Taking a Break From it All

Enough was enough.  Diapers, formula, toys everywhere, unending dishes and laundry, driving here there and everywhere for preschool, playgroups, appointments and visits.   Constant (though endearing) nagging by an ultra-high-energy three-year-old (“More Mini Wheats please!”; “Daddy, come play!”; “I don’t want to nap!”; “Bum-wipe please!” etc., etc.), and incessant demands from an eight-month old who had just learned how to grunt commands (translations: “gimme food!”; “gimme that toy!”; “gimme cuddles!”; etc. etc.)…

Phew!

We needed a break.  So we took one.  Hubby got his folks to come down and “spend some quality time” with the kids (aka: “free babysitting”), and we jumped in the car and drove away without looking back! 

Ok.  Well, it wasn’t quite that spontaneous, but an escape from kids never really can be.  Hubby and I had taken a trip this time last year to New Orleans, and it was the best five days we’d spent in years.  It worked out that we’d both have this time off again this year, so we planned a nice trip to New York City.  Of course, this was before Hurricane Sandy.  Not wanting to be total pricks by expecting a city still picking up pieces from a major natural catastrophe to drop everything and show us a good time, we chose to just go somewhere up here – Montreal.

We’ve planned to stay for five days – so far we’re on our fourth, and we’ve had a great time so far.  We’re staying at a B&B in the village, and hubby took it upon himself to organize our every waking moment – perfectly optimizing our tourist experience. 😐  So far, we’ve made excellent use of our three-day Metro passes, gotten in lots of walking and jogging, taken in as much history of the city as we can handle, not to mention lots of awesome food.  Tonight, we will enjoy some music at Place des Arts, then up to the ‘Mountain’ (it’s a hill, but Montrealers apparently get in a tizzy if you call it that) for a jog tomorrow morning, and then back home to the boys in the afternoon.

Some parents we know haven’t had a night away from their kids in six years.  They talk about a feeling of guilt that descends upon them when they even contemplate leaving their offspring, to go out and have fun.  Of course, we also know some parents who still get out two to four times per month, unwilling to sacrifice their life style from the ‘good old days’ of clubbing and drinking.  Hubby and I fit pretty comfortably in the middle, I think.

We both understand the value of taking a break.  Sometimes a break can be as little as one hour – one of us stays at home with the boys while the other goes food shopping (yes, food shopping can feel like a break, if done sans enfants).  Or at the other extreme, a break is both of us heading to New Orleans or Montreal for a week.  Regardless, the time away is undeniably therapeutic and restorative.  As much as I love my boys, and love my house, the chaos-that-is-my-life just gets to be too much at times – it’s all trees, and I can’t enjoy the beauty of the forest.

Right about now – four days into our getaway – we are starting to pine after the boys, wondering what they are doing, and giggling like school girls as we recall their antics – antics which we were not finding so terribly amusing as they occurred.  And just now, Hubby couldn’t resist – he called home just to hear our eldest son’s voice.  Both father and son were tickled pink to hear one another (with our youngest son squealing away in delight, in the background).   And so our trip has done the trick: we are ready to go home now.  Refreshed, renewed and in love with our two little rascals again.

So, take a break from the kids every now and then, eh?  It’s worth it – for everyone!

 

 

 

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Time to go shoppin’, boys! (part 1)

Ok, so I think I’d like to back up a bit from the time frame of my last post, where I recounted how we two gay dudes had just brought our first newborn home.  See, there’s a bit of prep work that went into getting our home set up as a baby-friendly zone.  In doing this ourselves, we discovered the mysterious inverse relationship between the age of an infant, and the volume of ‘stuff ‘ needed to support said small human.

I’ll use this post as a way to flesh out exactly what I mean by ‘stuff ‘.  And yes, this has been done before in many other blogs/sites.  But do you know what?  Each and every other ‘list of stuff you need for your newborn’ that I’ve come across has been written from a woman’s perspective.  So, this will (hopefully) be a bit of a fresh look at “The List”.

“ahem”

What You Need for a Brand New Baby (ie: younger that say, three months old)

I’ve broken this list down into categories sorta based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  I’ll talk about needs, wants, not-yets, and the useless ‘stuff’, and then order each item within the categories according to importance or relevance.  Yes, I’m anal when it comes to lists.  I find lists comforting (please just nod like you appreciate where I’m coming from and read on, ok?).

1)  Things You Really Need to Get

Infant Carseat: this is number one on my list, because if you don’t have this, you ain’t takin’ your little guy home!  Hospitals won’t let you leave unless you arrive with one in hand.  Any brand or model you find will (well, should!) meet the safety standards of your country or region, so really, it comes down to personal choice.  Some carseats are designed to combine with a stroller (they usually are sold together), so if you think you’ll use a stroller, this variety might be for you (it wasn’t for us; we rarely used a stroller).

Bottles: even if you guys are bringing home an older infant (upwards of 18mths), you’ll still need some of these.  They come in different sizes (most commonly small (4oz) and large (8oz)); the small ones are more useful at first, but quickly become useless once your voracious drinker wants a full bottle.  We bought a mix of sizes for son #1, but have exclusively used the 8oz size for son #2.

       *glass vs. plastic?  New plastic bottles are supposed to be BPA free (there was a scare a few years ago about plastic bottles); however, we use glass because all the hype about plastic bottles still has us wary of them, plus I really just like the feel of glass.

Formula: start with some ready-serve formula for the first day or so, until you see how your routine is establishing itself, then switch to the powdered version of the SAME brand, and start mixing!  There’s an old wives’ tale about how babies reject the first type of formula they try, so you should buy your second choice first.  We did not have that problem with either of our two boys (strangely enough, we didn’t have problems with ANY of the old wives’ tales we were told…).  I won’t endorse any particular brand here (cuz I ain’t gettin’ paid to do so), and they are all supposed to be nutritionally equal… but hey – you get what you pay for, right?

If they are all out of fillet mignon-flavour, this should be an adequate substitute.

Somewhere for Baby to Sleep: babies can and will sleep almost anywhere.  That being said, if you are doing a public adoption (like hubby and I did), your social workers will want to see that you have a bed set up exclusively for your new small human.  Our local public health agency does not support ‘family beds’ (where you, your significant other and baby all sleep together); nor do I.  I have a hard enough time sleeping with hubby rolling all over the place all night long, without having to worry about another body getting in the way of my beauty sleep.  So what are your other options?  Bassinet (he’ll outgrow this quickly!), or crib.  We chose the latter for our first son, buying something called a convertible crib.  No, it doesn’t have a retractable roof – it converted into a big-boy-bed when he got old enough to want to get out of bed himself, and can convert into a double bed when he’s outgrown this stage.  If you go for a crib, don’t forget to pick up a baby mattress, along with some fitted baby mattress sheets, and a plastic sheet to go between them and the mattress.

Diapers:

  • Disposable or Re-useable: you know what?  Just make your life easy – start with disposable diapers.  After a few months, when you can think rationally again, look into re-useable ones.  Son #1 uses a re-useable diaper for his afternoon nap, and a disposable diaper at night (we found having a re-usable diaper on all-night-long is too hard on his skin).
  • What Size to Buy: if you guys are bringing home a newborn, you probably want to get one (ONE) regular pack of ‘newborn’ sized diapers (usually marked with an ‘n’ on the box).  Your little dude is likely to grow quickly – he might even be ready for size ‘1’ by the time you finish the newborn pack.  At that stage, you are probably ok to buy a bigger box (which saves a bit of cash, and the odd trip to the store).
  • What Brand to Use: pick one and see if your little squirter does well in them (by ‘well’, I mean does he break out in pussy rashes and angry pimples one hour after you put the diaper on?).  We’ve only ever tried Pampers, with 100% success.  Like formula, I’m not sure that diapers are something you want to skimp on…  I suggest you be wary of no-name or store brands.

Onesies: The workdress of an infant.  Comes in two styles: short-sleeved-short-legged, and long-sleeved-long-legged. Half a dozen of each should do (why so few?  Because you’ll likely be getting a whole bunch more as gifts from friends and family).  Oh, and hey: the fewer buttons the better. Some crazy little outfits come with flaps and double breasts with snaps here, buttons there and ties for good measure.  Just go for simple one-row button-ups or (better yet) zippers; when it’s 2-am, you’re all thumbs, and you’re trying to get him back into his clothes after a particularly messy diaper change… well, you’ll thank me.

Short onesie & long onesie

Socks & Hats:  You only need a couple of each of these.  There will be mornings that are too warm for a long onesie, but a bit too chilly for bare baby feet.  And when you’re headed outside for a walk on a cloudy, windy day, a hat will keep his little bald head warm.

*The rule of thumb for dressing your little tyke: consider how much you are wearing, and add one layer for him.  No more.  Over-dressing an infant may have a link to sids.

Diaper Rash Cream: every baby gets diaper rash.  Some worse than others.  I’ve got a whole rant coming in another post about diaper rash…  In short, I believe the best way to treat diaper rash is to REMOVE THE DIAPER !  Failing that, it’s not bad to have some of this cream around, because – yeah – I know: there are times when a non-diapered baby is a non-option.

Blankies (adult spelling = blankets): you need a few knitted or fleece blankets for when your little dude is in the car seat, or to cover him and you when you are both a little sleepy after a feeding in your comfy chair (aaahhh!  cuddle time with your satiated baby = daddy bliss).

Burp cloths: Ok – so you don’t NEED these, provided you have an equal number of shirts to the number of feedings you do per week (roughly 40, for the first while).  Otherwise, get a dozen of these.  Little secret => get a pack or two of Gerber ‘cloth diapers’, which are just large squares of extra absorbent cloth; fold one in half and throw over your shoulder = perfect burp cloth.  They also come in handy for swaddling (ah, swaddling!  I’m going to dedicate another post to the wonder and joy of the swaddle).

Baby Carrier: aka baby sling or baby wrap.  Essentially, a device to fasten your baby to your chest.  We used this in place of a stroller almost without exception.  The type we used was a Snugli carrier; I’m not specifically endorsing this brand; it was simply the first and only one we tried.  With complete success 😉 .

Better bonding opportunities than with a stroller!

Baby 1st Aid / Toiletry Kit: Some of this stuff can be found in your home already (see next category below), but a few things are exclusive to little humans, such as: baby nail clippers, baby pain killer, baby thermometer, baby turkey baster (yeah… we never actually used this, but it’s supposed to suck boogies out of your little squirmer’s nose…)

and the final thing you guys will need

Quick Meals for the Two of You: for at least one week.  Because the last thing either of you want to think about is cooking a meal from scratch, or even go out for take-out.  Think frozen pizzas, frozen meat pies, frozen lasagnas, fresh pasta, frozen heat-and-serve fish meals, etc., etc.  Or hey – got a caterer friend?  Get them to drop a bunch of fresh meals off at your place.  Or invite one of your mothers to stay with you for a bit. <=nah.  Not worth it, in the long run.  Trust me 😦

2) Things You Can Cobble Together from Stuff You Already Have

Not everything has to be shiny and new for your little guy – he won’t notice if a thing or two looks recycled, and you’ll save yourselves a bit of cash.  Root around in that medicine cabinet for stuff that’s been there for eight years (Vaseline doesn’t go bad).  Feel good about re-using something that was just sitting in the garage, collecting mice feces dust.  Discover a use for something that was destined for the curb.

Diaper Bag: an essential piece of baby-kit, though not essential to be a designer model.  Pretty much any ol’ bag will do (a knap sack, a small suitcase, etc.)  We use a medium-sized gym bag with end pockets, and a few internal pockets.  It doesn’t have to get fancier than that.  Oh wait – you’re asking “what’s a diaper bag?!”  Good question.  Scroll to the bottom of part 2 of this post for the Diaper Bag Primer.

It’s up to you, dads. YOU’RE the ones who have to carry it.

Diaper Pail: if you intend to use re-useable diapers (we use a mix of re-useable and disposable), you’ll need somewhere other than your normal laundry hamper to drop these puppies.  We use a big ice cream tub beside the toilet in our bathroom (the tub comes from a local ice cream parlour, that sells them for a dollar a piece).

Corn Starch: I used an awful lot of talcum powder on our first son – it was a great way to keep his bum dry, and cut down on the development of diaper rash.  However, there is some thought that inhaling talcum powder can be harmful, and even carcinogenic (some people likening it to asbestos!).  Well, corn starch – which everybody has in their kitchen – works just as well, if not better, and I’ve started using it on our #2 boy.  Just don’t apply as much as you would talc – it can clump up a bit in the folds of his skin. 

making your life – at night – easier

Night Lights: Guess what?  You’re gonna find yourself stumbling around your home at all hours of the night with baby-in-hand.  Why fumble for light switches (and wake him up in the process), when you can just plug-in a handful of these strategically throughout your place, making night-travel a cinch?

Other: petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls; basically, anything you’d find in a baby first aid kit.  The items in a store-bought baby kit will be packaged smaller, and come in nice-smelling varieties, but your stuff – obviously – will work just as well.

Ok – let’s take a breather here.  When you come back, “The List” will continue in Part 2.

Move aside ladies – the Men are here…

…When I say ‘ladies’, of course, I mean my Mom and Mom-in-law.  And when I say ‘move aside’, I mean ‘uhm, just change his diaper the first few times for us, so that we can watch and learn… from over here’.

Back from the hospital

Honey, I’m home…

Hubby and I were very fortunate to have had both our sets of parents present when we brought our first adoptive son home from the hospital.  Despite the bravado and coolness I was attempting to display on the outside, I did not have one sweet clue as to what to do with this new little human.  When the social workers had ‘passed’ him over to us at the hospital, he was already fastened in his car seat; I had yet to even hold him in my arms.

So, yes – if you are about to bring home a baby for the first time, do your best to surround yourself with as many experienced hands as you can – friends, family, neighbours or whom so ever you can find (within reason, of course).  Our Moms ever so gently took charge for the first few hours, while our Dads sat around talking about sports (ugh, yes, I know – how disgustingly stereotypical – it’s a wonder hubby and I managed to turn out as gay and well-adjusted as we did, despite the hotbeds of heterosexism and outdated gender roles that we were exposed to in our youth).  In any case, for the first few hours after son #1 came home, we were witness to the subtle art of ‘managing a baby’.  Oh, and the not-so-subtle art of ‘Mom & Mom-in-Law one upmanship’.  Or is that one upwomanship?

My Mom got to take him out of the car seat and hold him first; hubby’s Mom changed his first diaper; my Mom fed him for a few minutes, then they switched, etc, etc.

And that’s it.

Yep – that’s what you do with babies for the first little bit: hold them, feed them, change them, and repeat.

And then guess what?  My Dad held him… and then hubby’s Dad – and the baby was still fine; no dropping, no shrieking, no disaster.

I might say that I had an epiphany at that moment, but honestly, I already knew it – men can hold a baby without the sky falling.  Womankind is not a magical species, specifically designed to raise babykind.  Humankind is all alike, differentiated largely by social norms shoved down our throats from infancy (thou shalt wear blue; thou shalt play with trucks, thou shalt only play with barbies if your intent is to rip off their heads to piss off your sister, etc., etc.).

In any case, both hubby and I are capable of holding eight pounds gently in our arms.  We both have at least as much dexterity and hand-eye coordination as our Moms do.  Between us, we have 13 years of post-secondary education, and aren’t so old that we can’t pick up new tricks.  “So,” we asked ourselves, after having observed the process for a few hours, “…can we do it?”  We shared a collective intake of breath, then chanted: “Yes! We! Can!”  (ok, so maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but after you start watching hours and hours of Bob-the-Builder, you’ll be quoting him too).

I graciously thanked my Mom and Dad for sharing the afternoon with us and with their new grandson, then sent them on their way.  They live 1/2 hour away, which is nice.  Not too far, but not too close, either.  My in-laws are a different matter.  I graciously thanked them as well, but they just stood there, having nowhere to go but our guest bedroom.  There are benefits and drawbacks to having your in-laws live many hours away.

Ok – so you’ve both watched the women in your lives do the heavy lifting with your newborn and silently catalogued all their moves and tricks.  You’ve watched the men in your lives sit on their asses, letting the womanfolk do the heavy lifting, and silently chided them while acknowledging their dated worldview.  Now it’s time for YOU to get your hands (literally) dirty.

Dive in!  You have to.  Either you’ve sent everybody home, and there is nobody left to save you, or you have to show those who remain that you’re capable, so that they’ll eventually LEAVE, comforted knowing that the newest member of your household is in safe hands.

Sit down beside that little human and pick him up.  Cradle him in one arm, then the other – figure out which side is more comfortable for you… and him.  Yeah yeah yeah, and ‘watch his head’ (that’s my Mom’s favourite warning for my Dad whenever he picks up a tiny human).  Put him back down.  Pick him up again.  Kiss him gently.  Look at his funny little fingers, at his tiny toes.  Look at yourself in the mirror with him.  Pass him to your significant-other.  Take their picture.  Actually, take 10, cuz the first nine will not flatter either of them.

Warm up his little bottle (get a pack or two of the instant-serve formula bottles, as well as some disposable nipples – that’ll make your life a bit easier before you have to start making your own formula).  Get him set up in your arms, with whatever arrangement of blankets and towels that those lady-folk used while you were watching from the sidelines (eventually, you’ll come up with your own routine; I’ve actually mastered the art of no-handed infant feeding… what do you think I’m doing right now? 😉 ).  Now stick that nipple into his little mouth and watch him suck.  Both our boys drank anywhere from 15mL – 30mL per feeding during their first 24 hours at home.  Don’t worry: he will let you know when he’s done (he’ll either fall asleep in your arms, or fidget and spit the nipple out).  For the first little bit (I hesitate to use ‘days’ or ‘week’, because each baby will be different), your joy-bundle will be feeding every two hours.  In fact, your whole life will be reset to a two-hour cycle.  An endless two-hour cycle.

Oh, and don’t forget to burp him while feeding, or he’ll be puking all over you in one minute from now.    Burp him often the first few times you feed him.  You’ll eventually establish a routine with burping too – it’ll be obvious (puking-ly obvious) how much formula you should let him drink between burps.  Oh, and hey: the more burps you do early on, the more practice you’ll get transferring him from a feeding position to a burping position!  I started burping my first boy on my shoulder, but found that it caused him to bring up all his formula rather than just the gas in his belly, so I switched to sitting-up-burps, where he sits on one of your legs, facing the other.  You support him by cupping his chin and cheeks with one hand (yes, it looks like you’re choking him; no, you’re not), and tap/rub his back with the other.  Since you’ll need to master burping right away, I’ve embedded this video (thank you Howcast!).  Take what you need from it and disregard the rest (I cringed when I saw the on-his-belly burp method):

So everybody’s gone home, he’s done feeding (and burping) for now, and you’re both sitting there wondering: what next?  Yep.  Unfortunately, it’s that time.  You must now Change His Diaper.

Again, do yourself a favour and DIVE IN (yuck, yep – literally).  Hopefully you’ve set up a changing station somewhere.  Either you’ve succumbed to the consumer urge and bought a frighteningly stylish change table complete with side cabinets and hutch, five shelves, five drawers, detailed beveled edges, curved side & inset panels, exclusive finishes and optional wood swatches. Or you’ve just put a towel down on your bed.  We do the latter, and it works just fine.  End result = diaper changed.

So, set the small human down on the towel/whatever and unbutton his onesie.  Up until the point where we brought our first son home, ‘onesie’ for me meant the oddly attractive one-piece triathlon suits that hubby wears to his races.

Evolution of the Onesie

The evolution of the meaning of ‘onesie’ in our household

Anyways, moving on.  You’ve got the little guy laying on a flat surface.  Next, you unbutton the onesie, slide it off and/or push it up, undo the diaper tabs, pull the diaper front down and…

                    …OH MY GOD – What. Is. That?!?!?!

No – you don’t need to call in a favour from Sigourney Weaver; it’s just the umbilical cord.  And don’t worry – I won’t post an actual picture of it.  Sufficed to say, you’re going to have this little bit of vileness coming along for the ride for roughly a week, before it gets bored and drops off of its own accord.  In the meantime, whenever you change your little guy, make sure his diaper doesn’t overlap the cord (you can fold the top of the diaper down).  Also, keep an eye on his belly button – take note of what it looked like the first time you saw it – if it starts to get (more) red and puffy looking, you could be dealing with an infection, which needs to be dealt with ASAP (ie: by a medical professional).

So, you’re both cool with how the umbilical cord looks (well, after getting over the initial shock).  Next, grab your little tyke’s ankles with one hand, lift up his bum and slide that diaper out from underneath him…

         … ARGH!!!!!  WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THAT!?!?!?!?

Yeah, you’re in for shock number two.  What you guys are probably looking at is a diaper full of what can only be described as syrupy crude oil.  Amazingly, this is completely normal.  It’s called meconium, which means ‘fecal discharge from a newborn infant’, or, alternatively ‘poppy juice’.  Don’t get any ideas.

Babies first poo

Are babies a source of crude oil?!

So anyways, just clean it up – it’s a bit sticky, but has no odour that I can remember, and only lasts for a few poops, before you move onto poo-phase-two (chunky yellow-green purée).  Cleaning can be accomplished in any number of ways.  Disposable wet wipes are quick and convenient and mean that you are a SWORN ENEMY TO THE ENVIRONMENT.  Alternatively, just wet one of the myriad little baby face cloths* that everybody and their dog will be giving you as soon as they hear that ‘you two wonderful boys are bringing home a little one’ (*Be warned – you will get told off by the little guy in one of two ways if the cloth is too cold: 1) shrieking; or 2) pissing all over you).  Later on, once the umbilical cord has fallen off, you can do a proper job of cleaning him over the sink.  I much prefer this method, rather than just spreading feces around his crotch until you can’t see it anymore, then putting another diaper on him.  No wonder so many babies get diaper rashes all the time.  But I digress.

He’s all clean?  Good.  Now slip a new diaper on, fasten it.  Put the onesie back on and presto.  Just like that.  Easy, eh?  Yeah, of course it’s not.  The good news, is that practice makes perfect and that’s something that you guys are going to have (heh heh ) lots of.  Lots of.  LOTS OF. 

  • Got the diaper on backwards?  Well, one of you will figure it out and (gently) chide the other. 
  • Diaper not fastened quite snuggly enough?  Well, leaking poo is a strong motivator. 
  • Little legs flailing about ceaselessly, while his penis is squirting you purely out of spite?  You’ll develop methods of single-hand multi-tasking like you never thought possible.

Ok!  Well, you’ve done it.  You both got your mini human being home in one piece, got a glimpse of how the basics are accomplished, and had a hand in trying them all yourselves.  Your little sleeping angel is well-fed, has a nice clean diaper on, and is snuggling contentedly in your arms as your significant-other looks over your shoulder lovingly.  All three of you have survived the first few hours at home together.

       Whew! (wiping brow).

Now, go and have a nice long, hot shower and jump into bed for a deep and peaceful sleep.

Ha.  Suckers.

Gay Dads do it Better

Hello,

Welcome to my blog “2 Dads are better than 1”; thank you for checking it out.  My name is Gary, and I live in Eastern Ontario with my husband, our two sons and our two dogs.  I’ve begun this blog in response to the overwhelmingly heterosexist and misandrist (man-hating) attitude that this planet has towards parenting.  My goal is to dispel the notion that child-rearing is purely the bailiwick of (straight) women, and to demonstrate that two guys are just as good at raising kids (if not better, in my not-so-humble opinion) than any other parental combination.

*Disclaimer* – I am not a doctor, nor a psychologist, nor a counsellor, nor any other type of professional in the field of child-rearing.  I am merely a father of two, and anything I may post from here on in is my opinion or my best guess, garnered from experiences my husband and I had with our two boys.  I may also re-post items from other sources.  Nothing you read in here should be considered gospel with respect to child-rearing.  First off, there is no such thing as gospel with respect to child-rearing.  Second, you should always take anything you read online with a grain of salt.  There.  Consider yourselves forewarned.

Ok!  We’ve got the intro out of the way, now it’s time to find out why – when it comes to parenting – gay dads do it better!