Farewell to a Good Friend

January 10, 2012 1 comment

Dear Musical Giraffe/Cow Thingy,

4-month old Connor, asleep but still holding onto his favorite car toy.

There was a time when Connor cried and we had no idea why.  You were there for him.  You were there for all of us.   There were times when he cried every time he was put into his car seat, every time he was left alone for all but a few seconds, and every time we stopped at a red light.  You comforted him.  Nine times out of ten, you mesmerized Connor with your uplifting tunes, stifling his cries and causing him to forget his woes, while also providing Jen and I with at least a few encouraging moments to plan our next move.  Soon, we came to depend on you, and you were always reliable.  You became a fixture, hanging from the handle bar on Connor’s carrier.  You went everywhere that Connor went.  Eventually, Connor learned that he could play you too.  His hand would immediately reach for your handle as soon as he was placed into his car seat.  I remember when Connor was sleeping in his car seat on the way to Pittsburgh.  The car was dead quiet, except for the sound of the wind whooshing past the windows, when suddenly, we heard your sweet music playing from the backseat.  Connor had awoken and before he babbled a word or cried a cry, he gave you a pull.  Sometimes, when we arrived home, we would find Connor fast asleep in the back with his little hand wrapped around your musical handle.  Connor loved you, and you were as appreciated as any parent could ever appreciate a baby’s toy.  Jen and I are incredibly indebted to your service.  Thank you!

The musical giraffe easily has been one of Connor's favorite toys.

In the upcoming days, Jen will attempt to seam rip our beloved musical giraffe/cow thingy in the hopes of finding a battery that might be replaced.  His song started to play off key several weeks ago, but I must admit I was saddened when Jen e-mailed me at work today to tell me that the giraffe/cow’s song was finally no more.  Connor pulled him today and he only emitted an ongoing “errrrrr” sound that would not stop.  Jen left him in her car while she went to work to die peacefully on his own.  Wrote Jen in her e-mail, “He was a good friend to us all.”  That, he most certainly was.

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Please Do Not Disturb

January 8, 2012 Leave a comment

This weekend, we completed another road trip with Connor.  From my recollection, we have now completed seven trips to Pittsburgh and two trips to Virginia with our infant/toddler.  As Connor has grown, these trips have evolved to meet his ever-changing demands.  No trip is ever quite like the one before it.  Early on, he slept for the entire car ride.   Since then, we have steadily progressed to where he sleeps for 60-90 minutes, and then Jen must keep him entertained for the remainder of the trip.  Because Connor never goes more than 3 hours without food (unless he’s sleeping), we now have to stop at least once during each trip so that Connor can nurse.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  On our return trip from Virginia today, we actually made two different stops for Connor.  Thankfully, we have made the trips to Pittsburgh and Virginia so many times, that I know the I-80/I-79 combo and Rt. 15 extremely well, making it easy to think ahead and identify, from memory, a number of different locations that might prove private and remote enough should the occasion arise.  As best as my memory serves, I would like to say “Thank You” to the following locales and/or institutions that have cared for us in our time of need:

  1. St. Gregory’s Catholic Church, Zelienople, PA
  2. I-80 rest stop near Snow Shoe, PA
  3. I-80 rest stop near Reynoldsville, PA*
  4. I-80 rest stop near Barkeyville, PA
  5. Hampton Inn, Lamar, PA
  6. Outlet Shoppes, Gettysburg, PA*
  7. BP Gas Station, Dillsburg, PA
  8. Perkins, Selinsgrove, PA
  9. I-79 rest stop near Slippery Rock, PA
  10. Staples, Clarion, PA
  11. Subway, Milesburg, PA
  12. Super 8 Motel (connected to McDonald’s), Clearfield, PA
  13. South Williamsport Area High School, Williamsport, PA (when we left and then realized we forgot to nurse him)
  14. Rite Aid, Dillsburg, PA

*Designates more than one instance of service.

I guess if we were smart, we would just use a bottle, but this way is more economical.  Plus, it allows for a quick bathroom break, a nap, or some entertainment as I try distract Connor from eating which makes Jen frustrated, and it gives me a sense of adventure.  I now begin each trip wondering, “So, where will we end up today?”  And I’m always amused once we get there.

Winter “Break”

January 2, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the many great perks about being a teacher is Christmas vacation.  This year, I had 11 1/2 days off for “Winter Break.”  As the break nears, teachers and students alike begin noting how they can’t wait for the break, or how badly they need the break.  I, too, was excited for a break, except I knew it really wouldn’t be much of a break, at least not in the truest sense or according to my definition of a break–sit on the couch and do nothing.  In the back of my mind, I kept asking, “A break from what?”  A break from work?  Sure.  And that will be much appreciated.  Will it be completely relaxing and worry-free?  Will I be able to take afternoon-long naps, watch as much football as I want, or catch up on reading or house projects?  With a 10 month old, the answer is most decidedly “No.”

I made the mistake of expecting a relaxing, event-free Thanksgiving break back in November.  However, I got to the end of the long weekend only to realize that it had been nearly as much work as usual.  I just wasn’t “at work.”  Life now is just busy.  The non-stop kind of busy where you’re still doing something even when it’s time to not be doing anything.  Connor needs food.  Connor needs clean diapers.  Connor needs constant supervision so that he doesn’t run head first into the fireplace or unravel an entire roll of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom.  (Yes, he attempted the latter while Jen was using the facility yesterday.)  When scheduling every event, we have to consider Connor’s schedule.  Will it be during a meal?  Will it be over a nap time?  Is it even feasible for us to try to attend at all?  Constant action.  Constant planning.  Constant attention. 

Connor plays with his puppy while standing on his own. The shirt says it all.

Thus, I am glad I mentally prepared myself for the reality of what this break would be.  Granted, these 11 days were a little more low key than normal, as we only had to focus our attention on the home front.  We also cut a few more corners to give ourselves an extra reprieve.  We ate out a little more, used more disposable diapers, and let the dishes pile up more so than usual.  We also surrounded ourselves with family and friends quite frequently so we had a lot of extra help with keeping Connor entertained and supervised.  Still, as the final hours of my Winter Break tick away, I feel only slightly less tired than when it began.  I find myself considering how I will respond tomorrow to the numerous inquiries I will receive: “How was your break?”  Ha!  As I said, it wasn’t really “a break.”  No, it was time away from my job that was well spent with family.  It was well spent with Jen, supporting and caring for each other.  It was well spent with Connor, watching my little boy become a rugrat in the truest sense of the word, and grow up right before my eyes.  He is walking.  He is signing “more” and maybe “all done.”  He is taking naps with a blanket on.  He is picking out a book, handing it to me, and crawling into my lap so that I can read it to him.  Then, when I’m finished, he tells me if he wants me to read it again by either signing “more” with his hands or by pushing it away and reaching for another.  (This is sometimes bad, as I read Curious George On the Go four times in a row tonight before signing “all done” to him and hiding the book under the couch behind me.)  In our living room, when you ask him, he can walk you over to the Christmas tree, the piano, the computer, or the clock.  Again, if asked, he can walk you over to everyone in my immediate family or Jen’s.  (i.e. “Connor, where is Grandma?”)  It is amazing to see how much physical and mental development occurred in 11 days. 

Was it a break?  No.  Was it fun?  Yes.  Would I take 11 more days just like?  Absolutely.  It’s back to the grind tomorrow.  Thank goodness it’s a short week until next weekend.

Happy New Year, 2012!

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

It didn't actually happen, but this is what could have been. Sorry, Connor. I tried.

It’s now a new year, and much different from the last.  This time last year, Jen and I came home from a new year’s party wondering what 2011 would bring.  We knew it would involve a baby, who didn’t yet have a name, but we knew little else to expect.  Tonight, we spent the evening at home with my sister Jackie and her new husband Jason, while Connor slept soundly in a bedroom upstairs.  That baby now has a name, a face, a personality all of his own, and the lives of Jen and I have been radically changed.

We watched the ball drop tonight via a live stream on the internet because we don’t have cable.  It was on a two second delay, but who cares.  I spent the last 31 minutes obsessively trying to get a picture of Connor and I digitally displayed on the ball being dropped in Times Square by using an app that we saw advertised on our internet feed, but from what we can tell, this effort was unsuccessful.  I’m actually quite bummed.  I really wanted to be on the ball with Connor!! 

I look forward to another year before us, and wonder what it will bring.  Truth is, I really have no idea.  I’m just happy to know that it will involve my wonderful family, which now includes Connor.  Funny that the popular New Year’s anthem, Auld Lang Syne, focuses on old acquaintances, while my life now focuses on an important new one.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear.
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’kindness yet
for auld lang syne.

Yet Another Project

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Connor is moving, and therefore, he is now his own worst enemy.  As of right now, he is mostly only interested in things that he could damage, as opposed to things that could damage him.  For instance, he is most intrigued by our laptop computer, cell phones, digital cameras, remote controls, the lever that causes my lazy boy to recline–which he has definitely loosened significantly over the past few weeks–the television, and the piano.  At the same time, he just figured out how to open drawers and is now obsessed with attempting to open any drawer he sees.  His favorite is the the drawer on the end table in our living room.  (Little does he know that it also houses our remote controls, making this a two-for-one bargain as soon as he figures this out.)  He also knows how to open and shut doors that are not already latched, and just recently, he began taking an extra interest in the stairs in our main entryway.  Connor has been walking with our assistance for almost four months now, and has been crawling, in one direction or another, for about two months.  Until now, he literally paid no attention to these steps at all.  He has walked past them hundreds of times, and has rarely ever diverted his attention to touching them, unlike numerous other objects that we are constantly “redirecting” him away from.  Gradually, however, the bottom step presented another Connor-sized flat area that he could easily pound his hands on.  Just this week, the bottom step has provided another place where Connor can easily pull himself up.  If that’s not scary enough, it will not be long before Connor realizes there are more steps above this first one, and sure as your life, he will want to explore them. 

I think Jen would agree with me in saying that this stairway is one of the most beautiful aspects of our house.  It certainly caught my eye the first time we entered the home.  The stairs start with a glass paneled door at the top of the steps and they widen as you approach the bottom.  The steps were carpeted when we first moved in, but after several months, we pulled up the carpeting throughout the entire first floor and discovered that the top of each step was stained in the same beautiful dark color as the stairs’ railing and all of the doors in the entire house.  The stairs are still in great condition, as the worn spots do more to add to the house’s character than to make it look old.  At the bottom, the railing curls around and is secured to the bottom step with an anchor post.  The entire railing is attached to the steps with white spindels.  The face of the steps and the side molding were recently re-painted by Jen’s dad while he was visiting.  They look fantastic!

The trouble with the stairs is the railing and the anchor post.  The post is round, which will make it difficult to attach a baby gate to.  It also drops through the bottom step, not the ground floor, and because the railing curls at the end, it is completely surrounded by spindels, making it difficult to get a straight shot in at it, which is precisely what I will need to do if I’m going to adhere a baby gate to it.  Aside from that, I don’t want to drill into the post and risk damaging it.  If I don’t damage the post while drilling into it, Connor could damage it by pulling on the gate, thus putting too much stess on the post, just like the reclining lever on my lazy boy.  Even if I don’t damage it, I will want to patch the holes one day and finding a matching stain is going to be a pain in the butt.  At one point, I received a quote from a professional to refurbish some of the rough spots on the stairs and he flat out told me that he didn’t think he could match the stain.  As I told Connor today, “we have an old house, which is just another way of saying that everything is more complicated, and therefore more expensive.”  So, how do I attach a baby gate without actually drilling into the anchor post?  I could stretch the gate all the way across to the other wall, but then I block off the entire hallway.  There must be a better way.

Thus, I assembled my finest team of baby-proofing engineers–Jen, Pap Rodgers, and myself–to determine the best way to anti-Connorize our beautiful stairs.  If I couldn’t buy a baby gate that would accomplish what I needed, then I would just have to make one.  We worked through multiple different scenarios with paper and pencil, pieces of scrap wood as models, another baby gate that will eventually be at the top of the steps, and painter’s tape on the floor.  Eventually, Dad and I came up with a model that we felt pretty good about, and that received the blessing of our chief engineer (Jen).  We would attach one end of the baby gate to the wall and the other end would be attached with horizontal braces, which were attached to the molding on the side of the stairs, thus altogether avoiding the anchor post.  We took measurements and made our final notes for a trip to Lowe’s.  I decided I needed a sandwich before we left, though, so we paused to eat some lunch.  Right before leaving, Dad looked at the box of the baby gate we already had and noted that we could buy a 10″ extension.  Why don’t we use our same method, but order the extension so that we can use this current baby gate?  Then we don’t have to make our own.  Brilliant Dad!  The chief engineer approved as well.  A quick check on Amazon proved that we could buy the extension and have it shipped for free in 7-10 days.  That just turned a big project into a much smaller one. 

An entire afternoon of working and brainstorming just to keep one small, little child from falling down the stairs while I’m not looking.  I suppose this face is well worth it.

Dare Devils

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Connor just pulled himself up on the ottoman in our living room, shot Jen and I a mischievious grin, and toddled over to a toy in the middle of the room all on his own.  It’s the first time he’s walked out away from the safety of a coaxing adult.  “Woah!” We both exclaimed as Jen shot up off of the couch, chasing after him with outstretched arms.  She caught up to him right as he decided to plop down himself down, but he was going over sideways so she caught him.  Jen looked over at me and laughed.  “Way to go, buddy.  Mr. Brave Dare Devil,” I said as I watched them.  “Pretty soon you’ll be jumping off of bridges with rubber bands tied around your feet, just like Mommy.”  It was Jen’s turn to shoot me a look now.  “Sssshhhh!”  She laughed.  “Yeah, we should probably lock that video away in the lock box right now.”

She’s not kidding either.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2011 1 comment

Connor is celebrating his first Christmas, and it has been a tremendous joy for each of us to watch him.  As I watched Connor excitedly opening his presents, I was thinking that it was a moment that I hope I always remember.  I couldn’t help but feel among the most blessed of all people.  

You might have thought Connor was a Hollywood star on the red carpet by how well the event was documented, with two running camcorders and almost non-stop camera flashes.  Connor needed little coaxing to open his presents.  He tore into his gifts, opening two from Aunt Jen and Uncle Brian first.  Aunt Jen did a great job of wrapping the presents so that Connor could find places to easily open them.  After that, he knew exactly what to do, and opened presents from Grandma and Papa all by himself, even though they were wrapped normally, as though they were gift-wrapped for an adult.  We were all amazed by how well he did. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Rodgers Family before Christmas Eve service