Friday, February 29, 2008

Paternity Leave

The past week and a half I have been fortunate enough to have time off from work for paternity leave. (My hat is off to IBM for that great benefit extended to dads.) Being home with the boys, baby & Amy has given me a lot of quality family time and an appreciation for all the domestic things that go on behind the scenes to make house and family operate. At times the commotion and chores are an alarming harbinger of the days to come as Amy & I come to terms with our future with three kids under the age of three. But fortunately we have had a lot of help from family, friends and neighbors who offer help, meals, and an ear for listening. We will get into a routine sooner or later and adjust to this big (and awesome) life change.

Grandparents are always a welcome sight at the Rutledge household. Nana was here for a couple of weeks after Tess was born, and her help was much appreciated. GJ arrived this week to get some grandmother time with Gus, Owen and Tess which is fulfilling for her and a helpful reprieve for us.

Amy is hanging in there trying to catch as much sleep as she can between Tess's feedings. Tess gave us a break last night by going five hours between feedings. (I should say she gave Amy a break as Amy obviously bears the brunt of the sleepless nights.) We try to wake her up & feed her during the day to get that little belly full in hopes of stretching out those post-midnight feedings as long as possible. We just have to tough it out until she sleeps through the night.

Outside our four walls, our attention has turned to the political primaries. I cannot remember a more interesting, gripping political race in my lifetime than the Obama/Clinton race for the Democratic nomination. After 20 debates and several primaries and caucuses, "Crucial Tuesday" as it's being billed could decide the race if Obama can pull out wins in Texas and Ohio next week. And the excitement is not just limited to the Democrats. Personally I think the Republicans have nominated -- or at least are about to nominate -- a quality person with integrity in John McCain. The general election promises to engage tens of thousands of new people to the political process and should be engaging to watch play out. Now if I can just contain my overzealousness for Obama to get my wife to jump back off the Clinton wagon....

Don't look now. But if Kentucky can somehow upset mighty Tennessee on Sunday, they have the inside track on the SEC regular season championship. (BTW, I did a double take writing that sentence during basketball season instead of football season.) Who would have thought this would even be within reach after Gardener-Webb?

Here are some Paternity Week scenes from our household. Happy Leap Day -- cheers!

There's nothing like snuggling up next to Mom for a warm winter's nap.



GJ's shoulder proves not to be half bad either.



"I'm milking them folks. These people don't stand a chance against me."



Bat the eyes. Dad jumps. Got it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daddy's Girl

Guess who dressed Baby T today?

Cheers!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Caretakers

The big brothers are adjusting to life with their baby sister. Gus is very much the protective, caring big brother. He fetches diapers and blankets for Tess and kisses her on the cheek. When she cries he covers his ears with concern and finds Amy and me to tell us that Tess needs something. It's pretty sweet.

Owen shows his affection for Tess in a different way. Much like his personality of the introverted observer, Owen generally doesn't show as much outward affection for Tess. Instead he proudly shows off the pictures of him with Tess to his teachers at preschool. Both boys have their moments where they want individual attention and act out. But that is to be expected. Tonight the boys showed a really cool moment of looking out for their little sister.

Cheers!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Honeymoon

I remember one of the first nights after we brought the boys home from the hospital. Amy & I were so relieved to have them out of the NICU and have them in our house. The boys were sleeping in their pack-n-play with their bellies full. Amy & I relaxed by cooking a nice dinner & pouring a glass of wine to toast our new family. Naively, I commented that if this was what having kids was going to be like that we could do this without too much turmoil.

Then of course babies stop sleeping in between feedings. They learn to walk, talk, push -- both each other and their parents' patience -- and on and on. I know now that that those first several days were a honeymoon period that don't last forever.

Amy & I are in the honeymoon phase right now with Tess. She only cries when she is hungry, and as soon as she eats she goes right back to sleep. Add to that the fact that we have been fortunate enough to have Amy's mom here since Tess was born. So while Amy is pretty fatigued as she bears the brunt of the late night and early morning feeding schedule, we still have it relatively easy at this stage.

The honeymoon stage will be over at some point. But we'll adapt as parents do. For now we're eating it up.

Cheers!



Tess looks a bit like Rocky Balboa with her right eye swollen shut & weeping. At first we thought it was pink eye. But now we are hoping it was just aggravated from her flailing arms scratching it. Here she is with her first bath.


The calm before the storm. Tess was not a fan of being unswaddled & bathed. She defintely prefers to be wrapped up in one of the blankets friends and family have made for her.


So far Tess isn't much of a grinner -- except with the occasional gas. But we managed to catch a grin here -- definitely my favorite picture of her so far.


The boys are quite the helpers with their baby sister. Owen & Gus deposited Sally car and Lightning McQueen in her car seat in case Tess woke up to play cars with them. And a toilet brush in case she...um....well, they gave her a toilet brush. How sweet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Homecoming

Amy & I brought Tess home from the hospital this past weekend to two anxious boys and four proud grandparents. The boys were waiting at the top of the street for us wearing their "I'm the Big Brother" shirts, courtesy of Amy's friend Julie. The boys have had a mixed reaction to Tess so far. At first they were very excited to see her and their parents, as they crouched down in the driveway to inspect the new arrival. As the weekend wore on (and their cough/congestion bug lingered) their patience withered for this little pink invader. By Sunday morning, Owen's comment was "Dad, I want to hit Tess. I want to hurt her." So we have some building to do with the boys -- their little worlds have been turned upside down with the events of the past several days.

Amy & I try to make sure Owen & Gus get some 1-on-1 time each day so they don't feel (too) left out. Gus really showed his tender heart this morning by bringing a balloon downstairs for Tess and clipping it on to her blanket. Then he proceeded to kiss his sister before his hacking and coughing forced his exit from the room. So there are signs of progress....

Tess got a great report from her first visit to the pediatrician yesterday. She is already back up to her birth weight, indicating how well she has taken to eating. She is nursing about every 2-3 hours which keeps Amy busy and fatigued. But overall Amy has recovered well from the delivery. She is obviously tired as she tries to sleep when she can. But we are trying to get her to take advantage of the help around the house while she can. I will say that we have walked Tucker around the block together the past two nights which is the first time that has happened in ages.

Three of the grandparents have left the scene as GJ and Pappy ventured down to see their granddaughter Corinne in Charleston and Billy returned to his FEMA job in Oklahoma. Nana will be staying with us for a while to lend a willing helping hand.

Cheers!


Proud Dad & Mom leave the hospital with Baby Tess.


The Big Brothers survey the new crying bundle of pink.

The boys were intrigued by their little sister. It will take some time for them to completely warm up to her, but we're on our way.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tess, Day Two

Tess's birth and first two days have been such a different experience for Amy and me than what we had with Owen & Gus. With the boys being premature the doctors and nurses swept them away in an incubator the second they were born. For the first two weeks of their lives Amy & I came to the hospital every day to visit the boys in the NICU. We scrubbed our hands clean, put on hospital gowns, sorted through the maze of wires that were attached to their bodies, and negotiated the beeping monitors in order to bond with Owen and Gus. So while we certainly formed a bond with the boys, it was much more of a process to endure than this time around. From the moment Tess was born and cleared for landing, the nurse handed her back to us and said, "Here's your daughter, congratulations."

The past two days for us have been wonderful because everything has stopped. Nana, Granddaddy, GJ and Pappy are all here to help take care of the boys -- and my how Amy & I are grateful to have the grandparents taking care of under-the-weather boys. Dealing with work and the sea of unread emails is a distant worry far out of our minds. The singular focus of the past two days has been parent and child. What a fantastic way to spend the day.


Amy B cradles her bundle.



Tess and Dad share a nap.


Nana and Granddaddy get a glimpse of their new granddaughter.


Tess is no match for GJ's shoulder...


...nor Pappy's.


Amy & I so wanted the boys to bond with their new sister that we braved their cruddy coughs for five minutes so they could meet Tess at the hospital. We were very glad we did as the boys gushed over her. Owen presented his baby jaguar -- as permanent a fixture to Owen as the blanket is to Linus -- to Tess to kiss her foot. And sweet little Gus -- who lately has turned into his Mom's little boy -- wanted nothing more than to hold his baby sister.

Ah, the times to come. Cheers!

Tess Awaketh

Amy has already bemoaned that her status as "#1 girl in our house" has been relinquished. I told her that at least she's #2 instead of #3, which mine has been for the past three years!

Forgive a new Dad for gushing over his baby girl -- this is new territory. Here Baby T awakes, and then lets Dad know that he doesn't have the food she's looking for.

Cheers!

video

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tessa Lane

Every family has its own birth story etched in memory as every child's birth is unique from another. Like all parents Amy & I will always remember the circumstances surrounding the birth of our children. With the boys, Amy began having pre-term contractions and was on bed rest for months. When we went to the hospital at 33 weeks the doctors were trying to hold off labor for as long as possible. After 30 long hours the boys were born early but healthy.

With Amy's second pregnancy the pre-term contractions once again emerged very early. So all along we prepared ourselves for another early birth. Week after week passed though, and today marked the 39 week mark -- quite a feat for Amy B or as I like to call her, my miracle woman.

So when Amy woke me up at 4am this morning to tell me that she thought it was time, our own unique journey began. We gathered our things and left the house around 5am as our wonderful neighbor Mary came over to stay with the boys when they eventually woke up. When we arrived at the hospital, the nurses checked Amy and were not convinced that she was truly going into labor yet. So they told Amy to wait out the contractions either in the jacuzzi tub or by walking the halls. We tried both, but neither helped the pains that were really coming on.

After an hour of contracting and a shift change at the nurse's station, Amy was requesting pain medication as she was ready for her epidural. (By the way, "requesting" is Amy's word -- my words would be "unequivocally demanding.")

As the new nurse checked on Amy's progress, she spoke bluntly, "I'm going to be completely up front with you. I'm going to try to give you everything you want, but you are 7-8 cm's right now."

No more than 15-20 minutes later and still not officially admitted into the hospital Amy delivered a healthy baby girl, all natural with no pain medication whatsoever. Tessa Lane Rutledge was 6 lbs. 9 oz., 19.5 inches long and born at 7:46a.m.

My miracle woman delivered a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, great-granddaugher and cousin as well as another unique birth story of our own.

Cheers!


Baby Tess, eyes wide open

Baby Tess, un-burritoed and unhappy about it.

Amy B. with her Baby T.


Proud Mama....

....beaming Proud Papa.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nesting



These past few days have been filled with "prepare the nest" activities. Our weekend was a complete domestic one as we finished up the nursery by hanging the last couple of pictures, rearranged car seats and video screens in the van, and cleaned up the house in anticipation of a new arrival. Amy & I were on the same wavelength as we both realized the inordinate amount of time that we are about to be spending in our house with little ones. The only thing that is really left to do is to formally pack a bag for the hospital. But aside from the actual change of clothes to go into the bag even that is done for the most part.

So we began the week feeling totally prepared for anything to hit us.....and then Monday intervened. Yesterday was just a series of Murphy's Law episodes one after another. Gus was sent home from preschool with pink eye. Potty training accidents followed. I came home from work to try to rescue Amy so she could take some work calls. Gus had a bout of projectile vomiting at dinner. Tucker got into the act by eating deer poop in the backyard and then throwing it back up in the dining room. Then we were up most of the night with both boys as they took turns getting sick because of a stomach bug. When it rains, it pours.

But Tuesday is a new day. Today is Super Tuesday with a ton of delegates up for the taking so the Obama/Clinton showdown will be in full effect, including under our own roof. We are looking forward to watching the process unfold.....and to a vomit-free day today in the nest.

Cheers!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Four-Letter Word Friday

Today is a definite T.G.I.F. day after a long week. It is a relief that the weekend is about here. And although outwardly I may complain that the sunny 60-degree weather we're about to get here over the next few days is unwanted because I want winter weather, in reality I'll be a happy camper to get outside this weekend and enjoy the sunshine.

On the Amy front, her doctor appointment this week went very well. For the last few visits she has been in and out like a trip to a fast-food restaurant.

"Baby still in there?" Check.
"Not currently in labor?" Check.
"See you next week. Do you want fries?"

Amy actually took exception to my comment in an earlier post that she is at the "incredibly uncomfortable" stage of pregnancy. On the contrary, she says, she is not uncomfortable. She just gets tired easily. I stand corrected. Maybe I just look at that huge protruding belly and think, "Wow, that must really be uncomfortable trying to stay upright" and transfer my impression to her.

One thing for sure is that Amy is a very light sleeper at this stage. Maybe it's the mother's body gearing up for the light sleeping that inevitably accompanies a new baby. Amy lets me know on occasional nights that I am snoring and thus keeping her awake. I blame it on Tucker and then fall back asleep. One night this week she even tried to make conversation in the middle of the night when I got up.

"Oh, you're up too? I've been up since 2:00a.m. What do you want to talk about?"

I could only utter a sympathetic grunt as I walked into the wall on the way to the bathroom. Overall though Amy is doing really, really well at this stage and is playing the waiting game like a pro.

Then there are the boys. Next week Owen & Gus start attending preschool five days a week from the three-day schedule they have been on since August. This will undoubtedly be a change for them. But we feel that it will be a positive thing for them to get the increased learning experience and for us to have a little more time to devote to the coming life change.

Lately the boys have picked up an undesirable piece of speech. Apparently we parents -- more likely yours truly -- have not been as careful around them with the vocabulary as we should have been. The boys have taken note. Playing at their train table recently, one of the trains fell off the track crashing into the floor and made a mess.

"Oh dammit!" barked Owen.
Gus immediately followed suit, "Dammit!"

The boys then tried to outdo each other, repeating their new word over and over again as loud as they could. Amy looked at each other with wide eyes in shock. Then immediately we turned away from them and tried with all our might to contain our laughter. Laughing is of course the worst thing we could do. If the boys saw us laughing we would be guaranteed that their new word would be in constant repetition and they would keep it up until they got that positive reaction.

Another time this week Amy was cleaning Gus up after he had an accident in his pants. Owen walked in to the bathroom and surveyed the scene.

"What happened Mom?"
"Gus pooped in his pants, Owen."
"Ahhhhh, dammit Gus!"

I suppose we just have to cross our fingers that the newfound joy the boys get in repeating curse words is short-lived and hope that it happens at home instead of at school or church. And we have to keep the kids away from me while I'm watching the UK games on television.

I do have to hand it to them though for using the word in the right context.

Finally, a big congratulatory cheers goes out to our friends Dave O and Julie who are expecting baby #1 in June. It will be the first girl to be born into an Orthober family full of sons and grandsons. And good luck to Dave in persuading a reluctant Julie to name their daughter Wesley Woodyard Orthober in honor of the Kentucky football player. This UK fan is pulling for you.

Have a great weekend -- cheers!