Monday, May 31, 2010

Weaner Takes All

            We were video chatting with my mom, and talking about our preparations for the next birth when she said, “Well, Celia’s weaned now, right?”
            “Ummm.” Michelle looked at me with sheepish eyes.
            “You know, Michelle, it’s really up to you.” I looked her in the eye. “Celia’s ready whenever you are.”
            Michelle nodded. Celia has been partially weaned now – she only breastfeeds before going to bed, before naps, and when she’s upset or hurt. Although I’m thrilled that she’s not breastfeeding as much as before, I think it’ll be nuts if she’s still racing to the “boob” when a newborn is in the way.
            We need to cut it off right now.
            Thankfully, Michelle had the same sentiment, and we both agreed to work at it together. I immediately found out that “working at it together” really means that I’m now on child-duty at night, because those are the times where Celia is most prone to want to suckle for comfort.
            Three times a night for the last two nights I’ve been slumping into Celia’s room when we hear her crying loudly. Every time, I’ve soothed her with calm words of love, patted her on the back, and told her she needs to lie down, it’s still bed time. Every time so far, she’s eventually done it, usually within a minute or so.
            And every time Michelle is absolutely shocked. “That was it?! It’s so easy for you!” Last night, after the third time, Michelle said, “You didn’t even pick her up, did you?”
            “Nope,” I said, as I crawled back under the covers.
            I have no idea what’s going on in Michelle’s head, but I wonder if she’s thinking to herself, “The next kid, we’re doing this right away!” I wouldn’t blame her. It’s so much easier for a dad to wean a kid than a mom.
            First off, and most importantly, we don’t have boobs. But I think almost as important is the fact that we tend to be more abrupt in general. They say that kids are ten times more likely to go to their mothers for comfort than their fathers. That totally makes sense to me.
            I figure, if I don’t make a big deal out of it, and Celia seems okay, let’s get on with things. No need to give her lots of hugs and kisses.
            Not that I don’t love hugs and kisses, but Michelle gives way more than I do, that’s for sure.
            So, here I am, on baby duty at night. I have a feeling like it’s going to be this way from here on, actually. With a newborn that I can’t do much about, and a toddler that I can do much about, chances are that we’ll divvy up the marital tasks so that I get Celia duty and Michelle gets newborn duty.
            That sounds fair to me. But Michelle had better prepare herself for my way of parenting. Celia’s going to be sleeping through the night in no time with my no-nonsense methods. I’ll tell Celia I love her, but then that’s it. No more monkeying around. Back to sleep.
            Only time will tell what the different methods will bring. For now, I am the official “weaner,” and I’ve got her all through the night. As we used to say at the end of poker nights: “Weaner takes all.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010


            “I’m having contractions,” Michelle called to me while I was sitting upstairs watching cartoons with Celia. For the next ten minutes I had a million things racing through my head – all the people we’d have to call, the bills I’d have to pay, the food I’d have to make – in order to have a good and organized delivery.
            I took a deep breath. It’s a week earlier than expected, but I thought, “Okay. This is okay.” I nodded to myself and prepared to hear the next message from Michelle as to how rushed it would all be.
            About fifteen minutes after her first message, Michelle called upstairs, “I just had to poo.”
            I laughed. Admittedly, I was relieved. It’s amazing to me how one week can make such a difference, depending on your mental space. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Life in Transition

            Michelle was reading a book about parenting written by kindergarten teachers, and she interrupted my activity to enlighten me.
            “Transitions are the hardest part of the day to deal with for children, so you have to prepare them well. When we move our kids from one activity to the next, we need to give them warning, and a repetitive signal helps. That’s why Celia fusses so much when we’re changing her, or pulling her away from something.”
            “That makes so much sense,” I mused. Celia always seems to have a hard time moving on from something. Michelle advised that you could simply say, “Five minute warning,” or some such thing. I’ve started doing it more intentionally, and already feel like it’s made transitions a bit easier.
            As I was reflecting on this, it struck me that we have more than a few day-to-day transitions to deal with right now – our whole lives are gearing up for transition. Our front room has been converted to a big storage space, where all the stuff we’re going to sell at a yard sale is getting stored. Boxes are starting to pile up as we pack away the things we’ll not need in the next six months. Michelle is sorting through the children’s clothing to get a set ready for the next baby. I’ve been going through all the taxes and paperwork to make sure we’re fully organized. We will very soon be living in transition for many months to come.
            Not only is our child due any day now, but I’m leaving this job in two weeks, and soon after we’ll be packing up and moving to Montana, where we won’t be moving into our next long-term abode but my parents’ house. Most of our stuff will be packed away in storage, and I’ll spend my free time writing and looking for a day job.
            We may be in transition for a very long time.
            I wonder if there’s some sort of “warning” we can give Celia that will help with all this transition – a five minute warning on a large scale. We’ve been telling her all about the new brother she’ll be expecting, and the move to Montana to live with Grandpa and Papa. But even so, I wonder if she’s ready. Can we somehow prepare her more?
            She was so cute the other day, talking to Michelle’s belly. She came over, pulled up the shirt, and kissed the belly. Then said, “Joshua. Out!” (Joshua is the name we’ve picked out if it truly is a boy).
            We laughed. “Why do you want Joshua to come out, Sweetheart?”
            “Pick up!” Celia said excitedly.
            “You want to pick him up?”
            She smiled.
            Who knows what’s going on in her mind, and how ready she’ll really be. I’m going to make extra certain that she has all the attention and preparation she needs, just in case. That’s a lot of change for a kid who hasn’t yet had any major change whatsoever. I’m going to do my best to give her good routines, in the midst of all the change. I think that’ll make things easier. And I’ll do my best to give her big warnings whenever something else is going to change. I’ll be we’re going to have a lot over the next year.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pain in the Back

            Michelle’s back is in serious pain now. Last night she wobbled into bed and told me, for the umpteenth time, “My back is so sore.”
            I’ve always thought to myself, “Yes, her back is sore, but she went through a pregnancy before, and made it without major back issues. She’ll be fine.” It wasn’t until this morning when Michelle woke me up by telling me, “My back is in a lot of pain,” that it struck me profoundly – the first pregnancy it was just the two of us. Now, there’s little Celia, bouncing up and down at her mommy’s feet until she gets picked up. And poor Michelle bends over, with that extra twenty-some pounds, and lifts up our twenty-eight pound daughter. That’s over fifty pounds straight on the back!
            The problem is, this happens constantly throughout the day. I explained to Michelle some things she could do. Because I’ve had major back issues in the past I’ve gotten into the habit of using my knees instead of bending over for something. That’s all fine for me, Michelle says, but she doesn’t want to ruin her knees either.
            So, this morning, I was concerned – what if she does some serious damage to herself, and it takes a year to recover, like what happened to me a decade ago? Before I got out of bed I told her to book an appointment with the muscle specialist I go to from time to time. I figure spending a few hundred dollars right now is much better than having long-term pain, and probably thousands of dollars down the road.
            This kid needs to be born soon. Yesterday, when Michelle went to the doctor’s office, he actually touched the head of our little boy, curled up in the womb. I was shocked. “You can actually do that?”
            Michelle nodded her head.
            “You should give birth right away,” I said.
            “The Doctor said I’m full term now, so it could be anytime, but I think it’ll be a couple of weeks still.”
            “You should try to have it as soon as possible.”
            Michelle said, with a sense of confidence I can’t explain as a man, “It’ll be twelve days.”
            It’s so exciting to be expecting our second child. Our whole lives are preparing for this. But who’d have thought that the biggest issue with the second pregnancy would be a pain in the back?
            Better not tell our newborn son. It’s not exactly the kind of legacy I’d like to pass on. “Well, Son, you know, you always were a pain in the back.” 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Favorite Food

            Last night Michelle and I both didn’t feel like doing anything extravagant for dinner, so she decided to make a tuna casserole. It was partly because we know Celia likes tuna, and we didn’t want to have to deal with a difficult eating situation like we have been the last few weeks.
            Up until this month Celia has eaten practically anything we put in front of her, including spicy food and stuff I’d have thought would be way too extreme for a child like lemons or olives. But now she actually spits food out that she doesn’t like. I was shocked when she put a nice big chunk of meatball in her mouth, started chewing happily, then spat it out. “Phoo!”
            At first, we found this behavior slightly humorous, because it was rare. But it was only after a couple of nights where Celia woke up at 1am hungry that we realized that we have to figure out a solution for this new selective behavior, and fast.
            I think she’ll get even more finicky than this, from what I’ve heard. Isn’t the two-year-old stretch the hardest for food? I wonder if exposing her to a lot of different stuff now is the best option. As it is, I think she’s winning the battle. We’re starting to default to simple meals that we know she’ll eat.
            Like tuna casserole.
            Only I was shocked that she not only ate her entire bowl, but every single bite she took was accompanied by, “Yummy!” or “Mmmmm!”
            I smiled and said, “Do you like your dinner tonight?”
            “Yummy!” Celia said with a grin.
            I’ve never seen her go so crazy over food. It was funny, and now we know her first favorite food. I just hope we can find a few more good ones as well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Early Birth

            Michelle’s miserable now. Exhausted. Achy back. Upset stomach. She groaned and told me she wants the kid to be born early. We pulled out our calendars and started talking dates.
            “I think the eighth of June would work well,” I told her.
            “Not earlier?” Michelle almost pleaded with her eyes.
            “Sure. Whatever you want.”
            “Oh good. How about the week before?”
            “Okay, give birth on June first. A Tuesday.”
            “Great.” Michelle smiled.
            I’m not sure what other couples do as far as planning the birth date, but after our last experience, we’re both quite open to the idea that Michelle’s mental space will have a tremendous impact. My feeling is, if she’s psychologically geared up to give birth on June first, the chances are higher that it’ll come closer to that date than the actual due date – June fourteenth.
            I can’t blame her for wanting the birth early. Every day I massage her back now, and she’s going in to the see the chiropractor today for the second time in two weeks. It’s getting to be quite the burden, even more than last time, because last time she wasn’t bending over picking up Celia all the time.
            A number of people have asked me if I’m going to stop at two kids. Do you want more? they ask me.
            My answer at this point is simple – judging by how things are going right now, two seems plenty, thank you very much. I can’t imagine being this sleepless that much longer. Or Michelle being this exhausted and achy for a whole nother year. Or the costs involved! One was expensive. Two will be even more. Three? I’m amazed that people can still afford it these days.
            But then again, you never know. When both kids are older and not in need of diapers, perhaps we’ll reconsider. Right now, we’re not even discussing it. Let’s focus on what’s at hand and get through this last few weeks. Or maybe just one week. You never know.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Uncle Pipe

            My buddy Siamak is known to Celia as “Uncle Sika.” We all love how she can’t quite say people’s names, but does her best. On Saturday a few of us were at Siamak’s house for a barbecue, and we ended the evening smoking a pipe on the patio. Celia was inside with the ladies, but finally started banging on the door, so Michelle dressed her and let her out to be with us.
            Celia scrambled over and onto my lap as Siamak smoked the pipe. She watched Siamak with fascination. “That’s a pipe, Sweetheart,” I explained. She sat contentedly with us for a good fifteen minutes, staring in wonder at the smoke that billowed out.
            Early in the next morning, I was dressing Celia for the day but she was distracted and not paying attention to me.
            Then, she said, “Pipe.”
            “Pipe?” I asked, wondering if she was looking at something.
            “Pipe,” she said again.
            “What do you mean, Pipe?” I was looking around now. I’d already forgotten about the night before.
            “Sika. Uncle Pipe.”
            I laughed. “Oh, you’ve given Uncle Siamak a nickname! Uncle Pipe! I love it!”
            I instantly called Siamak, who laughed loudly and shared the new nickname with his whole family. I’m amazed that she was thinking about an event the next day. It just goes to show, a lot’s going on in her head that I have no idea about. And I don’t know where Celia gets the nickname idea from, but she certainly is great at making up new ones.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Twenty! (Not Twenty-Five)

            My buddy Will (who Celia calls “Uncle Toe”) and I were taking a stroll with Celia, and we came upon some beautiful pink flowers that had fallen off the tree. They were all stuffed with petals and sitting on the ground ready to be picked up.
            We took three home, and when Celia took her bath we let her put one in the water and watch it float. Of course, when she got in the petals instantly went everywhere.
            She was enjoying swishing the petals around so much, I decided to let her play with them as I washed her down. Easiest bath time ever. She was so happy, she didn’t even mind when I rinsed off her face, which she usually cries or gives a squawk about.
            Finally I said, “Celia, let’s put the petals in this cup, so we can get out of the bath.”
            I held out the plastic cup in front of her and she picked up the first petal.
            “One…” I said.
            Celia picked up a second piece and said, “Two.”
            I smiled. “Yes, that’s two.”
            I nodded my head.
            I watched her now with a curious smile on my face. How far would she get? I’ve never heard her count at all, so I was duly impressed that she was actually saying them in order. I repeated every number after her, affirming that she’d got it right.
            She was on a roll now.
            “Six. Seven. Eight.”
            I figured she’d be done at ten, because most of the counting books go up to ten, but she continued.
            “Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen.”
            Wow. She made it up to the teens.
            “Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty.”
            I was blown away. My daughter can count to twenty! When did this happen? Admittedly, she didn’t quite make it to the complete number of petals, which was twenty-five, but I couldn’t believe it. It’s like she made this huge jump overnight.
            I wonder if it has to do with her being on edge for the last couple of weeks. She’d been crying at the drop of a hat every time she didn’t get her way. It was like she had to test every single boundary we’d set up to see how far she could go. In those two weeks we started telling her, “You need to use your words. We won’t know what you need unless you use your words.”
            Surprisingly, she started using words for everything. No complete sentences yet, but she can now string together three or four words to make herself fully understood. And just like that, everything else is starting to come out as well.
            Twenty! Who’d’ve thought she could do that at nineteen months. Hey, we could even get her to say her age in months now! When people ask her how old she is, and we, as the parents, feel obliged to answer for her, I no longer have to engage in that silly ritual. Let her speak for herself! Huzzah!

Monday, May 17, 2010


            Michelle has been having much worse Braxton-Hicks contractions with this pregnancy than the first. Sometimes it can wake her up in the middle of the night. Other times, it happens during the day. The worst are when she forgets and lets Celia bounce around on her belly. Oops. Next thing you know, she’s feeling awful for a good solid twenty minutes.
            She had them a few times over the weekend. She said, “It feels like childbirth.”
            I said, “Cross your legs. Keep him in for another month. I’m not ready yet!”

Sunday, May 16, 2010


            Celia rested her head on my chest for a good solid five minutes today. Usually, she’s so squirmy that we just haven’t had those kinds of moments. I’m not used to that kind of closeness with her. There’s something powerful about being in that close of contact with your child. And I have to say, it felt wonderful.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


            Celia has been on edge for the last week. She now cries enormously anytime she doesn’t get her way. It’s quite shocking to me, because up till now she’s been such a pleasant child. Now, whether it’s moving her to another activity, taking something away from her, or telling her we’ll do something later, she’ll erupt into massive wails and big tears.
            Last night was no exception. I’ve been trying to guard our dinner time, and let her know that she can eat with us, but not play at the table while we’re eating. She needs to know that “Mommy and Daddy are going to finish dinner before doing things with her.”
            We had a couple of guests over for dinner, and after Celia had eaten her full she ran off, but soon came back, bouncing up and down at Michelle’s feet with her arms raised and wailing, “Mommy! Mommy!”
            Michelle picked her up, her huge pregnant belly diminishing proper lap real estate awkwardly, making that last bit of salad almost impossible to eat. Celia wasn’t content to simply sit with Michelle. She wanted to play.
            “Mommy’s eating dinner right now. After dinner we can do something together,” Michelle told Celia nicely.
            Celia wanted none of it. She pulled and whined at Michelle. Michelle looked at me, and I said, “Celia, come sit with me.” I put my arms out.
            Celia looked at me, then buried her face into Michelle’s arm. This wasn’t going to be easy.
            Michelle said, “Celia, I’m going to hand you to Daddy.” She started lifting Celia and I took her.
            Let the wails begin.
            Her face turned bright red, tears streamed down, snot rolled off her lip, and Celia’s mouth was open as wide as it could go as she cried and cried and cried.
            Over her raucous noise, I explained to my friends that I was trying to teach her proper manners, that this crying behavior is relatively new, and that sometimes she does get her way, for minor things, which is probably why she does it. I figured we’ve got to break this behavior now, while it’s still new and fresh, rather than letting it get out of hand.
            Meanwhile, Celia continued to wail. I started giving her attention. I tickled her. I did “This little piggy” with both sets of toes. The funniest thing about the piggy’s was that she would be crying, then get this silly grin on her face when I was near the end and about to tickle her whole body. She’d actually giggle when I started tickling her, then go back to crying as soon as I finished.
            She did the same thing with the “Got Your Nose” trick. When I “held” her nose, she was all smiles, but as soon as it went back on her face, the cries returned.
            Finally, Michelle finished, and I gave Celia back to her. The crying stopped instantly, and we all had a mental breather. I think it’s going to be difficult for us to enforce it, but I believe it’s of the utmost importance that we don’t reward this kind of behavior. I see too many kids getting their way at a much older age with similar tactics, and it disturbs me. I’m a big softy in a lot of ways, but I’m not going to bend on this kind of stuff. We need to lay down a firm foundation with her now, and I think she’ll have a better sense of boundaries and self-esteem in the long run.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Two A.M. Toast on Mother’s Day

            I had a lot of great ideas for how we could make Mother’s Day special. First, I’d let Michelle sleep in as long as she wanted, and take care of Celia. Then, I’d make her a nice, fancy brunch, and we’d stroll to church in the sun. Later we’d go to the beach, where we’d have a nice picnic.
            But at two in the morning, Celia woke up frantic. Something was wrong. At first, Michelle went down to care for her while I slept oblivious to what was going on. Night-time is peculiar for us, because Michelle is a very light sleeper, and sometimes takes over an hour to fall back asleep when woken up, whereas I’m a heavy sleeper, and won’t wake up unless there’s a lot of noise. When I go back to bed I usually just conk out instantly.
            Michelle was up long enough, and Celia kept crying long enough, that I finally woke up and tried to see how I could help. It took us over two hours to finally figure out that she was hungry. We’d made the mistake of starting to cook dinner late on Saturday, because we’d been out at a barbecue and were enjoying a relaxing Saturday in the sun.
            Never again. Next time, if dinner’s not ready, I’m going to feed her even a bowl of cereal. Anything to get her stomach full, even if it’s not as healthy as I’d prefer. Michelle told me later that it’s not so important the nutrition she gets in one meal, it’s the overall nutrition for the week. I think that’s a helpful perspective, especially in situations like this, where we simply didn’t have the normal healthy meal prepared in time, but she was already over-tired and needed to go to bed.
            So, at four in the morning I handed my daughter some toast and cream cheese, at which point she quieted down significantly and proceeded to eat every last crumb before being put back to bed.
            Needless to say, Michelle did sleep in, but didn’t have a nice brunch with me. She woke up with morning sickness anyway. At church, Celia was obviously over-tired from the previous night’s fiasco, so we left midway through the service and put her back to bed.
            It had been sometime between three and four in the morning that I'd turned to Michelle and said, with a sarcastic smile, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
            At least we did end up going to the beach.

Friday, May 7, 2010

O Canada

            The meeting with my boss yesterday went fairly well. I told him we would be moving to Montana after the kid is born mid-June, and the date he set for my last day of work was June 15th. He promised me full time work till then, a few nice perks to end our time, and perhaps some contract work here and there after I’m gone.
            And just like that, our life path is finally chosen, the course is set, the boat won’t be turned around easily. We have a closed door, and an open door.
            Michelle is thrilled. Finally, we have closure on this job that has been so up-and-down, wearing me down and creating stress for the whole family. Finally, we now have a date set for moving to Montana. Finally, we can mentally commit to being nomads for awhile; it’s hard to live in a place and commit to people, neighborhoods, relationships, and extra-curricular activities if you aren’t sure about your future.
            We’ve already started selling our stuff. The front room of our house looks like a yard sale, with boxes and furniture lying around everywhere. Stuff is a funny thing. Even if it’s been in a closet for three years, and I pull it out saying, “Ah! So this is where this went!” I find it hard to part with it. What is this attachment to stuff we have?
            I think moving breaks that down. In a situation like ours, where we don’t know where the money will come from, and we don’t know where we’ll be living, we want to sell as much as we can, while still keeping enough to fill a small house when that finally happens down the road. I’ve got to be careful not to sell too much, because it’s definitely easier to buy nicer stuff for less money in a big city.
            Meanwhile, the friends and family in the United States all think we’re crazy to be moving back. I’ve heard different messages with the same meaning dozens of times:
            “Don’t you know we’re in recession here?”
            “I know of two-dozen people who are unemployed right now!”
            “Don’t move here unless you have a job first.”
            “Why would you leave Canada, anyway?”
            Why leave Canada? We want to be near my family, and that’s where they happen to be. We also want to be closer to creation – I have a deep longing to take my kids out into the wilderness weekly in the nicer months of the year, canoeing, camping, sailing, horseback riding. You know, the stuff you can’t afford to do when living in a big city.
            We certainly don’t need to be living in America to be near the wilderness, but since that’s where my family is, the two fit together well. Even so, the financial situation there seems awfully scary. With absolutely no job lined up, and no apparent decent jobs available, it looks like we’ll be nomads, with no place to call our own, for quite some time.
            We’re not moving to find a better job. We’re moving for our overall quality of life. The job part, well, that’s where we’re taking the leap of faith. We’re trusting that God will provide exactly as we need it. Who knows how that will pan out?
            Late last night I had an epiphany. I remembered a friend of mine who’d had a kid a few years back, and I started looking online. “Michelle! Come upstairs! Quick! I want to show you something!”
            Michelle came racing up the stairs (as quickly as an 8-month pregnant woman can) and said, “What? What?”
            “Look at this!” I eagerly pointed at the computer screen. “We can collect parental leave for thirty-five weeks!”
            “What!?” Michelle peered at the screen.
            “Canada will pay us 55% of my income for 35 weeks of parental leave. We start collecting as soon as the kid’s born.”
            “Wow…” Michelle seemed stunned.
            “I love this country.” I smiled at Michelle. “I can’t believe we’re leaving.”
            Michelle shook her head.
            “And look at this,” I pointed at another website I’d had on the screen. “In the US, our health care would cost a minimum of $450 a month, but if we claim it through Canada, while we’re in transition, we can get travel insurance for up to six months! So that’ll only cost us about $260 a month.”
            “Wow…” Michelle started to smile.
            “O Canada. You definitely take care of your people.” I shook my head in disbelief. “I definitely want to keep the door open to move back here.”
            Michelle nodded.
            Why are we leaving Canada? That’s a very good question. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Grandparents

            My job has once again gotten to be volatile, and this morning as I write, I doubt I’ll be with this company much longer. I’d actually quit back in October, a good seven months ago, but the boss had convinced me to stick it out (with incentives), and then the work got interesting and exciting again. And not that things are any less exciting these days, but, without going into too much detail, it looks like this job is coming to an end.
            The craziest thing about all of this is our second child is due in five weeks. At this point, I’m hoping to have a good lunch meeting with the boss and close things well, hopefully get a decent final check, and then we’ll be freed up to pack and prepare ourselves for the big move to Montana after the child is born, where, believe it or not, we’ll move in with my parents.
            I read recently somewhere a guy who said you should never put your wife and family through the experience of living with your parents, at any time. I seriously hope that was true for his situation, but not for us, because at this point, I don’t see other options. I’ll be out of work, and moving into a country hit hard by the recession. I don’t have another place to go, yet.
            I’m not overly worried about Michelle living there. She actually lived with my parents for a few years and, unbeknownst to them, she adopted them as her own. In fact, she had been living in their upstairs spare bedroom when we fell in love four years ago at my brother's wedding. My parents found our relationship awkward at first – like their son marrying their daughter. But then it all clicked and they realized: this is even better – Michelle would actually become their daughter, not just in spirit, and be the mother of their grandchildren.
            On the wedding day, my friends who hadn’t known Michelle at all were surprised to hear my brothers giving speeches of Michelle’s antics from over ten years before. It suddenly hit them that I didn’t just meet her, fall in love, and get married within a year. She’d been in the family, even celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving with us, for many, many years.
            So, as I said, I’m not overly worried about Michelle fitting in at my parents’ house. I think she’ll do well, and I know my mother will be thrilled to be able to spend so much time with her and with the grandkids. I just hope that I can handle it.