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Work It Mommy

Kim cried the night before reclaiming her status of working mom. She wept for Elizabeth Rose; not leaving the baby for more than an hour in two months, the anticipation of a severed attachment caused deep emotional and physical pain. One may have thought by the amount of tear fall that it was more wrenching than Elizabeth’s forced removal via cesarean section.

Kim bellowed at the thought of going back to work after six months. A consistent employment she has maintained for over thirteen years. The company is one of the few fortune 500 companies in our city and there are many benefits for full time employees. The corporation itself is great however her old boss was someone that Kim could no longer work with. Luckily while Kim was away on her extended maternity leave the department she worked in jostled a few positions around and Kim was on the receiving end of a promotion and would be under new management. Had the position change not occurred this journal entry may have been about a new stay at home mom.

There were many other concerns Kim mulled over the night before returning to work. One of which, for monetary reasons, we had to adjust the amount of preschool our girls attend, from three full days and one half day to four half days, 9am to 3pm. This meant that on two of those days Kim would have to wake up at 4:30am so she could work an eight hour shift and then pick-up the children at two different preschools. Kim also worried that I would have problems juggling the morning routine solo and getting the kiddos at preschool on time. Rightfully so, as the first week’s adaptation to mommy morning absence resulted in missing the curb side drop off every single day. The following week I made the necessary modifications to get everyone to school on time; got out of bed a bit earlier, had breakfast waiting for the kiddos, had a bottle warmed for baby, woke the kiddos earlier and had their backpacks stocked and parked by the back door awaiting our departure.

Two weeks later, two working parents later, Kim’s tears have subsided, the bank account replenished (three of the six months that Kim was on maternity leave was unpaid) and the kiddos may even be happier spending less time at school and more time with mom and dad. Although I can’t speak for Elizabeth Rose. She seems to be doing well at day care. She eats the same, sleeps the same and poops the same, so it is hard to tell at this point whether she is innocuous to the change.

Elizabeth Rose and MeElizabeth Rose is doing great. She consistently sleeps through the night. Smiles when she sees familiar faces. Makes bubbles with her tongue and lips. Kicks and swings for dangling objects. The tumultuous four hour of colic a day has subsided to a mere fifteen minute 9pm fussy phase. She has added 2 pounds and 3 inches of size. Her back is strong and she holds her head high at great lengths while sitting up watching her big sisters or possibly watching out for them.

Ski Patrol

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com  04/11/07

Zadie (my dad) plans a family ski vacation every spring. This year’s destination, Park City, Utah as it has been for the past four or five years. Absent in ’05 and ’06, due to the fact that ski trips and infants/toddlers don’t mix well, this marked the end of my longest stint away from the slopes since the age of fourteen when I first started skiing. I was dying to get back to the mountains. Skiing is therapeutic; speeding downhill from the top of a picturesque mountain, the only immediate concern is concentrating on each and every turn to find the best path.

The first and only mountain vacation for Kim was back in 2000, a scenic trip to Sun Valley Idaho’s Bald Mountain. By nature Kim is a beach bum and dislikes cold weather, but she trudged along with an open mind. Her first day she had a ski lesson on the beginner hill, she learned how to turn and stop, so I figured she could handle the easiest green run on the second day. I was wrong. We rode up two different quad-chair lifts to the summit, around 9000 feet and started down a gentle green ‘slow zone’ run. Right at the start of our slothful decent, Kim face-planted, going down harder than a giant sack of Idaho spuds and twisted her knee in the process. Quickly I slid over to her and I knew there was only one way she was going to get down the mountain. I drove her skis into the snow creating an upright criss-cross to alert ski patrol and within minutes Kim was assessed then carefully placed inside a safety sled. The ski patrol guy swiftly towed her down the remainder of the mountain, I skied close behind. She was finished skiing that day and perhaps forever. At the base lodge she found a soft arm chair and propped her twisted knee up near a raging fire where it was warm and relaxing.

I really wanted to go skiing this year. Kim did not. Hailey is still a bit too reckless for a trip to the mountains however Olivia is at the perfect age to learn how to ski. So, with Kim’s consent, I booked a flight for Olivia and me, planning a five night stay from Wednesday to the following Monday.

We flew Delta. I hate Delta. No pre boarding. No pre boarding? No wings for kids. Aside from that, I had called Delta’s customer service right after I purchased the tickets to find out if Olivia needed a seat restraint and the representative told me that she would need one. I was confused because I have heard different things about flying with children from other parents. I even looked the subject up on FAA’s website which was more confusing. Under two years (lap babies) no ticket required, over forty-four pounds no restraint necessary, between twenty and forty-four pounds was this grey area which I assumed would be left up to the airline to determine. So, at ten-thirty the night before the trip, Kim called Delta once again, (I was still packing) and the customer service rep told her that Olivia would not need a seat restraint.

Olivia has been on an airplane once before when she was ten months old, so flying was sort of a new experience for her. I could tell she was anxious to fly when she exclaimed “got to hurry dad” as I was forced to open my luggage and transfer three pounds of weight from one bag to another at the curbside check. She skipped along next to me through the busy airport rolling her princess backpack-carryon. She got a bit antsy waiting in the long line at the security check. “Why do we have to take our shoes off?” she asked. I told her that it was so all the travelers would feel safer and she gave me her confused ‘we’ll talk about that later’ look and I was glad she didn’t question the tight security any further. She was so excited when we got to the gate. I said, “Look there’s our plane.” She rushed to the window and pressed her face flat against the glass to see it.

Since there was no pre-boarding, Olivia and I waited until all the other passengers boarded. I figured, why rush to confine her to a seat for the three hour flight? We waited until the final boarding call was made to disembark. As we were walking through the jetway it started to shutter and then recoiled a bit away from the entrance to the airplane. It scared Olivia and she jumped into my arms, “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to get on the plane! I want to go home!”

I calmed her as best I could inside the jetway which bounced back to the entrance of the plane. “You’re scared and that’s ok sweetie.” I said something like that, “I always touch the side of the plane for good luck sweetie, try that it will make you feel better.” That statement was accurate because it is my personal preflight superstition. I place my palm on the outside of the plane as I enter. A connection between me and an uncertain faith in technology. By this time the characteristically pretty but unfriendly attendant was giving us the eye. I slowly proceeded through the entrance of the plane lugging my backpack, her backpack, my laptop and Olivia who was balling so loudly that the passengers at the back of the eighty-seat airplane were giving me sympathy looks. As we turned down the isle ready to make our way to the seats Olivia screamed, “Wait! I want to touch the plane!” And she did, just before the evil-eye stewardess closed the hatch.

After that, Olivia was great and enjoyed the flight without any complaints. A steady stream of lolly-pops, cherry licorice, computer games, markers, crayons, books and movies on my laptop kept her busy. “Look dad, everything is getting bigger again,” she said as we approached for a landing.

We took a forty-five minute shuttle ride from the airport to the lodge. Olivia’s first shuttle bus. She enjoyed the freedom of a booster seat rather than the five-point harness car seat. I was hoping she would take a little siesta during the shuttle however she was entranced by the mountain scenery and occupied in devouring half a pound of cherry licorice.

Zadie, my older brother Joe, his kids Nathan (sixteen) and Shaina (thirteen) flew in the day previous to our arrival. When we got to the lodge they were out skiing, so Olivia and I took a quick nap, the last nap for the remainder of the vacation.

Later that afternoon we took a bus from the lodge to Park City’s historic Main Street. Olivia’s first bus ride. She loved the bus, she could jump from seat to seat and she could pull the cord to alert the driver when to stop. Total freedom mixed with control. To Olivia’s delight, we ended up using the bus quite a bit on our vacation. Main Street is charmingly lined with t-shirt shops, art galleries, pro shops, spas and restaurants. I was specifically looking for a powder jacket and new gloves for Olivia which I was unsuccessful in finding. But I did rent some skis and boots for myself as well as a helmet for Olivia.

My older sister Rachel and her husband Alan along with their kids Louis (six) and Sadie (four) arrived late that Wednesday night. Olivia and I were already asleep when they checked in. The next day when we woke up, Olivia was excited to see Sadie and they fused together for the rest of the vacation. That morning we did more shopping and I found Olivia a new jacket and ski pants but no new gloves. She had to squeeze into her old ones which she could care less about. After lunch we went ice skating. Another first for Olivia. Unfortunately, she had some troubles, as I was renting my skates; she attempted to put her skates on by herself. Somehow she flipped over backward falling off the bench that she was sitting on and hit the back of her head hard on the cement floor. She cried for a while, I got her an ice pack, but when Sadie started skating Olivia collected herself and wanted to get on the ice. I had to try a few different skates on her because the figure skates were too narrow and she ended up in hockey skates which are not ideal for learning how to ice skate. She had a hard time just standing up on the ice and after one frustrating trip around the olympic-sized rink she was ready for a break. I got her a little bag of fruit snacks from a vending machine and she watched from the stands. Lou was also having difficulties keeping his feet underneath him and he really got fumed watching Sadie, his little sister, doing exceptionally well. It was also Sadie’s first time on skates and she did amazing, a natural. She was zooming all over the ice pretending to be a Disney Princess on ice. After her snack, Olivia wanted to lace-up her skates and give the ice another go and she did well the second time around. I was so proud of her.

Late Thursday night my other older brother Sam and his youngest daughter Samantha (fifteen) joined the vacation. They didn’t make it in until past midnight and they were up and out the door before anyone even woke up the next morning.

Olivia's First Day Skiing in Park City UtahFinally, on Friday we skied. We signed-up Lou, Sadie and Olivia for ski school. I wanted to make sure Olivia and Sadie got to be in the same class so I lied and said that Olivia was four years old. Actually that turned out to be a good thing because the three year old kids only got to go out skiing once in the morning for an hour as opposed to the four year olds who got to ski twice accumulating almost three hours of ski time. Another first for Olivia, skiing. They all had such a great time at ski school that we signed them up the following day as well.

Later that afternoon we hit the lodge’s outdoor heated pool and hot tub. There were a ton of other kids and parents poolside and some of the kids got a bit wound up running and diving ignoring the clearly painted warnings of no diving and no running. Their parents were oblivious or indifferent on vacation from parenting as well as from their normal lives. So of course Olivia wanted to run and dive too. Some rules are bendable but pool safety is high on my must-be-a-smart-parent list so I had to say something to Olivia about following the rules and this was another first for Olivia, she responded with “well everyone else is doing it.” A mantra I had used many times throughout my own childhood. However I stood firm, “you follow the rules or no swimming.” She tested me and we ended up having to leave the pool.

The two days that I skied, the conditions were abysmal. Mostly slush, the temperature on the mountain was in the fifties and by noon it was like skiing in Elmer’s. I skied like a chump too, taking no real risks, I kept envisioning myself getting hurt, ending up in a body cast and unable to take care of Olivia. So I worked on mechanics and told myself I needed to fine tune my form.

Olivia wanted to go back to ski school a third time. If the ski conditions would have been better I may have let her. But it was our last day of vacation and I wanted to spend the day with her. We ended up driving the Dodge Caravan that Joe rented into Salt Lake to visit the zoo. Rach and Sadie came along too and it ended up being the perfect day to go to a zoo, sunny and in the seventies. Salt Lake’s Hogle zoo is just the right size, we walked it in about three hours and there were plenty of animals to watch. One surprise, a Red Panda, it looked like a cross between a raccoon and a fox with a beautiful fire red coat. The map for the zoo was coherent enough that Olivia could follow it and I was stunned by her ability to conceptualize our movements though the park. She even plotted our course by which animals she and Sadie wanted to see.

The zoo experience ended with an hour long playground romp at Discovery Land, a corner of the zoo dedicated to children. There were a few slick hands-on type things, a bat cave, a snake slide, giant eggs that Olivia and Sadie could hatch from and some other play apparati. It was a great place to parent watch. Unlike local parks where most parents are stereotypically the same, this play area undoubtedly attracted all sorts. I couldn’t help myself from analytically observing other parents. For instance, a morbidly obese father who’s son (five or six) was passionately pretending to be eaten by an alligator sculpture. The boy was screaming and animating himself with exuberance only to be rebuked by his father for being to loud. The large stationary dad, unable to lift himself off the bench he was attached too, yelling from across the playground at his son to be quiet. Another thing I thought was funny; a curvy mom had her daughter on a leash. In itself not hilarious because I seriously considered one of those for Hailey, but this poor little two year old was strapped to her mother inside an enclosed play area while she was actively climbing, running, sliding, the mom being pulled along while holding a conversation on her cell phone. The parent observations were much more intriguing than watching the animals.

We departed early the next morning. Our shuttle picked us up at seven to take us to the airport. Olivia made her way though the airport like a seasoned traveler. I have yet another complaint about Delta. They had everyone board the airplane and then discovered a problem with the lavatories. We sat on the plane for over an hour before the problem was fixed and then it took an additional forty-five minutes to taxi into position for takeoff. The three hour flight turned into five and I only had about four hours worth of activities for Olivia to occupy herself with. She was getting extremely fidgety the last half hour. Pushing all the buttons, playing with the stow-away tray, kicking the seat in front of her standing in her seat staring at the passengers behind us and she kept getting up to use the restroom. Tiny airplane lavatories are definitely not designed for parent-child uses and both bathrooms were completely disgusting even by an old fraternity boy standard. Seriously, these things resembled port-a-potties at a drunken Oktoberfest.

One more spit at Delta, when Olivia’s brand new pink polka-dot bag came off the luggage carrousel I noticed that one of the plastic pieces which aligns the pull-along handle had been severed; now the bag wobbles and rolls lopsided.

The night we got home Olivia was completely exhausted and she fell asleep before eight o’clock in her bedroom on the hardwood floor. It took her a couple days to catch-up on the lack of sleep during our trip. Coincidently, the insufficient rest had manifested itself while we were in Park City in the shape of night terrors. Thankfully, the midnight screaming, sobbing and convulsing disappeared once we got home.

Olivia had an adventuresome trip chocked full with many first time experiences. There was one big first time for me as well and that was traveling solo with a child in tow. Transforming me from nonchalant explorer into must bring the wipes into the airplane lavatory and scour it clean. Changing me from ‘Uncle Hocky has a Death Wish’ a song my nieces and nephew made up years ago regarding my audacious skiing style, into better not go down that blue (intermediate) run, may get hurt. The other big first for me was being away from Hailey for more than a day. I missed Hailey and Kim. The entire time we were in Park City I felt that something was missing and even while preoccupied with all the fun and exciting activities it was not enough to fill that emptiness.

A Secret Valentine Revealed

Picking up from preschool today Olivia revealed to me that she has a boyfriend. His name is Dillon. She is four years old. How is this possible? She can’t have a boyfriend. Confused about what a boyfriend is she struggled to explain the fact that she has a boyfriend. Here is what I mean:

Olivia and I were about to climb the endless double switch-back faux marble staircase that leads from the preschool to the main facility of our community center. Hailey had already rabbit hopped up the camel-back mountain stairway and was out of sight. She does that every day. Olivia moves at turtles pace and I usually get stuck in the middle, encouraging Olivia to move quickly and pleading for Hailey to decelerate. Today was a bit different. Olivia had Han-Solo-frozen-in-carbonited me on step number one.

Rewind two minutes; as we were departing from Olivia’s class room, two boy’s came running up to me showing off their kenixish building toy things, I’m not sure what those are called, you know I have all girls and back in the day all I had was lego.

Verbally pulling Olivia away from the dollies and out of the room to leave, I was ambushed by the two boys, “Look at my spaceship!” A taller crew cut boy shouted.

“Cool!” I shouted back.

Then a little scrawny tussled hair boy showed off his creation, “Look at my spaceship!”

Again “Cool.” Being a veteran of praise sharing I said to the boys, “you both built awesome spaceships.” They backed off, “Come on Olivia time to go, tell you friend’s bye”

Back to me encased in carbonite on stair one and Olivia trying to explain that she has a boyfriend; “That was Dillon” She coyly said. “He’s my girlfriend.”

This is where I get lowered into the carbonite freezing chamber. Olivia played the part of Darth Vader, using the force to switch it on. “You… You mean… Dillon is your boyfriend?” And I already know that the taller thicker clean cut boy is Dillon.

“Naw daddy… he’s my girlfriend.” Halfway up the first leg of the stairway she bashfully said.

Oh, I get it; she wanted me to explain the boyfriend girlfriend relationship.  My feet still frozen to the first step, I attempt to spell it out for her, “You…are…You are Dillon’s girlfriend.” It almost came out like a question.

“Mmm Hmm.” Embarrassed, Olivia shyly turned her back to me and climbed a couple more steps.

“So that makes Dillon your boyfriend.” I tried to sound like an authority on human relations, but felt nauseated explaining to her.

“Mmm Hmm” She turned the corner ascending the next level (of stairs).

Hailey’s Broken Heart

Thursday night is Pizza Night. I bring home all the ingredients from my family’s restaurant to make them from scratch. Olivia and Hailey will help with the dough, making a few five inch personal sized pies. They add the sauce, ingredients and what doesn’t end up in their mouths, the cheese. Today I stretched the dough into little hearts for them and they finished prepping the pizzas with delight.

After cooking and cooling I always cut the pizzas in half and tonight was no exception. I sliced the little hearts right down the middle. We gathered at the table for dinner and the first thing Hailey said to me was; “you broke my heart.”

To My Hot Wife Kim

You are stronger than the sun, sustaining me, warming me, waking me every day, life revolves around you and without you nothing would exist. I Love You.

My Family Portrait

Padded Answers

Once a month, for a week straight, Kim leaves a bag of maxi pads on the master bath floor wedged between the trash can and a Dora toilet training seat. Not that I mind, I rarely use the tiny five by five cell of a bathroom. Contrarily, the kiddos prefer utilizing the petite lavatory with its compact low to the ground toilet over the spacious, newly remodeled guest/kid bathroom which sports a manly elongated bowl.

One morning, about thirty something days ago, while I was getting dressed for work, Hailey curiously wandered into ‘mommy’s bathroom.’ I was expecting to hear the normal clamor of a two year old preparing to utilize the potty however this was not the case. Instead I was challenged to audibly decipher; a caged gerbil scurrying? Masking tape unraveling? Beanbag body-slamming? I poked my head into the bathroom to find Hailey diving into the feminine hygiene bag, retrieving (in her opinion) gigantic foamy stickers, pealing the sticky paper from the super absorbent pads and reassuringly slapping them down to any object within reach. One on the tub, one on the cabinet, one on the floor, one on the shower curtain and one on herself. “Those aren’t stickers honey.” I removed the one from her belly and stuck it on the counter, leaving the rest of her morning art project for mommy to see.

Forward to this past weekend; during one of Olivia’s numerous post-already-been-tucked-into-bed bathroom reprieves asked, “What are dose (those) daddy?” pointing to the bag of off-brand Kotex.

Not exactly prepared to explain the whole menstruation thing I panicked, “Uh…um… Those are mommy’s… diapers.”

She gave me a look of disbelief, “mommy’s diapers?” Her inquisitive face expressed; what does mommy need diapers for?

“Yes sweetie, sometimes mommy needs diapers.”

The thought of it confounded her, “For bed time?” Olivia only wears diapers at night.

I started a long winded rambling explanation of mommy’s cycle using words like puberty, ovulation and fertilization. I droned on, babbling about natural comparisons to phases of the moon, all the while avoiding the details of painful cramping and blood loss which is really the purpose of the pad. After a minute or so of monotone egg-headish lecturing, Olivia sensed my elusive banter and cut me short, “We’ll talk about that later daddy.”

Once again I have made a parental mistake. Why couldn’t I have said, ‘those are to absorb blood.’ I know she needs the truth no matter how messy, instead I gushed around the subject and now she isn’t going to trust me with divulging important information in the future. I need to be, want to be, the person that she can trust and ask anything. Now she is going to rely on getting information second-hand on the ‘streets’ from her buddies at preschool. Not that her little friends aren’t well informed, most mornings while dropping Olivia off at school, I overhear their light breakfast conversation pertaining to current events such as; the world series, child abduction and voting for constitutional amendments regarding stem cell research. It is obvious some parents are talking to their children, why can’t I?

***

Attempting to win back Olivia’s confidence in my ability to be more forthcoming I took her and Hailey to the Science Centers’ discovery room for a morning activity during our ‘daddy day.’ As planned, Olivia bombarded me with intriguing questions and I answered them with the speed and accuracy of a Ken Jennings wannabee, (the guy who won 70 or so games on Jeopardy). What is a crystal, what is a stethoscope, what is a puffer fish, etc. Our bond was strengthening, her trust in me growing with every prompt succinct and correct answer.

After our allotted forty-five minutes were up in the discovery room, Olivia and Hailey requested we go to see the Tyrannosaurus Rex. A massive thirty foot animatronics display depicting an ordinary day in the Cretaceous period which is a must see every time we visit and we have been to the Science Center at least a half dozen times over the past couple years.

Olivia: “Daddy, is the T-Rex nice?”

Me: “Sure sweetie” Which wasn’t a complete fabrication considering no one really knows.

Olivia: “Daddy, what’s the other one doing?” A fatally wounded Triceratops lay under the T-Rex’s foot.

Me: “I think he is sleeping and T-Rex is trying to wake him up for a game of tag.” The lie was more transparent than the balcony level window that we were viewing the exhibit from. One little deception reversed all my hard work. I quickly attempted to make some truthful commentary, “It’s just a big puppet sweetie. Nothing to worry about.” I could tell she was frightened. Not Hailey though, she was having a great time, shrieking every time the T-Rex roared, turning to me imitating the beast and portraying her own dinosaur “roar!” She repeated the scenario over and over again until we got to the cafeteria.

By mid-day the museum was packed, so I implemented the buddy system. It was so cute and made me so proud to see them holding hands looking out for each other which also instilled a bit more confidence in my ability to take them places I normally won’t because sometimes they have a tendency to dash off in different directions. A few times I could tell they wanted to do just that and I would shout, “Olivia! Hailey! Find your buddy.” And they did.

In the car, on our way home, I was issuing the rundown of the rest of the days’ agenda ending with, “…dinner-time, clean-up and then daddy is going to go vote.” The fact that we had a few previous talks about polling there were plenty of potential truthful answers for me to provide and bolster my ask-dad-anything status. So many issues to discuss: tobacco tax, wage increases, cloning, the whole electoral process, real important stuff to a three year old.

“Are you going to vote yes or no daddy?” An on going debate since Olivia started to notice all the political lawn signs cropping up as of late. The discussions didn’t pertain to any specific issue, just whether it was a yes or no. Olivia liked to flip-flop, yes one day, no the next.

“Well sweetie, that depends on the issue,” and before I could continue.

Olivia proclaimed, “I’m voting pink daddy.”

Hailey didn’t want to be left out either, “Yellow daddy!”

Maybe when they’re ready Olivia and Hailey will come to me with important questions on real life issues, maybe Olivia’s right, maybe, “We’ll talk about that later.

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 11/09/06.

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