well-hugged

well-behaved

well-being

well-connected

well-defined

well-founded

well-honed

well-officered

well-placed

well-supplied

well-trod

well-versed

No, I’m not deliberately composing a list of compound words that start with “well.” I’m compiling a word style for my latest project. A book about America’s wars in the Pacific.

But it’s a good place to stop and take a break. I’m almost done.

It’s 9 pm. Joy was in her crib a few minutes ago, a little fussy, getting ready to cry….oops, she’s crying.

I picked her up and put my hand on her bare back. I held her close and slowly rocked from side to side. Her head fell on my chest. I held her like I was never ever going to put her down. She fell asleep in 30 seconds. But I still held her, still rocked her. Because she loves to be held for a long time, and she knows that Dad won’t put her down for a long time. And I promised to never let her go. And I never want to let her go.

Hug someone today like you will never let go.

Notes for a Babysitter

Joy is ten months old. And for something like the third time ever, we are getting a babysitter tonight (the wonderful Mimi).  I wrote up some notes about Joy’s schedule. Enjoy.

Joy’s schedule

7 am (sometimes 6 am or even 5 am):  Diaper change and first feeding. Six ounces of Similac Advance (3 scoops). Dr. Brown bottle, #2 nipple. Water: slightly warmer than room temperature.  This bottle often puts her back to sleep for an hour (or longer).

8 am: Joy will want another four ounces of Similac (and probably a new diaper). She’s up now. We change her outfit. She likes to cuddle between Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad will try to resume sleep. But Joy is very vocal and likes to kick Dad and be a wiggle worm.

8:15 am: Time to rub Joy’s tummy. Munch on her toes. Kiss her hands and cheeks. Kissing her neck will make her giggle.

8:30 am: Dad puts Joy on floor with blocks and her favorite moose (toy). Dad closes the baby gate and slips downstairs for coffee and yogurt.

8:40 am: Joy is sitting up and clapping her hands. All smiles. Dad picks her up and takes her to the rocker. Kisses. “One. Two. Threeeeee!”  “Who’s the biggest baby in da world?!”

9:00 am: Dad reads email at his computer with Joy on lap. Dad reads the news with Joy. “Kurds Shamelessly Abandoned.” Dad hugs Joy and feels better.

10 am: Mom plays with Joy, then takes her downstairs for some Gerber baby food while buckled in the FP SpaceSaver high chair. Joy listens to music while eating sweet potatoes or peas or carrots (about 30 spoonfuls).  (Make sure tray clicks/snaps into place.)

11 am: Four ounces of Similac and a nap (we hope).

12 noon: Floor play. Get out mats and try to get Joy to crawl. I play the “Stayin Alive” YouTube video on my phone, place it on the floor six feet from Joy, and she will crawl toward it. She will also crawl toward video of “Take On Me,” the 1985 version with the comic book style animation (not the 1984 version).

If Joy is hungry, she will whine and/or suck on her hand.

Joy is sitting up now, and she is so proud of this achievement. But she often falls over. We try to keep her on her mats or on a blanket over padded carpeting.

If Joy is bored (or tired), she will whine or cry.

Having a hard time getting her to sleep? Joy will automatically fall asleep in a moving car. Sometimes in a moving stroller. And very often in Mom or Dad’s lap in the rocker (in the dark).

1 pm to 8 pm: Lots of the above: diaper changes, rocking chair, swing, cuddling, kissing, playing with blocks and phone, Similac Advance, maybe a short nap, maybe a bath, Gerber baby food, baby talk (“Who’s the sirriest gore in the da world?”).

9 pm to 10:30 pm: Joy will eventually go to sleep. A bottle of warm Similac, cuddling in the rocker, and/or a stroller ride around the room will help facilitate sleep. Low or no lights is also helpful.

Love, Dad

Take On Me

Joy is sitting up watching the music video “Take On Me” by A-ha on my iPhone. She started sitting up yesterday morning as I was driving to the library. Deb called me two minutes after I had left the house.

“Joy was lying on her tummy and pushed herself up. She is sitting on the floor on her bottom, playing and clapping!”

“No effing way,” I said. “How? She can only sit for about thirty seconds before she falls over.”

“I don’t know. She kinda does the splits and then pushes up. She is all smiles. She is so proud of herself.”

Joy still falls over eventually. But this morning she sat up by herself, playing contentedly with her toys for almost twenty minutes. We have put down some gymnastic mats so that she can sit up, then fall over without getting hurt.

So, apparently she is getting the hang of sitting. Joy is another baby step closer to no longer being a baby. Joy will be ten months old this week. Wasn’t it yesterday when I held her for the first time?

So needless to say
I’m odds and ends
But I’ll be stumbling away
Slowly learning that life is ok

Say after me:
It’s no better to be safe than sorry
Take on me (Take on me)
Take me on (Take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

“Take On Me”

Stay-at-Home (Mostly) Dad

It was donut day at church today. Free donut day. Mary and I went downstairs immediately after service to grab one or six. And we had Joy with us in the car seat/carrier. Deb and Andi stayed in the pews, chatting with other members of the congregation.

Joy’s a conversation starter for sure. (“Hey, Mary, I think your baby sister wants some of your donut.” Yeah. Probably. But donut crumbs can choke her, I’m thinking.) I chose cake donuts (two) and Mary had glazed.

We thought Deb and Andi would eventually show up to select a donut. But they didn’t show. Finally, I picked up Joy (in her car seat/carrier) and followed Mary to the parking lot, where Deb and Andi were talking to and walking with a woman with a quad cane.

Introductions were made. “Nice to meet you, Mike. Where do you work?” said the lady.

“I work at home.” I set Joy’s carrier on the sidewalk and stood up straight.

“Work at home?” She looked down at Joy. “Ah, a baby. You’re a stay-at-home dad. You have the best job in the world!”

“Hahaha. Yes. I do.”

In fact, I did have Joy to myself from Thursday afternoon until early Sunday morning. But “stay at home”? No such luck. Bank. Grocery shopping. Invitations to the zoo. Airbnb hosting. Joy and I had more quantity time. And of course that leads to quality time. My favorite activities with Joy this week included: Watching her crawl (frontwards and backwards) and play on her teal blanket, then escaping the confines of the blanket to explore under Andi’s nightstand. Watching her squeal in delight when I would say: “Are you ready? One. Two. Threeeeee!” while lifting her high into the air. Watching her discover then suck on her thumb and then search for and find her wood blocks. Feeding Joy in her high chair. (I always buckle her in now. Don’t ask.) She loves strained carrots and sweet potatoes and applesauce and peas and blueberry ice pops. I love the look on her face when she takes a mouthful of something new. There’s a blink and frown and her mouth drops open, then a smirk as her eyes pop open wide. She’s like: What the yuck!?

Friday was a bit hectic. I stopped in at Mobil to fill up and get a 50-cent Pepsi. And when I got back to the car, I started my car and pulled up about 6 inches, pulling the hose off at the pop-off valve. Ouch.

Saturday Joy and I went to the zoo. Early. But we didn’t stay long, as I had to clean my Airbnb. But Joy got very close to a penguin. It was very cute.

We had lunch with sister Emily (pizza), who held Joy while I finished cleaning the Airbnb (Airbnb.com/h/mainstreet).

Joy’s been out and about today with her mom and sisters. So I had a nap. And I now can’t wait for her to come home.

Joy ride
random penguin house
Block party
“Dust under the couch, Joy!”

Quantity Time

I spent two hours yesterday doing editing work: fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there. The rest of the day I spent with Joy. In fact, even when I’m editing, Joy is near me—napping in her crib six feet away or playing with blocks on the floor on the other side of my desk.

I was up at 7:14 am (as was Joy). I brush my teeth. Pee. Diaper change (for Joy), six ounces of formula (for Joy). Loud burps (Joy).  Coffee and Cheerios (for me).

7:27 Deb puts the girls in the car and heads to middle school and elementary school.  Then work.

7:45 Four more ounces of formula. I carry Joy to bed and place her on her back, surrounded by pillows. I let her tug on my hand and grab my teeth. I watch Joy coo and laugh. She rolls over and pushes up on her hands and looks at me. That elicits the biggest smile. Every time.

I stop keeping track of the time on the clock, but over the next fifteen hours (or so) Joy and I are inseparable. Nine diaper changes. Eight partial bottles of formula. Gerber peas and carrots. Story time. Maybe three 20-minute naps (for both of us). Hundreds of kisses.

Floor time: Joy crawls toward my iPhone, which Dad keeps moving farther away. If the iPhone is playing the video of “Stayin’ Alive,” Joy will move toward it. She gets better at this game every day.

I take Joy in the stroller to the park around the corner (once at 10 am; once around 5 pm). By the time we get home, she is asleep (both times). I put her near the A/C and do twenty minutes of editing.

Joy loves to be carried. Loves to be held and rocked. She will laugh uncontrollably when I make kissing noises near her ears, neck.

We rocked in the rocking chair for thirty-minute sessions several times yesterday. I love that chair. It is usually where we are when she (and sometimes I) fall asleep around ten. But no such luck last night. Somehow it closes in on 11 pm, and Joy wants to play. She is not hungry, but whiny. Fidgety. And clearly tired. “Whaaah!”  

Does she just want more time with Dad and Mom? Apparently fifteen hours of Dad time is not enough. And I love that. But I also love sleep. I want to rest now. Maybe work a bit. And then sleep.

Deb says, “Should we take her in the stroller for a ride?”

YES!

We put her in the car seat, snap it into the stroller thing, and push the buggy down Big Bend at 11:15 pm. Within minutes, she is sleeping, looking so beautiful and happy and Joy-ous.

We will definitely do the late night stroller ride again. Soon. But way before 11:15 next time.

Baby Hamlet

September 30, 3:30 am

Joy: Waah.

Me: Zzzz

Joy: Waaah!

Me: Huh?

Joy: WAAAHH!

Me: I’m up. I’m coming, Joy. Hey, girl, you realize it’s three thirty in the am, right?

Joy’s diaper is puffed up like a balloon.  Somehow she has gone potty three times since 10 pm.

“Okay, baby. Fresh diaper for you. And a ba-ba.”

In the dark, I change Joy’s diaper. We have a small bottle. Joy goes back to sleep in about ten minutes.

7:14 am

I’m mostly asleep, but I can sense Mary (or is it Deb) placing Baby Joy next to me in bed. Joy coos for a minute or two. Then she rolls to her tummy, pushes up on her arms, and gives me a smile.  She giggles.

“Good morning, Joy.”

7:21 am

I can hear Deb starting the car. She will be gone for the next two hours as she takes Mary and Amanda to school.

We do another diaper change. We rock in the rocking chair. Hugs and kisses. Quiet time. Four more ounces of Similac. Burrpp!

Joy goes into the swing while Daddy makes coffee and raisin toast.

Back to bed. Joy lies on her back and plays with her toes. She tries to put her toes in Daddy’s face. Ouch. That was my eye. She grabs my teeth again. (“I tink you ant to bee a dentitt,” I say. We do this every morning.)

I play “Stayin Alive” on my iPhone. Joy  crawls to the phone and touches the screen. The music stops. She holds the phone in both hands and sucks on the corner with the speaker. “Africa” by Toto begins playing in Joy’s mouth. And Joy decides to change more of my settings. Ooops. No more autoplay.

Today she does something new. She holds out her left hand, palm up, as if she is grasping a ball or a wood block. She rotates the invisible object as if inspecting all sides. And she begins babbling at the invisible thing.

“Ahh doo daahh. Spleh. Eeeh thwuh. Aw Eh! Ooooh.”

And I think: Is she doing some kind of pretend play? That would be new.

Is she rehearsing a scene from Hamlet?

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft.”

 “Yorick, Joy? Really? I’m the one who has borne you a thousand times. Remember Brentwood Days? You loved being in the baby carrier. We danced in the mud. I only walked about three miles that night.”

“Da-da-da-da!”

Yes. Exactly.

The best things are “almost free”

Joy is a rolling machine.  If she wants something—a toy, my iPhone, Mommy, a VHS cassette of Titanic—she simply rolls toward it. It is no longer safe to let her lie on the bed alone for more than 1.3 seconds. Two and a half rolls on the bed means she is no longer on the bed.  So we like playing on the floor now. Joy has several very beautiful blankets and quilts that are perfect for floor play, physical therapy, rest, and sleep.

Crawling is still a challenge for her. She seems to be able to scoot backward ok, but forward motion takes a while.  We procured two swings on Craigslist. One was ten dollars. The other was free. She can scoot out of both of them when she isn’t buckled in. But the swings are six inches off the carpet, and she extricates herself from the swing about an inch every three minutes.

We love Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and friends and neighbors who are getting rid of stuff that the baby (or we) might need. We love free and almost free. I’m sitting on a free chair at a free desk and typing on my nine-year-old HP laptop using Word 2010. I’m listening to Rachel Maddow through the free MSNBC app.

Right after Joy came home I blogged that she was a great deal—zero dollars down and $95.15 a month.  She continues to be a great deal—the best deal ever (although formula, diapers, and baby food add up to a bit more than $95.15 now).  She gives me more love and joy by 6:45 a.m. than I could have ever imagined.  I don’t want to be up at 6:45 a.m., but there’s no way I’m going to miss out on my mornings with Joy—the smile, the laughter and giggles, the “talking,” the arms around my neck. She loves to greet me and Deb in the morning. It’s like she hasn’t seen us in two weeks.

The best things in life are typically free—kisses, hugs, smiles.  But what about almost free?

Deb and I may like “almost free” a little too much.  We are spending too much time trying to get “almost free” furniture to upcycle. And we have dipped our collective toes (figuratively speaking) into the world of storage locker auctions.  Yes, we went in on an auction a few weeks ago. We were the highest bidder. So we had to arrange a truck and sort through what was essentially a lot of junk to get to the treasures.  And there were a couple cool items. But we are working on a better system—poring over the photos looking for clues to what has been left behind.

In the meantime, if you have and still use a VHS player, we have the ultimate collection of movies for you.  It’s free!

Come Walk in the Park, Sept 29

The last time I went to a baseball game was last September (9/22) on Walk in the Park Day at Busch.  Deb’s sister Peggy organized the event and made sure everyone in the family who wanted to go could attend.

This year we intend to have more participants and more fun. Last year, Joy was just 30 weeks’ gestation. This year, she will have a much better view of the game. She will be able to sit on laps, get passed around, and see what all the fuss is about.

Why do we walk? Join us and you’ll see!

“Walk in the Park is an annual DSAGSL tradition that brings together families from the St. Louis area and beyond for a day of raising awareness, cheering on the Cardinals, and an overall fun experience that fills the stadium with excitement. Join the nearly 2,500 friends and supporters of the DSA for our largest awareness day of the year. This year’s Walk in the Park game is on Sunday, September 29, 2019. The St. Louis Cardinals will take on the Chicago Cubs for the final game of the regular season.” –From the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis website

 11:00 AM  Pep Rally; 12:15 PM Gates Open; 12:30 PM Warning Track Parade; 1:30 PM Opening Ceremonies; 2:15 PM  Cardinals vs. Cubs (Final Game of the Season)  

Ticket packages are just $36 and include a commemorative t-shirt, wristband to walk the warning track before the game, entrance to the pre-game pep-rally, a ticket to the Cardinals game that day, AND the St. Louis Cardinals promotional giveaway for this game is one voucher per ticket good for a 2020 regular season game of your choice! This is the deal of the season!!

Guaranteed T-shirt Deadline is September 6. Children 3 and under do not need a ticket if they are sitting on the lap of an adult. Find all the stadium policies about bringing in food, what bags are allowed, alcoholic beverages, smoking, and strollers on the Busch Stadium information website.

The Joy Show

Deb and the girls want to see The Peanut Butter Falcon, a movie about a guy named Zac, a man with Down syndrome who has been placed in a nursing home because he has no family. Deb thought about taking the girls to see it this weekend, but she has put it off until sometime next week.

Anyway, apparently Zac is a wrestling fan and all day, every day, he watches a video tape put out by a wrestler named Salt Water Redneck. Zac wants to get to Salt Water Redneck’s wrestling school, the one advertised in the video. And so Zac tries to escape all the time. Zac rooms with Carl (Bruce Dern), who complains about having to watch the same wrestling video all day but helps Zac escape. Zac escapes in his underpants and meets up with Tyler, a crab fisherman. At the same time, Eleanor (a kind, pretty woman from the nursing home) searches for Zac before her supervisor orders Zac to be put into a state hospital. Tyler and Zac bond. They set off on foot. Then they build a raft and float down the coastline, like Huck and Jim floating down the Mississippi River. Et cetera.

This feel-good movie is getting good reviews. The actor with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) apparently does a fantastic job.

Characters with disabilities are often portrayed by actors without disabilities. I remember watching LA Law in the 1980s. Benny Stulwicz, the mentally challenged office boy on the show, was played by Larry Drake, a man without cognitive deficits. Drake’s portrayal was so spot-on, he won Emmy awards.

And so it is cool that a man with Down syndrome is the main character in a hit movie.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m not sure I want to.

Let’s think about this. I could watch Zac, a thirty-eight-year-old man in underpants run away to become a wrestler, or I could stay home and watch Joy, an eight-month-old baby girl in a diaper, laugh every time I make a funny face. (This summer has been so hot. Around the house, Joy almost never wears anything except her No. 2 diaper. Tomorrow she moves up to the No. 3 size.)

I like Bruce Dern (Nebraska was amazing). But I love rocking Joy to sleep. I love kissing her toes. I even love hearing her cry for me at 5 am. (What ever happened to 6:15, Joy!?) I turn on the hallway light, stumble over to her crib, smile at her, change her diaper, hold her, make a bottle, do a feeding, and then collapse back into bed, grateful that I had that time with her.

Joy learned to clap her hands yesterday. She can crawl about 6 inches now (a week ago it was 3 inches). Joy still says just two words (da-da-da-da and ah-goo), but she pretends to be a  monster (to make Mommy laugh) and gets super excited when I say, “Do you want a ba-ba?”

So I could put some Twizzlers in my pants and go to the movies, or I could stay home for the Joy Show. Not Joy Behar and Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Just Joy Elizabeth.

Stayin’ Alive

Joy is eight months old. She has started to crawl forward, just an inch or two, but she is learning. If she really wants to move, she rolls—back to tummy, then tummy to back, back to tummy, until she gets to her destination. So just in case her destination is the stairs, we have put in a baby gate.

She is communicating to us with her own system. She has her tired cry, her hungry cry, the “I am bored” cry, the “don’t you dare put me in the crib” cry, and the “I have dropped my baba and I want it now” cry.  She lifts her arms into the air to be held. She kisses Deb on the chin to say “I love you, Mommy!” She kicks Dad on the chin or pulls on his lip if she wants to play. She smiles and laughs. She growls her monster noises to make Mommy laugh (we think).

Remember the Numa Numa guy who danced in his chair and got 160 million views? That was in 2005, when I didn’t know what “going viral” meant. It turns out Joy, too, can dance without standing up. Joy dances while having tummy time on the bed. All she needs is an iPhone streaming Huey Lewis (“Heart and Soul”) or the Bee Gees. She’ll sway from side to side while Barry sings in his high falsetto:

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk
Music loud and women warm
I’ve been kicked around since I was born
And now it’s all right, it’s okay
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times’ effect on man

When Joy was born, she had her beautiful crib, the mobile, a Mother Goose toy, her stuffed animals. I guess most of the toys were packed away. Well, there is not much packed away anymore. There is now a baby swing for each level of the house. The Pack ’n Play is usually assembled when the girls are home. I stepped on a teething ring yesterday. And there were alphabet baby blocks in my bed last night (“V” and “C”). And today I had to step over the upstairs swing and walk around the Baby Einstein bouncer to get to my “office.” Those of you who have been to my office understand why I put quotes around the word office. Joy’s white noise machine was on. I thought, Why can I hear the ocean? I didn’t know we had a white noise machine, but I like it.

Joy is (almost) always with us. I work at home. Deb is home almost every day. With few exceptions, Joy is just a few feet away from either me or Deb. We have had Ashley and Sarah babysit twice. Booshie has taken care of Joy for an afternoon. And Mimi watched her when I took Deb to the ER at Mercy one night around midnight (Joy was just 5 days old).

We hope that we can continue to keep Joy with us 24/7 for a long time to come. But we do recognize that babysitters are nice to have once in a while, and Mary and Andi have been such a big help with Joy. They know her tired cry and her hungry cry. They know she can roll and roll to get closer to the iPhone. But I doubt they have ever heard the “I am bored” cry. Joy loves spending time with her big sisters.

Joy’s dancing stance
Fresh from the bath
Joy asleep on Paige
The first floor swing