One Final Post

February 18, 2012 3 comments

I am reminded of the motto from The Truman Show–“How’s it going to end?”  Jen just peeked over my shoulder and quietly noted, “Woah. The end of the end.”  I guess it is time.

In a single picture, this is Connor.

I first started this blog to record our experiences as our life drastically changed, and to keep in touch with family and friends afar.  I quickly came to find that this blog served that purpose, and so much more.  Time and time again, I am greeted by friends, family, co-workers, and people who I haven’t spoken to in years with a welcome of: “I just love your blog!”  As I flip back through my past posts, I laugh, I cry, I thank God that we have survived, I marvel at how much Connor has already grown.  In the past year, I have experienced what feels like a lifetime of emotions.  This blog marks the highlights of the most remarkable year Jen or I have ever experienced. 

Upon seeing the initial enjoyment generated by the blog, I pledged to blog for the first year of Connor’s life.  I am happy that I have achieved that goal.  There was a time this summer when I thought that since the blog had been so much fun and so successful that I would just keep going after Connor’s first birthday, but as his birthday neared, I found myself with less and less free time and less and less desire to spend what little free time I had on the blog.  Therefore, I have decided to make this my final post…at least for now.

I would like to thank everyone for the incredible feedback you have always provided.  The truth is, you guys kept this going for a year.  I probably would have given up on this long ago without your support.  Instead, Jen and I now have this awesome collection of thoughts, feelings, and experiences to always look back on.

To my wife, you are an amazing wife, mother, and person.  I am so thankful to have you by my side, as my partner in life with whom to experience this all with.  I love you.

Connor, at his second first birthday party in Pittsburgh. His mouth had already been partly cleaned up.

To Connor, I am continually surprised and dumbfounded at my past naivety concerning how much I love you.  I once told a friend that having a child is the most incredible experience imagineable.  You get married and you think that you could never love anyone as much as you love that person, and then you look upon your own child and you hold him in your arms for the first time, and instantly someone exists who rivals, and in some ways surpasses, that love.  In my life, that person is you, Connor.  God willing, your mother and I have many days ahead of us as your parents.  Some of them will be good, and some of them will undoubtedly be very challenging.  Know that I am already praying for guidance and patience for those challenging days, just as I am already praising and thanking God for the good ones.  Upon the conclusion of this post, I plan to print a copy of this blog that will be saved and given to you at an appropriate time in the distant future, though I don’t yet know when that might be.  I trust that I will some how know when it is time.  In some way, I hope that the reading of these stories will be as enjoyable for you as they have been for all of us, for it is your story as much as it is ours.  I also hope this will allow you to better know your parents and to remind you of just how much we love you.  I am so excited to see what life has in store for you and for all of us.

In closing tonight, I will quote a song that has been playing relentlessly in my head for the past few weeks.  For Christmas, Jen bought Connor a baby DVD.  I was skeptical, but Connor absolutely loves it.  He sits on our lap as still as a statue when it plays.  I pretty much detest kiddy music, but the music on this DVD is tolerable.  There is one song, in particular however, that Jen and I actually really like.  It’s now one of Connor’s favorite songs too, and is my new go-to song whenever he is fussy or crying.  As I just discovered, it’s actually a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song.  I love it because as I sing the song, I picture a father summoning his son for a grand adventure together.  To where?  The objective is uncertain, but in truth, it does not matter.  That is very much the way I picture the two of us at this moment, with a long life of adventure before us that we have yet to experience.  The specifics of that future are unknown, but I am excited, beyond excited, that it will be together.

Pony boy, pony boy, won’t you be my pony boy?
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, whoa, my pony boy.

Ride with me, ride with me, won’t you take a ride with me?
Underneath the starry sky, my pony boy.

Over the hills and through the trees, we’ll go ridin’ you and me.
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, whoa, my pony boy.

Down into the valley deep; ‘neath the eaves we will sleep.
Sky of dreams up above, my pony boy.

Me and my Pony Boy.

1 Year Old

February 5, 2012 1 comment

"...Happy Birthday dear Con-nor..."

Said my friend Karl upon the celebration of his daughter’s first birthday, it marks “the most definitive year of my life.”  I agree entirely.  All week long, I was reminded of moments that marked the days leading up to Connor’s arrival last year.   I remembered our last weekend together before Connor–a high school basketball game, dinner at TGIFridays, and a movie with a nice fire in our fire place.  I remembered that we had a major ice storm mid-week, that I called in my emergency sub day on a day when I was supposed to have a guest speaker for an anti-drugs program in my class, (She was back again on Friday and remarked that I was here this year.), and of course that I watched last year’s Super Bowl on a 12″ TV in Jen’s postpartum room.  All day today, I was again surrounded by a flood of memories that marked one of the happiest days of my life–Connor’s birth. 

 

First birthdays are as much, if not more, a celebration for the parents as they are for the child.  It’s a celebration of that definitive first year.  A celebration of “Holy cow! Did we really just make it here?  Did we really just keep a child healthy, happy, and alive for an entire year?”  Yes, we did!  And I was so ready to celebrate that fact today.  Connor is alive.  Connor is healthy.  And anyone who has spent just a little bit of time with Connor notes that he is certainly a vibrant, happy baby.  Connor certainly won’t remember his first birthday, but this event more so filled the purpose of: “We love our son, and he is the most important person in our life.  He is such a blessing to us.  Come celebrate with us!”

Jen made Connor a doggie cake as the centerpiece to the doggie-themed party.

Jen and I worked hard preparing for today’s birthday party with friends and family, and it was well worth it.  We both had a great time.  Connor had a blast.  People started arriving toward the end of Connor’s afternoon nap.  When he woke up, about half our guests had arrived.  He played with his friends Cadence and Sabra.  Showed off his eating ability to Great Aunt Joan and Great Uncle Don.  He opened every one of his presents all by himself and immediately wanted to play with all of them.  He loved every second of everyone singing “Happy Birthday” in unison, and after some coaxing, decided he loved birthday cake (though he only ate about four bites before signing “all done”).  He definitely crashed hard at bedtime tonight.  I think Jen and I probably will too.

For the second straight year, the Super Bowl played second fiddle in our lives this weekend.  Today, my son turned one year old.  I could not be happier, and I could love nothing more on this earth than I love him.  Happy Birthday, Connor!  We love you so much!

We all have made it one year!!!

Who Did This?

February 5, 2012 1 comment

Today we are celebrating Connor’s first birthday.  More on this to come, but I have to post this question now before I forget (because I’ve been forgetting for a year now).  When Connor was born, we were welcomed home with a banner outside our home.  Who should we thank for this?  I still have no idea who.  To whoever you are, thank you.  But I want to know who!

A Bath For the Ages

February 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I sat at school today trying to think of something to blog about.  I had nothing.  But just as I was thinking that I didn’t have anything to say, Jen asked me to give Connor a bath tonight.  Bath time is usually Jen’s thing.  Connor typically clings to her when he’s tired anyway, and it gives me about 20 minutes of independent “Mike time,” even if I spend it washing dishes, or diapers, or preparing lunches for the next day.  More recently, however, Connor has been in an anti-bath phase, which makes bath time much more stressful than normal.  Last week, Jen announced bath time would begin to be a shared and/or tag team activity.  This was okay with me.  I had already gotten out of my fair share of bath duty over the past 12 months.

As Connor became tired tonight, I suggested that we give Connor a bath tonight since Nana and Pap would be babysitting Connor tomorrow night.  (Connor only gets a bath every other night.)  Jen thought this as a good idea too, except that Connor’s birthday cake was in the oven and it needed to be “watched closely.”  I don’t think Jen trusted me with this momentous task, so it was suggested that I take her up on my agreement to help out with Connor’s bedtime routine.  I agreed and reached to take Connor from her arms, but Connor clung to her shirt, like he always does.  Connor stopped whining as we reached the top of the stairs and I prepared his bedroom for bed before taking him into the bathroom.  Connor quietly watched as I prepared his bath and fussed only a little as I started to undress him.  He was actually in pretty good spirits as I began to remove his diaper when…”Oh man!”  Yes, it was a poopy diaper.  Connor had smelled for the past hour, but I thought it was just wet.  I even peeked down the back of his diaper at one point, but it had looked clean.  It obviously was not. 

"Dada is great, as long as he's not trying to give me a bath."

I think the bath may have gone much differently if Connor would have gone straight into the water.  Instead, Connor let out a scream as I laid his bare backside down on the cold bath mat to wipe his butt with a cold wet wipe.  I wiped him as fast as I could and carried him over to the tub.  Connor began crying louder as his feet entered the water and he refused to sit down, turning and reaching for me instead.  Remembering that Jen had suggested that I get into the bath with him, I stepped back and started removing my clothes as quickly as possible.  Soon, I was in the bath tub with him, but it made no difference.  Connor continued to wail, his lip quivering with each cry now as he became colder.  I forced him to sit down with me in the tub, but that only somehow managed to make him cry harder.  I quickly bathed Connor, as best as one can with a screaming, flailing baby who is refusing to sit.  I grumbled to myself as I watched little poop floaties drift past my leg while rinsing Connor’s hair.  Apparently my rushed wipe job hadn’t been very precise.  Connor faced toward me, grabbing for my arms and shoulders, wanting for me to pick him up and carry him out of the tub.  “The only way this can get any worse is if he peed on me right now,” I remember thinking.  I steadied Connor as I stepped out of the tub, water dripping across the floor and my clothes that lay on it.  Connor’s crying slowed, but only until he saw that reaching for his towel was a priority, instead of immediately turning around to get him out, as though I was just going to abandon him in the tub…really Connor?  I wrapped him snuggly in his ducky bath towel and held him close to my body, knowing he was cold.  His crying finally subsided, morphing into a series of faint whimpers, finally feeling safe and secure again.  I looked down at my damp clothes on the floor.  There was no time for them right now.  I took my birthday suit and headed for Connor’s bed room.  However, Connor immediatley let out a wail again as soon as he was laid back down so that I could put a new diaper and  a sleeper on him.  I shushed him.  I sang to him.  Nothing was working, but Connor lay still, flat on his back, crying loudly with his lip still quivering.  I now felt badly for him, knowing that I was moving too slowly.  Soon, Jen finally came to my aid, shooting me a wink and a “Lookin’ good!” as she knelt beside me and began helping to put Connor into his sleeper.  (Okay, so I embellished that last part, but give me the satisfaction.)  Jen quickly fastened the buttons I had been fumbling with, and scooped up Connor, who finally calmed as she rubbed his back and combed his hair.  “Thank goodness,” I said, speaking for Connor.  “Dada doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing!”  I watched them for a moment, as Connor snuggled in close to his mommy.  “Well…I’m gonna go put on some clothes,” I said finally as I stood up.  “Dada!” exclaimed Connor in his familiar call.  I smiled, turning back.  “Will you give me a kiss goodnight?  Or are you too mad at me right now,” I asked as I moved my cheek in front of his face.  He babbled something happily before leaning forward to kiss me.  Jen interpreted, “I still love you, Daddy.”  Connor pulled back and then babbled something much more directly while looking right at me.  Jen laughed, “But do better next time!”

Sigh…I’ll try Connor.  Dada will try.

On Such a Winter’s Day

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

In September, I remember wondering how we were ever going to survive the winter because Connor loved being outdoors so much.  He really hasn’t been able to go out very much lately, but today provided an excellent opportunity with sunny weather and temps in the mid to upper 40s.  Connor was very excited to go outside again, and knew exactly what we were talking about when Jen told him the plan.  Jen was also excited for Connor to go outside–“He hasn’t been outside since he’s learned how to walk.”  Jen first put Connor in his super heavy winter coat, despite the mild temperatures.  This immediately through off his walking.  Apparently the coat was too heavy for him, making him top heavy and therefore throwing off his balance.  After several minutes, multiple near falls, and a full out face plant into a soft patch of grass, Connor’s heavy coat was finally replaced with a lighter one.  Incredibly, problem solved. 
 
Just like in the summer, Connor was instantly excited to be outside.  At first, he just stood in one place, seemingly taking it all in, quietly looking around at his surroundings and laughing as a cool breeze blew into his face, like Andy Dufresne standing in the middle of the river after escaping from Shawshank Prison.  He was out.  He was free.  He was loving it.  We walked him around to the backyard, where we finally changed his coat, and our friend Dan created a pile of small sticks for Connor.  Jen continued her sentimental ways–“Just think.  This is the first time he’s ever held a stick.  It’s crazy to think about.”  Connor continued playing and re-discovered leaves, crinkling and shredding them with his fingers…before trying to eat them.  At this point, I walked Connor over to some evergreen hedges, letting him feel the texture of the plants.  While there, Connor peered around the hedge and excitedly pointed toward the road–“Da da!”  (Remember, “da da” can be anything that he is excited about.)  I looked.  Connor was pointing toward the cars passing on the road in front of our house.  I smiled.  “C’mon Connor.  Let’s go see the trucks,” I said, remembering that watching the cars was Connor’s favorite activity all summer.  Connor took hold of my hand and together we began walking toward the road.  “Rrrrmm.  Rrrrmm,” Connor growled in his throat, making the sound he makes when he plays with his toy trucks.  We reached the sidewalk in front of our house where Connor stopped, watching as the first car passed, and quietly turning his head to watch it continue down the road before finally letting out a yell of glee.  “Here come some more,” I pointed out from the other direction.  Connor turned to see them approaching.  I looked down to see he was waving at them.  Once they passed, he performed several babbling “victory circles,” as we call them (when Connor quickly walks in a tight circle around the legs of whoever’s hand he is holding).  It was as if nothing had changed between now and August.  I had been bracing myself that those days were over and that Connor had moved on to better things; that gone were the days when Connor would sit on my lap and be fascinated by the passing traffic.  Instead, for the better part of 15 minutes, Connor stood with me next to our front sidewalk, watching and giggling as the cars passed by.  Sure, it was January, and sure, Connor was now walking and waving at the passing cars, but there we were, enjoying the cars and enjoying our time together on a warm winter’s day.  It made me excited for winter to break in a few months.  Connor is, and will be, the same boy.  He will just be so much more fun now.
 

No longer bound to the front porch swing, Connor still enjoys watching the traffic.

Stayin’ Alive

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Haven’t posted in awhile.  Sorry.  We’re still here.  I’ll try to post something of more substance soon.  Connor is developing in leaps and bounds.  Last Wednesday, I came home from school and set him down on the bedroom floor, like I always do, where I can keep an eye on him while I change.  Then I go into our master bath and take my contacts out while calling to him.  I make sure he’s crawling over to me before getting a head start in the bathroom.  That day, I called to him and saw he was crawling toward me.  I stepped into the bathroom and realized that he was taking longer than normal to arrive.  Just as I was about to poke my head around the corner to see what trouble he was into, I heard him coming.  I continued to remove my contacts when out of the corner of my eye I saw Connor proudly running, not crawling, around the corner.  “Holy crap!” I shouted as I scrambled over to him, afraid he would topple over and smack his head off of the tile at any moment.  At the drop of a hat, Connor now walks on his own and at his own discretion.  He is no longer limited to puddle jumping between nearby objects.  His vocabulary is increasing every day as well.  He now likes to flip through the digital photo albums Jen has made of him.  Connor sits on our lap and names all of the people he knows.  Tonight, Jen brought him into the kitchen to say goodnight.  I leaned forward to kiss him goodnight, but he intercepted me, planting a kiss on my cheek instead.  As Jen turned to leave with him, I waved.  “Goodnight buddy.”  Connor looked back at me as Jen carried him out of the kitchen.  “Buh buh, Da Da,” he said as he waved back.  I melted.

Currently, Connor has a runny nose and a cough.  He’s been rather fussy and didn’t want to eat dinner tonight.  Jen says, “Teeth are imminent.”  This Doubting Thomas will believe it when he sees it.

More to follow.  We’re just stayin’ alive one day at a time here at the Rodgers’ Ranch.

A Dad’s Review of Reusable Diapers

January 15, 2012 1 comment

After using reusable diapers on Connor for over seven months, I now feel qualified to give them an honest, accurate review.  So here goes…

Next on the runway is Connor, sporting this red and white printed Bumgenius diaper that snaps easily and comfortably around his waist.

Our friend Karen introduced Jen to reusable diapers when her daughter was an infant about four years ago.  My eco-friendly sweetheart took to them immediately and has been set on using them ever since then.  According to Jen, they are stylish, easy, and way better than the cloth diapers from when we were babies, which is what I was envisioning.  I told Jen that I was willing to try it, and she dove into the research, gathering samples and making initial purchases.  By the middle of June, we were full-bore reusable diaper users.  For awhile, we tried out Softbums and Bumgenius diapers.  I had no idea that they would come in so many different variations.  Softbums diapers come with a colorful outer shell that velcros around Connor’s waist.  Inside the shell is a removeable cloth insert that snaps into the outer shell.  When it is time to change Connor’s diaper, the insert is simply snapped out of the shell, tossed into a laundry bag, and replaced with a clean one.  Unless there is a major blowout, the colorful shell can be reused for the rest of the day.  Bumgenius diapers are similar, but the cloth insert is stuffed into a pocket in the outershell, meaning that the entire diaper, shell and all, must be tossed into the laundry bag with each change. At first we preferred the Softbums diapers with the replaceable, snap insert, until we got tired of handling the urine-soaked inserts and realized that we wouldn’t have to do that if we used the Bumgenius type.  Thus, we eventually invested most of our money in collecting a stockpile of Bumgenius reusable diapers.

Before Connor was born, a friend confidently predicted that we would quickly desert our reusable diaper ambitions.  Dealing with poopy diapers would just be too disgusting to continue.  Granted, nothing is as easy as folding over a messy diaper and forever depositing it in a garbage can, but let me give you a number of reasons why we are still using them today.

  1. According to information cited on the Softbums and Bumgenius websites, users of cloth diapers will save between $800 and $1,200 per year.  That’s an average of $1,000 per year, per baby.  Let me say that again.  $1,000 per year!  I’m all about saving money, especially $1,000.
  2. They really are very easy to use.  Again, they come in different varieties.  Some velcro around the waist, while others use a snap system.  The velcro is obviously easier to use, but the snaps really aren’t a big deal either and they become easier once you get the hang of using them, plus they last longer.  Once it’s time to change the diaper, you pull it off just like you would a disposable, but instead of tossing it in the garbage can, you put it into a mostly odor-proof diaper bag.  When it’s time to wash the diapers, you just turn the bag upside down into the washing machine and start it up.  When the diapers are dry, you re-stuff all of the shells and they are ready to use.  All told, it probably takes us ten extra minutes to wash, dry, and re-stuff the diapers.  Additionally, Connor loves to “sort” and play with the clean diapers while we stuff them, so this part of the process actually becomes a game.
  3. They really aren’t any more disgusting than changing a normal diaper.  Assuming Connor goes #2, once he is fitted with a new diaper, I simply unend the poopy diaper over the toilet and flush.  Seldom is Connor’s poop so sticky that it will not immediately dislodge from the fabric.  On those rare occasions, I just wipe it out with a wad of toilet paper.  You might say that is gross, and it is, but considering that I just finished wiping Connor’s butt anyway, it’s really not a big deal. 
  4. You might argue that while we’re saving money in diapers, we are losing money in costs of detergent, water, and electricity.  Obviously, yes, these are additional costs.  However, we have a high-efficiency washer and drier, which means our costs in these categories are minimal.  Furthermore, in examining our water and sewage bills over the past two years, I see only a $10-20 increase per quarter and I must also account for a rate increase.
  5. Supposedly, cloth diapers prevent diaper rash.  From what I hear, diaper rash can be nasty.  We have yet to encounter a serious bout of it.  Whatever keeps Connor happy, keeps me happy too.

From the above five points alone, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use cloth diapers.  Yeah, they are a little more work, but I think the savings are well worth it.  Plus, as Jen reminds me, we are saving the environment (yeah, yeah, yeah).  For awhile, Jen was driving herself nuts trying to make sure that she only used reusable diapers.  That simply isn’t practical, and I reminded her to keep things in perspective.  Don’t drive yourself crazy doing round-the-clock laundry when you can slap a disposable diaper on the kid every once in awhile until you have time to take care of the dirty load. 

Early on, Jen pushed reuseable wipes, as well.  This product does not get my vote of approval, and thankfully it went by the wayside.  It makes me feel like I have to prep for surgery before every poopy diaper change, and God help you if you start a diaper change before realizing that there’s a surprise waiting for you inside and then you’re unprepared and the disposable wipes are not within reach.  That just gets messy.  She bought a special spray that we were supposed to use with the reusable wipes in place of water.  It doesn’t work and it smells funny, not to mention that using reuseable wipes increases the likelihood of getting your hand smeared with poop.  It’s just not worth it.  Case closed. 

All of the above is true.  Yet, the events of the last week beg that I leave you with a final warning.  Knowing the success with which we have had with reusable diapers, several expecting couples who we are friends with have asked us about reusable diapers,  We eagerly shared with them everything we knew and gave the diapers our full endorsement.  However, I feel obligated to tell you that in the past week, I have had to deal with two diapers that if I would have dealt with them early on in our cloth diaper experiment, I may be singing a different tune today.  For whatever reason, the consistency of Connor’s poop changed at the same time that his volume increased, making it impossible to shake out the diaper over a toilet, and every attempt I made to scrape it off with toilet paper just made the situation worse.  To be frank, it was pretty disgusting.  I say this not to gross you out, but to warn you that I guess circumstances can and will arise which may permanently or temporarily make you regret your decision to go green with your baby’s diapers.  However, both of those diapers happened within 48 hours of each other, and we have not had a similar situation since.  They have honestly been the only ones that have made me second-guess our decision. 

In conclusion, I give reusable diapers a nearly full endorsement.  They are easy to use and will save you a lot of money.  At the same time, users must be forewarned that occasions may arise during which a healthy perspective toward your baby, spouse, and life in general must be maintained.  If while swooshing a poopy diaper in a bowl of filth you are unable to calmly remind yourself, “I am saving $1,000 and planet Earth.  I am saving $1,000 and planet Earth,” then reusable diapers might not be for you.  At the same time, these instances, from my experience, are extremely rare, so my advice would be to suck it up, save up for something nice, and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

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