Fun with Vilari (3 month old)

Vian and I started taking walks around the block in the evening. I carry him around all swaddled and he coos and babbles for a few minutes. I sing his favorite Tamil lullaby and he slowly calms down and rests his head on my chest and drifts into sleep. The awesome thing about our neighborhood is everyone I meet during the walk is genuinely happy to see us. I usually get a thumbs up from cars driving by or neighbors want to stop and take a closer look at Vian. Some of them offer up great advice about how they raised their kids. If he's ever fussy during our walk I add a bounce to my walk. At times like that, I get a sympathetic nod from fellow walkers and one woman said "It'll get better, don't worry" as she was passing by.

Night time is a whole another story. Yoshi wakes up a few times to feed him. Sometimes she'll hand him off after the feeding to change him or rock him. Those are my favorite times. He's wide awake and giggly. He's smiling the entire time I'm changing his diaper. Even after I swaddle him back he's usually all smiles. I rock him on a yoga ball and within 15 mins he's passed out again. I hold him for another 5 or 10 mins and then put him back on the bed. The best part is his sleepy grin after I put him down. His eyes are closed and he's asleep, but he still manages to crack a dreamy smile. So I always take an extra few minutes to take in his smile before returning to sleep myself.

Even though not every night is as smooth and easy as I described above, I'm quite content with my life.

Voice of an Angel

When Sempi was a little baby we had a hard time putting him to sleep. I would rock him for hours (yup, hours) trying to get him to sleep. During those days I would sing a Tamil song that my mom taught me in the hopes that it'll calm him down and put him to sleep. Never worked. 

With Vian we are going through a similar experience (you'd think we'd learn by now) of rocking him to sleep. But this time when I sing that Tamil song he actually calms down. He stops crying, places his head on my chest while I rock him and sometimes even falls asleep. This of course brings me tremendous joy. I was patting myself on the back congratulating for perfecting my singing technique. 

Only to find out later that he also calms down (faster) if the vacuum cleaner is in use. Yoshi found this out accidentally while vacuuming the house while wearing him in a wrap. He was passed out in under 5 minutes flat. 

My son likens my singing to the sound of a vacuum cleaner. I'm beaming with pride.

Porcupine

After a 4 week paternity leave, I'm getting ready to go back to work. 

I've taken a shower, trimmed my beard, wearing a decent button up shirt and slacks. Sempi walks by and he says: 

Sempi: Appa you look different. 

I'm gearing up for a compliment. 

Sempi: You look like a porcupine. 

That's his way of noticing that I haven't combed my hair.

Me: Thanks a lot man. 

I should have known better. :P

Sibling For Sale

Sempi and I are at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop, reading books and eating bagels. 

We picked up a book with a collection of funny poems. Here's one: 

“One sister for sale,
One sister for sale,
One crying and spying young sister for sale
I'm really not kidding so who'll start the bidding
Do I hear a dollar?
A nickle?
A penny?
Oh isn't there isn't there isn't there any
One person who will buy this sister for sale
This crying spying old young sister for sale.”

I asked Sempi.

Me: What would you say if someone offered a nickel for Jelly Bean (nickname for his brother Vian).

Sempi: Thank you!?

Me: Haha. So you'll give them Jelly bean for a nickel. 

Sempi: No! He's mine.

I guess he didn't really understand the poem or my question. But I was amused that his first response was "Thank you". 

Cup of Almonds

Me: I noticed that you did not eat your almonds that I packed for your lunch yesterday.

Sempi: Yes I like to look at them for lunch.

Me: Huh. So do you want me to pack it again today?

Sempi: Yeah. (in a matter of fact voice). 

Ikea Ice Cream

When I was a little kid which was about three or four years ago I used to go to IKEA with Yoshi. Whenever we went I always wanted to get their $1 ice cream. Sometimes Yoshi would indulge and other times I was too much of a wuss to ask her.

Today I went to Ikea with my son and my mom. After sending my mom to go sight see the various displays, we decided to hit the food court. Sempi said that he wanted a slice of pizza. I said sure then I crouched down next to him and asked him "Sempi I was thinking about getting you an ice cream". He thought for a moment and then said "But I was going to eat a slice of pizza". He did not realize that I was offering to buy him both a slice of pizza as well as ice cream. So I told him okay you get the slice of pizza and I will get the ice cream and I can share mine with you. He was excited about that proposition. Here's me eating the ice cream with him right before I drop the ice cream.

We manage to salvage most of it when I caught it mid air. It wasn't graceful but that never stopped us from finishing off the rest of it.

Conversations about a 4 week old

After a particularly rough night with the new born, Yoshi and I are sitting in the dining room eating breakfast. Vian is sleeping in the bedroom.

Yoshi: Can you check on the baby? 

Me: Sure

*Checked on him to make sure he's still breathing*

Me: He's sleeping with the utmost satisfaction of someone who has stolen two people's sleep.

Yoshi: Haha. *tired and jittery laughter*

Stay at Home Dad - Week 4

TL;DR: Last week of my leave ended with some epiphanies and personal growth. I still firmly believe I'd rather be a stay at home dad than a working dad.

I'm glad to say that I bounced back from week 3 with great success. I finally broke through some mental barrier and felt a strange calm wash over me. I started controlling my emotions better. I still get angry when Sempi does something that I explicitly asked him not to do, but I don't show that anger to him. I use a calm, stable voice to express my displeasure and gently ask him not to do it. I firmly request him to apologize for what he did and it works nearly 80% of the time.

Yoshi has given this advice to me in the past "When Sempi is having a bad time, try to be calm and emotionally stable. That way he can rely on us to find his bearings". It finally clicked for me. It's a simple advice that is hard to follow. But so far keeping my cool has resulted in a reasonably well-behaved kid.

We had a couple of playdates at our place with two different kids. Sempi played well with one of the kids, the other playdate was more like the two kids played in the same room but didn't really bother interacting with each other. So I'd say it was a resounding success.

I took our neighbor's kid (Sempi's school mate) to rock climbing. She was a total champ. After about the 10th time, I had to restrict her climbing so she wouldn't end up with muscle cramps. The abundance of energy found in 3 year olds is incredible.

The strange epiphany here is that managing toddlers is easier when there is more than one of them. I could have just gotten lucky but so far the 3 afternoons with 2 toddlers have been a breeze compared to the rest of the afternoons when it's just me and Sempi. 

Adventures in cooking. I made eggplant rigatoni. I'm glad to say it wasn't a complete disaster. Yoshi liked it a lot.

Yoshi helped Sempi make truck shaped muffins. They were delicious. Sempi asked me to pack some in his lunch to give to his teachers. It was so sweet. Later I found out he ate all of those extra pieces that were packed for his teachers. I should've known better.

My mentor and friend, Graham is in town for PyCon and he brought a Lego Construction Set for Sempi. Sempi was in cloud nine while building his trucks from scratch.

During week 1, I said Sempi still prefers his mom and I have 3 more weeks to change that. I'm happy to report this hasn't really changed but I do have the following conversation to report. 

I do my usual breakfast routine where I sit him down at the breakfast table and put a bib on him while singing "I put a bib on you, 'cause you're mine...". Usually he retorts with "I don't belong to you, I belong to Amma". But today Sempi said, "I AM yours, because we sleep together". I was so moved by his reply, I didn't even have the heart to make some crude joke about it.

A little bit of context. I sleep in the bedroom with Sempi and Yoshi sleeps with the baby in the other room, so we don't disturb Sempi's sleep during night time feedings. Hence his comment about sleeping together.

I'm glad to have the paternity leave end on a positive note. Overall, it has been a very positive experience for me. I now have a better appreciation of what Yoshi goes through on a daily basis. More importantly I got a chance to bond with Sempi that wouldn't have happened without this leave. I went into this hoping to be a helping hand and came away with increased awareness and maturity.

Stay at Home Dad - Week 3

TL;DR: When life gets harder it's because you've just leveled up. I certainly hope so because this week made the first week look like a walk in the park. Novelty of a new stay at home parent has worn off, reality has set in. 

I started the week with a lot of ambition. I thought I knew how to handle Sempi. So I voluntarily decided to level up my duties as a stay at home dad.

I decided to clean the house while he was at school. Putting away the toys and vacuuming took nearly two hours. It's not my first time, but it is my first time doing it without any help. After that I had time to eat some lunch (I didn't have to prepare it, since my mom took care of that) and then it was time to go get him from school. There was no downtime, which I thought I could catch up on the next day. Five days later I've accumulated more downtime debt than I can pay off.  How do people manage to do this without help? The saving grace is that it felt amazing after I cleaned the house. It was satisfying and I felt proud of my work. This lasted a whole day before everything was back to it's disorganized mess and the floors started getting grimy. I started pondering "What's the point of all of this? Why am I doing this?". 

Around this time Sempi decided it was time to push the boundaries with me during bedtime. The bedtime routine is breaking and he tries to run to Yoshi when I start being strict. In the afternoons he insists on staying home and I can't force him to leave the house. This sometimes leads to Sempi interrupting the baby's nap. I'm unable to entice him with playtime and toys. I have run out of leverage and he can smell the desperation. 

I started inventing new ways to use the existing toys. For example, Legos/Duplos are now allowed in the bathtub. I built a submarine which I found was incredibly difficult since they raise to the top due to the air trapped between the blocks. The trick is to build it underwater and make sure you let the bubbles escape before joining two blocks.

Aside from the existential pondering, we achieved some important milestones. Sempi and I biked to a park that was 2 miles away. We both took separate bikes and I'm proud to say we made it all the way to the park. At one point while pushing up his bike through a broken sidewalk he said in a very serious tone "This job is hard work, I don't think I can do it again". I cracked up when he said it, which was met with a stern angry look. We took the bus back, since the way back is almost entirely uphill.

We went to Dozer days on the weekend which gave Yoshi and the baby a break. But waiting in long lines for a 2 min ride in a bulldozer or an excavator wasn't nearly as fun as I remembered from last year. It could be the pouring rain that soaked us wet or it could be Sempi's last minute change of mind to not go on a ride anymore after having waited in line for 20mins.

Sempi started serenading his brother with a song about garbage trucks when he was crying. It was the sweetest thing until he wanted to do it again when the baby was sleeping.

I got to bond with the baby a lot more since he decided sleeping was so last week. I got to rock him, walk him around and let him sleep on me while I sit in the couch. It was nice.

As we enter into the last week of my paternity leave, I'm hopeful that I can rebound from last week, but I'm worried for Yoshi. All this time she has been providing me with support when I needed a break and pulling in the extra load when I start to slack off. But how is she going to do it all when I'm at work? I know parents around the world have done this billion times over, but I can't help but feel a sense of panic.

Stay at home dad - week 2

I now have a rhythm. Things seem to be getting easier.

We're one grandma down. We're managing with just one grandma. :P

I have a whole new appreciation for Portland parks and museums. You might remember that we spent an entire day (6 hours is an entire day in toddler time) at the Children's museum last week. This week we spent an afternoon at OMSI. I took Yoshi's e-bike and hitched the trailer. It was a nice sunny day and half way there I noticed the hitch was rattling. We made a stop at a bike shop to borrow a wrench. The name of the shop was Free Wheel Bikes. I was trying to show him the bolt that needed tightening. He heard me saying the trailer is attached to the bike and offered to get me a size 14 wrench since that fits best with bolts on an axel. When we walked back to his tool rack in measured steps, I realized (to my total surprise) that he was blind. Which explained why that bike shop was the most well-organized shop I've seen in my life. 

We got to do a lot of new activities together. 

We built some electronic circuits. Thanks to my coworker Joe for introducing me to the circuit club called Tron Club. This week we got our first circuit kit and we made some blinking LEDs. He was enthusiastic for about two hours and then the enthusiasm waned when he realized we're not building anything with wheels. I see a bright future building robots with him. :)

Drinking some victory juice after building a circuit with a photo-resistor. 

We went rock climbing at Circuit Gym. He thought that's where they made the circuits, but he wasn't too disappointed when we go there and there weren't any circuits. He loved the slide for coming down from the top. He liked it so much he decided to climb up the slide instead of the rocks. I had to use bribes positive reinforcement to get him to climb on the rocks. 

Enjoying a well earned treat after a tough climb. :)

Weekends are still a mixed bag. Saturday we went to Train day to see a few elaborate displays of model rail road exhibits. Sunday was a mellow day, it was speckled with rough patches but all in all a pleasant day. 

Pizza time. 

I got to bond with Vianvilari some more. We started going on walks around the block. 

Yoshi got some decorated diapers at her baby shower which made diaper changes fun for me. We have some of the best friends.