The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘reflection’

Month Six, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Short Nap

That title is a ruse. I would love it if the kid would take a longer nap. But let’s forego the details for the moment and get a little reflective.

My wife and I were talking about sleep. (remember month 5’s theme? Sleep? Well, that has continued on to month 6.) Our initial strategy with nighttime sleep was to do a modification of put him down awake, pick him up as soon as he cried, comfort him, put him down awake, repeat till he slept. That had started out and we thought ‘ok! We get to hang out after we put him down!’ but it wasn’t really improving. That is, every night it seemed like he really only went to sleep after all his cries were out.

At the recommendation of a friend, we read (the relevant chapters of) the happy sleeper. This book calls for the ‘sleep wave’ which is all about predictability and stability. You have a routine that you follow precisely for naps and nighttime (different routines for the two) and you lay the kiddo down awake. When he or she cries, you go in after five minutes of crying and you say this particular phrase (ours is, “Have a good sleep. I’ll be right outside. I love you.”) then you leave the room without providing physical comfort. The idea is that your child knows you exist, and that by this age (we started this when he was about 5.5 months) they don’t think you have up and ceased to exist when you’re out of sight. The child is left to their own devices for self-soothing. Our son had become a whiz at finding his hand and sucking on it (strangely, his typical fingers are the middle and ring fingers).

The approach worked surprisingly well. But wait, it’s reflective time.

In last month’s blog I mentioned saying that I wanted to baby my son because … he’s a baby. But it struck me, later on, that my mom’s saying over and over that her children will always be her babies could prove true for myself as well. Pain and discomfort are good things – they are really educational. I’m glad I struggled at times in school, I’m glad I had my heart broken, I’m glad I lost at many, many things. And yet, it’s a struggle to knowingly allow my son to feel discomfort or pain. And then I bounce right back, come on, self, he’s just crying a little bit while going to sleep! Anyway, it was a moment of wonder realizing that I will likely forever feel his pain as though it is my own.

My wife and I have a system where, if the kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night and struggles to go back to sleep, one of us tends to him while the other stays in bed. We have a white noise machine in our room for just such an occasion. But occasionally, if the white noise isn’t loud or he has an especially upset cry, you still hear him. And then you lay in bed, not sleeping and not helping anything. It made me think of my mom, wondering if she did this same thing while her children were grown, after, say, one of her kid’s experienced a heartbreak. Somewhere my child is in pain.

Those aren’t particularly deep thoughts – but they were interesting to me. Suddenly I was generation-less, just a person in a line of parents and children, where each person has felt love and heartbreak for others.

/End reflection!

Back to the sleep thing. The first night the kiddo protested, of course, but it took hold and he slept 11 hours with only one wakeup to eat. Holy pleasant night of sleep Batman. That was incredible. Before that he was waking up 1-3 times a night, sometimes to eat, other times just … I don’t know. Because why not?

The next night he slept THROUGH THE NIGHT! MY GOD.

But, that day was rough on the kiddo and dear old mom and dad. Up to that point I would walk him around or dance in the Bjorn to get him to sleep. This meant sometimes two hours of constant dancing and moving in the Bjorn. Trust me when I tell you this is really uncomfortable and tiring. BUT! He was a happy kiddo. Tough to get to sleep, yes, but happy. That day he was a not happy kiddo. He began to recognize the sleep routine and he would start crying, and crying.

Our nap routine is simple – change his diaper, put him in a sleep sack, pick him up and sing to him while you/he holds on to his ‘lovie’ (Harry Elefante) and then you put him down. The last nap of the day I was putting him down and he started crying from go. Oof. It was heartbreaking. Putting him down on the changing pad the face immediately turned to a look of devastation and there was no coming back. When it came time to sing to him peacefully to soothe his little soul before putting him down? Forget it. I was crying and singing (quite a sight). I sang all of about 10 seconds because no words were coming.

The nap, not surprisingly, did not go well. It involved a lot of the going in to check every 5 minutes.

But … here’s the bright spot. For the most part the night sleep turned tremendous. Suddenly we were able to wake up feeling somewhat rested. Hurrah!

***

I’ll be honest … I started writing this about two weeks ago, so now he is about 6.5 months old (so grown up) and already month 6 feels so far away. As is typical of this past half year, it’s hard to remember last week’s woes because this week’s woes are all important. Two of the last three nights he has struggled to fall asleep, and we hadn’t experienced that since we started down this road, pretty much one month ago today. It is disheartening, and a little confusing. But hopefully things will be back on track soon enough.

Also, about the title. That’s a lie. I have not embraced the short nap. It is what he does, and that’s that … But we have done a number of car rides to create a 1 – 1.5 hour nap. A great joy of mine is taking the kiddo out to some shop or area to have strangers ooh and ahh and tell me how cute he is, and then buy some junk food, then cruise and listen to the radio while eating said junk food. Oh yessir.

***

Random thoughts, you say? Sure.

  • Sometimes when I blow my nose in front of my son I feel guilty. Like he is looking at me thinking, ‘oh if only I could do that.’ Imagine sneezing and then just sitting there … not having the ability to blow your nose. Torturous.
  • My wife and I have not been posting pictures on Facebook or any social media for a number of reasons. But, like probably every parent, I feel the world is being deprived of cute baby pictures. The other day a coworker stopped by my cube and said, ‘any new pictures?’ then glanced quickly at the ones I have hung up and said, ‘nope’ and walked away. Smart move, dude, because I was about to bust out my phone and put you through a three hour photo sharing session.

    IMG_20180318_103149350

    The spinny-thing has some sort of bug type creature on it.

  • We have a toy with a little wheel-type device with pictures on it. Sometime in this month he began to realize he could spin this. My wife likes to say he is looking through his rolodex. Spin, spin, stop, stare (we comment, ‘oh Bob, haven’t talked to him in ages, hmmm should I call Bob?’), aggressively spin (‘eh, Bob’s a loser’), slowly rotate, stop, stare (‘oh Jean, wonder how -‘), spin (‘FORGET JEAN!’).

***

Ok, note to self. Do month 7 on THAT day. I swear, last week is already a blur.

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Is the Fog Beginning to Lift?

The kiddo is approaching 3 months of life, so it’s time for an update from the rambling, scrambling, tired, wired, and foggy brain of dear old pops. Aka, me.

My sister had told me about a book she read that mentioned that the first 3 months of life are almost like a fourth trimester, where they are so dependent on you that you’d almost think ‘why didn’t you keep cooking?’ Although, the physical ramifications of that would be dire. With that in mind, my wife and I thought, ‘so what’s that mean for us?’ With him being almost 2 months early, does that mean a 5 month long ‘fourth trimester?’

One positive note is that him being early really throws off any thought of tracking him against the ‘normal’ milestones. From a book I have read some of (note to self: get back to that after this post) it has information like, ‘at this age, you can expect your baby to be doing … you can be delighted if your baby is doing … and you can be over the moon if your baby is doing …’ But with preemies, you go based on the ‘adjusted age’ or how many days old he/she is after their due date. Our kiddo is almost 3 months old real age, alost 1 month old adjusted age. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of behavior that is sometimes older than his adjusted age, sometimes not. And when you combine that with the fact that every baby is different anyway it almost makes you think it’s pointless to try and track and compare every little thing. Pft. Like that’ll happen. What else will I do with my time but to be equal doses of proud and afraid?

I have been on the receiving and giving end of this – the instant calm. It feels like such a compliment when the kiddo is fussy, angry, crying, upset, you name it … and then I take over holding him and a calm washes over him. That’s pretty wonderful. To be fair, I think it’s often a change of scenery that does the trick for him, so I really shouldn’t take that much pleasure in it. But it’s great. (And when I hand him over and he calms … well fine, I didn’t want to calm you anyway!)

There is a distinct baby clothes market for those who have yet to change or dress an upset baby. My wife and I bought into this market before his arrival, and I think clothing manufacturer’s know what they’re doing. That outfit that is absurdly cute? Probably impossible to put on or take off without your child making you think he or she is going through a hellish torture session only Dante could dream up. There are outfits that are enjoyable, and not tortuous, and each parent probably has their own preference (learned after a few weeks) for what type they prefer.

Lately he has begun to give occasional ‘social smiles.’ For those of you not in the baby know, it’s like this. There is the ‘gassy’ smile (that’s what people say, no one knows why babies occasionally smile) that can happen right away (I think?) but it’s not a conscious choice. AND, the smile is not a full face smile, it’s more like the mouth just moves … you don’t see it around their eyes. Later, the baby might experience something, or look at you, and give a ‘social smile’ which is an ACTUAL, I CHOSE THIS SMILE FOR YOU kind of smile. It’s magical. My parents were in town recently and Sunday morning I got up with him at 6 am, I picked him up and he gave me a big smile for I don’t know how long. 30 seconds? A minute? It was long enough that my wife was able to get back from the bathroom and see too. It was magical. And then, last week on Wednesday, I got home from work, picked up the kiddo from my wife and BOOM, he gave me a little smile. I don’t know what it is to be addicted to drugs, but I can’t wait for my next dose of a little smile.

Speaking of random rewards, the kid can be like a video game. You just grind, and grind, change diaper, feed, dance, change diaper, ask him why why why are you still crying what is wronnnnnng?, dance, attempt to feed, get an angry look, dance more, pace, wrap him up tigheter, dance, finally feed, burp, dance, etc. And randomly in the mix of all that you may see a little smile, a glimmer of hope, and you think YES, more of that! Video games are designed to give random rewards, with random weights to how big a reward it is, and as you play more the rewards are spaced out more so you just keep grinding, and grinding … But, you know, instead of a new fictional gun or armor it’s a smile. From my son. Which is pretty glorious.

Those random rewards are the rays of light through the fog that is being tired, being wary, and being tested by the tiny screaming controller of your life. Nature, well done. A baby’s cry is a whip cracking motivator that’ll spring you into action. Or, if the cries continue, sometimes lead you to put the kiddo down, take off your hoody (he’s a toaster) take a deep breath, and pick him back up to try again.

Wish us luck.

Sincerely,
A Dad Who Thinks He Has Original Thoughts But Countless Centuries Have Thought Variations of the Same Thing

Race Recap

This past weekend I did my second trail race, and it was not terribly fun. I’m glad I did it, and it was educational, but boy was it painful.

Here are a few moments/thoughts from the run:

  • On Trails vs Roads

Until moving to Colorado I only did road runs. These are very different, and I feel like I still haven’t fully appreciated how different. With roads I could get away with some bad habits: if I started too fast, some days I got away with it because I was just in a groove and I could end up faster than anticipated the whole time (see: every time I have PR’d), AND I could get away with not eating or drinking enough to replenish myself because I wasn’t out there that long …

For trails, neither of those work out well. My last training run that was good was 15 miles, and the last few miles of that my stomach felt very off. But, it was short enough and I had enough to eat and drink during the run that I got away with it. 15+ led to uncomfortable woes.

At the run on Saturday, a 25 miler, I hit my usual woes at mile 11 or 12, but this time I was in the middle of a 2 or 3 mile uphill climb. I should have sat down at the aid station at mile 6 and eaten more, and ditto the aid station at mile 10. But instead, I left 10 feeling good only to quickly go to: NOT GOOD status.

Thankfully the run boasted beautiful views, challenge galore, and friendly fellow runners. A woman asked me how I was doing, so I told her, and she and I walked together for a while and she informed me I wasn’t eating enough. She gave me a packet of goo (sounds weird, huh?) which was 100 calories of goodness. The trouble was, I think I had jumped on the eating enough bandwagon pretty late in the game and it was a struggle every time I tried to eat.

Lesson learned? Eat more, eat more sooner, eat more.

  • On Emotions

I ran a half marathon one time which was tough because it was very cold, raining, and I had been injured so I hadn’t trained up very well. The weekend prior I had flown to Arizona because my grandfather had passed away.

I crossed the finish line and immediately had to fight back tears. I was very confused by this, but then the fact that I was about to start crying and I was so cold my lips were blue and I was surrounded by strangers made me laugh at the absurd situation – it was odd. But, I realized later, the running probably took a lot out of me so I was more emotional.

Videos of dogs and soldiers make me want to cry, sappy things like that, but ordinarily it’s pretty rare that things will inspire tears. At the run, around mile 12 when I was feeling quite bad, I wondered if I would need to drop from the race … I thought about having 13 miles to go and it made me want to cry. I thought, “THE HELL? Who is this emotional demon who has invaded my body!?”

At around mile 23.5 I had already seen the finish in the distance. It was all downhill from where I was … not like, getting worse … but as in literally going down a hill. Anywho, I heard the crowd go nuts over someone finishing and again those pesky weakened body state inspired emotions popped up and I thought to myself, “wow, they’re cheering for some random person like every person is the winner.” And boom, the desire to cry was there.

(P.S. There was another group of true insano-s running FIFTY miles. They started 2.5 hours earlier than us 25 mile plebes, and it could be that the crowd WAS actually cheering for the first place 50 mile female finisher. That is one fast person.)

  • On Aid Station Snacks

Here are some things I had while jogging: pretzel bites, m&ms, some salted caramel goo (thank you again kind stranger), granola bar, lots of water with powdered stuff in it, grapes, and coke.

Ordinarily the menu of a coder (minus the workout goo) … but looking at that now, yeah, I definitely didn’t have enough calories. I was out there a bit over 7 hours, which meant I should’ve had lets say 1400 calories, I maybe got half that.

Mistakes were made.

  • On Friendly People

You know what was awesome throughout? How friendly everyone was, almost everyone there is not competing, they’re just wanting to finish. But even the fastest people were probably friendly too, I just never saw them.

The 50 milers went 25 one way, then 25 going the other way so us 25ers saw them rush past us. With almost every one of them I exchanged a pleasant, “good job” or “looking good” or when tired it was shortened to just “job.” The first place guy I just stared at because HOW ARE YOU GOING THIS FAST?

I ended up jogging/walking for a good while around the same people. One girl, graduating today (Sunday), who walked by a sign indicating we had 3.5 miles or so to go and she looked back at me and said the saddest ‘yay’ I’ve ever heard. It was hysterical.

Another girl I talked with after the run, she was friendly, smart, and I noticed she does not believe in shaving arm pits.

One guy, with about one mile to go, was going back and forth with me (passing each other) then we stopped and walked and he said, “we’ll finish together.” I said ok, cool. But then a half mile or so later he said, “ok, I need to stop, I don’t feel good.” He finished a few minutes after me, and we chit chatted after the run.

The volunteers at the aid stations were all friendly, weird, encouraging, helpful, and with an energy that my then tired brain could not comprehend. Plus, the snacks they had made were (presumably) amazing … snacks that, again, I should’ve eaten.

Jenga!

Moving is a great teacher. Sometimes it teaches you with general unpleasantness, but that’s ok. And perhaps my opinion is biased by my past of being an Army Brat and moving once every few years – so I’ve grown to like moving. Who knows?

This most recent move from Texas to Colorado made me realize something that I hadn’t before. People are like the game Jenga. When I thought of this analogy I thought it was profound, so I told someone and they said, “yeah, ok.” Perhaps it’s not so profound as I thought – but sometimes you need a blog post and so you go ahead and post about your mildly profound thoughts.

Here we go – people are like Jenga. We are composed of these blocks that are our friends, our family, our hobbies, our work, our own accomplishments, and even our stuff.

Moving is a great way to realize what your tower is composed of. This move took me physically away from a good job and a great set of friends and family, and a tolerable apartment. At work I was a known person, and I believe I was liked and people thought I was ok, and I took a fair amount of pride in that.

Now I am an unknown person at work and I need to work hard to establish myself as someone who is smart and can get things done. That’s fine, it’s good to force yourself into challenges.

Growing up I think my family was at the core of my own personal Jenga tower. And my toys and video games were probably a fairly major block as well. A move was disruptive, sure, but I still had my family (most importantly) and myself. As I’ve gotten older the tower is a little more complex now. My family is not one big block but quite a few smaller blocks with each member of my family being their own block, my in-laws involved, my friends are each blocks, my work is a fair-sized block, my home, etc, etc, etc.

jenga_distortedMoving caused a little disruption of the tower and when my wife and I got here, by necessity, each of us was a pretty darn big block for the other. And our home and our satisfaction with our surroundings became blocks too. We still have our friends and family, of course, but the distance changes things a bit.

To assist ourselves my wife and I have both picked up hobbies. This was a ‘trick’ my parents forced on my siblings and I, we always had to be signed up for after school stuff, usually at least a sport. New blocks come flying in and soon your tumbled tower is reassembled. When I was younger, because my family was so important, it only meant the top of the tower had fallen but the core of the tower had stayed intact, which made moving easier.

Now I have learned that work has become pretty important to me, and my tower took a bit of a hit when we moved (and ditto for my wife). But we’ve managed to start re-stacking the pieces, and introducing new blocks into our lives. It’s certainly a process.

What’s the lesson in all this? I suppose it’s that it’s good to have your personal tower composed of immutable things (or as immutable as possible). Hobbies that can go with you like reading or workout out, people, your own sense of self, and yes work is fine – but just be prepared to experience some growing pains when that changes!

Ok, toodles all. Take care to learn your tower and nurture it with strong blocks at the foundation, eh?

 

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