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.