Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Jersey Shore Post Hurricane Sandy

The power slowly returned.  Sporadic and weakened TV and Internet followed just this morning.  Almost a week later.  We were all in a fog.  Radio reports were shoddy at best; political speeches of community and inner strength, company lip service by utility PR reps, and vague descriptions of the devastation.  Hurricane Sandy was over but the rebuilding process was just beginning.

We felt violated.  Like the innocent victims of a home invasion or a car break in.  The crime may be over but the dirty infringement and unsettling vulnerability rises and falls like the ebb and flow of a tide.  The feeling is repeated with each new image of destruction, and every new tale of horror and loss.  They were all personal.  This was our state, our towns, our shore, our people.

Jersey, Staten Island, the Shore...

The Jersey Shore - the playground of our summers and our youth may never be the same.  

Going on vacation within the boundaries of your home state may make more sense for citizens of larger states like Texas or California but for many in the Northeast, summer vacations and the Jersey Shore go hand in hand.  It is difficult to convey to outsiders just how culturally important the shore is for us and how many of our lives blossomed on the hot sands and crowded boardwalks that line the 200 mile coast, from the nude beaches of Sandy Hook to the tip of the Cape May peninsula.  I can assure you the Jersey Shore is not the lampoon MTV blasted to the world.  As millions from Maryland to Pennsylvania to New York can attest to, the shore is a place for families and singles alike, with crazy weekly beach house rentals and boutique hotels, wild bars and fun boardwalk games and rides, top notch restaurants, salt water taffy and miles upon miles of clean excellent beach.

The Jersey Shore is unlike any other beach.  It's the shore.  Each shore town and beach has is own unique personality.  Every lover of the shore had their favorite and least favorite beach and that opinion was iron clad and would be defended with every fiber of their being.  We knew what was the best approach to get the shore with the least amount of traffic, and how to properly find parking in the unbelievably packed grid of one way streets that line every shore town.  We knew which boardwalk is the best for each age and out of town guest, where to get the best pizza, calzone, sausage and peppers and salt water taffy.  The Stone Pony and The Boss, Atlantic City and Miss America, week long beach house rentals with extended family who have all vacationed at the shore since they were children themselves.

I remember week long vacations at Wildwood with dozens of bikers and what seemed to me to be the largest boardwalk in the world.  I remember going every summer to Belmar and Bradley Beach, the lunacy of Point Pleasant and Sea Side Heights after dark, and riding tandem bikes to the point of boredom in old time Cape May.  Seeing Primus at the first Sno-Core tour in Asbury Park, and bumping into RZA, GZA and Deck in their Bobby Digital van during the 4th of July fireworks at Point Pleasant beach.

There is always something special about the Jersey Shore.  The amusement park rising over your shoulders while high tide tickles your toes.  The nasty sea gulls stealing lunches while parents chase down blown away beach umbrellas.  Ten thousand cultures and millions of people huddled together enjoying wave after wave while the sun beats down.

That is my Jersey Shore...  and now I can only hope we can rebuild it so my daughter can enjoy it too.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Baby bath time

Bath time is a sacred time for parents and their babies.  Bonding time.  It's about bonding.  And hygiene.  Sure one of you splashes around uncontrollably, 'tearless' soap in eyes while battling the constant water-boarding like an uncooperative Rumsfeld prisoner, but once you step back and take the upper hand over your child there's a real bonding that occurs. 

There's a cuteness about a sopping wet and sparkly clean baby splashing around in their own filth diluted with three gallons of water that is simply precious.  The wonder of water, wild hair and the giggle of glee with each splish-splash.  Pictures must be taken from non-revealing angles, unless the photographer is a grandparent and then it's full on Paparazzi.  Some of the greatest memories and incredible black mail photos that can be used and reused for decades are from bath time.  Most importantly, that incapacitatingly wretched poo stench has been replaced with the most wonderful new baby smell...  at least until you fasten that last button on the PJs and then all bets are off.

Our baby has a war chest of play toys for the bath.  They are a variety of plastic sea creatures and cups that shoot and spray water.  There are rubber duckies, animated fish, little red crabs with googly eyes, silly octopus and purple penguins.  They're great.  I play with them when the opportunity arises, without going out of my way of course.  Last night I also discovered that some of them are the most revolting toys in the history of bath toys.

For years parents and children have been warned about the toxicity of lead.  How Chinese (mostly) toys must be bought with caution for fear that terrible chemicals and toxins were used in the creation of said toys and/or the toys have been painted with lead or cyanide, or the Ebola virus.  I personally don't know anyone who became sick from these terror toys, was hospitalised or even grew a second head but I was very informed of the dangers.  I am certain these horror toys exist but I can't imagine finding them at the local Jersey Baby's R Us, and I refused to Google it.

The bath toys we brought into the giant blow up princess tub for our daughter were all made especially for children and crafted to the highest standards for safety and educational merit (whatever that means).   Some of these toys allow for kids and their parents to fill up the insides with water and squirt them out like a spitting fish or crab, ect.  They're cute, amusing and lots of fun.  They also apparently fill with black mold and squirt a nasty mix of water and mold flakes that ironically resemble bits of sea weed.  This alone is disturbing, but discovering this as your baby sprays her water toy in her face is extra special.


Manni didn't care. 

Mommy was simultaneously bewildered and furious. 

Daddy may have retched...  and then realized that there was only one way to remedy the situation.

Tonight would have to be Ice Cream Time!

Manni's favorite squirting toys are now taking a bath themselves... A bleach bath.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baby Developmental Milestones

There are so many wonderful milestones parents get to experience in the first year of a baby's life.  Children grow so quickly in the first year and pass milestone after milestone faster than most parents would like.  If we're lucky we have a camera or video camera ready to capture these precious moments.  Each day we work with our children to prepare them for their next milestone and anxiously await the next phase in their development.

When our children so proudly succeed in their newest breakthrough, we as parents erupt with joy and content and then immediately long for the six week old cooing and needy infant we held in our arms just months earlier.  Do we fear the gradual independence of a growing child?  Do we selfishly long for the cute and loving dependence exuded from a newborn?  Or is it just the smell?

Perhaps it's none of this.  Perhaps its just enjoying the memories of your child as they grow and longing to relive the best ones.  And that is why being lucky enough to experience and sometimes capture on film/digitally these awesome milestones as they happen is cherished so deeply by the sentimental.

I would have no idea about any of this.

I have yet to experience a single milestone at its inaugural occurrence with the exceptions of phenomenal acts of excretion and/or regurgitation. 

Lets run through some great baby milestones and who was there to experience them.

Lifting of head - both of us because the baby was with us 24/7 for the first four weeks

Sitting up - Sarah

Sitting up on own - Sarah

Crawling - Sarah w/ video

Pulling up - Sarah

Cruising - Sarah

Power Poop - David

EDIT: Baby crawling up stairs - Grandma (just now while I was writing this)

Not only have I not been personally present for essentially all of the major milestones up until this point, but I have been to sole creator of milestone regression.  Recently I went to Montreal for a bachelor party.  I left on a Friday and returned on Sunday.  48 hours I was gone.  In that time Manni became so upset with my absence that she refused to pull herself up for a week.

Before I left she was standing constantly.  Pulling herself up everywhere, on chairs, tables, slick walls, pant legs.  Anywhere and everywhere.  She didn't just stand, she'd travel from one place to another using both legs, both directions and spinning without issue.

Once I returned...  nothing.  Just crawling.  If you attempted to 'help' her she immediately dropped into a split.  I was dumbfounded.  Google couldn't help me.  No one had ever reported on a baby going on strike.  I spent a week working through the 7 steps of grief and just when I was resigned to accept that'd she'd be crawling for the rest of her life, Manni pulled herself up, smiled at me and shuffled away (had on the table).  I'm surprised she didn't whisper "punk" as she scooted away.

Nothing like a baby showing stubbornness and insight before their first birthday.  Can't wait to see what I'm up against in this next year.

Twitter : @babymanni

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baby's first 4th of July, Fireworks and Pooping on the boardwalk aka Massive Baby Diaper Blowout

This was baby Manni's first 4th of July.  We drove down to Bradley Beach during the time allotted for her morning nap (Manni naps twice a day.  The first starting between 9:30-10:15 and the second around 2:30-3:00).  Baby Manni loves sleeping in the car sometimes falling asleep the second the car pulls out of the driveway.  This trip despite there being no traffic (No shore traffic?  I know, blasphemy!)  Manya refused to sleep and spent her time alternating between her patented "do do dooo!" and her unoriginal and desperate screaming.  Any chance we could make this stop and get some rest?  A/C?  Wind through the windows? Perhaps a pacifier or some white noise?  None of those tactics abated the issue and Rhianna only made it worse (as it always does).

This is what I see when I check if she's sleeping.

Once we arrived at the shore Manya had slept a maximum of eight minutes and as soon as she caught glimpse of Grandma and Great Aunt Ruth she was too excited to calm down. 

Onto the beach!

Holy crap was it hot!  A mind sweltering 97 degrees with 160 degree sand.  But the baby (who was carried through the lava sand) loved it.  Loved the sand, loved the baby pool filled with salt water, loved the hundreds of people waving and smiling at her.  Mostly Manni loved the salt.  If she could talk Manni would have said, "Wats Dis?  Salty!  Salty! Salty!  I Luv Salty!" 

Between the thousand attempts at drinking the Atlantic Ocean, freaking out with excitement over waves splashing her legs, having her eyes pop out of her head every time a sea gull walked by "Doo!" and digging in the sand, Manya fell asleep.  At the beach.  Sound asleep with forth of July chaos all around her. 

When she awoke we watched the sea gulls destroy a poor family's half open cooler filled with cookies and sandwiches.  Two dozen gulls wreaked havoc on the impromptu picnic as Manni giggled and skrieked with each hop of a mischievous gull or jittery wing flap.  Soon the fat white gluttons took flight and began bombing the beaches from above.  Manya had no idea of the stinky danger being dropped on us innocent beach goers but I was quite certain to quickly retreat away from the bombing zone.  Grandpa was not so lucky and had to take a rather serious dip in the ocean.

It was a good day.

With the Fourth of July on a Wednesday the scheduling of fireworks varied by town and date.  Due to this there seemed to be new fireworks every day of the weekend AND on Wednesday the 4th as well.  Pretty cool. 

For our 4th Firework display we made the short walk down the boardwalk to Asbury Park.  No, we did not see Bruce Springsteen on our jaunt but we did see hundreds of Jersey peoples eager to see some explosions.   People watching the Jersey Shore is so good there could be a show about it....  wait for it... wait for it... yep.

The fireworks were scheduled to commence at 9:15 which was after Manni's usual bedtime.  We hoped the excitement of the people on the boardwalk would energize her enough to push through and see her first firework display.  By the time we made the twenty minute walk down the boardwalk and turned up the Pier to get a nice angle on the Asbury Park beach front, Manya was quite upset and was in no mood for remaining in the Bugaboo stroller.

Under normal circumstances Manni is dressed in cloth diapers but when we go on vacations or long day trips away from the home we tend to use disposables.  We love our cloth diapers but when you're a long way from home its easier not to lug around a bag of poopy diapers.  The fourth of July was no exception.  We did use a cloth swim diaper but opted for disposable regulars.

With Manni growing to full blown hysterics we pulled her out of the Bugaboo only to find a MASSIVE poo tidal wave of horror.  Shirt, pants, diaper, stroller, demolished.  The diaper was filled to the brim and had overflowed onto everything.  The most incredible part was it was totally solid.  This wasn't baby poo, it was ordinary grown child poo, just somewhere are 15lbs worth of it. 

No wonder she was so upset.

Poop Everywhere!

We went into full Jack Bauer mode for the clean up.  Hands flipping the baby, tearing away clothes and tossing around wipes.  Flipping portable changing pads and scooping up rogue chips of shit.  I must admit I was in shock at the amount of waste that came out of this cute little baby. 

-One full diaper (and when I mean full I mean you could do curls with it)
-One fully covered shirt
-One pair of pants that held enough that it could be considered a second diaper
-One Bugaboo fleece cover (thank god we had that on top of the Bugaboo canvas) with a full human sized poo on it
-Four to Six pairs of hands that needed full scrub downs
-A chip of shit on the boardwalk

Yes, that's right, a chip of shit. 

During the premiere of Cirque de Soleil Asbury Park, a chip of shit had flown off one of the poop covered items and landed on the wood Pier.  We all spotted it but in our haste no one had actually cleaned it up.  Being that it was 9:12PM by the time the baby was cleaned and changed and there was no light remaining in the sky, the chip of shit disappeared as the sun dipped behind the horizon. 

It was there, in the darkness, hiding, stalking us like an assassin. 

A chip of shit.

An assassin of poo.

Lying in wait, ready to be stepped on, or sat on by the first family member who forgot about its existence. 

Yes, it happened and I'm not proud of it.  I left my child's chip of poop on the Pier by Asbury Park.

Moving on.

The fireworks were amazing.  Yea remember that we were going to see fireworks for our nations birthday before we were horribly sidetracked by the poo-nami (credit to Josh once again) of the decade?   Well the fireworks were great and despite our reservations over a the possibility that the explosions might be scary for a 10 month old, Manni had no fear.  On the contrary.  She was SOOOOOO excited.  With every explosion the clapped and giggled and whipped her head around to smile at everyone.  "You see Dis?".  "Look at Dat!"  She made tons of "Oooooooo"  and "Dooohs!" 

And just as the finale began she crashed hard.  The Ergo got strapped on (as the Bugaboo was a poop zone now) and Manya was out.

The walk home was crowded with sugar crashing children racing around like lunatics.  I think children after 9 at night play games where their only goal is to chop block adults by throwing their bodies into the back of your knees as hard as they can. 

In other news there were at least 60 Muslim women going to the beach at 10:00 at night.  I know the lifeguards are done at 5:30 and the sun went down at 8:45 plus these women are wearing burkas covered everything except their eyes and its all black.  If a rip tide gets 'em they're done for.

Sarah made the astute observation that I might be Ramadan and they were cleansing themselves in the pure open water after the sun went down but I looked it up and Ramadan doesn't start until July 20th. 

So I have no idea what we stumbled upon but I sure hope they swim as safely as possible in the pitch black of night.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Baby Pool

 The barrette stayed in her hair for 3 more seconds of cuteness.

Parents spend an inordinate amount of time discussing, theorizing, reading about and stressing over sleeping habits and poop.  It may be because all parents are crazy, or perhaps its due to the fact that 80% of our lives are now dictated by baby sleep and poo.  Either way, prepare for more fun times in the battlefield of sleep and smell-fest of solid food baby poop.

I have to admit, guys spend a good amount of time discussing farts and bowel movements well before they have children.  I think we can all agree that the humor of farting is universal and timeless.  Long after the 3rd world war is over our children's children's children's children's children will be laughing at a funny 'toot' or a perfectly timed 'perp'.  And boys will still marvel and gloat over their most recent 'one wiper'.

Having a one wiper with an infant is akin to receiving a Christmas bonus.  Nothing is more elating than taking a recently soiled infant and completing the change almost instantaneously (and without having to change a pad, the wall, your shirt and pants, and sometimes take a bath in the sink).  An easy clean up is always a nice surprise.  On the other hand, a properly contained explosion that takes 4 or more wipes (a single wipe can be folded and reused up to 4 times itself) always befuddles me.  It's contained.  There was no blowout so how is there so much, so many places and why does it seem to multiply in front of my very eyes like Tribbles if Tribbles were multicolored poo.

Now that it's summer we will be spending a great amount of time at the shore playing in the ocean waves and at the pool swimming in the shallows.  This of course brings into play the dilemma of diapers in the pool and/or ocean.  No one wants to replay the classic "Caddyshack" scene at the local pool this summer and I'd prefer not to be labeled "That Dad" as I fish for floaters while an army of angry moms and kids burn a hole through my chest.  I promise if that happens I'll A) be confused why I'm at a public pool and B) pull a Bill Murray.  Promise.

To prevent a pool poop disaster we have purchased swim diapers like the rest of the child bearing world.  To add a wrinkle to the swim time we use cloth diapers (I'll have a full length in depth cloth diaper post up in the next few weeks.  I promise) and will be using cloth swim diapers.   I'm not overjoyed with the idea of testing the swim diaper in public but I've heard enough good things about them to ease my mind.  Or at least trick myself into a solid false sense of security.

 Blossom?  I don't understand you joke dad.

We decided to ease baby Manni into swim time with a back yard baby pool (no diaper needed!).  We quickly learned that Manni HATES the cold water.  She shrieks like a banshee and clutches onto your shirt in terror.  She has the grip of a power lifter and he little fingers dig into cloth and flesh.  The must be warmed by the sun before she'll ease herself in.  Unfortunately once you make the mistake of torturing her with a cold pool she no longer trusts anyone to place her in a more comfortable pool. 

 Back off woman dis water is cold!

Manya also became leery of the quite abundant green grass surrounding us all.  She wasn't a fan of the unusual texture on her feet or her butt.  That is until she realized she could rip it out of the ground and throw it all around.  The grass ripping distraction allowed us to gradually move her closer to the pool which led to splashing from outside which led to major splashing, which led to sitting in the pool.... and success!  

 Mushroom Pool = Amazing

 That's my robe

Measuring cups for pool toys?  Baby don't care, just make my spa water warm!

She loves the water but still gasps when water hits her face...

Don't you just love the mushroom pool?

Twitter & Instagram : @babymanni

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sleep rocking, CIO, teething, Ninjinti and baby adventures

It's hard to be a gangsta!

Manya is now living in a world of relative routine.  Most parents agree that creating a bed time and nap time routine is beneficial for building solid sleep habits in children.  As parents with little experience (we're only 10 months into making mistakes with this child) and having lived through a wave or two of the ever exciting sleep regression, building a routine was a logical progression from our previous organized chaos.  We're not sticklers for exact to the minute schedules.  More often than not, even if we try to create a blow by blow routine, we end up totally throwing it out of wack every other day. 

Manya is teething all at once.  She has two cute bottom teeth that are totally adorable and a mouth full of gums that are sore and sore and sore and horrible.  The aching pain comes randomly, often at night, and distrupts her sleep.  One day, one side of her mouth is purple and sore.  Then next, nothing.  Each time her mouth aches her nose swells a little, boogers run and her nose gets clogged.  It's a rough life for our little cutie.

Despite the teething pains, the swollen mouth, and the snotty nose, Manni has fallen into a bit of a sleeping pattern and is able to put herself to bed (sort of) and stay asleep even if she wakes up during the course of the night - horray!  It's still a daily adventure and the other night we had our most memorable sleep experience yet.

As we discussed before, we dabble in the Cry It Out (CIO) Method.  We don't have the heart to let her cry to the point of near sickness but we do let her work on putting herself to sleep via a little tears.  Recently Manni's gotten to the point where she cries for just a few seconds sometimes and barely two minutes other times.  It's amazing.  Due to the teething sometimes we aren't so successful.  This one time she was upset on and off for almost 40 minutes.  It was quite unusual.  She'd be quiet and then cry and then quiet, and then cry, on and off, on and off.  Rather than entering her room and test the fury of an upset baby, we checked on her via the Manya-nitor.

I wish I had the poise to have video taped what I saw, but parental instinct kicked in too quickly.  On the monitor Manya had - in a sleep induced haze - pulled herself into a sitting position and passed out.  She sat there rocking back and forth and side to side like a drunken sailor, bopping her head into the crib post (its padded) over and over again in slow motion.  With each knock she'd barely wake herself up enough to whine.  I ran into the room and with a gentle and swift flip I put her square on her back and after five seconds of crying she was out for the night.

Nothing quite like a baby who falls asleep sitting up.

No sleep walking please.

 She thinks it's funny.

Manya doesn't need anything with her for comfort to fall asleep but if she had to chose it would be a small white sleep blanket.

Manya's sleep blanket is a small square of fabric attached to a stuffed bunny.  For the past nine months we referred to this bunny as Manni's Ninjinti.  It's called her Ninjinti because it says "Ninjinti" on the small square blanket.  Great story right?  Well what exactly is a Ninjinti?  We have no idea...  well, now we know thanks to the infernets and the internets.  Apparently Ninjinti is a Dutch little white bunny.  I never would have guessed.  Google told me that much.  How it got to our home or why a bunny is called a Ninjinti or how you pronounciate Ninjinti correctly is beyond me but if it gets baby Manni to sleep every night then Ninjinti is out best friend.  And it's fun to say.



Nin- jin- teeeeeeee!!!!!!!

I am easily amused.

BTW this is not the only time I've been confused by lettering on baby stuff.  For three months baby Manni wore a onesie with words separated by snapping buttons.  On one side it read "RABLE" and on the other "ADO".  Each and every time I put this onsie on her I read it as ADO'RA'BLE! (imagine it as though read by an Italian)  I swear that only after three full months of wear did I realize it actually said 'adorable'.  And yes, I felt like an idiot, and no, you will not get a picture of a onsie that says Adorable on it.

I sleep.
I got some toys!

TWITTER : @babymanni

Monday, June 11, 2012

Baby Jail and keeping your baby safe

I caved and we bought a baby jail.

The goal of a baby jail is to keep your baby safe and confined to a specific location once they are mobile.  People have different concepts of what constitutes a baby jail.  Some parents have their kids strapped into their car seats, others put them in an extra saucer and let them bounce away.  A crib or pack 'n play could also be used to contain active children safely.  I've seen child gates put in doors to keep babies in their nurseries, or gates used to quarantine children to certain safe rooms.  We chose to purchase an octagon shaped Superyard.

The super yard was purchased to keep Manni confined in a safe place with a number of her toys for entertainment but allow her the freedom to see Mommy and/or Daddy in the room.  We the parents would be able to be productive with the freedom of being able to use both of our hands at the same time while having the piece of mind that the baby was safe and secure.  This of course was all in theory.

When we first setup the pen upstairs Manni enjoyed her new surroundings and even used the walls of the play pen to practice pulling herself up.


During the day I moved the jail to the basement.  This is what the safe zone looks like when setup downstairs for our baby Manni.

It looks great right?  Yea Manni loved it too for about six minutes until she realized that I was being productive on the couch and that she wasn't able to crawl freely.  She became unbelievable annoying and by annoying I mean she wouldn't stop crying.  Tears and tears and ugly face and red eyebrows and snot and total meltdown.  Mind you this complete breakdown is all happening no more than six inches from me by a baby surrounded by toys.

I'm the tough parent.  I don't fold under the cuteness and heartache of a few tears.  I wasn't taking her out of her jail because that would defeat the purpose of buying the walls to begin with.  I knew that if I let her out due to her crying that she would have won the battle and would gain the upper hand in the child-parent tug of war for authority.  Her crying and screaming would not sway my decision to keep her in the safe area.  She would not be granted the freedom to crawl anywhere she wanted, no siree!

So the baby jail gained a new occupant. 

I know.  Pathetic.

Trivia question - what's more exciting that all the toys in the world?

Answer - Whatever Daddy is playing with.

Working in baby jail is difficult but can be feasible in small spurts.  We got into a rhythm and had a nice thing going until the dog got jealous that he wasn't involved in our baby jail party.  He whined and whined and paced back and forth.  He licked the sides and circled and his whine turned into a shrill.

It was unbelievably annoying.

Enough was enough.

This had to stop!

And then there were three.

For the record we do have a whole house.

So the baby and the dog played.   In the baby jail.  With me inside too.  All three in one little octagon with 400 baby toys.