Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life in the Otto-man Empire



Quick Note: I started this entry about a week ago, and then abandoned it. I'm not 100% sure why, but mainly it just started to seem to be ramble and become unfocused. And I wasn't sure if our readers (Who are those people anyway? Grandparents? People who wonder why we don't post about travel any more? Emily and Charity?) would have any interest in listening to me talk about the trials and tribulations of being a stay-at-home dad again.

But, Sarah read my abandoned rough draft, and encouraged me to post it. So, here it is, with a quick ending tagged on. I'll post some Halloween pictures at the end of it, to make it worth-while.




About a month ago, I began my Paternity Leave. The idea was that I would take the rest of 2011 off, to watch Otto until he was 6-months old, at which point we will be moving him over to Stella's Pre-School. In the days leading up to me going on leave, I'd begun to naively fantasize about how my average day would play out: Maybe I'd wake up late, and then sip coffee while leisurely playing with Otto. Then around noon, he'd knock off for a nap, I'd eat lunch, and then spend the afternoon wistfully working on a variety of personal art projects, board game designs or maybe write a novel or two. And, of course, I would blog the whole thing daily.

It goes without mentioning that a supernatural, amber light -which filters through the windows and highlights playful dust-specks- illuminated this vividly imagined world.

The fact that I started my leave on October 1st, and am just now getting around to this blog entry should indicate how grounded in reality that all was. In all honesty, the first couple of weeks were rough. Being the adoring father is easy... doing it all day long, while trying to decipher why Otto is screaming at you, is another matter entirely.

It didn't help matters much that at first Otto stubbornly refused to take the bottle. Sure, he'd take a sip now and then, but only enough to tide himself over for the next hour or so. Then, resume screaming.

Also, I don't think I fully took into account what we can affectionately call our "Third Child:" The remodel. As I'm sure we've mentioned in this blog more than once, over a year ago, we began a basement remodel to convert our little 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow into a little 4-bedroom, 2-bath bungalow. Anyhow, with Otto's arrival, it because increasingly apparent that we needed more elbow room, so we've redoubled out efforts to push it through to completion. After a few fitful starts and stops, it's been in pretty full-swing since I've started my leave. And, as a result, when I'm not down there tearing up old carpet or peeling off old wood paneling myself, someone else is inevitably down there pounding away with a hammer, firing a nail gun, running a drill or electric screw-driver or otherwise making a huge racket. And, while sometimes Otto impressed me with his ability to sleep through the cacophony, other times it has been just too much for him, leading to an erratic sleep pattern.


This pretty much sums things up.

To top that all off... the poor eating and poor sleeping has then played havoc on Sarah's ability to rest up, since he would pretty much permanently latch himself to her in the evenings and nights. So, she wasn't getting the sleep she probably needs. Add to that the fact that her work has been hectic enough that it's been eating into her evenings and weekends, and Sarah's been, well, beat tired.

As for Stella... well, Stella's a 2-year old. A 2-year old who probably hasn't been getting the attention she thinks she deserves, and who is busy defining herself by wanting the exact opposite of whatever it is the rest of the family wants or needs at that particular moment.

To sum up, it's been a bit rocky at times these last couple of weeks.

So, when, at the end of last week, Sarah needed to go to LA for a couple of nights for a conference, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of staying home alone for two nights with both the kids. Otto still wasn't really taking the bottle, and Stella has been in a bit of a mommy phase since... well... sometime around when she turned one. So, my imagination was suddenly picturing less in the way of amber sunlight, and more in the way of lots of screaming and tears.

There were so many ways the whole thing could have gone horribly wrong and......y'know, it went really smoothly.

Sure, there were moments. Sure it was hectic. And, sure there was a meltdown or two. But, overall, it was a nice couple of days. About, halfway through the first day, Otto decided that bottles weren't intrinsically evil, and went from drinking 1 or 2 ounces a feeding to more like 6 to 9 ounces.

Meanwhile, Stella confirmed our working theory that she is better behaved when she's around just one of us than she is when she's around both of us. Maybe it's because when Sarah and I are talking to each other it means we aren't paying attention to her. But, whatever the reason, she was a delight to be with for most of the weekend, more or less living in her Princess dress and helping out in her own 2-year-old way (though, note, as she'll let you know, she's almost 3).

On the morning of our third day together, realizing we didn't have any bread in the house for toast, we piled in the car and headed down to All City Coffee Georgetown. I grabbed a mocha, while Stella went for the ginger muffin and hot chocolate. Otto, meanwhile, was content to sit in his car seat, watching members of the Cretin's Motorcycle Club mill around and prepare for a ride to some distant location. Everything just sort of clicked. Even, when I realized we'd lingered to long too long, and need to head out to a birthday party for one of Stella's classmates, the curve ball went smoothly. And, instead of panicking, we just switched gears and headed straight to the party.

Maybe, we rounded some sort of corner. Or, maybe I just adjusted my expectations about what my leave would look like; and Otto adjusted his expectations about what feeding time would look like. Regardless, I feel like him and I have started to find our rhythm together. Which is great, because it means that I'm getting to focus more on what a wonderful little person he is.

Its funny how, when people compliment your baby, certain compliments seem to bubble up again and again. For Stella is was always some variation of "she looks like she's really taking everything in" or "she sure seems observant." For Otto, the reoccurring compliment is "he sure seems happy" or "look at that smile!" And, its true! He's just a smiley, smiley kid. That's not to say he doesn't have his freak out periods (and, boy, does he have some lungs when its one of those), but for the most part, he's just a really easy going, happy kid.

He's also started laughing, and its Stella who seems to have a line on his sense of humor. Often, she's be hugging him, kissing him, squeezing him or otherwise man-handling him to the point where Sarah and I get concerned he'll be crushed... but usually he's just grinning away. And, Stella has a number of faces and sounds she makes that will leave him in stitches. It's fun watching their relationship blossom.


Me and the kids, one random morning. When either Sarah or I am watching both of them, this is how things usually end up.

Like his sister, Otto's also a real physical fellow. He likes to be held facing out, and is perpetually moving and grooving. It can be tiring on the arms, since he's also a big of a baby behemoth, but still.

All in all, its been exhausting. But, at the same time, it's been good exhausting. And, things seem to be getting better. Heck, even the remodel seems to be getting closer and closer to being done.

OK. Halloween! With pictures!

This years, Halloween was a lot of fun. While, of course, the festivities flew right over Otto's head, Stella was able to get into the fun more. All in all, there was a field trip to a pumpkin farm, two different pumpkin carving parties, another trip to a pumpkin farm with my parents, decorative ghosts for our front yard and Trick or Treating! Good times all!


"100% Princess, 100% of the Time" is my recent, unofficial slogan for Stella. Stella is still deep into her Princess Phase, so this years costume wasn't a big surprise.


The day before Halloween, we went with my parents to a pumpkin farm. By the time we got there, the pumpkins were fairly picked over, but it was a fun chance for Stella to run through the muddy fields, explore a corn maze and ride the "Animal Train"...


My mom, Stella, Sarah and Otto get ready to ride the Animal Train at the pumpkin farm. Belle looks eager to join them.


Trick or Treating.... which lasted exactly 3 houses this year, before Stella decided she'd had enough and was really to call it a night. She tends to be timid around strangers, so not surprising that she wasn't a big fan of going door to door demanding candy from them.

5 comments:

ambika said...

I read every entry, just so you know. Charity & Emily must be out-commenting me!

Also, that pumpkin farm looks like something out of a New England postcard. Purty.

Karinna Elizabeth said...

I also read all of your entries, and I'm so impressed with your ability to raise a family. I just got a dog and that's hard enough!!

The General said...

Thanks Ambika and Karinna!

Yeah, I know we have readers (according to Google Analytics we have 10-50 visitors a day here). I guess I'm always just sort of curious as to who those people are. Friends? Family? Random drifters?

Probably a combination.

Unknown said...

For the record I am family, friend, and random drifter.

Charity said...

Gosh, I feel almost a little conceited that I was even mentioned in the blog post! And I totally beat Emily with a comment to boot! :) Great entry, Tyler! I can relate to Stella's behavior with one parent. For some reason Roman is 10x's better when it's just the three of us at home, but the minute Jason walks through the door all bets are off. It must be an attention thing like you said, but it's kind of reassuring to hear someone else experiencing this! You're doing an awesome job as a stay-at-home dad!!