will come with -obviously; where else is he going to go? - and sit in his chair while I work out. Most of the time, he sits patiently for about twenty minutes, then spends the next 20 minutes fussing - I lift a set, lift the baby; put him down, do the next set, etc. It's all good.

Newborns are really quite good with this sort of thing. They sleep A LOT - and can be put to sleep fairly easily - and don't wake up easily at all. The noise of the weights doesn't bother him (much - I occasionally do startle him with a particularly loud sound), neither does my work out accompaniment - sometimes music, usually a tv show or movie.

This is good when I have to have The Boy with me during times like saxophone lessons, chorus rehearsals or band rehearsals - he'll sleep through most, without being bothered by the extremely loud noises.

Today, The Boy spent about ten minutes on Tummy Time in the little exercise mat we have, which he doesn't like - Tummy Time, not the mat. He struggled to turn for a while, then fell asleep on the mat. Good for him... Anyway, off to work out. Wish me luck - today's leg day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Travellin' Along, Singin' A Song

It might be fun to make the titles to be somewhat relevant lyrics. I don't know if I'll remember or make it stick, but it's worth the shot.

Got back from our timeshare in Massachusetts about six hours ago. It was an awful lot of fun, even if it did significantly interrupt the baby's routine, which is not something one wants to do with any regularity. We own an every-other-year timeshare up in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts; it's one of those trade-the-weeks-to-stay-elsewhere-at-another-time kind of things. Our week is the end of March / beginning of April, which means that we're not really going to be able to stay there during our week until we retire; we have it because, allegedly, it has great trading power and will allow us to stay anywhere we desire when we want to stay there. Whatever. They brought us up for the weekend to convince us to buy an every-year one for another $10K, which is simply not possible on our current, one income, budget. In return, we got a free weekend's stay, $50 and a free breakfast. I'm all for that. The gas takes up the $50, roughly, and The Wife brought most of our meals with us - the rooms have full kitchens.

Since there's only one bedroom, and since we have no travel crib, this weekend was our first experience with the Family Bed. We did not use any kind of "Bundle Me" stuff - we don't roll over when we sleep, and we don't drink, which means that we're not going to roll over without our knowledge. (We hope.) The Boy seemed to enjoy the whole family bed concept, as - frankly - did I. It's really NICE to have everybody there - the baby is a wonderful, snuggly little dude. I've spent a lot of time with the sleeping baby - being the primary "rock him to sleep" person of the first couple weeks of his life, as well as the primary during-the-day-nap supervisor currently. He tends to wake quite frequently, look around for familiar items - Mommy or Daddy, his bouncy seat, his crib, his carseat, whatever - and either go back to sleep or wake more to investigate / complain. He seemed to sleep better with us, because he felt more secure with the fact that we were THERE with him.

I could be imagining this, because it was significantly easier for The Wife to feed him - just roll over, whip out a Feed Bag, and go back to sleep until he's done. Which is, actually, what she did - the two of them fell asleep mid-feeding, which was quite cute. So, it's possible that his original stirrings / rootings were things that I didn't even notice. But, I have gotten quite good at fooling myself. I'm fine with that.

On the ride up, and on the rides around town, we played the album, "For The Children," by Max Q. This is a wonderful children's album - it's all male a capella, specifically barbershop quartet-style, arrangements of children's tunes. It's a two-disc set - disc one is daytime songs, disc two is nighttime songs. Love 'em. The Boy loves 'em. I can't say enough good things about this album. This is great quality singing, great technical singing, and wonderful, entertaining arrangements - things that adults can enjoy listening to, instead of much of the dreck that I've heard since The Boy was born. I can't recommend this highly enough.

More later. I'm tired.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

He's All Thumbs

..as we sit and watch Batman, The Animated Series (specifically, "Robin's Reckoning," from 2001). That's an amazing cartoon. The writing and the stories are incredibly tight and well-done. The animation is really stylistic and consistent, and the overall tone of the show is as dark as the comics. There's a wonderful mixture of 1930's classic look and modern technology - supercomputers and the internet, with all of the men wearing ties, jackets and hats and the architecture being perfectly suited for the 1930's. Even the crooks, en route to blowing up a building, are still dressed to the nines with snappy bow ties. Classy, to say the least.

The boy has really discovered his thumb lately. Specifically, his right thumb is his sucking implement of choice. He doesn't like the pacifier so much - he'll use it, but rarely for longer than a couple of minutes at a time before he spits it out. Over the last month, he's found his mouth with his fingers quite often, and he has spent quite a bit of time figuring out how much of his fist he can fit inside there. It's really very cute.

Well, this week in particular, he's discovered his thumb, and he's sucking it for all it's worth. In his sleep, in his waking... it's been in his mouth for much of today. I suppose that I'll eventually be worried about that - I've heard legends of front teeth being pushed outwards by the force of the thumb in the mouth, and stories of thumbsucking going on into the teenage years, and stories of sucking on the thumb until it's red, raw and almost bleeding.

My general sense is, when he wants to give it up, he will, and very little will be done before then. I suppose that I'd rather have his calming thing (sucking on the thumb) be easily accessible to him - if he can get to it easily, then I don't worry about having to go into his room twenty times per night to put it back in his mouth. (If he can't find his thumb, that's his problem and not mine.)

It's very cute. Him sucking on his thumb while he naps is currently the wallpaper on my cel phone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why should I move?

So, The Boy woke up at 5 o'clock this morning, as per (relative) usual. He stayed awake through The Wife leaving for work, and he & I hung out for a couple of hours in the living room, playing. He was in a good mood, smiling and trying to laugh (he doesn't have a laugh yet - kind of a REALLY wide smile and a rattling breath). We played on the spinny-thing (fun) and had some tummy time on the playmat. That really pissed him off. He napped in his chair afterwards, and I napped on the couch.

He woke up, and I fed him his bottle - around four plus hours after the last feeding, which is good. He fell asleep in the middle, woke up after twenty minutes and finished the bottle, then fell asleep on me. I moved him from my arm (which fell asleep) to the middle of my chest, which he promptly moved to the left shoulder.

Now, there is nothing as rewarding as having a baby sleeping on your chest. He's sweet and precious and cute. There's nothing like the trust and love that a baby shows. But, one must be careful - if you move too much, then he wakes up and bad things happen. However, I have to go to the bathroom. My left shoulder hurts, and I'm really, really hungry.

So, I'll deal with it for a little while longer, then move him to his bouncy seat. At least I can get some online reading done.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chorus Experience

So, The Wife, tonight, came to my chorus rehearsal (the barbershop chorus - men's a capella chorus - that I direct) to sing the women's part to "Lida Rose," from The Music Man. We're performing it on November 18, with my chorus & her quartet. This is a common piece for both men and women, so no difficulty was expected or experienced. It was interesting to bring The Boy to the chorus rehearsal.

Don't get me wrong - for a 2 month old, he was remarkably well behaved. I shouldn't say that - most two month olds would be well behaved. They don't know enough to misbehave. Pretty much, at The Boy's age, he's usually going to be quiet and cute as long as he's fed, clean and reasonably well-rested. They don't talk, they tend not to cry randomly (it happens sometimes, as I've spoken about earlier, but not often) and they don't need constant feedback and reassurance from an adult. I held The Boy, and he was content.

It's hard to conduct AND hold a baby at the same time. I did well, but The Wife came a few minutes into my conducting and took him from me. Good thing: it forced me to use one and and not be too overly physically dramatic, for fear of dropping him or shaking him. (Not SHAKING HIM like abusive people do - but moving him in a way that causes him to get grumpy.)

The interesting thing was his ear. When chords were held and tuned badly, he gets agitated and starts swinging his little fists around. When chords are sung reasonably well, he's still. When chords are tuned really, really well, he gets excited and starts swinging his little fists around. It's cute.

I do note the irony that the reaction from the baby for doing things well and doing things poorly is the same. There's a difference, and it's visible. It just doesn't translate to text well.

He fell asleep about a half-hour into the rehearsal; Mommy took him home about fifty minutes into the rehearsal. So, all was good. It was a good night.

I wonder if he'll want to sing? Three of the four boys in my family did NOT.

Clearing Out The TiVo

Today, The Wife and I went out for breakfast. Turns out that she's at the high school every Tuesday, which means that her school day starts at 8:30 and goes until 4:00. This means that she has an extra 60 to 90 minutes in the morning. Since The Boy gets up at 6:30 regardless - 7 days a week, baby - we decided to celebrate the end of marching season by going out to breakfast.

It was nice, because we got a chance to TALK for an hour. During that time, we did not talk about baby poop, sleep, diapers (note the anal fixation we all get when the baby is not potty trained), naps or toys. We talked about education, activities for kids, and our job situations.

We're planning on strongly encouraging The Boy in a musical sense. I don't think that it'll be difficult, as he's already been to a half-dozen football game / marching performances, three or four dozen marching band practices, two chorus contests and two marching band competitions. He's around singing every single day, whether it's Mommy or Daddy singing to him or being the (forced) attendee at a rehearsal. The apple rarely falls far from the tree, so we're hoping that he'll choose a musical route in school.

As for music education, we're concerned. The "No Child Left Behind" nonsense has really put a damper on good musical situations - and caused some borderline ones to slip over the edge into nothingness. When your district's state and federal funding is dependent upon test results - and nothing in this mandate provides extra money or resources to help at-risk districts pass or bring up scores, and all benchmarks for improvement are arbitrary numbers instead of those that make sense - many districts choose the panic route, devoting more and more and more class time towards pounding these kids with a pencil and paper, sitting in class and listening to lectures and taking practice tests, instead of doing what the schools SHOULD be doing - providing a well-rounded liberal arts education.

This means that rehearsals are getting cut, and students who are academically borderline - who, emotionally and mentally, desperately need the release and creativity that a band / chorus / orchestra provide - are being barred from the arts and forced to take more academics in order that their test scores are raised. I'd love to see the numbers on that - students who are forced to leave arts classes for remedial classes. I'd bet any amount of money that their test scores and their school satisfaction sink down through the floor instead of improve.

Whatever. I've had the professional curse of being right approximately 99% of the time. This is what happens when children's education is being run by people with no experience or training in actual education or pedagogical practice

Enough with the education rant. I get in enough trouble for making wide-sweeping generalizations. The Boy is sleeping on me right now - he's moved from falling asleep in feeding position, stretched across my lap, to falling asleep on his belly on my chest. He's got a stinky, poopy diaper, but I'm not going to wake him up to change it for a little while. It's the Mutual Non-Aggression Pact that we have; we don't bug his sleep, and he doesn't wake up every 20 minutes at night. He's been on & off asleep since about 8 o'clock this morning, so I'm assuming that he's going to wake up in about twenty minutes (he ate at about 9:30 / 10:00) and want to play for a while. That's fine. I have a school call at noon that I need to be ready for.

Cushioned around the feedings, he slept through last night's Chuck (good episode - the show is growing on me), the last half of last week's Heroes and the first quarter of last night's Heroes (best episode of the season).

He's still very cute.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Marching Band: Over and Done

Congrats to the WHS & PVHS marching bands, who performed admirably this weekend in Allentown, PA. I know that nobody's particularly happy with their scores, but that's life. I'm impressed as all heck by the PVHS band, who REALLY maximized their abilities this year and improved in so many ways... it didn't show in the scores, but... to heck with the judges.

The Wife had The Boy all weekend, with the help of her parents on Saturday. They (TW, her father, my father & TB) came to the football game on Saturday, in the cold & damp & slightly rainy weather, thanks to the hurricane passing to the east of New York. It was neat to have them there, because WHS performed their last pre-championships show. The Boy seems to handle the cold rather well - he doesn't complain in the slightest because of the weather.

Mostly, I suppose, because we dress him appropriately. While there's been a couple of SNAFU along the way, wardrobe-wise, we've been pretty good about making sure that he's well-protected. He stays in the cutest fur-lining for his car seat - with the matching hat, he looks like a furry little teddy bear. He charmed the heck out of the color guard, who spent their pregame warm up time fussing over the baby instead of spinning flags... something I don't necessarily mind, as The Boy likes the attention and the girls need the occasional non-marching-band release.

Then, The Wife had a singing gig for a few hours, leaving The Boy home with Grandma, who relished the opportunity to spend time with the baby. I know, for a fact, that she's going to spoil him rotten over the course of the next few years, which is awesome. They've been nothing short of incredible with us, and I appreciate it immensely.

Today, The Wife had another show, and she took him with her for the day. As you read, he did wonderfully. I offered to take him with me to the marching band - not like there's any shortage of Band Mommies hanging out that wouldn't relish the opportunity for some baby time, particularly when they have the entertainment of passing him off to the Mean Band Instructor for feeding / soothing / changing / all of the above as needed. (Something about changing a diaper seems to make me a little bit less of an &&&hole. I don't see it, personally.) Considering that she was gone for seven hours to my thirteen, she wins.

All this means is that I really didn't get to see my baby this entire weekend. I spent some time with him yesterday morning, and a little bit in putting him to bed at nine, but that's it. I really do miss him when I don't get to spend time with him. I'm extremely aware of the passage of time, and I know that, soon enough, he's going to be a toddler...then a young boy... then in school... middle school... high school... college...

I know, don't get carried away. I just want to enjoy him as a baby for a little while longer.

We're headed away with him this weekend, to our timeshare in Massachusetts. We don't have a travel crib yet; is this something we should look into, or just suck it up & sleep with the baby for the weekend?

Perfect Baby Land

Today was another one of those days where The Husband and I both had places to be for several hours so someone had to take The Boy. I knew that where I was going, I'd be out for a shorter time and, more to the point, everyone there would fuss over him.

My quartet was performing at a show hosted by a chorus of which two members of my quartet are involved. The Boy and I left the house at 10:15 and arrived at the site an hour later, at which point I fed him and changed him.Then the quartet sang through our set. Following that was lots of sitting around. And hanging around. And walking around. We were supposed to have lunch but I really hadn't brought much, intending to go out but never did. The Boy fussed for some of this time, and slept for some of the time.

The show didn't start until 2:30. I was nervous that he wouldn't want to eat until then...but he was hungry at 1:45. So he ate and was changed once again. Various people paid attention to him during all this time. 2:30 the chorus took the stage and we watched the show. Then someone from the chorus kept an eye on The Boy, asleep in his stroller. For the second half of the show I walked around wearing him in the carrier. He was a bit fussy again and was ready to eat at 4:30. About 7 minutes into his meal it was curtain call time! I took him off and went up with him...fortunately he wasn't ticked off at me because I gather he'd finished on that side anyway. He finished his feeding and we got on the road.

He was awake and happy for a good amount of time, and he was just wonderful. I didn't realize, though, exactly how little time I spend holding him because I held him/wore him a lot today and now I'm exhausted!

People were amazed at how well-behaved he was! We're lucky. We're also smart.

--MDM

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday Night PAAAAR-TAY!

So, my in-laws are in for the weekend, here to visit with The Boy while I'm at championships all weekend. This is kind of hell-weekend, marching band style: tomorrow is a 10 o'clock call at one school, for a three hour rehearsal followed by a brief appearance at a football game, followed by the 90-minute trip to Allentown for championships, which is an 11:15PM awards assembly, which means getting home at around 1:30AM. Then, Sunday, I leave home at 8AM for the other marching band, rehearse from nine until 11:30. The trip is two hours from there, with a 3:30 performance time and 6:30 awards, and home at around 9 o'clock.

The in-laws have been incredible since The Boy was born. They stayed for a week and a half after the birth, helping us get adjusted. They came by once more since, giving us the only uninterrupted sleep nights we've had (...by grabbing The Boy before we heard him). They come with lots of food to eat, like fried chicken and brisket and stuff like that.

Tonight, at dinnertime, they offered us the option of going out, as a couple. Imagine - The Wife and I, out on a DATE, having conversation that did not revolve around feeding, poopy and sleeping. We finished dinner and spent the night doing the one thing that we've been missing - sleeping. I passed out around 7:30, for "just a half hour"... waking at 11:30. I'm going to go back to bed in a few minutes. The Wife joined me at 8 o'clock and woke at the same time, but I think she'll be awake for a while longer.

Romantic evening, right? >sigh<

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Transportation

Right now, I have marching band car.

For those who've never been on a band staff, that means my car is packed to the brim, similar to someone who is either homeless or moving into college. I've got at least two entire changes of clothes, an extra jacket, two extra sweaters, one set of thermal underwear, two drill books (one per school) as well as another set of loose drill for the third school I've been associated with, most of a case of water, most of a 12-pack of Diet Mountain Dew, instrument repair kits, two dozen empty plastic bottles, remnants of a half-dozen meals, a spare trumpet, a spare metronome, extra 9-volt batteries, a 2-liter of Pepsi and a few other things that were not included on that list.

And, there's still the car seat base taking up half of the back seat, with the floor in front of it reserved for the diaper bag. And, I've been able to get the stroller in when necessary. Thank God that The Boy isn't ready to start grabbing for stuff yet, as he'd have plenty of things available that aren't particularly baby-friendly. (Not that he can do anything much with a trumpet. That's hard to swallow.) Championships are this weekend, though, which means that things clear up quite a bit next week.

In a way, I'm going to miss bringing The Boy to practices with me. It's been fun. The kids have been very understanding about him, helping me when he drops his pacifier or whatever. I appreciate them very much, because they could just as easily be a pain. He's also not affected, yet, by the gock block - the LOUD AS HECK plastic block that we use to keep steady beats. He's not affected by the sound of the wind instruments. It doesn't catch his attention yet, except that they're a loud noise.

Now, singing, on the other hand, catches his attention quickly. On Tuesday, I took The Boy with me to the church choir performance at a funeral of one of the members. (This choir, I'm a paid member - the bass section leader.) When I got to the church, and we all started singing, his eyes opened wide and he started looking around. He also stopped fussing and remained calm for a LONG time. He fussed a little bit during the actual ceremony, but it was the normal five-minutes-before-nap-crying. That was all. He enjoyed the singing and enjoyed the sound of the organ (which is loud enough to truly feel, as opposed to merely listen).

This is something that has been consistent, from the time that he went nuts in the womb for the barbershop contest. When I practice my chorus music, he usually stays quiet and listens. The real test will be next week, when I start to practice saxophone again.