Monday, March 30, 2009

Born to Do What

I have seen the movie Juno many times. I have to admit that my wife drug me to see it the first time. I was surprised to find that it was a funny, enjoyable movie. It is certainly not for kiddies as it covers the topic of teenage pregnancy, but that doesn't matter. This post is not about the movie. It is about a line in the movie that made me think. This is how much of my life works. A favorite line from a movie or TV show inspires my thought, or more likely a real life event inspires my recollection of a movie. I know it is a sad existence, but such is the curse of someone who can remember almost anything.

The scene in Juno is set at the future adoptive parents house. The prospective mom is talking about how she has always wanted to be a mother. She asks Juno's dad, the biological grandfather to be, if he ever felt like he was born to do something. His reply is my favorite line of the movie. He says, "Yes, heating and air conditioning." I have no idea why I think that is so funny, but it makes me laugh out loud every time. I think it is the matter of fact way he states his life's purpose to the babbling rich girl that gets me. He replies in a way that is part smart ass and part regular working man who is proud of his job. I was thinking about that exchange today. What was I born to do? Better yet what was Braden born to do?

Everyone has a certain set of skills that make them better at some things than others. While environment certainly plays a major role, I think some things are just there from birth. Michael Jordan was born with skills that would help him be the greatest basketball player of all time. Yes he worked hard, but without his god given abilities he wouldn't have been the greatest. Beethoven was born with such skills as well. Us regular people have much less obvious skill sets. It is possible that we go our whole lives without actually finding what we are born to do. I was probably not born to be an engineer. I am good at it, but that was probably not my calling. I think, if anything, I was born to be a sports fan or a beach bum. Neither of those things pay too well so here I am in the engineering field.

What could Braden's special abilities be? At this point he seems to have been born for spoiling, but someday he will move on to other things. He could be anything. He could be an engineer like me, or he could study psychology and counseling like his mother. He could have a heroic job like firefighter. He could be an athlete, doctor, business man, or anything else. As a baby there are no limits to what his future holds. It will be a while before Braden's special skills completely reveal themselves. He could be good at math, skilled with music, a fast runner, a deep thinker, or any number of other things. I only hope that as his father I can nurture his abilities and encourage him to find what he truly enjoys. Watching as Braden finds what he was born to do could eventually help me find my perfect job as well. The job of proud father.

Friday, March 27, 2009

First Time Business Travel

Tuesday I am going on a short business trip. This post is part warning to my readers and part lamentation. The trip will only last two nights, and I will only be venturing as far as Wichita. I probably won't be blogging on such a short trip because each day will have a full agenda. Most of my readers probably weren't with me when I posted about business travel before. You can see that post along with some pictures of Italy, Malaysia, Thailand and other places here. My job has taken me to several different countries for various lengths of time. I used to love travelling for my job. After getting married I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. Now as a dad, not only will I not enjoy it, but I will despise it. How could you not be miserable leaving this guy at home.

This trip to Wichita is no big deal. I will miss Braden and Arica, but I know that I will be home in a couple of days. The real pain is that this trip is making me think about my upcoming travels. I am scheduled to visit France in May and Scotland in July. I have already been to France three times, and I find most of the stereotypes to be true. I really have no interest in going back. I far prefer Italy, but that is another story for another time. Scotland will be a new adventure for me so it is at least a bit intriguing. These trips usually last two weeks. Sometimes they drag along into a third week. The trip to France should be shorter than that, but therein lies the real difficulty with this type of work. You never know when you are coming home. Just because you have a ticket for a plane that leaves in two weeks does not mean you will be on it.

I don't know how anyone can make a living travelling when they have children. Some people do it every day and probably live very happy lives. Often times I am sure people have no choice. They must travel in order to make a living. I could never do it full time. These infrequent trips are quite enough for me. Luckily today's technology makes it easier to stay in touch. Skype makes it possible to use your computer as a phone. Calls from one computer to another are totally free. We have one web cam and are set to get another so we can see each other from across the pond as well. Being able to see my family will be a huge boost while I am away. Knowing that they can see me will make me feel better too. I would hate for Braden to forget what I look like.

I should probably leave those worries for a later date. At the moment I am only off to Kansas. I know nothing of the place and will know nothing more when I return. I will do a little engineering and a little sleeping. If I am lucky I might find a good meal somewhere in between. I am sure Kansas will be fine with me. After all I grew up in a very small farming town in Arkansas. There may be more wheat and Jayhawks in Kansas, but it surely will have a familiar feeling.

With that I am off on Tuesday to Wichita. As I am always alert for humor and/or blogging topics, I hope to come back with a great travel story. Instead I will probably return only armed with a renewed hatred for the pain that is travelling in general.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Big Spring Contest

I assume that most of my readers are familiar with Dad Blogs and their Big Spring Contest. They have paired with Kid's Creations to offer an amazing wooden playset and a digital camera. I should say that the playset is more like a combination children's house, jungle gym, and swing set. This can be considered my entry in hopes of winning the prize.

I can think of many reasons that the playset would be great. It requires some assembly so that could give me an opportunity to practice some four letter words. There is also the possibility that I could live in the playset if need be. Seriously all you need is a couple sheets of plywood to close in the walls, and you have a nice wooden studio apartment. Another possibility is the use of said playset for army style training for Braden. The rock climbing wall and net could be put to good use in preparation for peewee football. For that matter, as more and more years separate me from my glory days, I could use this thing to shape up as well.

In all seriousness this Three Ring Adventure would be a great addition to any family. I remember as a kid having a regular swing set. Apparently my Dad was deathly ill when he assembled it in freezing temperatures overnight one Christmas Eve. I would love to offer the same thing to Braden. I would prefer not to assemble the playset in the freezing darkness of Christmas Eve, but I would if necessary. A playset like this can really open up a child's imagination. The little tree house like area could be a venue where all sorts of dreams take place. All the different options allow for endless games and fun. Just looking at the picture I envision Private Pyle trying to climb obstacles on "Full Metal Jacket". I can also see any number of Clint Eastwood westerns as I look at the redwood cabin. Just imagine what a young fresh mind could dream up. My son Braden is not nearly old enough for something like this, but I still consider myself a viable candidate. I read on the Kid's Creation's website that one of their playsets survived Hurricane Ike. Based on that I think it will last until Braden is older. After all I could keep it warm until he is ready.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Babies Try to Eat Everything

Since most of my regular readers are parents themselves the title of this post will come as no surprise. Everyone knows that a baby will put anything and everything they can get their grubby paws on directly into their mouth. Our pediatrician once told us that is how they explore their surroundings. They have very little feeling early on so they check things out by taste. Listen to me babies of the world. If the only option you have for exploration is tasting things then you are better off being ignorant of your surroundings. It is a dirty world out there. Exploration by taste would be the equivalent of us grown-ups picking out a new shirt by tyring to eat it. It makes no sense for people big or small. Of course babies poop their pants too. You don't see adults doing that either, at least until a very advanced age.

The more understandable reason that babies chew on everything is because they are teething. Braden has been chewing on things bringing on proclamations he was teething for quite a while. When we visited the doctor last week he confirmed that Braden was teething. He said it was on the bottom middle because he curled his fingers to that area. So far so good with that grand adventure. Braden's favorite trick is to try and put his entire fist in his mouth. He can nearly do it. Sometimes he changes it up and tries to get both hands in his mouth at once. He eats stuffed animals, hard toys, books, shirts, bibs, and blankets. All this teething and chewing leads to plenty of slobber. Living with a 4 month old baby is a slobbery situation any way you cut it. I don't mind it at all but I walk around constantly with a wet spot on my right shoulder. This is where I hold Braden most often and thus his favorite chewing spot on daddy. It dries quickly unless it is right after he has his green veggies.

Since Braden tries to eat everything in his path I decided to document one such occurrence. The video is a little dark. That is my fault. I am an engineer after all not a camera man. Here is Braden trying to eat one of those soft noisy books.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Teaching Your Son How to Smell

I never wear cologne. I never have other than a few times in high school. I know this is probably frowned upon by society, but that is just the way I am. I was able to land a wife using only my normal musk, so I feel like it has not hampered me to this point. When I say normal musk it should be noted that is a showered musk accented with deodorant not a smelly, sweaty musk. I am not the stinky kid.

Since it is well known that everything we do can and will influence our kids, I have to wonder how this practice will affect Braden. Will he think not wearing cologne is the best way to go? Will he be ostracized from the normal cologne wearing society for this decision? The last thing I want to do is lead Braden astray.

Good can come from aversion to cologne as well. No one likes the guy who bathes in his cologne especially if that cologne is high karate or even worse sex panther. I could be saving Braden from a scene like the one that takes place in Anchorman.

On the other hand Sam Malone often wore too much cologne and it never hurt him with the ladies. I have no idea what is the correct answer to this conundrum. I am pretty sure that my natural shower scent way of life is not the norm. I guess the real solution is for me to find something more important to worry about.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Watching Star Wars with Dad or Not

I have tried recently to avoid wondering so much about my son's future and our future relationship. Previously I have wondered about Bass Fishing and Seinfeld. Lately I have been trying to live in the moment and enjoy every day with Braden. I have made the executive decision that enough time has passed, and I now can wonder about the future again. Today I am wondering about the ever important topic of Star Wars.

I grew up the son of a dad who had a mild case of sci-fi fever. He was not over the top with his devotion to the genre, but that was probably due to my domination of the TV choices. I know that he loved the Star Trek TV show once upon a time. I remember watching those movies with him as well. That was never really my thing, but one area that our interests coincided was George Lucas' wonderful world of Star Wars. I loved Luke Skywalker and Han Solo as a kid. I had every toy and action figure imaginable. Somewhere in my parents dark, cramped attic some of those toys no doubt still exist. They are probably worth nothing and could never be passed on to Braden. That is because my Star Wars toys show the wear and tear of a little boys love. I am pretty sure that I loved my toys nearly to death resulting in as many broken parts as good times.

As I grew older I continued to like Star Wars watching each movie seemingly hundreds of times. I loved them in a different way. I no longer played with the toys, though I will admit some intrigue remains when I pass them in Wal-Mart. Now it was more about the characters and story telling. The characters are all amazing. The spectrum ranges from the ultra evil to the unsurpassably wise. On one end there is the greatest villain of all time Darth Vader. On the other end is the often quoted always beloved Yoda. The imagination behind all the different locales is second to none as well. Whether you were speeding across the desserts of Tatooine or traipsing around on the forest moon of Endor, it was always exciting. I feel obligated at this point to note that my comments do not pertain to the three prequel versions. The final installment was pretty good but the first two were shameful. Star Wars will always mean the three episodes from my youth and there will be no further discussion on that topic.

Someday Braden will be old enough to check out Luke, Han, Leia and the gang. Hopefully before then Lucas stops milking his cash cow to the tune of cartoons, movies, and cartoon movies. Maybe we can draw the line at some point before the whole beauty of the series is lost. I hope Braden can watch the movies with me in the same order as I did. I will be devastated if some kid introduces him to Jar Jar Binks before he is ready. If that is Braden's first memory of Star Wars then all is lost. I hope he has the right mixture of sci-fi interest that will lead him to enjoy this all time favorite, but keep him away from the conventions. Since I was so tough on my toys I may need to start saving money now. I am sure a Millennium Falcon doesn't cost what it used to.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Joys of Fatherhood

I have used this space several times to document the new trials of fatherhood. I have noted that all of these lessons can't be learned until you become a dad. Last Fatherhood Friday I even went as far as suggesting that clown school might be a better option than no training at all. Of course all of this is just a comedic look at the reality of fatherhood. In no way am I upset about the lack of knowledge going into this adventure. There are some things that are just better left to first hand experience.

There are many wonderful surprises brought on by fatherhood as well. No, every surprise is not found in a diaper along with a terrible odor. There are so many joys of fatherhood that are unexplained to the expecting father as well. No one would dare try put into words what it means to have your own child. There is no way you can ever understand what it's like until it happens to you.

On this Fatherhood Friday I am remembering some of the new experiences of fatherhood that bring a smile to my face. In order to document them all I would need a camera on me at all times. The joys come that often although some edititng would be required. The awe of the situation hits you right from the first moment. Braden's birth was so awe inspiring to me that I nearly passed out. I got a little dizzy and actually had to sit down for the big moment. I tried to tough it out until the nurses started paying me a little too much attention and actually commented on my green color. I have never passed out before or even come close. It was not because of the medical things happening but because of the sheer intensity of the moment and all my feelings converging on me at once. With all that was happening I forgot to breathe.

That is the feeling of being a dad for the first time. Sometimes it is so wonderful that you forget to breathe. The first time I ever held Braden was one of the greatest moments of my life. The picture is part of my title block at the top of the blog and I look at it every day. All I could do was stare at him. Eventually I started talking to him about anything and everything. I was too happy. The happiness turns into a bit of uneasiness or even fear when it is time to go home. The fear, however, is easily trumped by the wonderful days to come.

Since coming home we, of course, have had the normal issues that come with a new baby. It is hard work, but with the amazing love that my wife and I both have for Braden it is easy to muster up the energy to take on all challenges. All the sleeplessness in the world could never take away the joy of Braden's smile when he first sees you in the morning. My favorite part of every day is when I come home from work. He always greets me with a smile. Other sure fire smile inducers are the way he laughs at our dogs or the one hundred different facial expressions he uses every day. I love holding him and walking around the house. We go from window to window looking outside at the big, bright world. I never want to stop squeezing him with a big hug. Another great thing is watching him and Arica together. They share such a special bond and it is wonderful to witness.

No one could ever understand the sheer joy that comes from such little things without being a dad. I make jokes about difficulties and my lack of knowledge, but the fact is I love going through this new experience with Braden and Arica. We all learn together. We all depend on one another. No matter how things go each of us is always there to love the others. What a true joy it is to be a new dad and a husband to those two wonderful people.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dad Does Random Jobs

As a Dad you wear many hats. You have to be a teacher, mentor, cook, baby sitter, and chauffeur. These are just some of the normal jobs that you can expect. Recently I had to go MacGuyver and fashion a band-aid small enough for Braden's finger from a regular adult band-aid. A snip here and a snip there and we were done. That got me thinking what other random jobs might be a part of my life with Braden. With creative children's doctor topping the list, here are the others I came up with.

  1. Creative children's Doctor

  2. Dog Wrangler - Keeping Braden safe from charges or pack aggressiveness

  3. Movie Screener - Finding out what is acceptable and what is not

  4. Toy tester - My excuse for playing with Braden's toys

  5. Philosopher - Philosophizing about all life's questions

  6. Referee - I can already see the need to officiate fights with Braden and his cousin.

  7. Taste Tester - Is this too hot, too cold, too salty?

  8. Fashion Consultant - on second thought that is a mommy skill (and wife)

  9. Mechanical Assembly - My Dad always claimed it was tough putting together the Millennium Falcon and other Star Wars toys now it is my turn.

  10. Repair Technician - Fixing the toys I put together poorly (think duct tape and super glue)

  11. Inspector - Did you brush your teeth? Is your room clean?

  12. Scout - Like the movie reviewer of life I must scout locations and events.

  13. Pack Mule - I am already living this dream. It takes about 40 bags to go anywhere with a baby.

  14. Guinea Pig - I see a life full of being Braden's test subject.

  15. Step Ladder - I can be used to see from the height of about 6 feet which is much higher than Braden's vantage point.
  16. Engine - car engine, wagon engine, etc. etc.

  17. Stand up Comic - Laughter is the best medicine

  18. Life Guard - "No Running!" That is all I ever heard at the local pool as a kid.

  19. Braden Wrangler - to protect the dogs from charges or aggressiveness

  20. Relief Pitcher - When I come home from work Arica usually needs some help from the bullpen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Message From Our Sponsors

Arica and I got a new video camera for Christmas. After all this time I have still not tried downloading the videos to my computer. At first I was not that interested because the camera itself has a DVD burner so the computer was of little help. Then I started writing this blog. Since that development I have always intended to download some videos in order to show them here. At 4 months old Braden doesn't do too much that would be interesting to perfect strangers. Everything he does is interesting to Arica, myself, grandparents, and other family members, but what would I put on my blog for the other people who visit this corner of cyber space.

I approached Braden with the idea. After all in this litigious age it is not wise to post videos of someone or otherwise use their likeness without their consent. Braden said it would be OK to use videos of him, but first he would like to introduce himself to my audience. Apparently he has a few things he would like to say before I start using him for other peoples entertainment.

Without further ado I introduce you to my wonderful son Braden.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Madness with a New Dad

Let me join the millions of other budding basketball geniuses who will use their personal space this week to write about the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. I hate to be a follower, but the tournament is way to important for me to skip over. So for this week you can call me a sheep. I will watch as closely as possible with a 4 month old child even though my beloved Razorbacks had the worst season in team history and will be watching like me. I can still find rooting interest in the tourney by rooting against some bad guys like John Calipari or the more popular rooting for my bracket.

With or without the Razorbacks the NCAA tournament is one of my favorite events of the year. I actually think it is the greatest sporting event of all. The Super Bowl is the bigger one day affair, but the opening weekend, Thursday through Sunday, of the big dance can't be topped for excitement. When you follow that on through to the final four you have a recipe for a great sporting event. To be more precise it is a great sporting month.

Much of the interest in the tournament is because of how well it sets up for gambling. I am not a gambler outside of a few hands of poker and betting on the ponies. I do however enjoy picking my brackets and comparing with friends. I have been doing this as long as I can remember. I remember back before the Internet my Dad and I tracked the tournament using the brackets in the newspaper. We would keep copies on the back of the couch so we could easily reach them and mark the latest winners and losers. It will be loads of fun to pick brackets with Braden some day. I'm sure he will enjoy keeping up with it as a child just like I did. This year he will certainly watch with me even though he has no idea what he is seeing. Arica has noticed that basketball is one of his favorite things to watch on TV. I guess all the people running around give him a lot of movement to focus on.

Starting this weekend the NCAA Basketball Tournament will be a part of Braden's life. I hope it will be something we enjoy together for a long time. More than that I hope he gets a chance to enjoy the ultimate thrill of the tournament like I did back in 1994. That wonderful tournament 15 years ago gave me the thrill of seeing my favorite team, the Razorbacks, win a National Championship. I sure would like to experience that kind of fun again with my son.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baby Shots Round Two

This morning was Braden's 4 month doctor visit. At his last visit he received his first round of shots. While I wrote here that the shots were not so bad last time, Braden seemed to be much more anti shots today. He clearly voiced his displeasure when the nurse plunged her needle into his chubby little thigh. It's hard to watch them cry from pain, but it has to be done. The painful crying doesn't last long before it turns into an I am mad scream. The I am mad scream can be gently calmed by a loving mother. It is at times like these that a baby just wants mommy. After getting dressed and put back in his car seat all was well again in little Braden's world.

The bigger news is that Braden has been cleared for green veggies. That is the doctor's term not mine. I would be more inclined to call it jars of green goo. Some of the jars I have seen remind me of the Veggie Boy drink that Woody once hocked on Cheers. It was a supposedly nutritious green slime that Woody advertised but hated. Frasier then hypnotized him into liking the drink which subsequently went out of business. Woody now a crazed Veggie Boy fan plans to grow kale so he can make his own green drink. You can be certain that no matter how much Braden likes his new Veggie Boy slime we will not be planting a garden and buying an industrial size food processor. I fully expect to have further stories to share on this topic after we take a test run.

The doctors tell you that it is of the utmost importance for your children to get proper nutrition during their early years. Our pediatrician said that a child grows about half of his total height by the time he is 2 years old. This is why proper nutrition for babies is so important. As I watch my new favorite show, Mark and Olly, I can see what the lack of proper nutrition can do to a person. The Machigenga men are about 5 feet tall. While they are certainly on breast milk at first their nutrition following that must not be too great. Apparently eating monkeys and bugs does not a tall Machigenga make. Knowing what is at stake Arica and I will forge ahead with feeding our little man spoonful after spoonful of the gooey goodness that will now makeup a vital part of his diet.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where Can I Find Dad Training?

We all enter this wild world of fatherhood with no training and virtually no good advice. Of course there is plenty of advice but notice that I said good advice. The only thing I was told, over and over again, was to get plenty fo sleep before our son's arrival. Everyone goes on and on about the lack of sleep. One of my friends even gave me a prescription for Ambien. Of course he is in no way, shape, or form a doctor so I suppose he was kidding. At least I hope he was kidding. There are a million things you need to know or learn in order to be a good dad, but there seems to be no way to learn these skills other than trial and error.

I received several years of training in order to be an engineer. Accountants have their special training and CPA exams. Doctor's and Lawyers have their own post graduate schools to prepare them for their careers. Fatherhood is the most important job that any man will ever have, and there is no training available. Your wife has a baby, and bang, just like that you are a dad. Never fear my friends I have found a wonderful place to turn for dad training. That place is Clown School.

It makes perfect sense as a training ground for new dads. In the beginning you are the child's only means of entertainment. I have found myself singing, dancing, making faces, and every other stupid thing you can imagine. A dad could benefit from learning to perform under pressure as well. Sometimes your child is screaming and only your actions or gestures can make them stop. It is like the kid is on fire and you just want to put him out, yet you don't know what will actually quench the fire. That is the kind of performance under pressure that clown school can help you with. I am certain that the skills learned in clown school could be applied to fit all your needs and molded to include all your kid's toys. After all, isn't a clown's job to entertain kids?

I looked into the Academy of Performing Arts in Clowning and found that their list of courses absolutely backs up my idea. You can see the entire list here. I think we can skip the courses on The Clown Look. I don't know about you personally, but I look like a clown quite enough without the makeup. The next category is a virtual treasure chest of skills that every dad could use. Some of them are balloon twisting, juggling, puppetry, crafts, games, storytelling, and bubbles. Maybe you are the type of dad that likes to plan out a performance. Clown School has the courses you need under comedy material including skit performance, physical comedy, and the use of props. If you are not already contemplating signing up for clown school then hear this. They even give you guidelines for use in all the places you take your kids like restaurants, daycare, parties, and church.

I am sad that I am just thinking of this now. I could have been better prepared for the job of entertaining Braden. I could have been better prepared next time a "fire" breaks out in the restaurant or at a birthday party. It may be too late for me but please tell all your friends who are expecting. There is finally a place where us new dads can learn the skills needed to survive.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Am Rasing a Small Man

Braden is four months old today. The time has flown by so fast it makes me dizzy. I can't believe that it has been four months since that crazy day in the hospital. It has been four months since I first learned to change a dirty diaper. It has been four months since I became a dad.

I always thought I would want Braden to grow up to toddler age quickly. I thought it would be more fun when he could walk, talk, and play with me. I couldn't wait to start playing baseball and all the other fun sports and games. I was obviously wrong to think that way. Babies are so small and wonderful, and no one wants to hurry along past that stage. Whether we want to hurry or not the time is going by at warp speed.

There are classifications for babies that, frankly, I don't understand. They start out as a newborn. Then they are just a baby I guess. After that they graduate to toddler and then normal every day screaming children. I don't really know the rules that decide which age group starts where. I do know that every day Braden looks less like a baby and more like a little man. He is wearing more jeans and shoes and less onesies and socks. He recently got his first pair of Converse Chuck Taylors. I think that should be some indication of how fast he is growing up. He is still a baby but to me he is growing towards adulthood at an alarming rate. Every day I think more and more that I am raising a small man.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring 2009 Is Almost Here

Here in Arkansas we get to experience all four seasons if only for a brief while. Summer seems to last forever so we have a relatively short spring and fall. The winter is mild but it is enough to make me yearn for spring every year. Eddie Vedder once crooned "No matter how cold the winter there's a spring time ahead." That sentiment keeps me going through the cold short days of winter. Now here in Arkansas spring time is right around the corner. The first signs are the daffodils blooming. They have already come and gone. Then the Bradford Pears and Dogwood trees bloom with limbs full of white flowers. Our neighborhood is full of them. I thought about taking some pictures, but getting out and wandering in other peoples yards for photographs of trees just seemed too weird. Instead you will have to use your imagination. Most trees are putting on leaves now and my yard is full of fast growing weeds leading to the one drawback of spring... mowing.

It has been so warm here that Arica, Braden and I went for a walk the other day. Being born in winter has pretty much made Braden an inside fixture for the first months of his life. I am always glad for spring to come, but this year I am even more excited because I can go outside and play with Braden finally. On a perfect spring day in Arkansas you can expect clear cloudless blue skies and 70 degree temperatures. It may not last long but those few perfect days make it worth while anyway. Spring feels like a new beginning every year as everything turns green and growing. The pale grays of winter turn to the bright glowing colors of spring, and it lifts my spirits. Not to be overlooked, baseball season begins again in the spring. Opening day is one of my favorite days of the year. As I wait anxiously for full fledged spring and baseball season mother nature threw me a curve ball today. It is raining and 40 degrees. That will temper my excitement for a short time while I look for that Pearl Jam CD to remind me that there is still a spring time ahead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Living with the Machigenga

I have been watching a show Sunday nights on the Travel Channel called "Mark and Olly: Living with the Machigenga." The show is about two British nuts who travel to Peru to live in the jungle with an indigenous isolated tribe called the Machigenga. These two guys will do whatever it takes to be accepted into the tribe's society. They live alongside the natives and take part in their daily rituals. So far the show has included the hosts using hallucinogenic drugs, learning to navigate the rapids on man made rafts, hunting for lost tribesmen, letting an entire hive of bees sting them to prove manhood, a tribal olympics, fermenting beer with their own spit, hunting monkeys, eating monkeys, and raising a monkey orphaned by their own hunting. Any show that can boast that type of lineup is must see TV as far as I am concerned.

After watching this Sunday I thought this must be what life is like for Braden. He comes into the new jungle of our lives knowing less about us than our British explorers know about their new hosts. Braden spent months in his own little cave doing his own thing. As soon as he burst forth into the light everything has been new. I wonder what must be going on in his little mind as parades of people pass through his world to hold him and talk to him. He understands us on roughly the same level as Mark and Olly understand Jose, Jacinto, and the rest of the tribe. We lay him on his back and stomach to get him to do certain rituals that are foreign to him much like Mark an Olly with the bee stinging rite of manhood. He is shown new toys and gadgets all the time. He learns to use things much like the explorers learn to use the bow and arrow or the raft. He may not eat monkey hands but soon he will be trying all manner of slimy pseudo foods. I know that Braden feels an attachment to Arica and me and he certainly loves us very much. I can't help but think though at times it must feel very much like a strange adventure to him as he journeys through these early months and years. Hopefully I can be a better guide than the Machigenga who laugh and ridicule every chance they get.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Not Your Father's Library

I was driving to work this morning trying to shake off the remnants of another weekend when I heard an interesting commercial. In my morning haze I had forgotten to change the radio station to my normal sports talk show so this commercial was new to me. It was an advertisement for the Garland County Public Library. I have to admit that I don't even know where the Garland County Library is located. It's not because I am against reading or anything like that. I actually enjoy reading every time I give it a whirl, but I enjoy getting my stories from the idiot box a little bit more. When I am travelling I read a lot so I would consider myself an occasional reader. I don't read enough, however, to know where to find the library.

I knew that libraries contained computers and other modern electronics today. The last time I was in the library the most modern thing was the micro fiche. I still think of the library as the place where you take out books on loan by using a library card. As Jerry Seinfeld once said the library is like a government funded pathetic friend. They will let you take anything if you will just be there friend. According to the clip below they might also send someone after you if you violate the terms of their pathetic friend agreement. This clip including the library cop Mr. Bookman is one of my all time Seinfeld favorites.

Apparently the library is trying a little harder for your friendship today. The commercial on the radio was advertising a Wii Mario Cart tournament. What?!? The library is organizing a Wii tournament. You may think the pathetic friend just branched out into nerdy video games, but I disagree. This is a huge change for the library. I have heard and read about the children's programs that most libraries do as well. According to this ad the programs in Garland County are award winning. I am sure they are not winning Nobel prizes or anything but they should be a great service. Since as a new dad I am learning to stretch a dollar it is great to know that the local library is offering such functions. I hope to take Braden to the library for all kinds of programs in the future. All I have to do now is find the place.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Learning to Stretch a Dollar

The list of skills required for fatherhood is as long as the Nile and meanders through as much foreign territory as the Amazon. The skills are very often learned as you go. The more obvious skills to learn are those about how to care for your child including changing diapers, feeding a bottle, giving a bath, dressing little people and so on. There are also the tasks of how to teach them manners, values, and other things that are important to you as a parent. Their is really no warning for what skills you might need. Things just pop up and demand attention from time to time.

The skill that has been on my mind lately is how to stretch a dollar. I never thought much about where I spent my money earlier in life. As a kid I didn't have any money so it was none of my concern. It was for the grown-ups to worry about. In college I still didn't worry about it because...well I was a college kid. The weekend party was more important than the amount of money in the bank. As some of my old bank records surely show, I spent money whether I had it in the bank or not. When I graduated from college I was single for 5 years. I had a good job and no real debt to worry about. As you might imagine I was handing out money like Jimmy Conway on Goodfellas.

Later in life things come along that change the way you spend money. The first thing is marriage. Now you are spending money for two rather than one. For the first time in my life I had to consider someone else. It is not a good thing that I made it this far without learning to share, but somehow I did it anyway. After marriage the next step is certainly children. Now we have a beautiful boy that is the focal point of our spending. I am not complaining about any of this. Your children should be the focal point of not only your money but your attention as well. I am only noting how stretching a dollar is a skill. Some people learn it earlier in life while others like myself only learn it when it is absolutely necessary.

This is a natural part of becoming a husband and a father. When you have those titles your focus has to shift from yourself to the others that you care about. I think this line of thinking is why several guys I know will probably never get married. They are unable to give up being the most important person all of the time. Before marriage and fatherhood a new fishing rod was a necessity right along with food and clothing. After having children you learn that is a luxury item that you probably don't need right now. Before having children eating out whenever you felt like it was common place. Now there is a pantry full of quick and cost effective meals. Before having children I loved going to the track. If you read regularly you know that I still go to the track occasionally. Track visits show that I still have some money management skills to learn because that is not the best use of our money.

I don't mean for this post to sound like a bitter dad that can't spend money on himself. I am merely noting the changes that have occurred. We are using coupons, bargain hunting, and all the other things you can do to stretch a dollar. I think I am getting better at this skill although I will probably always struggle. Somewhere in this rambling post lies one of the true beauties of fatherhood. The things you would do for your children know no bound. I certainly would give up the track, the new rod, eating out and anything else for Braden and Arica. I would eat bologna and ramen noodles for the rest of my life if that is what it takes. Stretching a dollar with your family is a million times better than spending freely alone.

Blogging Takes a Back Seat

I am certain that there comes a time in every up and coming blogger's life that time is just not time available to put thoughts to virtual paper. That time has been the last couple of days for me. Actually I haven't even had much time to consider what might be interesting topics for blog posting. There are work, fatherhood, husband duties, and other life obstacles that can take up your time. After all blogging for most of us is a fun thing and not a necessity like sleeping, eating, paying taxes and so forth.

This week at work has been hectic. We are currently designing a power plant project for Scotland. We are nearing the time to start fabrication so there is much to do. I am looking over drawings, meeting with fabricators, and answering questions. Also my boss has chosen this time to have a partial knee replacement surgery. His absence has led to me doing a lot of his project management duties for the past week. All of this has kept my plate full.

I will however carry on posting here come hell or high water. I enjoy it too much to let things get in the way. Hopefully this afternoon will go swimmingly and I can be back at my finest for tomorrow. In the mean time I thought I would post a couple more pictures of Braden. That face can make me smile no matter how the rest of the day is going.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kids at Church

I am a firm believer in children being quiet and still during church. When I was growing up this seemed to be the common belief among parents. If I misbehaved I got taken into another room of the church and "reminded" what was expected of me. Every kid I see in church now acts like they are at Chuck E Cheese. They are loud and climbing on everything. Sunday I had a kid behind me climb over my chair to look at Braden. He was in the perfect position to be my second head. Those worries are a while in the future yet but I promise Braden will never be one of the climbing church monkeys.

So far church going has been pretty easy. The hardest part of taking Braden as a newborn was getting ready and taking care of him at the same time. He needed constant attention. When we got to church he slept the entire time every week so it was no problem. Now Braden is a little older and he doesn't sleep too much during the day. He also prefers not to be held all the time. He likes to get down and play on his own. At church that's not possible.

Sunday was a little bit of a new experience for us. It was time for him to eat at 11 o'clock sharp or right at the beginning of church. We were a little bit late and the pastor was talking as we found a seat. As soon as Arica took Braden out of the car seat he started crying. It was probably only a few seconds but in a silent church it seemed like hours. Arica hurried to get the bottle in his mouth and then it was silent again. The boy has developed quite a set of lungs.

Later in church he got sleepy and this makes him a little fussy. He didn't want to go to sleep by conventional means so I got up and took a walk. This is now one of Braden's favorite things. He likes to be up and walking around. In order to keep him happy I stood at the back of church for the entire sermon. Braden was looking at the exit signs for entertainment. Finally right at the end of the sermon he fell asleep while I was holding him. I got to sit down for the last few minutes of the service. Of course standing is worth it to make him happy. I feel like I might see a few more sermons in the standing position. Since my ears work whether standing or sitting that will be just fine with me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Another Weekend Gone

With Monday now beating me directly in the head I will try to fondly remember the weekend via this post. We had a good weekend with some negative influence. The best happening of the weekend was Braden rolling over for the first time. I was watching him while Arica was at the movies. He spent a lot of the night on his pallet in the floor playing and watching TV. His favorite activity is laying on the floor and playing. He holds his toys and tries to eat them of course. He rolls on his side trying to roll over. He likes to kick his legs and wave his arms. He laughs at the TV and whichever parent happens to be down there with him at the time. Friday he was doing all those things and laying on his side a lot. Finally he just went on over. It didn't scare him but he eventually got upset because he didn't want to be on his stomach. Arica called to see how he was doing and I shared the news. She was very excited. Later when she came home I went to the door to meet her. She was asking about Braden rolling over as she came in the room. Then we turned around and he had done it again. There he was laying on his stomach. Of course we are excited because every little development is exciting when you have a newborn. Now we will watch as he continues to practice his new skill and wait for the mobilization of Braden.

The bad part of the weekend started Saturday morning. I spent the entire day helping Arica's cousin move into a new house. As Jerry Seinfeld once told us, moving is a big step in a male relationship. You don't help just anyone move, but this was family so I think it is acceptable. For your viewing pleasure I have included Jerry's thoughts about moving in the clip below. It starts after he and Elaine finish the kiss discussion.

After the moving fun I spent Sunday losing money at the track. I figured the horses were hungry so I donated my money to feed them some nice oats and hay. I was afraid if I didn't make my donation they might get stuck eating beefarino like Rusty.

Even with the dual negative forces of moving and losing money it was a good weekend. Any day with Arica and Braden is a good one. I guess that makes me a lucky man because I get to spend every day with them.