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Archive for May, 2010

Holy Sit!

Mea culpa!  Mea culpa!  I don’t want the grandparents (and assorted Miles fans) to come after me with burning brands because I’ve fallen behind on Miles updates.  So before I post anything more about the trip, I confess: Miles has been sitting for about a week.  My only excuse is that it didn’t happen all at once, the way you expect a major milestone to happen.  It was more like, “Oh, look, Miles doesn’t fall over quite as quickly when you let go of him.”  And then, “Oh look, Miles can really sit there and play with that toy for a long time before he face-plants.”  And then, “Oh NO, did he just go from the sitting position to the crawling position WITHOUT FALLING?”

So yeah, he sits.  He’s now ready for high chairs, and soon maybe he’ll be ready to sit in the whole big bathtub.  He can’t push up to sitting on his own yet.  (And when he starts, I’ll probably be too busy to let anyone know for like a month.)  Of course, this increase in motor skills, along with his recent attempts to crawl, have come with a sudden, tiresome bout of separation anxiety.  I think he has a “cry” button attached to his bottom so that when I set him down and try to walk away, the waterworks start.  I’ve been doing a lot of just sitting with him.  It didn’t exactly make packing for the trip easy!

Here’s cute photo documentation to make up for the delay. 

Sitting pretty.

 

Don't leave me!

 

Look, that other baby can sit too.

 

He’s still working on crawling, which means building his muscles and coordination.  For the most part, he’s not moving forward.  Sometimes, on the slippery wood floors, his exertions move him backward.  Other times, he gets up on his knees and rocks for awhile before plopping on his nose.  That’s probably why the crib is his favorite practice space — a cushy landing.

I'm up. Now what?

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 “Just give him a bottle or nurse him during take-off and landing,” people say, “and his ears won’t bother him at all.”  That’s all very true.  But you try telling a hyper-active, curious, 7-month-old baby when to be hungry.   I will stand by and laugh an evil, maniacal laugh, MWAH HA HA HA HA!   Okay, let me back up. 

We flew cross country with Miles today — not his first air travel, but his longest.  Overall, it was delightful.  In fact, it was something of a love fest.  Our driver on the way to the airport was alarmingly cheery for a New Yorker.  At the terminal, Miles stared and cooed and “walked” about perkily (more on that later).  People in the terminal oohed and ahhhed over the eager little traveler.  As we settled into our seats with bags laden with toys, books, diapers, wipes, food, spoons, bibs, infant Tylenol, burp cloths, back-up clothes, a blanket, teething rings, and a sippy cup, (gasp, pant, ugh) the people in neighboring seats seemed, however improbably, thrilled by our presence.  Sympathetic and admiring fellow passengers are a huge boon!

Then we noticed our flight was full of kids and babies.  It was like an airborne day care.  Toddlers walking by pointed at Miles and announced, “Baby!”  Parents with other babies smiled knowingly at us on their way to the bathroom with diaper bags in tow.  In the row across from us and one up, a woman and her 8-month-old, Sebastian, settled in.  Instantly, the boys began making eyes at each other.  “Hey!” they seemed to be saying with their drooly fists waggling in the air, “I have toys!  I like to spit up!  Want to hang out?”  As the other mom traded basic baby facts with us and we all said admiring things about each other’s progeny, I started thinking that this woman and her baby were familiar. 

“I think I know her,” I whispered to Robin.  “Like maybe from yoga at the Y? But what are the chances that I happen to know a random woman and baby flying from New York to L.A. on the same day as us?” 

Robin shrugged.  “Didn’t you tell me there was a Sebastian one time?”

The problem is, I always think I see someone I know.  I’ll be convinced that the person I just passed on the street in, oh, Sedona, Arizona, is someone who was in my art class in Whittier, California, my freshman year of college.  But by then the person has usually walked on and I torture myself for the next hour over whether I should have said hi or if perhaps I was merely hallucinating.  I also tend to think that people won’t remember me.  I deeply offended a friend of a friend once by introducing myself to him after we’d known each other for four years.  (I knew who he was, but I assumed he didn’t know me.  Oops.  I still squirm at the memory.)

After awhile, with the babies still ogling each other hopefully, the other mom invited me over to her otherwise empty row.  Miles and I went over, and the two infants promptly began slobbering on one another.  Literally.  You may think I am exaggerating, but as a parent I know body fluids are no joke.  Sebastian grabbed Miles affectionately by the head, placed his open, gushing mouth on Miles’ scalp, and released a torrent of drool that drenched Miles down to his collar.  Miles smiled and grabbed one of Sebastian’s toys, and their friendship was a go.  This indiscriminate friendliness gave me courage.

“Maybe this is crazy,” I blurted out, “but could I possibly know you?”

Jackpot!  It was the woman from yoga, and she was relieved I had said something!   So our six-hour flight became a series of play dates in Row 21, interrupted by naps and feeding sessions.  If you are going to fly with a 7-month-old, I highly recommend arranging to have one of his buddies on the same flight.  It helps a lot.  Love.  Fest.  Robin and I were gleaming with pride as we gazed at our contented, cheerful miracle baby.

Until the descent.  We started easing downward, and I got out my little blanket, positioned Miles on my lap, covered myself modestly, and tried to give him the breast.  He spit it out, looking annoyed.  I repositioned the blanket and tried again —ptew!, he spit it out.  With a sense of foreboding, I passed him to Robin.  He’s fine, we told each other.  And then.  Two minutes later.  The screaming began.

He needed to suck on something but he wouldn’t take the breast!  And this baby doesn’t do bottles, no how, no way, so we didn’t even have one with us.  Sebastian was over in his row happily sucking a pacifier, but Miles unilaterally rejects all forms of artificial nipple.  Just the real thing for him, please. 

Robin, in a stroke of genius, gave him the sippy cup.  It worked!  He swilled happily.  For a minute or two.

Then more screaming.  We held him, we rocked him, we shooshed him ever so gently.  Screaming.  I heard all those voices in my ear saying, “Just nurse him,” so I tried again.  As I laid him across my lap, his screams intensified.  Desperate, I tried a different position.  I threw off the blanket, yanked down my shirt, straddled Miles over my leg upright, and tried to latch him on.  All pretense of modesty was gone; my engorged, useless, ungodly huge lactating breast was laid bare as I grabbed it with one hand and Miles with the other. I futilely tried  to shove my breast into Miles’ mouth as he sobbed and looked at me in horror, his face saying, “Are you mad, woman?  My ears are killing me, and you give me THIS?  How can you think about food at a time like this?!”

Just then, someone in the row behind us leaned forward and suggested in Robin’s ear that we should “just give him a bottle or nurse him.”  Caught up in the moment and totally not filtering herself, Robin blurted out, “He’s rejecting the boob!  He’s rejecting the boob!” 

After that, no one else had anything helpful to add.

In the end, we had to hold him as howled.  It was awful, and we kept wanting to take him out of each other’s arms because neither one of us could bear to JUST DO  NOTHING.  He cried, we soothed, and I’m sure some of the people around us weren’t quite so glad to have made our acquaintance.  But you know what?  The crying jag ended as abruptly as it began.  The smiles returned.  Miles went back to playing peek-a-boo over the back of the seat.  We landed.  Uncle Skip took Miles into his arms. 

And the real love fest began.  Vacation. Is. Awesome.

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Let’s just put it out there: The kid has beautiful eyes. Rare is the encounter with Miles that doesn’t result in a comment about his baby blues. From co-workers adoring the zillionth photo of him to complete strangers on the street, most people notice the eyes. His Nana often asks why we don’t dress him in more blue — “his eyes will really look blue then,” she says — and once a delivery man who barely spoke English pointed to Miles, then his own eyes and simply said “beautiful.”

What I’m noticing lately about the eyes is how amazing it feels to look deeply into them, especially when the little guy is looking right back. We’ve often joked that our cat, Luna, looks at you like she’s trying to steal your soul. Miles sometimes does the same, silently and intently staring at whoever’s holding him. In these moments, I wonder whether he’s:

(a) trying to recognize exactly who this is mom passed him off to
(b) taking a moment to get a real sense of the person who’s holding him
(c) or just attempting to figure out what all that scratchy stuff is (for his bearded fans like RJ).

The best moment of my day frequently comes when he’s just woken up, rolls around and looks over. Eyes meet. Pause. Moment of recognition. Huge smile.

Looking at Mommy

I take each and every one of these moments I can get and cherish them. I know the day will come when he outgrows this. When it’s somehow less normal and a little bit awkward to stare so deeply into anyone’s eyes other than a lover. For now, I’ll bask in the unabashed love I see there, and I’ll give it right back. Here’s looking at you, kid.

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Self Serve

Miles has decided that he’s old enough to do it his own self.  Thus, mealtimes are messier and more hilarious than ever.  The photos are a little blurry, but I think the glee is clear.

I think it works like this.

 

Eating is funny!

 

Just try and take the spoon away!

 

I've got this under control.

 

You know you're impressed.

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The Namesake

Anyone who has known my wife for more than a hot minute knows how much she wanted to have a baby — and for how long. By now, most have even heard the somewhat hilarious story of her sobbing in the operating room after laying eyes on the dude for the first time. She even poked fun at herself for it on this blog. We’re talking years people.

I have a vivid memory of the moment — easily six or seven years ago — when she told me she wanted a baby: It’s late, we’re heading home from a post-work happy hour with LA friends. I believe we were even stopped at a traffic light on Broadway in Long Beach (though perhaps that’s just where my mind has stationed this particular memory geographically).

“I’m ready to have a baby.”
“Um. Okay.”
Pause — Light’s still red.
“Like you want to have one now?”
“Maybe not right now, but I feel that I am ready to have one whenever we do.”
“Alright. You’re ready to have a baby.”
Pause — Light turns green. We move forward.
“I’m not quite ready yet. Is that OK?”

Of course, a cross-country move, career changes for both of us and nine months of trying to conceive filled the time between that conversation and Miles’ arrival. And by the time he came along, we were both MORE THAN READY for him. And one baby-related topic that helped fill that time was: The Name Game.

Melissa has five baby name books. Admittedly, she purchased the last one during our pregnancy, and she claims that the first was to help come up with character names for fiction writing as a youngster. But as the longstanding contestant in The Name Game, I can attest that these books have gotten a lot of use over the years. Here’s a snippet:

 

What's my name?

2006
“What do you think of Oliver?”
“It’s alright.”
“Just alright? Do you like it more of less than Isaac?”
“I don’t know. About the same I guess.”

2007
“Hey, do you like the name Graham?”
“For our kid or just as a name?”
“Either.”
“I don’t love it.”

Once we were actually pregnant, The Name Game became more frequent and intense:

“What about Vaughn?”
“Eh.”
“Oliver?”
“Maybe.”
“You said three years ago you hated that name.”
“I did? Well maybe I changed my mind. So why are you asking me now?”

Joking aside, we knew a few things about Miles’ name before we picked it. We wanted to see him before deciding; we were interested in (but not entirely set on) using a family name; and we didn’t want to hyphenate our last names. A month or so before his birth, we had narrowed our choices down to six possible first names, and we had an assortment of potential middle names that sounded better or worse depending on which first name we chose. With that, The Name Game was done. We’d wait until he was born and take a look at the guy.

**************

Now fast forward to this past weekend. On Saturday morning we sat down to watch a DVD Melissa recently had converted from old movie reels. The reels were shot by her grandfather, and she thought it would make a great gift for her father’s upcoming birthday. She was excited to see her father as a child, but also hoping to catch a glimpse of her paternal grandmother, who died when Melissa’s father was young (and who, as a result, Melissa never met). Melissa’s middle name, Jean, is after her grandmother.

What we saw was astounding. We didn’t just catch a glimpse of her. She was the featured attraction. Immediately two things became clear: Grandpa Glenn absolutely adored his first wife, and she was a beautiful, fun, charismatic woman — maybe even a little bit of a ham for the camera. It was magnificent.

A little later on Saturday, Melissa sat down next to me on the couch — she had something to say. After conveying to me how wonderful it was to see clips of the woman whose name she bears, she said, almost pointedly, “We named Miles after your cousin. I want him to be able to know who Rusty was.”

**************

Rusty in early 2009

The last round of The Name Game — which took place in the maternity ward at the hospital — came down to Miles Falkner or Owen Russell. Our little redhead seemed like he could’ve been an Owen from the start, but I had to admit as the first 24 hours of his life wore on, he was becoming more and more of a Miles in my heart. Still, I didn’t give up Owen — more specifically I didn’t want to give up the Russell that went with it.

So we picked our son’s name: Miles Russell Onstad Davidson (just Miles Davidson for short). And on Saturday — Rusty’s birthday — Melissa had me thinking about all the things I’ll want Miles to know about his namesake. Here’s a few:

He was smart.

He was strong.

Rusty in 1994

He looked out for other people (like your Uncle Skip when we were all little kids and Skip was the smallest — hard to believe now, I know).

He was a great hunter and fisher.

He had a boat and loved the water.

When I was a kid, I thought he could do just about anything. Although I remember him balancing a stack of pennies on his right elbow and then — with one swift downward swing — trying to catch them all in his right hand. After many successful attempts (which resulted in all of us trying to do the same and Rusty adding more and more pennies to his stack), he finally missed, and what must’ve been 20-30 pennies went flying all over the living room of the villa where our families were vacationing. Funny the moments you remember from family vacations.

He told great stories.

He called me when he found out I was marrying another woman to tell me how proud of me he was and that all that mattered was my happiness.

He was competitive — all Davidsons are — but he managed to do it with an enjoyment that made the whole thing fun whoever won.

He always made you feel like you were in good hands with him.

There’s tons more to tell you, Miles. And I hope you’ll someday grill all your cousins and aunts and uncles to learn more if you’re interested. What I want you to know about your name is that it is yours and only yours. We chose a middle name for you that connects you to my cousin, and I hope you will emulate his best qualities (there were many). Beyond that, it’s your name and your life. Live it in a way that you and others will be proud of and in a way that makes you happy. Rusty told me something similar once.

Miles Russell Onstad Davidson

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Miles to Go

I know some people have been wondering why we haven’t been blogging as often.  I’ve gotten a few gentle but pleading emails from some of Miles’ grandparents.  “We know you’re busy,” they write, “but we really miss the blog… ”

Well, folks, it’s not so much that I’m busy.  It’s more that Miles is busy.  Let me try to illustrate.

Someone put this couch in my way.

That’s right: he’s on the move.  He’s not exactly crawling, but he’s no longer a put-anywhere baby.  No longer content to lie in one spot staring and grabbing at things around him, he now has places to go.  In the photo above, I set him on his back in the center of the blanket, went into the kitchen for some water, and walked back to find him staring in perplexity at the couch.  He seemed to be thinking, I could get all the way to Coney Island and catch a Cyclones game if this big beige thing weren’t in my way! 

Up, up and away!

His body control has improved radically since my last few posts about his struggles with rolling.  These days he can not only roll both directions but also loll lackadaisically on his side like he’s waiting for his houseboy to bring him grapes.  On his side, he lifts his top leg in the air and then uses it to tilt himself forward or back.  He used to roll from his tummy to his back with a terrifying thump of his huge noggin against the wood floor, then wail in startled protest.  Now he can lower himself eeeeever so slowly, his head touching down with the delicacy of a helicopter handled by a master pilot.

His push-ups have gotten higher and higher.  He almost looks like he’s in the Cobra pose of yoga — arms nearly fully extended, back curved proudly up, head high.  The other day I shrieked — shrieked! — because he pushed himself up onto his hands, pulled his entire torso off the ground, and rocked back onto his knees.  I know on a rational level that it could still be months before he crawls.  But on a primal, there-goes-my-life level, I fear it will be earlier. 

In our yoga classes, it goes like this.  One week, we all notice one of the babies pushing up on her knees.  We exclaim and admire.  The parent seems proud and a little sheepish.  The next week, the parent looks haggard and the baby is crawling all around, slobbering on other kids’ toys and grinning fiendishly as her mother struggles out of Plank pose and lopes after her, muttering weary apologies.  We give pitying glances while insisting, no really, it’s okay.

See how high I can go?

I don’t want to be that haggard, apologetic parent.  Not yet!

Meanwhile, his mobility has complicated small everyday actions like, oh, changing diapers.  He acts like there’s a “Roll Over” button in his back that gets pressed when I set him on the changing table.  At times I find myself holding his chest down with my left arm while trying to wrestle a dirty diaper off of him and rediaper him with only my right hand.  I start wondering how much force is appropriate to use on a 6-month-old.   “Please Miles,” I wail, but he just hurls his body fearlessly toward the wall.  Often I give up and diaper him while he’s on his stomach.  This leads to leaks.

He also likes to practice his moves in the bathtub… while nursing… while eating… while being rocked to sleep… while sleeping… you get the picture.

I know this is just the beginning of a lifelong struggle to reconcile myself to Miles’ growing sense of independence.  It’s easier for me when he is immobile, passive, complacent.  Yet he needs to become curious, active, and willful.  So if you don’t see me blogging as often, you can be sure I’m chasing Miles — trying not so much to block his life journey as to keep it safe.  Which for now means keeping hairballs and small objects out of his mouth. 

Oops, gotta run.

Charting new territory.

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Here are some photos from April that never made it into the blog.  Many of them are photos of mealtime — that’s the big excitement in this house.  I also noticed that, as Miles spends more time upright, more of the photos are vertical instead of horizontal.  I hope you can see what a happy child this one is.  He’s absolutely flourishing.  Enjoy.

Doughboy.

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Baby at work.

No coffee for you.

He wears them well.

Pushing up.

Y'all come back now, ya hear?

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