Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby, Meet the Needle

I've already written, and shown in pictures, about how Nathaniel is growing – in height and in girth.

He's getting fat rolls all over his body. He's got "thunder thighs" and is growing a double chin. His ankles look swollen and his cheeks resemble those of a squirrel stuffed full of nuts.

In other words, he has all the features that mark a baby as healthy but an adult as unhealthy.

On Monday, he was back at the doctor for his monthly checkup. He was happy and playful even as the doctor poked and prodded him. He rolled over and banged his head against the wall, which briefly soured his mood. Then, he resumed cooing and smiling as the pediatrician checked him all over.

Now, the latest measurements: He's 23 1/2 inches tall. Weight: 11 lbs. 6.5 oz.

At some point during the exam, the doctor got out a syringe and stuck it in his thigh. I wasn't there, but according to Michelle, our boy's expression changed the instant the syringe met his skin. His smile vanished, his playfulness halted. For a moment, he looked shell shocked as he experienced a sensation previously unknown to him. Then, a frown, followed quickly – very quickly – by a gaping opening of his mouth and a piercing scream.

More screams followed.

The doctor plunged a second needle into Nathaniel's other thigh, and the boy acted as if the end of the world had truly come. He wailed in agony, pain, disgust, shock and whatever other feelings he may have had. He was truly pissed at this turn of events.

So, Nathaniel got his first shots, vaccines to protect him against seven types of diseases.

He may not remember the injections, but we sure will.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Little Drummer Boy

One fun thing about having a baby is it gives you an excuse to be a child again.

For someone who lapses into immaturity from time to time, this is golden. 

For someone who is flaky, this is golden.

For someone who likes to have fun  – and poke fun at others – this is golden.

For someone who likes to dip into the waters of irreverence, this is golden.

For someone who tries not to take himself too seriously, this is golden.
For someone who can use a periodic injection of zaniness, this is golden.

Am I talking about myself? Maybe.

Watch the video, and you be the judge.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Growing Boy

We pretty much knew that baby Nathaniel is growing. Growing taller. Growing fatter. Growing stronger. Growing more obstinate? Hmmm, depends whom you ask.

Anyway, we've noticed the development, in a micro sort of way. We knew he was taller, because the pediatrician measured him and told us so. We knew he was heavier, because the pediatrician weighed him and told us so.

We also had anecdotal clues: My muscles would tire more quickly when I held him. My arm hurt after I cradled him like a football as we dashed through the airport in Chicago to catch our connection at Christmas. Nowadays, my arm falls asleep from the wrist down when I plop him in the crook created by bending my arm in a "L" shape. It's that tingly sensation, followed by numbness and then a dull pain. That comes more quickly now.

In the stronger category, baby N. can escape with ease from the original swaddling outfit we had for him. It has two, cuddly bear-shaped velcro flaps as the main instrument of restraint, which worked just fine for about a month and a half. Give him a minute now, and he's out.

We've graduated to an elaborate infant-wrapping mechanism called the "Miracle Blanket," which involves numerous flaps for arms, legs and torso and several wrapping techniques to swaddle. Still works, but its days are numbered: Baby N. usually has fought his feet out of it when he wakes in the morning.

But lost in the day to day shuffles are the macro developmental signs, the visual, physical clues and cues. These two photos really bring that to life. Michelle's mother took the first picture, when Nathaniel was two weeks old. Michelle, ever vigilant, snapped the second when baby N. turned two months earlier this week.

See the difference?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Operation Grandma Surprise

We called it Operation Grandma Surprise.

Michelle and I didn't expect to travel anywhere for the Christmas break. We thought how nice it would be to spend the holidays alone – just us and that boy, Nathaniel, who invaded our lives and turned it upside down more than a month prior.

But Michelle had an inch she couldn't scratch, and that itch was Christmas time with her family. For a few years running, we've packed Hviezda the dog and ourselves into the car and driven to Iowa, to eat and be merry with Michelle's family. It had become a de facto tradition, and an enjoyable one at that, and I think she was reluctant to break it.

More to the point, she misses her family around the holidays, when her brothers (and a sister-in-law) come from Nebraska and they, her sister, mother and other relatives gather to swap stories and swig concoctions ranging from spiked Egg Nog to Lover's Wine.

I understood all this completely, and the fact is I enjoy these visits nearly as much as she does. That's a testament to the welcoming nature of my wife's family. But this year, with a newborn, it seemed too much. A two-day drive with a baby not even two months old? Too daunting. Travel on a plane? Too risky. So, we mentally shelved the idea of going anywhere, comforting ourselves with a stress-free (baby not included in that thought) break.

But, as I said, Michelle got itchy.

She checked airline flights and fares periodically. Once I got wind of what she was doing, I did, too. The week before Christmas, Michelle found fares that were reasonable: We'd leave Christmas Day and come back before New Year's Eve, our anniversary.

"What do you think?" she asked.

I thought about it. I liked the idea of not traveling. I also liked the idea of seeing Michelle's family, including her brothers and our sister-in-law, who had yet to meet Nathaniel.

What really clinched it was Grandma.

Grandma Finck, or Virginette as I probably should call her, is a stout woman who shows zero sign of slowing down at the age of 80. The woman is maniacal about cleanliness and tidiness. The floor in the unfinished basement of her century farmhouse is so immaculate you can eat off it. I'm not kidding. I have never, ever seen anything out of place in that house.

Grandma, too, had not been part of the waves of family to meet and greet Nathaniel chez nous. And it was important to Michelle that it happen. This was the best time, she emphasized.

I agreed.

So, away we went, on Christmas Day, courtesy of United and hassled, frazzled connections, to Iowa. Nathaniel met his uncles and aunt and saw his grandmother and other aunt again. He met a new friend, one whose mother is already plotting to pair in marriage in, say, two decades hence. He met and babbled to Pooh Bear, who hovered over his crib dressed in an oversized gardening hat. He got his first breath of bone-rattling cold that it seems only the plains can produce.

And the day after Christmas, he met Grandma, or great-Grandma to him, when we showed up unannounced at her door – Operation Grandma Surprise.

As soon as she opened her door and looked at him, she smiled. And as soon as Nathaniel looked at her, he smiled.

I smiled. Michelle smiled.

We're so glad we made the trip.