It’s hard to imagine that it was 4 weeks ago to the day that I started this blog. The intention was to start chronicling the changes that Jenn & I would experience as we waited and welcomed our first child into our home. Little did I know that almost immediately after I hit enter on my first post, I would receive the call that would change everything.
I must admit that it is very strange to think that 4 weeks have already gone by. On one hand it seems like forever ago that Jenn & I sat patiently in the hospital lobby staring at each other and wondering what the heck do we do now? On the other hand it doesn’t seem like Nolin has been in our lives that long at all.
We still have a few things that we are working on improving in the quest to be parents of the year. For me its the art of the swaddle. I get everything ready and convince myself that this time I am going to create the perfect swaddle that would make Harvey Karp proud. I will get Nolin wrapped up really tight (to the point that his eyes pop out and he looks at me like seriously?!), but I still can’t seem to defeat his secret Swaddle Ninja moves.
I have had times where I pick him up and there is one foot coming out of the slit conveniently placed on the backside, five little fingers poking out of the crotch area, and another hand unable to move and plastered to his face. Instead of looking like a happy and content little burrito, he looks more like a freakish experiment from the Island of Dr. Moreau. During these times, he will just look at me as if to say “Don’t worry Dad, one day you’ll get the hang of it”.
Jenn on the other hand still seems to occasionally forget that it is important to cover the soldier when you are changing him. Nolin has made a game of this…he waits until she turns to get a new diaper and then its on…the juice is loose. I do have to admit he has pretty good aim.
The other night as this occurred and Jenn was frantically trying to get wipes and diapers to stop the leak, Axelle walked over unknowingly and started running her fingers through Nolin’s hair. She seemed very concerned and said “Nolin, you are sweating so much”. Her face was priceless when I informed her that was not baby sweat on her hands.
It’s been four amazing weeks. I know we will continue to get more comfortable as our lives continue to adjust and we will continue to learn as Nolin grows up, but it will be these days and all it’s chaos that we look back to, remember fondly and say it was so much simpler then…
This weekend Jenn & I realized just how lucky we are to have Nolin in our lives. On Saturday we decided to do the unthinkable…we attempted to pull off the social event hat trick. It’s sort of the equivalent to climbing Mount Everest for parents of a new born. We started off with a 9am promotional video shoot for Stepping Onward and then went to visit our friends for a pre World Cup party, after that it was off to another house to watch the England vs. USA World Cup match. Needless to say this was going to be at least an 8 hour day…with a 3 week old?! Nolin, get used to this because as you get older your life will be filled with 8 hour + workdays…none that will be as exciting as your first hat trick.
And work it was. Do you know how much planning goes into keeping an infant content for an entire day away from the house? A lot! Jenn and I started on Friday night, making sure we were prepared for anything, everything and any possible variation of those two things that could potentially happen in one 8 hour period. It was like getting ready for the arrival of a rock star.
And Friday night Nolin James was a rock star. He decided that the hours of 2am until 7:30am were great hours for getting us ready for the day ahead…up all night, sleep all day. Thankfully Jenn & I took shifts so there were small amounts of sleep allowed.
We made it out of the house and downtown for the video shoot by 9:15 (not too bad considering the work that goes into orchestrating chaos). He was perfect for the entire 3 hour production. Then we went over for the pre-party and again no issues. So we mentally prepared for the hell that he would unleash as we entered the party to watch the World Cup match.
Ten steps from the door, and the fun began. Oh great, we are not going to be welcomed here very long I instantly thought to myself, but we fed him (and changed him) right as we walked into the door (yes we are now those cool friends/guests that have decided it is socially appropriate to undress our kid and wipe away poop as we enter your house…so be prepared when you send us an invitation) and then everything was right as rain, and again he charmed the crowd. Nolin definitely knows how to work a room.
I don’t think I deserve to be this lucky. To have a kid who is as socially mobile as Nolin. The pessimist in me says enjoy while it lasts because he is going to be a terror when he gets older. Right now, I can’t imagine him unable to sit in the palm of my hand or being difficult at all, but at least if that happens I’ll always be able to look back at these days and say remember when my kid thought I was the coolest…and maybe he will too.
Yesterday though was the true realization of just how lucky Jenn and I have been. While it is fun to say that we have a son that we absolutely adore and who for the most part is very easy, there is also a very real drama that surrounds infertility and adoption. We took Nolin to our church for the first time since he’s been home (I didn’t even have to run frantically to the sound proof screaming child room once during mass) and we met with friends of ours who attended the adoption classes with us. They had matched with a birth mother before us and their son was due about a month before Nolin.
Since everything happened so quickly for us, we had not seen them since we found out about Nolin. They came into church and saw Nolin, their faces lit up with excitement and they gave us a huge thumbs up from across the church. We met in front of the altar after church and they gave us a big hug as we introduced them to our little guy. It was bitter-sweet for all of us. While they were so excited for us, they were also grieving because an hour before their son was to be born, their adoption fell through. Their story was the main reason why Jenn and I didn’t tell everyone when we found out about Nolin. It was a reminder of just how emotional the entire process can be.
Our story didn’t take the same twists and turns that many people face. There wasn’t the drama, heartache and loss that so many good people face in their journeys starting a family. I am not sure if I’ll ever know what either of us did to be so fortunate, but I definitely believe that I am the luckiest father alive.
Please mark this day on your calendars. Because Friday June 11, 2010 is that day that you will be able to refer back to when Nolin gets in trouble or does something wrong, because Friday June 11 is day zero…the day I worked from home and Nolin and I spent it just the two of us. Any time Nolin gets in trouble for the rest of his life can now be traced back to this day.
Last night Jenn gave me the checklist to ensure that I did not cause any major problems in his future development. Nolin, the man you become will be largely shaped on the 8 hours we spent together today. The checklist went as follows:
At least 15 minutes of “Tummy Time” using the proper blankets and cushions.
Read a few books through out the day (Nolin loves the classics “Me Hungry” & Brown Bear Brown Bear”).
Strategically use shakers to make noise that startles him (apparently scaring the hell out your kid helps him develop).
Enjoy the hours of 9-12 because this is when he is happiest.
I nodded my head in agreement, but figured after three weeks of hanging out with Nolin I had this parenting thing down. And then Jenn left for her class, and all of the sudden I realized…there is probably a lot of damage I can do in a short time. I don’t know if I am ready for this. To top it all off, Fridays are our deadline day and I really did have to do work today.
In between baby sitting and working, there were a few lessons that I learned today. First, working from home with a 3 week old is not much different from working in the office. I feel that my job as a manager has trained me well to be a father. The only difference between being at home with Nolin and being at the office, is that my staff typically doesn’t ask me to burp them, and Nolin doesn’t talk back (at least not yet).
The other lesson I learned was how to effectively multi-task. There is nothing like holding a a 3 week old in your arms trying to keep a pacifier in their mouth in order to keep your child from crying while a customer is yelling at you because they don’t feel that they should have to pay their bills…awesome.
The final lesson I learned, is that I am incredibly jealous of Jenn because she gets to spend those moments with Nolin everyday. Today was day zero, and I can’t wait for the days to follow.
It was August of 2009 when Jenn & I’s lives changed forever. It started with an email and a phone call we received after returning from dinner on a Saturday night.
Our friends Tom & Hillary had hosted a foreign exchange student whom we met a few weeks prior. While we were intrigued by the idea, I also have to admit that we thought it was one of the craziest things we had ever heard. Well it seems that their student had a friend who was trying to study in Florida and was having trouble getting a host family and wanted to know if we may be interested. We looked at each other for a second and then thought this seems just crazy enough to work.
The next morning we woke up and said “yeah, this is probably not a great idea”…guess what…too late, thankfully the wheels were already in motion. One of the many lessons I’ve learned from this experience is that sometimes you just need to jump in feet first and let everything happen the way it is supposed to. Much like Nolin’s story, Axelle arrived at our house about 3 weeks after we had been told about her.
That was the craziest few weeks of our lives. Jenn and I had to get our house ready for Axelle’s arrival. We started with the easy things…set up the guest bedroom, get a desk for her to do school work, clean the house, etc. Since we didn’t have any kids, I didn’t realize the difficult part would be school.
Jenn and I had finally wrapped our hands around this concept of the two of us being responsible for fostering international relations (that is a scary thought that someone’s view of our country would be largely shaped on us). When I called the school district office, I found out that they wouldn’t accept Axelle at our local high school because her paperwork had only arrived two hours before the deadline . I feel that I am a pretty even-tempered guy…unfortunately this was not one of those times.
As nice as I could be, this lady would not budge. So then I did what any rational person would do…I emailed the superintendent and copied her on the email. It was a lovely email about the importance of diplomatic relations, helping make a child’s dream come true, what a great experience this would be for the students of our local high school & community and how all that may be lost because one individual didn’t want to be bothered with some extra work…it really was a brilliant lesson in passive aggressive behavior.
Needless to say it worked. I got a call from Axelle’s agency, saying they would accept Axelle in our local high school, but we would have to go to the district office the first morning of school to complete her paperwork file and then go to school to get her registered. He also indicated that the school representative requested that I not call or email her again and he said that I may not want to include her on my Christmas card list…awesome I’m making friends and taking names.
Axelle arrived and we weren’t sure what to think on our way to pick her up from the airport. What was she going to be like, would she like us, would we even be able to communicate? I learned two phrases on the way to the airport…How are you? (Comment allez-vous) and How was your flight? (Comment a été votre vol?) And then all of the sudden I had a huge fear…what if she’s a vegetarian?! Needless to say, she is not a vegetarian. In fact she is the furthest thing from it, she wont eat any vegetables or fruit…she makes me crave a salad.
The first day of school arrived, and we headed off to the district office to take care of the rest of the paperwork. I had everything ready to go, but was not prepared when the individual I had spoken to on the phone turned out to be the one that would need to help us. Talk about having to swallow your pride and play nice. After a few hours there, we finally got approval from the principal and headed over to the school. The first kid I see is a 6’5 Albino kid wearing a long black trench coat and cat eye contact lenses…seriously?! I told Axelle she probably wouldn’t be friends with him. After having to convince the guidance counselor that AP classes wouldn’t be the best fit for Axelle on account that English was her second language and she didn’t plan on going to college in the US, we got a schedule set up, and I sent her on her way to classes…she was calm, cool and collected and I was a nervous wreck.
I spent the next few weeks walking her to the bus stop ( let’s be honest, I would have killed my parents if they had ever done that with me), which I finally decided probably was not that cool. But there is nothing like going from zero kids to a teenager over night.
Today is Axelle’s last day of school, and I can’t believe that the time has gone by so quickly. We have been so lucky, because Axelle is such an amazing person and we have enjoyed getting to know her, teach her a few things along the way (like how Pearl Jam is the greatest rock band of all time, cool lingo like “that’s how I roll” & “Axelle is in the hizzie, and Jenn’s favorite…the joy of using coupons) all while learning so much from her.
As we begin to prepare to start saying “au revoir” to Axelle over the next few days, I do know that we will continue to stay in contact with her, and can’t wait to watch her as she becomes an adult. In sixteen years, when she is old like us, we’ll send Nolin over to France to live with his big sister for a year. Axelle…Nous vous remercions de faire partie de notre famille moderne!
The weekend is over and I guess it is back to reality. While there are a few less hands to help keep Nolin occupied, there are several more people who have had the chance to be seduced by his charm.
Friday night after my brother and parents left our house to go to sleep, I sent Teresa upstairs to get an uninterrupted night of sleep in a comfortable bed, and decided that the boys would have an indoor campout. I think my slumber party was a little less successful than Teresa’s. Everything was ready…bassinet was in place by the couch; Nolin’s downstairs feeding, changing and clothing outlets were all fully stocked and ready to handle anything that came our way; pillows were placed strategically on the floor for Pancake; and sheets and a pillow adorned the couch to provide comfort and well deserved sleep for me.
We made it through the 1 am feeding with no problems, and I went back to the couch for my next 3 hours of sleep. Then at 2am, I was awoken not by screams or cries, but grunts and sighs as Nolin was feeling a little gassy and unable to get comfortable. At this point he was wide awake and it was game on. Basically I spent the rest of the night trying to get him wound down and back to sleep. I also discovered that prime time TV programming does not extend to 4 in the morning.
Nolin would fall asleep and then after about 10-20 minutes of sleep for me, we’d start the game over again, and he would smile (again through the whole ordeal he never cried once)…awesome. During the brief moments that Nolin would sleep, Pancake decided he wanted to be in on the action too, and he would jump on the couch and try to get comfortable using my head as a pillow…even more awesome. This routine between Nolin and Pancake went on until about 8:30 in the morning when Teresa and Jenn left for the airport.
With very little sleep and a son whose temperament was about as stable as the volcano in Iceland we opted not to test fate and make the 5 hour round trip to visit Aunt ELO, but Nolin did assure me that when we head up north he has reserved some time just for her in his rock star schedule. We did head out briefly for breakfast and then decided that we would just relax around the house and grill out for dinner.
There are a few things I remember from my early childhood. One is when my dad would lay in bed on a Saturday morning and he would sit me on his chest to fall asleep. Apparently he still has the knack because Nolin was perfectly content in my dad’s arms and resting on his chest. I guess my dad has the gift of the hypnotic buddha…I think Nolin could have slept there the entire day if we let him. We have now discovered the 6th “S” to having the Happiest Baby On The Block “Send Him To THE Belly”. Well I have learned a lesson from the master and I am having some luck with this new technique albeit not as much as my father since he has had a few more years to develop his technique.
It has really made me appreciate this entire experience more to have the opportunity to share Nolin with my family and witness how this child has already brought so much joy into our lives…and he is just getting started. Nolin has taught me so much in his first few weeks, and I guess things have come full circle because once again I have learned from the master.