Oliver

Over a Month in Texas and No One Has Melted

Man times sure flies when you are having fun. I cannot believe that more than a month has already passed since we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly…er Austin, TX. Life is good for the Shields clan. We have settled in nicely to a routine that includes hitting up our little community pool several times a week and grilling as much as possible. The boy has taken to the water quite naturally often trying to leap from my arms in the deep end in order to do his best Natalie Wood impression.  (Too soon?) In any event we are all tan people now, and tan people are successful people!

Oliver loves his new daycare, as far as we can tell. He has had a few incidents including a small black eye from falling off the slide and a perfectly identifiable bite mark from another kid. (No braces for that young man, his teeth are perfect!) Oliver does not seem to get the overwhelming attention he received back in MA from his teachers, and this is a good thing. The boy needed to be knocked down a notch. On a positive note he is learning sign language and can already sign, daddy (we work hard on that one), please, thank you and soft touches which we are constantly yelling every time he decides to smack the shit out of Sapphire.

Speaking of the beast from the East, Sapphire has settled in nicely. She loves the big backyard and runs around like a maniac. On a negative note we have new neighbors that for some reason think it is ok to leave their dog outside 24/7 chained to a table. This of course infuriates Sapphire to no end causing her to run up and down the length of the fence barking in protest. She is very mouthy that one.

Tracey is settling into her new job dealing with brainy scientists and such. She enjoys a pleasant commute while I slog along to South Austin with the other 150-a-day d-bag newcomers clogging up the under developed infrastructure. You remembered that time I lived in Boston and said “hey it can’t be worse than Boston” well I was wrong. Traffic sucksssssssssss here. It has however given me the chance to listen to some sweet Steve King books. Do you think he calls nightmares moneymakers? As in: “holy crap that was a scary moneymaker.”

Anyway, we are all good down here in the heart of Texas. No one has melted, the weather has been amazing and we couldn’t be happier with our decision to move down here. I have been working at my new job and am enjoying the work. I have written more for them in the last month then I have for any other job period, hence the neglect to my own blog.

If anyone decides they want to come down and rustle up some cattle, or defend the border for a weekend (and by that I mean the northern, eastern and western boarders from more yuppies moving here and causing even more traffic) you let us know. We’ll leave a light on for ya!  

 

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Boston to Austin

It has been about a month and a half since my wife Tracey found out she was being promoted and relocated.  It was welcomed news as both my wife and I have grown a bit restless in New England and felt a change of scenery was in order.  That being said we are going to miss the hell out of our family and friends that have supported us while here. Let me reiterate that, we have an amazing support system here in New England and would be remiss if we didn’t thank the people in our lives for all they have done for us.  So THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts to our local family and to our amazing friends. You know you will always have a place to crash in the Lone Star State.
 

This month has brought lots of changes for us.  Our house sold in about a day, Tracey started her new role and I recently gave my notice at work. I have started looking for work down south and so far nothing has stuck but I am confident my years of music business experience and social media work will help me stick out among a pool of talented candidates. Until such a job is found I will enjoy the company of my son as we keep a tidy home and have dinner on the table for the wife when she gets home. I got me a sugarmama if you will.

Movers come to pack house up in a few weeks and we should be heading down south before the end of July. It will be a tearful departure but one that will quickly turn to smiles as we brace for the new adventures ahead. “These were the happy days, the salad days as they say…” H.I. “Hi” McDunnough – Raising Arizona

Where Did the Time Go?

This weekend we will be celebrating Oliver as he turns one year old.  It blows my mind that this kid has already been on this earth for a whole year.  We is walking now and I am sure in his mind is forming complete sentences.  To us they are gibberish but he sounds sincere so I have to assume he means what he says.  He has very lengthy conversations with Sapphire just before he tries to smack her in the face. I am not sure what happens between the two of them that drives him to violence but he is lucky Sapphire is a pacifist when it comes to him. Anyone else would be pulling back a bloody stump if they tried to hit her. 

It has been a crazy year and we could not be happier. It has not always been easy as any parent will tell you but we think we did pretty good with this one. We have done so well that we decided that this fella is all we need.  One and done, you heard it it here first!  There are some really exciting changes coming soon for the Shields family so be sure to come back as we embark on a new adventure this summer.  For now lets just take a look back at some of Oliver’s highlights:

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My Son has No Respect for My Schedule

I find myself needing to offer up an apology once again for letting so much time lapse since my last post. I fear the lack of sleep has effected; affected (I’m too tired to care which on is right at this point) my brain thinking power…oh look a butterfly. Sorry about that, I got distracted.

Oliver has reached the ripe old age of 10 months. That being said if he continues the nightly shenanigans that have led us to the  “crying it out” method chances are he might not make it to 11 months. I am not saying I condone baby punching, but I am starting to understand it, Just a little bit. That sounds harsh doesn’t it, them just jokes :-)! Luckily I love my son more than I don’t like him at 2 am and Tracey and I seem to rotate nights on who is at their wit’s end. 

If you are not familiar with the “cry it out” method than you are either a swinging bachelor, a couple that was smart enough to realize you enjoy sleep, or a parent that we hate because your kid sleeps through the night. 

Whatever the case may be the “cry it out” or the Ferber method is an exercise designed to teach your baby how to soothe themselves to sleep. Dr. Ferber is the founder and former director of the center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. Big shot out to my friend Nurse Jamie and all the amazing work they do there. The man somehow managed to turn this whole process into a book in 1985 titled Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Seems like it would be a short read:

Page 1 Let

Page 2 Them

Page 3 Cry

Page 4 It

Page 5 Out!

It’s a bit more involved then this and it requires a bit of patience and self restraint.  It is more-or-less a battle of will power.  Either you stay strong and work through the program or you cave and your child sleeps in your bed until they move to college. 

Oliver is coddled pretty badly at daycare.  What can I say my boy is already charming ladies into holding him close.  This is great and I am thankful that he is well taken care of but it is turning my first born into a monster who constantly wants to be held at night. 

The Ferber method teaches you put your child to bed when they are still awake and leave them for longer periods of time. Only returning every 10 minutes or so to lie the baby back down and comfort them for no more than a minute or so and leave again.  You repeat this as long as it takes; and it can take a while.  We did this dance for over two hours one night last week with Oliver. The thought process is that the child will learn that crying earns then nothing more than a quick minute with mom and dad. Key is to not feed or pick the child up.  If they have a clean diaper and had a decent feeding before bed they are just making noise to get your attention.  

Obviously this is not for everyone. It is tough and if you work full time can be downright painful.  Sleep is important for everyone including mom and dad. Ferber does say that you have to be flexible when practicing this technique. So for the time being we are “Ferberizing” and hopefully Oliver will get with the program and realize he is just pissing his dog off at night.  Sapphire can often be heard sighing so loud when Oliver is crying that you can’t do anything but laugh.  She is wondering when the little noisy thing is going to stop all the nonsense.

 

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Try Something New Tuesday BUT Don’t Talk About It Until Friday

Some of you may recall that when I first started this blog I posted a lot more recipes and cooking posts.  That area of my life has really taken a hit with the addition to our family.  Frankly this kid has drained all creative juices from this cooks bones and has replaced them with a formula and easy to make crap mentality.  Well that stops now my friends.  Today New England was hit with its 8th consecutive storm forcing my office to shut down and send us home. Before I picked up the little monster I said to myself “self, its cold out, you’re going to have to shovel a few times, and it is only Tuesday so drinking beer is out of the question. Lets revive Try Something New Tuesday!” 

 In honor of the first Try Something New Tuesday when I did a throwback to Chicken-ala-King I decided to make Old fashioned Beef Stew!!!!!!

 Here is what you will need, should you choose to embark on this adventure yourself:

 2-3 LB Bottom Round Roast cubed into 2 inch pieces, I bought mine whole and cut it up myself

2 medium yellow onions rough chopped

3 minced garlic cloves

4 Cups of Beef stock

1 Can of diced tomatoes in juices

3 carrots peeled and rough chopped

1 package of mushrooms quartered

Handful of trimmed greenbeans

3 medium russet potatoes washed, peeled and cubed

2 bay leaves

¼ cup of AP flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

BYOS (Bring your own spice)

 Time for a PSA by Nick: Do all your prep work at once, it makes life so much easier.  I used to try and do my prep work for future ingredients while cooking the starters and I learned it is just easier to do all your prep at once and then cook as you go.  That is my opinion, feel free to do as you like.

 Brake out your trusty Dutch Oven if you have one, if not a nice big soup pot should work as well.  Add your oil and turn on a good medium high heat.  Get you oil heated and brown your cubed beef.  Once your beef is browned pull it out with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Immediately throw in your onions and sweat those for five minutes or until they are tender.  Next add your minced garlic and flour and stir constantly for one minute.  This will keep your garlic from burning.

Some recipes I found said to then deglaze with red wine, I drink beer not wine and didn’t feel like wasting money on one cup of wine that would not get touched later. 

(Side note: I seriously contemplated using beer for this process but thought better of it.) 

 I chose to deglaze with the can of chopped tomatoes and the juices in the can.  I did add a splash of water as the can was not as juicy as the label led me to believe.  Once this liquid comes to a boil and starts to thicken up; it is time for the meat and beef stock to be added back in to the pot.  Toss in your bay leaves and whatever spices you enjoy.  There really is no right or wrong answer here.  I went with oregano, cumin, salt and pepper.   Get this newly added liquid up to a gentle boil and drop your heat to low and simmer for one hour covered. 

 When the hour is up it’s time for everyone to jump in the pool. Potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, carrots anything else you want to include in your beef stews get chucked in now.  Bring your pot back up to a rolling boil; the cold vegetables will most likely drop your overall temp.  Cover and let sit for another hour on low heat and that is about it my friends. 

 Let sit for a few minutes before you serve to tighten up.  If you like your stew a little thicker might I suggest a cornstarch slurry to add a little stickiness.  Don’t know what that is or why you would do it? Well let me educate you my friends.  Cornstarch is a thickener used in sauces and gravies.  Sure you can just dump it right into your sauce but then you will just get wet clumps of cornstarch.  You will need to add it to a bowl and mix with equal parts cold water and whisk with a fork.  This can then be poured into you sauce or stew and in a moment or so viola thicker stew.  Rule of thumb here is 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of liquid you are trying to thicken.  I just did two tablespoons of cornstarch and water and it was a perfect consistency. 

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Ladies and gentleman that is it, old fashioned beef stew made in about 2 and ½ hours.  It was delicious and even better the second day if I do say so myself and I do!       

Stupid Sharp Baby Teeth

Time sure does fly when you are exhausted and the days just seem to glob together.  It has been a couple of months since I have written anything about the boy and life as a father and there is a good reason for that.  The boy really has not done anything worth noting.   Sure he is adorable and continues to get cuter every day but there really was nothing to write about that made sense or that I could turn into a series of jokes.  Until now that is.  Oliver just turned 8 months old last month and has moved ahead by leaps and bounds in his development.  We have teeth, we are crawling, we are talking and sitting up and then there are all the things Oliver is doing as well.  It’s pretty amazing. 

Oliver has two little razor sharp teeth that have broken through and could basically cut rope.  These chompers are vicious and Oliver has no problem helping himself to your fingers.  It’s painful yet pretty cool considering this kid didn’t exist a year ago.

Oliver has started to crawl and this of course sends panic throughout my entire being because I have lots of stuff I don’t like to put away.  True story; a few weeks ago I was looking for my exacto-knife which must have fallen out of my tool box and I found it on the floor in my laundry room.  I said out loud “man I need to become a better parent.”  So I had that wake-up call and will make sure to be more careful in the future. 

We have had to lower the boys crib since he has become a big fan of pulling himself up and seeing how long he can stand before he goes ass over teakettle.  This has meant that any time we spend at home is now spent on constant guard trying to keep the boy from bashing his head on any and everything we own.  Tracey lost that battle tonight when Oliver launched himself like a missile into the side of the coffee table.  He seemed unaffected aside from a big red bump that formed. 

Oliver is now taking swim classes and this has been pretty cool to watch.  Day one he cried like the baby he is almost the whole class.  All the girl babies were laughing at him; I pulled him aside and said “man up son!”  He took my advice and by the next class he was slapping the water like a fish.  You should see him; no one has ever gripped my neck and held on for dear life without tears like him.  One proud papa over here I don’t mind telling you. 

That’s about it for now.  I continue to be amazed at the changes I see in my son every day.  I never know what is going to come next.  He is starting to talk in gibberish, a language I am very familiar with (I used to be a bartender in Framingham, MA).  I am pretty sure he is saying “dada.” Tracey tells me I am crazy but a father can dream can’t he.    

Oliver Swimming
Oliver after his second swim class.

 

Five Months Has Come and Gone

Oliver’s birth seems like it happened a lifetime ago.  5 months has past and he is growing more and more every day.  I think what surprises me the most is the personality he has developed.  He smiles at everyone and for the most party is an incredibly laid back kid.  At Daycare his caregivers call him the King and they constantly remark how even keel he is.  Now this may just be lip service they pay to all the parents, after all we are paying a “Kings ransom” for him to attend.  I however like to believe that he is that tranquil and is generally a happy baby.

The boy has yet to ditch the cough he found two months ago and this has perplexed his doctors.  They have tested several theories all to no avail.  These tests included a reflux screening, chest x-ray and an attempted bloodletting that yielded nothing but tears from him and me.  I was forced to hold him down and stare into his pained blue eyes while tears the size of grapes streamed down his face.  The Phlebotomist spent almost three minutes trying to find a vein, moving the needle around unsuccessfully in his little arm.  Now I know that it is a hard job and he has veins the size of hair strands but if you don’t know what you are doing don’t cut your teeth on a four month old.  After she did the same thing to his other arm with the same results we asked her to stop and find someone better.  Unfortunately someone better was not around for another week.  We opted to forego any more needle poking.

Lets see what else, oh yeah, Oliver has “discovered” himself.  The minute that diaper comes off his hand is firmly grasped on to his little manhood.  He is quite proud of his newest discovery and giggles in delight every time he reaches down there and finds it to still be intact.  A father couldn’t be prouder!  My only concern is that I am going to have one of those children that prefer to run around naked at all times.  Time will tell if we are raising a wild child or not!

The boy has settled into a descent sleeping routine, although as I type this I am desperately scanning the room for wood to knock on.  We have been practicing the cry it out method and have seen success with it.  Instead of constantly running to jam a bottle into his mouth we are basically yelling “hey you, knock it off and go back to bed.”  And by that I mean we are rubbing his little back and making this ridiculous shhhhhh’ing noise. 

Sapphire is becoming more and more accustomed to Oliver being the center of attention.  We still include her in everything possible so she knows she is still Queen Bee.  I think she has caught onto the fact that he is going to be another hand to pet her when he gets older.  He discovered her tail the other day and as he slowly tried to put it in his mouth she gently pulled it away, gave him a lick and walked away.  That girl has patience…as long as you are a member of this family that is, if you are an outsider beware. 

All in all things are great and we couldn’t be happier with our little guy, I just wish he would grow some hair already!  I think he is praying for it too, after all winter is coming.

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4 Months In and No Visits From Child Services!

I gave you a break last month and decided not to write a post about where my son is in his development.  There were a few reasons for this decision; I was busy, and the kid really did nothing to impress me.  That has all changed as we enter MONTH 4!!!  In the last two month this kid has been on an airplane twice, drove from Chicago to Milwaukee, attended a wedding, brought home two colds and has learned to roll over.  I will now cover these experiences a bit more in-depth!

 Oliver’s aunt Sarah got married last month and Oliver was in attendance…For 30 minutes and then we got him the hell out of there.  Let me back track a few days.  We flew from Boston to Chicago without a single hiccup; he flew beautifully and was on par to have a great day, nay a great trip!  Then we came across the stupidity that is renting a car seat with your rental car.  Note to those of you looking to travel for the first time with your infant, bring your own equipment.  No matter how much of a pain in the a$$ you think it is going to be, believe me when I say it is nothing compared to the horror you will face if you are left to the mercy of your rental car company.  We were handed the cheapest looking seat I had ever seen and told they do not assist in installing.  I spent almost an hour trying to install this POS only to have a manager finally come and tell me I was missing a strap and that he didn’t have any left.  We cobb-jobbed the seat in the car and Tracey had to ride in the back the whole way holding on to him.  I and Budget rental car had quite a nice conversation upon my return about how unacceptable this was!  Any-hoo, we made it to the site of the wedding and Oliver was not a happy camper.  He didn’t sleep for more than 45 minutes the entire time we were there.  His schedule was out of whack and he was not afraid to let us know how displeased he was by this.  While he was happy during the day, he was a terror at night.  Fortunately he was surrounded by his family and they were kind enough to let Tracey and I take a few cat naps during the day while they basked in his cuteness.  The minute he stopped being cute he was back in our arms.  After having had to skip the rehearsal dinner due to Sir Screams-a-Lot well…screaming it dawned on me that the resort we were staying at might have a babysitting service.  We were in luck and after the wedding ceremony we drove like the Dukes of Hazard back to the resort to dump our soon to explode in anger son off with a complete stranger! 

 Paying a 14 year-old girl from the back woods of Wisconsin $50 to watch your baby for 4 hours so you and your wife can drink and eat…PRICELESS! 

 We made it home and after that great trip we sent Oliver back to daycare where he picked up his first cold and shared it lovingly with me his Father.  I know they are kids and kids put stuff in their mouths for no reason, and I know kids spread germs but every time I go to pick him up at daycare I want to soak him in Purell before I bring him home.  Not to mention there is this curly haired kid in the toddler room that is ALWAYS touching Oliver and I want to punch him in his little face.  Is that wrong?  Is it bad that I want to punch a toddler?  He always has his grimy little fingers in my sons face and I just want to punch him!  I blame him for both colds Oliver has brought home.   

 Lastly my little guy rolled over and has not stopped rolling since he started.  He is probably in Buffalo by now.  He just keeps rolling.  I KID, I KID.  The boy can roll but gets stymied by his own arms.  He’s like a t-rex in that regard he just doesn’t know what to do with those things.  In closing, not traveling with him again until he is 18, I want to punch a toddler, kid can roll and we will see you in a month!  

My little family at my sisters wedding!

One Month After The First…Month

So we are now at two months old and things have changed dramatically.  Oliver is making faces, he smiles and even giggles a little.  Most importantly he freaks the F out.  For reason unbeknownst to me he goes from zero to meltdown in 2 seconds.  I am sure he has his reasons, but he is not yet smart enough to tell me what those reasons are.  C’est la vie as they say in England or Ireland you know those foreign speaking lands.  Like last month I am going to share my learnings with future parents.  

Babies still hate video games, that has not changed.  I can’t pick up a controller with out blood curdling shrieks coming from this kid.  My game play has suffered, and just last week some kid called me a NOOB.  If he wasn’t 10 years old and living in China I would have kicked his ass.  

Formula is a medical food and by law has to be the same ingredients.  So no need to spend good money on powdered gold.  He is just going to spit it up on you anyway.  We switched to the CVS brand formula and the kid is doing fine. 

My son farts, burps and throws up more than a frat boy during pledge week.  He is a champ!

That last statement is the only time you will hear me talk in public about my kids bodily functions.  I have made my wife promise me that although it is OK if we are “those people” when it is just us in the comfort of our home, we will not discuss color, size or smells of anything that comes out of that kid with the outside world.  If I do in your presence you have permission to punch me in the face!  

As Oliver gets stronger and can lift his own head more he becomes even more dangerous.  His head is like a swinging wrecking ball.  He seems to feel no pain either, when he gets really tweaked up that head is liable to split my lip open.  Sometimes I think he is aiming for my nose.  The kid has it in for me.  

We just moved him to his own room and so far so good.  Tracey is getting more sleep and we are settling into a groove.  I have stopped waking up in the middle of the night freaking out thinking that I am using him as a pillow.  Ask Tracey this has happened more than 10 times.  All in all things are good.  

Sapphire has become quite fond of the little guy and has even blessed him with a sandal.  If you don’t know my dog there is one thing to keep in mind.  When anyone walks in the house Sapphire picks up a shoe and walks around with it until you acknowledge her.  She feels this is the polite thing to do.  

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Finally I am quite proud of the fact that neither Tracey nor I have dropped the kid yet or even ran him into anything.  Two months in and I think that has to mean something!  Join us next time when we discuss the first month of daycare and the fact that we could have bought a much nicer house if we didn’t have a child!