Planned parenthood

With the first kid, you learn to schedule. With the second, you get scheduling down to an art.

When the Phillips family has to leave the house, planning ideally begins the night before. Before I hit the sheets, I must calculate how many things we need to do before we get out the door, how long it takes to do them and how much “cushion time” we will need in case of such unanticipated emergencies as poop explosions and oatmeal hairdos. Because I like sleep, I will rack my brain to see if there are ways I can multitask and save time. For instance, if I pack the diaper bag and feed the baby while Maddi is in her high chair, that saves half an hour — but only if I time it perfectly, since James needs to be fed at least every three hours.

Conversely, if I do Maddi’s hair before the last minute, I will spend an extra 10 minutes fixing it at the last minute anyway when she gets bored and destroys her carefully constructed ponytails. Very much like a football coach outlining moves on a whiteboard, I have a finely-tuned game plan in my head hours or even days ahead of almost any outing. Amazingly, we have never been late to a pediatrician’s appointment, and I credit it all to planning.

When James was seven weeks old, my planning and multitasking skills were sorely tested when I decided to hit the fabric store and perhaps the mall — with both kids and no husband, on the spur of the moment.

Having just fed James, I figured we had a good three hours — an hour for travel and two for shopping. As we don’t have a double stroller yet, I planned to wheel Maddi in the stroller while carrying James in the sling. I even planned the order in which I would remove them from and return them to the vehicle. However, I failed to calculate the extra time it would take to load and unload two children from the car. Somehow, I managed to not just double but triple the time of entry and egress. I should have remembered that not only would I need to unbuckle James (doubling my time right there), but I would also need to don my sling, tuck him in (not an easy task as he is a wiggly worm!) and cover him with a blanket to protect against the weather (below 0 on that particular night).

Needless to say, rather than being the smooth, well-oiled travel machine we should have been, the Phillips mom-and-babies team faltered that night. I had planned on putting Maddi in the stroller and then tucking James in the sling, but Chris pointed out that the sling is tricky and Maddi would be spending a fair amount of time in the cold. Unfortunately, I failed to realize that if James was in the sling while I was getting Maddi out of her seat and strapped into the stroller, he would be spending an equal amount of time in the cold, but with a lot less fat protecting him. So we entered the fabric store with Maddi (as usual) grabbing everything in sight and dragging it into the stroller, James screaming and struggling in the sling, and me about to lose it. Needless to say, James was the first kid back in the car.

By the time I had navigated the fabric store’s narrow aisles with a gigantic stroller and a frontful of wriggling baby, made my purchases and then wrestled two freaking-out, tired kids back into their carseats, I was ready to skip the mall and call it a day. We’d left the house about 4:30 and somehow, we’d made it to 5:45 with only one thing accomplished. But since James’ last feeding had been at 4 and he eats every two hours toward evening as the big build-up for bedtime, he was fading fast. The cold air put my hungry boy over the edge and he began screaming at the top of his lungs as soon as we were settled in the car. The screaming upset Maddi and she thrust her germ-laden hands in his face to “help” with his pacifier, which made him scream even harder. We were definitely not going to make the 30-minute drive home.

So we stopped at the mall instead, where it somehow took 15 minutes to unload the kids and make it to the parenting room. (Part of that 15 minutes, I must confess, consisted of me dialing 411 to find the number for the fabric store in whose parking lot I thought I’d dropped my sling — only to discover that I’d never actually taken it off.) I miraculously managed, in the span of 30 minutes, to feed both kids, burp and diaper James, and let Maddi work off some of her energy playing with toys and jumping off chairs. I tried to visit a kids’ store that was having a 70 percent-off sale, but with Maddi pulling clothes off hangers and tantruming, I did the unthinkable and left the mall, the enticing sale racks left unplundered. With the kids (relatively) happy and fed, we headed home. Since loading the stroller is more involved than unloading, it took 20 minutes to get everything in the car. And I didn’t even bother locking the stroller’s wheels properly, because I was that ready to be done with my shopping trip.

Needless to say, I’ve put a moratorium on shopping alone with the kids until such time as I have a double stroller and more than two hours’ sleep in a row.

And here they are, James’ seven-week and eight-week pictures, respectively:

Lost in Translation

It’s said that moms have many jobs, including maid, chef, waitress, daycare attendant, nurse, taxi driver, teacher, etc. But one of the things the people who write these lists seem to consistently leave off is the job I find myself assuming most often — that of interpreter.

The difficulty of this job rivals that of any such position at the U.N., for what language is more rare than the one that belongs exclusively to one person and is evolving almost hourly? Maddi has a unique patois in which most words sound remarkably similar and in which the last consonant — and often the last few syllables along with it — is completely unnecessary.

“Ba,” for instance, means ball — unless it means “bear,” “bottle,” “box,” or “bath.” Much like Mandarin, inflection is key. Depending on the subtlest nuances, “tchee” could mean “cheese” or “Cheerios.” “Bwuh” could be “brush” — but is equally likely to mean “bracelet.” Of course, the interpretation must be quick and accurate lest we incur the wrath of the toddler; thus, Chris and I have become quite the experts in translations from the Maddish tongue.

To the uninitiated, there’s very little difference between her words for “Daddy,” “James,” “Sticker,” “drink,” “pacifier” and “What’s this?” — yet we can tell you in a millisecond exactly which one she’s using.

Like Trekkies who learn the Klingon lexicon, Maddi’s fans find great joy in learning new “words.” For instance, today, as she was digging around on the floor with a giant upside-down fake flower and saying, “Shuddo ‘no! Shuddo, shuddo, shuddo!” I was delighted to figure out that rather than spouting gibberish, our daughter was actually saying “Shovel snow! Shovel, shovel, shovel!” as she imitated what Chris was doing that very moment outside the window.

Maddi can also be seen cooking breakfast for her dolls on any given day. She’ll sit the doll in her toy high chair and say “Ghoogey?” (“Yogurt?”). Then she’ll cook up a bowl of something in the play kitchen’s microwave and serve it up to her doll, admonishing, “Hot, hot!” (We’re not sure why yogurt would be hot — perhaps her baby opted for oatmeal instead and we weren’t privy to the order as it was given telepathically. After all, oatmeal, like anything else that comes from the stove or microwave, except for “paba,” or pasta, is called “hot-hot.”) Her doll will often utter an appreciative “Mmmmmmm!”

She’s also working on her table manners. Maddi has the cutest little “please” you’ve ever heard. When prompted — or if she remembers — she will smile and yell a very enthusiastic (and persuasive) “Peeeeeeee?” Occasionally she will also say “Thank you,” which, like her words for “pacifier” and “sticker,” still sounds a lot like “Dada.”

One of the cutest things she’s done recently is name her first doll. Among the decorations for her baby shower was a bathtub with a tiny kewpie doll in it. Maddi recently discovered the doll and immediately dubbed the doll — her smallest by quite a bit — “James.” (Or as she says, “Dzhay-dzhay.”) I thought it was a one-afternoon thing, but she has continued calling him Jay Jay, and has persuaded Chris to put the little doll in James’ bouncy seat when James isn’t available to fill it.

She continues to dote on James, sharing tummy time with him, trying to brush his hair and adjust his pacifier, and burping him (she has actually produced a few good belches!). Today, since James is doing much better in the head-control department, I asked her if she’d like to hold James in her lap. Maddi beamed the biggest smile you ever saw and held James for a good several minutes until he began crying (through no fault of hers — she did a stellar job and was very gentle!). For the rest of the day, she pestered me for the baby, patting her outstretched legs and begging, “Dzhay? Dzhay?”

Speaking of new experiences, on Friday, for the first time ever, Maddi put her own shirt on without any help from Mommy or Daddy. Then today, she did it again, but also put on her own pants unassisted. She was extremely proud, needless to say, and uttered a happy “I-didit!”

And here, for your viewing pleasure, are some images of pure Maddi cuteness!

Oh, boy! A “pane”!

Hot dog! (If you don’t “get” the caption, take a look in the microwave!)

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

Tummy time with Jay

Sleeper hit

Normally, on a person’s birthday, it is customary for us to give them a little something. However, darling James was apparently in a generous mood on the night of his six-week birthday and decided to give Mommy a present. No, silly, not a “Mommy present,” as Chris so hilariously (or not, if you happen to be Mommy) refers to the offerings of our babies’ bowels. This present, for once, was pleasant and entirely odorless. Our wee boy slept for a record-breaking six and a half hours.

Of course this insanely long stretch of sleep was preceded by a four-hour cluster-feeding frenzy, but I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. When James squeaked this morning and I arose to discover it was not 2 or 3 a.m. but a quarter to 6, I nearly died from the sheer delight of having had more than three hours of sleep in a row (his previous record). James has been on a growth spurt of late, and theoretically his tummy is getting bigger as well, but you wouldn’t have known it until last night as he’s been eating steadily around the clock.

Our little premie’s eating has paid off, as he now weighs in at 9 lb 12 oz and measures just a hair shy of 21 inches long. It’s not much for a six-weeker, but it’s certainly not shabby for a little boy of 9 days, which is James’ gestational age.

James is reaching lots of milestones now that he’s supposed to be born. He’s holding his head up for short periods while being burped or enjoying tummy time, he says things like “ahhh” and “ah-gaa” on occasion, and if Daddy’s holding him, he’ll watch me as I walk from one side of the room to another. He has now officially destroyed many outfits with multiple brands of bodily fluids (not just pee). He can roll from his back to his side if he’s mad enough — of course we don’t let that happen very often. And I swear he has even been spotted on a few occasions (only by me, as usual!) using balled fists in a crude attempt to shove his pacifier back in his mouth.

Today, we purchased James’ first sling. (We would have put him in Maddi’s sling, but our chiropractor told me to stop using it. If the back problems weren’t enough, it swallowed his sister for the first four months of her life and she was about twice his size when she was his age!) We tried it out at the mall, and just as I suspected, our snugglebug felt right at home cuddled up next to Mommy. As soon as his suckie got properly adjusted in his little mouth, James promptly fell asleep. Maddi wouldn’t tolerate more than a few minutes in the sling, but then she is an adventurous and squirmy little soul. James, who has been laid-back since his fetal days, apparently likes nothing better than to be cradled next to my heart and will lie contentedly in his sling for hours on end. We walked around the mall and when we left, it wasn’t because Maddi was misbehaving or James was screaming; it was because Chris had reached his shopping threshold.

Of course, all the sleeping he does in the sling may very well backfire and destroy his new and improved nighttime sleeping, but that remains to be seen.

Here’s what James’ blog is really about — the cute baby pictures:

Land of the midnight son

Because it’s so close to the North Pole and therefore can get upwards of 20 hours of sunshine on a summer’s day, Alaska is often called the land of the midnight sun. Lately, we’ve discovered that our home is not so dissimilar to the far-northern tundra. Normally our home is rather Arctic anyway, as Chris likes to keep the thermostat set not a single degree above “glacial.” But with the addition of James, the similarities have, shall we say, snowballed.

Because of our early bird’s fragile immune system, we are isolated from the rest of society right now. But mostly, our house resembles Alaska because it is the land of the midnight son. You see, for multiple reasons, James has become nocturnal of late. Much like summertime up north, when people cannot tell whether it’s day or night, our wee son has thrown my sleep schedule into utter chaos. After a day of on-again, off-again napping and snacking, James rises at 11 p.m. and, like an itty-bitty vampire, proceeds to feast voraciously until dawn, when he finally beds down for his “long” three-hour sleep.

It wasn’t always so. When we brought him home from the hospital, he ate every three hours like clockwork and spent the rest of the time snoozing. He was so sleepy, in fact, that for the first few weeks I set an alarm to wake me in case he slept through a feeding (it only went off once). Now, I am lucky if he goes 30 minutes between nighttime feedings. During the day, I set my PVR to record about six hours of television. I begin watching my recorded shows during James’ snacktimes after Maddi is in bed and by morning, I have usually exhausted most of my video.

The reasons for James’ sleep issues are as follows: First and foremost, he has been on a massive growth spurt this week. I have no idea what he weighs now (I’m guessing 9 pounds at the very least) or how long he is (I’d say 21 inches) but I do know this: Last week, I was buttoning him into his one-pieces — the kind with two sets of snaps to extend the amount of time a baby can wear them — and even using the top set of snaps they were a bit saggy; this week, his undershirts are pulled tight to bursting, even using the lower snaps. Clearly all that milk has gone to good use!

But the other reason James is nocturnal is clearly my fault. Over Christmas, we did a lot of driving and therefore James did a lot of day sleeping. Which means he did a lot of night waking. After the holidays, rather than turning his schedule around by keeping him awake all day, I was so exhausted that I foolishly followed the old adage, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Which means I slept until 10 and then took a big afternoon nap with the kids instead of persistently torturing James awake as I so clearly should have been doing. (Not that I don’t appreciate Chris’ watching Maddi every morning during my attempts to get some sleep. I am sure that is the only reason I am sane and lucid!) Rather than turning around, James seemed to sleep even more during the day — and less at night — until yesterday he was very nearly on an opposite schedule.

Rather than move to China, where James would be sleeping perfectly through the night, Chris and I have adopted a double-pronged plan to get our “midnight son” rising and shining at a more acceptable hour. Rather than my turning on the overhead light in James’ room every time our boy wakes up at some unholy hour, Chris purchased a $10 desk lamp to clip onto the side of the bed. It provides just enough light for me to feed and change James, but not enough for our little boy to be stimulated by his surroundings. Additionally, I am (temporarily) giving up naps so that I can keep James awake and alert during the daylight hours. He will enjoy short periods of sleep, but anything longer than 90 minutes or so, and he will suddenly find himself enjoying a diaper change, bath or tummy time session. It’s a little cruel, but there are a daddy and a little girl in this house who miss their wife and mommy. It’s time for James to live in the same time zone as the rest of the family.

With any luck, by next week’s blog, we will no longer be living in the land of the midnight son.

And without further ado, here is James’ 5-week pic, featuring our fast-growing little boy’s multiple chins and titled “Jabba no botha”: