Archive for January, 2010

Dog Park Drama

Last weekend I had a chance to hang with the homies, Ollie and Abby. That photo of Abby, conveniently enough, features Star (full name: Starzilla Wongsby), who is the other star of our tale. Saturday was a glorious day of celebration of Ollie’s birth (tres topical for the blog) and Sunday we lazed around the house with them.

However, the week had been very rainy, and Star is a dog who does not like to get wet, so she had been cooped up for a long time. The lazy hoo-mans needed to take her out. What better way to make up for a dearth in exercise than a trip to the dog park? So, off we went, we travelers five. Exeunt all.

As soon as we got to the dog park, drama was afoot. All the various gates for entry and exit were all jacked up. Typically, there is a two stage exit process, like you’re dealing with mental patients (considering the behavior of your typical canine, it’s about right). Actually, more apt, it’s like an airlock. You enter in, and close the gate to the outside world. Then you make sure everything is cool, and then open the internal gate to Dog World. However, today the outer gate was unable to be closed, as it was locked in place in an open position. Tricky.

The dogs were out in force. I’ve been to this park with Ollie and/or Abby several times and there was easily about five times as many dogs as I’ve ever seen there. It would seem everyone had the same idea we had. The dogs were of all shapes and sizes, which was another sign of trouble. Typically smaller dogs are in a secondary area, separate entirely from the big dogs. But that area was locked for some reason. So… co-mingling.

Things got off to a rocky start right away. As we approach the internal gate with Star, dogs inside are starting to lose their minds already. NEW FRIEND NEW FRIEND NEW FRIEND NEW FRIEND. They’re pacing and sniffing and being generally dog. Owners notice that we’re trying to come in and their dogs are in the way so they come over and guide them away, but this is a tricky process and not all dogs are tended to, so some remain roamers. I’m running interference and trying to block dogs from getting out, since the secondary gate preventing them from escaping can’t be closed. Things are going great until a woman behind us decides that an awesome plan, when we hand her the gate so she can guide her dog in behind us and then close it, is to throw the gate wide open. This has the effect of bursting a dam on the dogs who have been clamoring to get out. There are escapees who, after much frantic running of owners, are rounded up and brought back for playtime.

So, we’ve been there about 3 minutes and I’m already stressed. I don’t get better.

I love to watch dogs and be around (most) dogs, don’t get me wrong. I like to see the different breeds and watch the funny things they do and see how they react to people. It’s when they’re around other dogs that I get nervous. Dogs are very social animals. They love to play and sniff and test boundaries. They do inappropriate things and make noise and drool and sometimes poop. They’re basically kids.

This realization dawned on me more and more as I watched the dogs and got increasingly tense. Dogs would start out being playful and degrade into animals about to engage in very real Discovery Channel style throw-downs, with negligent owners jumping in at the last minute to sort things out. People would watch their dogs doing things that were threatening and scary and clearing being interpreted as such by other dogs and then comment to each other about how “that’s how Huskies play. And everyone’s just freaking out about it, but they don’t get that it’s just how they play,” as if of course everyone should just understand that baring teeth and biting at your face is cute. There’s more humping to try and show dominance in the dog world than in the kid world (thank god), but really all that is is Kid B doing something Kid C doesn’t like until Kid C finally snaps.

I couldn’t handle the chaos in the park. I quite literally spent every moment primed to jump and save some poor dog that was being abused and wondering out loud at how it could be that dog owners could be so clueless about how to control their pets. Things came to a head when a man showed up with his pitbull puppy for her first time at the dog park. This was a very young and thoroughly adorable little dog who was super excited to see all the other dogs. She hasn’t been inside for more than 30 seconds when an older, mid-size white dog comes up, sniffs the puppy, decides it doesn’t like something and goes immediately for its throat. What followed was a fairly epic fracas, as far as dog park drama goes. Neck scruffs were grabbed, dogs were bodily thrown through the air, and commands to control each others dogs were yelled.


I turned to Janelle. “I’m going to need to work on this.”

“What do you mean?”

“All of this. This is just like with kids. I’m going to be at a park, with kids running everywhere, holding my breath going ‘Ooooooooooooh’.”

It’s going to be tough for me to realize, but just as dogs will be dogs (the pit bull puppy was as totally unaffected by a pair of really pretty brutal attacks from something it expected to be a friend as I have ever seen a creature be), kids will be kids. I’m going to need to learn to handle a bit more chaos and a bit more behavior that I would define, for myself, as unacceptable. Rather than looking over at another parent and giving them the evil eye, I should be shrugging my shoulders and giving a shared eye roll. Otherwise, each trip to a park is going to be like ticking days off my lifespan. Not all children will get along, and not all parents will do a great job. I can’t be bothered to feel responsible for how they behave and I can’t project my notions for behavior all over the interactions of children who are entirely independent little creatures from me.

It’s a tricky proposition, though, and I’m already catching a flavor of the greatest conundrum of parenting. How am I supposed to care so much and be so careful one day… and then sit idly by the next?


Interview: The Journeymen

Again, sorry RSS readers for the tardy intro. Unless it doesn’t double-post, in which case nevermind.

Jessica and Brandon have a 1-year-old, Madeleine. So, as parenting goes, they’re getting into the groove of things.

Q: You chose to not find out Maddie’s gender before she was born, why not? Did anyone give you a hard time about it?

Dad: I feel like there aren’t many big surprises left in life, but this was one we could keep.  People who were more traditional seemed to give us a hard time, which doesn’t make any sense since most of them didn’t have the option of finding out our genders because the technology didn’t exist then.  But they were very traditional in that they wanted to buy us gender specific gifts.

Mom: Brandon really wanted it to be a surprise and he convinced me it was a good idea.  I mostly moaned about it, but at the end of the day, was really glad we didn’t know.  There are precious few surprises like this in life these days, and though finding out along the way would also have been surprising, it made “the moment” when Madeleine was born even sweeter – more exciting and overwhelming.  I still felt connected with her when I was pregnant – she was never an “it” which is what I feared it would feel like if we didn’t find out.  She was just “baby” while I was pregnant, which worked.  And yes, LOTS of people gave us a hard time.

Q: Would you chose to keep it a mystery again for a second baby?

Dad: Yes.

Mom: I have mixed feelings and my jury is still out – I would opt for it to be a surprise if I was thinking only about what I wanted, but it may be easier to help Madeleine acclimate to the idea of a sibling if we can explain that she will have a little brother or sister.
Q: Did the first year feel like it went by too fast?

Dad: Initially, no.  But in hindsight, as the year progressed, the year went way too fast.  Until you’ve experienced your own child from birth to walking, you won’t know how fast it goes.

Mom: Absolutely – so much of it was a total blur that it flew by.  Now, with a full fledged toddler on our hands, I am mourning the days of having an infant that can stay still!

Q: What has been the hardest part of year 1?

Dad: Not knowing what to expect.  While finding and figuring things out on your own is fun and part of life as a new parent, it’s really frustrating sometimes not knowing what to do or expect.

Mom: The hardest part for me was just letting go – in order to stay sane, I had to part ways with constantly maintaining control over everything.  From worrying about her development, to ensuring that she reads, eats and sleeps enough – it’s enough to drive you nuts.  Sometimes, you just need to let things happen, and let them develop in whatever fashion they do.  Of course you stay connected to all of these things, but constantly worrying and exhausting yourself over them has proven to me to be overwhelming and unnecessary.

Q: What has been the best part?

Dad: Snuggling….which has changed now that she has a new found independence.  No more snuggles for Mom and Dad.  We’re hoping the snuggles return!

Mom: Baby fat rolls!  Being a new parent is hard, and exhausting, but it’s pretty incredible to watch a child you created start to grow into a little person!  It’s been pretty special to see Brandon with her too – it’s amazing how quickly you begin to love another human being, and to watch your spouse fall in love with the child you created is cool.  Oh, and baby kisses are the BEST.

Q: Do you feel like you already have a sense of Maddie’s personality? Or is she still too young for that overall?

Dad: Her personality seems more evident in some aspects than others.  She is independent, a people watcher, curious and sly.  But at other times, it seems like it may be too early to really tell.

Mom: Absolutely – she is independent and determined, and a total goof.  She is very social and makes friends with everyone, and loves to be center of attention!

Q: Have you felt like you knew what you were doing through the first year? Or did it feel like you were making a lot up as you went along?

Dad: Between what you read and the myriad of “advice” people give you, you feel like you know what you’re doing but really you’re just winging it.

Mom: Making it up as we went, for sure!  But I felt like everything we did, we did because it felt right.  People gave us a hard time about random things (I can’t tell you how many people remain constantly concerned that we are freezing our child) – but at the end of the day, I think Mom and Dad know best.  We know what she likes, what she doesn’t like, how she’s comfortable, and how we want to raise her.  I listened to what people said when they offered solicited or unsolicited input, thanked them for sharing their thoughts, and went on our merry little way doing things in whatever fashion WE felt was best.

Q: How do you think year 2 will go? Any concerns you’re already starting to think about?

Dad: We’re looking forward to her telling us what she wants, but we may also dread it!  Temper tantrums….

Mom: I think year two will prove to be harder than the first.  We now face teaching our child right from wrong etc.  Definitely now sure how to deal with this type of development!  So much of the 1st year was physical development – learning to roll over, learning to hold your head up, sit and walk.  It seems like now we are approaching the cognitive, emotional and ethical development –  very uncharted territory!

Q: About how quickly did you adapt to the parenthood routine? Or are you still adapting?

Dad: I think I’m still adapting to being a parent – you fall into a routine as you become more comfortable, but life as a parent is constantly evolving.  Once I’ve adapted to Madeleine being a certain way, she grows and changes and the cycle restarts.

Mom: I think we fell into things pretty quickly – within the first few months.  There was an adjustment period just to having a baby to care for, then a readjustment when I went back to work.  At the end of the day, I don’t truly feel like our life changed as drastically as we thought it would.  Life simply takes more planning these days.

Q: Were the first couple months as bad as everyone says?

Dad: It’s great to have two people home initially.  No amount of reading or conversation can prepare you for life as parents once you’re home from the hospital.  But it gets better.  The first few months are difficult as your nights blend into your days, but as your child starts to interact with you, it makes the long nights all worth it.

Mom: Not bad, per se.  The first month was very, very hard.  We were completely exhausted, and emotionally drained dealing with Madeleine’s jaundice and trouble nursing – but I wouldn’t say it was bad, just tiring.  And it gets so much better.  Right around 4-5 weeks, Madeleine started sleeping more at night, her jaundice was getting better, she was smiling, and life was much, much better.

Q: Any advice for new parents or wannabe parents?

Dad: Sleep now because your child will become your new alarm clock, only you don’t get to set it!

Mom: Just do what feels right!  Listen to other new parents – they know and remember what it’s like, but realize that every situation is different.  We tried a lot of things that people suggested – some things worked, some didn’t, but it never hurts to try.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you got from your families?

Dad: From both of our mothers, “Don’t take your eye off the baby!”

Mom: My Dad, telling me to let go.  From the get go, I’ve worried about things – after a hard delivery on me, after Madeleine’s severe jaundice, I worried that she would have lasting developmental effects.  My Dad told me point blank – let it go, you can’t change things, just see how things go and roll with the punches. Best advice thus far. That and my Mom telling me not to take my eye off the babe.  It’s alarming how quickly she can get into trouble!

Q: Did it ever become too much having family input? Did you ever have to tell them to back down on anything?

Dad: Yes.  We had family constantly thinking she’s too cold and badgering us about it.

Mom: Yes….enter pressure over religion.

Q: Are there any issues about raising Maddie that the two of you happen to disagree about?

Dad: Not that I can really think of.

Mom: Not yet….except maybe the fact that I gave her a cookie.  Ok, I gave her two.  Brandon just glared.  :o)

Q: How long until we see a sibling?

Dad: Once I get a job, and we feel more stable in our life, I could see a sibling coming along.

Mom: Enter controversy.  Ha!  Kidding.  Who knows – I could definitely see thinking about wanting another baby towards the end of this year – maybe next year.  But we’ll see!

Q: You mentioned that religion became an issue with the parents… what was their stance? What is yours? How did you resolve the conflict?

Mom&Dad: Well, Brandon was raised in a devout Catholic family.  The kids in my family were raised Episcopalian, but as we have grown up, my parents realize that we will make our own religious decisions and leave the issue up to us to navigate our way through.  They might or might not like the decisions we make, but they do seem to respect that they are ours to make whenever we want to make them.  I now find myself at a point in life where I do not go to church, though I consider myself spiritual in my own way.  I am fine with this.  Brandon does not go to church, but is spiritual in his own way, and is also fine with this.  Together, Brandon and I haven’t yet decided if, when, or what role we want religion to play in our children’s lives.  We know that we do not plan to raise our children Catholic, but beyond that, we’re not sure.

We have indicated to our family that now is not the time that we want to have Madeleine baptized, though some continue to inquire.  At this point, this is an ongoing conflict mostly because it’s hard topic to discuss.  Sensitive as you may try to be, it’s a hard issue to talk about with people who are emotionally invested in the idea that we will raise our kids in a particular faith or do things at a certain time.  I wasn’t baptized until I was 6 or 7, and I think this worked out ok.  I think you should do things when they’re right for you.  In particular, I don’t think you should baptize your child out of obligation or because you feel pressured.  If you do it, it should be because you want to, and you do it in a church and with a faith that you believe in.  Right now, we don’t have any of these things – a church we attend, or a defined faith that we believe in.

I remain firm in my decision that this is a discussion and decision that shouldn’t involve pressure from or even much discussion with family.  It’s a personal choice that as new parents, and a new family, is up to us to make.  Outside pressure only seems to cause resentment.

Q: How did you decide upon Madeline [yes, I am a bad friend, I totally misspelled their daughter’s name here. That’s classy interviewing] for her name? Did anyone try to fight you on that call?

Mom&Dad: I can’t quite remember how Madeleine ended up on our list of names.  We went back and forth over how to spell it, and to this day, my Mother questions whether or not it was a good idea to let me have any input on spelling while I was completely doped up on magnesium post delivery.  ha!  We are however, happy with both the name and the spelling.  :o)

No one has ever said anything about our name decision, even after we gave her 2 middle names (she has Anne and Campbell both as middle names).  I expected someone to be upset or annoyed or something over it, but fortunately if they were, no one ever said anything to us!

Q: How are you handling things like TV for Maddie? Planning on steering her clear? Open season?

Mom&Dad: We made the decision to stay clear of TV for at least the first two years.  We’ve read numerous articles and studies regarding TV early on, and agree that there’s really no need or benefit for a toddler to be sitting in front of the tube when they should be interacting with the real people around them, as well as learning to play and imagine on their own.  I for one am not one of those individuals who buys into the idea that you can plop your kid in front of Baby Einstein and they will magically grow into geniuses….

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Interview: The Newbies

And now with a tardy intro! Sorry RSS subscribers. KC and Seth had their little dude, Rylan, in December 2009. Which means KC and Seth are just getting into the groove of being new parents. Here are some questions and answers from the pair.

Q: Did you have an easy pregnancy?

A: For the most part, yes, besides him being breech in the end and the occasional day of feeling so huge I felt I couldn’t breathe (those days were very rare and towards the very end). When all the rest of the pregnant people around me were going crazy just wanting their kid out because they were just done with being pregnant I was trying to coach my little guy into being a little late…he came early…

Q: Did you have any pet peeves that people would do to you/around you when you were pregnant?

A: Smoking! I could smell it from miles away. Before I was pregnant I could tolerate someone smoking nearby but when I was pregnant it was like a switch and as soon as I smelt a hint I would get really angry and cranky (I still do now). Also, a lot of people would no longer say hi to me. They come up to say hi to the belly and then continue what they were doing without actually saying hi to me.

Q: Is parenthood everything you expected it would be so far?

Dad- I didn’t know what to expect. I’m just taking it one day at a time.
Mom- I would agree with that.

Q: What’s the most unexpected thing about having a newborn?

Dad- How much he actually craps a day.
Mom- How much work it really is. I knew having a baby meant it’s all about them and it’s a lot of work but I didn’t realize being the mom it is literally 24/7. You feed them, put them to sleep, try to get some sleep just to be woken up shortly to feed again over and over and over again. For me there was 3 hours between feeding times which seems decent but when you break it down it is 40-60 mins for the feeding and then 30-45 mins to get him to sleep, leaving an hour for me to sleep, if I’m lucky.  Recently it’s gotten to 2 hours between feedings… you do the math… BUT it is totally worth it.

Q: Is there a “best part”?

Dad- The faces he makes. No matter what it is, it always brings a smile to my face.
Mom- Again I agree with dad. When he looks at you and your heart just melts and just when you think you can’t love him any more you just do.

Q: Do you have any specific advice that you’d offer to expectant parents?

Dad- Not really advice but more of a warning…the sleeping part is worse, no matter how much people say how bad it is.
1. Stock up on paper plates, cups, bowls and plastic utensils. Seth thought I was crazy for doing this but even at this point (6 weeks) the last thing you want to do, IF you can get to it, is dishes.
2. Organize a meal schedule for at least the first 3 weeks. Whether it be asking friends to sign up for a day to bring dinner or to come over and cook for you or getting those pre-made meals to put in the freezer/ fridge.
3. If you have any bills that aren’t on automatic bill pay, do it now. If it doesn’t have the option of doing that set up something with your bank to schedule future payments or get the checks and envelopes ready so all you have to do it pop it in the mail (or have someone drop it off at the post office for you). I would suggest at least 3 months in the future.
4. People will tell you this over and over again…sleep when your baby sleeps even if you’re not tired. You never know when they are going to have a fussy night and you won’t get any sleep.
5. Moms, if you are breastfeeding, find a breastfeeding support group and go to it immediately. Don’t wait for a problem before going. Go for at least the first couple of weeks right after you get out of the hospital.

Q: About how much sleep do you get each night?

Mom- 4-6 hours (broken up by feedings)
Dad- My normal sleep, Kc takes care of me very well (my warning above is more for the first few nights for dads).

Q: Have you found its possible to still be living your life? Or are things on hold for a bit until the little guy is older?

Dad- Life is still the same but you’re just not on time anymore, you can’t go out as much and you can no longer be spontaneous.
Mom- Life is definitely on hold, at least the first couple of months.  Not that you can’t go out but you’re very limited because of having to work around feeding schedules and if you don’t have anyone to help (i.e. dad goes back to work) it’s really difficult to go out.

Q: How is Rylan so far? Easy? Finicky?

Mom & Dad- Easy for the most part (compared to other horror stories we’ve heard from other parents), however, he has his moments of being finicky. In the first few weeks it seemed he had a witching hour when late in the evening between 9pm and 12am he was finicky. We could change him, feed him and have him wrapped up but he would just cry and we would have to try little tricks (jogging around the house, speed walking with quick turns thrown in here and there) to get him to sleep.

Q: Let’s talk names. You had a very specific desire for your baby name. Can you talk about that?

Mom & Dad- We wanted a name that you’ve maybe heard but you didn’t know anyone by that name, something unique but not too exotic. We’re both also big movie lovers so that’s where a lot of “research” came from but Seth was very specific that it couldn’t be a common movie name for a boy.
When we found out we were going to have a baby we started throwing out names right away. We had 3 girl names pretty quickly but had the hardest time coming up with a boy name we both liked. We then found out we were having a boy so it was time to start thinking harder. The first one we finally both liked was Xander. I (mom) knew someone by that name and always liked it. At first dad wasn’t too crazy about it (because it was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) but I kept throwing it out and it grew on him eventually and that was “the” name for while. We also asked for peoples input. Nikki ended up sending us text messages every few days with a list of names that we would go over each night. In the last text message she sent she threw in the name Rylan and we both really liked it. It was from the movie “The Last Starfighter.” The planet in the movie was Rylos and the people were called Rylans. So then it was a decision of which one we liked better. Fairly quickly we both started leaning towards Rylan because Seth knew several people with kids named Xander/Zander and Rylan pretty much filled all of our wants, it was unique but not too exotic and when we told people the names the majority leaned towards Rylan as well. As for the middle name we actually only decided on that in the operating room after he was delivered. We had originally said we would not name our kids after anyone but after continuing to think of names for a middle name and coming up empty, Seth threw out his middle name, Allen, which was also his fathers middle name. I wasn’t convinced though so we kept on thinking but nothing else really stuck and I could tell that Seth wanted it, even though he said we didn’t have to if I didn’t want to. So after Rylan was delivered I looked at Seth and said should we name him Rylan Allen and he asked if I was sure and I said yes as long as our second child’s middle name was after my dad, and he said “that’s a deal.”

Q: Did you enjoy input from others regarding the name? Did it get to be too much?

Dad- I liked it when people suggested names but I didn’t like it when people found negative things about names we had liked.
Mom- I agree with dad on this one.

Q: How has help from your family been so far?

Dad- It’s been pretty good.
Mom- Really good

Q: Does it ever get to be too much family, or is it always welcome?

Dad- It could never be too much family.
Mom- It’s always welcome.

Q: Was it tricky to make your place baby-ready? How long before the birth date did you start prepping?

Mom- I hadn’t been around pregnant women before and so when it came down to figuring out what we needed to get it got really frustrating because there is so much and then SO many choices. It required a ton of research. I started researching about at about 26 weeks, however, to this day I am still buying things I realize we need.

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Population: Horror

I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled interview posts for a detour into terror. Try to picture me saying that like Rod Serling. It’s much cooler.

Today Janelle and I got to discover the flipside of pregnancy. It’s pretty well understood that pregnancy is not all fun and roses. There’s a baby, and that’s neat, but there’s also digestive problems and other various forms of awkwardness. Even that stuff is kind of amusing, though. Let’s be honest, having gas can be pretty funny. Or maybe I never really grew out of that particular juvenile humor stage.

The not-fun stuff begins early for some pregnancies. Morning sickness is pretty definitively in that category. There are stealth problems that you don’t get warned about as much, though. I got to learn what one of those was about three hours ago.

I got a call from Janelle on my office phone. She told me that I needed to come and pick her up. When I asked what was wrong, there was a shuddering breath, the onset of some tears and then “I’m getting this really bad, shooting pain down my left hip. And I think I need to call the doctor because it’s bad and I think I need to go in.” Before the sentence was finished I’d announced I was on my way. A couple of powered off monitors and a laptop later, I was cryptically informing my techs that Janelle had called and I had to leave and was dashing out the door.

The most difficult part of a situation like this, as Tom Petty will surely tell you, is the wait. The journey from the third floor elevator to the car in the basement to Janelle’s parking lot is about 10-15 minutes, depending on stoplights. That is certainly ample time to let various doomsday scenarios marinate. I was able to distract myself for a moment by playing out a scenario wherein I was pulled over for going too fast and I won the cop over onto my side by telling him my easy-to-empathize-with story of a panicked first-time father-to-be. Could I fit more dashes in the end of that sentence? Maybe.

After that, all I had were the items you don’t want to think about. Is my wife okay? Is the baby okay? If we have to go to a hospital, how long would it be before they can help her while she’s in pain? Is there anything at all I could possibly do to help? Assuming the worst, would I be able to comfort her and salvage the pair of us successfully?

It was a long 1.5 mile drive.

To break the suspense, Janelle is fine. She called the nurse at our OBGYN and based on her descriptions, they were fairly positive what the problem was. See, as the mother-to-be’s body adapts, things don’t always go well. One of the parts of the body that tends to protest the whole pregnancy process are the tendons at the hip. As that region changes and shifts, there’s no guarantee that everything is doing so on the same timeline. Around the halfway point, it’s not unheard of for women to experience some pretty debilitating pain as their tendons decide that, quite frankly, they have had enough. They don’t want shift and stretch, dagnabbit. So, after instructions to head home, take aspirin, drink water, and not be up and walking around too much, we’re both home and Janelle is feeling much better.

And with that, the roller coaster ride has begun.


The Mommy Interview, Part 2

Q: What’s the most unexpected thing for you to date about the pregnancy?

A: I guess that it’s been so low key and easy.  I always felt that my body was sensitive to hormone changes, so I assumed that pregnancy would kick my butt.  It’s a great relief to know that it hasn’t, at least not this time.  But it was definitely surprising.

Oh, thought of another one while writing an answer down below…I knew people would want to share their own thoughts and experiences which is why we had already decided to keep names to ourselves.  I didn’t expect the whole “Are you finding out the gender or not?” to feel like open season for sharing.  Most other parents have simply asked and then stated their reasoning for having done one or the other, but some have actually tried to push their opinion.  It’s not a problem that they do; it was just unexpected and seemed to be a bigger discussion point than I anticipated.

Q: Is there anything you’re really not looking forward to coming up with your pregnancy?

A: I’m sure there are tests and labor/delivery things that won’t be the most fun experiences, but I don’t think I’d put them on an “I wish I could avoid this part at all costs” sort of list.  I feel like, for now, I’m aware enough of the unpleasant things that I’m not really worried about them.  They’re just a small part of the overall process, which I know is going to be worth it.  I’ll let you know if this changes.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about having a baby?

A: I don’t even know where to begin.  Everything that I mentioned being excited for in my answer a couple of questions back.  Watching him/her learn and grow.  Getting to know his/her personality.  Helping him/her through challenging moments.  Sharing something as amazing as a life with you (sorry if that’s too sappy).  Starting a new phase of life, for myself and for us.  Seeing you interact and being a daddy.  The incredible amount of love that I know will surround our child, from us, and from our family and friends.

Q: What are you least looking forward to? What worries you or scares you?

A: How the sleep deprivation will affect all 3 of us.  How we’re going to handle the financial burden of this whole year.  The arguments we will inevitably be having over silly little things.  Figuring out how and when to talk with our kids about the subjects that bring up controversy…religion, relationships, sex, money, politics.  I feel confident/positive in general, but when thinking about the long term specifics, there is definitely some uncertainty. I think what makes me less worried is that I know you and I will be able to figure things out together, and that we have such incredible resources in our families to help guide us when we need it.

Q: Do you expect you’ll need to give anything up when the baby arrives?

A: I can’t think of anything that would have to be fully given up, except maybe sleeping.  I used to think that having a baby meant sacrificing your own life, but not anymore.  We’ll both be able to get away and do the things we enjoy, with or without Baby in tow.  There may be things I end up giving up because I want to, but not because I have to.

Q: Have you gotten any really good advice so far?

A: Hmm…nothing that’s been truly ground-breaking, but certainly suggestions that have proven helpful.  For pregnancy, the extra pillow(s) for sleeping seem to be a pretty solid recommendation.  I’m still figuring out how best to utilize them, but it has been reasonably helpful so far.  For parenting, I’m not sure how much advice either of us has really received on the subject.  Probably a lot, but there’s so much going on, especially right now, that I can’t think of anything specific.  Plus, we always tell people that they can share all the thoughts and advice they want, but that it’s up to us to decide what we do and don’t heed.  I think you may have thrown that into a blog post too.  I think maybe my brain is too swamped with other things to come up with anything else on this right now.

Q: Is there any advice you think you’d like to give at this point to anyone in the same position or thinking about becoming a parent?

A: I’m sure I can come up with a few things… For people who are trying to conceive or thinking about it, I’d tell them to do their best to be patient.  It’s an exciting time, and when you’re ready, it just makes you that much more eager to have it be reality.  But things often don’t happen as quickly as we would like them to, so patience is important.  Keeping relaxed and just allowing yourself to enjoy the experience (yes, in that way as well) will only help you.  It can take a while for things to work, and that’s ok.  Just stay cool.  For people who are newly PG, I guess I would just recommend that they inform themselves, but remember to take everything they read with a grain of salt.  There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and the best thing to do is have open discussions about it, with each other and with your Dr.

Q: How about for a new Dad… any words of advice for them?

A: OK, I’ll use this one to continue the last one (…step onto soapbox…).

Really, from my own point of view, communication is just about the most important thing for any couple, pregnant or not.  Both parties need to feel comfortable sharing their concerns and hopes with the other in order for things to run smoothly.  When it comes to pregnancy, even though it’s a shared experience, everything you each go through is so completely different.  It’s really important for a Dad-to-be to feel like he’s a part of what’s going on, and not just a bystander.  And it’s just as important for a Mom-to-be to not feel alone in process.  I think a lot of your blog posts have brought up good points on this front…dads can educate themselves as much as possible, they can talk with mom about how she’s feeling, physically and emotionally.  I think as long as both people feel supported by the other, things will be fine.

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The Mommy Interview, Part 1

This is the first in a series of interviews I plan to have on the blog. I’ll be interviewing parents at all stages of the parenting process. To start, Janelle was kind enough to answer a bunch of my questions.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a Mom? Or was there a time when you knew that it was something you wanted to be?

A: This is sort of a challenge to answer.  It’s hard to say if I always wanted to be a mom, but I think it’s fair to say that, as far as I remember, I always figured I’d be a mom.  That actually sounds sort of horrible, so let me see if I can explain a little better.

I was not one of those little girls who had her wedding day planned out at 12 years old, or who had the picture of her future home and how many kids were running around.  For me, I’d say there was more the sense that all of those life events would happen, but they weren’t things that I focused on or planned for in any way.  So, I think the mom thing was something that seemed to be a given, at least when I was younger.

I think once the idea became more tangible, probably college and after, I went through what I’m guessing is a somewhat typical crisis of confidence.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a mom; I just didn’t think I’d be any good at it.  The insecurity over it was actually pretty significant.  I can’t really recall what specifically concerned me so much, but I do recall the general feeling of concern about it.  I honestly don’t remember if I felt that way while we were together.  I think not, but it has been awhile, so the timeline for those feelings is a little bit blurred.  I do remember having the distinct feeling that parenthood was a part of future, but that I was not ready for it.  That was several years ago, back when we first got married.  I wasn’t ready to give up our time together and focus on anything but each other.  The weekend we spent watching our oldest niece sort of confirmed for me that we could handle it, but that I didn’t want to quite yet.  That was 5-6 months into our marriage.

I’m not 100% sure when the transition to “readiness” occurred for me.  I can say that we waited, even after I was ready.  Outside influences delayed our timing, but I think it’s worked out perfectly, as it seems like everything is falling into place for us at the same time.

Q: Would anything have ever deterred you from becoming a Mom?

A: Did I address this in the previous answer?  I think sort of.  All I can think that would have prevented mommyhood is my own insecurity.  I didn’t think I’d be any good at it, so had that feeling become more solidified, it may have put me off of being a mom.

Q: How did you decide that you were finally ready to have a baby?

A: Sorry, I guess I sort of covered this in the first response too.  Not sure I can give a very solid answer to this.  I guess we got to a point in our lives and our relationship where it felt right.  That sounds sort of lame and cliché.  I know we talk sometimes about how I had a “timeline” for marriage and a first baby, and while that is true, I don’t think I was ever all that serious about sticking to it.  As it turns out, we’ve met the timeline just perfectly, but it’s not because of it that we are where we are.  I think it was more conceptual than anything.  It sounded like a good idea to have a baby before turning 30, and it sounded good to be married by 26, but I don’t think those ages sounding reasonable affected the actual timing for us.

I think when we were first married, even though we’d been together for so long, I wasn’t ready to have our lives be about anyone but ourselves.  A year or two into our marriage, we had some friends starting families, and those that weren’t settled down yet were starting to move in that direction.  Everything started to settle into place and it helped transition me to thinking that a child was something that would be a wonderful addition to our lives, rather than something that would take us away from things.  That sounds kind of awful too.  Maybe I’m being too serious about all of this.  I’ll try to lighten up in the rest of the answers I give.

Q: What was it that kept you from wanting to have one as soon as we were married?

A: Man, I really jumped the gun in answering that first question.  So, basically, I wanted more time for us.  I was concerned that a baby would create too much change for our relationship and our individual lives, and I wasn’t ready for that to happen.  I was concerned about the impact a child would have on our lives, and just knew that I wasn’t done focusing on myself and us.  I believed that having a child meant giving up a lot of your own life, and that our relationship would change in a way I wasn’t ready for (I figured we’d fight more since kids and houses/finances seem to be the main arguing points for couples and that we’d lose focus on each other).  Now I know better.  Yes, things are going to be different, for us as a couple and us as individuals.  But those changes won’t be a negative for us.  We’re constantly growing and changing, and this is just one part of all that.  I guess this goes hand in hand with the previous answer.  Sorry…stream of consciousness.

Q: How has the pregnancy been for you so far?

A: Easy.  Not sure how else to put it.  The discomforts have been pretty mild overall.  No puking, which is a huge relief.  It’s been quite the unexpectedly positive experience so far.

Q: What does the pregnancy feel like for you? Do you feel different at all? Is it just physically different?

A: This is a really difficult question to answer, mostly because I feel like I won’t do it justice in describing it all, and because I think there are some intangibles that can’t be described.  However, I’ll do my best.

For the first 2-3 months, I’d say it didn’t feel at all different from a physical standpoint.  There were a couple of body changes, but no tummy really, so it didn’t seem obvious to me that there was a baby involved.  The other physical issues (indigestion/heartburn, peeing all the time, that might have been it) aren’t things that obviously imply PG [Editor’s Note: It’s cute. This is how my grandmother refers to being pregnant, “PG”, and Janelle’s picked it up], so that didn’t really alter much for me either.

Emotionally there are ups and downs.  The initial lack of physical reminders was actually sort of a challenge mentally.  I knew that I was pregnant, but there were those little moments where a thought of “are we sure there’s a baby in there?” would sneak in, usually as we got farther from the last appointment (and the last reminder that, yes, there is a baby in there).

Speaking of reminders…just got what felt like a couple little thumps on the inside…Baby is apparently being punchy (now that we know sort of where the hands are).  Either that or it’s gas.  Ah, the beauty of pregnancy.

Anyway, I’ll get back to the emotional stuff now.  Other than those occasional nagging thoughts mentioned above, I don’t think I’ve had too many concerned type emotions.  In the very, very beginning, I was sort of counting the days until I passed the “you’re going to get sick mark”, and again until we passed the 1st trimester.  But those are fairly normal cautionary reactions for people.

All in all, I’ve had nothing but excitement and love and just about every other positive feeling you can have.  I’m excited to be somebody’s mom.  I’m excited to meet our child.  I’ve loved it (and the idea of it) for a long time.  I’m excited to see the changes that happen for you.  I’m really eager for the baby movements to go into full gear, and for you to be able to feel it too.  I’m nervous for us on occasion, but mostly because I know how prepared we like to be, and as you’ve mentioned before on your blog, you’re never really prepared.  I’m much more nervous about house stuff than baby stuff.  So far.  I can’t wait to hold and snuggle the baby.  I can’t wait for the 3 of us to have our first moment together as a family, especially once we are at home.  Getting teary thinking about it…I am such a pregnant lady.  I guess most of the emotional feelings are anticipatory in nature.  There’s an eagerness to everything relating to our having a baby.  But not so eager that I want it right now…I can wait until May/June.

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Gut Check

There are a great many things about having a child that are reportedly mindblowing. The moment you first meet your child is the most often cited moment. It’s been lauded to the point that I’m nervous I won’t be as floored as everyone says—sort of like all your best friends saying that the movie you’re about to see is the best film ever made. Ever. Well, even if you still think the movie is great, if it’s not the best ever… then…

But that’s all still in the future for me. We’ll hear more about that after I’ve lived it. What I’m talking about today is a gut check. A reality check. One of the things that I find fairly mindblowing is how a fetus, something that is very clearly a human but is not really quite yet what most people would call a person, can develop foibles and habits.

Babies have a type, even in the womb, even before they really have a mind that’s been fully formed, before they have anything relative to their existence to define themselves. Maybe a baby kicks a lot. Maybe a baby punches a lot. Maybe it doesn’t move at all. Perhaps it likes to be upside-down, or favors one side over the other. How does a baby choose to be like this? Is it an instinct thing? Are they already wired to be the way they will be? Are preferences actually being formed in utero? The thing that really blows my mind are babies, all nestled away in someone’s tummy, that suck their thumbs. Maybe I’m able to anthropomorphize a bit because we associate thumb-sucking with a child seeking comfort—but it really makes me stop and ponder that, at negative months old, a baby will do something to make itself feel better. Even if you think of it as just something to break up the monotony, there’s a level of awareness there that is a bit of a trip.

It’s making me think more and more about the importance of talking to your baby and paying it some attention before the grand arrival. It’s not just a little person in there, it’s a little personality, too.

Our little person, who apparently likes to chill out with hands raised by either temple, is apparently pretty punchy. I’ve only felt one confirmed bump, but Janelle gets a fair bit of pummeling throughout the day now. This is fun for a few reasons. It’s like a treasure hunt and, ever the gamer, I’m excited for the chance to “discover” a thump through a chance rubbing on Janelle’s belly. I’m also eager for the first time I can convince myself a thump was because I said something or did something outside the womb to get a reaction from inside of it. For Janelle, it’s the reassurance that she wants without having to go to the doctor. A belly grows so gradually that it’s not really a reassurance that the baby is health and moving along. A punching baby is a live and lively baby, though, and that makes Mommy feel better.

Perhaps this is an idea that was best placed at the top of the post, so it would get more eyeballs, but I’ll probably put up reminders later. We have, incoming via some FedEx or UPS or whatever service, a set of pre-natal headphones. Basically, it’s a wearable belt and strappy system (it looks like a 4-point weight belt made to surround and support a pregnant belly) that has speakers inset in the fabric. You may say it’s a silly purchase. I may tell you to shut your talkhole.

Anyway, the idea: if you would like to read a favorite story, or just plain record a fun message for our upcoming Mystery Guest, do so and send it to me and I will load it into mine MP3 Delivery Unit and forthwith play it for the infant, therefore the child will emerge into this world knowing a bit about the world around and the people who have helped to so graciously lay out the welcome mat.

I hereby dub this a fun idea.

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Latest and Greatest

Well, as time passes, the home front gets more and more manageable and, lo, the baby comes ever and ever closer.

Yesterday, Janelle and I went in for our major sonogram. This is the one where you don’t go to your regular doctor, you go to a sonogram technician. Our appointment was fast, lasting only about 20-25 minutes. It’s just like every other sonogram you’ll have. The doc places goo all over your partner’s tummy, and it looks pretty gross. Imagine smearing hair gel all over your stomach. It looks like that. Then they take their barcode-scanner-ish device and commence pressing it and rubbing it all over the abdomen.

It’s amusing to note the reckless abandon this is done with. Medical practitioners are keyed in to a vital fact most of us (who are not cage fighters) take for granted: humans are pretty durable, including babies. There’s a lot of poking, and then poking harder and, amusingly, when the baby was in the wrong position for a clear shot, a lot of jiggling of the scanner to try and prompt the baby to move a bit. Clearly a precise science.

The tech looks for things like spinal development, the presence of kidneys and lungs and four properly functioning heart chambers. He scopes the brain and checks for a cleft lip. They take measurements and just generally ensure things are doing well. Using nifty doppler-type radar they can even use a color overlay (that makes it look like you’re seeing things in Predator heat-vision) to watch blood flow to ID important things like the renal arteries. Cool.

It’s fun to see the baby like this, but a bit bizarre. The images are basically x-rays, so your kid ends up looking at once like a cute baby, a Halloween costume and Godzilla. I have some more thoughts on this, but I’m saving them for another post. Cut me some slack. I’m busy.

And no… we didn’t find out the sex. We had the tech put the info in an envelope so that the envelope could taunt us mercilessly like some Poe artifact. So, neener, neener. We don’t know and we’re not telling.

We are, however, sharing some images. So… without further ado:





Battalion Vengeance

How convenient that I didn’t really have a post today that Battalion Vengeance has finally been released. This is the last title in the Battalion series, and marks the completion of the work I’ll be doing on the franchise. There are two cooperative episodes that have been created… but I’m unsure if they’ll ever see the light of day.

At any rate, you can play Battalion Vengeance by clicking here. I hope that you enjoy it (but if you didn’t enjoy the previous games, you won’t enjoy this one).

You can play the first episode, Battalion Nemesis, here.

The second episode, Battalion Ghosts, is here.

It will likely be some time before you see any game writing from me—though I do have some projects in the pipe.

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The Doldrums

I’m going to be taking a quick break from our regularly scheduled baby programming to talk about homebuying. I’ve griped about the process before, but now I’m going to temper that gripe with actual information.

Janelle and I are currently in escrow, as of the first of this month. And, with this period we have also entered into what is probably our most stressful and least happy time since we have known one another. We’re not unhappy with each other—but the escrow process is more or less sucking our will to live. And here’s why:

When we started looking for homes, we were in really great shape. We had been watching shows about real estate shopping and home renovation for a couple of years on and off. We had gotten a good sense of what made a good deal not only in Southern California, but anywhere. Before we worked with an agent, we scouted all of San Diego county and picked our area of interest, and then we canvassed that neighborhood, seeing open houses and sampling neighborhoods. Seven months ago, when we started working with an agent (after interviewing a handful and carefully selecting the one we liked most), we were well ahead of the game. We understood the pitfalls that homes could present and could grasp the intangibles that sometimes elevate a home beyond its apparent worth.

Once we actually had a bid accepted on a home, though, all our preparations were for naught. Buying a home isn’t really something you can practice, and there aren’t too many television shows that cover the intricacies of escrow week after week. Our failing point was our assumption that, come the start of escrow, that our agent would be able to shepherd us through the process. For whatever reason, this isn’t really the case. Some words of advice:

– Aim for a 45 day escrow: We find ourselves in a 30 day escrow (which we assumed would be standard and no problem at all because we are apparently fools) and it’s killer. Why 30 days is standard when just about every bank on the planet lists 30-45 as the average close time I have no idea. Oh, and try not to have your escrow start January 1 when January 1 is a Friday. That timing meant that we couldn’t really start out 30 day escrow until January 4, making it a 26 day escrow.

– Select all your helpers prior to entering escrow: You’ll want to make sure that you’ve selected the services you want to use for insurance, inspection and loan prior to escrow. You can do it during, like we are, but expect your stress to ramp up exponentially. When picking an inspector find out if they will be climbing on your roof or just visually inspecting it. Find out if they are insured and accredited and look for sample reports on-line to see if you like how they are formatted. You want thoroughness, so don’t just look at the numbers and fees. For a broker, however, it’s all numbers and fees. The interest rate they can offer will change daily and just about everyone will offer you the same, assuming you have good credit. The fees they charge, however, will vary wildly. You will save a lot of money typically with a bank or credit union, but may be looking at more lead-time required in the escrow process. Local brokers will end up charging more, but will be faster and may be more flexible in terms of the number of options they can present you with.

– Be sure to read all your paperwork: This is something that we, thankfully, are not realizing in hindsight. Always read the papers you are sent, even the legalese. You’re likely to end up signing something you don’t understand otherwise, and your agent is very likely to not think anything of it. Discrepancies are a big deal and very likely. There are a ton of things you need to remember, and even more that the seller has to catalog and disclose to you. They probably messed at least one thing up.

Overall, you need to be prepared to be stressed. Escrow is a process that can have a lot of emotional and financial investment from you. It’s likely the largest debt that you will ever enter into, and the entire thing can fall apart through absolutely no direct fault of your own. Be fearless with nagging and be stupidly over-prepared.