♫Ah, ah, ah, ah…♫

Happy World Down Syndrome Day! It’s been a good day in our family, all things considered.

Joy is singing and dancing. She still loves Stayin’ Alive.

Deb and I and the girls sing:

“And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…”

Then Joy sings her line: “Ah, ah, ah, ah…”

Then we sing: “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”

Joy: “Ah, ah, ah, ah…”

Everyone else: “Stayin’ alive!”

And the smile on Joy’s face is priceless. We all clap.

Joy is so loving. She gives kisses to everyone. Over and over.

______________________

I have an Airbnb on Main Street in St. Charles. I went up to my Airbnb apartment this afternoon to clean and drop off new towels. By the way, I don’t have any guests right now. And no guests in April, either. As far as I know, there is no bailout coming for Airbnb hosts. (But I’m offering the place at half price if you know someone who wants to self-isolate away from home for a while.)

Anyway, on the way to my Airbnb I stopped at Dollar General in St. Charles to get milk and Clorox wipes and graham crackers. There was an EMS vehicle in the parking lot, but I didn’t think anything about it. EMS is often called for fender benders, heart attacks, dog bites, falls of older adults, cuts, et cetera.

I walked into the store, picked up a basket, and turned to the left. A DG employee was in my way. She was sitting on a desk chair surrounded by EMS personnel. I heard the woman say, “I’m having trouble breathing.” That’s all I heard. I placed the basket on the floor, turned around, opened the exit door with my elbow, and I ran for my car. I was thinking, I cannot get this virus. I cannot give COVID-19  to Joy or Deb or the girls.

I know it feels like the zombie apocalypse is coming, but in my mind it’s more like War of the Worlds. Tiny viruses, so incredibly tiny that we need powerful microscopes to see them, have spread all over the world. Unlike the movie, these tiny entities are not going to kill invading Martians or evil aliens. In fact, only humans (older adults mostly) are vulnerable to the effects of the virus itself; and, yes, the coronavirus kills good people as well as bad people.

But the virus is testing our character—our character as humans, as leaders, as Americans. During this crisis, if we are smart and vigilant and helpful and compassionate and empathetic and honest, we will stop the spread of this virus and soon we can reopen our schools and restaurants and airports. If we pull together now, we will be stronger as a society when this is all over.  

Like War of the Worlds, though, the virus will bring down those who underestimate the power of tiny things. It will bring low those who don’t understand exponential growth. It will destroy those who believe we can ignore it and it will go away in the spring. It will wreak havoc if one person has 70,000 containers of hand sanitizer while my neighbor Melvin has none. It will kill health care workers who can’t get new masks and other PPE. It will absolutely not go away by giving the airlines $60 billion while laid-off waitresses get zero. (By the way, if all the airlines go bankrupt, new ones will emerge when the customers come back. It’s supply and demand.)

And speaking of the power of tiny things: When tiny Joy says (in her own way), “Daddy, pick me up!” Daddy says, “How high?” And her smile gets wider the higher she goes.

Pull-up Bar

A few weeks ago, Mary opened a box that contained a brand new pull-up bar. Apparently Mary wants to get in shape or stay in shape in the upper body.

She dumped out the contents: straight bars, curved bars, handles, long bolts, short bolts, lock washers, and acorn nuts, along with a small crescent wrench and an Allen wrench.

“Oh, crap,” she said.

“What’s up?” said Mom.

“I didn’t know this had to be put together.”

Mary opened the folded sheet of instructions, which were printed in seven languages, including Tagalog and Chinese.

Mary tried using the French instructions and then moved on to English.

Mom and Amanda gathered around her, offering suggestions. This went on for three or four minutes.

I just stood there. Then I said, “Hello. Why are y’all trying to put that together when there is a dad over here who has been to Ikea, like, eight times?”

“Are you saying I can’t put this together?” said Mary.

“Well, if you put that together within the next ten minutes, I will blog about it.”

So, I’m now blogging about it. It’s a great pull-up bar. Mary can do more pull ups than me.

Sorry about the delay, Mary. It has been a busy month.

Joy likes to bang stuff. For some reason, she has plastic, Disney-themed plates and saucers in her toy box. She likes to throw the plates into the bathroom because they make a loud noise when they crash into the tile floor.

“Hey, Joy, you think that’s a Frisbee? Because it’s not,” I say.

“Whaa?”

“A Frisbee! It’s not a Frisbee! It’s a plate.”

Whoosh. Clatter-clatter!

“Yeee!”

My Terrible (But Wonderful), Horrible, No Good (But Very Good), Very Bad Day

My baby turned one yesterday. It was a mostly normal day. At dawn I picked up Joy from her crib. I said, “Good morning, Joy. Happy birthday.” 

She cuddled me for a moment, and then pushed away and looked up at me. She gave me a smile. It’s the same smile I see every day. Her smile says: “Hey, Dad. Morning. I love you. And you love me.”

Yes, Joy. Mom and Dad love you. Everyone loves you.

It was a bittersweet day, to be honest. We are so grateful for her. So thankful she is healthy and happy.  But I—and Deb—want her to stay a baby. For a long time. My favorite thing in this entire world is watching Joy fall asleep in my arms. And then holding her for another thirty minutes, just looking at her face.

We have loved telling people: “She’s seven weeks old.” “She’s two months old.” “She’s eleven and a half months old.” However, it will be difficult to say, “She’s one.” Instead, I think I will say, “Joy is twelve months old.”  Later:  “Joy is almost 38 months old.”

Twenty-seven years ago (and twenty-four years ago) a beautiful baby girl fell asleep in my arms from time to time. And I remember those times. I remember a few of those times. But it wasn’t enough. It will never be enough.  Daughter Kat’s first year seemed longer somehow, even though she was at daycare eight hours a day. Maybe it’s because Kat’s first year was 1/30th of my life. Joy’s first year has been 1/58th of my life.

Joy is pulling up on the rails of her crib now. This started a week ago. So I need to get out the Allen wrench and move the mattress down six inches. Because she will be standing very soon. Soon she will be thirteen months. Fourteen months. By twenty-four months she might not want to be rocked to sleep anymore. Maybe that’s why parents say that two years old is so terrible.

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!