It’s A Tummy Time World, We Just Have To Live In It

As a new parent, I naturally want my child to be good at everything. This is a natural parental reaction for anybody who ultimately sees their children as their meal ticket to a gold-plated retirement. Of course there are people who take it too far – beauty pageant moms that doll up their four-year-olds, or Little League dads who get ejected from ballparks for chewing out the coaches, umps, or whoever’s in earshot. While I don’t think I’ll ever get that bad (I want my son to ultimately choose his own destiny, though I do hope he embraces whatever talents he’s been blessed with), I probably have a little bit of that in me. Although, give me a few years and I might be shouting at a referee too.

At every one of Noah’s check-ups, the pediatrician hands out these little sheets before we go home. They list the measurements that the nurse took, among other advice and stats, but there are also usually lists of “things your baby should be doing” by that point in time. A typical list might include such milestones as “your baby should be able to lift their head” or “your baby should be cooing and smiling and grasping for things” or even “your baby should already be writing their first computer program YOU HAVE FAILED AS A PARENT.” There’s something buried in the fine print about how not all babies will exhibit all of the behaviors at the same time, but that might as well be written in invisible ink.

These lists are insidious for several types of parents:

  • Those that are nervous they’re doing something wrong (check! and see above)
  • Those that are lazy and can never finish to-do lists
  • Those that are driven to see their child achieve (check! and again, see above)

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Wait, yes it is.

So I look at these lists and I instantly blame myself for any skill my son hasn’t already begun and mastered. And out of all the lists we’ve received so far, the dance moves that Noah hasn’t displayed yet can mostly be traced back to one thing: tummy time.

If you’re not well-versed in the latest child-raising lingo, tummy time is fairly self-explanatory: you’re supposed to put your baby on their stomach for several minutes each day so they can build up their core muscles and learn how to push up, look around, roll over, and eventually crawl. It’s become an important consideration ever since the early 90’s when pediatricians began insisting that babies sleep on their backs to avoid sudden infant death syndrome. (Side note: that is hands-down the scariest, and yet simplest, name for a medical condition ever coined.)

And, as the saying goes, since you have to crawl before you can walk, you might as well say that tummy time is now the most important thing ever for a baby’s development. At the very least, the little pediatrician sheets call for ever-increasing amounts of tummy time. Not giving a baby tummy time is to condemn them to a lifetime of having a noodle neck.

It’s a cutesy name, this “tummy time.” The only problem, and Noah is no exception, is that apparently most babies hate it. Over these first few months of life, our bundle of joy will usually tolerate only a minute or two of tummy goodness before unleashing wails of complete and utter terror and fury, instantly sending waves of guilt throughout the house. We’ve gone through all of the distraction techniques listed on the most popular baby websites. We usually try laying Noah on the couch so we can be eye level with him without too much contortion, but that only works for a little while. We’ve mixed it up with toys, brightly-colored objects, and getting him to look at any object within arm’s reach (be it a dog bone, an actual dog, fuzzballs from the carpet – the usual favorites). We’ve tried singing, talking in a soothing voice, and dancing. Nothing can delay the terror for long.

And so there are moments every day where Gina and I have to make a hard call. Do we completely upset our cooing and smiling baby for a few minutes of tummy torture, or do we just let him keep cooing and smiling? I’m a little ashamed to say that, most days, the cooing wins. Who wants to kick that hornets nest, even if every time we delay it I picture every pediatrician in our practice shaming me, scowling and foretelling “your son’s going to have a noodle neck… NOODLE NECK!!!”

One day, not long ago, Noah was due for some shots at the end of his checkup. The nurse had us strip him down to his diaper and, for some reason, lay him on his stomach. I remember grimacing and turning my head to Gina, bracing for the maelstrom that was about to occur. I was pretty sure we would be kicked straight out of the doctor’s office for having a too-loud baby.

But as the normal screaming threshold elapsed and there was nary a peep from our son, I dared to open my clenched eyes a bit. Noah was not only not screaming, he looked to be actually enjoying tummy time. We could not understand why, until we noticed that he was drooling (a lot) on the paper the nurses put down on the exam table before we arrived in the room. You know the stuff. It’s the same kind of paper that rattles like crazy whenever you’re trying to be quiet while awkwardly sitting down in your underwear in any doctor’s office, waiting to be examined.

Noah was turning this paper into a feast. Or more accurately, he was drooling so much on the paper that the area around his mouth eventually turned into mush and we had to keep moving him around the exam table. It was clear that something about the crinkly noises the paper made, combined with the (no doubt) exotic taste, was keeping him happy despite being on his stomach. This went on for a good fifteen minutes, even while the nurse and doctor finished everything they needed to do.

Naturally, I began wondering if we could steal a roll of the exam table paper. Thinking better of it, I then wondered if we would be able to recreate the results. For one reason or another (parental amnesia), we didn’t even try at home for a long time, until this week. Faced with the reality that we needed to try tummy time again, a worn-out synapse in my brain finally fired up and reminded me of this miraculous doctor’s office cure.

I rushed to the kitchen, pulled out a sheet of wax paper, and ran back to slide the paper under our son. And, wouldn’t you know, it worked. Twelve minutes of uninterrupted tummy time and one soggy sheet of wax paper later, everyone was relaxing.

This is the stuff dreams are made of.
This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Is this the answer to life’s problems? No. Is it going to save Noah from having a noodle neck? Maybe. But thanks to this discovery, we no longer dread tummy time quite as much. We still need to get in a routine of doing it more often, but at least it appears we have enough of a distraction to make it work.

And you read it here first, but I’m thinking about buying up a bunch of wax paper, re-packaging it, and selling it as a baby product. “Crinkle Sheets” or something like that. There’s a market for it, I guarantee you.

It’s Here

Today, hope arrived. For the first time in months, spring’s arrival has a glimmer of a chance. Until now, winter’s icy fingers have had us in a stranglehold, keeping all of us indoors and sheltered, our dogs futilely looking out windows toward the Arctic wastelands that once held their vast, green bathrooms. The world is their toilet and, for three months or so, all but the smallest patches are rendered into icy and unforgiving tundra.

But today, I could finally smell something more than the bland scent of the winter wind. Mulch, mud, pine needles — even the leather seats in my car — all came back to life today. I swear I could almost hear the puddles of water soak deep into the ground to awaken the flowers slumbering deep below. The sun, no longer held to its low winter angles, has finally mustered enough courage to aim higher in the sky, sending the piles of snow into rapid submission. Heidi has her bathroom back.

There’s just something about spring that can instantly recast everything in a crazy Instagram filter of bright yellows and greens, though it should be experienced in person rather than through a camera lens. Spring is a giant reset button and a beacon home, a time of rebirth and relaxation, rain and allergies and blooms and picture perfect days.

I know that, meteorologically, we’re still a few weeks away from spring, but this was one of those days where I could finally just believe it was coming. Today was one of those days of demarcation and significance that we can soon point back to and say, “this was when it started.”

You don’t always get these kinds of days to kickstart a season. Around DC in particular, we’re fortunate to even get enough of a springtime to appreciate the cherry blossoms before nosediving straight into the oppressive summer humidity. Autumn is the next loudest season, announcing its arrival with football and a kaleidoscope of colors, but even those are more gradual indicators and are, let’s face it, only forestalling the onset of winter. Spring is reserved for the enjoyment of no overcoats, drying sidewalks, bare feet in the grass, and the celebrations of Easter.

It’s been a long, challenging, record-breakingly cold winter for many of us. But it has had its day. We won’t have to hope much longer – spring has arrived as sure as the morning.

Let’s begin.

 

Gone Before We Could Miss It

Let’s recap what has happened in the last few days:

  1. I logged into our bank account Wednesday evening when what to my wandering eyes should appear but our tax refunds. Last year, after our first-ever tax bill, I painstakingly calculated exactly how much to withhold so that this year’s taxes would be as close to net-zero as possible. That was, of course, before we even knew Noah was on the way. Since our fourteen-pound, diaper-wearing tax break was born in 2014, he gave us a nicely-sized refund. As I stared at the screen, the possibilities of what to do with the money were tantalizing: pay off some debt! Put most of it in savings! So recklessly carefree!
  2. Thursday morning, we had a snowstorm and the government was on a two-hour delay / unscheduled telework day. I had signed up for some online classes for just such an occasion, so I sat down at the computer in our basement den/office/music studio/creative space to plow through some of the lessons. Before long, I noticed that my socks were getting wet. Figuring that Heidi had tracked in some snow that had left the carpet damp, I ran upstairs to put on new socks. Back at the computer, it wasn’t long before this fresh pair of socks was also soaked. Frowning, I rolled my chair back to look at the situation a little more closely, and saw trails of sopping-wet carpet left by the wheels of the chair. Panning my head toward the rest of the room with a growing sense of dread, I finally noticed the damp spots that were springing up across the floor like little oil slicks. I ran back to the rear of the room to the water access panel, fearing the worst – only to have my fear confirmed. Our pressure regulator valve was leaking, and there was no telling how long it had been doing so. I cried a little inside when I realized just how much junk stuff we had in the room that would need to be quickly moved and bounded upstairs to recruit Gina.
  3. The plumbers were mercifully able to come that same afternoon. They fixed the pressure valve, but as a special bonus, they also discovered the burst pipe leading to the spigot on the front of the house. They happily repaired this for me too, as a two-for-two special. And of course they had to cut a couple of holes in the drywall for good measure.
  4. Thursday evening, I was still hopeful that I could Rug Doctor the excess moisture from the top of the carpet and all would be well. I was so young and naïve. By Friday, the carpet was still soggy, and I finally resigned myself to the fact that this would not be an easy or quick process.
  5. Gina and I manhandled the remaining furniture out of the room, exhausting ourselves and pulling muscles in the process.
  6. I called in a homeowner’s insurance claim and a water damage restoration company. There are currently five high-powered fans and a dehumidifier running in the room downstairs, and they’ve been going strong for two days now. The room still has an interesting smell, and the fans have played havoc with the temperature differential through the house.
  7. The rest of the basement looks like a creepy warehouse you see in TV shows where the bad guy is a creepy magician that lives in the warehouse and random stuff is stacked haphazardly everywhere and oh no, look out, the creepy magician IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU.
  8. In a completely unrelated chain of events, on Saturday afternoon I smashed my thumbnail in the inner workings of the baby stroller in the dining room at Chuy’s before sitting down to a nice Tex-Mex lunch with family. I’ve been cataloging the kaleidoscope of colors that my thumbnail has displayed. It’s moved past blood red and is currently sitting somewhere near dark-washed denim. It will likely fall off.
  9. Between the insurance deductible, rising home taxes, thumbnail replacement surgery, and other various bills coming due, that tax refund is suddenly thinning out. So much for that life-size replica of the Iron Throne.

So I guess you could say that this hasn’t been a banner weekend for our house. I’m ready to move on from winter.

Oh, and anybody want some wet carpet? I can get you a good price.

The Two-Month Mark

We have officially crossed the two-month mark of parenting, and everyone has survived. Noah has experienced a number of firsts over the last month, but that’s not too hard when practically everything you do is the first time you’ve done that particular thing.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve rejoiced in his first night sleeping in his crib, his first night of sleeping straight through for eight hours, and even his first lunch out with us at Panera and Starbucks. He’s been to church for Ash Wednesday too. We were expecting a full-fledged meltdown because it was an evening service, but he basically slept through the whole thing.

While many of these events are as much a triumph of us parents getting over our nervousness and celebrating the small things, it is clear that Noah is starting to develop normally and some elements of his personality are beginning to take shape. We’re beginning to discern his behavior patterns and the subtle variations in all of his different cries. But best of all, he’s smiling at us a lot, which is pretty much the greatest thing to see after a long day at work or when one of us walks into his room the first thing in the morning.

He’s also in the earliest stages of getting interested in toys and manipulating objects. Right now, he’s enraptured by two fish, one orange and one red, that are  sewn onto the Noah’s Ark blanket we hung in his room. His favorite (and basically only) toy right now is a hollow ball connected by compartments of rattling beads. While not exactly throwing it, he seems to enjoy hanging it by his thumb, shaking it, and letting it fall from his hands. I bet he also enjoys learning that we’ll chase after the ball and give it back to him.

Soon he will be smarter than us both.

Gina has been writing all of these little moments on a “first year” calendar that hangs on the nursery wall, but before long we’ll be so inundated with firsts that it’s going to be hard to keep track of them all. For now, to page back through the calendar is to synopsize the entirety of the emotional ride our family has experienced since mid-December. It’s all there, with still-blank spaces for the photos we haven’t yet gotten around to printing. Noah has made so much progress and grown so much in the last few weeks that it’s now almost impossible to imagine those first few days in the hospital, and yet I can still touch them if I stretch my hand far enough back through the pages.

As I began writing this, Noah was sleeping in his contraption called a Daydreamer, which for some reason I call his “time machine.” (One of the parental duties I’m really embracing is to take great pride in coming up with stupid names for everything around the house. I’m going to help the kid learn a strange kind of English, or confuse him, or both.)

The pinnacle of modern baby relaxation. All that’s missing is the cigar and leisure suit.

The Daydreamer is basically a lounge chair for babies, and it should last him for a while, but he’s already outgrown two other sleeping arrangements. Of course, my preferred nap spot for him is my arms, which he still likes as well. He’ll grunt and rub his face into our chests to find just the right spot to lay his head, and then dig in for a sound nap.

How much longer can that last?

Until the calendar is full and then some, I will cherish every moment I can.

It’s Black, It’s White – It’s Photography

Last year, Gina gave me a DIY camera kit as a gift. It was awesome, and I wrote about it. Along with the camera, she also gave me two rolls of film: one color, one black & white. The color roll lasted through the spring, and I posted a gallery of those shots on Flickr.

For some reason, though, it took me much longer to go through the black and white roll. Maybe because it had 36 exposures instead of 24. Maybe because I, in my inexperience with manual cameras, ended up stupidly popping open the camera a couple of times before the whole roll was complete. In the end, though, the premature exposures and resulting double-exposures created some neat shots. And of course, even after I had used up the roll, it took me quite a while to bite the bullet and get the thing developed (this time I used the excellent services at The Darkroom).

So, after that entire odyssey, below are my favorite shots from the roll. As I said,  some of these are complete accidents, others were intentional, but it felt neat to be shooting with film again. It all started with a trip to the National Zoo, continuing through trips to Austin and West Virginia, and culminated in some random shots around the neighborhood.

nationalzoo-bw-004
Round and ’round we go…

 

austin-bw-001
A ghostly appointment.

 

home-bw-004
Heidi on a leaf?

 

home-bw-006
From the ether?

 

westvirginia-bw-008
‘Merica.

 

The full Flickr gallery of the rest-of-the-best can be seen below as a slideshow if you’re reading this on something that allows Flash, and if not here’s the slideshow link:

Until next time.