Saturday, October 29, 2016

Earning the Title of Dad


I still can't believe I'm a Dad. Yes, there's a tiny human in my house, and I'm entrusted to care for him. But the title feels unfamiliar. Dads give advice and play baseball in the park. I run to Rite Aid to pick up butt paste and gripe water. Yet, each day is full of small moments that bring me one step closer to Dad.

Before we had Michael, I'd often see Dads in their natural environment: grocery stores, parks, or the mall. They all looked confident and capable. Pushing strollers, giving piggyback rides, or holding tiny hands. I was equally impressed by close friends who seemed to transition overnight from bars and booze to bottles and birthday parties. I'm now learning that it's a slow evolution. Each day is a tapestry of small moments that contribute to my transformation.

I want to document these moments, in no particular order, so I can reflect on this time of change.

Baby Smiles

I live for Michael's smiles. On some mornings I will be sleep deprived and stressed out. I'm in no mood for elephant noises or itsy-bitsy spiders. And then, Michael's eyes will sparkle like diamonds and his face will crack into a goofy grin. I cannot resist his joy. Like the Grinch, my heart grows three sizes, and I find myself singing and dancing in spite of myself. Each smile is like witnessing a glorious sunrise. Sometimes, after slurping a large bottle, he'll fall asleep in my arms with a satisfied smirk plastered on his face. He's dreaming about anteaters, aardvarks, and other animals that start with "A".


Music

Michael has started to play the piano. Unlike your typical concert grand, Michael's piano is covered in cloth and plays frog noises. Hey, everyone's gotta start somewhere. On a typical Saturday morning you can find him banging away in his swing. Each key press ignites a pair of flashing lights and a short pre-programmed song. "Ding", we hear, as he flails at the cloth-covered keys. "Ding, ding, ding" come the notes in rapid succession. He winds up before each key press like a Major League baseball pitcher about to chuck a fastball. "Ding" his tiny fist comes slamming down. As the recital winds down, he becomes cranky. The concert pianist is ready for a nap.



Bath Time

Bath time is a sacred hour of the day where I get to spend some one-on-one time with Michael. It starts with his favorite rap song "Purple Stuff" by Big Moe. He dances enthusiastically while the tiny tub fills with water. "Throw your hands high", go the lyrics, "and shake them side to side". I gently wave his arms back and forth, pump his legs to the beat, and flash dopey smiles like a circus clown. He's beside himself with glee. Soon, I'm hoping, this effort will coax out his first baby giggle.

Once the tub is ready, I lower him into the water. It is a wonderfully warm, freeing, pee-inducing sensation. It happens every time, even if he just had a wet diaper. He looks at me quizzically while the tiny stream shoots into the air. Melody, our long hair dachshund, flits around the bathroom nervously, supervising the action. I splash his tiny fists. He wriggles, kicks his legs, and slouches deeper into the water. I soap his body, hose him down with the shower head attachment, and then wrap him up in a towel like a baby burrito.



Bottles

At our house, baby meals are constantly evolving. It's a never ending endeavor to get things just right. He's been breastfed, bottle-fed, formula-fed, and now we're mixing in baby cereal. This was a recommendation by our pediatrician to combat acid reflux. It has been helping but makes meal preparation surprisingly complex. Luckily, Jenna has helped me out by taping instructions to the fridge. The ratio of cereal-to-milk must be finely tuned so that the consistency is just right.

And don't worry, Michael will let you know when he's ready to eat. His smile slowly inverts into a frown and he becomes a very unhappy camper. My circus clown routine ceases to entertain. No amount of bouncing, rocking, or singing stems the flood of tears. But the bottle is like a mute button. As soon as it goes in his mouth all becomes quiet except for his greedy gulps.

The milk gone, I lift him to my shoulder and slowly pat out the air bubbles. His eyes droop with satisfaction. He lets out a satisfying burp and drifts into a peaceful sleep.



Mom and Dad

Last night, Jenna and I put on our grown up clothes and drove into Portland for a date night at Blue Spoon on Munjoy Hill. I had flash backs to our former lives when this used to be an every-weekend routine. Last year, we dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. This year, we're having a relaxing evening with Grandma and Grandpa. There's no denying that we're in the midst of major change. Just as I'm becoming Dad, Jenna is becoming Mom, and it's been wonderful to observe her transformation.

All around us, life continues to move forward at a rapid clip. Soon I'll have a wobbly toddler and I'll wonder how I got there. I'm looking forward to hiking with my son, camping in the back yard, and building tree forts in the woods. That's when I will truly have earned the title of Dad.

For now, I'm enjoying every moment of change.




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My new career as a stay-at-home mom


As of last week I am officially a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I submitted my letter of resignation to a company I had been with for more than eight years. From the moment I became pregnant I knew I wanted to be a SAHM and am very fortunate that it was an option for me; however, it was a daunting decision to leave my company. Many insecurities overwhelmed me. Would I become irrelevant within the industry? Would my fellow coworkers lose respect for me as a professional? Will any company ever hire me when I decide to reenter the workforce? My parents made sure I had a good education and I worked very hard to gain the respect and trust of my coworkers and clients. By choosing to stay at home full time, have I just thrown that all away?

While those concerns are present in my mind, I know in my heart that I have made the right decision for my family. I have a new career now – Vice President of Marion Household, LLC. I report to the President of the company. His name is Mr. Michael Robert Marion and he is 13 pounds of deliciousness. Like my previous supervisors, he has high expectations of me, challenges me on a daily basis and rewards me when I do a good job. Only now the rewards come in the form of sweet baby smiles instead of money. I’ll take his smiles any day.

This mom thing is not for the faint of heart. In the throws of a recent lovers’ quarrel I said to Jeff, "What do you think I do all day?"

"I don't know...be bored!" he replied.

My head nearly exploded with anger and rage. My new job has me working harder than ever before and I don’t get any vacation or sick days. Those DayQuil commercials really do hit the mark.

Eventually things calmed down at home, and I know Jeff fully appreciates me and what I do for our family, just as I appreciate everything he does for our family.

While my routine may be very different than what it used to be, there are still some things that are reminiscent of my days pre-baby.

Dressing up

A year ago, I was shopping at White House Black Market for the perfect outfit to wear at that very important meeting or big conference. Now I’m combing through the racks at Kohl’s for key pieces to fit my new mom uniform – comfortable yoga pants and easy to remove shirts fit for pumping sessions every three hours. 

Meetings

Meetings at my previous job were to discuss the execution and implementation of the next big project with executive management, marketing and IT. Now I’m meeting with doctors, sleep specialists and lactation consultants. I work late after the boss has gone to bed researching the symptoms of acid reflux, sleep training and developmental milestones.

To-do lists

I’m a big fan of a to-do list. My to-dos used to look something like “schedule strategic planning meeting,” “QA new website,” “build out project timeline”. Now, my to-dos are more like “shower,” “eat,” “fold laundry,” “vacuum,” “prep dinner,” “wash bottles,” “schedule doctor appointments (for the baby and the dogs)” and “raise smart, well-adjusted, kind young man”. Sounds easy, right? Well, except for that last bit. Between feedings, pumping sessions, diaper changes and playtime it’s not always easy to cross things off the list. Every task is a race against the clock during nap times, which are always an undetermined length of time. At any minute he might turn his “do not disturb” button off and call me into his office.

Creative thinking

It’s always important to think of ways to keep the boss happy. Part of my SAHM job description requires entertaining and stimulating my new chubby boss on a daily basis – including weekends. But how in the world do you entertain a two month old?? Well, I’ve found that making faces, singing songs and dancing does the trick almost every time. I’ve become a court jester making a mockery of myself while his highness sits in his throne (ahem…high chair) laughing at me. “Dance for me, you fool!!” he says. “Okay, I’m bored. Now feed me!”

While my new job may not be bringing in the bacon or be the most mentally stimulating at all times, I am having fun being the VP of Marion Household, LLC. I get up every morning excited for the day, even if I’ve only had a few hours sleep. I can’t wait to see the boss’s face when I walk into his office and I can only hope I am meeting his expectations. And with the good comes the bad like any other job. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and clean up someone else’s shit.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Break Me Down to Build Me Up


Much has changed over the past few weeks. Michael has transformed into a chubby Buddha. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man ain't got nothing on his rolls. But for each joy, there's been an equal challenge. Like Michael, we're also under going transformation. Here are some ways our lives have changed.