Friday, February 27, 2009

Major Accomplishment

As we travel through life what we might consider a major accomplishment changes quite dramatically. As a child you probably get excited about an "A" on your spelling test. As you get a bit older your proudest accomplishment might be that home run you hit in little league. As a high-schooler you would be proud to make the honor roll or get a college scholarship. After high school the accomplishments get a bit less ambitious for some of us. I have to admit that drinking a whole case of beer without getting sick or passing out was considered among the greatest accomplishments a man could achieve during my college years. Another less than stellar goal could be to eat the old 96er like John Candy did on The Great Outdoors.

When you get married these things change, and when you have children they change even more. Last night our family accomplished something wonderful. Braden, who has been sleeping in his swing for a couple months, actually slept in his crib from 1 to 6 this morning. Normally he is asleep earlier than that, but I am still ecstatic. What makes me even happier is that he fell asleep on his own. I tried 3 or 4 times to put him to sleep then lay him in the crib. Every time he would wake up. Eventually it was time to feed him again because he was still awake. After feeding him I gently placed him in the crib again, and I saw the dreaded open eye stare looking back at me. At this point I was ready to try something else. I set up what I will call a children's projector to occupy Braden. This thing, which is actually called the Fisher Price Musical Projector Soother, projects images onto the ceiling above Braden's bed for him to watch. It also plays music in your choice of classical, lullabies, or nature sounds. I went with the classical and set the projector for 15 minutes.

It was my mission to fall asleep before the thing went off, and hopefully I could sleep through Braden's grunting and squirming after that. To be honest I only turned the music on to help drown out those same sounds. Then something magical happened. There were no more sounds emanating from the crib. Was Braden alive? I had to check and to my surprise I found that he was asleep. As far as I can remember this is the first time he has ever fallen asleep without an assist from Mom or Dad. I think the classical music did the trick because I found myself going into a sleepy trance listening to it as well. I don't know what classical melodies were part of the play list, but they seemed to work on Braden. I once took fine arts musical in college but it didn't stick. I can sing you every song Hank Williams ever wrote but classical music is lost on me. The only thing I remember from the class is we once discussed "Hotel California". It is a classic for sure but not classical. Nonetheless Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, or some other virtuoso helped us with this great achievement.

Now we are a little bit closer to reaching that final step in the Quest for Sleep. The step that I once called on this site "You're on your own." Now our goal as a family is much the same as an invading force. We must push ahead so we don't lose any of our earlier gains. It seems like such a little thing when a person sleeps in their own bed, but in the world of a new parent it is bigger than almost anything including drinking an entire case of beer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Winnie the Pooh

In this tough economic climate I have found one guy that is just as busy as ever. He's a tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff. If that doesn't ring a bell and you some how missed the title, I am talking about Winnie the Pooh. Pooh has been around forever and based on a quick gander around Braden's room he appears to be gaining strength.

A.A. Milne wrote stories about the honey crazed bear based on his son Christopher Robin's stuffed bear Winnie the Pooh. Pooh's friends were based on other stuffed animals and a few real animals living near their home. He was first published all the way back in 1926, so Pooh was actually around before Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. He was around a long time before WWII and he is still around today. Later the Walt Disney machine got their hands on Pooh and put him on the big screen in 1966. He is still gracing the small screen today with a show called My Friends Tigger and Pooh . Tigger apparently has grown in popularity that rivals his chubby honey eating friend.

I am frankly amazed at the exposure this bear is still getting after 80 years. We have more Pooh or Tigger branded things than I can count. We have pants, shirts, shoes, socks, hats, bibs, pajamas, and coats from the clothing department. We have towels, wash cloths, and robes from the bathing department. We have rattles, keys, and crawling talking Pooh in the toy department. I almost forgot that we have blankets too. Pooh and friends even make their appearance on diapers and wipe boxes. These are just the things that can be found in our home. A quick glance at the Internet shows you can find strollers, car seats, high chairs, swings, bouncy chairs, lamps, books, movies, more toys, cups, humidifiers, teethers, diaper bags, and even a battery powered Tigger toothbrush. Basically Disney has put Pooh or Tigger on anything they can market to children or parents, and if you have had a child recently you know that is a ridiculous amount of stuff.

Everywhere I look I see his face. He outnumbers me in my own home about 100 to 1. Most people fear nuclear war, terrorists, global warming or some other possible doom. I admit there are plenty of other things to fear, but I fear Winnie the Pooh. While the old song claimed he was a willy, nilly, silly old bear, I am going to keep my eye on him just in case.

I love Trivia

I love playing trivia games. When I was young I remember Mom and Dad playing Trivial Pursuit at the church every once in a while. My Dad seemed particularly keen on the game. At the time it seemed like a weird game with a wagon wheel shaped board to me. I was more interested in games with colorful creative boards like Chutes and Ladders.

Later in life Trivial Pursuit would become my favorite board game. A high school history teacher helped fan the flames of my love for trivia. She was a difficult teacher with not too many fans among the students. She gave tons of notes but if you finished early there was a reward. With any time left in class we were allowed to play trivial pursuit. If we took notes at warp speed sometimes we were even allowed full class periods to play. That was worth all the note taking in the world to me. The same teacher was the sponsor for the high school cheerleaders. She and the cheerleaders rode the bus to every basketball game with the team. They were required to sit in the front to make sure there was no funny business. Our senior year a friend of mine and myself sat up front with them and played tension filled games of Trivial Pursuit on the way to every ballgame. We always won (the trivia not the ballgames). For that matter I almost never lost at this game to anyone. I guess that is why I like it so much. It is easy to like something when you are good at it.

I also love Jeopardy. I still watch it a few times a week via the magic of the DVR. Remember I love the DVR. When I was a kid my Dad, my brother, and I played Jeopardy on the original Nintendo. It was a fun game but you had to spell out all the answers. This led to a little problem for my Dad. While he is a math and history whiz among other things, he had trouble spelling some of the answers. Of course my brother and I would never help him. Looking back that was terrible of us and I am sorry we did that. At this age Dad was still able to beat us at trivia, but somewhere along the way he passed the crown on to his kids. It's not easy to pinpoint when it happens, but one day you realize that you are consistently beating your Dad or Mom or other formerly superior trivia buff.

As I watch Jeopardy in the evenings with Braden on my lap I find myself wondering when it will happen to me. Children have a way of making you face scary things such as growing old and your own mortality. I am not currently having any grown up issues like that. I am more concerned about the impending death of my trivia reign. Braden will no doubt be a smart little fellow. He will play these games with me much as I did with my Dad. He will think that his Dad is so smart and be in awe of my skills. Then one day it will be different. He will pass me by like a thief in the night. Memory like athletic skill always fades with age. I am now finding that sometimes it's difficult to think of the answers fast enough on Jeopardy. It is very frustrating when you know the answer but your brain is holding you hostage for a few extra seconds. Athletic prowess has largely left me behind already, so I am particularly fond of my remaining abilities. That is why I am not crazy about relinquishing my trivia crown. In the end I will certainly take joy in all Braden's accomplishments even if they come at my expense. Furthermore, I hope I am a good enough father to raise Braden in a such a way that he overtakes me in a lot of areas much more important that trivia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Learning New Words

An entire lexicon of strange words is out there waiting for unsuspecting new dads. Some words are used in the regular world but not normally by people like me. Using these words is not an option because I have a reputation to uphold. I am not talking about some of the 4 letter words that you feel like screaming after a tough day. I am talking about baby words. These are the words that you learn for the first time when you have a baby or words that creep into your vocabulary unsuspectingly due to the condition of fatherhood.

One of the words that I don't think any self respecting man uses is "poop". As a grown man I had never used the word poop. I am certain of that. Since Braden has arrived not only do I use it every day but I have written 2 blog posts about poop for the whole world to see. Other words that I have heard but previously never used are passie, onesie and the entire -ie family. Apparently adding -ie to the end of a word transforms any word to baby lingo.

There are also some words whose mere existence is unknown to single or childless men. I think women are born with a knowledge of most of these words. What is not innate they must pick up from their girlfriends or some of those magazines crowding the check out isles at Wal-Mart. Us guys don't learn the words until the first time our wife shares them with us. We get a stupid look on our face and say "Huh?". At this moment we become enlightened. Eventually despite our best efforts we will use these words too. Two of these new words that may come into play after birth are cradle cap and colic. Thankfully Braden has escaped both conditions, especially the latter, but I learned these words anyway due to diligent baby preparation. While there are plenty of normal words to learn, Pregnancy terms are the real vocabulary jungle. Every word referring in any way to pregnancy is new to a first time expectant father. This is an entirely unknown land to the pre-baby male persuasion. Some of them are frightening if I can be perfectly honest. Just some of the many pregnancy words I learned are crowning, breech, amniotic sac, effacement and my personal favorite fundus. It is just fun to say fundus.

I know that vocabulary is just the beginning of my education. If we should truly try to learn something new everyday then becoming a father is the never ending fountain of knowledge that will help us achieve that goal.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wish List

I am not a dreamer here to wish for world peace or an end to poverty. I dare not even dream big enough to wish for a four wheeler or a new truck. I am wishing for all the little things that everyone else overlooks. I think these wishes deserve to be heard because to borrow from Dr. Seuss, "Wishes are wishes no matter how small."
  1. I wish I could get more links and followers for my blog. Feel free to help this wish come true. Thanks to Al Bundy at Husband Land for helping this dream come true before I even asked.
  2. I wish I could go to the moon without all the inconvenience of space travel.
  3. I wish every restaraunt would deliver not just pizza and Chinese.
  4. I wish American Idol would stop interrupting every TV show on Fox during the spring.
  5. I wish every baseball player that took steroids would be forced into a steel cage death match with someone that took more steroids.
  6. I wish that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David would team up again during my life time.
  7. I wish Reese's would just make their regular cups as thick as the holiday versions like the Easter eggs.
  8. I wish TV land or someone else would put reruns of Cheers back on the air. I miss them.
  9. I wish Braden would magically start sleeping in his bed rather than his swing.
  10. I wish big scary beards would become cool so I could stop shaving.
  11. I wish the movie theaters would lower their prices during recessions. If gas and grocery prices can go down why not matinee tickets.
  12. I wish comedic actors would retire at their career peaks rather than giving us movies like "Meet Dave" and "Funny Money".
  13. I wish I could apply for a position at Dunder Mifflin Scranton.
  14. I wish horseshoes was an olympic sport.
  15. I wish Wal-Mart would surprise me one day and have every register open at the same time.
  16. I wish there was an instruction guide to tipping. I am losing track of everyone I am supposed to tip.
  17. I wish furniture quality was in some way relative to the price.
  18. I wish I understood baby talk so I could hear what Braden has to say.
  19. I wish everyone would give hot dogs a break.
  20. I wish I had something better to write about.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Acts of Random Kindness

On my way to work today I took my normal route down the bypass. As I exited the bypass and pulled up to the yield sign I found the normal morning traffic. At times it can be difficult to find an opening at this intersection. Today a nice lady in a maroon SUV let me out in front of her. That in itself is not much news. It happens every day all across America. After I gave a courtesy wave and drove down the road I glanced in the rear view mirror. The same lady had let out two other drivers for a total of three or the entire line. It is a sad commentary on our society that I consider this a newsworthy event. People today are normally too self-centered and cynical to help other people or to even say hello. As a dad I hate that this is the world where I will raise my child.

The movie Evan Almighty was considered by most a colossal flop. It took hundreds of millions to produce and didn't take in nearly that much. I watched because I love Steve Carell. He can make me laugh without saying a word. The movie, although not that good, had a message that I thought was wonderful. The whole plot of the movie was about building an Ark like the story of Noah in the Bible. In the end we come to find out that the ARK represents Acts of Random Kindness. If everyone tries to build their own ARK we can make a huge difference in the world. The love given by a simple helping hand can spread from giver to receiver and then out into the world.

Growing up I was taught to open the door for ladies. I still do this for my wife and any other women on a collision course with me and the door. I try to give women or older people a hand with their groceries when I pass by. Just a few weeks ago I helped a lady at the gas station by jump starting her car. I will admit that I am not the greatest with the ARK concept but I try my best.

It is absolutely imperative to me that I pass on these manners to Braden. I want him to say yes sir and no ma'am. I want him to hold the door for his Mom and for the other ladies nearby. I want him to say hello to people and offer kind words. When he is old enough to drive I want him to let people in all the time, maybe even 3 at a time like the lady today. I hope all you parents out there agree with me on this. We can teach our kids the proper way to interact with others, and in so doing make the world a better place. Chivalry doesn't have to be dead after all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Academy Award Winners

This Sunday marks the yearly festival where ridiculously rich Hollywood types gather together for a mutual love fest, handing out statues of a little golden man. That's right it is time for the 2009 Oscars. I have never been one to watch the award shows on TV. Like most people I have seen some bits and pieces over the years but it is certainly not must see TV.

Recently I have found some use for the Oscars. By viewing the nominations I hope to find a movie or two that I have missed out on because it flew under my radar. The awards for 2006 helped me out in that arena. I had not heard about "The Last King of Scotland" until Forrest Whitaker was nominated for best actor, which he won. I watched and loved that movie. I have seen it several times and Whitaker gave a powerful and scary performance as Idi Amin the Ugandan dictator. Another movie I found from that year's awards and enjoyed to a slightly lesser degree was "Little Miss Sunshine." It was nominated for several awards. Alan Arkin won for supporting actor. While I always enjoy him I am not sure how he won for that performance. Nonetheless, the movie had that enjoyable independent low budget feel while remaining clever and funny. It was a nice movie. Last year I watched and enjoyed "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men" in part due to their Oscar buzz.

Most of the time I don't agree with the Best Picture winners. Sometimes I disagree on merit, believing a movie just wasn't deserving or maybe another movie was more deserving. Other times I am just not interested in whatever documentary or independent type film the Hollywood elite are pushing that particular year. Once in a while they agree with me.

The new dad spin on this post is wondering which Academy Award Best Picture winners are worthy of passing down to my son. My regular readers know that I wonder what type of interest Braden and I will share quite often. I have already wondered will he fish with me? Will he watch Seinfeld with me? Will he play a musical instrument? Today I am asking myself which movies I will choose to share with him. My DVD collection is well over 100 movies so I have many favorites to choose from. I am sure the best way is to watch movies and allow him to show interest as he pleases, but for the sake of this discussion I am going to choose movies to share. I am limiting it only to the Best Picture winners in honor of the Academy handing out some new hardware this weekend.
Below is my list of worthy films compiled from the list of winners found here. There are some others that just barely missed the final cut like "No Country for Old Men." I enjoyed the old war movies "Patton" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai", but I didn't quite feel strongly enough about them to merit their inclusion. While on the subject of war movies it is inexplicable that "Saving Private Ryan" did not win even though Spielberg did win best director. Without further ado I give you my list.
  • 2006: The Departed - Thank you Scorsese for going back to your gangster roots
  • 2003: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - Unbelievable trilogy. I don't care if it makes me a dork or not.
  • 2000: Gladiator - ....I will have my vengeance in this life or the next. (I actually tried to recite this entire quote standing in the middle of the Colosseum. That settles it. I am a dork)
  • 1995: Braveheart - Epic battle scenes are awesome
  • 1994: Forest Gump - Hilarious with a mix of hope, destiny, and chance floating on a breeze
  • 1992: Unforgiven - Clint Eastwood. Enough said.
  • 1988: Rain Man - Dustin Hoffman is unreal
  • 1986: Platoon - I love war movies and they rarely make the cut for Oscar
  • 1976: Rocky - Rocky is one of the greatest movie characters of all time
  • 1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Jack Nicholson at his best
  • 1974: The Godfather Part II - I think Godfather I & II combine to form the greatest movie of all time.
  • 1972: The Godfather - see above

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is a Dad?

In order to fully understand this journey I am taking on "Life of a New Dad" we probably better understand exactly what is a dad. From my observation Dad's can take many shapes and sizes. There is the animated dad best represented by our yellow beer swilling friend Homer Simpson. There is also the TV dad represented by hundreds including my favorite Al Bundy. There are even science fiction dads, in tune with the force, like Darth Vader. Of course us real dads don't practice our parenting skills inside the TV. Even so, something must tie us all together. What makes us all Dad's whether real or imagined.

Does a dad have to watch the weather channel every morning or the news every night? Is he required to wear a tie every once in a while or should he wear work boots and a hard hat? Does a dad know everything or is he just full of hot air? Should a dad play sports or fix cars? Can a dad play video games or is he too serious for that? Can he be fashionable or does he have to be stuck in a fashion time warp?

Obviously we all know that none of those things can make you a dad. At the same time all of them are allowed. We must look further than our outer appearance or hobbies to define a dad. Webster's dictionary defines dad by saying see father. After turning the virtual page we can find that the same dictionary defines father as a man who has begotten a child. Webster may be the foremost authority on the meaning of English words, but this definition doesn't do it for me. There are many men out there who have begotten a child then left the child soon after. It takes a lot more than that to be a dad. I think to be a dad you have to love your child with all your heart and take an active part in their life every day. Think about it. Even Darth Vader loved his child enough to give his own life to save him from the forces of evil. This from probably the greatest villain of all time. How can a child expect anything less from us regular dads.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Forgotten Furry Children

I am sure some of my wonderful readers have pets and children. Perhaps you were like me and had pets first and then children later. Maybe some of you found that this had no affect on your relationship with your pets. I assume that is possible. For me becoming a dad has led to the unfortunate situation of having our forgotten furry children living alone in the back yard.

We have 2 dogs. Otter is a yellow lab. He will be 5 years old next month. Yes I stole my profile name from my dog. When I started this blog I wanted to write anonymously to some degree so I made up a name. I figured if it worked for Samuel Clemons then it would work for me. Back to the canine Otter. He was my original room mate and my best friend before I met Arica. He lived in the house and went everywhere with me. What an emotional roller coaster it must have been for him spiraling all the way from number one sidekick to sharing number 3 with Abbey. Abbey is our reddish brown mix of a dog that we adopted from the animal rescue people. She is always happy like she knows that we saved her from a life on the streets.

A few months before we found out Arica was pregnant, we decided to banish the dogs to the back yard. Otter weights 95 pounds and Abbey chimes in at 55 pounds. That is way too much dog to have banging around in the house. They stayed outside during the day and then came in to sleep at night bringing all the mud in the back yard with them. When they weren't muddy they were shedding blankets of hair all around the house. We finally decided it was too much work trying to clean up after 150 pounds worth of dogs. It was at this juncture that they became a permanent outdoor fixture.

At first I still went out and played with them every day. As the days went by our playing time lessened. Later after Braden was born I just didn't have much time to play fetch or otherwise entertain them at all. Otter having once been the king of the castle still looks upset by this development. It makes me feel bad but there isn't much I can do. They are fed well and have each other for entertainment. When spring comes I will take them fishing with me like always. Later in the summer we will pile in the boat and go for a day of swimming. I still love my dogs but my days as their best buddy are probably over. The good thing is that Braden will step right up and take my place. He will love the dogs like crazy once he is older. They will play together every day, and Braden will become their new best friend. He is already on his way because he laughs and smiles every time they come to the sliding glass door to check him out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Baby's First Pictures

We went to the Sears picture studio for Braden's first professionally done pictures on Thursday. I use the term professionally done loosely. The price was professional quality and the pictures were too but that speaks more to the level of technology than the level of photography skill. Our photographer looked like she road the bus from Junior High to Sears to take the afternoon shift. I am not bashing her. She was very nice and did a fine job. I am merely saying that she was young and was not a trained photographer.

Braden smiles all the time so he is a natural for picture taking. If you say anything to him with a smile on your face he will most likely smile right back at you. The girl was easily able to talk to him and get a smile. I will give her an "A" in that department. Our only problem came when Braden decided to try and eat his fist. That's one of his favorite hobbies. I always envision him saying "look Daddy I can fit my whole fist in my mouth." He may not say that, but he tries his best to fit it in there several times a day just the same. As you might imagine this is not the preferred pose for picture taking. I sat next to him and held his hands down until he smiled then I hopped out of the way. Oddly enough Arica's favorite picture is the one below where Braden has his fist firmly planted in his mouth. That just goes to show you that no matter how much training, or in this case how little, you never know what will make the best picture until after you snap it.

Spring Training 2009

I love the speech James Earl Jones gives above in the movie Field of Dreams. Baseball really has marked the times in our country. People have been playing the sport as far back as the civil war. The game survived the depression. It helped break down racial barriers in the country with all that Jackie Robinson did on and off the field. It was a huge part of our nation's recovery after 9/11. Baseball still marks the time today. I know we currently live in a world ruled by the NFL. I know that baseball is not nearly as popular now as it has been in the past and currently is undergoing a public relations nightmare with all the steroid news. I also know that there are few things that can create and nurture a more meaningful and lasting relationship between father and son.

As we come to the beginning of spring training for 2009, I wanted to reflect a little bit on what baseball has meant to me and what I hope it will mean to Braden. Four of my favorite words in the English language will be heard around America in the coming days. Those words are "pitchers and catchers report." Those words signal that winter is nearing an end and spring time is on the way. For baseball fans spring training represents a rebirth. No matter what happened last year every fan is filled with the optimism and promise of a new season. My beloved St. Louis Cardinals will report on Saturday to start pursuit of an 11th world series title, however unlikely. Every year I treat the first day of spring training like a holiday and it just so happens that the holiday is coming this weekend.

Baseball has been a big part of my life as long as I can remember. I started playing when I was 6 and played all the way through high school. I was not good enough to continue after that but my love for the game remains. Baseball represented some of the best times my Dad and I ever spent together. He was one of my coaches every year and was my head coach from ages 9-12. Through baseball my dad taught me about team work. Through baseball he taught me about hard work and practice. Baseball teaches young men about dealing with success and failure as well. No one wants to see their child fail but it is certain to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Baseball can help children learn to handle that. My dad and I also went to watch the Cardinals play in St. Louis nearly every summer. We would watch 2 or 3 games on a weekend and do little else. There was nothing we would rather do than watch a big league ball game anyway. The first time I saw the Cardinals play was against the Padres in 1986. Much to my delight the Cardinals won all three games. Arica and I still take a trip every summer to see at least one game. My brother and I also share a baseball relationship. Shortly after he learned to walk I taught him to hit a soft Nerf ball with a snoopy bat in our parents house. We kept playing together until I left for college. Baseball is still one of our favorite topics of discussion.

As you can tell I love the game. It has been a big part of my family and ultimately my entire life. Lessons I learned on the diamond carry on with me today. I can't wait for Braden to be old enough to play with me. I will love teaching him to hit and field. Later we will learn about the small nuances of the game. Hopefully I will get a chance to coach him some too. One day taking Braden to his first Cardinals games will be one of the greatest trips of my life. I have dreamed of bringing my own son to a game since long before I even had a son. This is the power over father and son that baseball holds. I know Braden and I will share it as a part of our life. I hope some of you that read this will share the game with your kids too. Join in the time honored tradition of father and son playing catch. Take the whole family out to a local game. Baseball has stood the test of time and we should all enjoy it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Puppy

Above you can see two cute lovable fellows. On the left is my son Braden. On the right is something I call puppy blue ears. Other people call him the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Puppy but that is just too many words for me.

It is funny how at such a young age Braden changes the things he likes and dislikes. Not long ago his favorite noise making distraction was a colorful caterpillar that plays classical music. Only in the home of new parents can you find such a creature as Beethoven the caterpillar. Welcome to the imaginative world of raising young children. I am sure the caterpillar will come back in vogue because it also teaches numbers and colors. While Braden is too young for that type of learning now, I still use the learning toys as singing distractions. With the right toy I can create a formidable baby song singing duo.

Now that the worm has turned we are on to puppy blue ears. The puppy is also a great toy for older kids. Fisher-Price recommends it for children 6-24 months. The puppy teaches body parts and colors. It also says things like "Will you be my friend", "I love you", and "So Big". I'm not sure what these phrases are for other than teaching kids some new words. Teaching the phrase "So Big" is akin to teaching foreign tourist to say"Where is the Library?" I'm not sure why they need to know how to say that but we teach them anyway. Even with the questionable phrases this is one of Braden's new favorite toys. It sings 6 or 7 different songs. I play them and sing along much to his delight. The geniuses at Fisher Price also added a blinking red heart to the center of the puppy to keep the babies attention. So there have been many fun nights of Braden staring at a blinking light and listening to the future Grammy award wining duo of puppy blue ears and daddy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gran Torino and Clint Eastwood

I watched the movie Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood recently. I am a huge Eastwood fan and I loved the movie. Eastwood still has the same tough guy presence that made him famous. He delivers his curt one liners as as well as ever. It's a good movie and there are a lot of other things to praise, but this is not a movie review blog so I will let someone else handle that. I want to write about the tough guys we all loved and to wonder if any more will follow in the future.

For my money Clint Eastwood was the coolest, toughest leading man of all time. Before any John Wayne supporters attempt to bomb my house I want to throw some support his way as well. The Duke is great and I would never say anything bad about him. It just happens that I like Eastwood better. I think he is the tough guy of my generation or at least the generation closest to me while John Wayne is for the older generation. You can't lose with either one. They both carried all the pictures they were in with their presence. All guys wanted to be like them and all women wanted to be with them. Like I touched on in my Diaper Fear post, all boys want to grow up and be tough like these two heroes of the silver screen.

I hope Braden wants to grow up to be like me. I want to be his hero but it would be nice if there was an up and coming tough guy for him to enjoy at the movies. As long as AMC is around the Duke and Clint will never die, but the new generation needs their own heroes. So I wonder like George Jones once sang about the great country crooners, "Who's gonna fill their shoes?" I'm open to any suggestions because frankly I don't think it can be done. There will never be another John Wayne. There will never be another Clint Eastwood. Gone are the days when acting carried movies. When a strong male lead could guarantee a great movie. Today most movies filmed with guys in mind are special effects monsters. We are supposed to get more excited by motorcylces jumping into helicopters and other ridiculous stunts than by the actors. I hope a new hero emerges some day. The western genre that made John Wayne and Clint Eastwood famous is pretty much dead, but there are still a lot of cop movies to be made. There may not be another Dirty Harry but for Braden's sake I hope Hollywood can come up with somebody.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Playing the Rattle

I wrote recently about Braden potentially playing the guitar and my inability to play here. I told you that I never took a music lesson of any kind. I also told you that I begged and pleaded until I was taught a few cords just to keep me quiet. With that knowledge I was able to play guitar just well enough to destroy some great classic rock songs. I am writing today to share some good news about my musical development. I have found an instrument that I can play......The baby rattle. That's right. I am now an accomplished baby rattle player. I could try and take this up a step and play the maracas but why worry with that. I have a built in excuse and free rattles already lined up to fuel my new pursuit.

I started playing the rattle randomly when I would sing to Braden. Every once in a while a mood will hit me and I might break into song. Now that Braden is always there and he is too young to make fun of me, I sing to him rather than to myself. He seems to enjoy it. If there is a rattle within reach I try and add a nice percussion rhythm to the song. More often than this though I sing along with some of his toys. He has a few animals and books that sing various children's songs. I try to memorize them and sing along as well. On some songs I have my own established rattle routine. On others I just make it up as we go along. The best songs are anything with a salsa type beat. There is one song his blue eared puppy sings that has that type of beat. For that song I can swing the rattles from side to side like maracas and due a Latino dance. Of course the sight of me doing any type of dance is enough to turn your stomach, but once again Braden doesn't mind. It seems that the sillier I act the better he likes it. That is good news for now because I fully expect to turn into an embarrassment later in life. Knowing my future embarrassment status I plan to take full advantage of these times when I am still funny. There is nothing like having someone around that thinks you're funny even if he is only 3 months old.

Baby Poop Face

Everyone reading this that has children knows the face. The face that signals impending doom for a innocent pampers diaper. It is the poop face. Braden's poop face is hilarious. I know it's probably not the most fun thing for him but I just can't help but laugh. His face turns red as a fire truck and he offers up some very determined grunts. He will grunt 2 or 3 times usually until he reaches his goal. That goal of course is a stinking dirty diaper for me to change. Last night I was holding Braden when he started going to work and I could not help but think of this scene from Austin Powers.

Of course in this scene I would be Tom Arnold cheering on my son as he poops his pants. Next time he starts making the face I might just say, "That's right buddy you show that turd whose boss," or "Hey partner you gotta relax. Don't force it. You're gonna blow out your o-ring...drop a lung." Actually it would work just as well if I screamed "Who does number two work for!" No matter what role I play it will be a proud family moment. Braden is grunting and turning red while I am quoting Austin Powers. I have to make sure Arica is there because she will be so proud. I wish someone would have told me at an earlier age that TV will rot your brain. Now it's too late.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Waiting for the Baby to Roll Over

Braden and I have added a new routine to our father/son time. Arica and I have started putting Braden on the floor some so he could work on rolling over. We also put him on his stomach so he can lift his head up and look around. These are things that he needs to learn as part of normal baby development. These things also help build toward crawling. I call them the baby fundamentals. Much like a basketball team works on their dribbling, passing, and shooting, babies have to work on their fundamentals too. Braden is working hard and is really close to rolling over. He lifts his legs all the way up doing a perfect leg lift. Then he turns to the side forming a perfect "L" shape that takes him nearly all the way over. Then he stalls. He just needs to throw his arm over and we will have roll over success.

During breaks in the fundamental drills we like to play as well. We sit in the floor and talk while we both watch TV. I get some toys and shake them or let him feel them. I also tickle him or poke at his nose and cheeks. He likes it when you drag the toys gently across his face. All this excitement leads to Braden's favorite move. It is a little something I like to call the turtle. Braden frantically waves his arms and legs like a turtle stuck on his back. We are learning and working on our fundamentals while doing the turtle. It is a multitasking experience. I just hope Braden rolls over soon so he doesn't get stuck like so many turtles before him.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Watching Seinfeld with Dad or Not

A little while back I wondered if my son would enjoy fishing with me. Today I turn my inquisitive nature to a less active pursuit...watching TV. Seinfeld is my favorite TV show of all time. It has been in syndication forever so you are all probably familiar with the show but on the wild chance you are not you can check out some clips here. I used to watch 1 or 2 episodes every day after work. That led to me seeing every episode 10 or more times. Now I have all 9 seasons on DVD and can watch them whenever I want although being a husband and a dad has reduced my time with Jerry and the gang to 1 or 2 episodes a week. The question I have today is whether some day Braden will enjoy Seinfeld like I do, or will he shake his head and say "I can't believe you're watching that stupid show again Dad."

There is precedence for young people watching older shows. They are on TV all the time so they are certainly available. When I was a kid I watched old favorites like "Leave it to Beaver", "The Adams Family", "Gilligan's Island", "The Brady Bunch" and many others. Those shows were family friendly and I watched them at my Grandma's house most of the time. Also during those times there were not too many TV channels so I had limited choices. As an adult I enjoy "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son". You can see that personally I enjoy older shows. I feel that a good show or movie is timeless and should be enjoyed by every generation.

Seinfeld has a lot of adult themes like "The Contest" and others so this question will not be answered for a long while. By the time Braden is old enough to handle the content there is no telling what other media options will be readily available. We can already watch video on the computer at the click of a button. We already have DVRs that will record everything and iPod's that make video download and storage extremely convenient. I hope all this technology and the certain improvements to come will help Braden enjoy some of my old favorites rather than make them obsolete.

I guess the biggest question is how does a brand new person develop their sense of humor. I am sure it's developed mostly based on the environment surrounding the child. I hope being around me will help Braden develop my sense of humor. If he doesn't then he will probably spend a lot of his life trying to figure out what is wrong with me. On second thought my sense of humor could be a curse because it is unique to say the least. I guess the best thing would be for our humor to intersect in just the right places like Seinfeld.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Life Before the Internet

I took my time settling down and starting a family. When Braden was born I had just reached the ripe old age of 31. A lot of people my age have kids that are already in school and here I am just now jumping on the merry-go-round. I plan on living a long time so I am not worried about the age issue. I am wondering how I will ever explain to Braden what life was like when I was a boy without sounding like I was boy hood friends with Methuselah.

I can still remember when we only had 4 or 5 network over the air TV stations. Then we didn't have any remote controls and the next step was that silly switch box that sat on top of the TV. I got my first cell phone when I was 17 years old and even then practically no one had them. The few with phones had what were considered "car phones". When I graduated high school I had never been on the Internet. Read that sentence again and let it sink in. I joined forces with one of my friends just to figure out how to use a computer so we wouldn't be left behind in college. There are thousands of things from the past that seem like they came from another life but the one that is hard even for me to comprehend is life before the Internet.

I think the Internet has changed the world more than any single invention ever. I am sure good arguments can be made for a lot of things, but it is hard to imagine anything having the wide ranging effect of the Internet. There is no aspect of life that has not been touched by this digital computer age. It has changed the way we shop, pay bills, listen to music, watch TV, do business and everything else. How in the world did we ever get information before the Internet. Libraries? Encyclopedias? The answer to any question you have is at the touch of a finger all the time. I will actually, while watching a movie, look up the other movies an actor or actress has been in If I can't think of them myself. Ridiculous things like this are the norm when living in this information age.

So one day in the future my son is going to come to the realization that I actually lived before the Internet. He is going to look at me with the same amazement as a kid looking at the T-Rex exhibit in the Museum of Natural History. He will struggle for words as his mind tries to comprehend his prehistoric father. Finally he will say "What did you do before the Internet?"

My answer: "We played outside."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Quest for Sleep Continues

A little while back I unleashed this diatribe about our Quest for Sleep. It has been nearly a month so I thought I would give an update on this always interesting part of a new dad's life.

Braden is still sleeping in his swing. I have nightmares about the day we will have to break him of this habit. I'm sure those nights will be filled with hours of Braden crying himself to sleep in his crib. That will be hard but it must be done some day in order for Arica and I to return to normal sleeping patterns. Also it has to be done so we aren't still rocking him to sleep in junior high.

Right now Braden usually goes to bed around midnight. Sometimes it is earlier but rarely is he up past 12:30 anymore. Once we tuck him into the swing he normally sleeps until 5 or 6 in the morning. I think this can be considered very close to sleeping all night. If we can just stretch an hour in each direction that would be great. Hopefully this will not all fall apart on us when we move to the crib.

So here we are as new parents. One of us sleeps on the couch every night with the swing just an arm length away. We are there ready to pounce when we hear those awakening noises that Braden makes. We are there ready to soothe him and put him back to sleep if he needs that too. I guess we are in a holding pattern in the quest for sleep. We have found something that works for us and we are sticking with it for the time being. Even with this success we know in the back of our minds that we can't live like this forever. Some day we must forge ahead towards our final destination. The destination of nightlong sleep.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Will My Son Play the Guitar?

I was driving back to the office from my lunch date with a turkey sandwich wondering what I might write about today. We had a busy weekend with both sets of grandparents. My parents were in town to visit Saturday. Then we had a fish fry and watched the Super Bowl with Arica's parents on Sunday. That was the leading contender for my post until the radio changed my mind. As I pulled up to the office I heard the soft strumming guitar opening to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd.

That song always takes me back to my college days when I was desperately seeking help from all my musically inclined fraternity brothers. I wanted them to show me some cords on the guitar or teach me some songs. I eventually learned G, C, D, E, A, A minor, E minor and maybe some others. After hours of practice on other peoples guitars I was able to mangle them into bad renditions of a few songs. The one thing I loved best was playing that riff from "Wish You Were Here". It was my go to guitar move and I still try and play it today whenever I see a guitar.

So as I heard it this afternoon I had to wonder if my son would have any musical talents. My mother wanted me to take piano lessons but I refused thinking it was for girls. Obviously I was wrong. I would love to be able to play me a song Mr. Piano Man, but I have never taken one musical lesson of any kind. Should I encourage Braden to play an instrument. Will he understand how cool he would be if he could play the piano or guitar. Actually any musical instrument can be cool in the right setting. Just take the E Street Band from the super bowl last night for example. Sure they have drums and Silvio playing the guitar, but that's not all. Right alongside they have that giant guy playing the sax and a whole brass section in the back. Music is a fun thing and I hope my son gets into it more than I did. In order for him to do that though he will have to inherit some musical talent from some other member of the family because that all passed me by.

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd