Harper is 9 months old today and I have sadly been quite delinquent in keeping up with blog posts. My last post was way back in September and there have been so many changes since then.
First and foremost she is no longer a little alien. She is definitely a little lady and it seems clear personality traits are beginning to show thru. For instance she is a very observant child. While there are certainly moments of craziness and unbridled energy, there are just as many moments of quiet focus when she is clearly studying the world and figuring it out. What I love most about this age is that if you watch carefully you can actually see the neurons firing in her brain as connections are made and new discoveries realized. One of Harpers more recent discoveries' is the use of her pointer finger. It's like she wants to show us just what she is looking at and have us help her make sense of it all. It seems that she is aware that there is a big world to discover and I hope I'm correctly interpreting that as a strong thirst for knowledge.
She has not begun to crawl yet but the last few months there has been lots of rolling and she is very good at it. And fast. It's almost like children move in their own time warp as turning around for just a second can result in the child being clear across the floor and in to something she shouldn't be. At Christmas time Harper learned to sit up on her own and that has provided lots of new excitement. I do enjoy coming in to her room to wake her up from a nap only to have her sitting up in her crib staring at me with a big grin. A few months ago all I wanted was for her to start crawling and then walking and talking but I have learned to savor these moments. Changes come on a daily basis and I don't want to miss any of them. There is plenty of time for crawling and walking and talking, as there will be plenty of time for boys and driving and other milestones that I am certain will be here in the blink of an eye. I've been very fortunate the past 3 weeks to be on break from school and we have spent every day together in it's entirety. While I have spent plenty of alone time with her up until now, like I said earlier there was an "alien" aspect to her whole being. There wasn't a lot of purposeful reaction to my conversations with her. When I tried to teach her something I would get lucky with a one time repeat. But now she is clapping with Amanda and I or playing patty cake with her Grandaddy. She knows where my hair, nose and eyes are and occasionally I can get a wet kiss out of her if I ask, but like her mother she can be stingy with the kisses (just kidding).
With all these new things she is learning we have had a bit more crying as Harper is discovering the subtle art of manipulation. I must admit I think Amanda and I have it pretty good. Harper by all accounts appears to be a very good child. She is not bored too easily and can entertain herself for long periods of time. We took a tour of the Biltmore Estate yesterday and didn't fuss the entire time or the rest of the day. Just like her parents, as long as she has food and a nap she is as happy as a pig in mud.
This is a bit of a short post but I hope I will be more consistent in the new year with my updates. I have many topics I want to cover such as the ups and downs of bottle cleaning. Exciting stuff huh?
It started out to be such a great night. Amanda had a pharmacy class in Brevard and had to leave just after I got home from Western. It would be the first night that Harper and I had spent alone together. Sure we had spent entire days together many, many times, but this was to be the first night it was just she and I.
I haven't blogged in quite a while and so much has happend. She has rolled over onto her stomach and then returned to her back (she's not crawling yet however), and most recently she has started eating solid foods like rice cereal, oatmeal and her favorite, sweet potatoes. That meant that this night we would be eating together and then I would give her some milk and put her to bed all before her mother got home.
We had a ball eating the sweet potatoes. There was lots of talking and foot kicking and red goop all over her face. After dinner we laid on the floor and played with Sophie the Giraffe and Gary the crazy winged monster. I got my guitar and we sang some songs and there was lots of laughing and rolling over. Oh what a joy it was to be a father and bask in these precious, fleeting moments.
At 8pm Harper began to get a little cranky and I knew it was time for her pre-bed nursing and then the nighttime routine. I got a bottle ready and while it was heating up I took her upstairs to change her into pj's. The changing initiated some crying as her hunger set in and when I left her to return downstairs to get the milk it turned into a full wail. I grabbed the Boppy (nursing pillow) and set up on Amanda's side of the bed to try and give Harper some familiarity with her nighttime routine thinking the smells and views from that side of the room might soothe her.
Seemed to work. Halfway thru the bottle her eyes were closing and there was only the intermittent suck on the nipple. I thought to myself, "This is going to be a breeze. She'll fall asleep in my arms, I will quietly take her from our room to hers and put her down." Well it should come as a surprise to no one that it did not go down that way. As I tried to take the bottle away from her she quickly reached back out and began to cry. "Ok, we'll finish the bottle then." From here on out the last 2 ounces were sucked down ferociously. While I had hoped she'd get to the end and be tired again, I could quickly see she was going to finish this thing and expect more.
What to do?
All the milk is downstairs...
The prep is at least 10 minutes...
She's had almost 5 ounces...
It's time for bed...
As expected she finished the bottle but wanted more. The wails began in earnest and I thought to get up and walk her around to try and calm her. This worked just a bit to quiet her and so I tried to lay her down in the crib and turn on the mobile. Again, my hopes were high. There were occasional squeals and then she would quite for a moment. I went downstairs and turned the monitor on hoping to practice a bit more on the guitar. As the mobile's song ended the occasional squeal turned to a constant cry and within moments it was a torrent of horrific screams. I thought to myself, "Be patient Peter, she'll cry herself to sleep." As our house is pretty open I turned off the monitor as I could hear her clearly in her room without amplification. The screaming continued. I could hear her voice getting hoarse and could close my eyes and see her in my mind thrashing in bed with tears rolling down her face.
After what felt like eons but was probably only 5 minutes, I could take it no longer and went up to her. I took her out of the crib hoping a walk around upstairs would quiet her down but nothing seemed to work. The damage had been done and she was upset. Harper's whole routine was out of whack and to make matters worse her mother was nowhere to be seen. I am certain this fact alone was the most upsetting. For 5 and a half months she had gone to bed after being in the comfort of Amanda's arms and now everything was different.
"Maybe she's still hungry," I thought and put her on the bed and went back downstairs to heat half a bottle. With 2 warm ounces in hand I settled back into Amanda's side of bed and tried to feed Harper. This worked only somewhat as she would take a few sucks and then spit the bottle out and break into screams. After five minutes of this I began to smell something foul and thought something serious had happened down below. I put her on the changing towel on the bed and took off her jammies. The pungent smell was unmistakable and I got the wipes and a new diaper ready. As I took off her soiled diaper it was clearly a 3 day poop and I thought that this would be a relief to her. She was still wailing as I wiped and and open the new diaper. That is when the sweet potatoes from earlier made their exit. Moving with the consistency of Hawaiian lava into the sea, the slow orange ooze kept coming as I frantically kept running back and forth for wipes. I pulled off the pj's as quick as possible and moved them out of harms way. The changing towel was now soiled and Harper's feet we getting mixed up in the poop.
Still fits of uncontrolled screaming
As what seemed like the last of the ooze came out I went for a clean diaper. I lifted her legs to slip the diaper under and the liquid projectile poop came flying at me. I was lucky to avoid any clothing saturation but it was too late for her hands and feet and legs. Without thinking I picked up her naked body and took her into the bathroom. Laid her on a towel and got water running in the baby tub. Luckily that last squirt was the last of the poop. I got her in the tub and we did a quick scrub. I dried her off, put on a fresh diaper and we went back to the bed to finish the last ounce of milk.
I have rarely been so aware of the precious sound of silence. She lay there in my arms, quietly sucking the bottle and making the occasional sigh. How quickly it had gone from crazed panic to perfect calm. How quickly I had gone from wanting to sell the child to the gypsies to basking in the wonder that is my daughter.
It's official... I'm Mr. Mom. Amanda went back to work last week and Harper and I have been flying solo during the day. I was quite scared the first morning Amanda left but I have to say that so far things have gone pretty well. In a short time Harper and I have worked out a pretty good little routine. After her final morning nursing and once Amanda leaves she takes a little nap that allows me to attend to some emails, clean dishes and maybe get a little reading in or some school prep. We then have our first bottle time and let me take a moment here to sing the praises of the bottle warmer. When we got it, Amanda and I worried it would be too much of a luxury but this thing is awesome!!! Harper has gotten used to the sound it makes so she knows food is coming and will calm down a bit if she is having a meltdown (more on that later.) After the first bottle we have some daddy/daughter time and play on the floor or bounce on the knee or something rather monotonous and mundane but purposeful. This is when we get to know each other and spend a lot of time talking and smiling. These are the moments when all of the difficult times seem to fade from memory (again more on that later). It is also after the first feeding that we will get a bath if necessary.
I've gotten pretty good at the bath time ritual if I might say so myself. We (I) sing lots of silly songs together and laugh at all the nooks and crannys that we must get clean. I'm pretty creative during this time and need to start recording myself as there may be some golden childrens songs being written in that tub. Watch out Wiggles!!!
After a bath there is usually a mid day nap, often for both of us. This has been the time that is difficult for me to get motived to do anything of substance. If not napping I lie on the couch and watch tv or surf mindlessly on the internet. I set out just to have some lunch and be lazy for half an hour but before I know it an hour or more has gone by. It is amazing to me how time flies by during the day.
Harper usually wakes to let me know when we need to have the afternoon feeding and I warm a bottle up. Recently, DeDe has been coming over to relieve me at about 4:30 so I can go up to play rehearsal in Burnsville. This has worked out very well so far and gives me some indication of what it will be like in the fall when I go back to teaching full time and Amanda is working in full swing at the Pharmacy.
That's pretty much our day. I like to get her out for a short walk in the morning if it's nice and not too hot or we may run an errand or two in the afternoon. She hates getting in her car seat but once we are on the move she does really well in the car or strolling around Target. We have a really good time together, or so it seems to me.
So that's all the good. But with the good must come some of the bad. Parenthood, I am quickly learning is not all sugar and peppermints. I think that may be grandparenthood. There have been times when both Amanda and I have really struggled, and the temptation to just lie Harper down on the floor and run out of the house screaming has been very strong. She will on occasion break down and have a complete and total meltdown. She is like a wind up toy and her energy will send her arms and legs into fits of wild movement. It is during these times that she falls apart and clean diaper and full belly be damned, she will scream like her world is coming to an end. I have gotten over the stupid notion that she doesn't "like me" but at times I feel like she clearly "hates me". In an effort to try and calm her, I often will hold her in such a way that constricts her legs from kicking out so much and I have never heard such blood curdling screams in my life. I know I am not hurting her because within a few moments of stopping her flailing legs she quickly exhausts herself and calms down. These "moments" however are agonizing for both she and I. She looks at me like I am destryoing her world and I fear these will be the deep seeded memories she will try to explain to a therapist in 25 years about why she is claustrophobic.
I am totally awed by the super human sound of a baby's cries. I feel at times like my eardrums are bleeding and I don't understand how those high decibels don't hurt her ears. I have heard that crying helps to develop the lungs of a newborn and I am thinking she will go into swimming because I am certain she will be able to break all sorts of breath holding records. They say that the baby feeds off the energy of the person holding them and I do my best to sooth my heart rate and emit a sense of calm control but that is next to impossible when this scream machine is yelling less than a foot from your face... WAHHH WAHHH WAHHH WAHHH WAHHH WAHHH WAHHH ... deep breath ... WAHH WAHHH WAHHH
But as I mentioned above, eventually the crying does stop and shortly after a few minutes of cooing or smiling at her daddy I've forgotten all about that totally crappy meltdown in the not so distant past. I am also thankful that she is not colicky. I have heard stories and I think my complaints are pretty mild compared to many other parents experiences.
My first Father's Day was a wonderful experience. The Friday previous I took my Dad to see Phish in Charlotte and we had a fantastic time. I really wanted him to experience this strange musical phenomena that has consumed so much of my time and money over the last 18 years. I really think he "got it" and seemed to enjoy the music as well as being fascinated by the "lot" culture created by hordes of fans following this group around the country.
I mention this only to express how lucky I feel to have a relationship with my father that makes such experiences possible. We have done so many unique things with one another and I believe as I have grown into an adult and father in my own right we have grown to appreciate our differences and take advantge of our similarities. I hope that by the time Harper is in her mid 30's we will be enjoying a similar type of relationship. Certainly there will be many difficult moments between now and then and no doubt watching a girl mature into a woman will hold different challenges than a boy growing into a man. Still, I hope we will have the sort of relationship as adults that I have with my folks and Amanda has with her parents.
But in truth, all of that is a looong way off and there is no sense in putting any mental effort into something so unpredictable and so far away. I have this beautiful young child that needs me to focus on her right now and teach her and learn from her everyday. Speaking of... she has given me more than enough quiet time to write this blog. Time to attend.
Well it's been a little while since my last blog post but so much has been happening I thought I'd wait and combine Harper's adventures of the last few weeks. She has grown so much it is really amazing. She gets longer and heavier and every day is more and more alert. She really studies Amanda and me now and I think the smiles are becoming more and more genuine. Still, we are all figuring out how to communicate with one another. The "hungry" cry is much clearer now but some of her other fussy outbursts still baffle her mother and me. Clean diaper... check. Full Belly... check. Trying 30 different kinds of holds... check. And still we will have big cries. Amanda thinks it might be growth spurts and with the speed at which she seems to be growing I would not at all be surprised if those bones hurt as they stretch out.
We had our first lengthy road trip to Amanda's parent's house in eastern NC. Usually the trip takes right at 5 hours but with two stops for feedings it took us about 6 which is actually a little less than we expected. We are fortunate that Harper does well in the car. She just kind of shuts down and is very quiet and still riding in the back seat. After the second feeding and more than 5 hours into the trip though I think she had hit her saturation point. She did not want to go back into the seat and wailed for about 1/2 an hour down the road. She can't really stretch in that car seat and it was too much. She is very much like her mother in that regard. When it's time to be done with the car it is TIME TO BE DONE WITH THE CAR!!!
Thankfully we were on the last leg of the trip and she was soon stretching out in her Grandaddy's arms on the recliner. Amanda's mom and dad are such natural grandparents. They love Harper so much and just want to rock her and talk to her every moment. Mama took off from work for a few days just so she could spend time with her grandchild and was such a proud Grandmama showing off the latest addition to the family.
All in all Harper did very well. We were worried that the unfamiliar new place and the excitement of seeing so many new people might set her off but she was for the most part a little angel. On Friday however we did have a moment late at night. For some reason the child slept only about 1 hour out of 14. We could not get her to take a nap all day. Mama's sister Eleanor had come for a visit as well as her Aunt Pam from across the street. He Aunt and Uncle and cousins came over and it was just so much stimulation Harper got really wound up in the evening. Once it was bedtime she was not going down and we had to try and soothe her for hours as she wailed and wailed. I felt bad because we didn't want to keep everyone else up in the house but eventually she went down and slept all the way through the night.
That was really the only issue of the whole weekend. The drive home was fine although we pushed it by only feeding once and by the time we were a little over 20 minutes away from the house, Harper let loose with hunger cries. As soon as we got in the driveway Amanda took her out and upstairs to feed.
The Monday after we got home our family friend Kristen Garvin and her husband Pete came down to dinner with my parents. They brought their dog Moxie with them and their 16 month old son Max. Max was the coolest little boy and gave us a good idea of what to expect in a little over a year. He was wide open, always looking for something to pick up or bang or play with. Our house it seems is already fairly well baby proofed. There was not much he could get a hold of that was too breakable or he could pull down on himself. Don't get me wrong, we need to plug the outlets and move my guitars, etc, but still I think we are off to a good start. It was also nice to have a dog in the house and I hope in a year or so we may look to get a canine.
Amanda's sister Steph came for a visit on Wednesday and stayed for five days. It was great for both Harper and Amanda. She and Amanda rarely get time alone with each other as when ever we get together it is always a family affair. It was tough as Amanda had to feed often but they were able to get away for a few hours each day to shop and hang out. It was also a great opportunity for Harper to get to know her Aunt in a relaxed atmosphere where she could hold her to her hearts content. I'm really glad she came as the next time she comes it will certainly be with Alex and Abby and the trip will be non stop excitement.
Amanda and I were fearful we were boring Steph to tears. Harper is growing so much she is feeding about every two hours so it meant we couldn't really do a whole lot far away from the house. Almost every night Steph was here Harper would have a spell from about 10pm to 1am. It was really tough and very draining on Amanda. For whatever reason at night Harper would just not want to eat and was fidgety and upset. We just didn't know what to do. During the day she was perfect and quiet and then like clockwork every night she would fire up and nothing we tried seemed to help. These are the moments that you hear about from other parents. The battle scars of parenting.
Lately though she has gotten a bit more fussy during the day and is settling in at night. She actually slept for over 7 hours last night. It was a bit unnerving to wake as the sun was coming up and hear Harper's early hunger whines. I asked Amanda if she fed her in the middle of the night and she said no and was as surprised as I was. She looks healthy and ate fine this morning so I think everything is just fine. Amanda is going to try and start pumping this week so we will get a good idea of how that will work and I can start feeding and hopefully take some of the burden off Amanda.
Oh yeah, I gave Harper her first bath!!! I will admit I was very nervous. So much to be aware of from not getting water or soap in her eyes to being vigilant about keeping her heard above water. Not to mention worrying she is going to poop in the baby tub. But all went really well. The first time Amanda watched me and guided me. It is tough for me as my height makes it hard to bend down to the sink to wash her hair or bend way over into the tub to scrub her body. I will have to figure out my own system. The second time Amanda was taking a shower so I bathed Harper all by myself. We had a lot of fun and talked to each other and laughed and smiled.
Well, I just heard a diaper explosion so I've got some changing to do. Looking forward to what Harper will teach me today.
Time is very different these days. In many respects it goes by very fast. Often, Amanda and I both remark as the sun goes down, "where did the day go?" And at the same time it has been a VERY long month.
The nine months leading up to this angel seemed to fly by and now it is hard to believe it has only been four weeks since Harpers birth. Long weeks, but wonderful weeks.
Today we took Harper to my student Tina DeSoto's graduation party at a vacation spot her parents own called Bear Lake. It was a beautiful day and the venue was gorgeous. It was a small gathering of Tina's family and some friends and other teachers and we could not have had a better time. The BBQ was quite tasty and there were lots of laughs. Amanda told the story of my ibuprofen overdose and brought the house down. She doesn't think she tells a good story but she had everyone in stitches the whole time. This is definitely one of those yarns that Harper will probably have to endure her entire life. The sort that she'll hate when growing up and then share with her own kids as an adult.
Harper wore a very pretty dress and her new shoes she got from some Smith (Kropp) cousins but unfortunately (or fortunately) she slept the entire time in her stroller and we never got a picture of her or the party. Maybe Tina's brothers who were taking lots of photos got a couple of choice shots. The picture we took of her before going to the party will have to suffice. Still, she was the hit of the party even in her sleep.
Tomorrow is Mothers Day. It already feels like it has taken on a new meaning for me. I have a greater appreciation for my own mother now that I really understand the trials and tribulations of pregnancy & childbirth as well as being amazed at Amanda's courage and fortitude as she rears this child and is in a constant cycle of feeding and sleeping. It really is amazing. I think the only reason that men have been able to maintain their "power" in the church or business or politics or whatever is by the sheer fact they have more time. Fatherhood and motherhood are certainly not equal terms.
As I imagine (and hope) that you will read this as an adult and maybe share with your own children, I think it is important to not only document the milestones of your own life but also those moments in history that will no doubt shape the world you live in.
Late last night as your mother and I were watching TV, your mom who was checking Facebook on her phone (you may have to look those things up) let out an audible gasp and informed me that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I have no doubt that his name, like Hitler's, will forever be associated with the worst sort of evil and that you will study his terrible deeds and our country's dark moments and great triumphs in your history classes.
I think the only reason I mention it is that as we watched the 24 news cycle cover his death today I often stared at you sitting in a state of blissful ignorance only getting upset at an oncoming poop. Many months ago your mother and I talked about whether it was right to bring a child into this world. A world where such an evil man could exist and where there was so much hurt (wars in Afghanistan and Iraq), devastation (tsunami's in Japan and tornados in Alabama), and political turmoil (don't even know where to begin). But as I stare into your precious, uncorrupted eyes I know that I am responsible for leaving a world to you that is the best I could have made it, and that your mother and I are responsible for raising you in such a way that your moral core is free from evil and judgement of others.
There will be more bad men in the future. There will be more wars and terrible natural devastation. You will see things that will make you inextricably sad, but as you will learn from your DeDe as you grow up, there is much more hope and beautiful things to live for and revel in.
You have the power to create the kind of world you want to live in.
Your mother and I created the world we want to live in.