Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present to you the new Supreme Chancellor of our household… JOE!!!! Henceforth, he shall be titled as Chancellor Gearhart!

* Waves of deafening applause. *

Something happened last Friday while I was sitting on the couch next to Sarah. She had Tyler in her lap, facing her, and she was eating his neck fat. It’s one of the great things we’ve discovered about parenthood; nibbling on your baby’s neck. The entire neck is quite delectable, but the sweet spot is just under the chin. Whenever he tilts his head back and exposes that area, we dive in like the vampire Lestat on a family he’s been stalking for years. This is one of (air quotes) those things (air quotes) that makes the frustrating aspects of parenthood worth every lost wink.

"Hi, I’m Billy Mays, and I’m here to talk to you about an amazing new product. Baby Neck Fat! Just sprinkle a little on this grape juice stain and watch it disappear! Did your son just knock over a plant, spilling the dirt and water onto your nice floor? Just nibble a little of the Baby Neck Fat and your frustrations are forgotten! If you call and order in the next five minutes, I’ll throw in the bonus Chubby Baby Feet, but that’s not all! I’ll also throw in a Baby Smile that will melt your heart, along with the frustrations caused by any of your baby’s less-than-desirable actions. That’s a sixty dollar value for only $19.95. Call and order now!"

If you’re a parent, you already know the power of baby neck fat. If you’re expecting, you’ll experience it for yourself soon. If you’re neither, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

After a few minutes of watching my wife enjoy the fruits of baby neck fat, I said to Tyler, "Can you say ‘da-da’?"

Tyler immediately and effortlessly replied, "Da-da."

Sarah paused, just long enough for me to know she heard it, then tried to PRETEND THAT IT NEVER HAPPENED! Sarah tried to continue her little routine of drawing Tyler forward by his arms and going "nom nom nom" on his neck. The audacity!

"Don’t you dare pretend that you didn’t just hear him say that!"

I know what she was thinking. Nobody else heard Tyler say it, so she could pretend that it didn’t happen. If I start bragging to my friends and family (and my blog) about it Sarah could, theoretically, say that she heard no such thing.

"Dude, Tyler totally said ‘Da-da’ last week. It was awesome man! Sarah, you heard it, tell him."

Twirling her finger around her ear in the "he’s got a screw loose" gesture, Sarah replies, "The only thing I remember Tyler doing is farting when you said that to him. I think you need more sleep, you’re losing it."

Sarah knows that if she denied it long enough, I’d eventually start to believe the lie myself. I’d doubt my own memory and wonder if I only dreamed the entire thing. But just a few days later, I had a witness to Tyler’s "da-da." Yesterday, we went to see Dr. Nagel to get Tyler adjusted again. He hit Tyler a couple times in the back and in the neck with the Activator (or actuator… he just told me the name of the tool yesterday and I’ve already forgotten what it was), and lay Tyler down to do some manual release on his neck. Tyler did quite well during the appointment and made me quite proud at his mostly passive demeanor. He did grow frustrated after a few minutes of the manual release, because he doesn’t like laying down unless he’s sleeping. Tyler would much rather crawl around, knock things over and just stay active. At the end of all this, I picked Tyler up and held him as Lee talked about ear infections, probiotics, and follow-up. Whispering into Tyler’s ear, I said, "Can you say… da-da?"

"Da-da."

And Lee heard it. I’m surprised there was enough space in the room we were in for Lee, Sarah, Tyler, myself, and my huge ego. Oh, and the green monster of jealousy that was trying to squeeze its way in. If we didn’t already know that Lee was married with children, it would have been made quite apparent to us from what he said next.

"Well, words like da-da and ba-ba are easier for a baby to say than ma-ma."

Picking up on his noble attempt at easing the tension in the room, I added, "Yeah, so when he does say ‘ma-ma’, you’ll know that he’s really trying."

I don’t remember exactly what Sarah said, but her eyes said "whatever." She wasn’t really upset, but we’re like every other parent in that each mommy wants their baby to say "ma-ma" first, and each daddy wants their baby to say "da-da" first. He said "da-da", which means that I win, right? In Sarah’s defense, I couldn’t tell you if Tyler knows that I’m da-da or if he’s just saying it because he can. I suspect he hasn’t associated that word with me yet, but he will soon enough.

Soon enough…

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Last Tuesday is one for the books. I had a long day at work, but I won’t bore you with the details. Upon returning home, I discovered that somebody had installed a lake in my backyard. Some could argue that it was due to the massive amounts of rain that we received that day, but I like my idea better. Sarah told me that Tyler wasn’t eating very well that day, and that he developed a cough. The awesomeness of this particular day kept getting better and better, wouldn’t you agree? Later on in the evening, Sarah informed me that water was dripping into our upstairs bedroom. Fantastic.

But I’m leaving out a key element here.

After Tyler had his dinner (peas, sweet potatoes, and rice cereal) we put him on the floor to crawl around while Sarah and I had our dinner. Sarah made a cheesy tuna noodle casserole, and it was delish.

From the floor, Tyler started making noises.

”NNnnnnnnnnt. NNNNNNNNNnnnnnnt. Uhhhhhnnnnnnnt.”

They were more of a grunting noise, and it’s a sound we’re very familiar with.

”Is Tyler pooping? Yes, Tyler is pooping.” I try to bring yes and no into most of my conversations with Tyler, so that he may begin to understand what those words mean. I also, desperately, want him to know what the word “poop” means because I want him to be able to eventually tell me when he needs to perform such a task. I don’t know when potty training is supposed to start, but the sooner he learns what he’s doing (and how disgusting it is), the better.

Sarah, being a stay at home mom, deals with poopy diapers much more often than I do. As such, I take her advice on the subject (among other things, her credentials include being pooped on). She said that I should give him a couple minutes, to be sure he was “done”. So I finished dinner. Tyler started doing the “I’m tired” routine very shortly after that. You know the drill. Whining, eye rubbing, whining, head lulling, whining. I scooped him up and informed him that we’d be making a journey into the living area where I would wipe and clean his bottom, and fit him with a hot-off-the-showroom, clean diaper. Upon completion of this adventure, we would put some warm and fuzzy pajamas on the little guy, and go do our nigh nighs.

Our kitchen has linoleum floors (I know, right? I’m living the high life over here), and the dining area has hardwood floors. The living area is carpeted, and this is where Tyler decided to show me all of his love. And this is when I realized that Tyler was not tired, but very, very sick. I fully understand that I can embellish certain things, to make them more entertaining – nothing big, because I think the facts are humorous by themselves – but I’m here to tell you that I’ve never seen vomit like this before. We’re talking Selma Blair and The Exorcist here. I was holding Tyler so that our heads were next to each other, him facing behind me. All I heard was a gurgling sound. Still holding Tyler, I turned to see what was going on and, in doing so, created an arched trail of vomit on the floor. The carpeted floor.

But that’s not the worst part! It got on ME. It was all over my arms. Honest to God (although I can’t think of a God that would allow this to happen to me), I had no idea so much fluid – and partially digested baby food – could fit in Tyler’s little belly.

”HOLY CRAP!” was all that I could think to say.

”What’s up?” Sarah called from the kitchen.

”Tyler just threw up EVERYWHERE!”

Sarah, like a ninja, just seemed to materialize in the living room with towels in her hands. She tended to cleaning up Tyler, while I rushed to the sink to clean myself. Delilah, the eternal helper, tried to lick the carpet clean for us. Although I was tempted to just let her do it, so that Sarah and I could clean and comfort Tyler, I shooed her away. I sat on the couch with Tyler – stripped to his diaper – and Sarah started spraying cleaner on the carpet. I felt so bad for the little guy. He just seemed so “out of it”. As a testament to how out-of-it he was feeling, he actually snuggled with me on the couch and rested his head on my chest. Normally, the boy fights sleep as if it’s his last night on Earth. To his credit, he’s very good at going to sleep when we put him in his crib though.

He vomited again in the middle of the night in his crib, so he had to sleep in our bed. This went on until we decided that we should probably get advice from our family doctor. The catalyst for me was Wednesday evening, when he vomited onto the tray on his highchair. It was green and white from the mucous and breastmilk. Tyler went in on Thursday and came out with the catch-all diagnosis of “Upper Respiratory Infection”. We decided to give him 24 more hours before trying antibiotics. I won’t get too much into it, but antibiotics have been linked to allergies and asthma in little ones.

Thursday evening, as if he understood that he was on a get-better-or-get-pills countdown, Tyler started feeling better. Sarah was exhausted and crashed on the couch, and her two boys played on the floor. Tyler was crawling everywhere and had finally regained his smile. The relief that the smile afforded me was immense.

When Sarah woke up from her nap and I told her how awesome Tyler seemed to be doing, she replied, “My throat hurts.”

On Friday evening, my throat started getting scratchy. On Sunday morning (right now), I want to cut my head off so that the pain will go away. It’s no secret that I’m a big baby when I’m sick, and poor Sarah has to deal with it.

The silver lining on all this is that Sarah feels much better today, and Tyler’s doing well, aside from a phlegmy cough.

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When Tyler wakes up in the wee hours between sunset and sunrise (you know the hours. Before parenthood, these would be the hours that you would just be stumbling towards bed, sometimes in a slightly inebriated stupor. These would be the hours that we now cherish as quiet, sleepy time), Sarah takes care of him nine times out of ten. It would be more accurate to say 99 times out of a hundred, but who’s keeping track?

Sometimes, he needs nursies. Other times, he just wakes up and can’t go back to sleep until someone picks his pacifier off the floor and gives it back to him. That cursed (please pronounce it “curs-ed”, not “cursd”, because that’s how I’m saying it as I type it out) pacifier. When Tyler was born, I told EVERYONE that I would rather give Tyler a pacifier than have him be a thumbsucker. My reasoning? Well, because I can take away a pacifier. I can’t take away Tyler’s thumbs. If I could go back and talk to the Joe of seven months ago, I’d slap the white off my own face.

I never considered the flipside of such a scenario. When Tyler falls asleep, his pacifier falls out of his mouth, and ALWAYS drops off his crib to the floor. Upon waking up and realizing his pacifier is not within reach, he will gently call for his parents to come and rectify the situation. If we do not oblige within half a second, he cranks the volume up to 11 until we do so. Many a time have we walked into Tyler’s room to see him reaching through the slats of his crib, looking at us as if to say “What? I tried getting it myself before asking for help.”

Normally, this doesn’t really bother me. Sure, it’s a tad frustrating and a bit of a nuisance, but when I go up there to plug his mouth, it’s usually between 3 or 5 in the afternoon. In the middle of the night, Sarah gets up and tends to him. When a couple sleep in the same bed, the wife will grow accustomed to the husband’s alarm clock going off every morning. Eventually, she won’t even hear it anymore. I can’t exactly say that I don’t hear Tyler yelling, but I hear it in a deep part of my head, and it takes a while to wake me.

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Well, Monday morning, almost simultaneous to my alarm going off, Sarah cried out in pain next to me. We’re both unsure of what exactly happened. She either pulled a muscle in her neck, pinched a nerve, or “something” that would cause severe pain to shoot down her neck and shoulders. Pain so intense that she was sure that she was going to vomit, and actually had to rush – well, as much as a person in that kind of pain can rush – downstairs to the bathroom. After a few moments, it was obvious that she was in no condition to care for Tyler. Feeding him and playing with him would already be quite a chore for her. Picking him up and moving him back to an area where we could keep an eye on him after he crawled into another room and started pounding on Delilah’s crate would be quite another.

We managed to get through the day unscathed, with daddy at the caretaking helm. Sarah and Tyler have their daily routines, and I’m sure I did some things differently, but like I said, all came out fine. He’s still got ten fingers and ten toes, and I’m still breathing, so we won’t talk about the new bruise that is forming next to his right ear.

Tyler was definitely tired when we put him to bed. A few hours later, we heard him crying. I went up to his room to find him sitting upright, just crying. It was a comical sight, and I did laugh. As a matter of fact, I laughed again when I “drew the picture” for Sarah. It wasn’t a big deal, because I hadn’t gone to bed yet. I was simply hanging out, downstairs, watching TV or cruising the information superhighway, I can’t remember which.

Later that night (*cough* one thirty in the morning *cough*), I found my dreams being infiltrated by a strange noise. It almost sounded like…

Screaming? Crying? Is that a baby crying?

“Gimme a break”, I grumbled as I flung the covers off myself. Promptly, I discovered that our house is cold at night! I don’t mean the cold where I need to put on a pair of socks. I’m talking about the cold where I should be wearing a snow suit, over three or four layers of pajamas and shirts, and have all that stuffed with those warm-packs that hunters take with them in sub-zero temperatures. We have one of those smart, energy efficient thermostats. At night, it drops down to 62ºf (17ºc) and I’m here to tell you that the piece of junk is defective. It was cold enough to make a polar bear migrate south. Sarah said that she had just finished breastfeeding Tyler, so he probably just needed his paci. That was fine with me, because I wanted to get under the snuggly covers again as quickly as possible.

“Of course he does”, I thought, as I quickly walked as quietly as I could, or quietly walked as quickly as I could, “Why couldn’t he just be a thumb sucker?”

I walked into his room to see him standing up in his crib, pacifier in mouth, crying. I kept thinking, “I have to be awake in four hours. I have to give a two hour presentation today. And he’s crying just because he doesn’t want to sleep?” *sigh*

I put him back to bed and tucked him in. After listening to him cry for another fifteen minutes, I went back in there to give him his paci that somehow managed to drop to the floor. I swear he must be pulling it out of his mouth and throwing it, just to get a rise out of us. He went to sleep for the rest of the night shortly after that.

Why is it that I get exactly what I wish for when it turns out to be exactly what I don’t want. He shows no interest at all in his thumbs. I’ve changed my mind! I want him to give up the paci and discover his thumbs. I wonder if it would be acceptable to fashion a rubber band on the pacifier, so I could wrap it around his head to keep it in his mouth. Like a doctor’s facemask.

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I got home from Nashville on Wednesday night. On Thursday, Sarah tells me that she thinks Tyler is getting sick.

What?

On Tuesday, Sarah and Tyler went to spend the afternoon with Sarah’s sister (Jiillian), Jilian’s daughter (Lexi), and some friends of Jillian. A girls’ night thing, apparently. Well, I guess Lexi, who’s around 18 months old, was congested and moody. For whatever reason, they assumed she was teething, and not a carrier of the black plague, as I would have immediately deduced, had I been present at the time.

With a heavy tone of sarcasm, I can tell you that Friday was a LOT of fun. Tyler cried and cried and cried. And when he was done crying, he cried some more. We foolishly tried giving him a bottle. Tyler has been breastfed exclusively, save one night. Trying to give him a bottle while he is sick is a mistake that ONLY new parents can make. Well, we made that mistake. I had already, in previous days, had a couple issues where Tyler didn’t want to be held or comforted by me. He wanted his mommy, and that was it. Although I know this isn’t the case, I felt overcome with a sense of rejection. It had a profound affect on me. The sum of those instances along with Friday’s drama left me very discouraged. It saddened me to the point that I had to give Tyler to Sarah and head upstairs to be alone for a few minutes. I fully understand that he’s with Sarah everyday, and I shouldn’t take it personally… but it’s hard.

Tyler also decided that he had no desire to be in his bed that night. We didn’t want to lie him flat anyway. We wanted to prop him up somehow so that he could breathe a little easier. I didn’t see an easy way to do that at the time, so Sarah decided to just let him sleep in our bed. I wasn’t planning on going to bed for another hour or so, so I opted to just sleep on the couch, because I didn’t want to possibly wake Tyler when I came up.

I spent the next half an hour searching around on Google for sick babies. At 11:40p, I made a run up to Walmart to pick up some Vicks BabyRub. As I’m trying to navigate the many shelves and racks of medication, an announcement comes over the speaker system.

“The registers will shut down in 5 minutes. Please complete your purchases by then. The store will re-open at 12:05 am.”

Excuse me? The sign on the front of the building CLEARLY states that they are open 24 hours a day. I’ve worked in retail before. It was a horrible experience, but it has afforded me the knowledge of how retail operations work. I assume that Walmart needs to poll their registers every night, and need to balance their tills. Luckily for me, an employee – that looked like she had absolutely no desire to be there – happened by. I asked for help, and she took me to the baby medicine section. I grabbed the Vicks BabyRub, and hightailed it to the registers.

I’m sure that our particular Walmart is just like most of the others out there, but let me set this up anyway. There are around 35 registers. Eight of them are the cursed “self checkout” registers that rarely work. My two major gripes with the self checkout registers at Walmart are as follows:

1) There is no limit on how many items you can bring through. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen people with carts that are absolutely overflowing with food and clothes trying to check themselves out.
2) It’s always the people that DON’T know how to use the self checkout that end up using the self checkout. The one employee overlooking all of the self checkout registers seems to loathe their job more than the zombie-lady that helped me find the Vicks BabyRub, and has no intention of helping the person until they’ve been standing there, swiping the wrong barcode for at least 5 minutes.
3) I know I said I’ve got 2 gripes, but I’ve got to get this one in there too… I HATE the software that runs those systems. If you so much as breathe on the bagging area it starts barking commands at you to remove the last bagged item. You do so, and it just freezes and the stupid red light starts flashing – notifying the sole employee to actually take 3 or 4 steps over to you to help you. You know, effectively ruining their entire day.

But guess what??? Out of the 35 registers at Walmart, only 1 is open at 11:45pm. I am THE LAST PERSON in line, and I’ve only got one freaking item. When it’s my turn to check out, the guy at the register tells me that he needs to shut down and that I’ll need to wait 15 minutes before I can ring out.

I gave him the I-know-you’re-joking-but-am-really-not-in-the-mood-for-it look, and quickly realized that he wasn’t joking. I was in no mood whatsoever to get into a discussion with him about it so – as politely as I could – I said, “I’ve got a sick baby at home. Either you’re going to sell this to me right now, or I’m walking out with it.”

He looks over his shoulder to a lady that I never even saw. I assume she must have been his manager. She had a tone that made me think that she believed this cashier to be the dumbest man on the planet. She said, “Yes, ring him out.” I can’t do it justice in type, but she was less than pleased that he said I’d have to wait. Either that, or she played it off really well.

The Vicks BabyRub seemed to have made a world of difference. Unfortunately, I seem to have caught whatever it is that Tyler caught. My throat is all scratchy and sore right now. Chloraseptic spray isn’t doing much good, but it never really does anyway. That crap only works for about 5 seconds, yet it’s one of the first things I reach for when I get a sore throat.

And I feel so bad for Sarah, because I’m the biggest baby in the WORLD when I’m sick.

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