Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Things We Do for Love: Monster Truck Jam Edition

The most beloved DVD of all timeExactly one year ago, my husband's boss gave him the DVD to the right. "My son loved this—he watched it over and over," he said. "So I thought maybe Desmond would like it, too."

I remember the first time I played it for him. It was February 27, 2014, and we were in Montana. Dustin was out at a client meeting and Des and I were in our hotel room. I decided that I would pop the DVD into my laptop to entertain Des while I attempted to get ready for the day. He was immediately transfixed.

Mega Truck Adventures (which came out in 2003, and has some hilarious Amazon reviews) consists of three half-hour-long episodes of this guy Dave teaching kids about bulldozers, monster trucks and tanks. Desmond had no time for the bulldozers or tanks. He only wanted to watch the monster truck part.

For that one, Dave is joined by the equally jean-clad Becky, and they do everything from drive monster trucks themselves to visit a real monster truck rally. It's the cheesiest acting and dialogue you'll ever see. My husband compared it to something that starts with p and rhymes with corn.

That hair! That style!

Size does matter

After watching this video, Desmond became obsessed—and I do mean obsessed—with monster trucks. Along with Cars, "There Goes a Monster Truck" is really the only thing he watches on TV. I've given him a few other options. But he keeps going back for more gigantic-wheel mayhem.

Those who know Des have been kind enough to help him build his own personal monster truck toy collection. Here's just what was within arms' reach that I could pull together for a quick picture:

It could be worse, right?

But then last week I came across a friend's post on Facebook that made me think we could be doing more to enjoy this monster truck phase with him. This friend and her son had gone to a monster truck rally, and she had uploaded a video of one of the very same trucks that is actually featured on Desmond's treasured DVD. Hmm.

Grave Digger in all his glory.
Then yesterday I was on a tour of the school where Des will likely go to pre-K in the fall. A flyer hanging on the bulletin board caught my eye. It was for a "Monster Truck Jam" at a Chicagoland arena in just two weeks. I pointed it out to my husband. If they allowed the flyer in an elementary school it couldn't be that bad, could it? Hmm.

All sorts of wheels were turning in my head after we left the tour and I took one parting glance back at the flyer. Should we actually go to a monster truck rally?!? Wasn't it going to be a bunch of people in acid-washed jeans and '80s fashion, just like on the DVD? Wouldn't we be surrounded by mullets? Would it be safe? Would Desmond be scared? Am I being snobby about this?

I was still thinking through everything when my husband emailed me two hours later: "I bought tickets to the Monster Truck Jam. It's at 2 so Des won't have a nap that day."

Well, the decision was made for me, it seems. We are going to do something I never thought we'd do: go to a monster truck rally. All for Baba G, because we know he's going to love it.

Oooohh, yeeeeaaaah
As I was still working through my feelings about all of this, I remembered how my parents took me and my brother to a WWF match back in the day. Yes, I was really into professional wrestling once. I'm not sure if it was because I had a younger brother who dug it or because it was totally better back then with the Miss Elizabeth/Macho Man/Hulk drama (seriously, it was), but most people who know me today would probably bet lots of money that I would never be caught within 1,000 miles of a pro-wrestling tournament. But I went back then and freakin' loved it.

Yes, some big, burly and bearded biker-looking dudes spilled beer down our backs. And sure, it's probably where some of my hearing issues first started. But it was worth it.

And so I look forward to our monster truck adventure with Baba G. Rest assured I will report back in a few weeks!

- e

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Upside of Sick Days

Yes, yes you can.
Hello everybody! Those of you who read my According to e blog know that one of my 2015 goals has been to get back into a regular writing routine (well, a routine that includes some personal posts and not just stuff for clients that nobody else sees).

Since today is a holiday, however, I wasn't planning on posting. But then an idea popped into my head that I thought would be perfect to use to fire up this blog again. See, I was really looking forward to a "Baba G & Me Day" today: my husband is traveling, my nanny has the day off, I'm caught up on my client work, and it's a sunny/not-freezing morning here in Chicago. After Des woke up, we were going to walk down to my favorite breakfast diner, then continue running around the neighborhood while getting some errands done, meet a friend and her daughter for lunch, and then Des could play while I moved some furniture around in our condo in advance of a painting project we have scheduled.

But it was not to be.

After showing symptoms of a cold yesterday, Des woke up in full-on gross mode this morning. As in, at 7:40 a.m. I heard him blowing his nose heartily... on his pillow. It's now three hours later and we've gone through approximately 1,000 tissues. I scrapped our breakfast outing because he has that kind of cough where I suspect he could make himself throw up if he had just the right combination of swallowing, breathing and coughing.

He's usually high-energy to the point where he doesn't want to stop running around and playing for anything—eating, going to the potty, napping, you name it. But today he is content to sit in my bed and chill. He hardly ever gets to watch TV, but I decided that today he just needs to lay low, and with that comes Bob the Builder, his monster truck DVD and, of course, Cars.

Seriously, mommy?

I'm disappointed that we aren't going to have the exact Mommy/Son Day I'd hoped for, but I'm also not gonna complain about staying in our jammies and snuggling while watching Lightning McQueen go from a brat to a cool dude for the ten bazillionth time. Plus, I've been able to throw in a load of laundry (including all contents of his bed), Swiffer the entire floor, and write this post quickly from the other room.

So yes, it sucks that he's not feeling 100%. But at this point it's just a cold and I'm still thankful for some quiet time together. Because we all know that in a matter of days he'll be running around like a nutball and won't want to make time for any snuggles with mom!

- e

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This is What Toddler Jet Lag Looks Like

We recently returned from a nine-day trip to England and Scotland, and while Baba G did really well with the six-hour time-zone difference while we were gone, he's been having a rougher time adjusting now that we're back.

Exhibit A:

He is the definition of inconsolable once he gets going.

We're hoping he'll finally get back to normal tonight or tomorrow night (we returned Saturday). For me, I always seem to take three or four days to sync up to my old schedule again, so maybe it will be the same for him.

For the past three nights he's slept from 7 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., but then wakes up every 30 to 40 minutes after that point. Normally he sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7 or 7:30 a.m. (I know, we're lucky).

The good news is that some tasty mac 'n cheese seemed to help get him out of his funk shortly after his freakout above.

We learned A TON about traveling with a toddler during this trip, so stay tuned for more on that front soon!

- e

Monday, August 12, 2013

Unsolicited Advice: Lessons Learned During BG's Third Flight

Yeah, I think I want to go run around that field.
I think I'd like to go run around on that field...
In March of this year we went back to Arizona (his first trip there, which you may remember, was over Christmas; his first vacation overall was to the Dominican Republican and was the worst). From the picture to the right you can see that we did indeed make it to Arizona and enjoyed a Cubs' spring-training game one nice afternoon in Mesa. But unfortunately we had a bit of travel drama during our flights there and back that I'll cover today so that hopefully someone out there can learn from our mistakes.

At the time of this vacation, Baba G was 14 months old and was now using a convertible car seat instead of a baby car seat. Meaning that this was our first time bringing a convertible car seat onto a plane.

As we had for both of our other trips, we bought BG his own seat because there's just so way we'd be able to keep him under control otherwise. He has always been, and I think he will forever be, one busy little dude.

But before we needed to worry about getting him into his seat on the plane, we had to worry about NOT MISSING our flight in the first place. We drove to the airport and arrived with not much time to spare. When we got to the parking structure closest to O'Hare, it was full. Talk about panic setting in!

He LOVED all the stones!
Morning yard walk with Grandpa
Then my husband drove around again and went up to the structure one more time. We saw some security guards and they took pity upon us (totally because of BG, I'm positive) and let us go in because there were, in fact, still a few open spots. This is but one perk of traveling with a baby or toddler. You can leverage them in situations like this.

It thankfully didn't take us too long to park. But then my husband couldn't get the car seat out of the car. Because he had NEVER taken it out of the car before — he'd only put it in. Once. Like I said, at that point it was fairly new. Which leads us to...

LESSON #1: Practice taking a convertible car seat in and out of the car at least a few times before you go to the airport.

Baba G's baby car seat had doubled as an overall carrier that we were always taking in and out of the house, attaching to the his stroller, etc. Whereas the convertible car seat was a whole new animal. It was much bigger and bulkier, and it always just stayed in the car. So we spent a very tense 10-15 minutes in the parking structure while my husband tried everything — finally needing to consult the manual (which we were really lucky he thought to bring along) — to get the car seat out.

Next came the problem of attaching the car seat to the new travel cart we'd bought for the occasion. You may remember that one of the huge FAILS of our first vacation with BG was that we'd bought this "Traveling Toddler" device that was supposed to easily and securely strap a car seat onto your wheeled luggage. Except that when the time came for us to leave we realized that strap only worked with full-size car seats, not baby car seats.

So now that we had a full-size car seat, why didn't we use the Traveling Toddler? I actually wanted to try, but my husband didn't feel like fooling with it. He wanted to use a straightforward cart, so he bought this one from Britax:

This contraption is $80, believe it or not. But it works with most LATCH-system car seats and folds down so that you can put it in a plane's overhead compartment. Our car seat is not a Britax, by the way, and worked just fine with this cart (um, eventually. Read on...).

Now, most people buy this sort of cart so that they can actually lug their kid (in their car seat) around the airport on it. We didn't do that because my husband couldn't connect the car seat onto the cart at first. It was total mayhem that morning, I tell you. The car seat kept tipping off of the cart and we were really struggling to haul everything over to the check-in area from the parking ramp. So my husband decided to tote BG around in our Catbird Baby Pikkolo carrier.

Once we were in the airport and a little calmer, my husband figured out how to simply click the car seat onto the cart. I promise you it IS easy to do, but you do need to read the instructions first. Ahem.

LESSON #2: Don't try to figure out any of your travel gear for the first time on the day of your trip. Especially if it's an early-morning trip and you're rushed and have a toddler with you and are going to be stressed out anyway. And bring manuals for everything you haven't used before.

Even after we got the cart working properly, we decided to keep BG in the carrier because we were bringing so much carry-on luggage that it worked better to load things this-a-way:

BG is like, "What the heck is going on?"
Action shot! (And remember I'm also lugging two wheelies, a backpack and duffel bag.)

Yes, we are ridiculous.

So we finally get on the plane. We paid extra to be allowed to board a bit earlier on Southwest, and it was worth it because we were already so high-strung at that point.

This was going to be my husband's first time attempting to load the bigger car seat onto a plane seat. Obviously this one ISN'T something you can practice beforehand. But it did end up working OK. (I'd still advise reading the manual thoroughly, though, just in case.)

The drama that went down on that flight was that Baba G was really cranky and wouldn't sleep at all (we'd woken him up about 3 hours early that morning and had hoped he'd sleep on the plane).

Instead he finally conked out on the short shuttle ride to the rental-car station. Classic:

Hertz so good.

One thing we forgot to do on both the flights there and back was take this bar thing off of the bottom of the car seat (by BG's feet):

Not so comfy looking.

This bar CAN be removed, but we just forgot to do it before the seat was already in place. Taking it off would have allowed the person in front of BG to recline more. Thankfully the row in front of us was full of extremely tolerant people who were not fazed by BG's less-than-ideal behavior.

What I'm referring to is on the flight back, which was already past BG's bedtime, he basically cried the whole way home. I had offered everyone around us earplugs, but no one seemed as bothered as Dustin and I were, to be honest!

We learned a major lesson that night:

LESSON #3: If you know your kid is tired and is cranky BECAUSE he's tired, just let him cry it out hardcore because it'll take like 5 minutes and then he'll fall fast asleep. DO NOT do what we did, which is attempt to console or distract him for a full three hours first, leading to constant wailing and the increasing grumpiness of everyone involved.

So the picture above (and below) is of BG falling asleep AFTER WE LANDED back in Chicago. Yep. As soon as we stopped trying to keep him quiet for everyone else's sake, he had one screaming fit for about 5 minutes and then just gave up and fell asleep. It would've been better if we'd just let that happen at the beginning of the flight.

Parents just don't understand.

We're gearing up for a trip to England and Scotland next month, so I'm sure there will be another round of travel advice coming after we return. This time we'll get to deal with the joys of jet lag, too — hooray!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Unsolicited Advice: You Probably Already Know This About Diapers, Though

About a year ago I bemoaned the fact that Baba G was always peeing through his diapers overnight and would either be so uncomfortable that he'd wake up hollering in the wee hours, or he'd stay asleep but be a soaking mess in the mornings. That always made (and still makes) me feel bad.

Unfortunately it continues to happen on occasion, despite our best efforts, which have included:
  • Moving him up a size for his nighttime diapers as a friend advised. I guess the theory is that larger sizes hold more pee or something?
  • Giving him his last shot of liquids an hour earlier than we used to. He's totally off of bottles finally but up until a month ago (he's 18 months old now) were still doing what you're not supposed to do and rocking him to sleep after he drank an 8-ounce cup-with-straw of milk. So now we give him milk and water about an hour before his nighttime routine (plus just another quick swig of water right before bed) and that has definitely helped. He's peed the majority out before his bath. (Or maybe it's happening in his tub? I prefer not to think about that, even though it's usually my husband handling bath time!)
But the lamest thing that was probably contributing to the problem was my basic lack of understanding about how diapers work. One night my husband just casually mentioned something about ensuring "the inner elastic" was in place as I was putting on BG's nighttime diaper. I was like, "What?"

Then my husband showed me how he always runs a finger around the  part of the diaper that circles BG's legs to make sure that the inner elastic band was positioned correctly and cradling BG's legs/butt and not folded in on itself, which would definitely seem to encourage leaks.

I'm talkin' 'bout the purple parts

I felt so dumb, because it was like I knew there was that band there, but I never messed with it — I always just made sure the top was secured snugly and had been convinced all the pee was seeping through that area. Now, sure enough, almost every time I run my finger around the inner elastic band by his legs it is messed up and in need of correcting.

So I'd like to think that doing that every evening has helped in some small way. But since BG still is face-down with his knees and legs tucked under him and his butt high in the air through most of the night, there's only so much one poor diaper can do to fight gravity.

Friday, July 19, 2013

He Has WHAT?

At some point between now and when I last posted, Baba G started acting strangely. Not only was he having sleeping issues again, but he acted like he didn't really want to eat and was making weird faces. Our nanny said that she thought he had a hard time swallowing, and we also noticed that he seemed to be running a slight fever at times.

AND SO, we hauled him back into the pediatrician's office.

She took one look in his throat and declared him to have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.


Immediately my mind flashed back to this "incident," which had taken place two days prior:
It started out innocently, gazing at the petting zoo animals from afar.

Then one of the zoo employees invited us for a closer look.

Dumb me was trying to snap a pic when BG put out his hand...

... and succeeded in petting the goat right on his nose.

I felt like a total delinquent because the zookeeper chick had specifically asked people to only let their kids pet the animals' sides or backs. No face-touching was allowed. It happened in a flash when I attempted to take a picture . . . which I was really only doing because both my husband and I had funny pictures with goats when we were kids.

So as soon as our pediatrician said BG had Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, I was like "Holy crap it's because he touched that damn goat."

Of course, two seconds later she said what I'm sure she says to everyone who immediately assumes this is the crazy-scary animal disease from Europe: "This is not the same thing as Hoof-and-Mouth, or Foot-and-Mouth. Only animals can get those."

We went on to learn that Hand, Foot and Mouth is an especially common virus in our neighborhood during the summer, and that—like all viruses—there wasn't much we could do about it except try to keep BG comfortable with some fever-reducing meds. We were also told to give him only soft and mushy foods for a week, after which time everything should be cleared up.

I'm still blaming the goat!
The good news is that BG must have had an extremely mild case, because I never saw any of the typical sores that develop around kids' mouths and on their hands and feet. His remained in the way, way back of his throat and that was it. He was acting totally back to normal in a few days, though we still kept him on soft foods for a full week.

I was thankful that none of the adults in his life ever caught it, either, because we were told it was pretty contagious, and have other friends who suffered from it much worst than their toddlers did.

Another health scare behind us!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Get Low

I'll jump outta my crib to watch the Stanley Cup Finals!
Since I last posted, we took Baba G back to the pediatrician for his rescheduled 15-month appointment (a month late, because of his previous ear infections). I held my breath as she checked his ears, prepared for the worst. It was mixed news: the infection is gone on both sides, but he still has a little fluid in both ears.

As they don't like kids to have fluid in their ears for more than six months and we know it's been there since at least the end of March, if she can still see any when we come back for his 18-month checkup in early August, it's off to the Ear, Nose & Throat specialist he goes. The possibility of having tubes put in seems likely. I'm going to keep hoping that doesn't happen, but apparently my husband used to have a lot of ear infections as well, so it might just be Baba G's lot in life.

He's still waking up a few times in the middle of the night, but the pediatrician didn't seem to think that would be because of the fluid, since — once again, it's not infected or swollen or anything. We have noticed that he's peed through his diaper and onesie (which is under a heavier microfleece onesie — his room's pretty cool at night) on several occasions, so my husband's started changing him in the wee hours if he cries and seems really upset for more than a few minutes. After he's dry, he'll usually sleep through the rest of the night.

Being a little wet never used to bug him at night, but I'm assuming that the older he gets, the more conscious he'll become of whether he's comfy or not!

There was still the problem of him attempting to jump out of his crib, however. Once the pediatrician learned that he'd actually succeeded in flipping himself out and onto the beanbag twice, and that he was still trying despite our various attempts to distract him, she advised that we switch things up. Usually they don't like kids to move into a toddler bed until they're 2, but the issue is that Baba G is already as big as a 2-year-old. Her suggestion was that we put a toddler mattress on the floor and just ensure the room was baby-proofed. So he'd be able to run around the room if he woke up.

We thought we'd be able to baby-proof well enough to pull this off, but upon further inspection of both Baba's nursery and another room that might've been an option, we realized it just wasn't gonna work. As we were trying to brainstorm solutions, I asked my husband to see if he could remove the crib's mattress platform so that the mattress would be on the floor but the railings would still keep BG in.

It worked, kind of. There's a gap between the top of the mattress and the lowest horizontal bar, so we stuffed a bunch of really thick pillows and blankets in and hoped for the best. Here's the before (with the mattress on the lowest setting) and after (with the mattress platform totally removed):



We were able to switch to this set-up the same night as BG's appointment, during which he also had three vaccine boosters. Watching the video monitor the first time BG woke up and discovered he could no longer reach his leg up to the top was at first really comical, and then a little sad. I got a glimpse into how my husband's mind works when he whispered, "Baba probably thinks those shots today shrunk him."

What?!? Um, OK... SURE he thinks that.

ANYWAY... Baba got REALLY mad at his inability to escape. But eventually he found his stuffed animal and gave up and went back to sleep. Since we look at the monitor to see what's going on whenever he cries, we've been happy that he hasn't messed with the pillows we stuffed into the gap. Yet.

The biggest problem issue with this new set-up is that it's pretty much impossible for me to put BG down in the crib horizontally without having to drop him an inch or so. The bars are too high and the mattress is now too low for it to be physically possible for me to do this. At least I think — I've tried a "mock drop" with BG while he was awake, but since my husband normally puts him to bed at night, I haven't actually had to do it for real yet. Both our nanny and my mom, who are shorter than I am, have been able to do it, though, so maybe I'll be fine when the time comes.

For now I'm just happy he can still technically be in his crib for a while longer.