The highs and lows

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Three-year-old Miles sure is a roller coaster ride these days.

So when Owen was having newborn pictures taken at home yesterday, and it came time to pick up Miles from preschool, something told me a little field trip was in order.

“I should probably just not bring Miles right back home, huh?” I asked Abbey.

Looking around at all the very breakable camera equipment inhabiting the living room, a vaguely fearful look crossed my wife’s face.

“Oooh, yeah,” she said. “That’s probably a good idea. Take him out for lunch or something. Stay out a while.”

I decided McDonald’s on the west side of town was the place to go. I know, I know, the food is terrible, but with all the energy he expends I figure calorie-burning is not really a problem at this point. Plus they have a great playground there.

I got to St. Theresa’s at the usual pickup time and Miles scampered down the sidewalk with a big smile on his face and practically jumped into my arms.

“Hi, Daddy! I had fun at school today. I hungry!” he said.

“Well, I guess we’re in business then.” I replied. “How about a cheeseburger?”

“Yes daddy! We ARE in biz-i-ness!!!” he said, saying the last word slowly while sizing it up.

(He does this with unfamiliar words all the time. It’s kind of hilarious.)

Anyway, you would not believe this was the same child that just a day ago threw an epic, threw-himself-on-the-floor, kicking-and-screaming tantrum when we picked out the wrong Justice League episode on Netflix.

He said hello to everyone in McDonald’s and went and sat down calmly in his seat. He ate about 90% of his cheeseburger and fries and all of his yogurt, then calmly asked to go play. No tantrums, no begging.

He played really nicely with the other kids, went all the way to the top of the playground set all by himself and didn’t even raise a ruckus when I told him it was time to go.

But the car ride on the way home was the best moment of my day, by far.

“Daddy,” Miles said from his car seat. “Can you hold my hand?”

So we drove all the way home with his hand in mine, my arm awkwardly bent around the back of the passenger seat, but I didn’t care.

It’s those little moments that make the roller coaster ride worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get your car seats checked out

Ever since Miles was born, the car seat has been always been an issue.

Not for him. For me.

You see, the gosh-darned things are just so hard to install correctly. The guideline, they say, is no more than an inch of wiggle room side-to-side. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to achieve that.

I mean, I’m a grown man, of not insubstantial size, and I’m literally standing in the back seat of the car, pulling those belts as tight as I can with all the strength I have. I’m also fairly intelligent, smart enough to read an owner’s manual and figure things like this out.

Still, it seems like it’s never quite tight enough.

So a few days before Owen was born, we took both our cars over to St. Mary’s for a car seat safety program they were putting on.

Thank goodness for these folks, who are certified by the National Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program. They are truly doing good work. A quick evaluation on both cars and they told me what I expected, that neither of Miles’ seats were as secure as they should have been.

They showed us how to make sure they were as tight as possible, which is not nearly as simple as it seems.

For example, we learned that the “LATCH system” belts we had been using to install Miles’ seat wasn’t adequate in either of our cars.

The LATCH system (standing for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) came into being in the early part of the 2000’s and was supposed to be a universal, foolproof solution for installing car seats.

For newborns and infants, it does just that – for toddler-sized kids, it’s more of a hit-and-miss proposition and even something as insignificant as the shape of the seat back can mess everything up.

St. Mary’s registered nurse Terry Cooper showed us why the “latches” weren’t working for us and showed us how to secure the seatbelt in the more traditional way with the lap and shoulder belts, which in our specific case, proved to be a far safer and easier method.

I could go on a rant about how the car manufacturers and car seat manufacturers need to get their collective acts together and collaborate on a truly universal system for car seats, but if that hasn’t happened by now it’s probably not going to.

Instead, I will simply point out the importance of making sure your children’s car seats are 100% safely installed.

The good thing is, both Deaconess and St. Mary’s here in town have car seat safety programs. My guess is most hospitals have something similar in place.

If your car seat doesn’t seem quite secure enough, it probably isn’t. Make an appointment, and they will check everything out for you at no cost.

 

http://www.deaconess.com/TheWomensHospital/Wellness-and-Education/Pregnancy.aspx

http://www.stmarys.org/car-seat-safety

Requiem for a grouch

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I’d like to think I am a good dad.

But I can also be a real grouchy jerk, often without even knowing it.

I was reminded of that while having a “constructive dialog” (i.e., an argument) with Abbey the other day about how to handle disciplining Miles these days – he has been acting up quite a bit lately, especially since the new baby came along.

I don’t mean to be a crank, but I suppose frustration gets the best of me too often. I probably raise my voice a little too much. And Miles, being the stubborn, willful child that he is, isn’t particularly inclined to listen any better when the decibel level of my voice gets higher – he simply misbehaves even more in protest.

In addition to my usual triggers – noise, messes, mornings – it seems like all of us in this house let ourselves get wrapped up in it. If one person gets upset and starts raising their voice, it turns into a cycle of tension, frustration and raised voices for everyone. Even when you’re not mad at somebody, you still end up raising your voice, if for no other reason than just to make yourself heard.

One of the things I most admire about my wife is her ability to size up a complicated, emotional problem and come up with a solution. She intuited that if we raised our voices less, Miles would probably behave better.

So far, it is working. There are far fewer episodes of willful disobedience and he is a lot more cooperative with us the last few days.

When he does act up, he goes to his new “timeout chair.” This is a rocking chair in the corner of the living room. There aren’t any toys or distractions – his previous timeout spot was his bedroom, which only seems to exacerbate the situation which put him in timeout to start with. I won’t say the “timeout chair” is perfect, but he seems to respond to it much better. After all, a three-year-old bundle of energy can’t waste time sitting around in a boring chair in a boring corner, there are just too many other things to do.

This has been a good reminder for me how my bad mood can affect everybody else, even when I don’t mean to inflict it upon on my family – and I think Abbey would admit she can be the same way sometimes.

It’s also a reminder that we need to stay flexible in how we interact with our kids. What works for one kid may not work for another, and even with the same kid, what worked a year ago may not be the best approach for right now.

Nobody died and made anybody a parenting expert. We are learning just like everybody else and doing the best we can. Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll be able to look back and say we did a good job.

 

 

 

Home sweet home

One of the things you do with a newborn in the house is watch TV.

A lot of TV. After all, when you’re sitting in a chair with a baby in your arms, there aren’t exactly a ton of realistic entertainment options.

In our house, that usually means marathon viewings of series on Netflix.

Lately it seems we gravitate toward the home renovation shows on HGTV and the like. It’s enough to give us serious thoughts as to what we plan to do with our house in the future.

Background: We bought our “dream home” this past spring.

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While we are extremely lucky and grateful to be living and raising our kids in this house, I would be lying if I said everything was perfect. The house has tons of character, which is great, but something I’ve learned is that “character” also equals “issues.”

Nothing major, really. It’s just that the décor seems to date to the mid-70’s (not so bad) and early 90’s (a horrendous era for style, judging from my own teenage memories).

There’s a lot of wallpaper. The wallpaper in my office, for instance, has a plant pattern. It looks like reeds, the kind I might see alongside the road when I go back home to Louisiana.

In the meantime, I am concerned about ducks trying to fly in through the windows in an attempt to land on my wall.

The living room has a giant mirror spanning the width of the fireplace and going all the way up to the ceiling. I am no interior designer, but I cannot understand for the life of me why you would want an enormous mirror above your fireplace.

The fireplace is another issue, itself – even if we wanted to use it, the gas lines have been pulled. Plus, the currently-HGTV-playing television just happens to be parked in front of the fireplace area, seeing as how it was the only logical place in the room to put a TV.

There are other things – the finished basement would be great to use as living space, except it’s leaky; the downstairs bathroom has all the square footage of a postage stamp; and the upstairs is always about a thousand degrees.

But I don’t want to sound negative. It really is a great house. I am extremely proud to live here. I look forward to raising my two boys in this house and growing old here.

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In a funny way, I feel like we are carrying on a tradition, as the previous owners raised their kids here. On the back garage wall, there’s a series of marks charting the heights of all the kids.

I can’t fully explain it, but seeing those marks on the wall inspires me. This place has seen a few kids grow up to become adults – at least three generations’ worth since it was built in the late 1930’s.

No doubt there have been lots and lots of birthday parties, family fun, afternoons spent playing in the backyard, heartfelt moments and hugs shared in this old house. I look forward to adding a few hundred more.

(That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing a few of those home renovation shows, though. That projection theater room in the basement isn’t going to just build itself, you know.)

Watch out world, here we come

Yesterday, we had our first outing as a newly-configured family of four, heading to the Fall Festival around lunchtime. I think we desperately needed a reason to get out of the house; what better reason than carnival rides and amazing food?

It was hot, way hotter than I had expected, but everybody was game. Abbey packed little Owen into her sling and toted him around. It was funny to watch people’s reactions – they would either stare as if they had never seen a baby before or point and whisper to their friends:

“Is that a dog??? How cute!!! No, it’s a baby!!! Wow!!!”

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I had forgotten how much attention babies get. Miles certainly got his share and still does. I guess that’s the price for having adorable kids, right? Fortunately, little “O”, as we’ve taken to calling him, seemed to like the accommodations and happily slept the whole time.

Anyway, we started off at the kiddie rides. Miles has not always been one for rides but he seemed to have a good time. He rode a zebra on the carousel and won an inflatable guitar at one of the kiddie games.

He was “disappointed” (parent code for “he threw a temper tantrum”) when he wasn’t quite tall enough to experience the flying Dumbo ride, but there were other fun things to do. He got to ride in the “boose” (caboose) of a little train and tried his hand as a sailor too.

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I am not a ride person. I am, however, a food person. More specifically, a meat fanatic. From the second we got there, I was thinking about the delicious ribeye sandwich I had last year. I didn’t remember exactly who served it, but we knew about where it would be. I had to exhibit a little more patience than I probably cared to, but we eventually made it to the Amvets Post #84 station. The sandwich definitely lived up to my expectations and was just as good as I remembered.

(Hint: Get the pickles and onions and hit it with a decent squirt of steak sauce. The bite of the sauce and pickles, the crunch of the onions and the hot juicy goodness of the ribeye all combined is something to behold.)

I also had to experience the Pulled Pork Parfait from Hawg ‘N’ Sauce, having heard about it in the course of doing a story I wrote a few weeks ago. This also did not disappoint, although I would probably delete the shredded cheese if I got it again. Nothing against the Hawg ‘N’ Sauce recipe, I just have weird preferences when it comes to cheese.

Abbey, going more for the dessert end of the spectrum, got a couple of really good cookies from Rennie’s; a fantastic white chocolate bread pudding from It Takes a Village; and some fried pickle spears.

I only regret that I had just one stomach to fill because I saw at least 15 other things I would’ve loved to try. But there’s always the rest of the week, right?

 

Three going on 14

I think my son is becoming a teenager.

The thing is, Miles is only three, but with some of the things he says and does these days – if you closed your eyes you would honestly think there’s a 14-year-old in the house.

Lately he calls us “mom” and “dad.” Not “mommy” and daddy” like you might expect from a child who is practically a baby, still in diapers. No, it’s “mom” and “dad” now, and he says it so matter-of-factly we know it’s not just a put-on.

That is, of course, when he uses a parental designation at all. About half the time, he calls me “Michael” lately. Now this behavior, I am sure, comes from hearing his mother call me by my given name all the time. (Surely, it’s a good thing he doesn’t hear all the other things she calls me from time to time.)

Yesterday, he approached me with an orange in his hand: “Michael, could you peel this orange for me?”

Again, the way he said it was so matter-of-factly. I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Now, I grew up in the South. Calling your parent by their first name when I was a kid was like cussing in church or something. If I ever did that with my parents, I am sure it did not happen a second time.

Of course, the most frightening teenage prospect of all, he also wants to drive the car. Every single time we go somewhere. “I want to drive!!”

I tried to tell him he could drive when he was 16 years old. He gave me a dirty look, the kind I would not expect to have gotten until at least eighth grade.

It also shows up occasionally when he’s upset about something. We’re used to the tantrums. He usually will hurl himself to the floor, kicking and screaming. This is cause for a timeout.

Except for times like last week, when he decided to forgo the usual histrionics after being denied free reign with a spray can of air freshener.

“I am sad,” he said despondently, but with no tears or pooched-out bottom lip — just resigned disappointment.

“I want to go to my room and be sad now.”

Off to his room he went, closing the door behind him, the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders. Emo-toddler.

I had a vision of him going to his little boombox, taking out the Yo-Gabba-Gabba soundtrack and putting on a Depeche Mode album instead.

 

 

 

The chaos has begun

Most of last week was spent at the hospital, with Abbey and Owen both doing really well but stuck there for the longer-than-usual time that is exceedingly common with Abbey’s heart condition.

The days were mostly quiet and peaceful. We would have lunch together in the hospital room, and after Miles got out of preschool, we’d pick him up and bring him back there for a visit. It was all very lovely.

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Then we got home.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a special moment to bring Owen home for the first time. It was even more special to have all of us at home together for the first time. And when we all sit in the living room together, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like we’re all the subject of a Saturday Evening Post cover or something.

But the chaos is something else. Miles has this habit of exuberantly screaming at the top of his lungs for no reason whatsoever; the dog is incapable of sitting still or relaxing and is usually pacing a trench in the floor; Owen has his own set of newborn problems; and mom and dad spend most of their time shooshing one child or another.

With the baby, it’s of course a gentle “shhhhhh, now let’s go to sleep in our wittle bitty bouncer” and with Miles it’s a furiously whispered “SHHHHH!!!!!! USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE!!!!!! YOU’LL WAKE UP YOUR BROTHER!!!!!”

And yes, sometimes I forget who I am shooshing – ironically the shooshing only adds more to the feeling of general disarray. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The dynamic of noise and movement is tough for me personally. I’ve always been a quiet person. I would guess it is hard for many people to relate, but any more than two conversations going on in a room at the same time and my nerves just get twisted into knots.

Over the years, I have learned a few ways to calm myself. I am increasingly thankful for the quiet moments that break up the mass of noise and confusion. Such as now. Owen is asleep. Abbey is watching some bad reality show. Miles is napping —

(in actuality, he’s probably playing with his trains on the floor in his bedroom and would bolt back to his bed if I went and opened the door, but at least he’s being quiet)

— and the only real noise in my vicinity is the clatter of my keyboard and a Dave Brubeck record on the stereo. Ahhhhhh.

It’s these quiet moments that kind of “recharge” me for the not-so-quiet ones.

Because, sometimes, the not-so-quiet moments can also be the most rewarding.

Welcome to the world, kid

Up until now, my dad responsibilities have centered around Miles, our three-year-old son. Miles is a brown-eyed, tousled-hair, sticky-handed tornado of energy and big personality. He teaches me a little more about myself every day, and sometimes I have a hard time remembering what my life was like before him (I mean that in a good way, of course).

However, as of Monday afternoon, our second son Owen is now Abbey calls an “outside baby,” and will obviously demand his share of attention:

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Owen Michael Doyle made his worldy debut Monday afternoon at 1:55 p.m. He was happy and healthy, just under 7 pounds and 19 1/12 inches long. He has big, dark eyes, a smattering of red hair, and bears a striking resemblance to his big brother when he was a newborn.

Owen on the left, Miles on the right.

Owen on the left, Miles on the right.

(I am told the red hair probably comes from my mother’s side of the family. Abbey does, in fact, have red hair, but that’s with the assistance of Clairol — or knowing Abbey, most likely whatever brand just happened to be on sale.)

The first couple of days have been fantastic and tiring. I can’t say enough about Abbey, who has been so tough through the whole experience. Several hours after having her abdomen sliced open, she was up and walking around the hospital room, and somehow managed to function on literally 15 minutes of sleep that first night. It’s amazing.

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Speaking of amazing –

So far, Owen is thriving! He’s nursing really well, poops a lot — which I’m told is a really good sign – and doesn’t cry too much. His interests, at the moment, seem to be twofold: starting wide-eyed at whatever happens to be within his six-to-eight-inch visual range; and chewing on his blanket.

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The eating thing is a huge relief. Miles struggled so much with that as a newborn that he lost a bunch of weight and had us worried for a while. But Owen has been, as his mom says, “a rock star.” I guess everybody’s got to learn to eat and poop sometime, but it’s nice that he seems to be well ahead of the curve.

Allow myself to introduce … myself

Regular readers of this blog know that its usual author will be out of circulation for a few weeks. But fear not, the show will go on! As Abbey mentioned in her last entry, I will be taking over Aparently Obvious while she is on maternity leave.

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For clarity’s sake, my name is Michael. I am Abbey’s husband, a regular contributor to the Courier & Press (and a couple of other very fine daily publications throughout Louisiana and Texas) and a stay-at-home dad.

Unlike my globe-trotting, career-achieving wife, my life story resides on the boring side of average. I’m a cheeseburger-and-fries, t-shirt-and-jeans, can’t-dance-at-all kind of guy. But that’s okay, we can’t all be Justin Timberlake.

I am from south/central Louisiana, where I spent the first 31 years of my life. Met a girl, got married, you know the story – next thing I know I’m in the land of Mellencamp and high school basketball. After a few years living in the northern half of Indiana, we moved down to Evansville about a year and a half ago.

I’ll always be a Louisiana boy. Louisiana is like something that just gets in your bones. You can never leave it behind.

But, I like Evansville a lot and have already come to think of it as home. I’m excited about the prospects of living and raising a family here in the long term.

So I will try to carry this blog forward with that as the overall focus, for you, the loyal readers. And I know you’re out there, because several times when I’ve been out covering a story I get the whole “You’re married to Abbey?!? I love her blog!!!” thing.

Mostly, it’s going to simply be a slice-of-life kind of thing, as we all get adjusted to life with a new member of the family. I feel like we’re off to a great start already.

Stay tuned!

Trading places

This is it.

At least for me, for a while.
As I type those words a couple things go through my mind — the first is the catchy 1979 Kenny Loggins’ tune (“This is It”) and the other is, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe that in just a few days I’ll be mom to two.”

Seriously, how did that happen? (Don’t answer that, I really know the answer but it doesn’t make it any less scary!)

Fireworks in Anderson in 2012.

After Michael Jackson’s “This is It” clears my brain (yes, both tunes are floating around in my head this morning), I am left only with my mushy baby-brain thoughts; I don’t really have anything too profound for my parting words.

But fear not, oh faithful readers. This blog isn’t known as “A ‘Mom’ly Obvious.” Its moniker is “A Parently Obvious,” so the other parent in this household will be taking over.

We are going to be kind of switching roles for the next eight weeks. Michael is super-stay-at-home dad who works from home part-time normally while I’m the full-time, works-too-many-late-nights mom. But now, Michael will be focused on working a lot more, and I will be taking on the primary parenting and household duties. I’m afraid of what may become of the house during this switch, but I’ll do my best.

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I’m looking forward to the change of pace. I’ve never been one to question what my stay-at-home husband does all day. I know raising kids and keeping up with a house, along with working as a freelance reporter, is a ton of hard work. I have no allusions that my time at home will be a welcome break from my pace at my job. What it will be though is a wonderful opportunity for me to bond with our new son and to shower a lot of attention on Miles.

But don’t get too attached to my hubby. I want the blog back when I return to work at the end of November. No matter how clever, insightful or just better he may be, I want it back!

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Until then, have a great couple months, and I’ll talk to you again in about eight weeks. Michael will keep you in the loop about all of our adventures as a new family of four in the meantime.