• Welcome to Parenthood: Fourteen Months


    The boy is dangerous. They all sense it, why can’t you?

    When Jedi padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi spoke those words to his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, he was referring to Anakin Skywalker, whose passion and anger would eventually turn him to the Dark Side.Or perhaps he was trying to warn George Lucas about casting Jake Lloyd as the boy who would grow up to become Darth Vader. That is a discussion for another time. My young apprentice has not yet started down the path that will forever dominate his destiny, but since we began weaning him off baby food and feeding him “real food”, Laura and I have witnessed the Dark Side.

    I’m talking about poop. Specifically, the ever-intensifying foulness of that which darkens the diaper. In the beginning, the diaper biscuits were largely odorless, but as we slowly change the nature of what goes into Kyle’s mouth — abandoning bland jars of baby food in favor of more interesting fare like spaghetti with meat sauce, ice cream and peanut butter — so do we unwittingly change the nature of what comes out the other end.

    Where the diaper change was once a thirty second affair involving — at worst — a vaguely unpleasant odor, a few moist wipes and the danger of an unexpected golden fountain, today the affair might potentially involve an eye-watering, tongue-shriveling pungence, a half-dozen or more moist wipes, a kicking, flailing child whose mood changes from unbridled glee to unrestrained outrage and back four times in as many seconds, and the danger of an unexpected golden fountain.

    Diaper changes are often preceded by a faint odor that inevitably leads to a period of denial, wherein the parent who must ultimately perform the task attempts to assure the other parent that the growing stench is “just gas”. To be fair, Kyle does seem to be propelled by rapid-fire flatulence at times. As with most denial, this is a defense mechanism, for with every diaper change there is also the threat of that most disastrous and unpleasant event, the Blowout.

    The Blowout is exactly what it sounds like: the capacity, fit or structural integrity of the diaper is exceeded by the viscosity, volume or sheer tenacity of that which fills it, resulting in failure of the containment field. When this happens, plasma is vented into space, Yes, it’s a euphemism. There are only so many times I’ll use the word “poop” here. necessitating special hazardous materials cleanup processes. It ain’t pretty.

    Thankfully, there is more life with my young apprentice than the occasional journey to the Dark Side of the Diaper. In early January, he made a sudden transition from crawling around on his belly to pulling himself up on furniture and “cruising” around the living room, dining room and anywhere else he could get. The amount of stuff he could reach tripled and end tables were no longer safe havens for keys, iPods, cell phones and the like.

    Right around the time Kyle started “cruising” he also, much to our surprise, began climbing stairs, which necessitated the use of a second baby gate in the living room (the first preventing a fall into the downstairs hallway). Now, when it is time for a diaper change, a bath (one of his favorite activities) or a nap, Laura and I simply remove the second baby gate and follow Kyle upstairs. He has not yet learned that sometimes a climb up the steps means it is time for a nap (by far his least favorite activity).

    As Kyle’s mobility has increased, so has his curiosity. The farther an object is out of his reach, the greater the lengths he will go to retrieve it. Objects with many buttons are particularly alluring, as the connection between pressing of buttons and something interesting happening is one that Kyle made several months ago. The object he most desires is the remote control, and if it is on the back of the couch or on the bookshelf near the couch, he will climb over Laura and myself to reach his prize.

    When not attempting to steal the remote control or “pet” the cats, Kyle researches new ways to foil the latches on our kitchen cabinets. His library is vast, and he will sometimes roll around in a pile of Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss and Sesame Street books, much like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin. While the wealth of knowledge at his disposal may not help much in the realm of breaking and entering kitchen cabinets, Kyle has learned much about the BTFD (Busytown Fire Department), the challenges inherent in keeping oversized pets, the folly of trying to touch the moon, and the ticklishness of crocodiles; information which will undoubtedly prove valuable in years to come.

    The next big adventure for Kyle will be walking without hanging on to a couch or coffee table. As with most of his advances, I have mixed feelings about Kyle walking. I am at once excited to see him learning and growing every day and saddened that it seems to be happening so quickly.

    Just this week, Laura and I stopped giving Kyle a bottle before bed, and I felt strangely wistful when I put him to bed. I miss cradling him in my arm as he drinks the day’s final bottle (which, in the past month, had become the day’s only bottle). I’ll miss his Army-style belly crawl when he starts walking, and I’ll miss his enthusiastic chanting of “dada” when he really starts to talk.

    I won’t miss changing the Diaper of the Dark Side, though. Not one bit.

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Nine Months


    Kyle: Happy in the Hood
    When my young apprentice emerged from his growth chamber, we made an agreement: if, after spending equal amounts of time inside and outside of said chamber, either of us felt that further gestation was warranted, he would immediately be returned to the growth chamber for a period to be decided at the time of demergence.I know, “demergence” isn’t a real word; but it sounds better than “re-insertion”.

    Per our agreement, Kyle and I conducted our nine month evaluation on Friday the 13th of this month, and we have both arrived at the conclusion that no further gestation will be necessary. Laura received this announcement with no small measure of relief.

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Laughing Boy


    One of the things I’m going to miss when Kyle gets a little older is him thinking I’m funny just because I think I’m funny.

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Happy Father’s Day


    My first Father’s Day as the honoree has come and gone, and I’m quite pleased. Kyle gave me a big smile when I came down in the morning; he always does that, and it always makes me feel fantastic, but yesterday it was a Father’s Day smile, and that made it even better.

    A big smile wasn’t all I got for Father’s Day, either. I also received:

    1. Membership in the William Shatner DVD Club: William Shatner has “assembled a series of films that run the gamut of Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy, including underground hits, genre classics, and even some gems pulled from the far reaches of independent cinema.” Each month, one of these gems will be delivered to my mailbox. The long and short of it: more movie reviews.
    2. A pair of Arizona Jean Company Rapids: Sandals to replace my current pair, which have served me well over the last several years and taken a lot of abuse. The new pair is very nice, but I won’t be getting rid of the old ones; they’ll be relegated to lawn mowing.

    I’m pretty sure that Laura helped Kyle with the selection and purchase of those items.

    To escape the heat and humidity of the International House of Johnson, we fled to the Manhattan Deli for breakfast, then assembled at my in-laws’ air-conditioned abode for a day of Carpocalypse, Ultimate Obstacle Course and drag-racing.Kyle and I also watched a show about the bloodline of Dracula on The History Channel, but we both fell asleep on my father-in-law’s comfy recliner about halfway through. Our involvement was fairly passive, but it was Father’s Day, and I understand that it is my duty as a patriarch-American to sit on my fat ass and watch TV all day.I’m very good at my duty.

    After an afternoon of watching television, we enjoyed shishkebab for dinner, followed by homemade strawberry shortcake. My in-laws gave me a Superman Returns alarm clock, a picture of which I’ve been unable to find on all of the Internets.EDIT: It would seem that my searching of “all the Internets” was a bit lacking in scope. In fact, I did only a Google Image search. Thanks to my other apprentice, an image of the alarm clock in question has been located. Laura, Kyle and I gave my father-in-law a new, wireless Microsoft optical mouse.This was my suggestion, and a fairly selfish one, as my primary motive for giving the gift is that I don’t like cleaning the mouse every time I sit down to run maintenance on my father-in-law’s computer. He really did need a new mouse, though.

    Late in the evening, we returned to our sweltering abode and I closed out the day by taking out the garbage and then shooting some filthy Communists. Not bad for my first Father’s Day. Not bad at all.

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Five Months


    Five months have passed since my young apprentice emerged from his growth chamber, and I am most pleased with his progress thus far. While not yet able to roll over, sit up without support, or do a proper endo, Kyle’s advancement is nonetheless most impressive. Just look at these stats:

    Name Kyle Abraham Johnson Level: 1 Class: Neophyte Age: 5 months
    Race: Human Alignment: Chaotic Cuddly Size: Small

    My Young Apprentice

    STR 5 (-2) Special Abilities & Equipment
    DEX 4 (-3) Enhanced Spit-up
    CON 10 Improved Grab
    INT 16 (+3) Infectious Giggle
    WIS 15 (+2) Stinky Feet
    CHA 17 (+3) Baby Blues

    The physical stats may seem dismal now, but I expect them to improve rapidly. I’ve already seen significant advancement in both Strength and Dexterity after only five months. The boy’s Charisma cannot be overstated; friends, relatives and strangers alike fall under his spell, reduced to grinning, babbling fools with a mere smile.

    I get chills when I think about the power those blue eyes and the soft, cooing voice have over people. With Kyle at my side — or in the Snugli — the possibilities are endless. We will rule the cul-de-sac as father and son!

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Shutterbug


    We haven’t taken nearly as many pictures of Kyle in the last few weeks as we did way back in January. Laura snapped a few on Friday, including a couple of Kyle and his father spending some quality time together. Swing on over to The Photo Album for a peek.

    I also took some video of Kyle’s first bath last month, but due to some technical difficulties I’m not able to digitize video at this time. Once I get the problem straightened out, I’ll see about posting some highlights.

  • At seven weeks old, my son Kyle isn’t quite ready to watch Star Wars yet, but I have given the matter of his first exposure to George Lucas’ space opera some serious thought. The core question is this: which episode should be Kyle’s introduction to the Star Wars films? The idea of my own flesh and blood watching the prequels before the original trilogy gives me the willies.

    I was four years old in 1977, so I didn’t see Star Wars in a movie theater. In fact, Return of the Jedi was the first of the original trilogy that I saw on the big screen. My first viewing of Star Wars was on HBO. We didn’t have a television, much less cable, so the whole family piled into the car and drove twenty-five miles to Hancock, Michigan, where my aunt and uncle lived. We watched Star Wars on a big, old, cabinet-style television and the movie completely blew my pre-adolescent mind. It must have been at least 1980, because I do recall asking my aunt to let me know the minute The Empire Strikes Back was on HBO so we could all come over and watch it.

    I seriously doubt The Phantom Menace would have had that effect on me, and that’s part of why I am loath to begin my son’s Star Wars indoctrination with Episode I.

    Then there’s the fact that the prequel trilogy utterly ruins what is arguably the single biggest reveal in the history of film. What kind of a Star Wars fan would I be if I just trotted out the series in numerical order, thus transforming what should be the ultimate “Oh… my… God!” moment into a “Well, duh!” moment? To say the idea rubs me the wrong way is something of an understatement.

    So, we should begin where it began for me: Star Wars. Call it Episode IV or A New Hope, but to some of us it will always be simply Star Wars. Laura and I have a pre-THX, pre-Special Edition copy of the original trilogy on VHS tape; a copy that was rescued at the last minute from the pile of VHS tapes we were bringing to Half Price Books. This version is as close as I can get to what I saw on HBO twenty-odd years ago.

    Of course, it’s not as simple as sitting Kyle down in front of the television and pressing “Play” on the VCR, is it? The world is full of people just waiting to talk to my young apprentice and ruin everything. In order to protect him from the prequel trilogy, I’ll have to lock him away until he is of sufficient age to appreciate Star Wars. This idea is attractive because I would be protecting him from any number of dangers that the outside world holds; attractive and most likely illegal (or, at the very least, frowned upon by Children’s Services). I guess I’ll just have to accept that there are factors outside of my control. Kyle will one day go to school, and what he learns about the Star Wars universe there may not be to my liking. It’s a risk that simply cannot be mitigated.

    External influences aside, I’ll do my best to ensure that my young apprentice’s first Star Wars experience is as memorable and awe-inspiring as my own was. I think I’ll go home and burn my copy of The Phantom Menace, for starters.

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Our First Speed Bump


    Things have not gone very smoothly since Friday. I guess once in a while we need a little reminder that we are Not in Charge.

    Kyle had some trouble keeping food down Saturday morning. He was spitting up and his stomach was noticably distended. An x-ray revealed what appeared to be a blockage in the small intestine. A neonatologist decided that it would be best if Kyle were moved from Lake West to the Children’s Hospital at the Cleveland Clinic, and that’s just what happened Saturday afternoon.

    Once we received a call indicating that Kyle had arrived safely, Laura’s mother and I went to the Cleveland Clinic (Laura, still recovering from her c-section, had not yet gotten out of bed). Though hooked up to an IV, a tube to drain his stomach and a host of sensors, Kyle did not appear to be in any distress or uncomfortable at all.

    The Clinic performed an upper G.I. as well as a barium enema, and we were greatly relieved when they told us that there did not appear to be any structural problems with Kyle’s intestines, and that they could almost certainly rule out the need for surgical correction.

    Laura was discharged from Lake West yesterday morning, and we drove down to the Clinic shortly after that. Kyle was sleeping, but the nurses removed the sensors as well as the tube from his stomach so Laura and I could hold him. Apart from the wires and tubes and a few spots of rash here and there (which I’m told is normal in newborns), he looks to be perfectly fine. His situation isn’t life-threatening, but it’s serious enough that they are watching him closely.

    As of last night, doctors were not certain whether the problem is an infection or a severe feeding reaction. There is also still a slight possibility that it is a blockage that must be corrected through surgery, but the doctors we have spoken to seem to think it is highly unlikely. Whatever the case, he is on antibiotics right now and is not being fed orally (which had a tendency to make him a little cranky now and then).

    I called the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) this morning and the nurse told me that the tube has been removed from Kyle’s stomach, and the distension has not increased. I also learned that Cleveland Clinic was apparently unaware that Kyle had been fed formula on the 13th. He was given formula (by me) because his blood sugar was low. The formula seemed to take care of the blood sugar problem, but may ultimately have been the cause of his digestive woes.

    We’re going to head over to the clinic a little later today, and maybe they’ll feed Kyle a little of Laura’s breast milk, which she has been pumping on a regular basis for the past couple of days. (Laura and I considered staying at the Clinic last night, but the lactation consultant thought it would be best if Laura slept in her own bed, so we came home.) The earliest Kyle is likely to be released is tomorrow, but nothing is certain at this point. We would certainly like to be able to take our little guy home with us as soon as possible.

  • Underway.


    Laura and I attended the first of four (or possibly five) two-hour childbirth classes (“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”) we’re taking this month. We learned about stations (-4 = “floating”, +4 = “at the perineum”) and TACOS. There were a total of six couples in attendance, including Mike and Tami. Tami is also having a boy and is due the day after Laura; they both have the same doctor of lady parts. Mike and I have worked together for several years, though the coordinatation of pregnancies was entirely accidental.

    Despite lacking a coherent plot, I managed to crank out just over 1,900 words today, most of that after the childbirth class. The Director is indeed up to something nefarious, and it involves removing people’s brains.

    Oh yeah, I went there.

  • Tuesday Bullets


    • Laura and I attended the October gathering of the Cleveland-area NaNoWriMo group Thursday evening. This is the first of two meetings to ramp-up for November, when we’ll both be cranking out 50,000 words. There were about twenty people in attendance, including Chris “Codeshaman” Miller (Unquiet Desperation, Podiobooks), Blob and Yotto.
    • Laura and I put the border up in the baby’s room Saturday afternoon. The room (which we painted blue immediately after we moved into the house) is going to be a combination nursery/guest bedroom, so long as our guests don’t mind sleeping amidst the pattern of fluffy clouds, smiling suns and moons.
    • I did not watch either of the Living Dead movies that premiered on the SciFi Channel Saturday night. I just wasn’t in the mood for zombie movies.
    • I didn’t manage to wrap up Splinter Cell, either. Sam Fisher’s assault on the Georgian Presidential palace goes well right up until he hops on that blasted elevator; then everything goes straight to hell.
    • Laura’s father had quadruple-bypass surgery on Wednesday and is doing quite well. We visited him at the Cleveland Clinic Sunday afternoon. He’s being released today, which is surprising, as he was originally slated to stay in the hospital for no less than eleven days.
    • Laura made soup for dinner last night. It was very similar to the Tuscana soup they serve over at The Olive Garden. Very, very tasty. I loves me some Italian sausage.
    • I’m working on a new, 3-column layout for the main page. I’d link to a preview, but I managed to completely hose the element positioning while experimenting earlier today. I plan on adding a lot of stuff to the sidebar(s) in the near future. The Blogroll is active as of this morning on the current layout.