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May 2007 Archives

May 1, 2007

Ronan Smash

Terry Ronan

Terry and Ronan in his usual Bruce Banner mode

Ronan is generally a quiet baby. Apparently, according to the baby guides that I am minutes away from burning because I hate them so much, babies will cry for no reason. Everyone who’s met him so far (knock on wood) says he’s an amazingly calm baby.

Which is great. We can just hold him and unless he’s working on pooping, he’s pretty indifferent to everything. Right now, because he’s so young, he doesn’t notice lights, noise, or his father swearing constantly. (I’ve been told I have to clean up my act.)

However, like all babies, there are times when he’s just pissed off.

Tonight at dinner we were just sitting down to eat when he cooked off. He was in his crib, and when I had checked on him just five minutes before, he was awake and seemed his happy self. Then he fell asleep or remembered his previous life or his birth or some other trauma and started screaming.

This process starts with him breathing really fast, then all his limbs start flailing every which way. Then he closes his eyes and scrunches up his face. Then he screams. Then he turns green and starts grabbing military tanks off the Army base and crushing them with his bare hands.

Okay, not that last part but it’s pretty scary, mostly because I’ve been around babies that cry all the time and Ronan only seems to cry when he has a good reason, like we’ve thoughtlessly expected him to sleep on his own in his crib. So when Ronan goes nuts, it’s kinda cute and scary and funny and sad all at the same time. Also when we don’t know the reason it’s time for new parent panic dance.

We didn’t know why he was so upset at dinner tonight, but I can make him cry with the last-resort wake-up we use when it’s time to feed. The secret about breastfeeding is that it makes all the participants sleepy; both mother and child get hormones that make them sleepy, which is great for those late night feedings, because Terry just wants to sleep anyway at 5AM. (We’re envious of those mothers who feed in fifteen minutes, like the damned book says, because Ronan enjoys taking over an hour sometimes. Which is one of the many reasons why we’re burning those baby info books.)

Anyway, Ronan goes to sleep during feedings and one of my many jobs is to wake him up. Usually this is accomplished with the backslapping of the burping, which, like everything else in his month-old life, he just endures passively until he can get back to eating. However, sometimes he just can’t wake up, and that’s when I resort to the atomic bomb of Ronan’s life, the belly skulky.

The belly skulky is illegal in many schools because it’s an invasive procedure only practiced by bullies. You place your lips on the baby’s stomach, and then you blow on it like he’s a trumpet. Ronan HATES this, and it instantly wakes him up and he starts screaming. In fact, he starts a protracted war with the U.S. military, smashing jeeps and leaping into the air to swipe jets out of the sky in a fit of rage.

Okay, actually he just screams and cries and waves his fists around. This led to the first time he ever hurt me, probably not the last. In his piqued state, he grabbed my glasses and pulled them down onto my nose. To fully appreciate this, you have to wear glasses. While simultaneously pushing down and sliding off the bridge, the glasses eventually become stuck near the end of your nose. It’s painful, not in a permanent way, but in a “geez, that’s painful, ow” kind of way. Especially when you’re laughingly trying to comfort your crying baby and the last thing you expect is for him to grab your glasses and shove them down your nose until they got stuck. At first I thought he had shaved the skin off my nose.

So we hold the skulky back for last resort, because Ronan can unintentionally get you back. Plus, he hates it, so that’s a more important reason than any serious-to-minor nose pain.

Plus, he’s generally happy as long as he’s being held, so we have to count our blessings. It’s entirely possible that he will start screaming all the time just because I wrote this column.

May 10, 2007


We are just coming out of our self-imposed exile. I have cabin fever, and it is bad.

There’s something to be said for holing up in your home when you have a new baby. Sorry, this is gross, but true — you don’t shower as much, you don’t do laundry as much, (unless you’re my wife) and you don’t clean the house as much. So it’s best that you’re not seen by other people.

A lot of people have told me about how we’re at the beck and call (or cry) of our newborn. Well, sorry again, that’s crap. We dictate everything in the baby’s life. We pick out his clothes, change him when his diaper’s soiled, decide when to feed him, and carry him where we want him to go. It’s only been a month but I think he’s getting pissed off about his civil rights. He seems particularly and perpetually pissed off about having to sleep, as if something is going to happen when he’s out that will affect his whole life. It usually happens like this.

1.) Ronan gets agitated.

2.) Ronan cries.

3.) Ronan cries really hard.

4.) Ronan suddenly passes out in my arms and is asleep.

It’s the weirdest thing, he’s absolutely in hulk mode, flailing his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs, and then he’s out. Asleep. At least until we try to put him in his crib. Then he gets really mad.

Ronan likes to cocoon as much as we do this month. Unlike his parents, who have the whole house, he likes to curl up on my chest. At first Terry was worried that she was torso-impaired (“He likes your chest because it’s longer”) but now she’s got the chest-sleeping down too.

We broke down and got a new chair, a glider that rocks and swivels and is attached together by three out of four screws. (Supposedly someone is going to come fix the chair.) It’s a great place to cocoon, and now that Ronan is getting used to it, it’s also where we feed him. Rocking your baby is a great experience.

There’s this one place underneath my chin where Ronan likes to sleep. He will pound his head against my chest until he finds that spot. I’ve tried to place his head there, but he doesn’t want that. He wants to find it himself. Once he gets that spot, with his head cocooned in my neck, he stays there unless he’s hungry. Which is often.

So, sorry that we haven’t come out lately. We’re nesting. It’s a family thing.

May 12, 2007

I Think We’re Alone Now

I’m really not presentable today. I was up until 5 AM with Ronan, a cranky baby for some reason until he suddenly crashed and was asleep. I think Terry woke up and fed him about thirty minutes later.

My crud has crud on it. I took a shower but it didn’t help. I’m still dirty. That’s when I decided I was a Communist. Or a Capitalist.

Actually, right now I’m in favor of any political system that lets my wife stay at home with me instead of going back to work on Monday. The first four weeks of Ronan’s life were really slow; the last two weeks have flown by. (That could have something to do with the fact that we’re no longer under extreme crisis.) Anyway, I don’t want her to go back to work. I know what you're thinking; some people have no time with their family and someone, either the Mom or the Dad, has to go to work right away. Yes, I know I've been privileged; it's just that I enjoyed it.

Not that I’m not capable of taking care of him or scared or anything. It’s just easier with two people. Here’s a multiple-choice quiz: You’re alone with your baby. He’s upset and fidgety. The doorbell rings. It’s FedEx! What do you do:
1.) Ignore them. They’ll come back tomorrow.
2.) Put the baby down, he cries the whole time you’re getting the package.
3.) Carry the baby to the door and hold him while you sign for the package.

You see the dilemma? You just want to hold your baby, and the world keeps intruding. Hopefully the doorbell is actually FedEx and not the religious recruiters that periodically drop by in Park Slope. Or kidnappers. I digress.

You’re at home with your baby. You’re hungry but he’s fidgety and crying. Do you:
1.) Skip your lunch and hold him.
2.) Put him down and eat while he cries.
3.) Hold him while you eat.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. You can’t hold him and cook because you don’t want to risk spilling hot food on him. And eating while your baby cries is not a good feeling.

This is why I wish my wife had three months off instead of six weeks. (If she had three months, I would wish she had three years!) You can pick two options on the list instead of one. Sure, this means that we technically eat alone since only one person can eat while the other holds Ronan, but at least you have someone who can hold the baby.

Mostly I will just miss her. Having a newborn certainly can push the envelope in marital bliss (sarcasm) but it’s also the first time, and perhaps the only time, that all three of us will be home together for a long period of time.

Finally, allow me to wax poetic about my wife. She has been amazing during this whole time, a pillar of strength in very trying times. Throughout the whole birthing experience she has maintained grace, beauty, dignity and humility, and she is simply the bravest person I have ever known (and I’ve known people who risk getting shot in front of abortion clinics.) I can’t express in mere words how much I love her and how special she is. She’s a terrific mother and my best friend, and I just want more time with her and Ronan together as a family.

There are already many “last” moments — the last time we’ll buy size 1 diapers, the last time that hat fits Ronan’s head — this is the last weekend we have before our “normal” routine starts again.

I’m excited that Ronan and I have at least the next eighteen months together alone, and it’s not like Terry won’t be home very day, but I love her so much. I wish she could be home with us too.

May 15, 2007

Exorcist Baby

Ronan is ravenous. I don’t know if this because his milk supply has gone back to work, so he wants what he can’t have, or if because he’s growing by leaps and bounds. He’s a month old and twelve pounds, so he’s a pound ahead of schedule. And he hasn’t eaten formula in five weeks, only breast milk. So it’s healthy weight. We have been lucky to be able to breastfeed. And by we, I mean Terry, since my participation is limited. I pull on Ronan’s chin.

I’m putting the date May 14, 2007, into the blog, because that is the first day that I took care of Ronan. In a few years he will go to preschool or Kindergarten and I will be able to conclude the chapter that started Monday.

Now that Terry has gone back to work I get to learn how to bottlefeed. Terry expresses the breast milk and we store it in the refrigerator for the next day. Ronan ate all the breast milk on hand two hours before Terry got home from her first day. If we run out he goes back to formula. Hopefully he will prefer the breast, even though it’s harder for him to extract milk than a bottle. That’s why babies often end up looking like this. Their cheeks puff up because they develop muscles sucking. Bottle fed babies don’t get those puffy cheeks. Ronan is working on his cheek muscles. This is called “nipple confusion” which also describes my suave approach to girls in high school.

Bottlefeeding is less desirable because of the extra air that gets introduced into the baby’s stomach. (Oh, and formula isn’t as nutritious as breast milk.) This means that the ratio of spit-up incidents, Terry vs. me, is about one to five. Usually its just a little bit, enough so that I don’t realize it happened sometimes until I wake up the next day and realize I’ve been sleeping in baby spit up. But when Ronan pukes on me, he PUKES on me. The first time it happened, it was a little scary. Ronan was very calm, and then he opened his mouth as if to yawn, and then he Technicolor yawned. And kept Technicolor yawning all over me, the chair, the floor, himself, me again, the chair again, the floor again, me a third time, and then he stopped. I reacted calmly, mostly by yelling “Whoa” and then “Oh MY God!” and then “Okay! Enough!!” and then “Terry!!” which is how these incidents almost always end. Thankfully they are rare. Yesterday was the exception.

We got “safe” plastic bottles that somehow are certified not to expel hormones when you heat them, and I started using them yesterday. I was heating the bottle under the tap, but Ronan was so upset about getting food, he didn’t care that the breast milk was cold. He really went crazy eating, and I tried to slow him up by pulling the bottle out of his mouth from time to time, which didn’t work too well. Try taking food away from a non-sentient being; he just ate faster (arguably non-sentient, I’m not here to debate the point.)

So, (I’m detecting a pattern,) Ronan got quiet and then yawned. Then he began spitting up all over me, the chair, the floor, the futon next to the chair, the spit up cloth, himself, and then everything once again to make sure we were all covered in slightly used breast milk. It’s a fun moment for son and father. My first immediate thought was that I had an excuse to clean the living room and skip the Park Slope Parents’ picnic, when I didn’t have energy for either activity. Then I cleaned the mess up anyway, because you can only tiptoe around vomit on the floor for so long. Then I was too tired to go anywhere after cleaning everything, changing Ronan and myself (my clothes only, his clothes and diapers.)

Terry, who I expected to check in hourly at least, only called once or twice (and I may have called her.) In sympathy, she apologized repeatedly. Really, it’s no one’s fault.

For those of you reading who do not yet have children, this is normal. There’s nothing wrong with exorcist baby, it’s part of the parent/child experience. My brother, who I can write about because he refuses to read any blogs, (including mine!) projectile vomited until he was six. I desperately wished he had his own car (he would get very carsick) but he grew out of it. It’s entirely possible that Ronan won’t remember exorcist moments, and I will grow to look back fondly on these moments in a vomit-induced haze.

May 22, 2007

Positive Things About My Baby

I’ve been challenged by a friend to write some positive things about fatherhood. I thought my writing was positive to begin with, but my sarcastic nature sometimes can be a bit much. So here goes.

Ronan is cute! I know every parent thinks his or her baby is cute, but Ronan is supercute. As part of the cocooning we recently did after the birth, we watched a lot of “A Baby Story” on TLC. Some of the parents agonized about having a cute baby. Apparently the parents of the TLC parents told their children they were ugly babies, so the expectant parents were really worried about their own children. I think that’s terrible. Luckily I don’t have to lie to Ronan; he’s unbelievably cute.

My marriage is strong. Terry and I get along really well. It’s possible that having a child is the crucible of a relationship. (Obviously not the case for everyone.) Not only do you have the added stress of taking care of having the baby, you spend a lot of time together. That’s either great, or really annoying. Possibly it’s both. In our case, we fought, we laughed, and we learned new ways to communicate and to trust each other. Honestly, and I’m sure she’ll pull this statement as soon as she reads it, but I never really felt my wife depended on me for anything; she is so strong, she doesn’t need my help. With Ronan’s birth, I realized that I was wrong. She’s still the strongest person I’ve ever known. But she needs me as much as I need her, and that’s more egalitarian and wonderful than I can express in mere words.

I’m capable of taking care of Ronan on my own! I wasn’t too worried about the nuts and bolts of baby care. I’ve changed diapers before, and being covered in human vomit and feces (okay, not covered) doesn’t bother me. But when I was a babysitter, I was very happy to turn the kid over to someone else and go home. I was worried that I wouldn’t hack it day in and day out. It’s totally different as a parent. My patience is so infinite. Ronan cries, or spits up, or whatever, and it’s not a big deal. It’s actually a pleasure to be with him all day long. I’m relieved that I don’t get frustrated. Controlling my anger was my biggest fear as a father.

My support network is growing. Right now I feel comfortable calling my brother in an emergency and maybe one or two other friends. In a real emergency I could call Terry’s parents or my parents and they would come as soon as they could book a flight. However, my brother doesn’t have a kid and he’s working on his career right now. So it’s different to call him because he doesn’t always understand where I’m coming from. We’re meeting new parents in the neighborhood, there’s a fathers’ group starting, and that makes me feel more confident about making friends who understand what’s happening to me at the same time it’s happening to them.

Ronan’s favorite place to sleep is on my chest. Terry is great at calming him down, but within a few minutes of being held, he falls asleep in my arms. (This assumes he’s changed, a comfortable temperature and has been fed recently.) I don’t what it is about me, but he really enjoys it. (The flip side is that he wakes up if I put him down, because he prefers me to the crib.) I enjoy it too, even if I’m up until the wee hours of the morning with him. After all, he’s my career now.

So, that’s not all the positive things about being a father; I’ll add to the list from time to time. In short, I’m really really, happy about having Ronan, and every time I look at him, I think about how amazing it all is.

May 29, 2007

Man Time

Before Ronan was born, I was home working on various projects, which are earning me barely enough money to pay my own way when I hang out at the movies. My wife pays for my rent and food.

I had a routine. I’m not someone who likes silence. (Or light, for that matter. Yes, I’m a vampire.) I also tend to sleep in if I don’t have to get up. Which is every day when you’re your own boss. (I can’t dock myself for being late!) I would rise around 10 AM, watch the private eye marathon (Magnum Mondays, Rockford Tuesdays, and the Simon brothers Wednesdays) on Sleuth, then the Star Trek Marathon on SpikeTV! (Exclamation point is part of their logo.) If nothing trek-y or sleuth-y was on, there are always World War II documentaries on somewhere 24 hours a day.

While the TV was on the background, I would work on my projects. I have one website, which I originally budgeted two months’ time to finish, that will be ready after about 14-18 months of work. I’ve made 2000 products for it and now I’m figuring out how to sell things online. It’s really boring work, actually. Really. I’ve also researched some 1,000 photos for my World War II site with minute detail. I just started posting the updates online. I worked so hard, often staying up late, my eyes are now somewhat permanently crossed.

Of course, I expected the whole routine to be upset when Ronan was born. I was sidetracked by some required updates to every website I own (Google had some ideas about how I could make more money) but I was still able to get a big project done from the ground up after Ronan was born. So far, so good. Work is progressing, even with Terry back to work part-time.

The big adjustment was the total change in my TV schedule. I had not clearly thought out the twelve weeks of Terry, Ronan, and grandparents and how my television schedule would be completely altered. Terry is the master of the remote in our house. It’s not really a bone of contention. She has excellent taste. I mean, her TV watching schedule consists of Gilmore Girls (cancelled) Veronica Mars (cancelled) and Friday Night Lights (near cancelled) and PBS shows like Bill Moyers, Independent Lens and POV. She puts up with Battlestar Galactica and a few other shows from me. It’s ridiculously good television, the kind that you can’t just have on in the background while you focus on the coastline of the Philippines or whatever. I’m a “whatever’s on that moment” TV watcher, rather than a planner. So, as a planner, it makes more sense for her to have the remote. It’s the kind of television that you have to watch with your full attention, like a foreign film, and especially if it’s Bill Moyers, you’re so pissed off at our world at the end of it, but you’re glad you watched it.

I didn’t realize how much I liked having control over the remote during the day. This careful détente went all to hell during the convalescence. Suddenly, slowly, I began to miss the macho lineup. Terry watched a lot of old tapes with "chick flicks." She was cleaning out her old VHS library to make room for more baby stuff, which is just enough for a three-bedroom apartment. (We have a two-bedroom.)

At first I tried to watch along. Then I tried to ignore it. Then I was a little bit grumpy, not really sure why. It all culminated in a terrible, terrible E-mail to my Dad and a few friends about how silly I thought some of the movies were. It was funny and sarcastic. It was more of a cry for help. Except macho men don’t cry and they don’t ask for help, so it was just wimpy and terrible. And rude.

That would have been bad enough, but one friend wrote back with more comments about a certain show (I won’t mention it so that I don’t get killed by its twelve fans) that I thought was funny, so I forwarded it to Terry.

I forwarded it to Terry.

Which was a mistake, because my original E-mail was at the bottom of the funny E-mail, and I didn’t realize it, plus I’m the worst husband in the world. Plus, probably, I felt guilty about the first negative E-mail, so subconsciously I wanted her to know; I have trouble with secrets.

Needless to say, she was not happy, and she’ll probably be less happy about this blog. She wrote a very funny repartee to my E-mail, and we talked about it. Eventually she forgave me. I violated the trust of the marriage, and she may not fully trust me for some time.

She’s gone back to work part time. I am very happy about getting control of the television remote back during the day. I missed Jimbo and Rocky most of all.

About May 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Freaks & Geeks Parenting in May 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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