Author Archives: D.J. Van Straten

About D.J. Van Straten

New father learning the ropes on the fly. Loving it more than I ever thought possible.

Signs Your Newborn May Not Be a Packers Fan

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My wife and I are pretty big sports fans. Growing up in Northeast Wisconsin, our Sundays from September to January revolve around the Green Bay Packers.

Saturday’s playoff game was our first opportunity to dress our new daughter in Packers garb and “watch” a game with us. I don’t think she liked it. Not that I expected her to do anything other than what she normally does, especially since newborns can’t see more than a foot in front of them, but the disrespect she showed the Green and Gold was disappointing.

About 15 minutes after putting on her new Packers clothes, she had an explosive bowel movement mid-diaper change and sprayed her outfit. Early in the second half, while being burped, she took advantage of an apparent diapering mistake, and evacuated herself through her clothing, and through my jersey.

I get the feeling she is either not a Packers fan, or just not a sports fan. It better be the latter, because she won’t be allowed to live in my house and root for another NFL team.

The difficult decision comes tomorrow night when the Packers play the 49ers. I’m not sure what I’ll be rooting for more – A Packers victory OR a non-explosive diaper.  In the end, I think I can deal with a mess if it would mean another Packers win.  Maybe a dirty diaper is good luck?

Congratulations! It’s a Screwdriver??

screwdriver-01As baby gifts began to pour in, I knew that I was looking forward to years of assembling gifts that my daughter would receive for birthdays, Christmas, etc. Well, my daughter isn’t here yet (5 more days?), and I’m tired of putting things together already.(UPDATE: Our little bundle of joy arrived on December 17th. Much, much, much more on this to come)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a real handy guy. My tool collection has been described as “laughable”. Even though I lack anything but the most basic tools and skills, I know enough to be dangerous, and I can follow directions. I don’t enjoy putting things together at all, but up until today, I’ve assembled all sorts of furniture and toys without too much trouble. I still have all my limbs, and I think everything is functional and safe.

Enter the baby swing. The swing came highly recommended by numerous friends, and has been called indispensable as a parenting tool, especially by the fathers I know. I was excited when my co-workers pooled their funds and purchased it for me. I was looking forward to seeing if everything was true. Also, it was pretty expensive, and not something we had planned to buy on our own unless all else failed.

The swing came in roughly 8 million pieces, but the instruction booklet seemed easy enough to follow. After spreading out the various pieces on the floor, I began the assembly process. It was actually much simpler than it looked. There were approximately 10 screws in the entire unit, which was almost 4 feet tall and probably 3 feet wide when fully assembled. Everything seemed to go pretty smooth. All in all, it was about an hour long process, and everything was snug. I was all set, and looking forward to one of our last weekends of quiet relaxation before the baby comes. I was going to heat up some leftovers, watch some college hoops, maybe pop in a video game.

I set it on the kitchen floor, presenting it to my wife like a trophy animal I had just slain with my manly skills. Within two seconds, she pointed out a problem that I had somehow missed. One of the feet (there were four of them) was about a half inch off the floor. The legs couldn’t be stretched further apart to force the four feet on the floor, and construction was otherwise solid. There were no extra pieces, and there was no possible way to put the swing together other than the way I had. The swing rocked violently when it was turned on, and was unstable. My first reaction was to stand up for my constructions skills. I got defensive, refusing to admit that anything was wrong. After that option failed, I went to my second, normal fallback, which is to say: “Welp, it’s a piece of garbage, they are probably all like this, what is the worst that could happen? It’s just a little wobbly.” I could tell my wife wasn’t happy with the situation. She knows I hate putting things together, and could see that I was already sweaty and unhappy. She didn’t tell me that it needed to be taken apart. Well, the joke was on her, because I was standing strong. We were keeping this thing. I wasn’t going to spend another hour taking this apart and trying to shove everything back into the box. And there was NO WAY, I was setting foot in Toys R Us ten days before Christmas.

Taking it apart didn’t take quite as long as putting it together, but getting the pieces back in the box was bad. My daughter is very lucky that I’m not a single parent. If it wasn’t for her mom, she would probably be seriously injured by something I decided was “good enough”. At least I will have lots of practice, and practice makes perfect. I should probably get some more tools and put them in a cool box or something.

(UPDATE II: I exchanged the swing. The second one was fine. In fact, it is spectacular. I fully endorse it as a parenting tool.)

HELLO! (The Waiting Is The Hardest Part)

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I suppose I should go ahead and introduce myself, explain what I’m doing here, and let you know that I am in no way qualified to give any parenting tips. I’m a 32 year-old Wisconsin native. I’ve lived in the state my whole life except for a 3 year stint in Omaha, Nebraska. My daughter was born 3 weeks ago (she’s perfect obviously), and my goal is to relay my experiences as a first time, new father. I’m sure my experiences won’t be that different from any other first timer, but I enjoy writing things on these here Internets, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Now onto the part where I use the title of a Tom Petty song to relate my experience so far.

At 10:30 p.m. on December 16th, my wife’s water broke, and the process of my daughter’s birth began. And what a process it was. Let me tell you, television lies to you about childbirth. Heading to the hospital, I was expecting to be holding a baby in an hour or so. The birth process as I knew it was 1) water breaks, 2) wife pushes three or four times, screams a lot while you hold her hand, and out flies a baby. The actual process was 18.5 hours long, and involved me holding my wife’s leg while she pushed. The doctor shows up after about 3 hours of pushing and basically catches the baby. It is scary as hell. That night in the hospital was the longest night of my life (and certainly worse for my wife obviously). This was my first experience waiting for my daughter to do something.

The parenting experience is overwhelming at times (especially the moment she came, when I was crying so hard I couldn’t form words for about five minutes), and amazing at others. But what has struck me so far has been the waiting. My entire day has basically been waiting for stuff to happen. Waiting for her to want to eat, waiting for her to stop crying, waiting for her to wake up to eat, waiting for her to fall asleep, and perhaps most important, waiting for her to finish pooping before changing her diaper.

My daughter has been as good as I have any business deserving. One thing is absolutely clear though, things are going to happen, and they’re going to happen when she is damn well ready for them to happen. My world has turned into her world where I merely exist.