Tuesday, December 11, 2007

That At-Home Feeling

When I walked into our house for the first time, when we were looking for houses, I knew I was home. I knew that I wanted to live here, to raise my family here.

And now I live here. It's been a month now. My feelings have not changed. It feels like home. Having explored some of the surrounding area, I'm even happier.

At first, I only ventured to places within a block. There's a pizza place on the corner, just a few houses down from us. Another half-block up from Art of Pizza is Dona Torta, a mexican eatery. There's a Jewel-Osco across the street, a Starbuck's the other way, a Jimmy John's down the street from there, and a cozy little diner, S & G, across the street from the Jimmy John's. All of these places are five minutes or less from our house - walking.

This is what I'd had in mind when I wanted to stay in the city. Our condo was great and all, but there was less within walking distance. We were five minutes from many places, but driving.

I've only mentioned a few places, but there are many other retail stores and services filling in the gaps between the places I've mentioned and beyond. There are several bars and restaurants, a couple of music stores, a couple of sushi places, a pawn shop, a couple of banks, a couple learning centers for JD to choose from, an art store, and more. I'd say at least 90% of these storefronts are independently owned and operated, which I favor patronizing.

I feel no urban sprawl, no cookie cutter existence. I'm in the best that urban living has to offer. This, to me, is what I'd envisioned in being the Downtown Dad. We can walk to the many parks that are nearby. I will walk JD to Burley Elementary, the public school that's two blocks away. Maybe he'll take music lessons at our own "School of Rock" (yes, there is a music school here with that name. I don't know if there's any relationship with the movie.) And all of this if we never venture out of our immediate neighborhood.

I'm already a happier person and we have a happier family. The downside is the cost and my wife's increased commute. It feels much more grown up. Even more than that, I feel my family is even more solidified.

From the time I moved into the condo, we were in a transitional state. I moved in two months before we were married. Then, my wife was pregnant with JD the following spring. We anticipated moving the next fall, but things didn't work out, as that was the beginning of the real estate bear market. We spent all of last summer showing our house and finding neighborhoods and houses that we wanted to be in. Finally, we're in a place where we'll stay for years beyond our planning.

We've got room for expansion. There's plenty that can be improved. But we're dug in. We're vested. And if things that make me this happy keep happening on a consistent basis, I'll be a fortunate man.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Condo Sold, A House Purchased

It's been a month since my last post. What have we been up to?

Well, we closed on our condo on 11/14 and closed on and moved into our new house 11/15.

Apparently, when you sell your property, there is little or no need for you to be present for the closing. Everything is a formality from your side. It is the buyer who has all of the responsibility. They must understand what they're getting into, from the property lines to the financing. The latter is probably the most important part - the lender wants to make sure that you know that you owe them a lot of money for a very long time; and if you fail them, they will take everything you have, and would own you in your next life if they could.

The condo closing went seamlessly. There was some delay, but all resolved and we got paid. From that point, though, we were not living in our condo anymore, but were renting the place for a day from the new owner. This is called a lease-back. It felt strange renting our place, but was worth the money.

Thursday was our big day. It was coordinated and delegated. My mother picked JD up on Wednesday and would bring him to the new house on Friday after the move. My mother-in-law showed up at 7am so she could supervise the move. The movers would come to the condo at 9am. My wife gave me power-of-attorney to sign all of the papers at the 9am closing, as she had to work. The first furniture delivery had a delivery window between 11:30am and 1:30pm. Everything had to go according to plan.

(Note: For anyone out there who will at some point have POA in this circumstance, make sure that you practice signing the person's name! You will have to sign it many many times and if you're not practiced at it, it takes longer and there is a greater possibility for a mistake. Mistakes are bad on these forms.)

I was able to overcome my failure to practice signing my wife's name. My mother-in-law made sure the movers did what they needed to do. The closing went smoothly and I made it to the house well before Room & Board showed up to deliver our bedroom and living room furniture. The movers showed up not long after and they had everything put into our house by around 6pm.

We have been in our house for over two weeks now and we are very happy here. There were a few unexpected things and we are still learning the idiosynchrosies of the house, but I am very happy here, as are JD and my wife. He's so happy here, that he started crawling the first day that we were moved in!

Friday, November 2, 2007

What's a Working Family?

I'm sick and tired of hearing this political label for blue-collar status: Working Family. I get more and more upset every time I see that printed or stated.

Today, I saw a flyer from my local state representative, Rep. Arthur "Art" Turner. One of the highlights was, "property tax relief for working families."

There seems to be a stereotype about white-collar professionals as people who go golfing instead of going to work, have martini meetings, lunch meetings at 5-Star restaurants, fly first-class, cheat with their hot secrataires, and don't get their hands dirty during the day.

What does my wife do all day, Rep. Art Turner? What do I do all day? We're not a working family? JD and I drop my wife off at work every day before 8am, sometimes closer to 7am. We then pick her up between 5pm and 7pm. She often brings work home so that she can see JD for a couple of hours, put him to bed, then will work for another hour or two. The same goes for weekends and she's always in contact with her Blackberry. As for me, I just sit around eating bon-bons while JD sits in front of the TV eating spoonfuls of sugar.

I have a great deal of respect for the blue collar worker. As the service manager for my family's auto service center, I saw how hard these guys work, not only with their hands but with their minds. Mechanics are some of the most underpaid workers out there. But to tell me that they work for a living and that my wife doesn't gets me hot under the collar every time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What did you say?

My wife and I have been battling a chronic illness: Foul Mouth Disease. It seems that neither of us can seem to stop using curse words while in the presence of JD, our son.
I seem to be worse in the car, whereas her slips come at home. I give her looks when she does and give myself a smack when I curse.
Neither of us were brought up in homes where swearing was prevalent. I did not hear my mother swear until high school, my father at age twenty-three. My wife's family used the "S" word occasionally, but not regularly. More in humor than in anger, it seems. (I wasn't there, so don't hold me to anything I say about her family history.)
I feel like we're heading down a road that will lead to a scene from the movie, "Meet the Fockers," wherein Ben Stiller swears in front of his toddler soon-to-be-nephew whose speech has been delayed. He repeat Stiller's cursing, "A**hole!" to the TV during a sporting event. I can just imagine JD's first word being F or S. That would be bad, either way. We are trying to be good. Maybe we've been single for so long, we've lost any sense of time and place. Or we're just a couple of foul-mouthed behemoths.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Future Aspirations - The Desire to Become an At-Home Dad

While folding JD's clothes the other day, I made conversation with him. I started to ask him what he thought he might be when he grows up. Of course, he can't talk yet. Here were some of his options.

Doctor, accountant, nurse, garbage man, fireman, and a few others popped into my head. Then I thought, at-home Dad. I sort of winced.

I, of course, am an at-home Dad. I am happy that I am doing this for my family and for myself. However, not in my life did it ever cross my mind that I would eventually be a homemaker. Never in my educational and professional pursuits did I think, "Well, if it was right for my family..." In fact, I had always wanted to make enough money so that my wife could be an at-home mother.

What if, someday, maybe in five or ten years, even high school or college, JD said, "Dad, I think I want to be an at-home Dad, too"?

For women, there, historically, has been nothing wrong with this aspiration. The female gender has been proudly and dutifully performing this truly oldest profession since the inception of conceived life. Only in the last few decades has it become accepted, if not normal, for women to excel in a profession other than homemaking and child-rearing. However, I believe it is still perfectly acceptable for a woman to aspire to be an at-home Mom. But what about such an aspiration for men? I would say controversial, at best.

Can you imagine men dating in college, looking for a mate who not only fulfills his needs for love and companionship, but also to provide a comfortable income for his family? He takes accounting classes or maybe an education major. This way, he can make a livable income while his spouse climbs the ladder in her fast-track career, completes advanced degrees, or gets that self-owned business off the ground? Then she will give birth to one or more children for him to rear while she succeeds outside the home. That was the story for the women of previous generations, when people married in their early-to-mid twenties and became established together.

It sounds backwards, doesn't it? Maybe I'm a chauvinist. Maybe I hold some gender prejudices inside, despite my lot in life. I am certain that women are just as capable as men in competing professionally. And I am certain that men are as capable as women in rearing children and keeping a home.

The reality, at least for my urban generation, was to go to college, live as a bachelor or bachelorette for a few years, save any money that we didn't drink away or overindulge in credit, and finally meet someone in our late twenties or early thirties. Then we live together for a couple of years, get married, and have 2.2 children. We've already established our career paths. One may have to give it up to stay at home, to choose to live on one salary. The alternative is day care or a nanny. Trying to downgrade to living on one salary either requires an unbalanced collective income, good savings, or considerable consolidation. Probably all three.

While it seems I've strayed from the point, it is a discussion on how the choice is made these days, on who - if anyone - will be the at-home parent. As he grows, JD will aspire to excel in a profession (or more than one.) He will hopefully earn his degree(s) and be a hard worker. Along the way, he may fall in love with a person he wants to spend his life with. They will have to make some choices about their future. If he became an at-home parent, I would be just as proud as if he made any other professional choice. The point is, will there ever be a point where boys aspire to be at-home Dads? Would I be OK if JD told me that that was what he wanted to do with my life? I'm about as uncertain on how to handle that question as him asking me about sex, drugs, or joining the military. Despite my being in the profession, it's still controversial.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beb Stein Commentary

Someone sent to following to me in a forwarded email. I found it very interesting and thought provoking. Not only do I have some thoughts, but I forwarded it to a large part of my address book, soliciting responses. The responses are posted anonymously after the article.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.
And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in
Malibu . If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that
America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?
I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina)
Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are,but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.
Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.
Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... No one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.
My Best Regards.
Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

I have to agree with Ben Stein. I wouldn't call myself a religious person, I would say I'm more spiritual. I believe in a higher being - it helps me through life. I think everyone should be able to believe in what they want, and NO ONE should tell us different. That's what is great about America. I also do not like people from different cultures/countries coming to our country and telling us what we should or should not believe. When we go to other countries, we are expected to follow their customs, etc. How dare they come here, where we let people of all races, nationalities, etc., worship, believe whoever, whatever they like, without persecution.

Being a parent is the hardest thing ever, but the most meaningful, joyful thing ever. There is no handbook on how to be a good parent, we go with our gut. Children, as well as adults, need to know right from wrong and be held accountable. Parents have to remember what they went through as children and understand their own children when they do the same things. I believe you can be a friend to your children, as long as you know where to draw the line and be their parent first and foremost. The best thing in the world is to have a wonderful and close, caring relationship with your children. Lead by example. And make sure your example is pretty damn good. Believe in yourselves, go with your gut, you will know what's right!
Shouldn't we stop the people in power from trying to make this a Christian nation?

Thanks for the article; it touches on many subjects which split the USA in half. Stein is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, Richard Nixon, and the Right To Life movement (getting an award from them a few years ago), so I'm surprised this was on CBS instead of Fox. He taught at Pepperdine Law School, led by Kenneth Starr, who should be prosecuting Bush and Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Since you asked for my opinions, here you are:
-I am a Liberal
-I am an Atheist
-I am an educator.
Ben Stein is a famous Republican. Right off the bat, I pretty much disagree with most of the things that he has to say. Yes the sate of things are sad in our country, but making sweeping generalizations about religion and education are doing nothing to help.
-No, I most assuredly do not believe that the lack of religion in our schools is what is driving our children to kill each other. It's ridiculous to blame these incidents on schools and teachers for not shoving God down kids throats instead of teaching them how to read. George W. is very obviously religious, but did you see him including a section of No Child Left Behind to drastically change the constitution and break down the separation of Church and State? No. He wants our kids math and science skills to compete with the world market, but don't get me started on the shortcomings of NCLB.
-NO, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT THINK IT IS EVER, EVER, EVER OK TO HIT A CHILD. Or anyone else for that matter. Fucking ridiculous. If you are NOT SMART ENOUGH to learn proper discipline skills, if you are NOT SMART ENOUGH to out-wit a young child, THEN YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE CHILDREN. Every day I deal with kids who break into tears at the very thought that you are going to tell their parents about their naughty behavior, that they are going to go home and get hit. I had a little boy totally fall apart in the hallway the other day and describe in detail the different implements that his grandmother uses to beat him with. Fucking ridiculous. People with chemical imbalances commit suicide, not kids who were brought up by parents who don't hit them. Kids are not killing themselves because of Dr. Benjamin Spock.
-"I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat." Hello, Ben! This country is wildy Christian! Give me a break! Yes, there are more Atheists than ever before, but since GW has been in office, conservative Christianity, their influences and their lobbying groups have surged. I don't shove my beliefs down anyone's throat. I am not homophobic, racist, sexist, chauvinistic, nor do I practice in any other behavior that intentionally causes distress to anyone.

Here's my advice to Ben Stein. If you're worried about the direction of our country, get more involved in politics. Donate your time and money to your cause. If you're worried about the moral character of our children, get involved in tutoring programs, or be a Big Brother. Donate your time and money to our children. If you're worried about religion, get more involved in your synagogue.


in regard to the commentary, i think it's well written and thought provoking,
but i don't believe that the absence of God in our lives can light a candle to halo III and george w. bush--just sayin'


I see God as the one infinite, loving Principle of the universe – the essence of everything that is real and good. I think God is no less God to the atheist than to the religious person. I think God is equally and eternally the cause and creator of every single one of us.

Now, it does seem that some people and even some generations are more God-centered than others, and I think that can make a difference in our quality of life. My life, for one, has benefitted greatly from increased prayer. So I understand the perspective of the Ben Stein email where it suggests that less focus on God leads to less harmony in our country.

But I don’t believe God would ever leave or abandon a country, anymore than I believe the principle of math would abandon a kid that didn’t do his math homework. I think anybody is able to turn to turn to God at anytime and, to the extent that they are willing to be transformed by God, receive the blessings of infinite Love in their daily lives.


I think this is one of the more peaceful and poignant points made on this subject in a long time. It was a pleasure to read and truly made you think - which is why it has taken me several days to write on it.
I absolutely love his discussion of not being offended by Christmas trees, etc. as I feel the same way. Why should a Jew be upset when wished a Merry Christmas? In this day and age it basically means Happy Holidays. I do understand that the context is Christian, but with some melancholy for Christians, it has become more universal and not as much religious. I personally think it's great when someone who doesn't celebrate Jewish Holidays tries and says "Happy Yum Kiper!" rather than pronouncing it correctly. You don't always have to understand what a holiday is about to show some love to someone else. I think it's about inclusion rather than exclusion.
Now the God thing. I am a very spiritual person, but far less religious in the typical sense. I think that God (or the universe, Mother Nature, or whatever higher power you choose - if you do at all - I choose God) has a way of balancing the universe. When we get too powerful or too cocky it's time for some balance. I don't think it has much to anything to do with not believing in God. I think overall you'll find more people who are truly religous and/or spiritual today than you did 60 years ago. I think (like has been mentioned in past emails) it has to do with parenting, outside influences, and in terms of Katrina (or other distasters) a feeling that is time for the world to unite in some fashion and stop paying attention to Britney, Jessica or whoever. There are bigger things going on in this world than them. Don't get me wrong, I like my US Weekly, but after reading it I try to remember that the important stuff is the stuff that wasn't in there. Like raising my son and helping to create a great and peaceful world.


I found Ben Stein’s essay very disturbing—as I find Ben Stein generally to be!

Of course I don’t like anyone who is religious, of any religion, to be discriminated against!

Then again, my understanding is that our US government is not based on lack of belief in God, but not in the practice of one religion over another. That is why we mandate our government, schools and publicly based institutions to refrain from using the symbols of one religion or another.

Can I enjoy Christmas decorations? Sure, as someone else’s symbol.

Do I want those decorations/declarations from my government—no!

Do I feel that I need my own holiday symbols out there to compete with Christmas decorations? No, and I would actually prefer they weren’t set up as a “compliment” to other holiday scenes. That gives legitimacy to those of only two groups as approved religions. I have friends and associates that are Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Muslim, etc. Why should any private religious symbols be paraded as public icons?

There is no restriction for putting these displays on private property or on the grounds of a religious institution, nor should there be—it is where they belong. If you do put up those decorations, then I can enjoy sharing them with you as your symbols and enjoy the artistry and creativity (if there is any) of the display itself.

No one has ever told parents to stop teaching ethics to their children—but when we see evidence that parents are not doing this, those on the right insist that the schools are responsible but won’t let them teach ethics or even practical prevention! And even stranger is when parents then complain that the schools are taking away their job of teaching ethics, when obviously many aren’t doing that job. Instead, let the folks on the right work with parents to get them to teach their children right from wrong—don’t damn the children to a life without any guidance because you cannot agree on who should be the teacher! You just cannot have it both ways.

I haven’t ever heard anyone who says that there should not be mandated prayer in schools say that children who would like to pray quietly/silently to themselves cannot do so. Instead we continue to insist that prayer is a private matter and not a rule to be made to follow. There is no reason that the practice of religion in public school needs to a participatory sport.

Religious schools are accessible to almost anyone—whether it is a full time day school, a CCD class once a week, Hebrew school weekly, or any of the other forms of religious education. And religious institutions usually will make education affordable to everyone needing it in one way or another.

Ben Stein says that there is suppression of talk about God and that the world is going to hell. Ben Stein’s conclusions that we now have terrorism and murders and totally deterioration of civilization due to the lack of God in our lives is a scare tactic well known to the religious right—I don’t care if it is Bush and the Christian right or the Jewish right wing with Ben Stein leading the way! It is absurd. There has been murder and forms of terrorism and all sorts of debased behavior noted throughout history. Sometimes the tactics of one are more pronounced than others, but we unfortunately don’t all seem to learn from history too well to have avoided them once again. Armageddon is only coming for those that believe in it—the rest of us need to be committed to working in the world to make it a better place, day by day.

And for Ben Stein to blame Dr. Spock for the moral decay of our civilization is the most ridiculous of all! It is as absurd as insinuating that because Madeline Murray was against prayer in the schools that she was murdered. How dare he!

There are plenty of ways that parents can discipline their children other than with beatings! Many of us parents have raised incredible children that are socially conscious, morally upstanding (with small “falls from grace” periodically-they are human after all), and have strong character that are making contributions to our world. It is an insult all of us who work hard at parenting to lay the blame of society on folks like Dr. Spock.

And that Ben Stein stating that what he is saying and thinking has anything to do with God is an insult to us all!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

We want food!

Our son just passed his nine-month birthday, and I just passed my 358th. My, how time flies. It seems that just yesterday he was only eating strained fruits and vegetables, "oatmeal," and formula. Oh, wait, that was yesterday. Last Friday at his nine-month checkup, we were given new dietary guidelines by our doctor.

We can now begin basic meats, egg yolk, yogurt, and various finger foods. We are supposed to change his eating schedule to a more adult-like pattern. He will no longer consumer up to 32oz of formula, but will substitute the aforementioned protein-rich foods for about 25% of his formula intake.

He and I went shopping to pick up some items. At Dominick's, we bought Gerber jars of: Chicken Noodle dinner, Apples and Chicken, and Chicken and Rice. We also picked up Yo-Baby yogurt., which has more conventional flavors such as peach. At Stanley's Produce we picked up a sweet potato and an avocado. Avocado I use somewhat regularly (I am a guacamole hound.) The others, never. I will also make him mac 'n' cheese, steamed veggies, and hard-boiled eggs (with the white peeled off.) The jarred meat combos scare me a little bit, but I bought them until I can figure out whether or not I want to make those types of things myself. Keep in mind, these jars aren't like Campbell's chunky soup or anything, they're strained and will look like the rest of his strained foods. Pretty nasty if you ask me. Then again, it all ends up like that in your stomach, anyway.

It is miraculous how quickly his diet will change. A few months ago, he was staring at my plate when he sat on my lap as I ate, watching every bite with great interest. Now, I can share most of my foods with him. Some things that I'm not sure about include what sorts of spices he'll be able to tolerate and how to introduce so many new things. There was no mention of introductions as carefully as we had done at six months. At that time, we had to spend three days on each new food to ensure there was no allergic reaction. Now, it seems that we are to, nearly overnight, introduce not only a new eating pattern, but new foods that will geometrically increase the list of foods he can eat. In fact, there are only a few things that he can't eat.

He will not be ready for whole milk until twelve months. No egg whites...I don't remember until when. No peanuts until three years old. There are some other things, but the list of "nos" is much shorter than that of the oks.

Now I just have to watch out for what he likes and doesn't, as well as the change in the quality of his diapers. Yikes!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drinking Problem

As I've mentioned in some of my previous blogs, I'd been trying to get our son to hold his bottle on his own. He's finally able to do so.

It took a while to get him to do it. When I would feed him bottles, he would put his arms out in a swan-dive position, flailed out to his sides. I got sick of his laziness and took his hands and held them to the side of the bottle.

At first, he resisted. There was some screaming and yelling, electro-shock therapy, Chinese water torture, and sheer force and will. Finally, he began to see things my way and started holding the bottle. The hardest part for him was understanding the equal opposing force application needed from both hands to keep the bottle stable. There was also the question of hand position. If he kept his hands further toward the base, it would feel lighter. If he kept his hands closer to his mouth, it would be easier to tilt as the volume decreased to keep the flow to the nipple consistent. We take all of this for granted when chugging beers.

All of this had to be done with my assistance and persistence, as I am an expert. Finally, about a month ago, I started setting the bottle in front of him. First, I set it in front of him and positioned his hands, helping him grasp the bottle and bring it up to his mouth. After only a few days, he was able to pick it up by himself. He fell backward a few times, but we were prepared with a pillow behind him. (There are only so many skills you want to work on at a time and only so much punishment he should take when trying to master an indirectly related skill.)

Then there was the question of his pacifier in his mouth at mealtime. I would give him his bottle and laugh as he would put the nipple up to his mouth, but it was impeded by the pacifier. He would keep bumping the nipple against the pacifier, not really certain what the problem was. After getting my laughs, I would rip out the pacifier and allow him to drink. Recently, though, he's figured out that the pacifier is an impediment. His solution was to pick up the bottle, release the pacifier so it simply falls out of his mouth, and then inserts the bottle. It was not as I had envisioned - taking the pacifier out by hand, then picking up the bottle - but equally effective.

I believe he prefers holding the bottle himself these days. He can take it out of him mouth if he wants a break (and does so frequently.) He can let us know when he's finished.

He has begun to sign that he's finished with his bottle, as he does not finish its entirety every time. He still drops it from time to time. If he's done, though, he'll wave his hands like he's flapping wings for takeoff. The message is clear. As part of our Baby Signs reinforcement, I say, "All done," and move my hands in the "correct" manner.

There are many other skills that he is practicing. Some he will master sooner, others later, and others he will never master, though he may learn to get by. The best bet as his parent is to try different methods of teaching, patience, and persistence. When that fails, I recommend tickle torture.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Few of His Favorite Things

What do kids like to play with? Sure, you can go to Toys 'R' Us and clear the shelves. Kids will love some for two seconds, others for two minutes, but their favorites will last for two years or more.

One thing that I realized, though, is that the things they are playing with, especially at an infant's age, are often specialized toys that are more interesting to an adult that to the kid. As I've witnessed tens of dollars go down the toilet in toys that fail to hold my son's interest, I've realized that I needed to go back to basics, to remember what some of my favorite things were.

Of course, I don't remember being eight months old. But I do remember seeing my grandmother give the babies pots and pans to play with when they were at her apartment in the city. Granny would put us in the kitchen and there would be spatulas, spoons, pots, pans, lids, towels, and any other safe kitchen item. With various weights, sizes, and noises, the child's attention would be held for longer than most any commercially purchased toy.

Ever folding laundry? Give the kid some socks to play with. That's at least a few minutes of entertainment. Something I read in one of my parenting magazines: when doing loads of towels or sheets, put the child safely on one end, then give him or her a "magic" carpet ride.

Finally, bags and boxes. No! Not plastic bags. Paper bags and boxes. This should, of course, be supervised. But they love the ins and outs as well as the noises that they make.

Our son loves his steering wheel, his Baby Einstein apparatus, and his wiffle balls. But for every one of these successful toys, there are three that never gained his interest.

So before you go out and buy your kid a bunch of new toys, play with some of the things around your house. If anything, it may narrow what you know will be a hit from the store. You don't have to fit it into the toy bin. And they may be things that the child will recognize later on for its real use.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hard Knocks

Our son has been sitting up for a couple of months now. He's trying to walk, but he's trying to skip crawling. One problem I see with the lack of willingness to crawl is that he's not learning to go from sitting to tummy position.

The problem is that he's not learning to fall gracefully, to use his hands to stop his momentum and to know his boundaries.

In order to combat his lack of total balance control, we always put a pillow behind him or put his back to a couch or wall - something that won't allow him to fall back or something that will break his fall.

Doing that, I believe, has caused it's own problems or hindered his development in some ways. When we're in bed, I sometimes horse around with him and push him from sitting onto his back and he thinks it's fun. What he can't decipher, though, is when he's sitting on a bed versus when he's on a hardwood floor. He doesn't know that he can't just lay back full force any time he wants to, or he'll knock his head.

He's done so a couple of times. The latest was last night, when he was sitting against the chez lounge. I was making faces at him and he was laughing. He leaned back, but had rotated around a bit and fell back, hitting his head on the wood floor. Another time was in the tub. He leaned forward to grab a toy, slipped, and hit his forehead in the side of the tub.

He cried a bit, but not too bad. So now I'm trying to think of a way to keep him from cracking his head open, while making sure he knows that he can't just fall back and it's ok. First, I have stopped pushing him backwards on the bed. Next, I'm going to put a folded blanket or towel behind him so that, if he falls, he'll still land with a thud and it won't feel good, but not with the hardness of the floor itself. Finally, I'm going to get a shower mat so that it's not so slippery.

On the good side, he's conditioning his head to take a beating. Once he starts playing sports, he'll need the toughness.

Monday, September 17, 2007

General Update

Our son was pretty sick last weekend (of the 8th). At first, he had a fever of 101. Saturday morning it was down to 99.8. Then the congestion and coughing began. We started him on children's Tylenol and a vaporizer. By Saturday afternoon, the fever was gone. The bulk of the congestion lasted until last Wednesday or Thursday. He still has a rough cough every so often, but he is good.

The best was Wednesday or Thursday when, feeling better, he was extra happy. It was such a pleasure to see because we'd been sitting around doing nothing for a few days. He's so active, as he's now trying to walk and can kick a ball around the apartment and then chases after it. (This is all done while holding my fingers while standing.) I really noticed that he was smiling and laughing the whole day. He's a lot of fun, but it was really a breath of fresh air.

By the way, sitting around all day is not all it's cracked up to be. Saturday through Tuesday, we really did just sit around all day. We watched TV (fortunately there were great sports on TV that weekend,) read books, and he was able to sleep. We finally left the house together to go shopping by the end of the week. I do remember, though, how great it was to just sit around and do nothing for a day. It's always better to do when you're feeling well than when you're sick.

Speaking of fresh air, I picked up an air purifier. I've been sneezing a lot lately and it's mostly when I'm in our place. Being clean is not the problem, as it is still on the market and is shown at least once or twice a week. We also have a maid once every two weeks. Finally, we really don't wear our shoes inside. So, I'll use it and let you know what happens. If it works, it'll save me money in the long run, what with all of the Claritin-D we've been taking.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Patience and Persistence

Update: our son has begun to hold his bottle when eating! He will not pick it up, but once I get it into his mouth, I can put his hands around the bottle and he will hold it. Then, he will not only hold it for the duration of the liquid, but can also regulate it himself, pulling it away from his mouth for a breather, then put it back when he's ready for more. I think he's beginning to appreciate the freedom that comes with doing it himself. Thanks to those of you who told me to be persistent!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Rhythm and Foods

Delicate technique is required when feeding your infant. That is, feeding "solid" foods. When it came to breast and bottle feeding, our son was a natural. He successfully fed from a bottle at just a few hours old, then took to my wife with reckless abandon. Feeding from silverware is a new ballgame.

Not that it's that new. We've been feeing solids to him for about six weeks, since he was just over six months old. So far he has no allergies, but there are foods that he prefers and some that he hates.

You would think that, once we found foods that he likes, he would be all over it. Not so. I have to get him in the right mood and then I have a chance. I even have a routine that I go through to get him ready to eat. First, I have to get his food out and open. Then a spoon has to be ready to go. Then I set him in his high chair and lock him in. Next, his bib goes on. This is the time when he will either melt down or will play. I've learned that it is good to have something that entertains him nearby. For instance, my laptop's screen saver is a slide show of all of my pictures. He likes that. I've also started him on Cheerios, though he likes to play with them more than eat them. Once he's calm, I sit down, pick, up his food and his spoon, and try to feed him.

At first, he puckers up. I do not recall a single time in the last six weeks that he sees me bring the spoon toward his mouth and opens up willingly. I have to put a little on his mouth and he'll suck it in, determining whether he cares to eat more. If he's satisfied, he opens his mouth. Here's the tricky part: I absolutely, positively must have another spoonful waiting when he opens his mouth. If I don't, he's likely to close his mouth and be unwilling to open up again for five minutes or more. If I do catch it, then we'll get get into a rhythm wherein I have to keep bringing the right amount on the spoon, ready for him to be ready.

This process again becomes complicated when I bring more than one kind of food to the table. I have to switch between fruits, veggies, and oatmeal. It takes fast hands and a mindful eye to keep the proper tempo. If I do, then he eats well. If I don't, or he doesn't like the food that day, then more will get on him than in him.

If anyone has suggestions on how to get him to eat, let me know!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Saving Time on the Front End

One of the biggest things I'm learning as a parent is the value of preventive maintenance. Not on my car, but everywhere. In particular, cleaning up messes.

Yesterday, I fed our son prunes, peas, and applesauce for lunch. Not only did it get all over him, but on his bib and onto the high chair try. It did not help that, just as I fed him a spoonful of prunes, he reared his little head back and, "Sneeze!" This sent the food all over the tray and his bib. I was happy that it didn't get on me.

After the feeding ended, I wiped his mouth, took of his bib, got him out of the chair, and went on to the next activity. During his nap, I looked at the tray. It was covered in prunes that had since dried. On the counter was his bib, also covered. I brought them both over to the sink and proceeded to scrub. If I'd only wiped them up immediately after the prune tornado, it would have been easy. Now, I had to spend five good minutes scrubbing. And all of you parents know, five minutes of scrubbing is a long time and could be much better spent.

Now I truly understand Benjamin Franklin's saying, "A stitch, in time, saves nine."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Funny Kid Speak

One of the kids in my playgroup was showing me her room. She pulled out a silk nightgown that used to be her mother's and told me that she slept with it. I asked, "Do you use it as a blanket?" as it was too big for to wear. She replied, "No, I just suck on it." It was really cute. For the rest of the morning, she demonstrated, not letting go of it, but letting it rest securely in her mouth.


You can now post comments without having to sign in! I didn't realize that such was a requirement, but I've changed the settings. Thanks again for not using any of our names in your comments!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Help! My son is lazy!

Our son has several talents that could probably put him into the top percentile of his class, but there is one thing that I'm starting to worry about.

He doesn't hold his own bottle.

For the past two months, I've been trying to teach him to hold his bottle. While feeding him, I'll actually take his hands and put them on either side of the bottle. While he is beginning to get it when I do that, he still will not take the initiative to pick it up from the start. Furthermore, he hasn't grasped the concept of gravity with respect to liquids in a sealed container; he doesn't understand that he has to tilt the bottom of the bottle up to make the formula come down to the nipple.

Does anyone have suggestions? I know that our son is barely 7 1/2 months old, but we have high expectations. I believe that he can learn, if only I knew how to teach him. Help!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reality Check

A can of Emfamil formula costs the same as a bottle of Grey Goose. God has a terrific sense of humor.

Fresh Family

Last Sunday, my mother remarried. My father passed away two years and eleven months ago. The reality of my mother remarrying was not one easily grasped. No matter what I felt, though, it was going to happen.

And rightfully so; how many people lose their beloved spouses and then go on for years lonely and depressed? It might not happen immediately, but after years and years of being alone, there comes a time when a person might wish they had someone with them.

So my mother found a companion. He truly is a good man and is good to our family. Not only is he a good guy, but he's got a great family of his own. That was probably the thing I overlooked the most, is that I am not only technically gaining a step-father, but also gaining step-siblings.

My siblings and I have never discussed that. It wasn't until we were at the wedding when that technicality crept into my head. Fortunately, they are quality people. They have their own kids, all under the age of ten.

Another reality that I faced was that, provided my mother and her new husband continue in good health for the next twenty-six years, he will have been with my mother for as long as I knew my parents together. That continues to be a thought that I don't know how to handle. To add to that, his family will be in our family for at least that amount of time, and possibly longer if we become so close.

It turns out that I am fortunate. First, my mother found a good guy to share her life with. Second, this guy has his own good family. Third, my family gets along with her new husband. Fourth, our families get along together.

These things do not always fit together like puzzle pieces. I'm sure there are plenty of families who had resentment, who refused to accept another family. It is easy to see how people could reject such dramatic new beginnings. Fortunately, my siblings have been able to see the trees through the forest to understand what was at stake. First, it was our mother's happiness. Second, that we might eventually be happy, too. To be happy without our father has been difficult to grasp. As we go forward, we never have to forget him, but we can rest easier knowing that this situation, exactly as it has unfolded, is what our father would have wanted for our family.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Updating Baby's Hardware

I didn't know why, but our son and I have been bored with each other for about a week. Playtime hasn't brought its usual enthusiasm, and he hasn't been as enthusiastic about doing the same activities we'd been doing.

Over the last week, we've been to a couple of houses where there were kids' toys around. I realized that I haven't updated his toys in quite a while. Looking around our condo (still not sold), he's got a bunch of dolls and some balls, but that's about it. He still likes the balls, which are good for certain types of development, but the dolls are old and are boring. We needed some things with a little pop, a little pizazz.

Then I walked into Target. Fortunately, the number of toys appropriate for his age group are somewhat limited. I don't think I missed many, though. We rang up over $75 in new toys. Depending on who you are, that may sound like a large number or a small number.

As he gets older and interests become more diverse and complex, his toys will become more expensive. They will include bikes, sporting equipment, musical instruments, art supplies, video games, and more. If you think about it, though, all of those are toys he will have for quite a while, whereas these newly acquired toys will last six months at best. Some he will play with once and then never acknowledge again. Others will be staples for a year. He's only seven months old and the toys are generally reasonably priced. That is, until you start buying ten at a time. Then 7.99 - 24.99 price tags become sticker shock at the register. Not that I'd put anything back.

Now that we've got some new things, we'll have a lot more to do when playtime comes around. While one would think the new toys are just for our son, that is just not the case. If I'm not having fun, then it's hard for me to have fun with him. I'm looking forward to introducing a couple of new toys at a time and seeing how he reacts to them. As all of us parents know, watching children do things for the first time brings great happiness.

Monday, August 13, 2007


My family and I were recently at a first birthday party. While there, one of the relatives to the host family was a twelve-year-old boy who had some sort of cough. I didn't notice it until it was pointed out to me.

Then I heard him.

Cough. Cough. Not just a little cough, but a rough cough with some reverberation. And that happens. The appalling thing was that at no time did the boy cover his mouth with his hand. Not once. Every subsequent cough felt like he was closer and closer to my son and I. Soon, it felt like he was in front of me, coughing in my face.

When it was time for the family to leave, the boy coughed again in front of his mother. No hands. She didn't say a word. It was as if this was normal behavior and not something was needed to be noticed. Like he was tying his shoes or running his hand through his hair.

I can't wait for my child to be old enough to see him make all of these mistakes. Then I'll be able to criticize myself for the lack of manners that he has. Until then, he's perfect and will continue to be so.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Poop Pride

I love that I am so proud of our son for his poop. When he has a big poop, he gets cheers, applause, kisses, etc. Can you imagine such treatment throughout your own ife? Can you imagine being at a family dinner, leaning over, and letting a good, ripping fart go, then your family smiles and cheers you, giving you encouragement? One or two people might even lean over to get a good whiff. My how things change.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

How to Tell Baby Needs New Clothes

By the time an infant has outgrown his clothes the old ones are so stained, you would've had to replace them, anyway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Funny Thing About Kids

At playgroup today, there were a group of the "older" kids, ages 3-6, who spent much of the time in an upstairs room of the host's house. Every ten minutes there would be some yelling, followed by some crying, and a parent would go up and straighten everything out. Sometimes the crying child would head downstairs to try to get some cuddling and tell his or her side of the story first.

One little boy, one of the youngest in that group, came downstairs crying a couple of times. One time one of the other kids stole the toy he was playing with; another time he was pushed to the floor. Both times he took a few minutes with the adults, then went back upstairs to get back into the mix.

When his mother told him that it was time to leave (as it was for everyone), he started crying that he didn't want to go. I guess fun hurts sometimes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

His Routine, My Mania

Our son has formed a routine like I've never had. The closest I've ever been was my last semester in college.

That semester I had to take eighteen credit hours - six classes. I wasn't going to sacrifice my social life for my education, though. Classes started between 9:30 and 11:00am, so I got there around 9:00am and stayed there until 7 or 8:00pm. When I got home, I was ready to party.

These days, I'm in a different sort of routine. I get up before 7:00am to feed our son and drive my wife to work. She's up around 5:30 or 6:00am, as she spends extra time with him before being gone for the day. I have specific times that I need to feed him, put him down for naps, and play with him. He takes a bath every other day. We have playgroup every Tuesday and Gymboree on Thursdays.

While he's in his routine, though, he's thrown me out of mine. His morning nap is fairly consistent, but his afternoon nap can last one to four hours.

That means, while our son is getting everything that he needs, I can't do the things I need to. The gym hasn't seen my face in almost a month. I used to go two or three days a week. If I don't get my act together during his morning nap, I can't run errands. If I do, then I miss his afternoon nap. If I wait for his afternoon nap, I don't know if he'll wake up so that we can go out and back before my wife gets home. Now that he's eating solid foods but is particular about how it's presented to him, I have to do remember more things to bring every time we leave the house. (And anyone who knows me knows how superior my memory is.) As I get better at one thing, like getting him on his routine, I get out of mine and my life becomes less certain.

There are still things that I can count on. He still poops and pees. He still laughs and smiles a lot. He's mesmerized by the trains that pass by our condo regularly. He naps during the day and sleeps through the night. Those are the highlights of my day. Mundane? Maybe to the layperson. When that smile is directed at you, you know that you're having a good day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Solid" Food Begins

Squash. Just say it. Seriously, say it right now. Out loud. Sounds gross. Squash. Even thinking of it as a food isn't appetizing. Squash is what you do when a mosquito lands on your arm. Then again, it makes sense. Mashed pulp.

I know, I know; all of you gourmets and farmers out there think it's wonderful. Good for you. To me, squash looks festive next to a pumpkin on a porch on Halloween. I am typically an open-minded eater. I have even eaten pumpkin in forms besides pie. There's just something about that name.

Our son is not crazy about squash, either. As his third "solid" food experiment, squash was served for three days. The first was rice cereal. Didn't go over well. Next came sweet potato which, on the second serving, was a success. Squash, however, didn't go so well.

When I get a meal and don't particularly like it, I'll often finish is just because I'm hungry, motivated by the beneficial nutrients being absorbed. My wife, on the other hand, will push the plate away if she doesn't like the food.

Jackson is down one more rung...maybe two. First, he'll begin avoiding the spoon and will look everywhere in the room but at you or the food. There's the radio, there's the refrigerator, there's a grain of rice on the counter from last night's dinner. Eventually, I coax his attention. I've tried the airplane thing. I've tried waving the spoon around, making various noises and faces. He looks at me like the idiot I'm being but pays no attention to the spoon.

As for the rice cereal, he ate for a bit and then just stopped allowing it to go into his mouth. The squash, however, drew tears. When he pulled away, I just figured he was being difficult. Trying again, he waved his head. Then he finally opened his mouth just enough. As I slid in the spoon, his face tightened and he started whining. Did I get the point? No. It couldn't be me or the food, I thought. I put the little silver-handled spoon with the pink rubbery head back into the the little plastic food cup. Another bite made its way into his hesitant mouth. Whining erupted and the river flowed. Squash leaked down from his mouth onto his white disposable bib. His eyes were slits and his hands were out to the sides as he yelled at me in his baby jibberish. "Enough is enough," he said. "Can't you tell I don't like it? If you think it's so good, you try it." Can't argue with that. Carrots are tomorrow. Wish me luck. If this doesn't work, maybe he can just eat formula for the rest of his life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bumpy Roads

It seems that children are clumsier than I am. I am 6'5" and, despite my athletic prowess, I have a propensity for falling down. Although said falls have begun to decline in frequency, they still happen, especially when playing on my men's league hockey team. It is highly entertaining for my friends, as I don't usually fall from contact, but from making some mundane skating move, like coming to a stop away from the play after the whistle has blown. There I am, down on the ice - the human Zamboni.

And yet, these little people, who stand less than four feet tall, trip over, fall over, stumble over, bump into, and scrape everything they come within ten feet of. Sometimes they fall for no reason at all. My son, my pride and joy, still has much to learn. Never mind that he's six months old. I am neither prejudiced with regards to age nor to sex. Today he managed to hurt himself twice.

The first incident occurred in the morning. We were sitting on carpeted floor across from each other, about two feet between us, rolling a ball back and forth. As best as possible, anyway. With no warning, he falls backward and hits the carpet head first. There was a bit of crying after that. But he's tough and didn't want to come out of the game.

The second incident happened in the afternoon. He was playing on my lap when it put him on his tummy. His hands reached down to the floor and soon he was in push-up position. That lasted only a few seconds as his arms gave way and he was soon kissing the wood floor. I don't want to say that it sounded like a golf ball bouncing on the floor, but. . . you get the idea. There was more crying after that. We went to the grocery store and he resumed his usual demeanor, flirting with all of the female shoppers.

Maybe I should go easy on the kid. I, of all people, should know how hard it is to grow into a quickly growing body. In reality, I probably just want what most parents want - for the child to improve upon the parents.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Romantic Getaway and Tearful Longing

My wife and I went to England for six days surrounding last weekend. We had been planning this trip for some time, as it was spurred by a friend of mine proposing to a Manchester native. I was part of the bridal party.

Before the baby was born, my wife had thought that it would be a good chance to get away. She thought that we would go for around eight to ten days. Our parents agreed to split time with our child, as we had no illusions about the difficulty in bringing an infant on such a journey.

I knew that my wife may have different feelings about how long to be gone. Even telling her so while she was experiencing pregnancy, she did not realize the attachment she would have.

Six weeks before the trip, we paid to change our airline tickets so we could come back two days early. The week before, I purchased a calling card so that we could talk to our parents and to our infant son every day. One of the last things we did was put together a photo album to take with. It served as a brag book, but more importantly, as a way to keep him closer to our hearts.

And we did call every day. We called to hear the report, though more in hopes of hearing his screeches or a laugh. He was accommodating. Even having all of our fun, we still missed him terribly. Fortunately, he had neither transition troubles nor separation anxiety. He, as my mother put it, was an, "Angel baby."

When we got home, my wife threw down her bags and ran into his room where his dirty diaper was being changed. We've been home for two days and it seems as though she has yet to put him down.

There seem to be parents out there who take trips to get away from their children. I do not deny to following: that we only have one child, that our child is well-behaved, that he is only six months old, that it is important to take time away as a couple away from the children. The last part is the most important reason to take trips without the children. It is essential to marriage that you stay friends and lovers. I can see how easy it is to become distant, where one works and one takes care of the house; a routine is established where you become passing ships, seeing each other for a few hours but become less involved in the other's heart and dreams. Other parents leave the burden of their children. We hope to make times to vacation as a family and vacation as a couple. That is as important as eating meals as a family, while other times going on dates and hiring a sitter. After all, part of good child rearing is surrounding the children with a home full of love. Part of my job is making sure that we make time for the family and time for each other.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Your overall score is...

It occurred to me that we don't have a good overall rating system for our infants. There must be a way to rank children, sort of like sports video games rank each individual player. For example, a basketball player could be ranked by his speed, agility, shooting ability, ball handling, jumping, dunking, passing, and endurance.

Besides babies' size and other such physical traits that are already ranked by doctors, couldn't we incorporate cosmetic and social skills? Let's see what we can come up with...

Height/length, weight, body proportion. Ok, those are easy. How about hair? Color and length are good, but what about consistency over their head? More points for fewer or no bald spots. And curls? Who doesn't love curls? But what about a totally bald baby? Also cute. That's like shooting the moon in hearts. And eyes? Everyone comments on babies who have big eyes. Hand and foot size. Dimples? Bonus points.

Then there's demeanor. Smiling is a must. General expressiveness needs to be scored. How about crying? Crying is not necessarily a bad thing, but how does it sound? Is it cute or is it a cry of terror, a piercing shriek? How about the faces they make when they cry? Does it last forever or can he be easily consoled? Does she laugh? Do they sleep through the night? Do they nap well? How do they do on car rides, long or short? How about several short trips in a row? In the grocery store? In a department store? How do they respond to different people? Do they flirt? Do they recognize other children? Too attached to her parents? That would lose points. Antisocial children are so...unpresentable.

We certainly have to consider dexterity in large and small movements. Rolling over, tummy time, crawling, sitting, standing. Can she roll both back to front and front to back? How about rolling both left and right? How long can he last on his tummy? Does he move or just stay in a push up position or lay on his face? Can he sit up or is he going to fall over? Can she stand by herself? Does she require assistance? Grasping objects while in different positions is important. Does he reach for things? Does he give up the first time he misses? Does she bat it or grab it? Can she grab a moving ball while on her tummy? Can he throw the ball with any direction, or is aim nonexistent? We have to know what kind of athletes these kids will be, for goodness sakes.

Finally, how well are these things done with respect to the child's age? Can't roll over by six months? That'll cost him. Still has to sleep with mommy and daddy at five months? No way you're getting into the upper echelon.

I think I'm going to fine tune this system. Then I can get it approved by schools and government. Hey, my child may not score well, but at least I'll know where he stands. And that's all that matters in the world, anyway.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Just in case

Thinking about dying can be difficult. I've thought about it many times. Frankly, I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of the possibility of the pain one may endure before death. The ones you leave behind suffer most. As of six months ago, my death (and/or the death of my wife) has taken on a new meaning.

What happens to our son? What happens to my wife if I die, or to me if she dies? These are some of the least pleasant things we can bother ourselves with. The reality of the people we love most losing their lives is, well, nauseating.

What would be more nauseating, though, is having to deal with it all in such an event. Even more so if no preparation has been done.

My wife and I have slowly been making such arrangements. As with all things, communication is key. The most obvious thing we thought about was money and general finances. Then there is custody of our son if we both die. Then there are medical treatment decisions. The list of possibilities gets long. But the more you think of now, the better off you or your loved ones left behind will be.

Talk to you family, too. People get crazy when tragedies occur. If they don't know what you wanted upon your demise, they may make life hell for your spouse. Or if you're the survivor, the emotional hell of your spouse's death may compound with the desires of family that you may not agree with. If you talk about these things and write them out, you'll save everyone headaches, especially yourself.

If you haven't started doing these things, start. Just talk about it. Do things like telling your spouse that, if you die, they can and should marry again. Most all of us have lost someone close to us. Have you ever said, "That's what they would have wanted." In this way, you'll know what they wanted and and vice versa. Hopefully, none of this will come into play until you're old and gray. In that case, it's another way to get to know your spouse better. And the most surprising effect - you'll feel better knowing that you've taken another step in better providing for your family.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Place for His Stuff

Updating a child's technology and belongings seems to be more frequent than anything NASA does. In only six months, he's outgrown his infant carrier (the biggest one on the market), his chair (papysan - sp?), his swing, and more clothes than Paris Hilton goes through in a year. We have yet to purchase a pack-n-play (his uncle has been waiting for us to pick one out).

Replacing these things has been at least on a 1:1 ratio, though he seems to need more as he gets older. Accumulating more toys, more stuffed animals, and more clothes, there seems no end in sight. He is beginning to eat solid foods and that requires special hardware. He will have fun toys and educational toys. We will likely begin his own DVD and music collections. Around the corner we will have sporting equipment and art supplies. There will be matchbox cars and pedal cars. High chairs and tricycles. You get the idea.

Currently, I am enjoying the smell of chemicals used to install granite countertops. On Monday, stainless steel appliances will be installed. The point of these improvements is to improve the saleability of our condo.

In turn, we will move to a house or townhouse. This move will allow us to spread out our recent purchases for our son and grant him greater space to roll, crawl, and stumble through. It seems to be an endless cycle. George Carlin has a bit about "a place for my stuff." Basically, you buy bigger places to house to greater amounts of stuff you accumulate. I'm sure my wife and I will accumulate a few more personal items, but our son has the greatest potential. He will have many hobbies that will come and go. He will require video games, musical instruments, and bicycles. He will need a place to study and a place to play by himself.

Consider the advances in technology that took place while I was growing up in the last thirty years. The next eighteen to twenty-five will certainly bring equal improvements and inventions. I only hope we can afford the place that will house this new stuff that will inevitably come into our lives. At least I'll get to play with the latest and greatest, too.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

City Living

Living in the city is great when you can go for a long walk and hit the Hershey store in the Gold Coast for a Reese's pieces and peanut butter cup sundae. It's incentive to get you and your son out when you just feel like sitting around.

If I could avoid the sundae, my butt would look so much better...

On Time for What?

Our son has learned how to sleep at night. Though not perfect every night, he sleeps for approximately nine hours, usually from 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM. Every morning, he wakes up needing a fresh diaper, then will join my wife and I in our bed and usually sleep for another hour. It is a system we are happy with, though all systems should be improved over time.

He requires two naps during the day. Ideally, he naps from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM, then from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Our days have obstacles that impair the perfect timing of our day.

At-home parents are not just parents, but household managers. We have to make sure that clothes are recovered from the cleaners, that clothes are purchased for the child, spouse, and self, while returning things that don't fit; that food is purchased, that food is prepared for meals that day and future days, and with proper nutrition and variety in mind; that the house is kept clean, that bills are paid, that finances are audited, that financial positioning is monitored, that the social schedule is remembered and responded to, and that there is time in the week for fun for everyone.

Many parents adhere to a strict schedule. I am far too selfish for that. I have to be honest: accomplishing the day's tasks from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM is not very realistic, even allowing for some in-house tasks to be done during nap times. Not only that, but going out only at those times make tasks the most time consuming, as that is shopping rush hour.

Our son and I compromise. There are times when I'll have to shop the next day. There are times when he has to bite the bullet and get his nap in the car or in the Bjorn.

He is a good shopping partner and deals with my inconsistencies well and I am grateful for his understanding nature. There are a few things that he does, telling me that I'm doing a good job. He smiles at me when I take him out of his car seat. He smiles at consumers and employees. He rarely cries. In turn, I make sure his diaper stays fresh and that meals are kept to reasonable intervals. There are times when I make mistakes in time judgment, but overall his needs are met before I hear excessive complaining.

And at the end of the day, after dinner, he sits with us until he rubs his eyes. We know it is time for bed. He is ready and appreciates some structure in his day, the time when it's time for bed. He goes down with no complaints, but rather with gratitude that his need was recognized and met.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Growing Pains

Imagine uncontrollable weight gain - gaining upwards of 10% of your body weight per month. You have to buy a new wardrobe every two to four months. Your skin is stretching. Teeth are forcing themselves through gums without so much as a starter nail. Urination and defecation are done in your underwear and the only way to keep from sitting in it is to cry out for attention in hopes that someone will understand your limited ability to communicate. These conditions cause rashes over various parts of your body. The only thing you've had to eat for months is milk. Mobility is barely an issue, as you're straining to hold yourself up on your hands and knees, much less move in any desired direction. Sleeping is your only relief, and sometimes you are in so much pain, you have a hard time getting that right.

Welcome to being a baby.

Some of the good things include being waiting on hand and foot. You never have to move yourself, feed yourself, bathe yourself, clean yourself after soiling yourself. People sing to you, play with you, smile at you, and ask to hold you. You can touch a strange woman's boobs without getting slapped. You can cry without feeling oversensitive. All you have to do to brighten someone's day is smile at them.

Some of these things apply to adults, too. We've just forgotten. Maybe it leaves when you have to wipe your own butt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Late Nights and Early Mornings

I play hockey on a men's league team at Johnny's Ice House. For those of you who have played in various adult leagues, hockey has one big difference: inconsistent scheduling. We neither play on the same day nor the same time throughout the season. For example, last night's game (Tuesday) started at 10:00pm, my game next Monday starts at 11:10pm, and the following Saturday is at 12:30pm. Except for the noon game, these can lead to relatively late nights.

My teammates include one of my brothers and one of my best friends. Teams can pay $3 per can of beer before the game for a bucket in the locker room after the game. We are likely going to be sponsored by a local bar, and I am the head of the "sponsorship committee." Therefore, I have to go to the bar after games, if only for a short visit.

Last night I got home at 12:45am. (For those raising their eyebrows, I had one beer after the game and one at the bar.) When you get home after your hockey game, even if you've been out for a while, you cannot fall asleep right away, as you're still charged up. I probably fell asleep around 1:30am.

My son woke me up with a screech at 6:30am.

Nope, no calling in sick or late for this job! It's up-and-adam, make me a bottle! On some weekends after special occasions, my wife will take pity on me and let me sleep. But during the week, I have to live with the choices I made the night before.

Am I dragging a bit? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Accessory

I've been wearing my son on my chest lately. It happens mostly when we go shopping. He is too big for an infant carrier. He is too small to sit upright in a shopping cart. I don't have enough hands to push a stroller and a cart.

There are many contraptions used to carry one's child in this way. Ours is the famous Baby Bjorn. (Don't things always sound gourmet when they have a European name?)

Our son did not like going in it at first. This was when he had to face me. How could I blame him, having to stare at my face or chest for prolonged periods of time. And if he turns his head? Nose to armpit. Need I say more? Now that he can face outwards, he is happy being carried around in this way.

At first I felt a little silly. It's my manliness. No, more like my fading adolescence. How silly I felt with a person strapped to my chest! There are straps hanging off here and there. It certainly doesn't feel "cool".

But now I am happy wearing it. I am a Dad and very proud of it. Our son is very smiley and people always look at him and smile. That works especially well in the grocery store where many of the shoppers are attractive females. Married or not, always nice to get a smile. Puts a charge into your step. Being a good Dad is cool. And, so I've heard, it is attractive. At least my wife thinks so.

Then I can go about my shopping and meal planning with ease. My wife feels better because there is no chance that I'm leaving him alone even for a second. It's easier than lifting that infant carrier. Most of all, he's happy. And as we parents all know, what keeps the baby happy keeps the parents happy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I had my first real experience being a man in a woman's world. It was at a playgroup hosted by a cousin of mine. It was the second playgroup I've been to with our son. The first was a playgroup consisting entirely of at-home Dads. This consisted entirely of Mothers.

The first shock to my system was walking into a house where eight to ten children between two weeks and four years old were running rampant. Or crawling, or just being held.

It was a perfect place to host such a gathering: a quiet, tree lined street, open living room with enough sitting room for the adults while having enough open space for the kids to do lots of playing with little potential for damage - damage to property as well as to themselves.

They've got a good stock of toys. There was a small rocking horse and one or two electronic-based riding toys. There was a black mesh bag filled with toy cars, books, small stuffed animals, hand-held games, and other novelties. A thin foam pad floor occupied a three-by-three space. The rooms were well lit with natural light. A stereo played a mix of rock 'n roll songs, including tunes by the Grateful Dead and what I think was the Indigo Girls.

Being such an early age, the parents were still generally involved in almost all of the play. I, of course, had our son and held him in some fashion almost the entire time. He primarily interacted with a girl of nine months. They did tummy time together. It was amazing seeing her so confident on her front hands, handling a small blue plastic block. She tried to share it with our son, but he is not yet so deft and dexterous. My cousin's son responds to most questions with a resounding, "Yeah!" A little girl of about two years said, "Bye," whenever she saw someone get up, as if they were leaving. The eldest child was a boy a month shy of four years. He had long hair cut like he belonged in the band The Killers. It was great. The kids played, then went to their mothers for treats, then went back to the grind. The rock-star and another boy got on each others' nerves as the morning progressed and, if given the time and the space, may have gotten to fisticuffs. Early in the visit, I pulled out my digital camera. As I took pictures, there was no regard for allowing me to capture the scene I focused on. The kids would walk in front of me mid-shutter, looking directly into the lens from point-blank, then walk around back of me, as they knew that the image would immediately be developed.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I was the only adult male in the room. It was not that I thought there would be other fathers. It was the old Sesame Street, "Three of these things belong together, one of these things is not the same." Indeed, for a moment, I didn't feel that I belonged. Not that they weren't friendly or inviting. Quite the contrary. I was immediately accepted as one of the gang. But the women were mothers. None of them appeared to be out of place. There was breast feeding. There was no talk about sports, except for a passing note that I wore a White Sox hat. There was no raunchy humor. There was talk about schools and homes and such family oriented things. I felt young. I felt for a time as if I was a friend or a younger brother coming over to play with their kids.

And I did play. Some of them climbed on me. With others, I tried unsuccessfully to participate in whatever game they had concocted in their head.

It is taking some time to realize that I am a father, the evolution of my former self. Our son will look at me as I looked at my father. Other kids see me as our son's father. When I walked into that house, I was someone's father, not just some guy. The mothers, as I do, must look around and wonder what happened to their twenties. What happened to working and to happy hour? What happened to getting up late Saturday and / or Sunday mornings? Now, everything is midnight feedings, early mornings, dirty diapers, wet diapers, bottles, breast feeding, formula, solid food, food allergies, tummy time, nap time, cranky time, preschool, kindergarten, testing into elementary school, day care, crying, whining, big smiles, big laughs, little bumps, little falls, little steps, crawling, picking up, laying down, car seats, strollers, and, finally, my time. And "my time" usually revolves around household chores that will get half-done before the little guy wakes up. Or you'll get your chores done and hope to eat. But just after making yourself something simple, like microwaved leftovers, you will hear the sounds of awakening and frown as you know that the next time you look at this plate, the food will no longer be hot.

It really doesn't matter that I am in a gender minority. Just as women have entered the work force and are just as competent as men, men have entered homemaking with equal competency. There are general gender differences that can make the genders differ in parenting styles. What we all do, though, is love our children, love each others' children, and try to give them the best world in which to grow.

In that room, with all of those kids and their mothers, I found that I felt right at home and that I was happy that our son and I could be in such a wonderful environment. After looking at that hot plate knowing that you won't get to eat for at least another hour, you go and, as you pick up that child they give you that thankful smile. And then you're not so hungry as you have filled with something so much more nourishing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Great Moments in Parenting

I hope to remember to do this more often. Just a jot on little things that make parenting worthwhile. Or are just plain funny.

A great moment is the time when you watch your child closing his eyes as he falls asleep. They're open, then they close, then open halfway, then close, and so on until they're sleeping. It's one of the most satisfying and tranquil moments of the day. The next moment is realizing that, "Woohoo!" you have a bit of "free time." Free to do laundry, free to pay bills, free to start dinner, free to clean up last night's dinner...