Monday, December 29, 2008

Action Figure House

In guiding the family to purchase presents for JD that we have a “need” for, I wrote a fake letter to Santa detailing roughly ten items that would be good to purchase. One of those requests was for a unisex-oriented doll house.

If you've ever shopped for a doll house, you know that most of them are designed for girls. They are frilly with pink trim. There are some out there that are not as feminine, the nice all-wood ones. Ideally, I would have loved a large wooden house for him, but those are very expensive. My Mother-in-law gave him as gender-neutral a house as exists, the Fisher-Price Little People Busy Day Home.

When I told my friend TJ about the request, he questioned (99% in jest) whether a doll house would be the most suitable toy for a boy. I explained to him the developmental benefits of imaginary play. He accepted that with a tablespoon of salt. After all, he would never have such a toy for his two boys.

The next day, TJ called me up to tell me he'd had a revelation. “It's not a doll house, it's an action figure house!”

I like that. I can't help it; I'm still a guy. The idea of JD playing with some little people and make-believe house is one thing. There is no way on this Earth that he'll start playing Barbie. Maybe – a big maybe – if he becomes friends with a girl and on playdates at her house he plays with her Barbies because she's making him or that's all there is to do there. Sort of like toddler flirting. But he will never own a Barbie or anything like that.

Extrapolating on that idea, when JD wants more dolls to put into the house, we'll go about it differently. Of course, there are the little people who are part of this line of toy. But don't be surprised to see a Lance Briggs or Jonathan Toews doll in there. Maybe some little green army men. You know, JD and his buddies can raid the house like Navy SEALS on Al-Qaeda terrorists, that kind of thing. X-Men, Justice League. . . you get the idea.

Unrelated to this story, his hockey development continues to grow. His mother-in-law also got him a pair of “inline” skates (Fisher-Price My First Skates). As soon as he saw them, he had to put them on. He would wear them all day and all night if I allowed him. He is already able to stand up on them on carpet and pass a puck. Good times.

When I figure out how to deal with videos, I'll add one or two of him playing. Yeah, and he'll be 2 January 12.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Fashion Sense

City life brings out impractical behaviors in people. Today, I'm talking about women's winter fashion. Boots that have no traction and / or are not water resistant. Tights. Are you kidding?

Let me start with Ugg boots. I'm sure they are as warm as warm gets. But really, you're spending about $120 for boots that stay warm until they step in water. You know, snow, slush, that kind of thing.

Then there are the high-fashion boots. These are the thigh-high boots with a heel, sometimes a serious heel. Put on some tights and a leather or fur full-length coat on and you're looking hot. Seriously, it does look awesome. But it also looks stupid unless you're going to an evening affair. In the loop in a Tuesday is probably not the time you need to look like a rock star or a model. Especially when you're on your ass after stepping on a patch of ice. You'll get several strong hands offering to help you up, but that won't make the bruise on your hip heal any faster.

I've been walking around for the last few days and, let me tell you, there is plenty of snow and ice available. Not just little patches, but deep patches in inconvenient places like parking lots, street corners, and some neglected sidewalks. And with our type of weather that gets cold, then warm, then cold, repeat, while snowing on-and-off and salt going down regularly, there is plenty of slush everywhere.

So ladies, when you're looking for winter fashions, and you need to look good everyday, look to outdoor specialists. I saw a very handsome long coat by the North Face. There are certainly plenty of options at places like Erehwon. Ugg even offers intelligent choices like the Langley ($299 at Nordstrom). If that's a touch much for your budget, Target has boots from $25. Yes, much of the cold-weather options are earthy, but you won't end up with cold wet feet and are far less likely to end up on your ass. And, seriously, who's looking at your foot fashion in the middle of a blizzard?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Skills to Pay the Bills

I was just thinking about what a homemaker's skill set is. What is it that makes that position a skilled occupation?

Homemaking is not rocket science. Neither laundry nor cleaning are college-degree material. So why am I so tired at the end of the day?

There are two parts to the art of homemaking. First, the homemaker must have outstanding organizational skills. Second, the homemaker must learn to proficiency many skills that he or she may or may not have possessed before becoming the homemaker.

Again, doing laundry isn't hard. Keeping up with the laundry so that nobody runs out of underwear is challenging. Making sure that no dry-clean-only garments end up in the washing machine is challenging. Making sure that no garments are shrunk in the dryer is challenging.

Cooking is not easy. Making pasta with canned tomato sauce is easy. Planning for a week's worth of meals, shopping for the necessary items, and keeping up with changing palates is challenging. Making sure that the family is getting proper nutrition is challenging. Add to the skill set cooking food from scratch and making sure the produce is always fresh; now you're getting into homemaking professionalism.

Cleaning is easy. Running a vacuum cleaner, washing dishes, wiping down counter tops, and washing windows are easy tasks. Finding time to clean when you're not cooking or doing laundry is challenging. Oh, or chasing a child.

That's right, there's that monkey wrench. A person who has to be taught everything from holding a glass to cleaning up after himself is part of the daily routine. Try making chicken parmigiana with a one-year-old who wants attention. Not easy.

Staying spontaneously romantic. Properly grooming. Buying birthday and anniversary cards. Sending out thank-you notes.

These are my challenges. Laundry day isn't Monday or Wednesday or any other day. You never know when Mommy's going to need those brown pants for work. JD might decide to pee on his two bath towels two days in a row. Are we having company for dinner? Do I need to buy a gift for someone? Reservations? Add the new releases to my Netflix queue? We're having the family over for brunch and they are soooo excited to eat my french toast on challah with bacon and scrambled eggs?

All of the items I've mentioned are skills that require their own education and honing. There is an art to cleaning a bathroom just as there is an art to getting bread dough to rise.

And that is what makes homemaking an occupation.

My wife, the attorney, has her own skill set. Analytic reading, keyboarding, teaching, and scheduling are all skills she uses on a regular day. She reads faster than anyone I know with great comprehension. She is a go-to person for subordinates to ask for advice on cases. She is a stickler for details and deadlines.

Those are skills that I, too, use on a daily basis.

So while I'm not working for a living, I am working for our living.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What a year

Another year gone by. Yep, it's my birthday. Well, what's left of it. It's 10:45pm on December 3rd, 2008.

31 years old.

It's been an amazing year for me. The last few months have put an exclamation point on it.

JD, my son, turned 1 in January. My wife and I decided to attempt to conceive in July and were successful in August in our first few tries. (We officially found out we were pregnant with our second child September 24th, though we were pretty sure around Labor Day.) My men's league hockey team won the league championship in late August. Then my brother proposed to his amazing girlfriend in early October. On October 16th, my wife was voted into partnership at her law firm. Finally, we found out that we will have a girl in May.

I would say that's a top-notch year.

I find it amazing how, at least for me, we've had such good news among the terrible state of the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 4500 points for the year, or about 35%. People are losing their money, their jobs, and their homes. Meanwhile, I'm basking in a cluster of happiness.

Conversely, in my worst year, 2005, my father was diagnosed with cancer in March or April and died in September. That was in the middle of the economic climb on the way to the 14,000 range from which we've slumped. The Dow closed around 10,500 during that September, up from the depths it reached in 2002 when it sunk below 8,000 for the first time since the tech bubble burst at the end of the 20th century. The economy was thriving and my father was dying.

And now the world is in turmoil and my life is about as steady as it gets. We're not without our own economic issues; we're certainly not swimming in money (don't let the label "partner" mislead you.) But we've got steady employment, we've got our health, and the future has many bright spots.

I really couldn't ask to be in a better situation than I'm in right now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy Local this year (If you buy anything)

Ah, the season of giving is upon us. Lest we forget, that also makes it the season of buying. I will stay away from my personal feelings on the consumerization of the winter holidays and focus on one thing - helping the economy.

Buy locally. Yes, from your neighborhood stores. I know it's easier living in Lakeview, Chicago to hit local stores. I can walk North on Lincoln Avenue up to Paulina and hit most every type of shop. Two toy stores, clothing, art, sporting goods, army/navy surplus, two Starbucks, you name it.

When you're out and about looking for the best items, try to steer clear of online retailers and big box stores. Patronize small, specialty shops. Bring in ads from the big box stores and ask them to match the deals. More than likely, they will be happy to oblige. We all know that once you get into the store, you'll either change your mind and get something better or get additional items.

I will try to do the same. My family patronizes Costco and Target regularly. More and more recently, though, we are trying to buy from the smaller shops. The toy store, Building Blocks at 3306 N. Lincoln Ave. (no website) is one of our favorite stops. They have a train table set up in the middle of this 400ish square foot store that is stocked floor-to-ceiling with toys. No video games, either. They have educational and just-for-fun toys. Best of all, the staff know their inventory and give great suggestions for age-appropriate toys.

Sure, you're going to hit your grocery store and Starbucks, but look out for the little guy. We all know a can't-miss deal and jump on it when we can, online or otherwise. More jobs are provided by small retailers than larger ones. They provide better service and usually have comparable prices on most items. (They don't have the cheapo loss leaders that are used to get people in the door.) Your local economy will thank you for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Time-Out. Ouch!

I have begun to more seriously address a problem we've been dealing with for at least a year.
JD throws cars, crayons, stuffed animals, plastic animals, books, food, cups, blocks, puzzle pieces, hockey sticks, train tracks, trains, and, of course, balls. Fortunately, he has yet to throw something breakable like a plate or glass. I've told him that he's allowed to throw balls (trying to allow for a positive - something he's allowed to do.) He seems to know that limit. He also clears papers and the like off of tables and I consider that throwing, too.
The biggest problem is that he throws things like cars and blocks at people. It was cute for a bit, then annoying, now infuriating. I've let him know about it every time he throws something since he first started. Now that he's got some vocabulary, he'll throw something, look at me, and say, "No throw!" Sometimes I want to laugh and other times my head wants to explode.
Tonight, he threw a bus at me. A toy bus about 6 inches long and metal. It's heavy. It hit me in the wrist. I had to count to 10 a couple of times before I could be rational with JD. He's only 22 months, I had to tell myself. Then I picked him up and took him for a "time-out."
You've all heard of or used times-out. Some people believe in them, others don't. I've discovered several things about the time-out. First, they are as much for the adult as they are for the child. Second, they have to be meaningful. Third, they have to be consistent. Finally, sometimes they have to hurt.
I've discovered that I have a short temper with JD when it comes to things I've told him over and over. Putting him in a time-out allows me to compose myself. I'm convinced that he now knows when he's doing something wrong but can't control his impulses. I have to be able to control mine. A minute or two (or longer, as I'll get to) will help me relax and be able to get back to productive exercises with him.
Putting JD in a time-out doesn't help if he doesn't know why he's going there. When he throws something, I pick him and the object up, bring him to his time-out area, and show him the object. No throw cars. Cars hurt. No throw cars. Time-out.
If I don't do it every time, then he probably won't know when he's misbehaving. Every time he throws something he's not supposed to, it's a time-out. No questions asked.
You may have read the hurt thing and thought physical. No. Here's what I learned tonight. I had been putting him at a chair at the dining room table, the emptiest room in the house. There's nothing to do, nothing to distract. After a few moments, he would get up. No matter how many times I put him back, he knew he could get up. He would smile and sing to me and laugh. He wasn't getting the point; it was a new game.
Tonight I buckled him into his high chair without the tray in the dining room. Then I walked out. That took the fun away. He had to sit there and he knew it. It didn't take long for him to start crying. And I let him cry. For a couple of minutes. Then I took the steps described above. He appeared much sorrier than he had at any other time. It hurt him to be locked up like that. He knew there was a reason he was there.
Many of you may strongly disagree with what I'm doing. I feel like it's a safety issue. Those are the times when I enforce strong discipline - when it's a matter of safety for him or for others. Just as importantly, he must respect my word like the word of G-d. If that means I have to hurt his feelings from time to time, so be it. It's better than someone getting hit in the face with a random object. And I believe he respects the boundaries that are set for him.
These are the terrible twos. He's testing his boundaries and crossing them whenever possible. Boundaries are like walls; sometimes I'll help him climb back over, other times I'll throw him over. One way or another, he'll know when he crossed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pick and Choose

JD's been eating cereal with milk for a few weeks now. His favorite cereal is bran flakes. Just plain bran flakes.

I recently found that he likes raisins. This morning, I put some raisins into his cereal. I realized I had just created raisin bran. Quite the brain storm, I know.

At first, he did not know what to make of this concoction. He stared at it for a while, then looked at me and said, "Hot," which means he doesn't want to eat it or that he doesn't think it's ready to be eaten.

I had finished my Cheerios and decided to pick out the raisins. It was just too much of a good thing, I guess. The few raisins that remained I buried under some flakes. Ready to go.

JD went to town eating the bran. After a few spoonfuls (or spoons full?) he discovered a raisin had gotten on to the spoon. He reached with his opposite hand and picked the raisin out and ate it.

He proceeded to eat the rest of his cereal in that manner. After he'd finished his cereal, I gave him the balance of the raisins and he finished those. I'm just worried about what I'm going to come across tonight or tomorrow in his diaper.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


JD and I hosted playgroup this week. Our playgroup consists of six or seven main families. We are joined by several other families from time to time. The families rotate houses on a weekly basis.

This week was our turn. One thing I had noticed was that my friends have trouble finding parking near our house. I had noticed that parking was more abundant closer to 9am and would close up slowly over time. Our group normally meets at 9:30am with an open house style, meaning you can show up any time thereafter.

I decided to invite people to come over from 9am. One way I thought I could do that would be to offer breakfast to everyone. I announced that I would have french toast and a selection of egg creations. The response was collectively positive.

Preparation was good on one front and poor on another. The good: I had all of my ingredients. Eggs, challah, frozen chopped spinach, canned diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, milk, OJ, etc. The place was clean. The bad: I didn't get my ingredients ready to go for line-cook efficiency. I found myself defrosting the spinach, opening the can of tomatoes, and preparing chorizo, all of which could have been done earlier, if not last night.

I would have been okay had my coffee making not gone awry. I have the Cuisinart Grind 'n' Brew. Everything was added and I pushed the button. Five-ish minutes later, one boy said, "Something's dripping." Long story short, I hadn't put in a filter. It was a mess that took about fifteen minutes to clean. That screwed everything. I probably could have had breakfast on the table around 9:45, but it wasn't done till 10:30am. It was still yummy, just took too long!

What to do next time? Set the table and have ingredients prepared the night before. That would have saved me lots of time. Also, confirm the guest list, as I wasn't completely sure who was coming, though everyone responded in a timely fashion. Finally, set the menu without giving choices. One meat, one veggie, one plain dish. Everyone loves French toast and pancakes, so pick one and stick to it.

Everything was delicious, so I'm sure they'll give me another chance!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oh S*#t! Part 2

My garage was broken into the other night. That's not what this is about.

When I discovered that someone had been through my car, I was putting JD into his car seat. Looking around at my belonging strewn about I said without thinking, "Holy S*#t!"

JD picked up on it and started repeating it over and over. "Holy S*#t!" "Holy S*#t!" "Holy S*#t!"

Quickly thinking of a redirection, I said, "Holy Cow!"

He picked up on that and began repeating, "Holy Cow!" "Holy Cow!" "Holy Cow!" (Actually sounds like "Oh Cow" but you get the point.)

Close call.


Facebook is dangerous. If you allow it to, it will take up much of your free time and, quite possibly, much of your productive time.

These computers have had an interesting effect on multitasking. The availability of web-based software combined with the necessity for people to work on computers both at home and at work creates an environment conducive to slacking.

But it doesn't feel like slacking at the time. When I log into Facebook, I think I'll just check it out for a couple of minutes and be done. You know, see if I have any messages, that sort of thing. The next thing I know, ten or twenty minutes have gone by. I start responding to messages, leaving status messages, responding to status messages, commenting on photos. . . and the list goes on.

Like most of our home entertainment, it's a lot of fun, but takes away from productive time. For instance, I don't think I've written a blog since signing up with Facebook. Maybe I'm just gathering material.

Pumpkin bread. I have made a couple loaves of that. Yummy. Did I write about it in Facebook? Just as a status message, but not in the elegant and lengthy way I could on my blog, a way to exacerbate my creative writing skills.

Another thing about Facebook. Who are some of these people Friending me? I mean, there were a few people that I shared a class here or there and we were friendly. I'm interested to see how they're doing these days. But there are several people with whom I'm confident I've never had a conversation. Not one. We have two things in common: Deerfield High School and a Facebook friend. Do some people simply Friend everyone in their graduating class? Or everyone they've ever heard of?

Fortunately, there are some perks. You get to see how cute or ugly people have become. I get to show off JD and his awesomeness. I see what people have been up to for the last several years. And yes, I do get to hear about people's day-to-day. It's all very interesting. That's the attraction.

I guess it's all new to me. I'll be obsessed with it for a few more weeks, then it'll get boring and I won't care as much. Or I'll have so many friends and have to respond to so many messages that it will continue to call me to the computer at every opportunity.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Avoiding the Credit Crunch

You know what I've come to realize? The Government's financial parenting skills are poor.

In an attempt to bolster the economy and help more people acquire the American Dream, it has managed to help business and the people together create a spending bubble that has now burst.

Low interest rates is the biggest culprit of the bubble. The attraction of buying not only houses, but appliances, cars, and almost any other major purchase with low interest rates or deferred interest has made the material mindset of the average American unrealistic. Top all of that off with the availability of credit cards to almost anyone 18-years-old and up, you've put spending before saving.

Not to mention the low interest rates that people receive in normal savings and money market accounts. For the modest income earner, saving reaps little benefit, in terms of interest earned. The best online money market accounts earn as little as 3% per year. Low interest on purchases means low interest on savings. Where do you think the government and business is trying to point your money?

Into 401k and IRA accounts. They want you to save money for retirement, but not for now. But if you're not working for a company that supports 401k plans, you'll have trouble achieving those long-term goals.

And while I preach, I'll tell you a bit about my situation. My family stretched for a house that was just above our budget. We could not have afforded such a house if it was not for low interest rates in the mortgage market. But now we're already borrowing - albeit very small amounts - from ourselves every month to pay the bills. Some of our big expenses include a used luxury SUV and a luxury health club membership. We also have no-interest financing on an HDTV and a quality outdoor gas grill. We are living beyond our means. We are fortunate that my wife's industry is not as affected by the economic downturn as others; we can look forward to advancements in her career - and are banking on it.

For now, I have canceled the health club membership, at least until next summer. After paying off the TV and grill in November (the balloon payment to avoid any interest charges) I will not buy anything until we have saved up for it. I would love a new front load washer/dryer set; My wife's '02 luxury convertible (that we own outright) has become impractical but we'd have to finance a new car. I've only played golf maybe five times this year. My wife has eliminated designer clothing purchases. I've been looking for quality used toys for JD on Craig's List. We are keeping my SUV because we only have a little over a year to pay it off and it only has 40,000 miles. I can drive it for years to come, maintain it, let JD and hockey beat it up, and then in the future we'll hopefully have the money to replace it.

And that's the attitude that I'm trying to take. Do what my parents encouraged early on. Parents are always encouraging their kids to save up for the things they really want. I know you want that action figure, but aren't you saving up for that bicycle for next summer? My Dad said something to me that I'm just now heeding: Live cheap; accumulate wealth.

Will that attitude hurt the economy? Well, you tell me what hurts the economy more - limiting spending or people losing their homes. Maybe we'll have to lose some of the big-box stores and get back to smaller retail outlets. You'll have to wait a couple of weeks for the store to order the exact model appliance you want. That attitude might get manufacturers back into the US, to allow for more custom and Just-In-Time ordering.

Finally, when you're considering that new appliance or other major purchase, consider whether or not you have the money. If you're thinking about financing it, think if you can live without it for the time that you planned on paying for it. Then, take that $50+ per month and get that lousy 3% interest. You'll be better off financially. Better yet, the stress of paying an obligation will be gone. You'll owe nobody and true ownership is true happiness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Kids

Running my ass ragged, that's what they did. I can't lie. Those two kids drove me insane.

And I loved it. Most of it.

What am I talking about? Our friends are having a second child in ten days and were in a childcare predicament. Their nanny's family moved to Las Vegas three weeks ago. They needed me to watch their seventeen-month-old two days a week for three weeks. I was happy to oblige.

JD and their son. . .I'll call him "Nicky" play well together. Nicky is three-and-a-half months younger than JD. JD will be 21 months on the 12th. They really do like each other. There are times when they play side-by-side and times when they play without each other, but they always know when the other is around. They are especially happy riding side-by-side in Nicky's new double stroller, swapping sippy cups.

I'm not sure whether or not I have Nicky next week, but today was the second day of the third week. I've finally gotten the hang of dealing with them together.

Dealing with their abilities is one of the most difficult tasks. JD is a jock. He's a natural athlete, able to hit a ball consistently off a tee, able to take slap shots with a hockey stick, able to dribble and kick a ball with both feet with accuracy. And he loves doing all of those things. I could basically fill our days playing sports if it weren't for those tedious reading and art projects supposedly important for development. Nicky, however, is a natural gatherer. What I mean is, he collects objects in containers, then transfers them into and out of other containers. Whether it's rearranging cabinets, removing clothes from a basket, then putting them back; putting rocks into a cup, dumping them into a bucket, then returning them to the rock pile, he's a natural. Watching him build is his most impressive trait, as I watched him build a lego tower that was two-by-two and perfectly color coordinated. There were two levels of blue legos, then red, then yellow, then green. No lego colors mixed in any level and the tower was perfectly straight and the blocks pushed together tightly. Magnificent.

With all of these terrific attributes, there is little they can do together. Nicky doesn't understand the concept of playing ball and reciprocal play, taking a ball thrown to him and running away. JD has no patience for blocks; he puts three or four on top, then knocks them down.

JD is my son and so it would be easy for me to do whatever he wants and let Nicky deal with it. That's not how we roll, though. So we played blocks and JD would knock Nicky's creations over. We played ball and Nicky would take JD's balls and run away.

I did finally get them to nap well. Nicky is not the championship sleeper that JD is, so getting my usual daytime work done hasn't worked well the last few times he's been over. Today, though, I got some work done and got him to nap. That was my big accomplishment. Oh, and he ate a big lunch. Related? We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm tired. Chasing two kids around all day was fun, but I'll take a break for a few days. It'll be some time till I'll be doing that, if ever. Until that day comes, I'll enjoy my three-hour breaks in between hockey practices.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh S*#t!

JD seems to be taking to his speech therapy well. He is repeating words and remembering them. He is using more nouns and verbs at appropriate times. My wife and I are very proud of his progress.

One thing that he seems to have picked up, however, is, "Oh S*#t!" I don't know where he picked it up. Okay, so I'm not perfect. I've probably sworn in front of him a few times. Maybe once or twice in the car, a couple of times playing NHL '08 for XBox 360. Really, truly. Even my wife has gotten better about it. Even Uncle TJ has gotten better about it. (He rarely says MFer anymore!)

He usually says, "Uh, oh!" when he drops or throws something on the ground. But a few times now, he has skipped the euphamism and gone right for the meat. It's very hard to not laugh.

At least he's using language, right?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Attention: Bears Fans

Many of us were watching the Bears as they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday. For those that did not, the Bears lost 27-24 on an overtime field goal by the Bucs.

The key play that led directly to the field goal was a 3rd down penalty by Charles Tillman, number 33, for fighting. Basically, the Bears had stopped the Bucs on 3rd down and forced them to punt and would give the Bears very good field position. This penalty gave the Bucs a 1st Down and new life as they marched down the field to within the Bears 5-yard line where they kicked the field goal to win the game.

Many people want to blame Charles Tillman for this loss, but, as it is a team game, he is not solely responsible for the game. I'll go backwards through the game to recount some of the plays that would have helped the bears.

After the Tillman penalty, the Bucs still had to go 40 yards to get into field goal position. The defense as a unit was unable to stop them, as they were productive on almost every play.

The Bears had an offensive position before the Bucs got the ball. on 3rd and 7, Kyle Orton threw a perfect pass of about twenty yards to Rasheed Davis who was running through the middle of the field. The ball went right between Davis's hands, causing the Bears to have to punt.

Orton, on an earlier play, was being forced to make a choice between running the ball for a few yards or throwing it. He threw the ball out-of-bounds, but the local receiver, Greg Olsen, was open and could have run a long way.

Kicker Robbie Gould missed a field goal that would have padded the Bears lead.

In the first half, which I only saw highlights, Orton threw an interception that was run back for a touchdown.

And let's not forget, the Bears were down by roughly 10 points at halftime and came back to take a commanding lead, though the Bucs returned the favor to win the game in the end.

I don't want to disregard the fact that Tillman's penalty was incredibly selfish and untimely, but the Bucs player who started the roucous was not penalized at all.

We should all remember that, in life, when something goes wrong, there are usually many factors that could have saved the situation. When I am involved, I try to look introspectively to see what I could have done to avoid the ordeal and less at what others did to cause it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Categorical Vocabulary

JD has had a 'word explosion' over the last couple of months. Where he had no usable vocabulary as recent as June, he now has a large variety of words. Whether and when he chooses to use them is another story, but first things first.

One thing I'd noticed was that there were a few words he used for like things but the wrong thing. For instance, he'd say "car" when he saw or played with a train. He says "apple" when I give him a nectarine. All animals are "doggie."

A fellow parent heard him do this at the playground. She told me that, in a linguistics class in college, she'd learned that often children developing speech will categorize items. For JD, all fruit is "apple", as he doesn't have "fruit" in his vocabulary. The same applies to the other items.

He also calls lights, light switches, and airplanes "light." I can't think of others he uses, but I think there are a couple others.

In short, I'm just happy that he's identifying objects with words. Whether or not he pronounces things correctly (saying "lalo" or "walo" for water) is of no concern at this point. Finding out what he's thinking has made the three of us much happier.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Upon arriving home after purchasing my contact lenses, I submitted everything the rebate form called for: dated sales receipt, dated eye exam receipt, and box tops. For once, I actually photocopied the information that I sent so that they would not be able to BS me. The only thing I did not record was the date the information was mailed.

After the waiting period they said to expect, 10-12 weeks, nothing arrived. What a shock. I called the company. The person said that they didn't receive my box tops. I knew that was BS because I had photocopied them and told him so. He said, because you're a valued customer, we'll send out a check within 4 to 6 weeks. Gee, thanks. He didn't even take time to say he would talk to a supervisor.

Most people know this, but as a reminder, beware of mail-in rebates. They don't want to give you the money. You have to stay on top of them and keep all of your information so that they can't ask you anything you can't answer.

The company in question is CooperVision. I Googled "coopervision rebate" and found 2 complaints about the lack of rebate response. Just another way businesses make it necessary to put so much legislation in place.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Labor Day - A Day for Every Working Person

Labor Day weekend. What does it symbolize? It celebrates all of the working people of the United States. What is a working person?

According to politicians, working people are general laborers. They are the hourly wage earners, the underlings up through first-level managers. Why do they define them in such a way? Because they represent the largest block of voters.

Think about it from a logical standpoint. What are politicians looking for? Voters. That's how they keep their jobs – by appealing to the most voters. Do the largest bloc of voters come from presidents and CEOs of companies, big or small? No, they come from the people working for those company officers, sometimes directly underneath, as in a small business like your local hardware store, dry cleaner, or auto repair shop. Sometimes they come from far down the hierarchy, as in the Wal-Marts, the Sara Lees, the Nikes, the Goldman Sachs.

Republicans and Democrats go after different working classes. Democrats go after more urban workers. They believe that their draw is tax breaks to the lower and middle classes. They appeal to immigrants with a more lenient immigration stance. Democrats favor the union over the management of big business. Republicans go after small town and agricultural types. These people like the Republicans' pitch of values and morals, as in a more Christian way of governing, as well as the formation of a stronger military.

Who is going after high-end skilled labor? I'm talking about doctors, accountants, financiers, attorneys, salespeople, personal trainers, graphic designers, IT managers, advertising specialists and other white collar labor? These are the people who worked their education from start to finish, from high school to college and likely advanced degrees such as MBA, MS, JD, and MD.

And what about the presidents and CEOs of the small companies? The entrepreneurs who provide most of us with employment. The people who go out on a limb with their life savings, their smarts, and their guts, putting it all on the line because they think they can do it better than the other guy?

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate what the little guys do for me. Teachers, garbage collectors, custodians, construction workers, cooks, police, enlisted armed service men and women, clerks, secretaries, unskilled mechanics, receptionists, grocers, and others at the lower end of the pay scale.

They work hard, but harder than those at the same level of a company that pays higher? Just because they took their education seriously? Because they might be dirty at the end of the day?

When was the last time you: thanked your attorney for getting you out of a jam? Appreciated the accounting staff at your company for making sure that there was money in the right bank account to pay your salary? Thanked your boss for opening the business and providing you with an opportunity to earn a living? Admired the current marketing materials that have brought in extra business? Thanked the web designer for the seamless database that makes the consumer able to easily navigate the website? Thanked your IT person for making sure your email continues to work?

Simply put, everyone deserves applause. It takes every person at every level of employment to make the economy work. Respect those above and below you and you deserve the same in kind.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mini Golf

I went to the miniature golf course located outside the Diversey Driving Range. Accompanying me was a friend of mine and JD. With my membership to the park district golf association, it was $6 per adult and JD was free.

A good thing he was free, too, because he didn't play. He held the club and the ball and ran up and down the greens on each hole, occasionally stopping to 1) step into the cup, seeing if he could twist his ankle or 2) throw his ball into a water hazard.

Eventually, the course became less about trying to putt the ball into the hole and more seeing who could putt their ball to the hole without JD getting in the way. Upon completion of a hole and walking up to the next, JD would run about ten feet up the new green and then stop. Right in the middle of the putting alley, he would just stop and look at us.

Oh, he would run onto adjacent greens, especially the one occupied by the little girls. I kid you not, he found them and flirted as well as a 19-month-old can. They were charmed.

My friend was cool about the whole thing. We certainly weren't there to compete for the putt-putt championship, but rather to hang out and give him a chance to see my boy for a bit.

It actually was fun, but we could probably had just as much fun dragging his t-ball set out to a park and hitting some line drives. He's currently hitting the ball about ten to fifteen feet every other swing. Maybe I'll figure out how to put some video on this blog thing. Oh, and update pictures.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Great Moments

Today was my wife and my third anniversary. Aside from our date tonight, I brought JD downtown to her office where I gave her flowers and went out to lunch.

First of all, I prefer to arrange my own flowers. Maybe if we had tons of extra cash, I would be more open to sending flowers, but I was able to buy a dozen red roses and two dozen petite roses for the price of delivery. And I'm pretty good at arranging, if I do say so myself.

So JD and I drove downtown and brought the vase up to her floor, where I would page her to bring us inside. After paging, I gave JD one of the petite roses and hid in the adjacent hallway. My wife opened the door and crouched down. JD, rose in hand, took off toward her and then, as he got close said, "Mommy!" and stuck out his hand, offering the rose to her. I could not have staged it any better.

It's moments like that that make being a parent worth any of the hardships that kids can give us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Language Arts

It has been assessed that JD is behind in his language development. Although he uses jibberish in a banter manner, the development of his vocabulary and the spontaneous use of that vocabulary has been slow. Therefore, we have enrolled him in a preschool; one of the specialties of the school is language development.

Over the last few months, JD's vocabulary has increased dramatically. Before seventeen months, he barely said Mama and Dada. Now he uses around fifteen words spontaneously and probably has up to fifteen more words that he'll repeat. He's now nineteen months.

So what's the problem?

The problem is that he doesn't use his vocabulary to express himself. While he knows the words for milk and water, he doesn't use them when he's thirsty; instead, he'll whine and point, a skill for a 9-12 month old. He knows "all done" for being finished with his food, but will throw food from his tray or hit away any offerings for myself or his mother. While he knows the words up and down, he whines and sticks his arms out when he wants to be picked up.

He started to get better a couple of weeks ago, signing or saying "more" when he wanted more food or drink, saying "apple" when he wanted fruit, or "cookie" for cookie or cracker.

This week, he's reverted back several steps. He's being more aggressive when he's done with his food, is rejecting milk, and generally not using words and signs that had given him success.

The frustrating part is that I know what he wants, but don't want to give in too soon. But how soon is too soon? At what point does my frustration from his frustration actually lead to reversing his development? Certainly, I know that there is such thing as overdoing it. Usually, he'll get what he wants before total breakdown (his and mine.) But when it's something that I know he can do or say perfectly well, that I'm certain that he knows the answer, how do I give in?

These are some of the concerns that I will bring to his preschool teacher tomorrow morning. I'll update if I remember!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Play Kitchen Review: Little Tikes Inside Outside Cook 'N Grill Kitchen

After doing some research on play kitchens, my wife and I decided to buy the Little Tikes Inside Outside Cook 'N Grill Kitchen. The factors in the decision included price, gender favorable, and least amount of synthetic noises. We purchased it from Toys 'R Us in Chicago on Western Ave. for $129.99 plus tax.

Set up was difficult. Mainly, excessive tools and force were needed almost every step of the way. Faulty manufacturing was the problem. Holes to hang the doors did not exist and had to be drilled. Looking back at the directions, my memory was accurate for once – they specifically said not to use a drill. (I did anyway for the entire install.) The procedure had to be repeated for the cabinets, the microwave, the refrigerator, and the phone. For all of the other screws, using a screwdriver manually would have taken forever; each hole had to be opened, then had to penetrate sometimes two or three layers of hard plastic. There's no way I could have done it by myself in less than four hours. I have a Ryobi drill and set the torque to the lowest setting so that it wouldn't push the screws too deep. That and a gentle touch sped up the process.

The other difficulty we found was inserting the range knobs. Even putting soap on the ends as was recommended, it was tough.

I'm 6'5", 200 lbs. and in play hockey regularly. Some of you might also be able to overcome the difficulty, but I would use caution.

On the other hand, The price compared to other kitchens was $20-70 cheaper and, once set up, it is awesome. JD loves it.

All in all, if you are an expert toy setter-upper with an assortment of tools, this is a good buy. Perhaps others don't have the manufacturing flaws this did; maybe we got the bad box. I could have returned it, but the thought of putting it back into the box or even just into the car, burning the gas, then hauling it back into the store only to deal with the savvy, motivated personnel at Toys R Us left me motivated to make it work.

I have contacted Little Tikes to tell them the difficulty I had. I also tried to post a review on the Toys R Us website but had some trouble.

I'll try to get a picture up of JD playing with it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Roast Beef

As usual, JD was in his high chair with my wife and I flanking him right and left, respectively, at our round, black table at dinner time. JD was served a roast beef sandwich with cheese and bacon (yeah, a Kosher meal, I know) on whole wheat. My wife and I were having salads with grilled chicken and ginger soy dressing. (Trader Joe's Fat Free dressings are amazing.)

JD was happy eating sandwiches until about a week ago when he decided he could go straight for the bread and discard the internal components. So last night, he was taking the roast beef, etc., off of the sandwich in favor of the mayo-covered bread.

As the meal went on, we started joking and laughing as usual. Suddenly, JD took a piece of the discarded roast beef and threw it at my wife. It stuck to her left upper arm. As if a booger had flown onto her she said, "Get it off!"

After removing the cold cut from her arm, I knew that I had to say something to him about throwing food, but it was too funny and I had to hide my hysterics in silence. I pulled my shirt collar up over my face and turned away so JD would not see my face turning red and my snickers

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bicycle Safety

Some people drive me crazy. I've got a lot of pet peeves. A lot. I try not to bother people with too many of them. The ones that I share usually relate to safety and consideration.

Today, I'm focusing on bicycle safety. Specifically, parents and children riding their bicycles together in the city of Chicago.

For those of you who don't live here, in Chicago bicycles are to be ridden on the street, not on the sidewalk. The seemingly unwritten exception is with small children. Understandable. Even before I had kids, I could appreciate this social exception.

Here's where it goes wrong – when crossing streets, specifically, streets with traffic signals. Apparently, today's parents have forgotten basic bicycle safety. Though no bike commuter does so, basic bike safety dictates that you walk your bike across the street, not ride.

Today, I saw a young woman, probably a nanny, riding her bicycle and had two children under age ten with her; the elder was a girl on rollerblades, the younger, a boy on a bicycle. They passed me as I was walking JD down Belmont. As they were passing, a 20-something dummy was riding his bike on the sidewalk coming toward us (not only on the sidewalk, but on the wrong side of the street.) The nanny passed me, then the girl on rollerblades, then the little guy passed just as the oncoming cyclist was about to pass me, almost sending him into a parking meter. Then, at the corner of Racine and Belmont, she asked me where the nearest Whole Foods was. I told her it was on Ashland, two blocks North. She thanked me, then, when the light turned green, started riding. The kids were behind her and skated and rode across the street. I wanted to smack her.

First, if you're riding bikes with kids, ride on the sidewalks of side streets! You can avoid traffic lights and pedestrians alike! Second, aside from the oncoming cyclist being in the wrong place, she should have told the kids to stop and waited until the oncomer passed. Third, what is she doing behind the kids? What if one of them fell down? Or worse? Finally, teach them to walk their bicycles when crossing the street. Bad judgment.

Parents: help your kids learn to be good people. You see and curse people when you're out-and-about doing stupid, inconsiderate things. When you're out, especially with your kids, do the smart and safe thing. Maybe together we'll raise people who won't turn out to be jerks.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Parental Education

I'll get back to our road trip in the next day or so. For now, a quick word on parent education.

For the first time, I have picked up a book on dealing with my toddler. What to Expect: The Toddler Years (Eisenberg, A., Murkoff, H.E., Hathaway, S.E. (1994) Workman Publishing, NY.) has given me some positive insight into handling my toddler. One of my favorite things about the book is that it is realistic about different children requiring different parenting, “Every child is different, every family is different, each circumstance is different,” (120).

The book was recommended by my pediatrician's post-appointment handout. After a few situations that I realized could have been handled better, I decided that some outside research might be needed.

JD is my 18-month-old son. Only when he is heading into a dangerous situation I can't physically stop do I think it's appropriate to yell. Going in the street. Going for a sharp knife on the counter that I forgot to put away (again.) Those situations that require his immediate and uncompromising cooperation to ensure his safety.

Lately I've found myself being a bit lazy. Sometimes after dinner, my wife and I will sit and watch a little TV. If JD brings a book to us, we'll read, otherwise he often plays by himself. However, he often will want our attention and will gain it by intentionally doing something he knows is a no-no. He went up to the TV and banged on it. I found myself yelling from my chair, "JD, no!" expecting him to obediently comply without objection. Combining the time of day with the fact that he was doing it trying to play with my volume and tone made made him cry. Not out of remorse, but out of fear.

I am not afraid of JD having some fear of me. He should first and foremost know that I love him unconditionally. However, positive reinforcement should come before negative scolding. I do believe that he should be afraid of disobeying me. Not fear of losing my love and certainly not fear of corporal punishment. He should understand that my word is God's word. A friend of mine and I concluded that a good Dad is a little intimidating.

With that, there were several things I did wrong. First, I did not get up and attend to the situation. “Correction is much more effective when it takes place face to face. So rather than call from the other side of the room . . . walk up to your child, look him or her squarely in the eye, and say your piece. Let your body language, tone of voice, and expression make it clear that you mean business,” (123). Second, there was no alternative given, no redirection. If I had gotten up and met him face to face, I could have said, “JD, don't touch the TV – you could break it. Why don't we go read a book?” or, “Why don't we sit down, watch the White Sox, and drink some milk?" This way, he gets his attention and his Mom and I get a some quiet time to relax. “Follow through is crucial. . . If your actions don't speak at least as loud as your words, your admonitions will lose their impact,” (122). Finally, I made him feel like he was being bad. But for me to yell, "JD, NO! Don't touch the TV!" was absolutely the wrong way to handle it.

As I grow up with my child, I will learn effective and ineffective ways to discipline JD. Some things that work now may not work next week or even tomorrow. The most important things include ensuring that laziness has no part of discipline, instilling fear can lead to feelings of loss of love, and constantly update your skills.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Road Trip! (Part 2)

Here we were in the car. Mom riding shotgun, JD riding pistol. 9pm. The CD player was loaded with the audiobook, Fight Club. I was excited.

The tripometer on the dashboard read 0.0. I pulled onto Ashland and away we went. West on Armitage, south to the Kennedy (I-90/94 East,) to the Skyway (I-90 East toll bridge,) to I-80/90 through Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania where I-90 split off from I-80, to New York to I-890 spur to Schenectady.

I have an I-Pass, a little windshield-mounted transponder that pays tolls automatically. There were at least two tolls per state. My I-Pass did not work at the first toll, the Skyway. I pull up to the gate, expecting it to open. Nothing. I honk my horn several times, as a few cars are pulling up behind me. They started honking. I was “that guy,” the a-hole who was in the wrong lane. Except it wasn't my fault! An employee approached me and asked for $3. Fine. I figure it was a fluke. Then the first toll in Indiana, same thing. Yikes. There was an 800 number on the transmitter. Turns out, the credit card used to establish the account had expired; we use the tollway so infrequently that it took over two years to go through the initial deposit of $40. Great timing. The clerk on the phone updated all of my information and said that it would take about an hour for it to start working again. The next toll was on the other side of Indiana, over an hour later. Did it work? Of course not! Nor in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New York. I had to pay for all of the tolls up front. Fortunately, I had plenty of cash. We did find out on the ride home that stopping for all of the tolls cost us about 30 minutes.

JD fell asleep around 10:30pm and I listened to Fight Club. I'm a big fan of the movie and found the differences to be very interesting. The screenplay was definitely written for Brad Pitt, as the character was slightly different and darker in the book.

Staci had our laptop and several DVDs. The headphones she used were earbuds. Unfortunately, earbuds do not muffle background noise. We had a hard time coming up with reasonable levels for me to listen to my audiobook so that she could hear her movie. Next trip I'm buying her good headphones.

Finally, something that I ate along the way began to disagree with my bowels. Perhaps it was my buscuits and gravy from the diner in rural New York. Or it was the seven bottles of Coke that I drank. In any event, I had to stop a few times to avoid major disater. Sometimes I think that diapers would be a good thing to wear on a road trip to avoid unnecessary stops. No diaper would have contained these bombs. Yikes.

We were happily received at my cousin's house. More on that next time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Road Trip! (Part 1)

Going on a road trip with a toddler can be tolerable if several steps are taken to ensure the best possible outcome.
First, you must have your head examined. I would recommend a psychiatrist as well as a brain surgeon. The former will help evaluate your tolerance for sleep depravation, ability to overcome annoyances, ability to overcome mind-numbing screaming, and your sanity for considering this adventure. The brain surgeon will check to make sure that you do not have a tumor pressing some lobe that is causing you to feel that this is as good an idea as going to the local ice cream parlor.
I cleared both tests.
Next, have a good group. In addition to my wife and my son, we were also going to be with my brother and his girlfriend. We would rent a minivan and share driving responsibilities as well as the financial burden of $4.25 per gallon fuel prices. The plan included leaving at 8pm on Thursday night so that the child would sleep through as much of the trip as possible.
Schenectady, NY was the destination. The purpose: my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniaversary surprise party. According to Google Maps, the trip would be approximately 810 miles.
The only thing that did not go according to plan was my brother and his girlfriend joining us. This created a couple of problems. First, I would have to do all of the driving, as my wife did not pass the psychiatrist's evaluation. (11-14 hour workdays for the last 5 months will get a person teetering on the point of insanity and certainly at the brink of severe irritability.) Second, we would have to bear the $350 total fuel estimate. Finally, there would be nobody to entertain JD if he were to awaken.
The proper preparations for the trip were made. Car inspected and given the proper maintenance and cleaning. Snacks purchased. Plenty of caffeinated beverages. Bags packed. Coolers clean and ice available. Lots of diapers. Cash. Checkbook. Credit cards. I was on my game.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happiness Is Watching a Toddler Run

It's the head bobbing back and forth. Or is it the hands waving uncontrollably? Or is it the heavy steps? Or is it the smile? Or is it the drool? Or is it the wonder in his eyes? Or is it the intent on his face?
There really is something incredibly special and fun about watching a toddler run. Do it sometime. Just watch him or her run around. JD goes from room to room, chasing me or my wife, running away from me playing monster, or going to the door when the doorbell rings.
Sometimes he'll run down the hallway and stop before reaching the living room and peek around the corner to see what's there.
Sometimes he'll run into the room, smile and screech, turn around and run the other way.
Sometimes he'll run full force into my crotch, forehead and fists first.
He trips, falls, and gets back up. A great adventure is finding a ramp that he can run up, turn around, then run back down, repeat. Over and over.
I'm even writing a song about it. Seriously.
If you get the chance, go to a park and watch the toddlers run around. They'll run, then stop and look around, then run some more.
You'll wish you could have the same sense of wonder, curiosity, and anxiousness to figure it all out.

Friday, June 6, 2008

If you're buying new windows...

Whatever you do, don't buy Pella windows. I have two reasons why you shouldn't. First, a friend in the business. Second, personal experience.

I did not buy Pella windows. They came with the house that we bought last November. The problem that I'm having is two-fold and deals with a sliding glass patio door with a retractable screen. First, water leaks through the frame of the door. Second, the retractable screen is missing the part that hold the screen so that it can be pulled out.

A friend of mine works for his family business, Savocchi Glass, Window & Door Company. He says that servicing Pella windows and products is difficult.

It seems as though the manufacturer makes it difficult because they have their own service people. Therefore, they probably make the products so that they do not take universal parts. They also probably make it difficult to obtain repair procedure manuals. These assumptions are made based on my experience in the auto repair business, where car manufacturers make it difficult to get repair procedures, though they do sell parts over-the-counter.

The second reason for my warning against Pella products is that the service is difficult to come by and the manufacturer is disorganized. My experience, though not complete has been the following. I called to get an appointment and the soonest was approximately three weeks out. They asked me to send pictures of the product in question so that they could send the appropriate parts with the technician. When the technician arrived, he found that one of the parts needed to repair the problem was not properly packaged with the set. He said that such was not uncommon. He also asked if he could leave the correct parts in our garage, as he said that it would be likely the box would come up missing in the time it would take to order the misboxed part. Such statements do not give me the feeling that such a company would be worth doing business with.

They seem to be the type of company who is good at getting their product name out and onto store shelves, but are bad at servicing their products. If I were buying new windows and did not already have a connection, I would definitely read reviews and talk to several independent window installers to get an idea of which products are good to purchase, install, maintain, and repair. As much as we do not like to think about it, all things break and will need to be serviced. You want to have a product that is serviceable.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The End of Happiness: Hello Terrible 2s

Ok, so that's much more dramatic than it needs to be. We are still a very happy family. So what has changed? What's going on that would allow such a title to a blog entry to exist?

JD tries to get through openings between furniture that don't exist. He throws a tantrum. JD wants to go outside but is redirected. Tantrum. JD wants to run from the sidewalk into the street but is blocked off or redirected. Tantrum. My wife or I try to put him into his high chair for dinner. Tantrum. He is stopped from going through the garbage can. Hitting the TV with a hockey stick. Running from the garage into the alley behind. Prevention causes tantrum.

And that's what's happening. He is easily rattled. It is frustrating for both of us.

Obviously, the reality is that we are at a communication impass at a time when the world is exposing itself and it's possibilities. He wants to play with every toy, to climb every staircase, to run full speed down every ramp, to join in three-on-three basketball games, so cross the street unassissted, and the list goes on. All of these things that are hazards and I don't know how to explain that to him.

Also, he has began to refuse all of the foods that he loved for so long. Egg sandwiches, pears, cereal and others have gone from being immediately consumed to immediately thrown to the floor.

There are certainly other factors. The weather here in Chicago has been less cooperative than usual, preventing us from being outside the house as much as we'd like. JD's also has some illness over the last couple of weeks that have prevented us from taking advantage of some of the few weather days. Those illnesses have also prevented us from participating in playgroups and Gymboree. JD is certainly craving some playtime with other kids. I know that I get stir-crazy when I don't get a night out with the guys or even just to play some hockey. It must certainly be the same for JD.

All of this is probably pointing to something that I am lacking as a parent: good planning skills. Not only planning for the next day or the next week, but planning for unforseen times. For instance, having a plan for a rainy day. Having a plan for alternate meals. I lack diversity in the activities that we do during the day. With JD sleeping so much (yeah, woa is me) we really have about two-and-a-half to three hours of play time. And that's if I don't have shopping to do. Otherwise we're eating or preparing dinner. Want to shower? There's thirty minutes.

But if I learned to plan better, and stuck to those plans, we would probably be more productive.

I'll try that and let you know how it's going.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Favorite Foods

I sometimes feel like I'm serving JD the same foods over and over. It's easy to get stuck in a rut.

I'm hoping that by posting some of JD's favorites, some of you will respond with some of your kids' favorites. I hope they enjoy them as much as he does.

Grilled Sandwiches
JD loves grilled sandwiches. I always serve them open-faced.

For breakfast, I make egg and cheese sandwiches.
-Start with a small frying pan, non-stick spray, one egg, one piece of bread, one piece of cheese.
-pre-heat the pan on medium heat. when it starts getting warm, use a bit of non-stick spray
-crack the egg into a bowl and scramble
-pour the egg into the pan and immediately put the bread on top. Allowing it to soak in helps it stay together when it's being eaten.
-turn the heat down to medium-low. On my stove, there are numbers 1-10. I preheat at 5 and cook at 3.
-when the egg is cooked, use a spatula to turn. Put the cheese on top. You can turn it down a little bit or not. Turning it down will allow the cheese to melt while reducing the chance of burning the bread. You can even set a timer for about three minutes. I use that time to cut fruit, pour milk, put a few dishes into or out of the dishwasher, or find JD halfway up the stairs to the second floor.
-when the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, put it on to a cutting board. Allow it to cool for 1-2 minutes. This will help prevent the cheese from melting back together as soon as it's cut.

You can use this recipe with tuna, chicken, or egg salad sandwiches for lunch or dinner. The difference there is to put the salad mix on the bread off to the side while the pan is preheating. Then put it in the pan with the bread down and cheese on top. Keep it on heat level 3 (med-low) and cover for 4-5 minutes. No flipping needed.

For fruit, JD loves bananas and grapes. He tolerates apples and pears. He likes strawberries, though they're only just coming into season. Rasperries are $5 per 8 oz container. That's about as much as 8 oz. of choice tenderloin from Costco. No way. Blueberries are also out of season but a favorite. Melon is good, but they're big and bulky. It's almost impossible for our family of three to go through one before it goes bad. Pineapple is too much work.

JD doesn't like vegetables! I'm not sure what to do about that. I offer them to him, or just put them on his tray. Force-feeding will not begin until he's at least two. Just kidding. Maybe three. Any ideas? Corn, peas, and carrots occasionally get a taste. He pushes broccoli and asparagus away immediately.

Let me know if you have ideas!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hang This

My wife's clothes are a pain to clean. That's just the reality. It sucks doing her laundry. You know why? Because I hate hanging wet clothes. That's it. That's my big reason. It's not even the time factor. I can deal with the fact that it takes an extra five to ten minutes out of my day to hang them rather than just throwing them into the dryer. It's that I'm having to touch wet clothes.

Not just touch them, but shake out the wrinkles, then turn them right-side-out, then put them on a hanger. It's a lot of wet-clothes-touching.

When was the last time that you had to deal with wet clothes? You didn't like it, did you?

First, they're wet. Second, they're inside-out. Did you know that clothes wash better inside-out? I didn't. But now I do. I'm a label reader. I've even read parts of some book I bought my wife from In Style magazine, something about being a stylish woman. Anyway, one part says that clothes wash better inside-out. So now I'm turning both of our clothes inside-out. But you know what you have to do to hang them up? Turn them back again! Otherwise, you're hanging wet clothes, then drying them, then taking them off the hanger and turning them right-side-out. I'm certainly not going to waste that kind of time just because I've got some silly issue with wet clothes.

So now I've got this whole system down on how I hang shirts and pants on hangers, then hang them on door frames. I space the clothes evenly so that air can surround them to dry efficiently.
For a while I got all hang-clothes crazy. Everything had to be hung. I was this close to putting her thongs on hangers to dry. I was re-designing my laundry room in my head; visions of efficient clothes-lines running across the ceiling; front-load washer and dryer with a custom-built folding table over top of them; a steamer! What joy! It even crossed my mind to get rid of the dryer. Who cares? Saves me on my gas bill. Eco friendly! Plus, gas dryers are expensive!

But wait! It turns out that my clothes respond better to the dryer. That's right. While a moment of drying any of her shirts or pants (pajamas notwithstanding,) my clothes not only don't shrink, but they feel perfect. I tried hanging things up - polos, t-shirts, jeans. Actually, t-shirts are fine. But, my polos come out wrinkled and feel like rough cardboard. Jeans don't feel all nice and snug. It's a conspiracy.

Occasionally, one of her items accidentally makes it into the dryer. I try to hang it up and hope that she doesn't notice. A few days go by and I start feeling safe. That is, until I wake up to groans of anger at 5:45am. She's found that the exact top that would go with the pants that fit her properly on that particular morning has somehow shrunk. Then I'm briefly annoyed that she woke me up over this trivial fact. Then I realize that she's already up at 5:45am and probably not thinking 100% rationally. She's not the one who gets to go back to sleep. Then I feel guilty for getting annoyed with her and probably saying something smart. Then I feel guilty for ruining her top. Then I get pissed at the $50-100 I'm going to have to spend to replace the thing. (I won't mention that she's got three other tops almost exactly like it. Logic has no place in this arena.) I'm certainly not fool enough to put her jeans in the dryer. That would cost me two months of golfing. F*&^ that.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Home Improvement

Since becoming an at-home Dad, I have taken it upon myself to save money by doing things around the house for which I would have previously hired a professional. I am now considering several home improvement projects. The first was installing new toilets.

Improving one's home by one's self should be carefully measured. From my days as the service manager at my family's garage, one concept stands out: it is one thing to change a part, it is another to diagnose a problem and then repair to solve that problem.

For example, changing brake pads is not all that complicated. Basically, you take off the tire, remove the caliper, take off the old pads, put brake grease on the back of the new pads, put the new pads into the caliper, reinstall the calipers, put the tires back. But how would you know if one or more caliper was bad? Or if you change the rotors because you're getting brake pulsation, do you change the front or the rear? Are you sure that it's not the hub and bearing?

The same can be said for home improvement projects. I had one problem with each of two toilets. On the main floor, the toilet did not flush well and would back up frequently. Upstairs, the fill water in the tank would not shut off.

Taking the toilet's information to the Kohler dealer, I found out that the new part to repair the upstairs toilet was $20, but that that toilet was old and inefficient. Of course, they recommended a new toilet as the water savings would be significant. After talking this over with my wife, I decided to replace both toilets. My Uncle would help me install them, as he was a contractor in his previous life.

Upon purchasing the toilets and spending about twice as much as I thought I would have to, my Uncle and I set to installing them. The reality is that he did most of the work. We did find out a few things. First, the people who installed the tile in the main floor bathroom did an awful job. One of the screws holding the toilet to the floor was not anchored to anything; the tile probably broke while the hole was being cut for the plumbing. We fortunately avoided any major problems. The second issue was that the main floor toilet was a 1.6 Gallon per Flush toilet, not a 3.5 gpf like the upstairs toilet. I had assumed it was the same as the upstairs one, which had prompted me to purchase rather than repair.

The installation upstairs was easier. The only issue there was a space constraint. There was a small gap between the glass shower door that swings out and the old toilet. According to the specs, the new toilet should have fit, even though it was elongated, not round like the old one. It didn't. We were able to turn it a bit so that the door swung freely. Crisis avoided.

Then we flushed the toilets. They don't seem to be any better than the old ones. I will see if time or adjustment takes care of that. The toilets have yet to be challenged, as the work was completed earlier this afternoon.

When we were done and my Uncle left, I realized that I probably should have gotten some professional advice before doing this. I should have asked for my Uncle's advice or I could have paid a professional plumber to come over and diagnose the problems. There may have been something cheap that could have been done with the main toilet's backup problem and that could have saved the time of replacing possibly a perfectly good toilet.

The point is, if I was just doing this for cosmetic or ecological reasons and all of the mechanicals seemed to be running perfectly well, this would have been a good opportunity for my Uncle to teach me about plumbing. In the future, though, if I'm having a problem, I'll hire someone to diagnose. Then I can decide if the repairs are something I want to undertake or if I'll save money or come out even hiring a pro. After all, a pro will guarantee his own work. If you screw up, the pro has to fix your mistakes while doing the job right.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

2 Minutes in the Box

It's a real shame that so many people fail to see the beauty of the game of hockey. Everyone loves football and it's contact, basketball is fun in the 4th quarter (or late 2nd half in college), and baseball has its fine skills and statistics. Hockey has all of that and more.
It's faster than full speed because it's on ice. The action is non-stop. Athleticism abounds at every position. Any player can be a hero on any given day and at any position. I believe that HD helps hockey on TV, but that it is best seen live.
There's no doubt that it's the most fun sport to play. Ice or floor hockey or even air hockey are all favorites.
JD has yet to appreciate the playing aspects of the game, but he'll watch on TV. Since he was a baby, he's been captivated by hockey on TV. Certainly, it had to do with the motion and colors, but he will still sit and watch a few minutes with me, focused on the play.
Trying to play hockey with him is hazardous. JD's just recently grasped the idea of hitting a ball with the stick. There's still such to learn about holding the stick, hitting the ball to a desired target, and general stick control. I've been hit in the toes more times than I care to remember. When he carries the stick, the blade is at belly height or above. Pretty soon, it's going to be 2 minutes in the box for him.
Maybe that will be part of his discipline; instead of a “time out,” he'll go to the penalty box. I suppose I'll have to designate an appropriate space in the house. Maybe the furnace room. Send him to the basement in a dark, cramped, scary space where he can sit for a couple of minutes to cool off. But is there enough public humiliation there? Part of being in the penalty box is that you are by yourself, feeling shame, and under the view of your teammates, the opposition, and the spectators. A bit like wearing the dunce cap? Maybe, but as a society, don't we make public humiliation part of punishments?
If you are arrested in a suburb, you are put into the police blotter. Celebrities? All over the news, their picture and accusations are front and center. So why are we so obsessed about not humiliating the little ones?
Some of them like the attention. I've heard a saying of Hollywood celebrities that goes something like, I don't care what you write about me as long as you spell my name right. So by making a public spectacle of the wrongdoing child, you are making a spectacle of him or her and giving them unneeded attention or the attention for which they're striving.
Back to hockey, I have to tell you that I love contact. It's really a lot of fun laying a nice hit on the opposition. In my last league game, I was trying to prevent a player from getting a loose puck along the boards. My goal was to get between him and the puck, but I ended up putting my shoulder into him and crushing him against the boards. That was worth 4 minutes in the box. Sometimes being bad does feel good. Just don't tell JD.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Please Don't Leave Me Here!

What exactly is separation anxiety? I've been thinking about a couple of different possibilities.

Does JD fear that I will not return?

Is he scared of the situation he's in and needs my presence to have confidence?

Does JD love me so much that the thought of my leaving his side for even an hour scares him to tears?

Today, I took him to East Bank so that I could get a workout. The last couple of times that I brought him in, he cried the entire time and sat in a chair. But that was about four months ago, before he could walk.

At East Bank's daycare facility there are two areas. There is an infant area that is a room no bigger than 8x10. It has soft light, some swings, a rocker, and some jumpers as well as the regular run of toys. The toddler and older area is a much larger space. Different activities occupy the children's attention. They do art projects such as stamps and work with playdough. There is a TV with some sort of children's movie or PBS cartoon. on pretty much at all times. There are books and a train table. The children are not lacking.

We've been bringing him to East Bank since he was three or four months old. In selling our house, we didn't take him there for four or five months. Then when I brought him back, he couldn't stand it.

Now that JD can walk and be in the kids' area, I thought that he'd be happier. He started crying the second we stepped inside the daycare area. I stayed with him for about five minutes. There were a few boys playing by the train table. He joined them and seemed fine. I slowly got up and out of the room without being seen. Everything was groovy.

After changing, I peeked into the room. Though I couldn't hear him, he was obviously crying and being held by one of the caregivers. It didn't appear to be a complete meltdown, or he was getting over it, and so I went for a run.

Ten minutes later, my pager provided by the daycare started buzzing. I knew my workout was over. I went and hung out with him in the daycare until he calmed down, probably for twenty minutes. He would calm down and start having fun and forget about me for a minute, then he'd turn and start looking for me and start crying, even when he located me. I finally ran up to the locker room, changed, and came back to his bawling.

The reality is that I'm just going to have to keep bringing him back until he's confident enough for me to be gone. Will he know that I'm coming back or will he know that he's going to have fun while he's there?

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

NCAA Tournament

I think they should just have the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. Maybe the first two weeks.

For most of us, those are the only exciting times. There are games going on all the time. The promise of the picks you've made on your bracket (or brackets). Buzzer-beaters, Cinderellas, choke-artists, and overnight heroes.

As the second and third weekends come and go, though, the excitement has died down.

Yeah, yeah, if your school is in it or your brackets are lucky enough, it stays exciting. Perhaps you've taken an interest in the year's Cinderella story.

My wife was in love with Stephen Curry from Davidson. She loves the idea of smart kids excelling in sports.

The University of Arizona is my alma mater. They have been disappointing for a couple of seasons in a row. The only solace I could take was that their Tournament loss was to West Virginia who went pretty far.

But when the Final Four came up, I really could have cared less. Memphis was an interesting story, but they were a disappointment in the National Championship game. There was the fact that all four No. 1 seeds were in the Final Four. North Carolina did not make the Championship game.

And yet with all of that hoopla, I only watched because there was nothing else on TV.

But now, there's the NHL playoffs...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

15 months

Here I am, back from my writing hiatus. No, I was not part of the writer's strike. No, nothing tragic has happened. Simply put, I was not in a writing phase.

Here I am, ready to spill my guts once again.

JD is now 15 months old. He is walking full speed and only falls once or twice a day. The main culprits are obstacles like blocks, a chair legs, and my feet. (I can't help it - size 14. My wife doesn't complain, right Honeys?)

We have been battling diaper rash, stomach flu, and increased food distastes.

JD has a rash that began in Florida. A nice trip to Miami to visit Great Grandma, just a couple of days after a random late March blizzard. It was in the 70s and 80s the whole time. The first night, though, he had a hard time sleeping and was thrashing around and rubbing his butt. We found his butt to be red like a stop light. No amount of regular diaper rash ointment helped. The second night we finally gave up at 3am and drove up to Palm Beach and back so he could sleep, ending up at a diner for a 6:30am breakfast. That was Monday morning and we were finally able to call our home pediatrician to ask for help. We enjoyed the rest of the trip (and slept) but are still battling the rash.

The doctor believes he is getting over a stomach flu. Last Friday, he randomly threw up just before dinner. After waiting a bit, we gave him some more food that was promptly given back. The vomiting subsided, but diarrhea took over and is just beginning to fade. Can I tell you what a joy it is to change a diarrhea diaper on a squirming toddler whose butt, coincidentally, itches so badly that as soon as the diaper comes off, he tries to scratch his ass? Except that his ass is covered in the smelliest, yellow liquidy substance you've ever almost vomited over? Then he thrashes and rubs his hands through his hair. It is one of life's great pleasures. Plenty of pedialyte (acutally, the generic version at Osco. Can't beat 2 for $5.00.)

Food-wise, JD rarely eats vegetables of any kind. The occasional carrot or piece of corn. Gone are the days of broccoli and peas being gobbled up as happily as a nice piece of fish. Oh yeah, no fish, either. He prefers bread and anything breaded. His favorites: Tyson's breaded chicken tenders (3 lb. bag from Costco; they are awesome), and egg sandwiches with cheese on whole wheat. He loves fruit; especially strawberries, grapes, canteloupe, and bananas.

His communication skills improve everyday, as are my parenting skills. I am getting better at talking to him constantly. I've been told over and over to talk to him, but that was driven home by a website whose content mimics the information provided to pediatric therapists regarding children's milestones by age. It helped by saying specifically to constantly talk about whatever the child is doing at any given moment. That helps, because it's easier to describe and ask about what he's doing, rather than trying to talk about what's on my mind. He also accepts several verbal commands.

One example of his understanding verbal commands was with his stuffed animals. This morning at the pediatrician's office, he expressed anxiety upon entering the exam room. I took out his stuffed pig and told him, "Hug piggy." JD grabbed it and gave it a big hug. It was really sweet and really cute. He did the same at naptime to his teddy bear in his crib.

And these are the things that are happening with JD. More to come from me, as I strive to make my way as a man in a woman's world. Gymboree, public parks, and grocery shopping, oh my! Also, March Madness, NHL Playoffs, and Johnny's Ice House Playoffs, and the White Sox.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What I could have done...

The subject matter of a couple of new shows have hit home for my family. The shows are Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle. The subject matter I'm focusing on are women in power who have husbands who take care of the home.

The question that the guys are asking on the shows is, What could I be doing if I wasn't . . . ?

And it's the most difficult question that I, as a stay-at-home Dad, ask myself.

One of my earliest entries talked about how, upon telling guys that I was going to be an at-home Dad when JD was born, their responses included, "Lucky!" and, "How'd you swing that?"

Now, it certainly is not brain surgery. The going rate for a daytime caregiver, I believe, is around $20 - 25k per year. Not exactly big time money. It's cooking and cleaning, educating and entertaining. Again, not coordinating major business deals.

I love my son. I love my wife. I love my job.

But if I wasn't doing this, what would I be doing? Maybe I would hate my job, my boss, my life. I would feel an immense amount of pressure to continue working because we would have grown accustomed to our combined income. Perhaps I could do something worthwhile, like actively and successfully pursue a writing career. Or I could have been a great closer. Who knows? Who cares?

Now I have to be a great parent. I have the opportunity to shape a human being, to direct his abilities and dreams toward his version of success. We go swimming. He's just learning to hit a ball with his shinny stick (small hockey stick). He will play with and page through books by himself. When he's older, we'll do art projects and write stories together. We'll spend summer days playing baseball and basketball, winter days on the ice. I'll teach him to respect the kitchen and his elders. We'll battle over bedtime, naptime, and vegetables. We'll battle over video games, homework, and cell phone usage.

Those are the things that light a fire under my butt. There are days when I don't put my full 100% into making the most out of our day, then there are days when I try to make our minutes valuable by incorporating something educational, just to have him be cranky and only want to play without direction. Then there was the day last week when he walked all the way from the living room into the kitchen for the first time. When he wakes up, he babbles, "Dadadada . . ."

When I see all of these things, the good and the bad, I know that there is nothing more important that I could accomplish.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Will you smell him?

There was a time when the scent of JD's diapers could have been classified as "sweet". Such is no longer the case.

Six months old. I would say that is when his diapers started to stink. Said stink corresponded to his beginning solid foods. The fact that these foods were pureed made no difference. Hey, what do you think your poop would smell like if you drank V8 and apple juice all day, every day?

The nine month change was his beginning table foods. Mac 'n' cheese, bread, potatoes, soups, and anything I ate that wasn't hot and spicy or a no-no food (eggs, peanut butter, among others) were ready for consumption. JD slowly got used to the idea of eating everything that I ate. His poop became more regular with greater consistency. I don't mean that the regularity was consistent, I mean the quality of the poop was more adult-like. As was the smell.

At twelve months, his diet went almost completely adult. Again, consider a diet of milk, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, and a few odds and ends but all on the healthy side. You'd be on the pot at the same time every day.

Starting last week, though, there was a problem with his diapers. The problem was in the consistency category. Soup comes to mind. Pea soup. But without that veggie-and-bacon smell. Think more like spoiled milk and rancid meat blended with rotting vegetables. Now you're with me. Not pleasant.

If you think you've fought and bargained with your spouse over diaper changing duties, these were epic battles. The old trick where I smell the poop, then send him to Mommy to play and then she smells it and says, "Did he poop?" followed by my denial of smelling anything when he was with me doesn't work anymore. Our greatest efforts in debate, logic, and guilting have been put in full force.

It not only stinks, but is messy. Sometimes it leaks onto the bodysuit. That needs to be changed. And he doesn't feel well, so he's not content to just lie there and wait patiently for you to clean up his mess. No, he is in distress and lets you know about it.

I will be happy when I get to change my one log per day. It may stink, but it's an easy cleanup and it flushes nicely, too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Academic Realities Part 2: Preschool

There are businesses that dedicate their services to minding and teaching youngsters. As we are not yet ready for elementary school yet want a degree of academia, parents look to preschool.

These places mix play, social development, and academics. That is where their similarities end. There are faith based, secular, public, private, and cooperative. There are play based, Montessori, and Waldorf. Some are part-time, some full-time. Some cost as much as $9,000 per year, while others run about $3,000 per year. Some have waiting lists for everyone, some are first-come, first served, while others favor legacy. Some require interviews with the family, and others also want to interview the child. Some require the child to be potty trained, while others will change diapers.

Research into my options has just begun. One website came back with 833 options, thirty of which are within one mile of our house. Half of those are Catholic (we are Jewish). I will probably expand the range to two miles, which means about thirty possibilities. Some friends have experience and can lend a hand. At the very least, they can tell us about their preschool. They may have heard horror stories about others. It is easier to take things off the list. If there isn't a horror story, then it's got a chance.

We hope to begin some level of preschool at about eighteen months. (That's one-and-a-half for you non-parents out there.) Therefore, we have six months to be enrolled, which really means about a month or so to visit, apply, and go through the other hoops. Did I mention some schools have application fees as much as $300? Yikes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Academic Realities Part 1: Home School

There are two realities I've come face-to-face with in the last couple of weeks. First, that teaching your child takes work and planning. Second, that enrolling your child in preschool takes work and planning.

I'm beginning to think that JD has been exposed to all of the wrong stimuli. That's my own assessment of his current learning ability. He is not learning at the rate my wife and I were hoping. He has no real words and calls neither my wife nor I Mommy or Daddy, respectively. At least, he does not call it to our faces. He says both, but he's never looked at me and said, "Dada!" Forget about any other words.

I am going to have to change the way I do everything. And it does not help that my personality swings toward the introverted side. Speaking directly to JD takes tremendous effort on my part.

There are plenty of things that he does well. Crawling, walking, kicking and throwing a ball, climbing stairs, and opening cupboards and cabinets are all things he is at the amateur or professional level for his age. Socializing? A regular butterfly.

I realize, though, that I have not deliberately worked on colors, numbers, shapes, or other basic academic skills. I kind of thought that such things came naturally. I do not know if they do for some kids, but these are not subjects JD has tackled.

I take that back. It is not necessarily that he cannot, but that he will not. He has no patience for learning. Everything is doing. Now. Right now. He wants freedom to explore. JD has a passion for playing. He is the easiest baby to care for as long as you can dedicate 100% of your attention to his play. He plays ball, piano (so to speak), and with most of his other toys. And did I mention his ability to destroy? Better than a wrecking ball.

I have decided to take a more active role in teaching him the basics. With index cards and markers, I will make alphabet flash cards. He will be taught numbers and colors. Shapes and animals will also be part of the curriculum. There will be some structure and some planning involved. All the parents reading this are saying to the computer screen, Good luck with that. Good luck, indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How Quickly Things Change

I don't think it was due to my last entry, but a couple of my friends have quickly come around. One friend came over yesterday, the other called to make plans.

The first called Monday to see if I was available on Wednesday; he had a day off and wanted to spend it with me and JD. I was surprised but happy. JD and I picked him up and we played with JD for about 90 minutes, including lunch. Then JD went down for his nap and my friend and I played XBox 360 for the duration of his nap. We played a little bit more with JD before driving my friend home.

It was a lot of fun. He was really good with JD. JD took to him very quickly and gave him several big hugs. It was everything I'd been asking for.

On top of that, another friend of the same class called to see if we could all get together next weekend for a boys night out. I swear, feast or famine! Maybe my rant was the voice of our collective need to see each other.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Filling the Friendship Void

One of the things that I've noticed since becoming an at-home Dad is the absence of my friends.

I have four friends whom I've known for years. Three I've been friends with since Junior High, the fourth since high school. Before getting married, I would see some combination of them at least a couple of times per week.

Since having JD, they've been almost absent.

Three of them don't have cars. All four live two miles or less from me. And yet I rarely see them. One I see about once a week because we play on a men's league hockey team. If it wasn't for that, I don't know how often I would see him. It's come down to this: they've become drinking buddies.

I don't want to blame them entirely. Two of them have made a greater effort than the other two. One's work schedule runs late as he works roughly from noon till eight. Of course, that is bad timing for my lifestyle. The other has a serious girlfriend and works long hours. I certainly know what that's like. The others, like I said, I see on drinking occasions.

It's kind of like the stereotype about football players not going to hospitals to visit an injured teammate. They don't want a jinx. Our guy friends don't want a wife and kids just yet and maybe by staying away, they won't fall into the trap.

They're out living their lives. Their day-to-day doesn't involve changing diapers. I have to go out and make friends that share my lifestyle. They've made friends who are closer to their lifestyle.

Fortunately, I have found some new friends.

I consider the women in the playgroup I joined almost nine months ago my friends. They are a terrific group. So welcoming, I never felt like an outsider. After coming a couple of times, they have included me in their occasional social outings with and without our families. I don't talk to any of them outside of the playgroup.

The person I have become close with is the husband of a friend of my wife. Their son is about three months younger than JD. Basically, we're going through the same things. He and I have become good friends. I would say it was partially out of necessity. He's going through the same thing that I'm going through with my friends. We have a lot in common, from golf to hockey, he's from Michigan and I've spent a lot of time in Michigan. He's short and I'm tall. Oh, yeah, we both like to drink.

We talk almost every day now. It's about sports and diapers, baby food and finances. We're guys who have similar interests and are in a similar place in life. I'd have to say that I'm pretty lucky to have made such a friend.

I can't say that it doesn't hurt that my "old friends" rarely come around. They haven't taken an active interest in my life. I rarely get calls asking how JD is doing or about the funny thing that happened last weekend.

When I'm with the playgroup, they're a lot of fun. Their kids are great and we have a generally similar sense of child rearing and conversation.

When I'm with my new buddy, we have laugh-out-loud fun and have lots to talk about. It's like a new relationship - everything is new and it's easy to create new memories. We have a great excuse to get together and are happy to do so because we've found a friend. And it fills a void that was left in going into this amazing part of my life.