Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Typical Tuesday

Well, actually, today was not at all typical.  It was definitely a test of parenthood, and I'm not so sure that I passed with flying colors.  Jack, Lilly and I are down in DC at the moment, staying with Mum and Dad for the week. We've had a really relaxing week with no real plans and a lot of lounging, coffee, wine and snuggles with Jack and Lilly.  Then, all of a sudden, today hit and life got interesting.  Let me start by saying that it's 9:30 on Tuesday night, and everyone is fine.  Lilly and Jack are asleep.  Mum and Dad are watching one of their shows, and I'm sitting down to write about a day I'm glad is in the past.

This morning, Lilly was a little bit more clingy than usual.  She kept telling us that her "eye was sick" and wanted lots of hugs.  Since Lilly's visit with Jim to the hospital, Lilly often asks to go as she equates it to a trip to the aquarium.  She saw a fish tank, got stickers, saw a nice doctor and came home to pizza and a movie.  What's not to love?  Anyway, since then, Lilly has been telling us that her _________ (insert any body part here) is sick and that she needs to go back to the "hopital." So I didn't think too much of her saying that her eye was sick.  After about an hour of this, Lilly turned down breakfast (which she never does) and went and sat on my bed, where she said she'd like to have a sleep to make her eye get better.  A few minutes later, she was indeed sick.  And it wasn't her eye that was sick.  She threw up all over the bed, and managed to nail two pillows, both sheets and the duvet cover.  Tuesday was shaping up to be more interesting than normal.  Luckily, Mum and Dad were here to give extra hugs, help wash sheets and look after Jack while I put Lilly in the bath and then read books with her.

Lilly recovered quickly, and after a little rest this morning, seemed to be her happy self.  She kept telling us she was hungry, said her eye and her tummy were all better and this morning's little adventure was in the past.  Cue Tuesday afternoon.  After Lilly slept for 3 hours, she came downstairs and had a quesadilla for afternoon tea.  Jack was asleep in his bouncy chair. Dad and I were sitting looking at some new running shoes online.  Mum was upstairs.  All of a sudden, we heard about four or five loud thuds.  And not the good kind of thuds.  The kind of thuds that indicate someone had fallen down the stairs.  Dad and I both got to the bottom of the stairs before Lilly started screaming--a scream that I have never heard before.  Dad remained calm, picked her up, stopped her screaming and handled the situation as only a "dad of four kids who has clearly experienced situations like this before" would.  I, on the other hand, took one look at the blood pouring out of Lilly's nose, came close to bursting into tears, kept saying "oh my god" over and over again, and couldn't stop my legs from shaking.  Not exactly "mother of the year" material here, but I have never experienced the feeling that I felt when I heard that scream.  What do you do when such a little, innocent, happy person who you love more than words can describe is screaming and has a look of terror on her face?  Lilly stopped screaming quickly and asked for a "huggie" and her one.  So Dad recommended that I sit on the couch with her so we could see how she was.  Amazingly, she kept saying her nose hurt.  Her nose.  After talking to her after the fall, we learned she was going up the stairs and fell down 8 or 9 stairs.  And all she hurt was her nose?  It just goes to show how resilient children are.  No broken bones.  No chipped teeth.  Just a bit of a swollen nose, which will probably be gone when she wakes up in the morning.

I felt helpless when I heard Lilly screaming.  If Dad wasn't here, what would I have done?  I wouldn't have been able to react the way I did.  I would have had to be in control.  I would have had to be the calm presence and think rationally.  I'm thankful that Mum and Dad were here when this happened, and while I hope nothing like this happens again, I'm sure that with our active little ones, this is just the beginning.

We were all laughing at dinner tonight.  Jack, Lilly and I added a little bit of excitement into Mum and Dad's lives today; probably a bit more than they would have liked.  But, at the end of the day, everyone was smiling--even Jack, who learned how to smile this week.  We had a few extra glasses of wine, gave Jack and Lilly a few extra hugs, and have some extra stories to tell.

Let's just say I'm glad this day has come to an end, and I'm hoping Wednesday is a little bit calmer.

Jack is 7 weeks old today!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Magical Bouncy Chair

Every new parent knows how much "stuff" there is out there for babies these days.  Between baby showers, presents from friends, and hand me downs, you quickly end up with more baby things than you know what to do with.  Such was the case with us, before Lilly was born.  When we brought Lilly home from the hospital, for the most part, we had an amazing little sleeper on our hands.  Except for one night, which both Jim and I vividly remember.  We're lucky that we can honestly say we had one night of very little sleep...it was the night of April 15th.  Lilly was four days old and she spent the majority of the night awake...and crying.  Jim and I passed her back and forth, trying everything we could think of to get her to stop.  We kept looking at each other like the other person should know what to do, when really, we'd both been parents for four days and neither of us had a clue.  After what seemed like an endless night, morning came and Jim and I had the "new parent glazed look" in our eyes.  That morning, Jim uttered a very Jim statement, because we all know how much Jim likes collecting possessions. He said something along the lines of, "We have so much baby stuff (insert whatever word you want here...crap, junk, clutter...you name it, Jim said it) in this house...something has to cheer Lilly up."  So, we went to our closet of "stuff" and pulled out the bouncy chair.  Lilly stopped crying.  Better still, she fell asleep!  Jim dubbed the bouncy chair the "magical bouncy chair," and so began Lilly (and our) love of this chair.  

That morning, after Lilly fell asleep, a conversation that we often relive took place.  I was on the phone with Mum, and told her about our night, and the subsequent magical powers of the bouncy chair.  I told her that Lilly had fallen asleep in it, and asked her if she thought we should let her sleep in her bouncy chair or if we should move her to her bassinet.  Mum offered her motherly advice, suggesting we try and move her, but "whatever we wanted to do was fine."  When I got off the phone, I told Jim that Mum thought we should move her, and Jim uttered another classic Jim statement: "If your mother wants to move Lilly, then she can come up to Connecticut and move her herself."  Needless to say, Lilly slept in her bouncy chair that morning.  

Here's her first visit to that magical chair.  She's not quite sure what to think, but she's not crying!

April 16, 2009

As time progressed, the bouncy chair became our staple.  It was the one baby item we couldn't live without.  It traveled with us, and Lilly often took catnaps in it during the afternoons.  The bouncy chair states that it is for babies from 0-6 months, and boy did we utilize those six months.  Lilly was happy in her bouncy chair.  She smiled and laughed in it; she slept in it; she learned how to hold her own bottle in it; and she discovered how to eat her feet in it.

May 2009

June 2009

 July 2009

August 2009 

 September 2009

 October 2009 (6 months old!)

So, this time around, when it came to bring out our baby supplies, the bouncy chair made both Jim and me a bit nostalgic.  As we were setting it up, Lilly immediately gravitated towards it, as if she knew that she pretty much lived in this chair for six months.  We've collected even more baby things along the way, and still, over the course of the the first five weeks of Jack's life, the bouncy chair has been our go to toy. 

One week old.  Jack hasn't yet learned the powers of the bouncy chair.

Powers learned.

Comfortable enough to cross his hands.

 Little hands are my favorite.

Somehow we always lose socks in the bouncy chair.

And so, this magical bouncy chair begins round two with the Clark family.  Let's hope it's just as magical the second time around. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

First Snow of the Season

October 29, 2011...our first snow of the season!  Like most things, it was pretty amazing to watch through the eyes of a two year old.

It's going to be a fun winter!

Thrilled to be outside...with a mouthful of grapes!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life in the Clark Lane

I have a new blog address!  While I kept http://www.andlillymakesthree.blogspot.com, it will redirect my blog to the new site.  I officially changed the name to "Life in the Clark Lane" and the address is http://www.lifeintheclarklane.com.  There's no blogspot in there!  I have my own domain, which is very exciting.  Dad and Jim both played a role in the new name selection.  Another frontrunner, suggested by Dad, was "When Lilly Met Jack," which I still love.  But Life in the Clark Lane doesn't have to change.  And it encompasses our entire family, not just Lilly and Jack.  So, Life in the Clark Lane it is, as we begin the next chapter in our lives as a family of four.

Today, Jack is one month old.  Time is flying and it seems to be going even faster this time around.  This week, I took Lilly and Jack to the doctor; Lilly had her two and a half year check up, and Jack had his one month check up.  Lilly was much more aware of what was going on during the appointment today, and kept asking why she had to be a "nuny nuny" for her check up.  It's a logical question, and after trying to explain that Dr. Brown was going to weigh her and measure her and see how big she's getting (which apparently didn't answer the question to her liking), I resorted to saying, "because Jack's a nuny nuny too."  That was the answer that stopped the "whyyyyyy?"  They both keep growing, as much as I try to keep them little forever.  At their appointment, Lilly was 36 inches tall and weighed 28.5 lbs.  She grew an inch and gained 3.5 lbs in 6 months.  Jack was 22.5 inches tall and weighed 10.5 lbs.  He has grown 1.5 inches and gained 3 lbs since he left the hospital.  It's amazing how quickly newborns grow!  The appointment was uneventful, which is always good.  We go back in a month for Jack and six months for Lilly.

It's still strange to think that we have a son.  Those words haven't really sunk in yet, I think because at the moment, our son is a baby.  And so far, he's been very similar to Lilly in everything from the way he looks (with a head full of hair) to his cry (both our children have real "waaaaaah" cries) to his sleep patterns (he slept for a 6 hour stretch last night, I fed him, and then he slept for another 4 hours).  Although after I feed him, you should hear him burp! It's unbelievable.  He truly burps like a boy.  It's actually the only thing that wakes Jim up in the night...he doesn't hear crying, my talking, changing diapers, feeding (you get the point), but as soon as Jack burps, Jim rolls over and usually says a groggy, "wow...that's impressive," before going back to sleep.  We've got the whole diaper situation under control now, so changing his diaper is a little bit more relaxing.  As Jack hits the one month mark, he is starting to make very cute baby noises and is much more alert when he's awake.  He seems to be figuring out his days and nights and is getting over his baby jet lag.  I see his wide open eyes staring up at me in the night less and less, which makes the nights more enjoyable for everyone.

Lilly adores him, and we couldn't have asked for a smoother transition.  She sings to him when he's crying, and if that doesn't make him stop (which it amazingly does more often than not), Lilly announces that she thinks he's hungry and that I need to feed him.  After Jack was born, Lilly seemed to grow from a baby into a little girl overnight.  When she hears Jack wake up from a nap, she runs off to his bassinet announcing, "don't worry, I've got him."  As amazing as it would be, we don't really let her "get him" just yet, but she tries.  When he's sitting in his bouncy chair, Lilly will go up to him and have little conversations.  The other day, she told him, "you can't play with me yet because you're still little, but when you're a big girl like me, you'll be able to play."  Being a "big girl" seems to be the focus of Lilly's day to day activities at the moment.  When she popped her elbow out yesterday (for more on that, read Jim's blog entry here), we were on skype with Jim's mom, who told Lilly she was being very brave.  Lilly's response was, "No, I'm not brave, I'm a big girl."  If only she knew how little she is.  The picture below is of her taking a nap the other day.  It looks like she accidentally fell asleep.  When I went in to check on her, her bed was piled high with books, the pillows were all moved to the side.  It was as if she leaned back to decide what she was going to do next, and in doing so, fell asleep.  The next one is what Jim found one night when he went in to check on Lilly before we went to bed.  Lilly was sleeping with a balloon that one of Jim's colleagues sent with some flowers when Jack was born.  The balloon said "It's a boy!" and Lilly claimed it as her own and took it everywhere.  Even to bed.   She's still such a little "big girl."

This morning, we were giving Jack a bath, and as soon as we put him in, he decided it was time to go to the bathroom.  Jim and I were laughing, as it looked like there was a fountain coming out of his bath.  Lilly thought it was hysterical, and turned to Jack and said, "Jack, that was great...can you do it again?"  Priceless.  It was one of those moments we'd love to have on video.  When I watch Lilly and Jack together, I often sit back and smile.  I can't believe these are our two children.  It doesn't seem real.

Setting up Daisy in her bouncy chair next to Jack when he was crying.

Jack stopped crying.  I guess he was just looking for some company!

Lilly brought her pillow and a blanket out to lie next to Jack while he was hanging out.

Hanging out on their boppys on our bed.  It's a good thing we have 2 of them, because Lilly has claimed one as her own!

Revisiting one of her favorite toys the second time around.  Lilly loves to lie under there with Jack, and tells him the names of all the animals. (Steve the monkey, Sally the elephant, Gina the giraffe, and the parrot is just "parrot"...I'm not sure why!)

As I started this blog with no real purpose, other than to catch up on what's been going on, let me end it with our Halloween pictures.  This was the first Halloween that Lilly got dressed up.  I'm not a huge Halloween fan, but to see Halloween through the eyes of a two year old bumble bee was pretty cute, and gave it a whole new meaning.  A woman that Jim works with gave Jack a costume, which he was less than thrilled about.  We put him in it for a picture, and then let him snuggle for the rest of the night, while Lilly got the hang of trick-or-treating pretty quickly.  She kept saying, "Can I go to one more house, peeeeeeeeeese??" to which Jim responded every time, "Okay, one more house."  I don't know who enjoyed the evening more...Lilly or Jim!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Dad All Over Again

Several weeks ago Amelia suggested that I write a blog to record my thoughts surrounding the birth of our son, Jack, so that we could remember the experience of welcoming a son into our family.  I started the entry almost immediately, but haven't worked on it since that day.  I have been meaning to finish it this past week but something always took precedence - playing with Lilly or rocking with Jack to get him to sleep, or just good old laziness.  So I targeted today as a good day to get it done.  For one, it is Veteran's Day, a day that is special because we honor our veterans, and also because it seems to be the only holiday that I have off from work that most others do not.  Also, interestingly, but not really, it's 11/11/11.  And finally, it's Jack's one month birthday.  Maybe that should have been first.  Anyway, the point is, I figured I'd work the conclusion of the blog entry into the day somewhere.

We had a great leisurely morning - lots of coffee and apple juice.  Amelia made it out to the mall to run some errands while Jack slept and Lilly and I built a Duplo train station, played in tents and even pretended to be sleeping for about 10 minutes (an amazing game for actually getting sleep).  Amelia came home and we had lunch, then we put Jack and Lilly down for their naps.  I should have been industrious and finished the blog then, but I opted to enjoy the peace and quiet by chatting with Amelia and doing various odd chores that had built up over the week.  Before we knew it a few hours had passed and Lilly and Jack were coming back to life.  My dad called to catch up, and while on the phone with him, my mom called on Skype.  I said good bye to my dad and went to join Amelia at the computer.  I had Lilly on my lap as we all talked, and she was restless as always.  She climbed up my stomach to do a summersault for Meme and as she completed the flip she bounced up with a look of shock on her face.  She looked at, and then pointed to, her elbow while wincing in pain.  I took her arm in my hand and it flopped about like jello.  I looked at Amelia and then my mom on the screen and stammered that I thought it was dislocated.  My mom, like a mom, started giving sage advice on what to do.  And Amelia, like a mom, instinctively took Lilly into her lap, immobilized her arm to stop the pain, and gave her a calming cuddle.  After we (I) gained our (my) composure we tried to pop it back in, but no luck.

So off Lilly and I went to the hospital.  She was amazing.  We waited patiently in the waiting room until it was our turn.  We went into the triage room after about an hour of reading books and debating whether the fish in the fish tank possibly knew Nemo and Dorry personally.  The doctor and nurse each introduced themselves.  Lilly introduced herself and took the honor of introducing me as well. In fact, Lilly did most of the talking the whole 5 minutes we were in there.  The doctor asked what happened.  Lilly recalled that, "she popped her elbow while doing a summersault on Daddy."  The doctor asked if her elbow hurt.  Lilly replied that, "it really hurts a lot, I'm sick."  The doctor asked if she could take off her jacket so he could look at it.  Lilly said, "oh yeah, of course."  As I gingerly unzipped her jacket to show the elbow, she took the opportunity to stretch the arm that had been tucked next to her side for quite some time and pushed it all the way up into the air over head, and then twisted it over my shoulder and around my neck.  She then looked up at the doctor, ready to be examined.  The doctor kindly smiled at me, then at the nurse, then at Lilly.  He took her elbow and moved it back and forth for about two seconds.  He asked her how it felt now.  She triumphantly declared, "it feels great!"  A minor miracle in Stamford Hospital, and I witnessed it.  I have no doubt that when it happened the elbow was dislocated and she was in pain.  I have no doubt that the elbow popped itself back in at some point before the doctor touched it.   I also have no doubt that my clever little two year old has watched enough 'Olivia' and read enough 'Miffy Goes To The Hospital' to know how to play the part of a patient.  She received 2 stickers for her effort.  I thanked the doctor and complimented him on his skill in medicine.  Off we went to head back home, but not before taking a detour to Nonna's to pick up a cheese pizza for a much delayed dinner.

I know from my extensive research and reading on child rearing that things like popped elbows in children often pop back in themselves in due time.  Of course we could have waited to let it possibly fix itself at home, but seeing her that way, I just wanted to immediately remedy the situation, especially since I felt responsible for the failed summersault.  (We're going to have to work on our mechanics tomorrow.)  In the grand scheme of things, I know this wasn't a major crisis, that Lilly was going to be okay one way or another at all times.  But as I sat there in the waiting room, running through worst case scenarios in my head, I was no less reminded of how much I love my daughter, my new son, and especially my wife, and how respecting and proving that love means that I would do anything to protect them and shield them from anything less than the happy life they each deserve.  In light of this crash course refresher on perspective, the trip to the emergency room and the copay exchanged for stickers was well worth it, ten times over.  What better outcome could I have asked for?

And so, I'm back to the original task of concluding my post on Jack.  It's almost the end of the day and I'm now just beginning to write.  I'm sure there's a lesson on procrastination in there somewhere, but I'll put off the exploration of that till another day.

Here's the finished product.

Just when I thought I had everything figured out about being a dad… Jack came long.  I had really hit my stride with Lilly.  She and I were making strong progress with our water coloring technique.  We’d created dozens of fridge-worthy masterpieces in the Disney Princesses coloring book.  And lately we were on fire pairing the right high-heeled shoes with the flashiest sequin tutu’s in her dress up collection.  
Of course I knew the entire time Amelia was pregnant that there was a 50% chance we’d have a boy.  And I truly didn’t feel a bias toward one or the other in the 41 weeks leading up to Jack’s arrival.  But that made it no less of a total surprise when I saw him for the first time and immediately made the distinction concerning gender.  
I was overflowing with pride and joy.  Complete pride in my amazing wife for once again having made nine months of pregnancy a beautiful and special time in our life together, and in her incredible strength during delivery that will forever leave me in awe of her grace and resolve.   Complete joy in seeing a perfect addition to our family of three, and knowing that Amelia and I would for the rest of our lives have a son, and Lilly a little brother.
However, as I mentioned, I find myself back at square one as a dad trying to figure out how to raise a newborn.  Being a boy does not automatically equip you to take care of a boy.  The most obvious difference between boy and girl newborns has already brought itself to the forefront.  Diaper changing has become a contact sport.   And right from the first attempt, I was on defense, shielding myself from the poorly chosen location in which I was standing.   I like to think of myself as a quick learner, but I’ve still somehow not entirely figured out his offensive scheme, and it looks to be a long season ahead unless I can shape up.  
The ‘newborn cry’ also has me off my game.  I think now that Lilly is a bit older and her days in the swaddle are far removed, I romanticize that she never cried much.  But wow do the memories of the nights dancing and rocking her to sleep come flooding back as soon as Jack gets up to pitch!  It’s not that Jack cries an abnormal amount or anything (in fact, I think we are getting off easy so far in the ‘sleep deprived nights’ category), most of his cries are the usual hunger cry or need a diaper change cry.  But occasionally there is that ‘next level’ cry that usually comes for no particular reason, and it almost always comes out of nowhere.  I am so wholly out of practice with how to respond and placate him.  I don’t know if it’s possible to ever be a pro at coping with it, but I know I survived with Lilly, and apparently even managed to forget it, so I am sure it will be no different this time around.  
Despite the adventurous diaper changes and occasional need for earmuffs, I could not be happier or have a bigger sense of fulfillment.  I am up to the task of raising a boy and embrace all the differences from raising a girl that I'm sure lie in waiting.  I’m shaking off the rust and remembering all the wonderful things about watching the first days and weeks of a new life - the incredibly small fingers, the permanently curled up legs, the tiny breaths, the smell.  Jack is the perfect contradiction of fragile and strong.  He relies on Amelia and me for everything, and yet comes into the world a complete person, just waiting to grow and reveal his personality.
I am remembering that as his dad it is my foremost duty to keep him safe and be a steward of his childhood.  I am here to make sure he gets to experience all the best parts of being a kid without the worry of life’s impending pressures that will eventually come to pass.  I take this duty seriously.  And as with Lilly, I think this principally means being completely unserious in most situations.  The moment I arrive home from work is the beginning of playtime.  A trip to the grocery store means riding in the front of the shopping cart.  Bed, Bath and Beyond is the ultimate venue for hide and go seek.  Bedtime should be drawn out as long as possible, and no matter how many how many warnings we get from mom, there is always time for one more book.
And so I look forward to each new day with Jack and the adventure of relearning what it is to be a dad.  I am excited to observe his first steps, first words, first day of school, first t-ball game and see how his life continuously unfolds.  He can be whatever he wants to be (so long as it includes being a Philly sports fan).  I will be here to support him and make sure that he knows that no matter what, he is loved – by his sister, grandparents, his aunts and uncles, his cousins, our friends – and especially by his parents.