Archive for the 'Body clock issues' Category

Crazy Watermelon Forehead

January 26, 2011

Andrew Hicks

We’re implementing a new routine in our house — the early wakeup*. I get up with the babies when Tiffany gets up for work. This brutal event happens every morning at the ungodly hour of 5:30.

I was dramatizing slightly in that last sentence, but I’ve had problems getting up early since puberty. But I’ve been the type of person who has a second-shift body clock and will only start my day early when forced to. So now I’m forcing myself to, and I have outside accountability.

So far, so good. The first day threw off Sarah’s baby body clock some, and she took a short, irregular nap, but I think she’s settled in now. If I get up, get in the shower and get moving, I wake up pretty easily. The hard part is staying active and resisting the temptation to prematurely slow activity and sit or even (Don’t do it, Andrew!) lie down. If I lie down, even “just for a minute,” when I’ve gotten up earlier than I’m used to, my activity level usually sits at zero for the next couple hours.

Kids will keep you up and running, but there is downtime, sometimes for, like, up to an hour. Getting everyone into an ironclad wakeup and sleep schedule will help me maximize and maybe even schedule my downtime with the kids’ body clocks. First things first, though. I have to actually get this routine cemented, which will take a few more days.

But it’s still morning, Sarah and Silas are both taking their naps, and I’m writing my blog already. I won’t have to wrestle with the midnight curfew tonight or, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, really at all with the new routine in place.

I’ve already gotten some good cooking, cleaning and baby play time in, too, a rarity for the AM hours. I got on the floor with Sarah and Silas and kinda had them playing with each other. Silas was in his Bumbo, and for the first time, he gripped one of Sarah’s little plastic play balls and waved it around, which delighted Sarah to no end.

Crazy Newspaper Head

Sarah started passing Silas other toys she wanted to watch him grab onto, so he indulged her by latching onto the little bunch of bananas toy and the half-watermelon toy. There was no one over the age of 2 around, so I let loose with the old Adam Sandler SNL bit about easy Halloween costumes for people with no money**. (“Look at me, I’m Crazy Watermelon Forehead! Can you believe it? I have a half a watermelon growing out of my head. My life is filled with pain and torment. Won’t you gimme some candy?”)

And I still have the whole afternoon and evening ahead of me.

*Which reminds me of a great Ross Perot sketch Dana Carvey did on “Saturday Night Live just before the 1992 election. “So, Step 1: a National Curfew, nationwide, lights out, 8:45 pm. Now, you may say, ‘Ross, what am I gonna do after 8:45?’ Well, I suggest you sleep — you’ll be glad you did when you hear that National Wake-Up Siren at 4:45 am. And don’t you worry, folks, you won’t sleep through it; it’ll be loooouuuuud!”

**Today’s blog is brought to you by the Ghost of “Saturday Night Live” Season 18, now streaming on Netflix Instant with a bunch of good sketches missing but still plenty of quality laughs from the last gasp of the show’s true golden age.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Josh plays with Baby Sarah and her Elmo guitar. Summer 2009.

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Foreign phenomenon

January 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

My 4 a.m. wake-up was short-lived. I thought maybe it was the start of a revolutionary body clock adjustment. Get up at four, stay up all day with the kids, have a nutritious Crock Pot dinner that makes the whole house smell beautiful and domestic, and go to bed while the sun’s still up in the summer. This idealism lasted about four hours. I was drinking coffee, being productive, I got Sarah up early, and then the problems began.

I don’t know if it was from her waking up early or because she was sick and barely ate anything the past couple days, but Sarah was having episodes where everything merited a heaving-sob scream reaction. It wasn’t quite a Terrible Twos fit, but it certainly wasn’t normal behavior, and it got worse when Sarah realized she wouldn’t be having cookies for breakfast.

Generally speaking, I don’t do well with crying. More often than not, I stand my ground if Sarah’s throwing a fit, and we reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. When her mom cries, it’s a different story. Tiffany, when she’s crying, can get whatever she wants from me. Luckily, she doesn’t seem to take advantage of this fact. That I’m aware of.

Being around a crying woman is still a pretty foreign phenomenon to me. There wasn’t a lot of crying in my house as I grew up. Present-day Andrew doesn’t really cry, either*. I’m not counting all those half-drunk times when tears would well up during the satisfying emotional payoff of a movie. I think the part in Jerry Maguire where Cuba Gooding Jr regains consciousness and celebrates his touchdown is probably the most archetypal example.

A crying wife gets whatever she wants, and so does a wife who’s ready to put out. One of the reasons I didn’t have an initial problem getting up at 4 a.m. was because Tiffany got me to bed way early with the lure of married-people sex. It was like ten when she said, “Don’t you want to come to bed now?” And I was like, Nooooo, it’s only 10 o’clock. I have a blog to write. I don’t want to have to backdate it just so I’ll make my daily quota.

And then she said, “Are you suuuuuure you don’t want to come to bed now?” And that’s when I was like, Ohhhhhh, you want to $&#@ me. Okay, then, let me turn this computer off. Nah, forget it, I’ll leave it on. Don’t wanna miss the married-people sex window.

So this morning, I put Screamin’ Sarah back to bed, Silas fell back asleep, and I realized it was still only like 8:30. My brain was confused and barely functional, so I thought, Why not just relax with a little Season 4 “Weeds” on Netflix Instant? It was a great way to find myself falling back asleep until noon, which is something my brain and body have become very used to over the years.

Pugsley, 1994.

*The only time I can remember really having tears and sobs in recent memory was in June 2007, when I went with my mom to euthanize Pugsley, our family dog of fifteen years. I went along as stoic support, because my mom knew she was going to lose it. That dog was her baby and companion, but I really loved Pugsley too, and I lived with him for half my life. When the moment of truth arrived, I bawled like a child. We both did. I’d even broke down and sobbed the night before, when I was telling Tiffany — my girlfriend, not yet my wife — old Pugsley stories. That I felt so comfortable around and comforted by Tiffany while I was having this emotional episode only further cemented my thought that she was The One.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas sleeps on Christmas.

Spoon-feeding breakthrough

January 5, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Silas and I had a breakthrough spoon-feeding moment. This is what passes for front-page news around the Hicks household right now. I’m excited about it, anyway.

I spent our first few feeding sessions trying to just jam the formula/cereal/baby food swirl into Silas’s mouth, and most of it would get pushed right back out and glop down his chin. Tonight, I realized I should just feed Silas each bite as if it were a spoonful of super-hot soup. Tiny bites, lots of patience and caution, spoon strategically positioned just outside his mouth until the exact right time to slip him the baby food.

The timing element of baby feeding — waiting for Silas to open his mouth and roll his tongue out just right — reminds me of the old Jungle Jive arcade game of chance. The coins hang tantalizingly on the end and, if you drop another coin down at just the right time, you win the coins that get pushed off the ledge.*

The small, well-timed bites got my little guy nice and full and asleep hours earlier than usual. Which was great until he decided 4 a.m. would be his ideal wakeup time for the day. Have you ever had to get up at four in the morning? It’s a strange, dark wasteland. The biggest personality on television is a Headline News anchorwoman who looks like a porno Sarah Palin.

The ending for this blog post has yet to be written.

*If it’s a Montana gas station or cruise ship, the Jungle Jive pays you actual quarters. Back in the day, at Tilt in the mall, you could win game tokens. Nowadays, at Dave and Buster’s or wherever, all you win is tickets. People gamble on it anyway. I know. I’m married to one of those people.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, tightly cropped.

Twelve new Christmas memories

December 31, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I’m gonna blame Christmas for making me lazy this past week. My family and I spent three days and two nights at my in-laws’ house for the holidays, and even after getting back, the combination of cheer and leftover seasonal junk food left me glued to the recliner.

Now there’s one day left in 2010, and I’m finally getting around to writing about Jesus’ golden birthday. That’s right, Our Lord turned 25 this year. Again. While 25 was a depressing birthday for me, it wasn’t for Jesus, because he knows he’s got the best seven years of his life still ahead. Dude loves the number seven, what can I say? Anyway, here are:

 

TWELVE NEW CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

1. It’s noon on Christmas Eve, and we’re driving down in a snow storm. It almost looked like we couldn’t be able to come at all, but skipping Thanksgiving proper and Christmas the same year would feel like a cardinal sin. Luckily, it’s warm enough that the snow is melting instantly as it hits the ground. We stop at a gas station, and Sarah and I head in to find a little junk to hold us until the in-laws’ roast is ready at 4 pm. I find some Dill Pickle Pringles, and Sarah’s full attention latches onto the impulse bin of Charm’s Blow Pops at foot level. I decide, what the heck, it’s Christmas, and I get her a Blue Raspberry sucker. When we get back to the car, I unwrap the Blow Pop, and Sarah is overjoyed as she holds it, takes a couple tentative licks then goes to town on it. Many productive minutes pass as Sarah enjoys the second lollipop of her young life, then we start to notice she’s putting it in her hair and all over her forehead. It’s a parental moment where you want to stop the problem behavior, but you can’t stop laughing, and your laughing only makes your giddy toddler go to further extremes. Sarah is most amused by the practice of jamming the sucker into the recesses of her neck. She is a streaky, sticky blue mess for the rest of the car ride.

2. Just before two, we decide to stop into a 24-hour Mom and Pop restaurant in our hometown that I’ve previously visited well over a hundred times, though this may be my first time visiting when not drunk or hung over. We still have that roast ahead of us, so we just order their amazing house salad — lettuce, red onion, pimento, bacon, provel, house cream dressing and homemade croutons — and potato skins. The skins are basically full-sized potato halves of the daunting Russet variety. Sarah has some fries and water, our waitress is tattooed and strange, and it’s just quick, fun family time.

3. Some might have received my proclamation that my family would start our holiday shopping on Christmas Eve as a joke, but this is what in fact happens. The snow is still swirling from the sky as we spend well over an hour stuffing a Wal-Mart cart with our entire haul of presents. We pick out a couple things that we want for ourselves under the guise of, “This is your Christmas present to me,” and we later get a big box of bargain Christmas cards from Walgreens. I used to have a cheat sheet listing which relatives received which bargain cards (“Grandpa = puppy in stocking, 2008,” “Tiffany’s sister = winking snowman, 2009,” etc.), but now I get to experience the rush of possibly giving the same relative the same card several years in a row. Will they call me out on it? They haven’t yet.

4. With the wife and kiddies asleep late on Christmas Eve, I go on an iTunes binge with some freshly purchased gift cards. I’ve kept a list of songs I want to get my hands on for months now, so the choosing is easy. The logging in is damn near impossible. I have three basic passwords I use, and none of them hits. I also somehow manage to mis-answer my security question three consecutive times, so my account is frozen for eight hours. I then create a new account and get locked out of it somehow. Bells are ringing. Silver, angry bells. But I get my music.

5. On Christmas Day, Tiffany and I each open a mound of presents for Sarah. I’ve just figured out where to put all the toys she already has, and now she’s doubled her plaything inventory. She gets an indoor princess tent, a bookcase with dozens of books to put in it, a stagecoach wagon loaded with Lego blocks, and three coats. The grandparents seem to have done the Toys ‘R’ Us equivalent of the old “Supermarket Sweep” TV show, and we love them for it. Days later, hanging out around the house, I’ll still be happening upon individual Christmas gifts given to Sarah. Thank you moms, aunt, uncles and dad.

6. This is my fourth Christmas at the in-laws’, and it’s the first time my brother Matt has met Tiffany’s side of the family. While eating roasted pork sandwiches and a cornucopia of hors d oeuvres (thanks for having my back, Dictionary.com), I get to hear Matt and my father-in-law talk excitedly about classical music and opera. One of my simpler joys in life is watching people from different corners of my social and family sphere interact with each other. This is no Christmas miracle, but it’s pretty unique in its own right.

7. After my mom and brother leave, our family Christmas moves downstairs, and the younger generation takes turns playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii. I beg out of participating — the broken ankle excuse will hold me for at least three more months, and I will use it when applicable — but Tiffany and her older sister tear up some Rihanna and such. The highlight of all this is watching my mother-in-law hold her own by dancing along to the Ike and Tina version of “Proud Mary.”

8. I spend several hours on Christmas night hanging out at Harrah’s Casino with two of my best friends and partners in crime from my single days. They rack up a huge bar tab in a restaurant just outside the casino while I binge-drink Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew and smoke cigarettes like I’m one of Marge Simpson’s wheezy sisters. Inside, we gamble. I bet small and play for hours on the same money. I turn my last three bucks back into $25 then make my friends go to the roulette table with me. They’re drunk by now, and the slowest, rudest dealer in history presides over our table. The time between spins is at least 15 minutes. None of the other roulette players at the table speaks any English — there was an Asian Concert* event earlier tonight — so my friends kill time and crack me up by loudly complaining about how much the dealer sucks and how much roulette sucks and how much it sucks that no one at the table speaks English. I win $40 on the next spin and am kept waiting another 15 minutes to cash in my chips.

9. Apparently, when you drink a dozen plastic cups of soda really late at night, you have a hard time falling asleep. The magic of Christmas does nothing to change this immutable law. I slide into bed around 3 am and am kept in an exhausted state of alertness until after the sun comes up. So it is to my great relief that my in-laws are enthusiastic about taking infant Silas upstairs and watching him while Tiffany and I sleep and lounge in bed until noon. It’s a great slow wakeup, lying there and talking and watching an episode of “Monk” on Netflix Instant.

10. One of Sarah’s gifts was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse instrument set. It had a drum, drumsticks, maracas, plastic finger cymbals, nonfunctioning harmonica (thank you for the broken harmonica, Disney, seriously) and a recorder. You know, like the kind they give you in third grade band class if you don’t appear to have any other inborn musical talent. Sarah keeps putting her mouth around the recorder and making trumpet fart noises into it, while I’m demonstrating and telling her to just blow into it. Finally, her grandma tells her to blow it out like her birthday candles, and something clicks. It’s beyond cute to watch that little girl’s eyes light up when she realizes she just accomplished what she’d been trying to accomplish.

11. The day after Christmas, I talk to my dad on the phone for the first time since September. Our relationship the past couple decades has been sporadic to nonexistent, but we jump-started our communication this year and got to know each other as adults. Which was a great gift. We talk for a half-hour, and it’s great to hear the excitement in his voice as he describes his Christmas dinner spent with two Harvard PhD’s and how he’s been eating nothing but natural health food the past few months and feels better than ever.

12. Sarah’s gift motherlode included a full snowsuit and an orange plastic sled, and when we get back home, I take her outside in the snow. There’s a small hill at the end of our driveway that leads down into the backyard. I put her in the sled, have her count to three, then I send her on her way. Her reaction is one of sheer delight, and she joyously demands to go, “Again! Again!” until her out-of-shape dad is wishing he hadn’t chainsmoked all those cigarettes on Christmas night.

*Asian Concert was the official name of the event. No actual performers were billed. I assume when you live in the Midwest, and you are Asian, you’ll show up to an Asian Concert regardless of who appears because there really aren’t any Asian Concerts booked in the first damn place.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Insert Swede/sweet pun later

October 26, 2010

Andrew Hicks

“Nightline” did a story last week about paternity leave in Sweden. The crazy collection of blond heads and blue eyes that comprise the Swedish government requires new fathers to take two months paid paternity leave and split another 12 months of compensated leave with blaarfengar. That’s Swedish for “mom.”

Even better, Swedes can drop their kids off for free babysitting at the nearest elected representative’s house for up to 20 hours every week. Seriously. You can quote me on that, but don’t, because I just made it up.

On a selfish level, I love the sound of this. It’s so anti-Tea Party it hurts. Pay fathers to change diapers and bottle feed while mothers sport power suits and bring home the bacon. On an even more selfish level, though, I hate the sound of this because every second dad would be writing a blog about baby pee and poop stories. That’s my turf. The rest of you American guys just keep, you know, driving bulldozers and watching football all day on Sunday.

Today was my longest day of childrearing since The Event*. I was up at 7:45 to fly solo with both kids practically until naptime, when I took off my boot and dove into unconsciousness for a couple hours. Then back up for outside play, dinner, bathtime and bedtime. It was exhausting, but mobility-wise, I’m finally back up to the task.

My in-laws’ (God bless them) have Sarah in a solid routine where she gets her nap and goes to bed at roughly the same time, but baby Silas is still a little erratic. I was just reminded of a bad ’80s slasher movie cliche with Sarah. Now it feels like Silas, as he falls asleep for the night, reenacts the climax of all the old Halloween and Friday the 13th movies. He’ll close his eyes, I assume he’s down for the count, then a few moments later he shoots back to life for one last stand before succumbing to the inevitable.

The Little Guy is carving out a good AM/PM routine as well, but I’m still having body clock issues. With being on unpaid disability, mostly apart from my wife and having my in-laws take care of the babies in the morning, it’s been like high school summer break around here. Drinking Mountain Dew, microwaving tiny frozen pizzas, watching crap on TV until practically dawn. And writing sometimes, too.

I’ve often said 4:30 is the true witching hour of the day. Not even farmers are up that early, and not even tweakers are up that late. It is, however, the best time of day to watch local news. I saw a great investigative scare-tactic report about how small children can drown in just one drop of water. On the noon or evening news, that story would seem sensationalist and implausible, but at five in the morning, it had the ring of gospel truth.

I’ll stay at my in-laws’ a few more days to complete the transition from bedridden to functional. Then it’s back home. Tiffany and I dropped the kids off overnight at my mom’s on Saturday and drove home for a night. It was my first time back since just after The Event, and we spent a few leisurely hours watching the new SNL and playing Wii. A nice, low-key date night that even ended with me getting lucky. Excellent night, in fact.

When married couples have sex, the angels in heaven rejoice. It’s true. I saw it on local news in the dead of night.

*Kind of late in the game, I know, but I’ve decided to retire the term Ankle Break 2010 and its godawful acronym AB2KX and just refer to my injury as The Event. It’s a timely meta-term because there’s a new NBC series with that name airing Monday nights at 9/8 Central. But it’s also homage to my new favorite blog of all time, Right Behind, an exhaustive and amazingly funny page-by-page dissection of the Christian Rapture novel Left Behind. I’ve practically spent entire days reading Fred Clark’s posts; I don’t feel too bad, though, because he spent five years writing about the same crappy book. That’s dedication.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Dad and Sarah at the hospital the day she was born.

Up all night, sleep all day

September 29, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I can’t expect him to articulate a response, but I bet if Baby Silas could tell me his favorite song by hair metal band Slaughter, it would be “Up All Night.” This kid is sleeping the hours of a rock star lately, and it’s probably my fault. The parenting books and magazines tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. Great advice, if you disregard the fact that, in the first few months of their lives, babies sleep up to sixteen hours a day.

I’ve had body-clock problems that have left me on the Slaughter sleep cycle myself. I think Little Guy is just following my lead. My wife Tiffany said, “That’s an easy one. Just force yourself to stay awake all day so you can sleep at night.” Great advice, if you disregard the fact that I have a broken ankle and live in the bed. I can’t always resist the temptation to get unconscious. It’s like telling a polar bear to stay out of the snow.

I thought the silver lining of this arrangement would be that I’d be madly productive. No job to go to, no one around really. And I have gotten some good writing in, but I’m with this baby basically 24 hours a day. That actually does require a lot of work. Then, during my downtime, I have a hard time finding a fresh creative angle on, “We drank another bottle. He cried some. Just got the diaper changed.”

Well, okay, this is a semi-interesting diaper story. I had Silas on the bed today, out of his diaper, and realized I had no Pampers handy. I had to sprint-crutch out to the living room, and all I could find was one of Sarah’s Size 4 diapers. It turned out to be surprisingly effective, although when I put that oversize diaper on his infant body, I was reminded of those weight-loss commercial “after” shots where the newly thin person stands in their old fat pants to offer up stark contrast. (The Formula Diet, right?)

Same topic – lack of preparedness leaving you caught literally with your pants down. Minutes after the giant diaper, I sat down to use the bathroom and realized too late that there was no toilet paper. Bad feeling under ordinary circumstances, and ten times worse when on crutches in a largely unfamiliar house. Kleenex to the rescue, thankfully. My only other options would have been the white, downy bath towel with the high thread count and the shower itself. And you know what happens when you get the cast wet.

Slept all day, took care of Little Guy, encountered the above difficulties, then wrote about it extensively on Facebook. This brings us to dinnertime. My mom went on an epic grocery shopping trip before I got here for my five-day stay that’s now mid-Week 2. She hasn’t been grocery shopping since. The best groceries are long gone, the mediocre groceries are just about gone, and the Caffeine-Free Diet Schnucks Super Cola two-liter is bound to be cracked open any second now. After that? *shudder* Water.

My dead-of-night meal is assembled purely from scavenger-hunted odds and ends. For example: 1 can Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup + 4 ounces diced deli turkey + 1 can Rotel + 1 diced tomato + 2 Taco Bell mild sauce packets + shredded cheese + 12 crushed Saltines + cracked black pepper  = not half bad.

My mom, ever the MVP, has twice allowed me to spring on her at the last minute that I’m going out for a couple hours and need her to watch the baby. Terrific old friends I barely get to see have driven to my mom’s house and helped my temporarily disabled ass into their cars. Then, well aware of the ticking clock, we went somewhere close and quiet and found a dark corner where I could prop up the cast leg. And the laughter, fellowship and beer flowed – ever briefly – like it was 2002 again.

The first night, I grabbed an NTN trivia box, logged on as user Goiter, and butted heads with a trio of middle-aged men who were playing under a total of four screen names. Each had customized NTN avatars and brought their own reference material. My companions performed better than I did, but it was a fun time. I alone knew that Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald’s adult-contemporary duet “On My Own” came out in 1986.

I stayed out a little late the first time, but I was at home promptly at 10 pm the second time. It’s like being a kid again in a few respects. I can’t see the girl I love when I want to, for starters. She was texting me a couple nights ago about how she wanted me to watch the new “Dancing With the Stars” with her. She’s lonely watching TV, I’m a hundred miles away caring for a screaming baby. Both of us are longing for mundane normalcy. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a montage from “Teen Mom” with a tender Taylor Swift song playing in the background. All that’s missing is me having to do my geometry homework or something.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, Silas and Grandma Hicks