September 27, 2007

Fooled You! (read in Dark Helmut’s voice)

Remember yesterday when I touted what a great week Annie was having? I don’t. I’m so sleep deprived after last night that it is difficult for me to think straight. She went to bed at 9 O’clock, and with a tummy full of milk I expected about five hours of sleep…she of course obliged with two! Two! That’s like expecting a Red Ryder BB Gun under the tree and after getting the pink bunny suit instead.

Let me try and explain what this feels like for those of you who have not been through it. You work hard on the established bed time routine. Which after all of the singing, bathing, lotioning, reading, feeding, swaddling, and soothing, takes about an hour and a half. Then, when she finally goes to sleep, you sneak out to spend the one hour of the day in which you are alone with your wife. When Law & Order is over you go to bed at 10 O’clock, hoping for three to four hours of sleep. Right when you are about to enter REM sleep, you are suddenly stirred with her unique little cry.

When was the last time you were woken up right before entering deep sleep? It was probably because of an emergency phone call or a loud thunder storm. When you are stunned out of sleep after only an hour you can’t focus your eyes and you need a fork lift to raise your head from the pillow. Now try doing this every night. To top it off, after you are awake you have to get it together enough to make her a bottle and feed her without falling asleep until she finishes. Now put her back to bed. Swaddle, sooth, repeat.

Fortunately, I was rewarded this morning with Annie’s first trip to Dad’s day out. I have been looking forward to this day for a month now and I was desperately in need of some alone time. I dropped her off at 9:30 and met the women that would be taking care of her for four hours a day, two times a week. They were two wonderful Grandmothers who were happy to get their hands on a cute little baby such as mine.

Funny thing though, I was pretty upset leaving her. I knew that she was going to be fine, and I wasn’t concerned with her caregivers, but I felt like she was being pulled out of my arms. We have spent so much time together in the last month that the thought of not soothing her when she needs it made me pause. Not having her in my arms this morning somehow invalidated my existence. What was a 31 year old man doing hitting golf balls for two hours on a Thursday morning? I felt like anyone who saw me today, saw me without my wing man…Butch Cassidy without Sundance. Who was going to aid me in shooting my way out of any potential trouble?

September 26, 2007

A little rest

Yesterday, on a hunch, I decided to up the amount of formula that Annie drinks in a sitting to six ounces. The goal of the increase was to try and limit the number of times she eats in one day. The bonus of the increase (one that I secretly suspected) was that after the feeding, she would curl up in a ball like her dad on the couch after a thorough Thanksgiving gorging. You know what? It worked.

She ate at 7 am when she woke up, had a little snack at 11 am after receiving her three month vaccinations, then again at 3 pm and lastly at 8 pm before bed. Now, this was fine and dandy during the day, I got a lot of writing done. However, the proverbial proof in my baby's pudding would come at night. And wouldn't you know it; she slept from 8:45 until 2 am Whoa!

Not only that, but she went to bed with very little coaxing, because she has at last decided which would be her soothing digit of choice...and the winner is...the thumb! Classic choice Annabelle, a little prosaic, but a strong choice nonetheless. It's no upside down index and middle finger like your Aunt Katie, and it can never replace all the mileage you got out of my pinkies, but it seems like it will give your old man some much needed rest.

The down side was that she didn't sleep much between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. because she was so in love with her new opposable buddy that she stayed up for two hours loudly chomping and slurping him.

Okay, so for all of you scoring at home that is three milestones this week: One, the ultra athletic roll over, two, the dexterous thumb suck, and three, the big sleep. Nice week Annabelle Harper Poulas, what’s next…talking?

September 25, 2007

New Orleans

Last night I was thinking about writing the follow up to a post I wrote about New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. There are many things that I can say about New Orleans and the gulf coast post Katrina, but while I certainly have the right to express them here, I realize that I am in no way qualified to do so. I moved to Louisiana five weeks ago and have spent only five days in New Orleans. Most of that time was spent in the Central Business District, French Quarter and Garden District, some of the least effected areas of the city. Much of the knowledge that I have of Hurricane Katrina is second hand and consequently somewhat invalidated. That being said, I write this post for my own edification.

There can be no dispute that the people of New Orleans were failed in many ways, some more excusable than others. I can understand why residents weren’t completely evacuated before the storm hit. Politicians, engineers and citizens all made the same innocent assumption that a storm the size of Katrina would not hit New Orleans. A gamble was made and it carried with it epic consequences. Had Katrina gone the same direction of hundreds of storms before it, many lives and billions of dollars would have been saved.

Every day we take the same type of gambles in our own lives. I just made one a few hours ago when my daughter was uncontrollably crying and I decided not to pull the straps on her car seat as tightly as directed. If I were ever to experience the complete consequences of such an action, beyond my own personal devastation I would be deemed not a loving, but an irresponsible parent. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina was a macrocosm of these same decisions, the ones we make every day and never have to live with the effects of.

As I see it, the largest failure then of Katrina is how we responded after the storm left the region. Never before had there been a reason to evacuate the entire city, so you can’t blame residents for not leaving prior to landfall. Ultimately there was no logistical way to pull this off anyway, making the point moot. However, after everyone around the country woke up the next day to see the almost complete destruction, there could no longer be an excuse to respond so slowly to people in need. Some would say that this simplifies the issue of evacuation, but in a country of such vast economic, industrial, and social resources, if we wanted everyone out of New Orleans immediately following the storm, they would have been out. The blame for that lies on every single decision maker involved from President Bush down to Mayor Nagin.

And how about now, a full two years after Hurricane Katrina? Amazingly, like “September 11th”, “Hurricane Katrina” has become part of our national lexicon. How similar are these two disasters? One directly perpetrated by people of ill will, unavoidable; instantly becoming the most heinous moment in our history. The other perpetrated by our own collective inactivity in response to an obvious growing disaster. Yet the two occupy the same place in our mind, the place that makes you feel like you got punched in the stomach whenever you think of it.

Maybe the uniting factor of these two tragedies is the ridiculous reality that years later, the situation at both ground zero and the hardest hit sections of New Orleans, is virtually identical to that of just months after each event. In both cases the only reason for such inactivity is political red tape and insurance company wrangling. In New York, where my wife and I lived for three years, the ludicrous question of whether or not each tower’s collapse represented two separate attacks was just the first of many curious insurance company maneuvers designed to transfer rebuilding costs to the developers. Residents of New Orleans and the gulf coast are experiencing the same type of maneuvering when insurance companies deftly and superciliously try to show that damage from flooding during a hurricane is somehow not related to that same hurricane.

Politically, if everyone were not so worried about where they should come down on these issues, there would be a chance for someone to step into the forefront and move us towards rebuilding. The Freedom tower has finally gotten under way in New York, but not before they have gone through one new mayor, one new governor and six long years. Who knows how long it will take to fully rebuild the entire gulf coast. The owners of the World Trade Center sight are not exactly poor, both politically and financially. Just imagine trying to implement such change if you are the minority owner of a small flattened home, one of thousands, in the Lower Ninth Ward alone.

One of the more unfortunate nuances of both of these historically tragic events is that most Americans have already, in large part, forgotten them. We have forgotten not just that they happened, but forgotten the climate and circumstances that led to them. Undoubtedly we will look back on them whenever it is that the next terrorist attack or natural disaster occurs and wonder why we didn't heed the lessons that they left behind.

September 24, 2007

A big day

Annie and I had a big day today by the time the clock struck 8:30. For the second time ever and for the first time captured on film, Annie rolled over! I was sitting on the floor with her and had a hunch that she had the energy to pull off the feat. I quickly grabbed my cell phone to capture the moment for Grandmas Liz and Kathy. Since we don't have a camcorder yet, this was the best I could do. I don't even think my mother will be able to pull the video up, but oh well. Rolling over is the first big physical frontier that we have crossed and it has me looking down the road to Annie's first steps.

It is a pretty scary thought for me to picture her moving around whenever and wherever she wants. Right now I am pretty overwhelmed and to this point I am just a basic caregiver. Soon I will have to be her educator and navigator for the world. Huh, I have some trouble navigating it myself, and I definitely was brought down some inconsistent paths by my parents, so I really don't want to make the same mistakes they did. I wonder if Annie can get into credit card debt yet? Fortunately, she does not seem to have the same communication issues that the Poulas' have, she always lets me know when she wants something. I will take small victories like that and rolling over, and worry about the big things as they come along.

We also went to the supermarket today, which if I do on schedule (within 30 minutes of eating,) works out pretty well. Unlike my wife, I'm not much of a food browser, so I get in and out. This is why I make sure that when we are grocery shopping it is just the two of us. Annie just sleeps in her carrier the whole time while I try and stop old ladies from sticking their fingers in her mouth. This is rarely a challenge in the New York Metro, but in the south people are very comfortable putting their hands on your kids prior to asking. A woman today stopped me and pulled back the fabric around Annie's face saying, "let me see that little baby." It sounds even crazier when I type it, but she was completely harmless. As I've said, I'm a bit of an anomaly down here.

We did have a little fun after grocery shopping when we went next door to see our new friend who owns a cute little baby store on Line Avenue. She got a chance to hold Annie for the first time today (she usually only sees the top of her head in her carrier) and Annie promptly pooped on her. Nice job kid.

Right now Annie is napping, er, crying, so I am going to cut this short and pick up later with a follow up to a New Orleans post I wrote a couple of weeks back.

September 21, 2007

Opening up

I was just out at lunch with my wife and friends and one of them asked me for the address of this blog. I noticeably blanched at the thought. It is one thing to write in this space, it is another thing to tell people about it. I of course promised to send her the link today. I don't really know what I was thinking. You see, this space was started for me. And while I have always considered myself a writer, I have only just recently started telling other people about my problem. Inevitably, I will have to prove it.

Writing is the one dream in my life that I have never tested. Everything else that I have done I have coasted through on work ethic and charm; both of them doled out equally. They have both served me well when dealing with other people. Here though, we have a different situation. Impressing oneself is the most difficult proposition of all. Smiling, joking, and showing up early everyday isn't going to work here.

This post then, puts the ultimate test into motion...whether or not I can satisfy myself. Nothing less than my life is on the line. I have been thinking of this day since I was 15 years old. Only one other time in my life have I told someone I would be a writer some day, and that was my brother Lou. I was 20 at the time, in love, and dreaming of writing a novel. I was brimming with confidence and wine and just put it out there for everyone else to see. I promptly haven't written anything for 11 years.

Should this new path end in failure, failure in writing that is, it will be a resounding success. I will have proved something to myself. That I am willing to put myself out there regardless of the consequences. That I am willing to trust myself. Most importantly, that for once I am willing to try something in which the outcome is not certain.

Here I am, back in the kitchen of my parents house 11 years ago and I'm telling you that I am going to write a novel. The only question is...why will this time be any different?

September 20, 2007


Whoa, hold on a second. A "sleep regression" is in progress. Two weeks ago Annie was sleeping from her bedtime at 8 p.m. all the way to 2 a.m. She would then sleep until around 6 a.m. when she woke for the day. We have now come all the way back to start. Last night she woke up at 11:15 then again at 2:45 then again at 5:00 and stayed up. Ouch! I should be sleeping right now, but this is the only time of day where I actually feel awake.

She is currently sleeping in her swing giving me a brief moment to put fingers to keyboard, and today I can type two handed...for the time being anyway.

We have been dilligent about keeping her in a routine, something that is supposed to help her sleep at night, but I worry that her routine of eating every three hours during the day is simply carrying over to the night. Kristen and I both have our theories about how to curb this pattern and since I am with Annie the most I seem to take a harder line. She isn't as used to Annie's crying as I am, so my plan ("crying it out,") does not jive for her. Unfortunatley, Kristen's plan ("feeding her whenever she feels like it") is starting to take it's toll on me.

So here I sit on Thursday morning, praying for Saturday when I will have some help and wondering if I will get all that I need. There is a pretty good chance that Kristen will have a significant amount of work to do, leaving me in my weekday roll.

I'm looking for some answers out there and with no one to turn to and no friends to hang out with I am hard pressed to find the place that they will come from.

Annie is three months old today. The mythical age when experts say kids start sleeping throught the night...we'll see.

September 19, 2007

Looking for some time

I wish I had more time for good ol', recently bumped to, number two. It has been a struggle these last few days to find time to take care of the things that I would like to accomplish. First on the list is writing, but I also have a house full of laundry and baby gear that needs to be put away and the aerobed from my in-laws stay is still on the floor in Annie's room. I don't know where the time goes every day. One minute I'm taking care of Annie and the next minute it is five o'clock and I have to start thinking about dinner. I know that what (I'm typing with one hand right now because she is in her sling with my left pinky in her mouth) I need is for her to nap more consistently, and not in my arms. However, my energy is low and spending half the day accomplishing that is a daunting prospect. She is currently in the midst of her morning nap and ideally I would have until 10 or 10:30 to write, but working one handed cuts down the productivity some. So right now I'm trying to take care of everything while sitting dead still with Annie sleeping in my arms again. Just like yesterday; just like last night.

None of this takes into account that I need to leave the house every now and then. Forget it, it takes two hours just to go to the grocery store and back. If it wasn't so hot down here I would consider going to the park and hang out a bit, but that will have to wait a month or so. I'm becoming a hermit of sorts. The good news is that after a disappointing brush with our first Dad's day out program we have finally found a good fit for Annie at the local Baptist Church. Four hours, two times a week. I can't believe it...I'm tearing up a little just thinking about it.

Incidentally, calling it Dad's day out is my own term. I have discovered in just one month of this endeavor that this world (I would say especially down here) is not geared for Men. I know first hand that we are living in a time of increasingly equal footing between Men and Women. Our family would never have been able to have one parent home with Annie if it had depended on my pre-baby income. I had a great job and made pretty good money, but nothing that compares to that of a corporate lawyer's potential. That being said, I am shown on a daily basis that the world of Men staying home with their children is still mostly uncharted. I will certainly let you know when I meet another at home Dad. We are now at 33 days and counting, and yes I know that I will need to get out more to accomplish this great feat.

For now, I will have to cope with the foreign feeling of asking for help getting to my car at Target, listening to grandmothers tell me I'm holding Annie incorrectly, listening to grandfathers commend me on giving my wife a "break" for a little while, and attempt to rationalize the feeling of guilt over not vacuuming by the time Kristen gets home from work.

September 17, 2007

A little break

The in-laws were down in S'port this weekend and Annie and I got a chance to take a little time off from eachother. They came down on Thursday night and left just a few hours ago. It was a nice long weekend full of laughs, food, sleep and rusty golf swings. Thanks to them I am feeling pretty good on this Monday morning. This is fortunate because there is a lot to get done today, not the least of which is getting Annie back on her schedule. When we are all out doing things it is impossible to keep her in the daily routine I have set. You have to balance the amount of fun you can have, with how much you will pay for it later that night. It's sort of like going out drinking. The more you drink the later you'll be up , only now someone else is doing the puking for me. I Annie's version of the porcelain god?

During the week I take all of the night-time feetings. This is usually at 1 a.m. and then again at 4 a.m. This has gotten to be pretty tiring after a month or so. This weekend though Kristen comitted to taking all of Friday night and then half of Saturday. What a huge help, thank you love. I feel a little more human again. I'm sure it was hard for her after having so many nights off and I can't tell her how much it meant to me.

The highlight of the weekend was definitely the strawberry pie at Strawn's...amazing. Sometimes you eat an iconic food from a city and are left disappointed. Not with the pie at Strawn's. Eating it was sort of like sitting on a park bench on an early spring day, leaning your head back, and while feeling the fresh warm sun on your face taking a long pull of the newly fragrant air around you. If you can taste that now, you have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Someday Annie will get a chance to eat like that, but in the meantime she has to taste that remnants via Kristen. Incidentally, my gut tells me that her lack of sleep this weekend had something to do with our collective glutonous ways. She is often sensitive to Kristen's diet and we all went a little overboard this weekend. Annie was often forced to resort to naps in the sling or ergo carrier. See the photo to the right. While cute, my back is hurting today.

September 4, 2007

On the Road

We are on the road in New Orleans this week. Annie and I are getting in some sightseeing and relaxation while Kristen takes care of business. The drive down was our first treat, just awe inspiring. It's rare in life when you see something that you have never had opportunity to see before. The 45 minutes on Route 10 that preceded Baton Rouge may just as well have been on Mars. We were lucky that we didn't crash from gawking out the windows at the endless swampland. A delicate ribbon of bridge 30 miles long laid out on the water's brown, glassy surface was all that kept us dry. I doubt anyone who makes that drive the first time doesn't experience a little bit of the old white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. Who knew how deep the water was, or where we would end up if we ever happened to fall in? Kristen put it best when describing the endless wetlands, "They should drop Bear Grylls here and see if he could find his way out."

We were forced into getting over our amazement quickly though, because the rest of our drive gave us more of the same, mile after suspensful mile. After a while were were comfortably numb and enjoying the desolation. It was beginning to feel like the rawness of the landscape was preparing us for what we were to see in New Orleans. We just moved to Louisiana two weeks ago, so admittedly there was some trepidation about the city's ongoing comeback. It's one thing for everyone to tell us that because we were staying at the W downtown we wouldn't see "any of that," but that's no way to look at a city. It isn't difficult to shelter yourself.

I'm genuinely not prepared for where this post could go, or sure what direction this blog will ultimately take, so I will get back to my little girl. I will say that everthing we saw was very beautiful, but a little too quiet. We were surprised that a city this large could ever have so few people about. I think that I will have a more erudite opinion on the subject of Katrina and rebuilding later in the week, but I know that I will never be fully qualified to hold it.

When we first arrived at the hotel last night Annie was really prepared to cut loose and make the most of our time away from home. The plush amenities of the W Hotel really appealed to her refined sense of taste. I don't think she had ever seen a chaise lounge chair before, but as you can see, she new how to make the most of it.

She and I decided to go for a walk shortly thereafter and take in some of the sights in the French Quarter, just a quick walk from the hotel. As we have found out over the last two weeks, it is hot down here. It wasn't possible for us to stay out long, so we had a very well defined purpose to our and beignets at Cafe DuMonde on Decatur. It was only a 15 minute walk and we saw much. The architecture was every bit as sublime as you would expect. New Orleans is one of those cities that brings you back in time a bit. Fortunately on a Monday evening there were not too many drunken idiots to spoil a nice quiet stroll.

I'm still suprised at the looks and comments I get when I'm wearing Annie. Almost everywhere I walk people seem to ponder us for a minute. It is as if I weren't wearing her, but bearing her; a miracle of modern science. Until I get 100 percent used to it I will forever walk around like someone who is hiding something. I can tell that I have a certain look on my face; a look that says I know people are looking at me. I have to work on losing that.

Despite the stares, I took a moment to contemplate the breadth of the Mississippi River this fae south. At the other crossing points that I have witnessed it appeared as any other large river I had seen. Sort of like a muddier Hudson. But down here it bubbles and flows like and ocean. Standing on the bank felt like I was leaning up against something that was humming. A living body that held the attention of everyone watching. I could sense it's purpose and it's meaning to so many millions who have depended on it for so long.

After my moment of clarity on the Mississippi I walked two more blocks to the cafe. It was the only place I had seen so far that was still teeming with people. Most were there for the cafe, but many were there to take in the dreamy voice of a woman singing with her sidewalk band. She sang the usual soulful songs you may have heard in any other city, on any other sidewalk, but go ahead and call me a hopeless romantic, she sang them in that silky manner that stops you in your tracks. You don't have to know anything about music to stand and admire.

Ultimately, the iced Cafe Au Lait hit the spot and the beignets were more dense than I had anticipated, but overall it was well worth our first sweaty jaunt out into the city.