Dad Stuff: Music Lucy Likes…And Doesn’t

Ask any dad and he’ll tell you that he’ll try anything to stop his kid from crying. In my case, after changing our darling daughter and bouncing her around or trying to burp her, there’s not a whole lot I can offer. The missus is still breastfeeding and not pumping quite yet, so my options are limited. With her still home, that option is obviously open and I’ll practically be a bottle feeding ninja by the time she goes back to work, but as of right now, I’m trying out different music on Lucy to try and calm her down.She likes the Beatles, but the one performer who always seems to calm her down–with some accompaniment by dear old dad–is none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. For Christmas, my inlaws gave me the Legends box set, which is on my computer, as opposed to all the other Johnny Cash records I have which are on my iPod. For whatever reason, the other day when Lucy was having one of her mini freak outs, I decided to try playing Johnny Cash’s music and guess what? She loved it. Better than loved, she was transfixed. The first track on the first record of that set is the classic “I Walk The Line.” I’m not sure if it’s the staccato guitar playing, Johnny’s deep voice or me singing along that gets her or all of the above, but that one track seems to always calm her down. Now I’ve just got to learn every other non Super Hits track on the records to be in a place where I can warble along with the master and hopefully calm the kid down.

I’ve tried some other music with differing results. I was hoping the faster aspects of The White Stripes or The Raconteurs would appeal to her delicate sensibilities, but that wasn’t the case. I also tried a little Fall Out Boy because I know all the words, but she was lukewarm to them. Finally, after somewhat successful forays into Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, I hopped over to the weirdly smooth tones of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, but she wasn’t having any of that. Maybe I should start her out on something a little jazzier like A Saucerful Of Secrets. I can forgive her for that as she seems to get a little bored with the solos and just wants to hear the lyrics. She’s definitely my girl. I do my best to vocalize the solos to keep her interested. You should hear me do “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” I’ve got the violin and guitar solos down better than some of the words.

Needless to say, most of my music listening has been predicated on her moods and what I think might lead to less screaming and more sleeping. I’ve got a LOT of music on my iPod and a good deal on my laptop to try and go through. She also seems to be as big a fan of Stephen Kellogg as I am which is good because I know a good deal of the words to his songs. The only downside I’ve found is that singing some of them–like “A (With Love)”–make me a little teary eyed and she doesn’t like the interruption in my singing. I’m starting to understand why people think they’re good enough to go on American Idol, especially if their kid thinks they’re a good singer. My daughter’s only a few weeks old and I think I could fly to the moon on the slightest, possibly-from-gas smile I get as I sing along to “Ring of Fire” or “Octopus’s Garden.” It’s shocking how tightly we can get wrapped around those tiny little fingers, isn’t it?

Dad Stuff: The Kinect Is Great For Dads, But Could Be Better

The Kinect for Xbox 360 isn’t the kind of thing I would have bought for myself. But, my lovely wife liked the idea of it and we wound up getting it for Christmas. We played and enjoyed the game that came with it and Dance Central, but the pregnancy kind of deterred her from playing. I could write that it’s not the kind of game I would play on my own, but to be honest, there were a few days where I’d shake my booty before she got home and I had to start making dinner. It’s actually a pretty good way to work up a sweat. Anyway, I was most interested in seeing how the Kinect would change the way I use the Xbox overall. While I do play my fair share of video games–usually at night after everyone’s gone to sleep–I mostly use the ‘Box as an entertainment center to play Netflix Instant movies and shows. Initially, there was no Netflix capability for the Kinect which was kind of disappointing because I had visions of flipping through my queue like something out of Minority Report. Recently, Netflix got updated and can now be used with the Kinect, but it’s far from perfect. Now that my hands and arms are quite literally full with our darling daughter, I was hoping to be able to wave my hand, take control of the Instant menu, flip through my queue and find something I wanted to watch. Instead, the Kinect-enable Netflix menu shows me things it thinks I want to see and, unless I’m just completely clueless, does not give you access to your actual queue which is annoying. And even if it did, flipping through the list isn’t nearly as smooth as I would like. You’ve got to hold your hand up on an arrow and wait for it to move on to the next four or five selections. Someone get Steven Spielberg on a redesign! But, it’s not all bad. The Kinect allows for voice commands, which I didn’t even know were available. The missus and I were watching Veronica Mars, one of us said something and we saw a tiny microphone graphic show up on the TV. That’s when I remembered reading somewhere about voice commands. All you’ve got to do is say “Xbox” and then any number of commands and it does what you want. Blammo! Now this is excellent. While I can’t flip through my queue using my dulcet tones, I can tell my Xbox to pause, play, fast forward and whathaveyou, which is incredibly helpful when holding a sleeping baby. The only risk is talking so loudly that you wake the kid up, but thankfully Lucy doesn’t seem to mind. So, while the Netflix/Kinect combination isn’t quite as good as I would like, it has offered me hands free control of my Netflix account to some extent. I’d like there to be more, either through voice activation or hand waving. Even so, it’s a pretty good trade off for having my TV look like Johnny Number 5’s fatter cousin.

Dad Stuff: Birthing At Home

“Dad Stuff” will be a recurring column I’ve had in my mind for quite a while. As I’m sure you can surmise, it’ll be about my experiences as a dad. I’m thinking it’ll include stories, anecdotes and maybe even some dad related reviews. I figured the best place to start would be at the beginning. About nine months back after realizing we were expecting, the missus came to me and said she really wanted to do a natural birth. Her mom had had her and her brother at a birthing center with a midwife, but that apparently isn’t an option in our area. So, the only way to do a birth with a midwife was at home. The concept spooked me to be sure. What if there were complications? What kind of training do midwives have? What happens if I pass out from all the blood and whatnot? What if it was messy? I had my questions and concerns, but it was clearly something important to her, so I went along with it.

From there we talked to a few different midwife groups and decided on one that fit really well called River and Mountain Midwives. The missus watched a few documentaries about birth like The Business of Being Born (on Netflix Instant) and I saw one or two myself like The Orgasmic Birth, and I was convinced. See, I haven’t been around babies much. I’m an only child and my younger cousins were all born in hospitals. I figured the normal way to give birth was to head to a hospital, get some shots, have the baby and go home. But it turns out it’s a lot more complicated than that. I don’t want to get into the horror stories, but I bet if you started asking your friends and family how their hospital births went, you probably won’t get 100% positive responses. The main point that talking to the missus, the midwives and watching the movies made for me, though, was that birth is natural and should be handled as such unless there are circumstances that present themselves that require medical attention. People have been doing this for millions of years right?

From there we had regular meetings with the midwives where I learned more and more and saw my baby grow and grow. We also went to a birth class with three other couples in our general area who were also having home births, so I really got a crash course in all this stuff and met other like-minded folks that gave me a pretty good feeling going into the birth.

As I’m sure everyone is aware, word got out on Sunday May 1st that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated. We were pretty fascinated by this and even though the details wouldn’t be made prominent for a couple days (and even longer for us), we staid up to watch the news. The missus had planned to go on pre-maternity leave starting the previous Friday, so she staid up later than usual. Eventually we turned the TV off and I did some reading. Not much further into the evening I heard a pop and thought “Oh man, I bet that was her water breaking,” but she didn’t say anything and it’s good to sleep through some of your labor, so I didn’t say anything. A few moments later, she was up and said “I think my water just broke…yeah, it broke.” That’s when I kicked into stereotypical dad mode and started pacing, playing with my hair and wondering what I needed to do. That was at 1:23AM.

I got control of myself, got her a towel and then called the midwife. She said to try and get some sleep, but it soon became evident that it was very uncomfortable for her to try and go through a contraction while lying down. We also noticed–thanks to an app on her iPod Touch–that the contractions were coming closer together than we expected, but not alarmingly so, so we waited to call the midwife again. Around 4AM, after finding a good laboring place in our hallway bathroom, things were starting to move faster, so I called the midwife again and then called our parents. The original plan was to have her mom there for the birth with her dad waiting in a hotel, but that wasn’t in the cards. I called the midwife again at 4:30AM and she said she’s be there in a half hour to forty five minutes. Right before she did get here, the missus went through one helluva contraction that brought out a whole different sound than the others. Thankfully, the midwife got there and everything was moving along just as it should have been.

The hardest thing for me during the home birth was seeing my wife in such pain. She says now that the contractions and pushing weren’t super painful, but that’s not how it looked or sounded to me. I completely understand why the time-saving birthing procedures were created and why people schedule C-sections after all this because there really is no schedule to go by and I am a fan of such things.

However, the most amazing thing about the whole process was how my wife seemed to instinctively know the perfect way to move her body to not only get through the contraction, but also to arrange herself in the perfect way to maximize the efficiency of every movement. She said afterwards that she honestly could not have imagined giving birth in one of the more uptight hospitals that make you lie on your back during labor (a fairly unnatural practice when you think of how everything’s laid out) because the very thought of doing anything different than what she did was not working for her.

So, all in all, it was a great experience. I saw things I never thought I’d see and didn’t even pass out. The missus went through everything like a champ and wound up tired but felt great about what she had done. Plus, our baby got to be born in her own house without all those crazy lights and noise. It was just the three of us in a tiny bathroom. She also didn’t come out feeling the effects of any drugs and got to see things pretty clearly right away. Big ups to both of them and our midwife Susan for doing such a great job.