Thursday, July 30, 2009

Things I Understand I Never Did Before

So Lucas is three months old now. Well, nearly. Not so much has changed in the last month, and we've settled into our routines pretty well by now. In the last week or two, he's started getting a LOT more verbal. He makes this hooting "oooh" sound, quite a bit. that anyone other than Amy or I might find annoying, but we find tremendously funny - especially when he gets excited and enthusiastic and it becomes "OOOH!" and occasionally "OOO-waaahhooo" and other variations when he starts smiling and twisting his mouth around. In fact, we were mildly embarrassed at a local restaurant the other night 'cause well, kiddo ain't quiet when he's making noise - family trait - and while we found it amusing, we had no doubt the other dining patrons probably did not. So I guess I'm starting to understand those parents who have the noisy kids but never seem to want to restrain them, or do so half-heartedly. Your heart really isn't in it; you love those expressions of emotion and LIFE from your lil' dude.

Here's a few other things that lately I've come to understand, even if not directly yet, that I never had tolerance for before now:

"My Little Johnny would NEVER (insert action here)"

Let me tell you... as a teacher there are few things that cause more eye-rolling at parent conferences (when the parent isn't watching, of course) than the blind insistence of a parent that their child is simply INCAPABLE of such a deed! While I still have no sympathy for the blindness that this attitude represents, I'm starting to see its roots. Looking at my lil' Lucas-dude, it's tough to imagine him doing anything wrong. At this point, obviously, everything he does is blameless. Babies don't even have a morality, nevermind one they can be judged on. As they grow into toddlers, they probably only get the weakest sense of right and wrong, and only if you work hard at it. "Don't hit, don't take" and so on - and I suspect compliance here is more a case of "avoidance of punishment" than any higher view. (That most of the world never gets past this level of morality is a point I could discuss at length, but that's for another time.)

It's easy to imagine that a parent's perception of a child never changes - people don't like to examine their own thinking processes, as a rule - and so that "Johnny never does wrong" mentality sticks....and sticks....and suddenly Johnny is in the 8th grade, and that mentality - which was understandable and correct when Johnny was a toddler - is now allowing Johnny to use his parents as enablers for all kinds of hideous actions. (Not to mention the fact that Johnny has learned that lying to his parents works and therefore is okay.)

Eh. I rant. That was not my intention. My intention was simply this: while I do not encourage that point of view and I sincerely hope I never fall victim to it, some small part of me acknowledges that people who think their kids are perfect may not be entirely insane in how they got there.

Parents Who Let Their Kids Sleep In the Same Bed With Them

This is another one I never really bought into. For the record, I still don't: to my way of thinking, it ruins the kid's ability to develop self-reliance and self-confidence, and only encourages a repetition of the problem. Frankly, once the kid's asleep, you've got one of the few occasions in the day where parents can pursue their own social agendas, and I mean hey, those opportunities are few and far between, or so I hear - so why you gonna let a little nose-dripper soil your sheets instead of sticking to their own? I've seen enough of my own kid sleeping to know he's a friggin kung-fu expert in his sleep. Fellas, seriously: can you imagine a little kid dealing you out a jimmykick WHILE YOU ARE ASLEEP? With that small, deadly-sharp foot?

Enough to give you nightmares for a year.

Having said that, watching the little dude sleep in his little crib and then walking across the house to my own bed, I'll admit that a time or two I've wished he were a bit closer, just to wake up and look upon in the wee hours of the night. Obviously at his current size, it would be a lot more dangerous for HIM than for ME to sleep in bed with mom and dad. Lemme tell you, his mom's got some flying elbows as it is in her sleep, and dad ain't exactly known for waking up at the sound of one hand clapping. Probably squish the little dude into a pancake and never know it if mom didn't muay-thai him into the next life on her own.

The urge to have him nearby and protect him, though, is a strong one. Sometimes when I go to bed, I wonder if I could get to Lucas's room fast enough if someone broke in - it would require going through the center of the house, and that means attracting unwanted attention in case of a burgalar or what not. Doesn't make me terribly happy. So I can pretty easily see a sick kid, or a kid with a nightmare who came running to mom and dad, getting comforted. And I can see - just from the relatively mild manner in which Lucas can express distress right now - a very strong urge to do anything, absolutely ANYTHING, to console, comfort, and protect your child. After having seen Lucas screaming in genuine terror and dismay (he had a nightmare once that was a real doozy, woke up screaming bloody murder) I totally get why parents dive into burning buildings/lift cars off kids/etc/etc. The urge to protect children before you have them - when they're in genuine distress and not being annoying - is mildly strong. We've all felt it. The urge to protect children AFTER you've had one borders on unbreakable hypnotic compulsion. I can only imagine Amy must feel it twenty times stronger with her direct hormonal and personal connection.

So, eh. I dunno. At the moment, I'm still very much against kids-in-the-bed. But I used to be completely against epidurals, too.

"You Just Make Do With Less Sleep"

"HA!" Said I. "Purest unadulterated bulshevik!" said I. Many things I can claim to be, but one-who-goes-without-sleep is assuredly not on the list. I needs my eight hours - I can skip a few once in awhile, but I NEEDS MY EIGHT HOURS.

...or at least, I did. It's not that you're less tired. By no means - having a kid around does not magically give you endurance you lacked before. Quite the opposite. Kids are friggin tiring. It's not that you need less; you probably need more. It's that you CARE less. At least three times a day I wish for more sleep (okay, I lie. I nap. I get almost what I need. Amy, though, probably does not. I used to not, though, and I write from that perspective and from the assumption that not everyone has a super-amazing wife.) but when I don't get the sleep and I feel myself starting to stress, I go look at the little dude. Seriously. I remind myself why it is I'm tired - and that he's worth it. He grins at me and bunches his hands up from the excitement of smiling, or he "OOHs" at me and clearly wants to be picked up. (Clearly. Really. I can tell and it's not just what I want, honest.)

I have no doubt that as he gets older and - let's face it - more annoying, there may be times that playing with my kid/being around my kid is NOT an instant pick-me-up. In fact, he may be a genuine downer-and-a-half. For now, though, it's not that I'm less tired - I just care less about BEING tired. It's like, well, spending a night in exceptionally fine and engaging company and going to work the next day particularly fatigued but not caring about it, if you'll excuse the comparison. It's not that you're NOT tired - it's that the tired simply isn't the highest thing on your mind.

(Caveat: after the fourth or fifth day, you start caring again. Heh.)

So I can't say that I'm sympathetic to the troubles of the world now, or anything daft like that. It is possible, though, that - as I listen to my son cooing and burping (how the hell does a body that small MAKE a NOISE like THAT?!) in the other room, that I won't be quite so cold towards a parent who can't imagine HOW their son cheated on a test.

World understanding through child-rearing? Stranger things have happened.

-MT out.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Religion, Revisited

I'm not a particularly open man when it comes to my religious views. I tend to give very abbreviated explanations of my feelings on the subject, both because - perhaps arrogantly - I find most people's views on the subject to be extremely dogmatic and ill-considered (often in the face of commonly, bluntly accepted general fact) and because such discussions tend very often to result in one or more parties becoming offended by my religious-but-not-like-yours views. I also think it's a bit arrogant of people in general to presume knowledge of something they really can't know anything about beyond what they believe, and worse, to force their beliefs (however strong they may be) on someone else's unconfirmed, strongly held beliefs. It's just a bad scene.

Semi-rant over: Starting this morning and extending through tomorrow night, I've been through and am going to experience two religious events. And as is the nature of this blog for expectant fathers, gentlemen, I shall attempt to prepare you for events to come.

The first experience has redefined for me the concept of Hell. Different movies have portrayed the subject in different and interesting fashions - What Dreams May Come has a particularly unusual and fascinating version, for example. There's almost always lots of fire and brimstone, dead bodies thrashing around, maybe some moaning and grasping hands. I'll take that any day (if I must, mind you) over what I got today. Kiddo went in for his first round of immunization shots. Now fellas, if you're like me, you probably ran into some rusty metal once or twice growing up, and probably got to experience a Tetanus booster shot. You may recall that aforementioned shot didn't feel particularly good, but the stiff and sore muscle was worse.

Yeah. Kiddo got FIVE shots today - three in one leg, two in the other. And I can tell you from experience when he accidentally headbutts ol' dad, my pain tolerance is a tanker-load greater than his. Mind you, I didn't actually see this event. Wife thought it best I not attend, and given how I handled the silver nitrate in his eyes moments after his birth, I went along with her thinking. So I missed out on round one, and the baby aspirin that dulled the pain thereafter. Kiddo came home, both wife and kiddo were sleepy, wife grabbed some shuteye. Kiddo grabbed shuteye and generally mellowed, as kiddo is likely to do.

Then kiddo's pain meds wore off, and dad didn't quite realize what was going on - or that more pain meds were an option. It took me thirty minutes of trying everything I could think of to calm kiddo down - and during that time, as the meds wore more and more off and his pain increased, the screaming just got worse...and worse...and worse. Red-faced wailing is a pretty fair description, and this from a baby whose idea of fussing tends to be a pouty lip and a louder-than-average whimper. Being new to the dad thing and not knowing many dads, I don't know how unusual I am in this regard, but it's safe to say I'd rather get dental surgery done with a crowbar and hammer than listen to my kid in pain. There are few sounds as debilitating and emasculating as that of your child, who it is your job to guard and protect. (YOUR job, bubba, she feeds it, you protect it - might well be in this modern era we share both jobs, but the ten-thousand-year-old-hardwiring doesn't give a damn.) Yes, I *know* the shots are good for him longterm. Yes, I *know* he won't remember any of it. I'm fully aware that nearly every baby in every first world country gets these shots. Guys, I'm telling you, when you're holding kiddo, who's looking at you with wide eyes, twisted face, and "WHY CANT YOU HELP ME" written all over his features... you don't give a sweet shit about anything other than making the pain stop. It's more than a little internally twisting. Make sure you get a VERY good night's sleep the night before the shots - because kiddo is going to be hard on you that day.

So finally, giving in and waking Amy - something I had to do, because her sleep is more precious than gold - she grabbed the meds and solved the problem. Minutes later, kid's calm and googling and grinning again. Simple fix, over and done. Score another point in the "Dad is a Cro-Magnon primitive jackass" column for not thinking to ask about that option before she went to bed. (Hey, stuff works eight hours or twelve hours at a time for me. That's the best excuse I got.) Make sure you know how to give the kid the meds and when it's okay to do so - don't learn my lesson the hard way.

And speaking of Cro-Magnon primitive jackass, Amy's birthday is tomorrow. (Here comes religious event number two!)

Or at least, I'm hoping another religious event occurs - because I'll need divine intercession to avoid being in deep and severe doggy doo for my complete lack of birthday preparation tomorrow. Historically, I've done one bang-up job with birthdays. Surprise party one year, specially delivered breakfast-birthday-surprise another year... I don't do too bad at this thing. I usually think over what I'm going to do, then about a week beforehand, I get things rolling. Problem is that this year, the week beforehand, I was on vacation in New Mexico with the wife and kid. (Which, by the by, did not suck. NM in the summer actually has some appeal to it, and I tend to prefer snowy climates.) That tended to disrupt my usual habits - and then coming back, kiddo here tends to do the same. I find myself with one present, and a lame plan: take the wife to dinner. She insists aforementioned plan is fine, but this does absolutely nothing to assuage my guilt at failing to live up to my own standard. Morale of the story: whatever your usual standard of "Do stuff for the wife on her birthday" is, make sure you get started on it a lot sooner than usual.

(And if you don't do anything, get off your hind end, you schmuck, that woman is/will be/just carried yer friggin kid around, for crying out loud.)

Not the easiest week. Not the most enjoyable blog to write. Really not looking forward to day two in "how to suck at being a dad/husband." I'm sure the wife will refute both things, but we guys know different about the standards we hold ourselves to when no one's watching. Meh. To end on a good note:

Lucas now is quite expressive a lot of the time - his vocabulary of random and varied sounds is extending rapidly. While none of the sounds resemble speech yet, certain sounds occur repeatedly and often on the same kinds of occasions: he's attempting to communicate via sound. In a way, you might even say he's succeeding. It's fascinating to watch his cognitive skills develop. I find myself wondering what his first words will be. As long as they're not "Cro-Magnon dumbass" I'll call it a win.

-MT out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father's Day, Family Reunions, and Other F'in Things....

So Father's Day was this last Sunday (duh.) It was an interesting experience; never having been rewarded on a holiday for anything not related to my birth, a religion, or an educational feat. Just kinda "Hey, you're a dad now, so woot, here you go."


And that's that. Presents were odd, too. I don't mean odd in the "Hey look, you got a singing fish for your wall" odd, just a category of present I've never gotten before. I got largely functionally useless, highly sentimental stuff. And like many other things relating to Dad-dom, no one ever explained this phenomenon to me, so I was caught by surprise. You, however, poor schlub-of-a-guy, get the skinny. Most dudes always mock the dad on Father's day. He gets socks, lame pictures of bubble-headed people, maybe a tie. Poor bastard, that's your reward for diapers and driving lessons? Better you than me, lameass.

Here's the thing: Yesterday, I got a mug with Lucas's picture on it. BIG-ass mug. Never used a mug that size before in my life. Probably never will. Got a picture of me holding kiddo in a nice frame. Got a little plaque thing of Lucas's birth info and some pictures. Functionally, none of this stuff has any value to a highly functional dude. At that point, I was bemused and pleased. Felt kinda sheepish. Then I unearthed the "grand finale" present, as it were. The humdinger. It was a picture book - pictures of me and kiddo, from the day he was born. Under them, Amy had selected quotes she thought I would like, and I have to admit, she did one first-class job. I'll completely deny showing any emotion about all this - 'cause, y'know, I'm a dude, and I only cry when John Wayne dies, yo - but it was one hell of a gesture. Then I realized what all the dads who blushed and grinned and hemmed and hawwed were really blushing about: not that they'd gotten those "lameass" gifts.

That, well, they really kinda like 'em. Those gifts are a reminder of a sentiment: YOU ARE DAD. And for most guys, that's kind of a "Well..uh...damn. Cool. Check that out" kind of mindset. Here you are with this really cool, hard, demanding, sometimes rewarding job - and Father's Day is basically the ultimate affirmation that you sir, DO NOT SUCK, at this dad thing. No dad will ever admit to their child that they wonder about this question, but every dad, from dad-of-newborn to dad-of-high-school-student, wonders about this question, and wonders about it frequently. "Do I suck at this dad thing?" Father's Day is the big clue-in that you are doing something right. Now I know why moms push the kids to make those cheesy pictures on Father's day. Take the time, make the fuss - Dads need to hear "You don't suck at this" once in awhile. If I'm any indication - and I may or may not be - we don't really know for sure, and it's never a bad thing to hear.

So, relative of Amy's getting married in a few days. Eh, fine, whatever, marriage is good - but it means we're taking the dog and the kid (seven weeks short two days) on a 10 hour roadtrip. Dog's done the trip before - wasn't thrilled, but weathered it well. I do wonder how she'll feel about her movement space cut by a third with the baby seat in the back, but not much to be done about it. Going ten hours with the lil' dude should be interesting, though. More interesting will be the far side of the trip. See, Amy's extended family has never met me. (They should consider themselves lucky, sez me.) I not being the most social critter you'll ever meet has never found this to be a particularly big loss. Amy's excited, though. She wants to show off both the hubby (slumming? You decide) and the kid. I figure I'll use the kid as a personal defense device to avoid conversation and just smile a lot. She's very proud of both. I'm obviously very proud of my kiddo, but it's more of a quiet pride - which for me is a bit odd, I guess. I'm usually quite loud about those things which I feel pride in when the occasion strikes, but my kid just makes me want to smile and keep it to myself. Not really sure why.

The trip itself makes me grumble and scowl, but that's not unusual. The only part that actually worries me a little is that I'll be taking the trip back sans wife and child - they're staying in NM longer than I am. It occurs to me that I've actually never been away from the kiddo for any extended period of time - a standard workday being the longest. Not really terribly keen on that, and I suspect I'm going to start feeling it a bit profoundly by the time they return. Normally I savor the peace and quiet of Amy's trips home; don't get me wrong, I love my wife, but I've still got a pretty antisocial hermit nature that has to be satisfied once or twice a year. Now, I suspect the lack of random sighs, sneezes, coos, gurgles, and fusses will probably make the house seem downright creepy. I still very much do my own things, but I'm used to a certain soundtrack now that might be missing. More of that "parenthood taming the man" kinda thing, I suppose.

Eh. Whatever. I'll still throw a party, scratch myself, and generally stay up too late and too loud while they're gone. If you're local, c'mon down. :P

-MT out

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Babies Don't Come With Instructions - or Even Warning Labels

Short entry, but I've been meaning to get around to this one for awhile.

Thing about babies: you can watch television shows. You can see movies. You can even see movies about babies and discover that yes, diapers do indeed suck, and yes, odd-hours-of-the-night do happen. (Neither are nearly so bad as current parents will tell prospective parents, by the way, but that's territory we covered in this blog months ago.) There are, however, a million little things that go on in the world-o'-baby that aren't mentioned, at least to dads, that can seriously weird you out. Here's a short sample:

Your child is NOT inhabited by demons: Babies do a lot of the sleeping thing, obviously. In theory, you ought to know this, even pre-birth. What you don't know is that sleeping babies are a little....weird. It's not uncommon for them to make a wide variety of noises - even small-scale "distress" noises - while completely asleep and resting comfortably. It is also entirely possible the kid's eyes will open, and you'll discover his eyes are completely rolled up. His eyelids will flicker a few times and then close again. Believe it or not, this is NOT, repeat NOT, cause to go seeking holy water and a Catholic priest. This is normal - if a little strange to behold. Slightly less odd, but also noticeable: kiddo, when sleeping, is rather likely to change his breathing patterns a bit - or even a lot - from very slow to very rapid and back again. Also not cause for panic.

(Note that if the child begins speaking in Latin, gets red flashy eyes, or rotates his head 360 degrees, this IS in fact a sign your child is inhabited by demons, and you should immediately seek the services of said priest.)

Yes, you are in range: Girl kids are a little less dangerous, but boy kids are friggin ninjas. All babies have two projectiles at their disposal, and boys have a third. When kiddo has just been fed, and you are doing the burping thing, USE A FRIGGIN BURP RAG. Burping often involves a minor-to-moderate portion of the main course being returned to sender (or burper, if not same) with absolutely no warning. Seriously. No facial expression change, no squeak, no twitch. Just "hi dad, eat this!" and whammo, out the yap it comes. Most of the time, it will go straight down or only slightly forward... but don't make the mistake of peering at your kid face to face while burping or shortly before/after. (Also, bouncy games with kiddo immediately before/after burping, you might as well lay a tarp down, y'know?) Projectile number two is at the opposite end-o-baby: that'd be the fecal dispenser. Baby poop is often of a very watery consistency - which means that, under pressure, like any other liquid, you can get a bit of distance on exit. Keep the changing table pointed ALONG the wall, not TOWARDS the wall. Fecal wall art is not fun to clean. Keeping the old diaper in at least a blocking position until the new diaper is ready is also rather prudent.

Fellas, those with sons also have the dangers of the front-mounted water cannon. And THAT sucker is a high-use weapon, as we know. Just like you, cold air tends to make things cringe, and in junior's case, it tends to make things expel. The water pressure there is actually pretty impressive. Junior's water cannon can't quite match dad's, but two feet up is very doable - and if dad is, say, hanging out right over that area while he's doing the diaper-changing thing... well, hope your mouth is closed, slick. Tip there is to take a wipe or some other absorbent/blocking object and make sure the pee shooter (hah, I actually got to use that correctly, that rocks) is covered and deflected. Also, let's not be squeamish, fellas - do yer kid a favor and make sure that when it's covered/deflected, it's pointing down... or the poor guy's gonna unleash right in his own face, and you can be sure that'll come back in counseling session bills in fifteen years.

Your kid = dirty fighter: and no, this time I'm not talking about diapers. When dealing with angry babies, watch yourself. No joke, man. For one thing, especially in the early stages, they lack the strength to control their head. Unfortunately, just like every other human, when they're angry - say, for diaper, food, or burping - they get stronger. (Babies can stand when angry if you're holding them - just lack the balance to stay that way. Seriously. Mine is amazed by it and calms down briefly, which causes his legs to buckle, and he sits down again, gets annoyed - rinse and repeat. Great way to buy time for mom to get the diaper or bottle.) Anyhow, in this case, the kid - now angry - DOES have the strength to control his head... but he lacks the control. Think of a drunk guy on ice skates surrounded by booze - he'll head in a direction with a lot of vigor and no control. Baby's the same way - kiddo is probably looking for food or relief and that head will whip around with some force... and lemme tell you, baby's forehead plus your collarbone, or cheek, is actually pretty painful. So when kid is upset, mind that - and if the head starts moving, orient your body such that it's hard for the head to get a lot of clearance for whompage, or keep a hand up there. Also, to a lesser extent, watch the limbs. Baby's fingers and hands also flail around a lot early on, and they're more than small enough to go straight into your eye, nose, mouth, whatever. To steal a line from the Blue Oyster Cult and mangle it, don't fear the squeaker - but recognize the squeaker, when annoyed, can take it out on you, and have your guard up. Hehe.

Oh, and one other thing. Dads, BEFORE your kid is born, look up this word. Get pictures, too. Be prepared:


Scar you for life.

-MT out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"How I Learned to Love Sleep Deprivation"

So Lil' Lucas is approaching the three week mark now, and some things have changed, some have remained the same. He looks around a lot now, and will occasionally carefully regard mom and dad with measured stares, but generally peers around a lot. He still sleeps a lot. Still gets a disproportionate share of my wife's mammalian bits as his personal playground. (An amused, sarcastic part of me finds this mildly jealousy-arousing.)

In some ways, Amy and I are becoming more adept at the parent thing. Quite by accident we stumbled on a talent I appear to have that moves me from "Semi-useless cheerleader" to "one-act freakshow." Seems as though I have a talent for clubbing my kid over the back until he imitates his dad with a great guttural belch. So Dad has a purpose that allows him to assist Mom in a way that isn't sub-par, and therefore lets Mom go do something else. (Fellas, here's the method: when you burp a kid, you're supposed to pat their back, right? Instead of patting their back with the ends of your fingers vertically, aligned with the spine, use them big ham hocks the maker gave ya. Don't pat vertically, pat horizontally and use your whole hand. Cup it slightly to conform to baby's body and there you go. Instead of patting maybe 10% of their back, you're patting about half their abdomen. Don't hammer the kid, but don't need to be too gentle, either - babies are medium sturdyish and they'll squawk if you're doing it too hard, but for some reason it soothes them - kid will curl right up against your shoulder and not peep, you do it right. For real.)

Unfortunately, this also makes for a frustrating situation whenever kiddo is upset and we don't succeed immediately at soothing him. Particularly for Amy, who has hormonal hardwiring that makes her judge her effectiveness as a mother on Lucas's happiness, this hits pretty badly. For me, it's a little less upsetting - I can accept that sometimes kids get annoyed - but I have my own Achilles Heel, as it were: I really dislike the fact that when he's upset because he's hungry,  I'm about as useful as a bumper-mounted airbag. Rationally, I know that on the rare occasions Amy's busy for a minute or five (guys, make sure you jump right up to take kiddo when wife needs to shower, and bitch not at all about how long she showers for - it's probably her longest break of the day) that Lucas will survive just fine if he isn't fed, and that he doesn't hold it against me that I have totally non-functional breastage. Rationally, I can articulate all of that and be just fine.

Emotionally, on the other hand, I do not as well.  Fatherly hardwiring is a bit different than mommy hardwiring. Theirs is to nurture and protect. Ours is to protect as well, but we tend to be more aggressive in seeking solutions. So to sit docilely with your son in your lap, screaming bloody murder, when you can't do a single thing about it - emotionally, that's very hard on a fella. You alternate between wanting to charge into the bathroom and berate your wife for daring to take a three minute shower, bashing your own head into the wall in frustration, or breaking down in tears because you're useless.  Funny thing; I'm a guy who controls his emotions very well for the most part. (Or so I like to think?) Baby-induced fatigue, though, combined with the fact that we DO have some primal reactions - not so much as mom, but some - to our child... brings your emotions RIGHT to the surface. Major way. Can catch a fella off-guard too, if he's unprepared for it. 

Dunno. This baby thing is tough. As I told a coworker today: "babies are hard." Really, the routine hasn't changed much since week one, as we now approach week three. We're trying to get things to the point where Amy can put milk into some bottles so that I can break up her hellish "two hours of sleep, one hour of feeding/burping" routine, but not there yet. We're examining more advanced/varying methods of keeping kid happy and getting his sleep schedule more aligned with ours. (Right now, Lucas's most active time is 11pm-3am...brutal.) Be prepared for the toughness, but supposedly it does get better. At no time have we regretted his presence, though. He's a cool lil' bugger, and seeing him wiggle and coo and snore (yes, babies snore, friggin hilarious) is a treat.

Besides, it does get better after awhile. Supposedly.

-MT out

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lucas Emmett Fletcher, Part Three: Or How a 1lb guy can kick YOUR ass

So Lucas - or I may refer to him by his affectionate nickname, the "Fuss Bus" - has been home for a week now. Despite my higher-than-it-should-be weight, I consider myself a pretty bad dude. Did some MMA in college at the local level for play cash, lifted way too many weights in high school, spent far too much time on blue mats learning the fine art of dealing out a beating. I'm not stupid - I still avoid the darker sides of the street, say "yes sir" to anyone with a weapon, and don't go looking for trouble. Having said that, I feel safe escorting my wife and child somewhere if need be. 

...especially now that I know that kid can whip my ass. Damn.

K fellas, here's another wee bit o' education for you. Kiddo, when he's still doing the scrunchy-in-momma's-belly thing, he's still affected by the laws of gravity. I mention that because if you imagine where he's sitting and all the things momma's doing - especially late pregnancy, with that preggo-waddle thing goin'- the kid effectively spends all day being held tightly and rocked. Translation: Kid gets encouraged to sleep a LOT during the day. Now I've since learned that newborns, even sleeping, are not entirely still, so that may explain why you still notice mom's belly doing the Alien thing during the day.

At night, though, momma's still and all stretched out, so baby's not getting rocked, and he's getting as much space as is available.  This means that kiddo is going to be as active as he's likely to be at night. Besides allowing you to view the Flesh Freakshow before going to bed (seriously - late enough in the pregnancy, you're going to see clear limbs; elbows, occasionally even the impressions of HANDS and FEET...mondo weird) this also means the kid's activity table is actually reversed. He's the ultimate college student from day one: party all night, sleep all day.

Here's the really fun part: that doesn't change after they're born.


Remember that partying roommate from college? Yeah - he's back. This time, you can't ignore him, though. For the first few days, it's quite possible to get 8 hours of sleep. Problem is, you don't get them in a row. You get an hour, then 45, then an hour, then two, then another hour... 'cause kiddo's going to wake up pretty often with a nasty diaper or an urge to feed. Funny thing, though. Normally, if someone wakes a fella up that many times in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder, you're looking for a club and a muzzle. When it's your kid, you wake up, roll your eyes, and smile - 'cause it's your kid, right? He's just fussing 'cause he needs something, and then he's more than happy to let everyone go back to sleep.  It's frustrating and annoying, sure, but you can't blame the lil' dude - it's not like he can hop up and get himself a burger, y'know? And how much would you be hollering if your entire lower half were covered in your own fecal matter? Yow. Here's the jaw-dropping part: kid may require diaper swap as much as a dozen times a day, and may require feeding nearly as many.   It's not that any of the times require a lot of effort - feeding is pretty passive, and diaper changes, while active, are actually pretty quick jobs. It's the fact that, well, we're used to sleeping in large blocks. Kid's fine with the pace, but we're very much not used to catnapping as a lifestyle choice. That can and will wear you out, FAST.

So the lil' dude's going to keep you awake a lot. For the first two days or so, the fatigue won't be too bad, but by day four, you're going to notice some pretty dramatic fatigue symptoms. If you're not off work, take advice: car pool for the first two weeks or so.  Fine motor skills are going to get very wobbly. So is coordination - you'll stumble more. I think I've nearly broken most of the toes on my left foot, which is exceedingly damned annoying. The obvious irritability and emotional insanity are going to be there, too. Remember that in all your interactions - especially with the wife. Remember that you don't hate each other, that you are on the same team, and that you both want the same thing: happy healthy kiddo. Silly as it sounds, you may even want to write it down somewhere you'll see it. We're guys - visual reminders help. 

But anyhow, you'll hear this elsewhere, but here it is again: babies only really fuss for three reasons: they're hungry, they've got a messy diaper, and they've got gas. (Let's NOT think about just how much that's like the adult male, shall we?) No real magic or mystery to 'em, fellas. The good news is you can do something about two of the three - all three if the wife isn't breastfeeding. (Not getting to that whole debate; that's out of our realm of ken.)

So anyhow. Here's a bit you can read to the wife, and my own wife agrees heartily with it, and we're doing a pretty damn fine job so far, if I do say so myself:

You should not be getting up with her for the late-night feedings. You, my fine fellow, should be sleeping. There's nothing you can do at those feedings, and she's got to be there anyhow. You are more useful getting what rest you can, so that during the day, you can take care of a lot of little things that normally would be in her purview - dishes, picking up, etc. (Hey dude. That's the trade-off. You don't have someone nom-nom-noming on yer boob at 2am, so don't bitch.) On the other hand, if you're not getting up, she DOES have the right to expect you to help out a little around the house, because she's going to be exhausted, and recovering from childbirth, and a bit dehydrated. Remember to bring the lady a lot of water - somehow that strange device known as the female body converts that to milk. Go figure. (If we could get it to convert water into other things we'd be set, neh?)

The good news is it does get better - and, for someone being beaten down by sleeping in one hour doses, it gets measurably better fairly soon.  The kid's dominant activity periods will, over a week or two, start to shift to daytime, and while they'll still have nighttime needs, they won't be nearly so active as in week one.  Lucas is 1 week 2 days at this point, and he's already showing some shift and we're getting a bit more (not a lot) sleep at night. Mind you, there is a condition called "colic" that makes all of the above completely moot. Short version is that if you're one of these unlucky fellas whose kid has colic, well.  Just remember that it doesn't last forever, and make sure you get a night a week to go and be a guy with your friends. (Colic - this is hearsay, 'cause Lucas doesn't have it - is basically the ultimate in gas pains. Babies need to fart. A LOT. Colic, in simplest terms, is the inability to fart; usually happens to babies. Lots of gas, no ability to cut loose with a wild and warbly one. You'd scream bloody murder, too.)

So anyhow. This blog entry has probably been a bit dull compared to the frank accountings of parts one and two, but eh, it's the Saturday before I go back to work. (Fellas - take a week off when kiddo's born. Seriously. Major brownie points with wife, and when the kid starts actually looking around with intent, and you can see the eyes are clearly watching things... you don't want to miss the one and only first time that happens, y'know?) Newborns are challenging, but your life isn't destroyed, uberdrama doesn't commence, you can still do most of the things you used to do, and one of you at a time can even leave the house and take care of things out and about. Babies are not soul-and-society-shattering beasties. They're just lil' dudes, lil' chicas, just need some attention, some boob,  and a clean place to sleep.

....and that really is an awfully lot like you, ain't it, bub?

Respect your peer - because he/she can kick your ass.

-MT out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lucas Emmett Fletcher, part two: "Your life is never the same" and other weird, cryptic phrases

So if most guys are like me, at least part of your mind views such phrases as "you instantly fall in love, the kid immediately becomes something you'd die for, your whole world changes, you're never the same" and other such melodramatic fuzz as unlikely, alarming, strange, or just something not to be thought about at all. Emotional discussions are voodoo, witchcraft, bone-rattles and not to be trusted for most men. Once they have a kid, most guys are uncomfortable trying to understand/explain their emotions, so they just fall back on the tired old cliches and call it a quick day.

Which, sadly, doesn't do a friggin thing to help the next guy in line, eyeing the strange cliches with a sense of distaste and suspicion. So let me attempt to break down into reasonable, non-mystical bits the chain of thoughts and realizations that have been going on in my head for the last ...yeesh, I guess it's been 72 hours, now.

1. Love at first sight is only for moms and men who haven't SEEN yet.
K, look. If you're lucky, when your kid comes out, you've got a pinkish-red Winston Churchill with bluish extremities. If you're unlucky, you've got a greyish-blue creature from the Black Lagoon, covered in nasty, cheesy crap. Yeah - could look that bad. So maybe moms are hardwired for love at first sight, but we're not.

My first reaction (we were lucky, he looked pinkish-red) was to be very curious and generally happy, but happy in that "Friendly dog seeing new people" kinda way - wanted to sniff and poke and touch (didn't want to sniff his butt, and given what's come out since, glad that's true) but "love at first sight" not so much. Lucas seemed like a pretty cool dude, but wasn't ready to sacrifice life and limb quite yet. For me - and I suspect most guys - there has to be a trigger.

Got kiddo cleaned up, wife got first dibs on holding kiddo (and fair enough, given her recent activities) and then kiddo got handed to me. Now, Lucas was very much unkeen on being tossed around - I mentioned that last entry - but sitting on mom, now that was okay. I fully expected that when he got handed to me, the horrible screaming he was doing the moment he was pulled away from mom would continue.

The moment he landed on my chest, his head rammed straight into my neck, little fists grabbing.... and he shut up. Mind you, for an agitated baby, that doesn't mean silence - but the screaming stopped. Glorps, gurgles, chirps continued - but he felt safe here, listening to my voice, holding on to me for as much as his now three-minute-old-life was worth. Then it went through my head:

"This kid knows as clearly as I do that we are family. And he NEEDS me." That's what did it. Babies don't need you like your wife needs you, like your coworkers need you, like your dog needs you. Wife would eventually get over you, coworkers would hire someone new, even your dog can scrounge. Your kid? That kid's one shot at survival is YOU, sucka. Obviously they don't know it in those terms, but I can't imagine the kind of fear/anger that must go through a newborn's undeveloped noggin. Hearing a voice they heard while they were inside, a heartbeat nearby... they need that. Something fierce, and you provide it - and so kiddo calms down.

So yeah. Not so much love at first sight, but pretty quickly something will trigger. Maybe you'll notice something in the kid's face that is unmistakeably you or your wife, or maybe kiddo will hang on to your finger like it's his only tether for the world, or maybe he'll quiet down from a desperate fuss - but something will trigger that your unconscious will react to in some way.

"The moment you see your baby, the whole way you look at the world changes."
Yeah, again fellas - not so much. Maybe women are hardwired, but we take a minute to figure this kinda crap out. And when you do, it really isn't soul-shattering or profound or "knock-you-off-your-feet" type stuff; or at least it wasn't for me.  Attempting to explain: Shortly after your kid is born, there's a federal law or some such that says they have to put these special eyedrops into your kid's eyes. (Had something to do with a rampant STD problem  in the 60's and blindness because it got in the kid's eyes on the way out ...yes...ew.) Now in principle I understand this and I'm fine with it. In reality, when the nurse put the drops into Lucas's eyes he went from "pretty annoyed" with the world to "absolutely furious and in pain." Remember what I said about being afraid that I'd beat the screaming jesus out of the doctor? Yeah, well. As soon as the thought went through my head "that nurse just hurt my son" I had to quietly walk to the other side of the room, behind the curtain, and get my temper back under control. I found myself quite unexpectedly VERY angry - and I've usually got a pretty good sense of what's going to trigger my temper.

I was kinda surprised and I thought on it for a minute. I had never really realized "Lucas is important to me; I love him" or anything like that. It wasn't earth-shattering when I DID realize it. It simply... was. Much in the same sense that if you turn on a light switch, you're not conscious of the photons bouncing to the floor and then to your eyes. You're not aware "the light is turning on." It simply is on - and, if you looked around, you would have no evidence the light was ever NOT on. The light doesn't leave record of when it wasn't that way... it just is on, you accept it, and you move on.

That's basically how it was with Lucas. There was never a heart-rending moment where I realized I'd throw myself into the path of danger for him, or anything like that. It simply... "was." The kid had, quite unaware, become absolutely vital. Nothing weird or insidious - I simply recognized that the light was on. I didn't know quite when it had happened, nor why - but I surely knew it had. Lucas was now protected material in the same way my wife was - and woe betide anything that threatened him.

Your whole world view doesn't change, your life doesn't "begin all over again", your perceptions of reality aren't torn asunder - just, quite without expectation and reasoning, there's a new notch on your "things to care about" ladder. Very high on the ladder, and very permanent.

Oh, right, the last one for today:

"Your life starts all over again," or one of a dozen variations on that theme.

What-ever. Simple as that. I got home, I was very happy to play with my kid, but y'know what? I still likes  my video games. I still talk MMORPG shop with my guy friends. I suspect that if I'm a particularly spiff dad, I'll still get to go out this Wednesday night with the guys for 3-4 hours. I still have hobbies I love, and frankly, now I dream of the day when I can get the kid in on them too. (Fletcher father and son dodgeball team? Bet your ass, bubba.)  Yeah, I spend some time staring at the kiddo sleeping (cause that's about all he does, really, but that's cool) and yeah, I spend some time thinking about the future - but then there's 23 more hours left. Lemme tell ya, you'll be awake for a few more of those than you might be used to, as well.

Here's the thing: If your life "starts all over again" YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Your hobbies need to stay intact. Your stress relievers DEFINITELY need to stay intact. Your relationship with the woman you love absolutely MUST stay intact!! Yes, she's mom now. She's the caretaker of that which is vital - but she's also still that woman you wanted to drag into the closet nine months ago. (And if you're lucky, that's While the doctor may say "nothing here shall pass" for a month and a half - and yeah, that sucks too - your relationship with your wife shouldn't change. She's still the hottie that gets your attention at any party, the woman who laughs at your jokes and puts up with you farting at her. (Okay, well mine thinks it's funny, sorry if yours doesn't.) Baby is vital and a cool part of your life - but don't stop being the slick dude that you'd want baby to meet, nor the great fella that your wife wanted to marry. Stick with that! Adjust for less spare time, and tweak so you can respond to baby emergencies if they arise.... 

but you're still an excellent dude, and lord of your manor.

Now if you'll excuse me, the lady of this particular manor wants me to do something. So much for being ruler of the castle, eh?

-MT out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lucas Emmett Fletcher, 9lbs, 3oz, May 7 2009. - part one: the big entrance

We're home. All three of us.  This will probably be the longest blog entry I put together, so you may want to take it in doses, and with a cup of coffee. ;) 

Part One: Pre-Lucas - this part has some semi-gooey description towards the end, fair warning

So Thursday morning, come 5am, we went down to the hospital and things got underway. Yeah, 5am. Apparently the idea there is that you start early, you deliver before the late hours of the night when humans are a bit slower and less energetic in general. Getting up at 4am on delivery day was a trip, lemme tell ya. They hooked Amy up to various devices - some took multiple tries, as her veins are apparently a bit instrument-shy - but eventually she was set. Amy wasn't too happy a camper, as it didn't take much potocin (guys: this is a drug they use to induce chicks, make 'em go into labor faster. Downside is it makes 'em go into labor HARD..hurts extramuch.) for things to get going. There is some real possibility that Lucas would've shown up Thursday regardless, but it really took VERY little medical help for her to start delivery.

In fact, Amy's contractions got so close together, so soon, that poor Lucas was having a bad time of it - they had to back off the stuff. Apparently getting your body squeezed REALLY FRIGGIN HARD every minute or so is hard on a lil' guy. Go figure. So they ended up backing down her potocin until she was practically only getting a spitter's trickle.

Long about halfway through the process (guys: Short version; until the opening for kiddo gets large enough, women can't actually push the kid out. Longest part of the delivery process is actually waiting for that opening to expand, not the "PUUUUSH!!!!" part you see on TV) the pain for Amy is getting pretty friggin religious, and she calls for the epidural. I won't lie; I wasn't happy, though I had the wits not to show it. At that point I was vigorously anti-epidural. I knew the pain was very real and I didn't envy Amy that, but I have always had a deep dislike of modern medicine and "We'll give you a medicine to fix that, and give you some medicine to fix what the medicine does, and some medicine to fix what THAT does, and..." until Mom's got enough meds in her system that her body goes bananas. I will come flat out and say it:

I was wrong. 

I understand why people are hostile to epidurals; completely and entirely. I even agree, in principle, with the thinking I said above - but I no longer agree with the no-epidural crowd. As soon as "no pain below the waist" action got started, my wife came back. It was no longer the quietly whimpering, grimacing, red-and-pale-faced woman. She actually smiled again; giggled at a joke, and wanted to take a short nap. Fellas, lemme tell you - having your wife be the calm, enjoyable woman you married at this point in the process does a CRAP TON for lowering the chance you will beat the screaming jesus out of the doctor in a moment of terrified, protective-dad angst. It lowered the "OMG! DRAMA!" aspect of things considerably. Amy was rational again, I became more rational (hadn't lost it yet) and the next few hours passed. They actually had a DVD player in the delivery room since we'd be there so long, and we watched our favorite TV series and generally were an amused and happy couple again. (Surreal? Yeah. Go with it, though.)

(Yes, hours, guys. We got there at 5am. Amy was hooked up by 5:45, the potocin running by 6:30-ish... and Lucas showed up at 3:39 PM that day. Bring a book, or get lots of sleep and make sure you have a food/drink runner.) The actual "push push" delivery only takes about an hour... but I get ahead of myself.

So about 1:30, Amy's a 6 (a "10" means the opening is ready for biz) and we both bed down for a quick nap, her on the bed-o'-fun, me on the cot-o'-crap. Doc has predicted she won't be ready for pushing until 4-ish/5-ish, and we won't see Lucas for about an hour thereafter. Nurse comes in to check on her at 2:30 and looks visibly surprised. She checks something again. (And fellas, abandon pride/sensibilities - in order to check, they're putting their hand somewhere you'd beat someone six kinds of bloody for the day before, k? Yeah. THERE. Eh,  that's only half the fun by the end of the day, believe me.)

So anyhow - nurse is surprised. It's 2:30 and uh, "Amy, how would you feel about pushing?" Cue the room transformation. Bed gets chopped in half, gets elevated about two feet, stirrups get added, spotlights go on (yes, a friggin spotlight,  right on your wife's biz) and people start coming in and setting up tools, blades, devices, and everything you'd expect to see in a Saw movie.  Fellas, tell you in advance: the place to be during all this is about three inches to the left or right of wife's head. It keeps you out of the way of the whirling maelstrom of STUFF going on. It also keeps you from unduly staring at anything now on display like a museum (Amy wasn't self-conscious, but I could see a wife getting weird if her hubby started staring in train-wreck- fascination at her biz, go figure) and best of all, it keeps you close and not feeling like you're now outside everything. If you're like me and like to feel in-control or at least significant in all actions, be prepared for a shift during delivery day. I was absolutely fifth-wheel cheerleader all day. That stupid birthing class can kiss my ass; I didn't do ANYTHING from there, nor was I invited to - scared the crap out of me for nothing.

So Amy starts the pushing bit. Fellas, best analogy here is "they look like they're taking a REALLY, REALLY monster crap." Even get red-faced, tongue-out, veins-bulgy. Because Amy was on the epidural, though, she felt very little/no pain from it. After each push, she's friggin chatting with the delivery nurse. "Oh, yeah, our nursery is green and white, and we're so proud of it, and when are you due again".... more than a little surreal, but honestly, it kept me shockingly calm. I was totally not in freak-out mode, and that surprised me. Amy chatting and giggling (and yes, she did, even then) kept me at ease, and so it made the whole thing easier on the big dude.

Mild gross warning from this point forward, but in the spirit of keeping this blog very guy-friendly, I'm going to stick with trying to keep it only mildly gross.

Amy wanted a mirror in front of her so she could see what was going on down there. I'm told a lot of chicks do - I wasn't too keen, because I most assuredly DID NOT want to see WHAT WAS GOING ON DOWN THERE. I've gotta poke ol' willy in there again someday, y'know? Scar me for life.

Eh. So. About halfway through the pushing, Amy and nurse (still chatting cheerily away - wtf is that about?) both comment on the fact that you can see the baby's head while she's pushing. Whatever. I am NOT looking at the mirror and down there while my wife is straining on the world's ultimate poo. After awhile, though, they then comment on the fact that you can now see the head - still IN THERE - even when she's not pushing. Eh. So I kinda take the quick glance, and I can't see anything. Just looks like a lot of black swirly crap inside a place I don't usually inspect this closely anyhow, y'know? Makes the foreplay a bit awkward if you go gyno on yer lady. Then they mention how much hair the kid's got...and holy crap... you mean that black swirly crap IS THE TOP OF MY KID'S HEAD AND THAT"S HAIR? Whoa!

Mind you, bear in mind where he was living for the last nine months. The hair ain't clean and it ain't dry, but yep. There cometh the lil' dude. Now here's the thing. Lil' dude doesn't particularly WANT to come out, and the body's kinda protective of the lil' dude anyhow. So when lil' dude's getting pushed out, after every push, they actually slide back IN a bit. Not so much as the push got them out, but you have something of a tug-o'-war going. Five inches out, three inches in, kinda thing. So lil' dude's head - top of it - actually COMES OUT and I can see a noggin and black swirly wet-gookish hair...and then the push ends, and it actually goes away. In my head I'm thinking "Dude!? WTF? GET BACK HERE" but I manage to keep that to myself. Doc reaches back and grabs some scissors at one point - I knew what that was for, but I avoided watching. Sometimes, fellas, the lady's biz isn't quite large enough to pass the munchkin out, and so the exit has to be widened a bit. Here's the thing: IT WILL BE WIDENED a bit - either by the doctor, or by the kid, y'know? Doctor will do it all neat and straight. Kid will just go all "Hulk" action and tear their way out. You figure out which you prefer. ;)

Break time for a tip: Guys, we all have different stomach levels. I considered myself a man of weak "gore" stomach until two days ago, and you may or may not be the same. Here's a tip - when things are going fast and furious, if you even start to think you're going to have an issue, look away immediately. Check out the wife's face, or if that's still too intense, look at one of the million random machines in the room. Stare at the buttons, and try to figure out what they all do. Give yourself a minute or so and then come back to watching, if you wish. Far better to take a short break than to do a concrete swan dive or a technicolor yawn, y'know?

So after the second such advance-and-retreat, doc gets enough head out there to keep a grip, and it's all over with another push or two. The cord, fellas, is not really so bad. It's kinda this grayish rope that has a clear cover and some other colors mixed in.  It's not clean, but it's not horrid, either. They cut that (actually, they offer you the chance to do so, but I declined - I'm a confident guy, but I am not screwing with ANYTHING regarding my dear and precious wife's delivery; that's the job of a pro, not a guy who can barely serve up a turkey) and then voila, you've got a lil' munchkin. Munchkin goes straight to mom's chest, and this is a tactical move as well, I think. I never actually saw the placenta (aka afterbirth) come out, because I was too busy staring at my son and his mom. 

(Placenta, eh, kinda like a "bag" version of the cord, fellas. Gray, some red veiny bits lacing through it, wet-looking. Moderately eugh, but I was surprised to discover it didn't bother me much.)

So son will start hollering pretty promptly after arrival, and ours decided that once he was right on top of mom again, all was right with the world and he quieted right down. He got quite noisy again when pulled away for some of the initial testing, but I guess that's fair. As my mother put it when I told her: "If someone put your naked bare ass on a freezing cold metal bin, you'd probably holler about it a bit, too." Fair enough indeed. 

That's when you get to hear the kid's weight and length: in Lucas's case, a pretty friggin big 9lb 3oz, 21 inches. That's not chart-busting, but that's definitely on the high end of the spectrum by a fair measure. It's a good thing the doctor did widen the opening a bit - and as it turns out, Lucas did some widening of his own on the way out anyhow. I didn't notice the doctor stitching down there (nor did Amy; hurray epidural) because we were both too fixed on the very small person in front of us. 

And now, dear reader, I must confess that while there is a part two and a part three to this tale, I am going to cut it off for the time being.  Last night was our first night home and I'm more than a bit weary, heh. I imagine there's more than enough here to chew over anyhow.

Fellas, a few points in summary:

- Scheduled inductions are a little odd ("Time to have a baby, kids!") but it helps decrease the drama and makes preparing a bit easier... though you may see Mom a little more freaked out at the last, since she KNOWS when the pain will come now.
- Epidurals decrease the drama to the point where everyone's calm and clear-headed. This is good.
- Don't try to be superhuman about your ability to tolerate "the gross."
- The dramatic part you see on TV is like the last five percent of a very long and surprisingly dull show. Bring a book or some DVDs and be prepared to make conversation.
- Don't overdrama. It's not nearly as cool a deal if you're wild-eyed.

More later: next section, "Your life changes forever and other badly explained cliches that make guys nuts, discussed in guy terms."

-MT out. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stimpy, you IIIIIDIOT

I used to watch Ren and Stimpy on Nick in college. (No, I'm not ashamed. Ask me what I didn't do to my liver or lungs in college. Hurray moral high ground!)

There's the one episode where R&S are lost in space somewhere for a hideously long amount of time, and it's basically a humor run on space madness/cabin fever. At one point, Stimpy starts tapping his finger, and the tapping - in Ren's mind - gets louder. Tapping...then thumping...then hammering...then massive, building-shattering sound... and while this is going on, Ren's eyes get wider and wider and more and more bloodshot until he screams at the top of his lungs and goes completely ape.

....yeah. That about describes my mindset right now.

Due-date-plus-five. Nada.  No kid. I swear if I have to hear one more "Oh well, you just keep waiting, you'll see it's worth it" so-called encouraging comment, I'll beat my head against the wall. More drama I don't need.

On the flip side, Amy and I are enjoying the quality time. Her mom hit town yesterday, and she's cool, so we're all just kind of mellowing. I get to do even less around the house with her mom here - muahaha - so I have lots of spare time on my hands. That's both good and bad.

I get a lot done, which is nice, because I probably won't be able to get a lot done for a week or two. (Spare me the "NO, FOR EIGHTEEN YEARS, HAHAHA..." joke.)

On the other hand.... tapping is really getting on my nerves just now.

-MT out

Saturday, May 2, 2009

All Dressed Up, No Place to Go

So it's 3:42 AM.

...the day after 2.0 was supposed to be born.


Intellectually, logically, I knew this was a possibility; in fact, I knew it was more likely than not. Emotionally, I was absolutely convinced that MY kid would show up early. I'm sure I had some subconscious justification involving my own "ahead-ness" in most aspects of life, or some other rubbish, but the truth is I just wanted it to be that way. I'm not really disappointed - more impatient. I don't think, when the time DOES come, that I'll be nervous anymore. More excited than anything - mostly 'cause the show will finally be back on the friggin road, y'know?

Yesterday was pins and needles, but when the day ended and Amy and I went to bed, we just kind of shrugged and moved on. It's a little tough for me to judge whether or not each following day will be pins and needles or not, but I'm guessing not. Right now I'm in that groggy/grumpy/bleary-eyed-cattle mode that comes from sleeping from 10-3 and waking up. Figured I'd better get up after 45 of tossing and turning, because Amy seems to actually be getting sleep - uncommon in the last few days - and I don't want to disturb that. As much as the doomsayers (yes, that lovely clique that thinks it's fine and dandy to give you "Just wait and see how miserable your life will be" 'advice' has been at it again; and I hate it as much now as I did five months ago) remind me that I'll need every bit of sleep I can get, figure Amy needs it a lot more. So here I am, tap-tapping away. Heh.

Life very much goes "on hold" at this point. I end a lot of my sentences with "provided the baby hasn't arrived." I'd love to play some strategy card games with the guys on Friday "provided the baby hasn't arrived." Some computer games? Sure - "provided the baby hasn't arrived." Amy's brother/brotherly family came into town today and she went out to lunch with them, and I had to restrain a pretty large grumpy bone - didn't like the idea of her driving ANYWHERE alone at this point. One contraction and she's in a ditch with an airbag, I figure, but the teachers at school assure me the first contraction is neither so shocking nor painful. Eh, fine, but I'm still being overprotective. 

With us teacherly folk off for a week  - hurrah, swine flu media circus - I can now face the certainty that I will be a father before I next teach a class. (Something weird in my gut twitched after I typed that.) The upside to this is if the kid is born naturally in the next few days, I've got 3-5 days off without burning my sick days. Not such a bad deal. Having a bit of a moral quandry over whether or not to take the five days I had both planned and saved after that, though. Most people seem to feel I should definitely take the time off, but I've never in my life ducked out of my job for two weeks, and it feels...odd. I'm not the most aggressive grade-taker amongst teachers to begin with, and I figure one week sans school and then one week a la substitute won't improve that. On the other hand, meh, you only get one first birth, right? Eh.

Well. Home for a week. Kid imminent and yet still over the horizon - Amy's had no contraction twinges of any sort yet, so natural birth is still very much unknown. Me not sleeping at 4am now; part of which is probably because of all this and probably because I had too much caffiene at dinner.

Eh. Well, s'pose this means, dear blog readers, that there's a good chance I'll post more thoughts in the next few days leading up to the assured birth on Thursday if it doesn't happen sooner. 


"Provided the baby hasn't arrived."

-MT out

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Just under two weeks and counting now. 2.0 in there routinely gives a good and vigorous outward boot on many an occasion. Baby's completely healthy and in position for launch, or so the docs say. Room's ready. Emergency plans for work are prepared. Pretty much everything is set, in fact.

....except that 2.0 isn't coming out yet. I'm actually discovering that THIS - the waiting - is by far the most difficult part of the whole experience since the first trimester. At work, phone rings, heart races. Anywhere, cell rings, pulse pounds. Is this it? Is it time? Are we going?

No. Someone needs to go to the office. Amy's just calling to tell me about her day. Which is all well and good, don't get me wrong, but geez. Imagine someone telling you that sometime very soon, you're going to win a whole LOT of money. Not a wee bit, mind you. A life-changing, jaw-dropping, you-thought-Susan-Boyle-was-a-shock-then-check-this-sized amount. You just don't know quite when. Soon. Very soon. In a week or two. Now.... continue your normal life please. Pretend all is well. Do not think unduly on it.

Yeah. RIGHT.

Because that's realistic. Honest. Fellas, gotta tell ya - when you're waiting to be a dad, WAITING can be the most unpleasant part. So I'm reading a lot, playing games a lot, trying to keep my mind occupied as much as possible, all while keeping one ear out for the blood-curdling shriek (those please dear lord maybe not QUITE that) that will signal the process has begun. The immediate effect of this is that I get bored and irritated with most of my hobbies really quickly, and I'm ping-ponging around like mad. Don't want to get any involved projects going, 'cause, y'know... could happen. Don't want to go anywhere particularly far away cause, y'know...could happen.

Eh. Can't make this post too long...


(Could happen.)

-MT out.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Red Zone

So here we are. Just under four weeks left until May 1. The probability of 2.0's arrival now becomes statistically more significant with each passing day.  I'm starting to look forward to it, though I still dread the actual frantic drive and hollering wife part. I think Amy's pretty much in the same place. She's getting somewhat uncomfortable, but still taking it like an amazing friggin champ. Her complaints are rare and when they come, singular - no whining at all. How did I get this lucky?

So I find myself doing some - but not all - of the things I used to roll my eyes at other guys doing. Making goofy faces at kids, grinning and winking at them, and so on. I refuse to use baby talk now or ever, though - I'm of the opinion that baby talk is simply most people's way of getting around the fact that they don't have enough voice inflection to get a kid's interest. I'd rather the kid get used to the way people really talk, thanks.

I think the nine months of various stresses really does give one time to prepare for the notion of fatherhood, provided you actually DO spend some time thinking on it.  Some guys probably just block it all out until the last minute, I figure. Or maybe not - I don't know how many dads drop the ball bigtime in the fatherhood, but I've heard a lot of dads move on or generally don't step up for the role model bit. That kinda confuses me, because it seems like you miss out on the good stuff that way. Sure, creating the baby is plenty fun (heh, heh) but then the next nine months, not so much. I guess maybe the fellas who duck out don't see what comes after that as fun either, but I dunno - the teacher in me sees it as a chance to really make what you figure is the best possible person. Sure, it's not that easy, and yes, other inputs apply... but still. We all have a good idea of what we figure someone ought to be, right? And isn't raising a kid about aiming for that mark?

Meh. I dunno. I told myself when things reached "4 weeks to go" I'd write this Red Zone thing and talk about how I felt knowing that literally anytime from here out - including while I write this sentence - Amy could walk in and throw car keys at me with a wild look in her eye. Not so much drama anymore, though. More a calm, waiting acceptance. It's coming. Soon. There'll be stress and much flailing of limbs, and then 2.0 will be here. I'm kinda eager to get on with it. People always say "You always think you're ready but you never are"... but then again, I've spent my whole life violating those axioms of mediocrity, depression, and downtrodenness. 

I'm ready. Let's get this show on the road.

-MT out

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Reality Check

So Amy and I went to a baby education class today. Big ol' 8-hour whoppin' one. Covered everything from "bring a picture of your pet to look at" through "look, here's some really gross birth movies to watch" and wrapped up with a dash of "Don't forget to bring all these things with you while you're stuck in a closet for two days."

I fully understand why all this stuff is important - don't get me wrong. And I'm glad to have more information, and generally I feel as though I've moved from "Useless Cavedude" to "Mostly Useless Cheering Cavedude." That's a step up, I guess. After eight hours of that stuff, though, yeesh. Has anyone ever seriously sat down and considered the staggering volume of conflicting messages on this subject?

"Oh, just use the epidural. Everyone does it, it's perfectly safe." vs. "Use only what is medically justified."

"Natural home births with water are the way to go!" vs. "We'll keep you two days in a nice, well-monitored room."

"Use a ball" and "Use a bar" and "Don't lie flat" and "Don't lie on a side that hurts" and "Don't Touch Her Face" and "stroke her hair" and "short quick blowing breaths" and "deep long cleansing breaths" and "massage this" and "don't rub that"  and WHO THE #!$%! SERIOUSLY EXPECTS YOU TO REMEMBER ALL THIS !#$$!? Dear god, people. I still flex in the mirror and make rawr faces when no one's around like every other dude under the age of fifty! (If you claim otherwise, you lie. I will tell you to your face that you lie, too. Once in the past six months, you HAVE flexed with mean-face on. You know it. Move on.) I'm not a friggin doctor! That's the damn doctor's job to know all this crap! I'm still not entirely convinced me, my wife, the baby, or all of the above will not suddenly spontaneously combust or explode in a gory pile that will somehow result in my being at fault and being left to take care of an infant on my own!

Look, amigo. When the day comes, if you're anything like me, you're not a damned cheerleader with a science degree and a pack of fifty friggin plans, subplans, and "focus items." I'm going to be focusing on three tasks:

1) Keep the lunch in the gut while remaining conscious.
2) Don't say or do anything TRULY memorably idiotic.
3) Attempt NOT to beat the hell out of anyone who seems okay with my wife's great and radiating discomfort.

Given how hyper-protective of her I am already (seriously, my driving habits have changed to the degree that it annoys her - there's even an intersection I've started avoiding, I'm coming to realize) I can only imagine that task 3 may require a great deal of personal restraint. If I can actually be supportive or pull off any of the crap they dumped at me in rapid-fire today, I'll consider it absolute proof of the divine. If anyone calls me a "coach" again, though, I may very well punch them. I'm not a friggin fat dude with a whistle and a newspaper, k? I'm dad. Padre. Father. I'm the strength of the pair, the grumpy reliable, the dumb-but-instructable. I'm the hairy half of the team, and I'm going by that title - I'm not going to scream "Drop and give me twenty" at my wife while she's in labor, so don't call me a friggin "coach."

Honestly, I don't think I was the only guy at the end of that 8 hours with a case of "Oh, damn" going on. When you're a dude, you totally recognize there's a pregnancy in progress. Aside from living with a psychopath who suddenly develops a wild, aggressive fetish for cleanliness, she has this fishbowl mounted in the front and occasional serious jonesing for ice cream. It's not hard to notice changes in the air, even for we cave-and-club types. We get it. Really. On one level, though, the entire thing is still a semi-romantic, like-you-see-in-the-movies kind of deal. Twenty minutes of heave-ho counting the commercial break and she's gorgeous again and life goes on.

Fellas, I'm not giving you the rundown, but let's just say it ain't so. I encourage you, for your own sanity and calm, though, to maintain that illusion for the first eight months. The amount of dread of "the day" in the back of my head has skyrocketed. The short version is the moaning/screaming/wailing/beat-hell-out-of-husband part usually runs, if yer lucky, for closer to the full-length-of-Titanic-without-commercials timeframe, not twenty minutes counting an advert for Burger King. If I can manage to not put my wasted college days of silly sports to use on a doctor's head by hour two, I'll be very pleased. I'm of the opinion that if your wife in genuine dire distress for an extended timeframe doesn't give you nightmares, you've got some serious internal conversations to be had about that ring you're wearing.

Amy, thankfully, is rock solid in any situation where I start coming apart, and vice versa. S'good thing, because while she was freaking out yesterday and I calmed her down, today I started to come unglued a bit. (Fellas, your emotions are going to do weird things in the last few months. Just accept it. We have some pretty primal instincts going on too.)  When we were touring the delivery area and the post-partum recovery area (big fancy word that means "after giving birth") I started having a very serious dose of reality check. Pardon my french, but this is pretty much, word for word, what went through my head, along with a wailing klaxon and red flashing lights:

"Uh. A month from now you're back here, and uh, yeah. This shit ain't no game anymore, jack. This is getting seriously real.  A month from now you've got a little ****** (gender deleted) to look after. Here. This hallway. This room. HERE. RIGHT. HERE. YOU. AMY. BABY. Damn."

And it didn't help any that as the tour was going around, there was a seriously stressed-out looking dad-to-be hanging out in the waiting room, scratching his arm nervously for so long I actually noticed the skin raw under his hand. Found myself wondering if I'd see a tour go by a month from now, and if some dude would stare at me, and wonder what was going through MY head. (Probably not. I'll be in a room, beating the screaming jesus out of a doctor, remember?)

Did I mention there were about 30 of us packed into this little room getting information on this tour? Nothing like finding out whether you have claustrophobic or crowd-press issues during all that, right? Meh.

On one hand, I get that this is all normal. I get that I will probably be just fine, that I will keep Amy sane, and will probably not go predator-hostile on a doctor for not instantly making Amy happy, if only because doing so would make Amy UNhappy. I get that, on some level, this "realization of reality" thing I'm doing is also very normal and expectable for dads-to-be, especially at this point in the process.

On the other hand, fellas, knowing any of that stuff won't do you a damn bit of good when your guts start wrenching as you contemplate the staggering reality that soon something will be produced that really will look on you as the shining example of how to be a man. Could be your son who sees you as EXACTLY how to be when he grows up. Could be your daughter who sees you as EXACTLY the kind of man she wants to spend her entire life with. (Yeah, that thought makes my blood run cold, too. I don't know why Amy's insane enough to deal with me - god forbid my child want to deal with someone like me.) Yeah, that phase doesn't last forever. I'm well aware that eventually kids acknowledge their parents as a reality. I'm also aware that despite my deep and abiding dislike of my mother, there ARE traits of hers that I DO evidence on a daily basis, and you DO pass on more of your teachings through role modeling than anything else. (Makes you think twice about scratching yourself in public, don't it?)

I'll probably keep this blog going well beyond the birth of 2.0, even though at this point we're basically down to "1 month to live" as it were. I'd like to think that there may be a few dudes out there who, like me, are going to have some serious headchecks going on, and that this rambly thing may be useful. I'm pretty certain there's a subsection of women -possibly that I know, possibly not- who find this entertaining and possibly interesting as an insight into me.  Hopefully there's a practical tip or two in here, too, for the guys who aren't like me, either because they're made of steel or stone, and aren't affected because they're either too tough or too stupid to be.

(But if you claim to be either, I will call you a liar to your face. Or I'll wait until you take the 8 hour class and show up RIGHT after the birth video. Then we'll see.)

Friggin "deep cleansing breaths" my ass.

-MT out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Life After Baby?

This is a quickie blog entry, but I suspect this will be one that a lot of guys who read this down the line will empathize with and wonder about. It'll probably be something I blog about after 2.0 joins us in the outside world, too.

I've picked up a new hobby in the last 2-3 months. Very cheesy geek hobby called Battletech. You basically drive this 100-ton walking robot-o'-doom. Jump into an 8-foot tall, 5-foot wife lil' egg with a bajillion screens, buttons, joystick and a throttle, with seven screens of video-game-goodness around you. Guy who introduced me to it is actually mildly famous - in Battletech circles - as quite the pilot. Getting pretty good at it, I am. Every Wednesday night I plunk down m'20 dollars, go romp around for 3-4 hours doing the shooty thing. A tad expensive 

Only problem is that I suspect my hobby will be in both temporal and financial jepoardy once 2.0 comes along. I'd like to think that I'll still have the time and the cash, but can't really know about these things, I suppose. Obviously, when wife enters The Red Zone where birth is imminent, I'm going to skip my Wednesday night to be near Amy. ('cause nothing says "QUALITY DAD" like running an Atlas battlemech around when your wife's in labor, right?)

I imagine a week or two afterwards, I'll have to give it up as well to make sure the wife is okay, and I'm totally fine with that. What I worry about is the longer term. A lot of people say "Once your kid is born your life is over," and indeed that grim prediction is what led to my blog's name. I dunno. The closer I get to "THE BIG DAY" the more I wonder if it's right, though. I absolutely want to be a huge part of my kid's life. Killed me that my back was out and I couldn't help paint 2.0's room or lay in 2.0's new floor.

At the same time, though, I still want to be more than just "2.o's dad." I'm a guy with a lot of talents, and a lot of passions - and I don't think it's wrong that I want to hang on to those. It's funny, but even after 8 months of observations here, I'm still back to the original question: when 2.0 was conceived, did I have 9 months left to live?

Dunno. I'm not morbid or in the least bit unhappy this morning - hell, wife made me cookies, I'm in a great mood! - but I find myself wondering about my future. I'm really happy, for the most part, with how life is going right now, and even an idiot can tell you big change is on the horizon. I know I'll be happy with what I'll gain. I just wonder if I'll be happy with what - if anything - I lose.

...including, potentially, a 100-ton walking robot.

-MT out

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Yellow Zone

So at this point, we're pretty much in the yellow zone as I call it in terms of baby arrival. It's unlikely still at this point, but no longer out of the realm of reasonable possibility. (32 weeks.) I myself was a moderate bit early - 6 weeks - so every time Amy winces and grabs her belly, I cringe. Fellas, in case no one ever told you, seems chicks have this "Braxton-Hicks" thing going on. They're basically fake, warm-up contractions that don't actually hurt, but cause women's eyes to widen and hands to go to their bellies. Great way to freak a fella out, lemme tell ya. I'm not sure if I'm going to be James Bond when the moment for that drive comes, or more "Father of the Bride 2" when the time comes. Feel free to place your bets.

Speaking of freakouts, I've got a mild grouch going with our doc at this point.  I don't think I ever posted on it, but awhile back the doctor saw some strange shadows in the brain of 2.0 (Baby Fletcher's Codename) and sent us to the specialist. Fair call, apparently it can be a flag for UBER BAD STUFF, and so the next day we went. In the 24 hours prior to trip number two, Amy and I were an absolute and total wreck, major basketcase, and anyone at work telling me "scary signs show up during pregnancy and babies are fine all the time" got a polite nod, an ear, and absolutely no mind whatsoever. Turns out nothing was wrong, and that's one thing I'll happily never go through again.

Well, baby doc sent us back to the specialist this week for a heart echo. My freakout level was a lot lower this time, because of the past, and because of the phrase, "Won't affect delivery either way." Went back to the same specialist again, and I swear the guy almost looked annoyed this time. He basically said, in politer terms, that there was almost nothing here to worry about at all. Now I get that the first doctor is just playing it safe, but geez. Shouldn't he be able to, I dunno, make a decision on his own? Do an analysis and figure something out without costing us money to go to someone else? Bah. I'm not advocating reckless behavior with 2.0's life or anything, but c'mon, if the specialist practically gives off "time waste" signals, you'd think the first doctor could make a friggin judgment call once in awhile, eh?

Anyhow, it's cool that 2.0 is healthy and definitely wigglin' around. Amy's belly is a show all its own nowadays.  Amy's had a friend coming over to help with the construction of the baby room the past three weeks. This is cool and all. It's a little frustrating from my point of view, though. I was kinda looking forward to doing dad-type stuff with 2.0's room, and since I blew out my back moving heavy things - something that's still annoying the hell out of me to this day - even standing on a solid surface too long starts to hurt. Yeah, the chiro-dude says I'm healing very quickly, fine, been that way all my life. Still doesn't mean I'm able to help with the fixing-up of my own kid's room. And given what you, oh tolerant reader, know about my feelings towards contribution and being a decent parent, yes, this vexes the hell out of me. Meh. At least Amy doesn't appear to be flagging much. She still looks amazingly well, healthy, and not-fat for a woman 31 weeks along. She's wielding power saws and drill bits with a gleam in her eye, and it at least makes me feel better that she doesn't need me for this kind of thing, despite her pregnant state. Sorta makes me feel better, I guess. Really.

In other news, students have a big friggin test this week. Be nice when that's water under the bridge. Not really too worried; they're well-prepared, but still - something about being held to a vastly higher bar than the rest of the school when it comes to their results is a tad ulcer-inducing at times. ;)

Life goes on. Yellow zone will progress to red zone, and we'll finally find out if 2.0 looks more like mom or dad. Mental note - at some point soon, discuss strange rumors and suggestions I've heard about the goings-on of a baby shower.

Monday, February 2, 2009


So, okay, I suck at life. One blog post in all of January is pretty lame, but I'm writing this one on the second of Feb and I'll try to get two more in despite the short month, figure that makes up for it.

I turned thirty-two a few days ago. I note this not to garner presents or attention (because I really crave neither, although I wouldn't refuse them, mind you) but to note the fact. Thirty two, statistically speaking, means I am now exactly halfway through my expected lifespan. One foot is now in the cradle, and the other in the grave.... or for the less dramatic, neither foot in either one. Eh.

I have a habit of looking back at the previous year around every birthday, and since one of my presents was a nifty electronic picture frame, neatly fixing the problem I've always had with frames (only one picture in the frame sucks) I've been doing more looking back than usual lately. Combined with the sudden re-emergence (if only electronically) of my high school friends, it's been a real trip of self-examination lately. Yeah, I know, I probably do that too much anyhow, but this is as much reflection as examination. I've come to the following conclusions, based on pictures, conversations with high school friends, and general rumination:

1) I've become a lot better person than I used to be, but improving does not mean I grew up. I consider this a good thing.

2) I've been overweight for a lot longer than I care to reflect upon, and done little to change it. I consider this a bad thing.

3) Despite the intensely abnormal nature of my childhood, I have established myself in a surprisingly normal life. I was mildly uneasy about this, but I console myself with the fact that my normal life is about as skewed as a normal life can be before marching off into the realms of, as Dan puts it, "drug fiends, polyamorists, transexuals, and guys who dress like Dr.Who all the time." That's a pretty cool place to be, I suppose.... even if I wonder about the field I'm competing in, there.

So the kid is now 13 weeks away. Two school terms. Less than one full season. Three months to live? I'm not sure I see it that way anymore. I've discovered that every major goalpost in my life so far has been as dramatic as I've caused it to be.  High school graduation, college arrival, college graduation, my first teaching position (the first kid I ever had in my classroom, a moment I expected to be a lifechanging experience, turned out to be in the wrong room, turned around and left - a lesson I've heeded well), my engagement, and my marriage. Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying they weren't fulfilling, that I wasn't deeply moved, and so on. My life was only so changed as I desired it to be, though, and my existence wasn't completely rewritten. Jesse before engagement was the same guy as afterwards - I had always been genuine to Amy, and I had nothing new to show. Jesse before marriage was the same guy as afterwards - I had no reason to treat Amy differently, and again, my existence, thinking, and living was unchanged. I still get her flowers for no reason, I still fart under the covers, and I still thank her for every meal. A metal band and a rock changes nothing you don't wish it to.

Despite the drama-filled predictions of others, I'm not convinced this next phase will change the person. Jesse the father, if he's been living right, will already BE the role model his child deserves. He won't have to change his behavior, won't have to mind his actions, won't have to come up with explanations for "do as I say, not as I do." Unless I've lived a hypocritical life, I am already the father I should be. (Whether that's a good thing is another entirely different issue. HEH!) Maybe that's the difference - I don't see my life changing because I am that which I wish to be; the role model to my students I would be to my own child. That probably sounds arrogant, but I think the people who know me best will understand. I got hooked on the idea of the knight in shining armor when I was a kid, and - when it really matters - I've always stuck to that ideal.

So yeah. Maybe not three months to live...but three months to life. Not a new life for me, not a new way of living (life is adjusting to change, people, if you're doing it right) but three months until a new life, a third life, a Fletcher 2.0 life. 

That's still a scary thought, but for a whole different set of reasons.


Normally I'd sign out here, but I have a small confession to make - I fibbed a little at the start. I've been meaning to write another blog, but I've been avoiding it like mad because the subject makes me a bit leery. I'm a very, very big follower of the ideology of "Keep your religion and your politics private" - but I suspect I won't be the only dad-to-be who lives in Texas and knows that his religious views differ from the vast majority of the native population. So right now I'm torn on the subject, and it's been keeping me off the blogger. I'm fully aware of the fact that I have coworkers who read this thing, and I'd rather avoid the risk of being treated differently for my politics or my religious beliefs. Don't know that it would happen - betting not - but I've heard of careers being shot down for dumber reasons, and well, the ambition bone is starting to twinge again, and I think the classroom and I may part ways within the next three years or so, if I have my way.

So I'm still weighing that subject, just as I'm turning over my thoughts on teaching religion to my kid, and wondering if I should really air them or not. I'd like to believe this country is one where all views can be respected, but while we all talk the talk, I'm not sure we all walk the walk.

And the wife's home, and I've got nothing else to say, so....

-MT out. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Some of my blog posts are more rant and less new-father related, but this one, I suspect, will be a bit more handy for dads-to-be.

The end of the term is coming in scholastic-land, and as I always do, I run kind of a mental self-check of what I've accomplished in a particular term, from a variety of perspective: quality of teaching, value of assignments, number of exams, yada yada. Also do a general survey of life as I know it, kind of a way of keeping one's self in touch with reality, if you will. This time, though, I came across some uncomfortable truths: I have been WAY below my game lately. Embarassingly such.

Now I'm well aware that I'm a perfectionist, and I've been told more than once in my life that I push myself way, way too hard when it's something I care about. I don't deny that - but I also can't deny my nature, either, so I just kind of shrug and move on. My lessons haven't sucked, but the assignments have been well below par and not enough of 'em. I've got an eighth grade research project that is scaling way out of my intended plan.  I've got a seventh grade project I had to abandon as a result of upcoming TAKS, and I had the naive idea about helping out my department that I've not been able to get running at all, that I'm sure makes me look quite the jackass after asking about it.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't an "oh, poor me" post. I'm not happy about it, but I'm more interested in why. It's not like I picked up an addiction to Austrian hashish or discovered my great and undying love of the bottle. Since I have no new concrete changes in my life, I have to assume it's something intangible. 

And yeah, THAT one is fairly obvious. I didn't really consider the whole "baby on the horizon" thing as a major change in my life pre-birth. Maybe that was naive of me, or maybe all guys do it, I dunno. Realistically, very little has changed for me - I have to watch out for Amy a bit more, but the "knight in shining armor" motif tattooed inside my head has been making me do that since I met her.  I moved some furniture out of one room so we could start prepping it. (Yeah, "nesting" is definitely underway around here.)

Otherwise, life physically hasn't changed much - but I'm coming to realize that all those times I spend boggling over WHAT-IS-TO-COME may be
A) unhealthy mentally
B) time wasting.

And sure, okay, it's probably entirely normal on both parts - but that doesn't mean you can't strive to fix it. What I'm coming to realize is that I have entirely and completely crap means of stress relief. I'm well aware that I barely had enough for being a healthy teacher to begin with - this added stress is absolutely nuking me. So fellows, here's a big starting tip of advice:

Make sure you've got some major, significant form of stress relief already going on in your life before she gets pregnant. More than you think you actually need. And uh, don't rely on what couples do naturally as your first and only form, because that whole system gets a little erratic as well.  Plan your stress relief in a non-caloric, non-chemical for, or you'll do some pretty major damage to yourself at a time you need to be tip-top.

Also - don't neglect your sleep. Too little sleep means more stress. Even if the reason you're neglecting sleep is because the wife is going to bed earlier and it's your chance for peace and quiet and contemplation (in whatever form you prize and treasure that in, heh.) You'll pay for it more in fatigue the next day.

Stress, by the way, makes you tolerate the wife less - and even though they're massively internally focused right now (as well they should be) they're also hypersensitive to their environment. Probably some ancient defense mechanism, but it means they'll notice you are more irritable, and that doesn't help you, them, or the bun.

If it sounds like I'm speaking from experience, well...heh.

Anyone got any relatively short-duration, cheap stress-relief methods?

MT out.