A Ten Month Old Can Save Your Heart

When I restarted this blog I made a commitment to continue to keep sharing little parts of our lives. I’ve found tons of stories because, being a Catholic dad of two girls is quite a ride. So stick with me because there is a lot more to come. Yet this post starts off with why I’ve been a little quiet. We had a rough patch as a family.

Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. As every person in every walk of life knows, you have those rough spots on the journey. When you travel as much as I do it can create some very rough times alone. For our family August was a tough month. For me personally, it was even a touch tougher. (Don’t worry, this blog will pick up shortly.)

Near the top of that list the list that complied a rough August was fearing that although our 10 month old was always smiling when I was around, she wouldn’t cuddle and sleep in my arms. Ever, at all! I was beginning to develop a complex especially when I’m using the “late night mind” that you can get when sleep eludes you at night. I figured she was keeping her distance from me. I have to think that every father has thoughts like this.

Well, my wife got sick. Well, we all did. A cold shot through our home. It started with the 10 month old and did a full lap in our home. So the 10 month old was doing better when my wife was at her worst. She was so sick she couldn’t feed the 10 month old. That duty fell to me. Something I haven’t done much of in her life because my wife and I have avoided using formula. (Quick side note. I can’t put into words how much I’ve admired my wife carrying this work upon her shoulders for nearly 10 months.)

I have to admit, I was terrified. Only because I wasn’t sure if that little 10 month old would let me. She really fought most people that have tried to feed her. I watched several people actually give up trying to feed her with a bottle.

To this point I could carry our 10 month old…as long as I wasn’t sitting down. Standing/walking/dancing with her wasn’t a problem. Sit down and you can forget it. She would sprawl and try to stand up. She would fuss and start to cry. The only time she would settle in my arms is if she was really, really tired and would fall asleep. And only then would she relax. (Again, it gives a guy a complex.)

Allow me to set the stage. A Saturday afternoon and it’s nap time. My wife is sick and needs to sleep. Our 3 year old was getting ready for her afternoon nap. The 10 month old, she is hungry. Now a nervous daddy, adjusting to a sad event that happened to all of us (I’m sure I’ll post about that event in the future) and now it was time to step up to the plate and take care of our hungry 10 month old.

Make the bottle and warm it. I grab that beautiful bundle of hungry screaming unhappy baby and lean her back in my arms like I did hundreds of times before when our 3 year old was younger and tried to feed her. I didn’t sit down. I was going to walk with her. She had no interest. And I knew that for certain she had no interest in the bottle. Well, I knew she wasn’t happy and so did most of the neighborhood even though the windows were closed. Not only was she unhappy, she would stiffen up and make it tough to hold her. Sort of looking like a younger version of herself.

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I didn’t want anyone in the house to wake up and have their nap disturbed. So we went outside. I opened the garage door grabbed a lawn chair and sat in the garage. I like to call that “redneck style” just sitting in the garage and watching the cars. I sat her on my lap.

She not only sat down on my lap. She stopped crying. She smiled! We had a nice daddy/daughter moment! I tried the next logical step.

I grabbed the bottle and as she sat up on my lap and watched the cars roll by she ate. Then SHE grabbed the bottle and stopped eating but only because she was smiling.

Personally I was in a rough spot and that moment was where that rough spot ended. I couldn’t have been more excited.

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All it took was a 10 month old chomping on a bottle and smiling at me to turn my heart around.

I do want to end this post with a question and a comment to you. It feels weird always calling my daughters by their age (the 10 month old or the 3 year old) I’m going to start using names. But not their names. I want to ask you if you have any suggestions for names based upon what you have taken the time to read?

And the comment. Actually, feel free to comment on the page at any time. I welcome your thoughts and input on this blog. What would keep you coming back? Anything in particular? Share away!

The Acorn Never Falls Far From the Tree

I know it’s cliches aren’t great to use in language.  But with each passing day I realize the truth in “the apple/nut/fruit never falls far from the tree.”

It was bath night for the girls.  I decided I would help with the 3 year old.  After washing comes playing in the tub.  She was playing, laughing, and splashing around.  Suddenly she stopped to just tell me a story.  It came out of nowhere and she was very serious as she told it to me.  That focus had me paying attention even closer than normal.

“Um. Dad.  I think the DVR is broken”, she started.

“Oh yeah, what makes you say that”, I wondered?

“Well, the screen (she makes this spitting noise like it malfunctioned) pfffft (she rolls her eyes) goofy.  So mom tried to reboot”, she answered.  My eyes just about bugged out of my head.  I really didn’t think she said “reboot”.  I must have imagined it.

So I tried to interrupt her to ask but wouldn’t let me ask, “Did you just…” I was cut off.

“No, wait”, she cut me off.  “So Mom didn’t like how it looked after reboot.  So she reboot again!  (rolls her eyes like she can’t believe it) Again!  (holds up her fingers to show me the number two) TWO TIMES!  TWO REBOOTS!  That’s why I think it’s broked.”

I finally could ask her, “Margaret, did you just say ‘reboot’?”

“Yeah.”, she looked at me like I’m an idiot for not knowing the word, “When you unplug something and count and plug it back in.  Mom did that TWO TIMES!!”

I work with equipment all day.  From radio studio gear, to transmission gear, to computers the first troubleshooting step is to ask the person you are talking with if they rebooted the item to see if the problem goes away.  A geek like me couldn’t have been more proud.  Or should I say a tree like me couldn’t have been happier with the acorn?

The First Sign of Sisterly Love/Respect?

As a somewhat new dad to two little girls, the oldest is 3 years old and the youngest is 10 months, I’ve been waiting for those times where I start to see “sisterly love” and trust between the two of them.  I’m not looking for the little extra smile that our youngest shows when her older sister comes in the room.  That has been there for sometime.  I’ve been looking for a larger gesture or reaction.  A sign of trust.

(A side note. I think every guy goes through adjustments as children enter his life.  Our home used to be quiet.  Sure you may hear the radio or TV on, but there was a lot of time where one could get lost in thought or enjoy the silence.  Well, those days left almost 3 years ago.  And with two, those days have certainly moved further away.  That’s not a complaint.  It is simply an adjustment.)

So that gesture I’ve been looking for came in a very, well, how do I say it, a “daddylike” way?  (At least “daddylike” from my childhood).

It was bedtime.  The older sister went to bed pretty well.  The 10 month old just wasn’t ready to sleep.  As parents we tried nearly everything in our arsenal of tricks to get her to sleep.  She just wasn’t liking any of the attempts.  At a certain point, you just have to try the self-sooth-cry-herself-to-sleep.  My wife put her in the crib.

Well, the girls share a room.  A sleeping 3 year old is something to be cherished and witnessed.  Hearing her wake up is not what you want.  But sometimes you just have to let the baby cry and risk the 3 year old waking up.

The 10 month old went from a whimper, to a whine, to an irritated cry, to ticked off and getting louder with each step.

(Another side-note.  Just a few weeks earlier I was mentioning to the 3 year old that an awesome part of being the big sister is if you hear your little sister crying at night you could quietly whisper a comforting, “It’s OK baby, I’m here” and maybe your sister would calm down knowing she was safe in the room with her big sister.  Ahhhh, a father can dream right?)

The ticked off cry became more of an angry yell/cry when another voice came from the bedroom yelling, “Quiet baby.  Baby.”  (then a louder)  “BABY!  SHUT UP!”  That’s right.  It was the 3 year old.

But….that yell was followed by….silence.  And everyone went to sleep. 

Well, everyone except my wife and I sitting in the living room stifling our giggles of amazement. 

The big sister helped quiet down the little sister.  Not quite the quiet comforting whisper I was hoping to hear.  Yet it worked.

Who knew that my first sign of sisterly love/respect would be one yelling at the other.  For the record, they really love each other.  And they are LOUD.  I have been told, but haven’t heard yet, the “Frozen” “Let it Go” duet where the 3 year old sings loud and the 10 month old yells trying to sing too.  But sounds more like she is just yelling at the top of her lungs.  Like my first side note says, those days of a quiet house have gone away.  I couldn’t be happier.

Things The Bad Catholic Dad Does

At work I’m surrounded by a great group of Catholics. I love listening to the techniques employed by many of them in raising their children over the years. Plus, working with Father Rocky gives me an opportunity to listen to him speak. He has a particular talk where he encourages praying the rosary with your family. Even saying it is a great event to do with even the youngest of children. Although, recalling his words, it can be a “full contact” rosary with young children. The first time I heard him say those words. I thought, “That seems a little exaggerated. I’m sure if my time to be a dad ever happens it won’t be like that.”

Boy was he right and I wrong on that one. I have to admit being around an active 3 year old will keep me young well beyond my years. And going to Sunday mass has often become, to borrow Fr. Rocky’s words, a “full contact” sport.

I’m not complaining. I’m just realizing that the perfect dad isn’t the one that is comparable to Ward Cleaver. He is more like…well…a gifted verbal juggler. And sometimes a full on juggler. For my 3-year old daughter and myself, the verbal exchanges just keep coming. Plus, I keep getting reminders how even the most quiet of actions are always being recorded by a 3-year old mind.

We haven’t started praying rosaries with her yet. But we started from almost day one doing smaller prayers like the bedtime prayer, the prayer before meals, and the Guardian Angel prayer.

A 1 or 2-year old is easily distracted and that has caused me to occasionally reword a prayer. For instance if our 3-year old starts eating prior to everyone else sitting down I may reword the phrase, “which we are about to recieve” to, “which she is already eating/scarfing/inhailing”.

But the nighttime is sometimes “accidentally misworded” by me in order to distract her, get her to giggle, and refocus so we can say it correctly. The correct one we pray goes like this:

“Now I lay me,
Down to sleep,
I pray the Lord,
My soul to keep.
Guide me safely,
through the night.
Wake me with,
the morning light.
Amen.”

Well, when she is distracted, or not really ready to pray yet I may start her off with:

“Now I lay me,
Down to sleep.
A bag of peanuts/big ol’ pizza,
At my feet.”

The giggling usually starts followed by her saying, “That’s NOT how you pray it. Do it like this….”

Then she prays it the way we know.

A few nights ago I got up after going through out nighttime routine and a dresser drawer was left open just a little bit and I banged by foot against it. I only grumbled a little bit to myself and walked out of the room. (For those of you who really know me, you would be proud. No loud yell. No foul words. Literally just a grumble to myself and that was it.) I didn’t even think our 3-year old heard me. I was wrong.

The other night, my influence was heard by my wife. She went in to do nighttime prayer with our daughter. Our 3-year old improvidsed the following prayer. I think you will see my influences clearly.

“Now I lay me down to sleep.
A big ol’ pizza at my feet.
Guide me safely through the night.
Because a drawer is in my way. Amen.”

I wasn’t in the room to hear this lovely prayer. But I’m pretty certain the neighbors could hear my wife and daughter roaring with laughter followed by the real prayer.

I’m not sure my word substitutions would be given a Fr. Rocky stamp of approval, but I think my daughter watching out for our feet sure gets my approval.

And it is really important that I remember I’m being watched and listened too much more than I realize.

Just learning and living the #dadlife everyday.

The Best Entertainment Money Can’t Buy

So we’re taking our first full family trip together. I spent this past Father’s Day driving the family 6 hours from our home. (For all the math majors that read this blog. A 6 hour trip+3 year old+8 month old+2 parents=8 hour trip). This means, for the 3 year old, less TV than most days. An issue I thought would be a bigger deal than it seems to have become.

Screen time isn’t a big issue in our house. Years ago I would have assumed the opposite would be the case.

After two days of great weather, we woke up this morning to rain. A dreary day overall. So, at the risk of sounding like an old man, this morning I sat in a rocking chair and watch it rain.

Boring rain.

Falling rain.

Seemingly never ending rain.

Boring.

Booooooooorrrrriiin…. Wait, is that a duck? Hmmmm. It’s kind of cute.

Then a mother goose, I’m pretty sure no relation to the one from children’s stories, and her babies walk through the backyard.

Then I notice the clouds moving gracefully across the sky.

Next I notice some frogs hopping on the dock behind the house we are staying in. I whisper for the 3 year old to come sit on my lap.

We sat for about 25 minutes watching the frogs, ducks, geese, and 2 cranky swans moving about in the backyard. (When she asked me why the swans were so cranky, she answered her own question before I could with the words, “Probably they are mad because everyone called them ugly ducklings as they grew up. Right Dad?”)

The best entertainment money can’t buy is so often provided by God. We just have to take time to see it.

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Backyard day