The Holiday (W)rap Up and A List of Firsts

Happy New Year and all that jazz. The holidays are behind us, or the big ones are at least. Felix spent his first Christmas like he spends most of his days, tearing paper up and taking toys out of boxes. It didn’t really amaze him, but it was a super big deal for us!

 

A few days before Christmas, Michelle gathered up some of his toys and wrapped them up for him to open on Christmas morning. We were excited to see him open the presents and thought he would go full on maniac baby. He never made it past generally enthused.  In fact after getting back one of his more favorite toys it was difficult to persuade him to open the last present. Lesson learned? Babies got Baby Business and that doesn’t always line up with your holiday plans.

Just another day tearing up things I find.

Just another day tearing up things I find.

We bought him a real gift, a baby-sized push broom. It was given to him the night it arrived which was way before Christmas. Who can deny their children’s happiness? Not us. He loved the broom and he’ll love it even more when he can walk.

The real gift was a gift to all of us. We started a family tradition of getting a Santa photo every year. Only we get ours with Space Santa! Yes, head to the top of the Space Needle and you too can get your picture taken with one of the coolest Santa’s ever. Bonus points on the short line and great views. It was his first trip to the Space Needle.

Christmas In Space

In hindsight Felix did a bunch of sightseeing and visited quite a few of the Seattle Christmas Classics. First he went to the Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village with Michelle’s Aunt Laurie and Uncle Tom. We rode the Monorail to get there, first Monorail ride. After Christmas he took his first trip to the EMP with his Aunt Ashley and Uncle John.

This looks like a  tough crowd, I better take both swords.

This looks like a tough crowd, I better take both swords.

Plus we stopped into McCaw Hall for a few pictures with their Nutcracker display. Hhm, this might be a hard Christmas to top.

Hurry up and take the photo before they realize we didn't buy a ticket.

Hurry up and take the photo before they realize we didn’t buy a ticket.

The best gift of all was spending Christmas morning with Felix and Michelle reflecting on how much our lives have changed and how awesome it is to be a Family.

I think these decorations do come off.

I think these decorations do come off.

New Years passed without much notice. I stayed up until midnight, but it was just to watch a few shows on Netflix and enjoy the “time off” from getting up early and writing. The only highlight of New Years, Felix went to his first fondue party. He was a perfect guest, and so well behaved a couple people didn’t even realize he was a baby.

Felix continues to level up his skills. He’s walking along the walls and cabinets, bookshelves, chairs, exercise ball. You know anything he can gain balance from. The couch is now a climbing toy as he can get up and over the back of it. Luckily it is packed with pillows, blankets, a beanbag T-rex, the usual stuff, so he just rests on the top. His proudest and most amazing skill is the ability to forage food from the floor. Everything, EVERYTHING, is going in the mouth these days. Epicurean? So much it hurts.

The confidence Felix has in his agility now makes boundaries a thing of the past. Nothing is off limit or too hard to get to. Behind the cat tree, behind the curtains and blinds, under the desk, over the couch Felix is there. He even crawls right out of bed and heads to the living room. No time for good mornings; tons of Baby Business due today.

 

 

Playtime continues to be more complex. He went from just knocking over towers, to trying to take just a single block off at a time, and now he is trying to stack blocks. The other day he managed to stack three. It was pretty impressive, like watching the Incredible Hulk play Jenga.

Eating meals is going very well. We just have him eat what we eat. When we have a meal we’ll feed him from our plate. If it’s hot or if he’s only having a single item, or ingredient, then we make a little Felix plate. It works; he doesn’t like the baby mush, as he wants to be master of his own food delivery. It’s worked so well that now when we eat a snack he wants a bite too, or the whole thing. As I was enjoying a pretzel stick he crawled over and tugged on my pant leg. I broke off a smaller than intended piece and tried to plop it in his mouth. As I did that, he grabbed the entire pretzel stick out of my hand and went on his way. Michelle laughed so hard, and so did I.

We are marching ever closer to his first birthday! I can hardly believe it. This year has been a great one. The last six-months at home with Felix have been amazing. Watching him grow, he’s so tall now we have to keep moving the Felix safety zone higher and further back. He’s scooting around so much now, crawling and climbing over anything or anyone. Opening drawers, understanding dangers, understanding words. Turning a corner and learning to be calm in his car seat. I wish I could learn in four years as much as he has in one.

Christmas better be worth this humiliation.

Christmas better be worth this humiliation.

 Here is the tally of Felix’s Firsts:

  • First Christmas
  • First ride on a Monorail
  • First trip to the Gingerbread Village
  • First trip to the Space Needle
  • First picture with Space Santa
  • First trip to the EMP
  • First time holding a play sword
  • First New Year
  • First Fondue Party
  • First list of Firsts

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Baby Urgency

LIVE FROM COVINGTON IT’S HALLOWEEN NIGHT

It’s Friday, that means it’s time for another urgent Felix post. A post written in segments as Felix napped! No photos because we’re out and about.

So many interesting things are happening with Felix right now. He’s learning motor control, evident by his incredible enjoyment of: opening and closing doors, standing at the office chair and twisting it back-and-forth or playing ring-around-the-chairsie, grabbing a toy and pushing it all over the house as he crawls like a maniac kid, rolling toys back to us and stealing my glasses every time the opportunity arises.

The first time he crawled over and took my glasses was one of those magical moments where you perceive more depth to what’s happening than there actually is. I had just built him a tower to vanquish and he was having fun knocking it over. So I took the time to send an email from my phone. I was in the middle of composing the message when he popped up looking slightly disgruntled and then grabbed the glasses from my face, raking the skin on my brow just a bit. He shook my glasses and vocalized something that sounded like a declaration.
I looked at Felix and said, “I get it buddy. I need to put my phone away and really see you.”
He smiled playfully and let me take my glasses back. I thought, wow, that was sort of a deep reverse parenting moment we just had. My glasses were barely on for a second before Felix lunged for them again, once more raking my brow.
“Okay,” I said, “now it’s a game, but the first time really meant something.”
He smiled and banged my glasses into the floor. Babies, we can learn so much from them.

And I sincerely mean that. I joke around a lot, but babies are persistent and driven, injury barely slows them down, minor bonks and falls are quickly brushed off and then it’s back on their feet. They have no shame and only seek to do what they want regardless of dangers or foolishness. If babies were like adults most of us would still poop our pants and crawl around safely on the floor. If I have learned anything from Felix it is to be fearless in my endeavors, and push past setbacks. Because in the end that’s how we get what we want and that’s how we learn.

Climbs off soapbox hops back on topic.

Felix is learning to interact with his world and impress his will upon the objects around him. In a previous post I mentioned that he knows our schedule, so with all these knew ways to control his environment and growing abilities to understand the patterns of his environment this should make him the most content baby that ever crawled the Earth. A Super Baby who never cries. Well you know nothing about baby urgency.

Baby Urgency is that irrational need to make 110% goddamn sure we understand that he requires attention. Not just attention, but immediate attention with a swift resolution. Most of his baby urgency happens when we’re getting ready to go, he really wants us to remember him, even though we have a perfect record of always bringing him along.

When it’s just the two of us and I need to do chores, or anything that requires two hands and moderate attention, I’ll put on the Baby Bjorn.
Now, a little bit of background here so there is no confusion on how we use the Bjorn. The Baby Bjorn is only worn if I need to take Felix with me. I do not wear it for fun, or fashion or as a conversation starter. At no point in time has anyone but Felix occupied the Baby Bjorn. It is covered in his drool, it is certifiably his by the Rules and Codes of Baby Law. But, the moment I put it on he starts crying and scoots over to me. Then takes a tight hold of my clothes and tries to make that epic climb all babies dream of; that’s where they grab on at the knee and then using only their bare hands climb all the way up and into your arms.
I’ve always found this confusing given the solid history of only putting Felix in the Bjorn. But then I started looking at it from his perspective. I used to be spend most of the waking day at work, leaving before he woke up and getting home for the last couple of hours before bed, it sucked. So to Felix, I guess he knows I can leave him. That’s a sad thought.
We share the apartment with two cats, and a couple of mirrors. By baby logic I can infer that there might be 2-4 other people in this house. Two, or four, other people who are trying to get in the Bjorn. So like a crazed fanboy he lines up once the Bjorn goes on and screams, “Pick me, pick me!” I always tell him, “Alright Felix, just this once, I’m gonna do you a solid and let you ride in the Bjorn.” It makes me laugh and I time it to when I’m actually loading him into the carrier so he lets out a happy sigh and double arm happy slam like he understands what I said. (On a side note, babies don’t get enough credit for their awesome gestures.)

His Baby Urgency also goes into overdrive when he’s hungry. If I don’t have a bottle prepped and ready it can be a full on cryfest the entire time. Even if the bottle is ready, when I set it down so we can get seated, he cries out, “No you fool! We need the bottle!” So now I just let him hold the bottle as we take a seat.

The baby carrier and feedings don’t happen on a precise schedule, but do happen with consistency. A consistency he should be able to grasp, if he can grasp the general time that Michelle comes home at. Yet, this urgency get’s the better of him and causes him to cry out. One day he’ll know that the Bjorn always means a ride and I’ll be a little sad, because it’s another mile-marker on the road out of babytown.

This is a short post today. We had a very busy week preparing for Halloween and I had to finish a short story submission. I’ll post a new Felix comic, soon, to make up for it.

From the whole Bray Family have a Happy Halloween!

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Number Two, But Not Doo-Doo: A Ramble

It is not easy being Number Two. Just kidding, it actually is a little bit easy. Michelle is very well read, like books a week well read, and she keeps up with many sites and blogs. So as we’ve been going through the new parent adventure she’s been reading up on the subject quite heavily. She told me about a piece she read where the husband felt slighted by the new born baby, as it felt like he was suddenly second in his wife’s affections, no duh. I laughed for a good long time, and then we made up jokes about what such a person would do to try and gain advantage over a baby. I know it’s not good form to make fun of, or dismiss, anothers feelings, but you’re a grown ass man act like one. In the end the husband did come around and that family is very happy, so all is well.

But that’s not the Number Two I want to talk about, as I think the majority of expectant, and new Fathers, know that they will be second to the baby. As we should be, and from a Fathers perspective Mothers are second to the baby too. That’s how it should be, King Baby he rules all, Number One in our hearts g. The real Number Two this post is about is who’s Number Two in Felix’s eyes, and that honor is all mine.

Felix and Pops

Number Two, I’m thinking of replacing you with this empty bag of chips. It’s amazing!

It’s easy to go you’re dead last pathetic, but let’s remember that I’m 2 out of 2, and the other person can literally feed him from her body. Unfair advantage? Yes. But those are the facts, and unless you’re some sort of super dad you’re most likely Number Two, right now. Number Two comes with a few sad violin moments, where your gut reaction is to feel slighted and say, “I could’ve done that for you.” followed by crying in a corner. Yet, it also comes with a big ace up the sleeve.

First, let’s take a look at the demands of being Number One. Felix  always wants to be around Michelle. Think of it, she tries to do anything and Felix comes crawling over to her, even if we are in the middle of playing. His internal Number One alarm goes off and he makes a beeline for her (a baby beeline is quite squiggly and may involve several pit stops).  I’ll make all sorts of crazy sounds, drum on toys or the floor, even stack towers to the ceiling for him to knock over, and at times it will not be enough to get him to willing crawl back.

(Humorous aside: I can’t even tell you how much he loves knocking over towers these days. It’s my go to method for distracting him, or refocusing his attention. My theory is that he views the towers as an insult, an unwelcome peasant mocking the Kings inability to stand. So he smashes the insolent towers who dare standeth in the presence of King Felix! I always congratulate him for ruling with an adorable and tiny iron fist. Then scold the tower for insulting the King by standing in his majesty’s presence. Now that I’ve taught Felix to high five he validates this theory for me, up top!)

Never stand before a crawling King.

Insolent tower you dare stand in the presence of your King!

Back to our story, he just loves being with Number One more than anyone else. When he’s hurt, or startled by the sudden effect of gravity, he’ll reach out for Michelle. Needs something, sees me, reaches for me, sees Michelle, screams louder and reaches for her. Though, he’s started to make a game of this where he’ll reach for Michelle, spend sometime sobbing with her, then reach for me, spend sometime sobbing with me, then reach out for Michelle again, and repeat until he’s happy. It’s kind of funny. I like to imagine Felix says, “Have you heard how sad I am?” as he reaches for the other person. Once held he quickly forgets he was just being held by the other and thinks, I need to let them know how sad I am, as he reaches out again.

Part of my Number Two status is beyond my control. Michelle pumps, and we give him as much breast milk as possible, but he does get a bottle of formula a day. Every day he gives me the same look when the formula comes around. It’s a startled confused look that gravitates to mild annoyance. I imagine him saying, “Pfft! What is this? You had one job, to get me milk! M-I-L-K, milk! I don’t know what this swill is, but when I’m done, I’m leaving you an angry review on Yelp.” Mumbling as he drinks begrudgingly, “This is why you’re Number Two. Can’t even get me proper milk.” Then he takes the bottle out in a huff, “My Momma get’s me milk. It’s always good, its always the right temperature. And what do you do? This.” Boom! Felix drops the bottle on the ground like a boss. He is the boss, and I forgot to say happy National Boss Day yesterday. Ugh, that’s probably also why I’m Number Two. Oh the sad life of Number Two.

Done eating!

“I wish I could rate this feeding 0 stars.” -Felix B.

What’s sort of amazing is that he knows our schedule. If we have to use formula for his second feeding he drinks an entire bottle. But when that third feeding comes around he’ll only drink half, or less. He knows that Michelle will be home soon and says, “Naw. I’ll wait for the real thing.” Felix’s ability to recognize schedules and determine his own eating habits has been really cool to see. I even tried to encourage him to drink more formula by switching sides and presenting the bottle in new ways (Formula now with more spins!), but he quickly puts a stop to it, because he knows Mom will be home soon. This is awesome, until Michelle’s bus runs late and he get’s real fussy. Then we have some solid food as we wait.

Whoa, we ended up kinda off topic. This was supposed to be about, Number One has some pressure, that Two doesn’t have, and that grants a certain advantage. Right! Advantage! My advantage, back on topic.

My advantage, sleepy time. When Michelle walks him to sleep sometimes he’ll pop his head up and just stare at her, or make soft babbling noises, perhaps those noises are a friendship song he’s made up for his Number One, just like Picard did for Riker. But when Pops puts him to sleep it’s all different. He rarely lifts his head up to make eye contact. Instead of a great friendship song I imagine his sentiments to be, “Oh hey big guy. Guess it’s just us. Well I’m a little tired,” overtly fake yawn, “so I’m just gonna take a quick nap. But we’ll play when I wake up, okay. Who’s my big guy? Who’s my big guy? You’re my big guy. Boop.” then Felix falls asleep mumbling, “Number One set course for the park. Engage!”. And this is wonderful. Advantage, Number Two. Who has advantage? Big Guy.

Being Number Two also means I’m Felix’s second favorite person in the whole world, sorry Mom it’s true, and that’s mighty nice. We do have fun times together, stacking towers and knocking them over, chasing cats, wrestling cats and stealing glasses. There is nothing quite like being the second most important person in a child’s life. The only thing better is being Number One.

Number One and Felix at the park!

Number One we’re having fun!

The Incredible Dynamic Size Shifting Baby or My Biggest-Little Fan

This past January my wife delivered our first child, Felix, in what was an incredibly long and difficult labor. I still recall when he was finally born, and how GIGANTIC he looked. The weight of that moment was so heavy, and meaningful, that my mind actually backed the overwhelming emotions and decided that we were looking at the first four-foot tall baby ever born. It wasn’t until the nurse placed him on the baby warmer, where I watched as they forced air into his deflated lungs that were too startled to inflate on their own, and raised his limp arms just to watch them fall flat, that he suddenly shrunk to the 7lb baby that was born that day. Felix eventually began to breath on his own, and his tiny baby arms stopped falling flat, as he finally acclimated to the post-womb world, but he’s never stopped changing size.

Newborn Felix

New born Felix, such a peaceful little guy.

He’s almost eight months and three weeks old now, and delights in crawling, climbing and cruising. Most mornings I’ll come into our room, after he wakes up, to ferry him via Pops’ Sky Service to the living room. There is a treacherous tiled hallway that one must pass to get there and it can be rough on baby hands and knees. Some mornings he’ll crawl towards me and right past my outstretched arms saying, No thanks Pops I’m making my own way today. As I watch him crawl by and out to the living room he looks so big, like Rick Moranis accidently blew up my baby. Felix will turn to me when he’s past the barren tile lands and give me his big boy smile. Then I’ll scoop him up and give him a big morning hug. It’s only when I’m holding him in my arms that he becomes the average sized eight month old that he is. When I set him down again and he wanders over by the desk, or to a chair and pulls himself up, I wonder how he grew so big, even though he’s still so small.

Toddler-Wobbler

Felix cruising with his Brio!

That dynamic shifting size is just one of the many improbabilities that make him so incredible. Even with all the overly excited eye-gouging, bed hogging, stomach kicking, poop smearing, hair pulling, glasses stealing, wake you up with a slap and dirty face rubbing he’s still the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
This could be explained by the fact that babies are essentially the biggest fan you will ever have, even if you are some rocktor superstar. He’ll get so excited to see you that he falls over, granted standing is not his strongest ability, but still he can hold himself up for days. Yet he falls over when Momma comes home from work.
Even when he’s content and playing with a toy, he’ll notice what you’re up to and he has to do that same thing right now! If you try and deny him he’ll flail wildly in protest, because whatever item you have becomes his number one need! This is the kind of influence companies spend billions of dollars chasing, and I got it. I can sell Felix anything. I’ve traded him an empty bottle to get my iPhone 5s back, all because he’s so fanatical that he has to have whatever I’m interested in. Also, because he doesn’t really grasp their differences, other than their taste and textures, babies are the ultimate epicureans.

What’s truly remarkable is how little you have to try, at times, to get your biggest-little fan to laugh. Lately I sit him in my lap, look at him, but say nothing for about 5 seconds, then go “Boo!” and he laughs his head off, even after the upteenth time. The best part is he knows the joke is coming, and he’ll crack a little smile in anticipation. The most wonderful smile I’ve ever seen. It’s like a review for a series, he’s saying, “Loved the last installment! Can’t wait for the next one! Where does he come up with this stuff! 5-stars!” Then you drop the next “Boo!” and it blows his mind.

Super Felix!

Super Felix!

You do have to put in work for your biggest-little fan, but the work is more than worth the rewards. Feedings and changing clothes, all that is fun “work”. There are two areas that I worried would be tedious; diaper changes and the dreaded sleepless crying baby. The diaper changes became the norm, so much so that if his waste gets on my hand my first thought isn’t, Ewwww! Gross someone else’s POOOOOP! Instead it’s, does the color and consistency look healthy? Let me Google Image Search for a quick reference. Looks good. Then I wash it away. That simple. The dreaded late night can’t sleep crying baby, well we lucked out and he doesn’t do that often. When he has I will admit to feeling a good amount of pride when I finally got him to sleep. That did help, a little, with the overwhelming sense of exhaustion the next day.  There’s also an adorability factor when he’s sleepless, but not a crying-sleepless, he’ll pop his head up as we’re walking and give me a big smile that says, I’m super happy we’re hanging out right now. I’m a sucker for this move and it has earned him extra playtime. What I’ve found is that there is nothing so difficult that I wouldn’t do it for my son. We’ve pretty much given up beer and Netflix for him, if you can do that you can do anything.

These days I get to do anything, and everything, for Felix most days, as this past July Michelle went back to work and I started staying home with him. It was a big change for the three of us but we’ve found our rhythm, and this is the first time I’ve felt like more than just a cog in the machine as I go about my daily duties. I am actually doing something valuable and truly worthwhile.  Felix has been an inspiration to write again, and not just hobbyist-write, but work-the-craft-write, pull out the Chicago Manual of Style and revise-revise-revise-write. I’m up at 3am, mostly working, Monday-to-Friday and 4:30am on the weekends. None of this would be possible without them, and I am so thankful to have my family and this time.

A Damn Fine Older Brother

Growing up my older brother Jeremy was a blessing and a curse. Our Father was never around, but that did little to stop us from inheriting his stature. When Jeremy was 13 he reached his full height of 6’1″. His shoulders were broad and his chest was powerful. He always had a daring look in his eyes and confidence to back it up. I was the antithesis to his existence, a fat, shy kid with thick glasses. Even with our differences we were brothers and happily took with it every duty it entailed.

One day we were riding our bikes to the park, in a moment of hesitation and then stupid urgency I cut across a busy street to catch up to Jeremy. A van narrowly missed me as it came to a screeching halt. I stopped my bike to survey the near accident and give an apology. The driver’s door flung open and a man stepped out. He began yelling at me and questioning my intelligence in a rather rude way. When confrontation came the turtle was my totem, and so I sat stationary on my bike hoping this man would stop screaming before I started crying.

Jeremy must have heard him and wandered over from the park. He quickly sized up the situation and said “Shut the f— up, and get back in your car.” The man looked at my 13 year old brother and quickly entered his van. We heard the door lock as he drove off.
“What a bitch.” Jeremy said.
“The punks lucky he left.” I added.
Jeremy laughed deep and loud. That was my brother, the boy who frightened men.

He was a force of nature to the other kids in school. Nobody messed with him, not even our own suburban brand of tween gang bangers. Heck, most didn’t even mess with me and I looked like the fat kid from Hook, you know the one who folds up into a ball and rolls down the plank way. But only most kids, some kids still saw easy prey and jumped all over me like hyenas on a plump and wounded gazelle. The only problem was the biggest, baddest, king of the jungle was this gazelle’s brother.
Jeremy was a good older brother, but we still argued, fought, and made fun of each other. One day we were in the halls of our middle school on our way to the clubhouse to play Street Fighter II. Jeremy was laying into me, mocking me and kicking at my feet as I walked in front of him. Apparently he had deemed my method of victory in one of yesterday’s Street Fighter II games as underhanded, and wanted to know if I thought I could replicate the trouncing in real life. I did my best to assure him that this was not a thought I could ever entertain, and that the very idea was so ridiculous that the words used to form the question were practically unintelligible to me. This seemed to appease his ego, and he changed the subject to the characters I could not use against him in Street Fighter II because of my cheap tactics. The tactic of victory through coercion he held to be a time honored tradition and the beginning of my exposure to meta-gaming. When he was finished I was left with Balrog, a character I never really played because, pointedly, he sucks. “Let’s see you beat me now when you can’t be a cheap pussy.” Jeremy said, and once more he began taunting and mocking me.

One of our classmates decided to join his fun as we passed by and spoke up to contribute an insult. It would have upset me, but I knew something he didn’t. My heckler, this bastion of power that other kids flocked to and followed, the king of the jungle was my brother. Jeremy turned so fast the kid almost didn’t have time to finish his critical commentary on the state of my developing manhood. “What the hell did you just say about my brother!” The kids face contorted into a mask of shock and terror. He eyed the exit 30 yards down, but was either too scared to move, or knew that Jeremy would cut him down like a two ton truck hitting a tricycle. “I… You were…” the kid stammered. In one swift motion Jeremy charged the kid slamming his left arm into the kid’s chest so hard his feet left the ground. Jeremy used the momentum to violently pin the kid against a locker. The protruding handle and lock could not feel good on his back. “Nobody makes fun of my brother.” He said. His voice was calm and certain, as if he was commenting on the truest principle in the universe. This certainty filled me with a momentary sense of pride and self-worth that was often missing in those days. With his free hand he slugged the kid in the stomach, and let him drop to the floor wheezing. Jeremy then pressed his foot into the kids back until he was flat on the floor. “Don’t ever say a f—ing word to him again.” The King eyed his fallen prey and was content with the natural order he had restored to his lands, so we walked on.

“You didn’t have to do that” I said. “Hey, nobody makes fun of my brother.” he said. His face was sincere and filled with brotherly compassion. “Nobody but you.” “That’s right.” His face held a different brotherly look and I thought it best to drop the subject. “F—ing Balrog.” I said in a whine of exhaustion. “Yeah, Balrog.” He laughed, already anticipating victory.

We had our pains, but I wouldn’t trade my two brothers for the world. You should hear the stories about Anthony!

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