Friday, February 26, 2010

Girls Who Wear Glasses

"Men never make passes at girls who wear glasses." This saying has been around forever, but I suspect it was popularized when Marilyn Monroe said it in the movie, "How to Marry a Millionaire". Naturally, Marilyn managed to snag herself a very nice millionaire (even if she thought he was just a gas jockey) despite her dorky glasses, but then, she was Marilyn Monroe. I should look so unappealing in glasses.

But one person that I know will never think less of me for wearing glasses is Ryan. He apparently has quite a thing for women wearing glasses, as I discovered yesterday. I took him to visit my mom during her chemotherapy treatment. The nurses she sees are the same nurses I used to see for my rheumatoid arthritis treatment, so I've known them for years. They avidly followed my romance with Herb and were thrilled to death for both Mom and I when we told them I was pregnant. So as soon as we arrived, the whole nursing staff gathered around to coo over Ryan.

Fortunately, he was in a particularly cheerful mood. He tends to mug it up when new people admire him anyway, but he was in especially fine form right then. He grinned his crooked, dimpled grin for everyone, but he totally turned on the charm and made delighted giggles for one nurse who happened to be wearing glasses. Another nurse jokingly commented on it, and just for fun put on her own reading glasses - and was immediately rewarded by a HUGE grin and a lunge in her direction. Apparently my little man DOES make passes at girls who wear glasses.

Even the ones who don't quite look like Marilyn Monroe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grasping at Straws - and Hippos, and Monkeys, and Bears

Ryan is reaching the stage where he is finally starting to be able to control his hands. He started off by randomly flailing in the general direction of what he wanted, then by deliberately flailing more specifically in the direction of what he wanted, and now he has enough control to actually deliberately bat at what he wants and most of the time, with enough persistence, grasp it. It's a very exciting time!

As with anything else, he has a few favorite things that he loves to hang onto. One of the first objects he did well at grabbing was a plastic ball made of rings:
He likes it because it rattles, it's good to chew on, and if he flails in its general direction, his fingers get caught in the rings and he can hang onto it fairly easily. It also makes very good noises when he flings it across the room. (By accident, now - no doubt it will be very much on purpose in the weeks and months to come.)

Another highly grabbable toy is his teddy bear:

Bear is very soft and squeezable so any part that Ryan grabs allows for a good handhold. Bear has the added benefit of having many chew-worthy parts: ears, hands, feet, even the brim of his hat and his little curls. Ryan doesn't seem to mind the lint factor; apparently the nappy texture that would make an adult gag feels just lovely on those tender gums. Bear can also be squashed extremely tightly to the body without damage to either baby or bear, which is apparently a very positive trait in Ryan's mind.

Of course, his beloved spitrags also belong in the grabbable category:

Not only can they be grasped at any point, tugged in any direction, and are useful for chewing, waving around, and dropping on the floor, there are literally four dozen of them in the house so there is always one (or five) close at hand.

But by far the most fun toys to grasp these days are the animals hanging from his bouncy chair:

The lion in the middle plays music (or purrs, or meows - which will be very confusing when we learn the animal noises: "What does the lion say?" "Meow!" "No, the cat says 'meow'. The lion says 'roar'." "Not MY lion, Mummy!") when you pull his ring, the monkey on one side rattles, and the hippo on the other jingles. The lion is still a bit too far for him to reach (although he does bat toward it often), but he absolutely delights in hooking his wee little fingers through the hippo's and monkey's rings and shaking them all over! The drawback to this toy is that the weight limit of the chair is 25 pounds, and since he currently weighs 24 pounds...well, YOU do the math. He's practically bottoming out in the chair now anyway, and at that angle whenever he bats at the lion the rebound nearly smacks him in the face so it's probably a good thing we stop that one soon.

I can only imagine what he'll be grabbing on to next. Anything within his reach, I'm sure! I love watching him gain more and more control day by day, and although my life will be made much more difficult once he can grab things on his own, it will also be much more exciting!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tag Team Parenting

Although I don't think I've ever seen an actual match, I am somewhat familiar with the general concept of tag team wrestling. According to Wikipedia (slogan: "I read it on the Internet so it must be true"), the unique rules of tag team wrestling are as follows: "In [tag] team matches, only one entrant from each team may be designated as the 'legal' or 'active' wrestler at any given moment. Two wrestlers must make physical contact (typically palm-to-palm) in order to transfer this legal status. This is known as a tag, with the participants tagging out and tagging in. Typically the wrestler who is tagging out has a 5-second count to leave the ring. The non-legal wrestlers must remain outside the ring or other legal area at all times (and avoid purposeful contact with the opposing wrestlers) or face reprimand from the referee."

This is a pretty good description of how Herb and I hand off the baby these days. Herb's been getting up with him in the morning, then after I get showered and dressed, he hands him over to me so he can get ready for work. And when Herb gets home from work in the evening, I hand him back over to him so I can get dinner ready. There isn't necessarily palm-to-palm contact for the "tag", but most of the time the partner tagging out definitely gets out of the "ring" well within the 5-second count!

But what really makes this parenting system so parallel to tag team wrestling is the reason for the handoff. In wrestling, when one team member is exhausted, or obviously losing the battle, or simply overmatched by his opponent, he tags out in favor of a teammate. In parenting, when one of you is exhausted, or obviously losing the battle, or simply overmatched, he tags out in favor of the other parent. It gives each team member/parent a chance to catch their breath, to re-evaluate the situation, and even to see how someone else approaches the situation.

The rewards are quite different, though. With successful tag-team wrestling, the best you can hope for is something like this:

But with successful tag-team parenting, you end up with something more like this:

And I know which trophy I'd rather have at the end of the day.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Magic in the Mirror

As I've mentioned before, Ryan has a decided preference for cheap toys - the box, rather than the contents, if you will. He'd rather chew on my knuckle than the fancy frozen chew toys designed for that purpose. He'd rather snuggle his spit rag than any of his adorable teddy bears or other stuffed animals. And at the moment, his favorite toy isn't a toy at all, it's a mirror.
He's not especially particular about which mirror, either. There's a full-length mirror in our bedroom that's very handy because the overhead light is nice and bright and you can get right up close to it. There's another full-length in the basement that's short enough to play peekaboo with Mommy's reflection (if I stand up straight he can't quite see my face). And the excitement of all the bathroom mirrors is either making Mommy have to sit on (or in) the sink or sitting in the sink himself.

He's also always torn about whom he wants to watch. (I know, "whom" sounds odd there. But it's grammatically correct and I'm having a Grammar Nazi moment. So sue me. Aaaaand we're moving on.) He seems fascinated but a bit puzzled by the baby in the mirror, and will gaze at him intently (but somewhat blankly) for several minutes at a time. But then his eyes wander over to Mommy's reflection and they light right up in recognition, and then he bursts into a beaming grin. That's the best feeling in the world!

I'm not sure if he understands yet that the baby he sees is himself. I let him see my finger moving in to "boop" (well, technically, "meep") his nose, I kiss his cheek with a loud raspberry, I wave his hands in front of his face so he can see that the baby in the mirror is doing the same. But I suspect that at this point all he thinks is that the baby in the mirror has a mom who's almost as cool as his mom. She even knows the nose-meeping trick! And she does it every time HIS mom does it! How cool is that? But I don't think that thought is yet followed by a "Hey, wait a minute....."

I love watching Ryan learn new things and develop new skills, like reaching for his toys, deliberately grasping things, watching people he recognizes, and making visible cognitive leaps (big words meaning "he's thinking actual thoughts!"). And as much as I want to savor every moment, I can't help but look forward to each new physical and mental step. So I'm eager to see him figure out that the baby in the mirror is him. I'm not quite sure when it will happen, or how I'll know it has happened, but I know that it will and I will. And I plan on spending plenty of time staring into mirrors with him until it does!

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Monday, February 22, 2010

My Baby Ate Your Dingoes

We've all seen this T-shirt and heard the old line, "Dingoes ate my baby!" Well, no dingo alive could manage to eat my baby. In fact, any dingo crazy enough to try it is likely to get eaten itself. Because my baby continues to hold the title of World's Biggest Baby!

The latest proof is a visit we had the other day with a friend of Herb's from work who has a baby a few weeks younger than Ryan who is literally half his weight. She is a lovely, delicate little peanut who looks even more dainty and petite next to our big, rugged pumpkin:
Note that her dad is easily holding her in one hand, while I am hefting Ryan with both arms. The young lady herself seemed to be a bit dubious about the behemoth hanging out next to her:
But Ryan was a gentleman and shared his stuffed duckie, so I think his reputation as a gentle giant may be intact.

His size continues to amaze friends and strangers alike. He was a bit fussy in church yesterday so I took him into the hallway to walk while I listened to the service. Another mom was doing the same with her son, and I was chatting with her and another woman who was passing by. The other mom mentioned that her son was 10-1/2 months old and the third woman asked if the boys were about the same age. I told her that Ryan was only 3-1/2 months old and her eyes nearly bugged out of her head. "My goodness!" was her reaction. I laughed and told her we get that a lot.

He is a big bruiser, but he's perfectly healthy and strong and well-proportioned and has the shoulders of a linebacker. As tough as it is on my back some days, I wouldn't have him any other way. He is now, always has been, and always will be my perfect little baby boy. Just keep your dingoes at a safe distance.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

He Obviously Didn't Get the Memo

Being a new mom in this age of technology, I am naturally subscribed to all kinds of electronic newsgroups and newsletters. Every few days a new e-mail appears in my inbox informing me of my baby's latest developmental steps. How many naps a day he's probably taking, how much and how often he's eating, when he can hold up his head on his own, when he'll start reaching for his toys, when he'll start smiling or laughing or cooing. I understand that these are only general guidelines, but I do have to laugh at how far off they often are from Ryan's actual development.

The biggest discrepancy is, of course, eating and gaining weight. Today's 16-week newsletter, for example, reassured me that the rate of my baby's growth is more important than his actual size, so I shouldn't be worried if he isn't as big as I think he should be at this point. Um, not really a problem. I'm more worried that he's going to be Andre the Giant by first grade, at the rate he's going. According to most of the newsletters and pediatricians' columns I've been reading, Ryan should be eating around 4 ounces of formula every 3-4 hours. Yeah, he DEFINITELY didn't get that memo. Even at 4 ounces every three waking hours, that would be a total of 24 ounces a day. My little man knocks back 35-45 ounces a day. But then, he weighs 24 pounds at a time when most babies weigh less than 12, so it wouldn't be unexpected for him to be eating twice as much.

Average 3-1/2 month old baby

My giant baby at 6 weeks in the same chair.
Note the location of his head sticking over the top of the chair.
SIX WEEKS, people!!

But I don't mind that Ryan seems to be a bit ahead of the curve. Sure it's a little tough on my back, and it seems we're getting him the next size up in clothes and diapers every week, and we'll be in the market for a bigger car seat before the month is out, but my big boy is healthy and strong and alert and curious. And that's what counts.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Early to Bed and Early to Rise...

...makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. So said Poor Richard, aka Benjamin Franklin.

That may be true of a man, but for a baby, early to bed and early to rise makes for a cranky momma. Unless she is lucky, like me, and wonderful Daddy got up early with the baby this morning and let her sleep in.

Ryan doesn't really have a set daytime schedule yet, but he is falling into a nice nightime routine of tubby time at 8pm or so, followed by one last bottle and then bed at 9:00 or 9:30. He generally sleeps straight through till 7:30, no matter whether he goes down a little earlier or a little later. But every once in a while he throws us off by either getting up as early as 6:30 or sleeping as late as 8:00. Sleeping till 8 is just fine by me, and I'd love that if he'd do it every day. But that hour between 6:30 and 7:30 is a killer. I think the minutes prior to 8am automatically double in sleep value. So missing that hour is like missing two hours at another time.

During the day, I can sometimes manipulate his nap length by getting him to play really hard beforehand and then giving him a big bottle. Physical exhaustion + food coma = up to a 3-hour nap, hooray! But at night, he seems to be less flexible. I'd love to know what it is that tells him it's 7:30 and time to wake up. The neighbors leave for work at 6:00 (poor souls) so it's not the sound of their car engine starting. The sun rises at roughly 6:30, so it's not light creeping through the blinds. Heaven knows, it's not Daddy and Mommy's alarm clock that he can hear down the hall! I guess it's just some secret ingrained genetic clock, the same thing that tells the swallows when to return to Capistrano or the salmon when to start swimming upstream or the grizzly bears when to come out of hibernation.

So there's probably nothing I can do about it but get to bed a bit earlier myself. After all, if early to bed and early to rise makes a man (or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise, Ryan's just helping nudge me towards perfect health, piles of riches, and the wisdom of Solomon!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That Face, That Face

Babies have incredibly expressive faces, and Ryan is no exception. Emotions flutter across his face in rapid succession, from smile to frown to confusion to comprehension. His eyebrows raise in astonishment, his cheeks dimple in laughter, his lips pucker in consternation, his eyes widen in excitement or narrow in suspicion.

And each new expression is a new discovery for him, as well! He cracks himself up with his own giggles, he fascinates himself with sticking out his tongue or blowing bubbles or wrinkling his nose. His constantly changing expressions remind me how new everything in the universe is to him. How amazing to have a sense of wonder about something as simple and basic as making facial expressions!

So as each expression blossoms across his face, I can feel my own expression bursting again and again into wonder and delight and laughter. Watching this little child discover the world of emotion and expression brings joy to me as I share his discoveries. I could watch his face for hours, taking in each dimple, marveling over those clear blue eyes and thick dark lashes, rubbing my cheek against that perfectly soft skin, touching those delicate brows, nuzzling that button nose, and kissing those rosebud lips. Even at three months, his face has changed so much that I try to burn each moment and each expression into my memory before it's lost forever to time. Photos help, but they can't possibly capture every fleeting expression that I see. So I look and look and look and then I look some more. Because I don't want to miss a single glance!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"I'm Watching the Baby"

One of the best baby gadgets we have is our video monitoring system. We have a multi-level house, and when I'm working in the basement office (when I'm busy blogging, for example) I can't hear all the way up to the nursery. It's not a problem when I'm puttering in the kitchen, because the sound carries from the second floor to the first. But in the basement, I have no idea what kind of din might be going on up there. Fortunately, the video monitor lets me keep an eye and an ear on things.

One of the features I really like is the visual noise level monitor. Which means that I don't have to listen to the screaming when I'm letting Ryan cry himself to sleep, I only need to keep an eye on the red lights to know whether he's given up the ghost or if he's still yelling. And I can turn on the viewscreen any time I like to see if he's squirming and wriggling or if he's physically collapsed but still protesting. If he's making little peeps I can take a look to see if he's cooing in his sleep or if he's getting wiggly and starting to wake up.

But the best feature of all is that Daddy can check in on the monitor any time he likes. It's hooked up to our computer, which has Slingbox. For all you technophobes out there, that means that as long as the monitor is plugged into its little docking station, we can tie in to the camera from any internet connection anywhere on earth. (And I suppose, technically in space as well, although I doubt we'll have the opportunity to test that theory.) So Daddy can peek at Ryan from his computer or even his phone whenever he needs a baby fix, or whenever I let him know that something cute is going on. And we have a second, mobile camera as well as the fixed one over the crib, so even if Ryan is playing in his exersaucer or his jumperoo or his bouncy chair, or if he's just playing in my arms or having tummy time, I can set up a camera so Daddy can see exactly what he's up to. He never has to miss a first word or step or even giggle:

This morning after I gave Ryan his bottle, he seemed to be out cold, so I went to put him down in his crib. He stirred a little when I laid him on his back, so I flipped him onto his tummy and he settled back down. When I got downstairs I checked the monitor and he was wide awake - and pushing himself up with his arms to look around the crib! I immediately e-mailed Herb to tell him, "BabyCam alert: Ryan's doing pushups in the crib!" A few minutes later the phone rang, and I recognized Herb's cell phone number. As soon as I picked it up, he announced excitedly, "Hi sweetie! I'm watching the baby!" And what more wonderful thing for a daddy than to be able to watch the baby, too, even if it happens to be Mommy's time to watch the baby in person.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

My Old Baby

When Ryan was first born, I posted a semi-rhetorical, semi-serious question on my Facebook page: "When does a 'new' baby become an 'old' baby?" The most common answer I got was, "When you start counting his age in months instead of days or weeks."

The first time someone asked how old he was, I was outside the hospital waiting for Herb to bring the car around, and I proudly announced that he was exactly two days old. The first time we went to church and got the same question, I said that he was exactly two weeks old. Up until a few weeks ago, whenever someone asked how old he was, I would respond with his age in weeks. But how that he's hit three months, it seems right to give his age in months instead. Two or three weeks is meaningful to people without children (or those whose children haven't been babies in quite a few years). Even ten or eleven weeks has some meaning to non-baby folks. But once you reach fourteen or fifteen weeks, counting the age in weeks gets silly at best and confusing at worst. So I'm going by half-months now: Two weeks ago he was three months old; today he's three and a half months old.

Another reason the whole weeks/months thing gets confusing is the same reason it's confusing when you're pregnant: lunar months don't match calendar months. So anyone doing the math thinks sixteen weeks, four weeks in a (lunar) month, that's 4 months, right? But when Ryan is sixteen weeks old, he's still got a week and a half to go before he's 4 calendar months old. And that discrepancy will only get wider with time. So going by calendar months just makes it easier all around.

Also, going by months makes the time seem to go by a little more slowly. When I thought about upping his age every week, time seemed to fly by incredibly quickly! Wasn't he just eight weeks old yesterday? How can he be ten weeks old now? Every time I turned around it felt like I was adding another week to his age. At least with months, I go for four entire weeks before I up his age. It's like finding a rock to cling to when you're swimming across a rushing river - you get a bit of time to catch your breath and get your bearings before jumping back in to the battle.

So I'm not going to think of Ryan as being 105 days old, or fifteen weeks old, or even three and a half months old. I'm going to think of him as being less than a quarter of a year. Then I can pretend that he's not actually growing any older until May...

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