Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dad's Spring Cleaning with Random Thoughts

I need to clear my head. Think of it as a spring cleaning so I can find the New Dad related topics that are lost in this junk like an old favorite shirt gets lost in a drawer full of bad christmas gifts.

  • The wife will henceforth be known by her given name Arica. It is pronounced like Erica but it is spelled Arica. Please pronounce it correctly in your minds...

  • My post about Razorback basketball a while back was way off. They are not in any way relevant...

  • Crazy bearded Jack was gone from Lost by the 8 minute mark. I sure hope the writers use all their time travel tricks to bring him back. I already miss crazy bearded Jack...

  • 10 cent superfectas are just another tool that works against the degenerate gambler...

  • Every time it gets really cold I consider a move to Florida. Is it OK for southerners to retire in Florida or do New Yorkers have a monopoly on that?...

  • Manwich is probably the greatest product name of all time...

  • Lost is being preempted every week by SEC basketball. Is there any way we can get Ben to move these games like he moved the island?...

  • I love raw oysters. I don't care what they look like...

  • I read there was going to be an A-Team movie. I am sure Mr. T is available...

  • Jack Bauer and Tony Almeda are one of the greatest crime fighting duos of all time. I don't care what Crockett and Tubbs say...

  • I think my dogs want to sue to become emancipated canines...

  • Can this be considered blogging or am I just loosing my mind?...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl 2009

The Super Bowl is the most overblown ridiculous sporting event ever imaginable. I say that with an unblemished record as a pure sports nut. I watch sports every chance I get and I have not missed a Super Bowl that I can remember. So I will be watching this year, but I just wanted to note that I think it has gotten out of control. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest party days of the year right up there with New Years Eve and the 4th of July. People that have no idea what constitutes pass interference have been planning parties for weeks. Everyone will be dusting off their best appetizer recipes and digging the grill out of the garage to get ready for the big game.

The game is incredibly secondary to everything else, but for what it is worth I am pretty sure that the Steelers will win. I will be pulling for the Cardinals because I am more of an underdog supporter. I think half of the people at my brother-in-laws party will be cheering for the commercials. Somewhere amongst the 5 hour pregame, the incredibly important commercials, Bruce Springsteen, and alternating trips to the bathroom and the buffet line there might even be a good game.

With all of this in mind I would like to introduce 2 things that I hope change by the time Braden is enjoying Super Bowl parties.

  1. Move the Super Bowl to Saturday: You can't have a great party when you have to go to work the next day. It would be so much better if the big game was followed by a day of rest. After college football is over the NFL plays regular season and playoff games on Saturday so there is really no reason not to move the Super Bowl as well.

  2. Stop with the Roman Numerals: We are not Roman for one thing and we have our own system of numbers as well but that is not what I propose we use. How about calling this the 2009 Super Bowl. What a novel idea! When remembering Super Bowls past we remember them by the year not if they were the 14th, 28th, or 43rd Super Bowl in the history of the NFL. This makes no sense so let's stop it now.
This is my plea to the world out there. After all isn't it a dad's job to try and make the future a better place for his children. So help me get these changes made. Don't do it for me. Do it for the kids.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Does Your Baby Watch TV?

The funniest thing to me about Braden is how much he watches TV. He stares with the most intent wide eyed stare that you have ever seen. It looks like he is absolutely mesmerized. I guess he probably looks like me when I walk out into a major league baseball stadium staring with wonderment at the field below. When someone that knows me well sees him staring at the TV I can expect the standard "he's definitely your son" comment. I can't decide however if this new habit is a good thing to start at his age.

Part of me thinks that being able to watch so intently at such a young age shows that he is smart. He has stared intently at everything that crossed his path since the day he was born. Many people commented on his alertness in the early going. Once he got older and was able to move his head then he was even more alert. He didn't have to wait on things to come into his field of vision anymore. He could seek out interesting shapes and colors and try to learn about them. I think this kind of awareness is a great indication that he is aware of his surroundings and eager to learn about them. The natural progression of this awareness of course had to lead to the 42" giant speaking color box perched across the room from our favorite chair. How could any child not notice that thing when it provides the majority of the light in our small living room. We usually only have a lamp on that is dwarfed by the TV light. I remember when I was a kid we had that huge TV that sat on the floor. There were no entertainment centers back then just giant wooden boxes that contained a small TV. Now we have those big screens perched right up in the air for everyone to see.

I guess in this day when so many people have large flat screen HD TVs it is expected that children will notice them. The only way to avoid that is turn the off theTV, and let's be honest, that is not going to happen at my house. So I choose to believe that not noticing something that big and bright would be a much larger problem than developing an early affinity for the idiot box. At least I will believe that until I get inundated with that maniac Sponge Bob.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Child Tax Credit

Becoming a new dad is a great thing. Every day is full of rewards and blessings. One extra blessing Braden has brought to our family is about to pay off literally. It's tax season and the big bad IRS wants your money. In our case we will be getting a refund and this year we are armed with a new weapon....Braden. He is our little tax credit.

The child tax credit can add up to $1000 to your bottom line for each qualifying child. That goes a long way towards diapers and formula for us new dads. I assume for older kids it goes a long way towards something else. Credit is the greatest word in the tax vocabulary and we are glad to add one to our return.

The great thing about having a child late in the year is the US government gives you credit for the enitre year no matter when you have the baby. To get the child tax credit your child has to live with you for at least half of the year. There is an exeption that states:

"A child is considered to have lived with you for all of 2008 if the child was born or died in 2008 and your home was this child's home for the entire time he or she was alive."
Our son was born in November so we basically get 10 free months of parenthood. Everyone should try and have children late in the year. After all this is one of the only times the government ever gives anything away for free so we all need to take advantage. In closing I would like to thank the IRS for giving me some free months of parenthood for tax purposes. It may not be the greatest gift ever but as far as government entities go I think we should consider it a blessing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How to Talk to Your Baby

I recently saw the Mark Wahlberg talks to animals clip on hulu. I thought it was hilarious. It got me thinking about how I talk to Braden. I have always believed that you should talk to your babies like they are adults. I know certain sounds and high pitch voices are supposed to be more pleasing to babies. That is OK with me. My problem is the way people use improper grammar with babies and how they make up sounds. Basically most people talk to babies like the baby is an idiot.

I think you should talk to the baby the way you want him to talk when he is able. We all know that you shouldn't curse around a young child because they repeat what they hear. If we know that then why do we continue to say things like "hims a big boy" to our children. We know they will repeat what we say so why do we intentionally tell them wrong. I think talking to your child like a real person helps develop their brain and enables them to learn faster and thus be smarter.

Now this theory is followed by almost no one. So it leads to people staring at me like I have 2 heads when I talk to Braden. I ask questions and hold one sided adult conversations although there is no chance of response. Basically I look very much like Andy Samberg's portrayal of Mark Wahlberg when I talk to Braden but I am going to keep doing it so just laugh away.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weekend with Dad

Saturday was the wife's last day of work. From now on she will be a full time mom. That is much more difficult than any job but it is also much more rewarding. We are all excited about her being home.

After leaving work at lunch she and a few friends had a girl's day. They went to lunch, to a movie, and shopping. That left poor little Braden with daddy all day long. It was the longest time we had ever spent together alone. I think we bonded.

Earlier in the week Braden had become really fussy. He would cry and cry sometimes and there was nothing I could do about it. My only recourse was to hand him over to mom. She encouraged me to be patient and he would get comfortable with me. Of course mom is always right. Braden has pretty well taken to me and doesn't get too upset any more. He slept a lot on Saturday but we mixed in some play time too. I tried to learn all the songs that his singing puppy knows. I fell short on memorizing but I think Braden enjoyed watching me try. I read him Dr. Seuss's "The Cat in the Hat" for the first time. He laughed and talked along the whole time. That Dr. Seuss was a genius. I think we can all agree on that. It was a great Saturday and hopefully only the beginning of all the fun us boys can have.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lullabies that Parents Love

Lullabies have probably been around nearly as long as babies. I am sure thousands of years ago mothers were singing or grunting something to their newborns. The soft sounds often help a baby sleep. When Braden was having trouble sleeping a friend of ours made a CD full of songs that helped his daughter sleep. Of course the CD did not work at all for us but that is not my point. I was listening to the CD with Braden and my wife while we worked on getting him to sleep one night. A few songs went by that I did not pay any attention to then suddenly there was an instrumental lullaby that sounded familiar. I started humming along then singing. The song was "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day. The YouTube video at the bottom of this post plays that exact song. After the song was over there were other old Green Day favorites along with The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. I have seen on the Internet CDs for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and others. I have no idea how well these things work on most babies. Like I said they didn't work for us at all, but I fully support the idea anyway. It is a great age we live in when we have such great lullaby options for our children. That night I was sad when the CD ended. I wanted to listen to the songs I liked again. Then I was reminded that we had more important things to do like get Braden to sleep. So as long as you don't get distracted like me these lullaby renditions of your favorite songs are a great idea.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Free Entertainment

My wife and I went out to a restaurant Wednesday night to get some specialty tacos. She likes the carne asada tacos with fried onions and the spicy sauce. I like all the tacos (chicken, carne asada, brisket, and fish). This time I went for the fish tacos. It is a funny sounding thing to say but it sure tastes good.

We have taken Braden out to eat with us several times. I have always enjoyed food and my wife and I like to get out of the house and share some time together. This is one of the easiset things for us to do with a new baby at least for now. Before this trip Braden had always slept through our restaurant trips. This time he was awake for the duration. He sat on mom's lap and looked around the restaurant at the lights and the people. When our food came I took him from mom. I held him up against my chest and he looked out over my shoulder at the restaurant scene.

Little did I know that Braden was free entertainment for the restaurant. There was a table with two older ladies across the way. They watched him the whole time we were eating. After eating they came by our table on the way out and told us Braden was so cute and adorable. The waitress was about the same. Every time she came to check on us she had to talk to Braden. All of these people were just amazed that he was so alert at 10 weeks old. I always thought that the food was the number one attraction for people going out to eat but apparently if we are in the restaurant the food takes a back seat to our boy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You Gotta See the Baby

If anyone out there is crazy enough to read this blog more than once you will probably notice that I am a huge Seinfeld fan. We will cover that topic another time, but today I want to use a certain Seinfeld moment to illustrate something about having a new baby. Basically some of Jerry's friends want him to come see their baby. Rather than try to explain it you can watch this clip. It starts bad but clears up after 5 seconds.

In another episode Jerry wonders if these people are having kids just to get people to come see them. If that was the case I promise you it would work. One of the hardest things about the first few weeks as a new dad is the visitors. Here you and your wife are trying to adjust to this new crying, pooping person in your house and all the while you are hosting a house party. We had so many people in our room right after the birth that I lost count. It was all a blur at that point but it did not stop. The next day our hospital room actually got so full that you could not fit another person inside. People started leaving because they were too crowded and uncomfortable. It was crazy.

When we got home the drill went on for nearly two weeks. My wife and I had absolutely zero time to ourselves. We had to postpone starting our life as a family in order to host a baby viewing gala every night. I know the Seinfeld clip takes place in TV land but why in the world would anyone want to insist on people coming to see the baby. I promise they will come anyway. A heavily fortified house surrounded by the national guard, ravenous pit bulls, and land mines could not keep people away from a new baby. I have found so many true comparisons to real life on Seinfeld but this one misses the mark for me. I would never be calling people and saying "You Gotta See the Baby!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lost Premiere Event, video

Today marks the return of my favorite TV show. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley and all the gang are flying back into our living rooms tonight for the season premiere of Lost. In their honor I am going to take a break from baby talk to share a few thoughts about the show. Last season ended with the Oceanic Six going home. This led to one of my favorite characters on the show....Bearded, pill popping, crazy Jack. He is much more entertaining than in control, take charge, leader Jack. Bearded Jack is running around telling everyone they have to go back to the island with a stoned look on his face. In one of my favorite bearded Jack moments he pulled up to see Jeremy Bentham in the funeral parlor totally rocking out on his jeep stereo. I suppose he will get his act together this season to lead the return to the island.

Lost has more unanswered questions than any show I have ever seen. Each episode has more questions than answers. The fantasy land they have created is rife with mystery and science fiction. The show also does a good job of mixing past, present, and lately future to round out the stories. As you go along you learn more about the characters and their lives. After learning about the characters pasts the show starts to reveal their future creating a large void in time where much of the action now takes place. Each show puts another piece of the puzzle in place. It's a thought provoking journey.

We know that bad things are supposed to happen because the Oceanic 6 left. We know that Claire is not supposed to raise her baby and she even appeared to Kate in a dream telling her not to bring him back to the island. We know that Locke and Ben, the two most in touch with the island, are trying to get everyone to come back. At least Ben is still trying. We also know that Jack's dead father is running around talking to folks and Ben and Widmore have some unfinished business.

I've read that the creators know exactly how the story will end. I cannot even imagine what will happen. There is so much left unanswered about that crazy island, but you can count me in for every episode left of the ride. I am ready to go with crazy Jack back to the island myself even if some of his friends are not.

Boppy - Rock in Comfort Travel Swing

There is one piece of baby equipment in my house that has quite possibly saved my life, my marriage, and what's left of my sanity. This item is known to baby gear shoppers as a Boppy - Rock in Comfort Travel Swing. To me it is known as Braden's bed.

Braden refuses to sleep in anything that is not moving. He will sleep in your arms if you are rocking or bouncing him. He will sleep in the car while you are driving. And he will sleep in his swing. You can't sleep yourself if you are rocking him or driving a car so the swing is the best option. There are large very expensive swings out there and I am sure they are great. They swing side to side as well as front to back. We don't have one of those. We have this little travel swing instead. Braden sleeps in it every night. The travel version is great because we can take his bed with us wherever we go. I challenge you to try and take your baby's crib with you on a trip. We don't go a lot but it is comforting to know that we have something Braden will sleep in that fits in our car other than his car seat.

I would like to thank the people at Boppy for creating this travel friendly life saving device. At this point in my life I would rearrange the basic needs to include food, clothing, shelter, and travel swing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Free Enfamil!

As any formula feeding parent can tell you the 2 words in this post's title are enough to make you delirious with excitement. It's like winning the lottery.

Saturday we pulled up to the mailbox to check the mail after returning from dinner. I am never excited to get the mail. It is only bills and junk. We never get anything good so I don't even care to get it at all. When I opened the door to our rusty box I saw a package inside. As my wife was asking me if I ordered something I was trying to determine the likelihood someone would try to bomb me. I am probably not bombable but what else could be in my box when neither of us has ordered anything. It was dark so I couldn't see the box until I reached in and pulled it out. The package was not a bomb at all. It was from our friends at Enfamil. I immediately got excited. Maybe it's free samples I hoped out loud. We got into the house and opened the package and there were 2 free cans of formula tucked inside. If we got this kind of stuff more often I would run to the mail box like Billy Madison on nudie magazine day every afternoon. There is nothing I could find in my mail box short of a gold brick that would have made me happier.

I guess even the mail can show how much your life has changed after you have a baby. Before Braden I could have never got so excited about the mail. I could have never been so excited about a free sample. Then again before Braden I didn't know that they sold powdered gold in a yellow can down at the local Wal-Mart.

Weekend Update

Another Monday and I am back at work. I have never received a day off for Marting Luther King day in my life but that is another story. We had a pretty busy weekend and some how I find myself with nothing to write. Braden was around another baby for the first time this weekend. Some of my wife's cousins came to visit over the weekend. The cousins' grandson made the trip too. He is 2 weeks older than Braden but much further behind in development. He is still at the lay there and do nothing stage. He offers no cooing, laughing, or alertness. Braden has been cooing and laughing for weeks now.

While we are on the subject I would like to say that cooing is a bad term for the noise that babies make. I think pigeons coo not people and I don't want my child being described in the same way as those filthy rats with wings. But alas I am just one man and I could never change baby culture so cooing it will be.

My proudest moment of the weekend came when my wife got out of the shower Sunday morning. She looked over to the dining room table. There I sat with Braden on my lap. Both of us were intently looking over the racing form trying to pick winners for my day at the horse races. I think I should get father of the year for that. The wife just shook her head. It turns out on that day it would have been better if I just let Braden pick the horses himself.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Attention Wal-Mart Dads

Wal-Mart is a world power that everyone has to reckon with. Living my entire life in Arkansas has led me into a long relationship with the retail giant. We in Arkansas are proud to be home to the largest retailer in the world. At the same time it seems comedians are all too quick to make the lets go down to Wal-Mart jokes about country bumpkins. So the chain is a source of pride and ridicule all at the same time for us Arkansans. We don't pay any attention to the ridicule because we are going right back to Wal-Mart when we get off work anyway. In my opinion any place where you can pick up a set of mud tires, a new TV, and a 10 pound bag of burritos in one trip is a place worthy of my praise.

Now Wal-Mart has its drawbacks as well. The virtual monopoly it holds in my part of the world has put many family owned local businesses out of work. When I was a kid the countryside was home to many community stores. They had the essentials along with a cafe or bait shop in some locations. These stores have long since gone the way of the dodo bird. Sometimes I pass the abandoned buildings or the empty parking lots of places like Three Way Grocery or The One Horse Store and remember a different time. Along with that drawback Wal-Mart also has a little problem with fresh groceries. The produce is pretty poor and is always picked over due to the sheer volume of customers, but the main problem is with the meat. There is no butcher at Wal-Mart. You cannot pick up a fresh cut steak or freshly ground beef. You cannot buy shrimp or fish by the pound. All the meat is shipped from the supplier prepackaged and frozen. There is no such thing as fresh Wal-Mart meat.

Even with these detractions Wal-Mart is still a wonderful place. It is a great place for the new dad providing everything you need and a lot of things you don't in the baby center. They provide you with the lowest prices on diapers and formula, and as a new dad you will find out that those things will cost you a fortune so every little bit counts. The list of quality items does not stop there. Braden already has the entire collection of Wal-Mart clothes and toys. Not to mention that we got his swing, bouncy chair, high chair, pack and play, and various other necessities there too. Wal-Mart also provides you with budget pricing on everything from food to bathroom supplies to toys to anything else you can imagine. Now they offer the same brands of TVs, computers, cameras and other electronics as the specialty stores. There is really no reason for the new dad not to love Wal-Mart. As I have said many times in my life, "If Wal-Mart doesn't have it...You don't need it." So I am glad that Sam Walton is a fellow Arkansas. I am glad that he built the largest retailer in the world. And most of all I am glad that I live only 1/2 mile from the nearest Wal-Mart.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Immunization Baby!

I own about 15 Pearl Jam CD's most of which are live recordings from various places over the years. So I basically own about 10 different renditions of all their popular songs. For the last week or so I have listened to a live Pearl Jam concert rocorded in New York City over and over. This has warped my brain and thoughts a bit as I try to write. I am channeling a little Eddie Vedder from "Evolution" in the title today. If you don't know Pearl Jam you can see the video for "Evolution" here or you can just imagine I am a foreign visitor to our great country trying to describe what happened yesterday by screaming in broken English.

That's right yesterday Braden got his first round of immunizations. I was worried that we would have a Chernobyl type meltdown so I took off work an hour to provide my support. Mom's don't do too well when they see their little baby boy screaming from pain or at least the one living with me doesn't. Much to my surprise I was not needed at all. Braden cried but I have heard him cry louder before. The nurse was so quick it was all over before I knew it. She stuck him 3 times bowed to the crowd and made her exit. I am glad it wasn't too bad but I still don't look forward to doing it again in 2 months.

In other news from the visit Braden gained 2 pounds to reach the weight of 12 lbs 7 oz. He has grown 4 lbs 2 oz in 2 months and 3 days. It is amazing how fast the time goes by. I blame some of that on 6 weeks of a sleepless zombie like haze but still yet the boy is getting big. He holds his head up on his own and likes to be sitting up so he can see everything. He talks and laughs and is very interested in what is happening. He even laughed at our dogs through the sliding glass door the other day. I guess time goes by fast when you are having fun.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Horse Racing as a New Dad

When I graduated college I got a job smack dab in the middle of a little horse racing town called Hot Springs, AR. Before I moved here I had only been to the horse track once in my life. It was fun but more of a party than anything else and I really knew nothing about how to bet the ponies.

Fast forward 9 years and you will find me as a horse racing junkie. I would go to the track everyday if it would not cost me my job and my marriage. I have learned how to bet all the bets, read all the forms, and talk all the talk. I go to the track every chance I get to make a few bets and drink a few beers. My friends come in from other parts of Arkansas to go to the track with me. I have become a true fan of horse racing following the big races on TV. There is nothing though that matches the excitement of live thoroughbred racing and it returns to Oaklawn Park this Friday January 16th.

This year I face a new challenge in the world of horse racing. I have never won particularly big. I take home a few hundred dollars from time to time. Most trips I gamble all day and have it only cost me for refreshments or less. Basically I can usually play the horses even and maybe even make enough to cover my adult beverages. By doing that I am enjoying some very cheap entertainment. Every once in a while I will take a beating and not be able to hit any races. I hate those days but in the past they have only been damaging to my pride. Now that I am a new dad things are a little different. My wife is no longer working and we have another mouth to feed. That is a nice way of saying that I cannot afford to take any big beatings this year. So what will I do?

I am not a rich man so I don't bet a huge amount of money but I like to place several different bets on every race because it increases my odds of winning. I think that if I cut down on my wagers I will cut way down on my chances of winning money or even breaking even. In the long run I think this will make me lose more. I am planning to make mostly the same bets on the slow days at the track. When I am partying with all my buddies I will cut way back on the betting. These are the days that I usually lose my head and make ridiculous bets. I think there could be some scientific correlation to drinking and and losing money. Don't anybody go and tell Las Vegas or Tunica.

This year I hope I can use my knowledge to have some good cheap fun. If I lose too much I could get banned by my wife or I could be relegated to screaming "Braden needs a new pack of diapers" as my horse heads for home.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Secret Identity Revealed

I have not written much about my son in this new dad blog. I have written about all types of things as they relate to my son or to me as a dad. I thought that it was difficult to write about him because he was too young and not yet able to walk, talk, or even crawl. As I thought about things to tell about life with my son I realized that the reason it was so difficult is because I am trying to do it in secrecy. The writing is so impersonal when you try to do it this way. Now I have decided to reveal my son's name and pictures. From now on he will be referred to in everything I write and this blog will be much more about life as a new dad to a wonderful little boy named Braden.

I have a million pictures and I will share a lot of them over time. I hope you enjoy these for starters. The one in the tigger robe and the one with the cow outfit were taken this week. The one with a sock on his hand was the first week after he came home from the hospital. The others are somewhere in between.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Business Travel as a New Dad

My job has taken me many places. I mean this in the literal not figurative sense. When I first took the job I went immediately to a little place called Rossano Italy for 6 weeks. I have since been back there 6 or 8 times with the longest stay being 7 weeks. When I got the job I was single. I felt like some sort of adventurous traveller. I was seeing the world not in a dirty, touristy, tour bus kind of way but in a much more sophisticated manner. I was interacting with the locals like someone from the travel channel or someone from an exciting adventure movie. At times it even felt like I was living abroad. It was all very exciting for someone in their early twenties. Since I have been with the company I have visit Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, and Costa Rica.

Check out some of the pictures from my travels. I know I am not in any of these pictures but I took everyone of them myself. I guess I was always scared if I asked someone to take my picture they would run off with my camera like that guy did to Clark W. Griswold in European vacation.

Church remains after WWII bombing (Hamburg, Germany)

Buddhist Cave Temple (Ipoh, Malaysia)

Petronas Twin Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Pattaya Beach, Thailand

Trevi Fountain (Rome, Italy)

The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)

St. Leonard Cathedral (St. Leonard de Noblat, France)

Playa del Coco, Costa Rica

Hotel balcony view of the Gulf of Taranto in the Ionian Sea (Rossono, Italy)

Everything changed when I got married. Travelling as a newlywed is extremely difficult. Instead of viewing myself like Indiana Jones in the streets of an exotic land I was now viewing myself like a dead beat husband. My wife was at home very upset and I was helplessly unable to do anything about it.

Now things have changed again. I have a son that I can't imagine being away from for a day much less 2-3 weeks which is my typical travel time. We have just sold a project in Scotland so I will be visiting there in the summer. I have alwasy wanted to visit Scotland. I have never visited any of the UK unless you count a bus ride from London Gatwick to London Heathrow as a visit to England. This trip to a fascinating English speaking country is great for my career as well . Yet all I can think about is the misery of leaving my family at home. I know plenty of people make a living travelling every day and they have happy families but that is just not me. Business travel as a dad will be a daunting task. I am going to Scotland but they might as well be sending me to the gallows because I will feel dead anyway.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bass Fishing with Dad or Not

Even before I became a dad I wondered if my son would like the same things I do. I wondered if we would get to spend time together doing the same things my dad did with me. I plan on writing several entries relating to my incessant ponderings about my sons future and today I want to start with my favorite hobby, fishing.

When I was a kid my dad took me fishing a few times. I still remember catching my first bass on Voss Lake. We were motoring along pretty good and I had my line in the water. I got a yank that nearly pulled me out of the boat. I was sure that I had caught one of the thousands of stumps lurking just below the surface but it was a small bass instead. Somewhere at my mom's house there is a picture of a gap toothed kid holding up that fish and smiling. Even with this success I never really liked fishing. My Dad was a bass fisherman rather than a crappie fisherman like seemingly everyone else I knew. Bass fishing takes patience which has never been one of my strong suits especially as a child. You may fish all day just to catch one fish and this just seemed boring to me.

Since I graduated college I have been living in a town with 3 big lakes. After a few years I had all I could stand of watching people on the water so I bought a small 16' aluminum bass boat. It has a 50 hp Mercury motor that will skim me across the water at about 35 mph. It is a great boat for a guy just learning how to fish. Now I mentioned that my dad bass fished but he never fished in clear water lakes like I was attempting now. I had to start from the beginning. After a couple of years of limited success I was invited to go fishing with my father-in-law. Since then we have become fishing buddies and he has taught me a lot. He even invited me to fish in a tournament once last year and we made $280. I love bass fishing.

This brings me to my question. Will my son like bass fishing with me? I cannot wait for the day that I can replace my two dogs with a new fishing partner, my son. There would be nothing like teaching him how to fish while sharing time outdoors. I love to be out there on the water enjoying the outdoors whether I catch a lot of fish or not. Don't get me wrong the point is to catch fish and the more the better, but I think time outdoors between father and son is a great thing no matter what. I may not have fished much as a kid but I did spend time on the farm and hunting with my dad. Those are some of my very best memories of my childhood. I think that fishing offers my son and I that kind of opportunity to bond and share memories for a life time. I sure hope he will have fun when I finally get to take him out on the lake. I am already devising a back up plan that includes worms and much easier to catch bream. I will make whatever adjustments I need to make so he has fun. After all that is what being a dad is all about.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What is a Play Gym?

There is a product out there for babies called a play gym. On the surface this term appears to be oxymoronic. To me the gym is a lot more like work than play but I digress. What does your baby do with this product. Does it help him work out his biceps or is it a place to play games. As you can see I think the name could use some work but the product is great. The thing is a mat with bars overhead from which you can hang all manner of toys and noisemakers. Most play gyms are marked with some pretty high intensity colors that may look like they were designed by a mental patient but those colors are part of the magic. The combination of colors, hanging objects, and noisemakers make for a pretty cool place for your baby.

I first got ours out when the boy was several weeks old. By this time he was alert and looking around. I figured he got tired of looking at me, mom, and the various lights around the house. Right from the start he laid down in the play gym and was happy. He laid there for a half hour and smiled at the danglies. So being the great dad that I am I dug through his toys and found a few rattles to add to the collection. Our play gym has a lion that plays music and a few rattling things. The baby toy makers now make everything with hooks so all your toys are interchangeable. This is a great idea to help keep your baby's attention but sometimes I put so much stuff on the thing that the boy must think he is being surrounded. My wife correctly reminds me from time to time that I don't need to hang every toy we have from the multicolored bars and hooks.

Take if from me the play gym is not only for babies looking to do squat thrusts. They are a great place for your baby to play while you take a break. They are also a great place for you and the baby to play together. Now if I could just get past the negative connotations I get from the word gym. I think I will start calling ours the Amazing Technicolored Play Mat.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Quest for Sleep

I have ventured off into my thoughts on video games and television and haven't shared anything about life with my son lately. One of the biggest adjustments for me was trying to function on a few hours of sleep every night. I have come up with some stages that I went through on my quest for sleep. Not unlike Frodo and Sam's quest to destroy the ring this quest is long and difficult and at times will seem impossible but it can be conquered. Here are the stages I went through.

  1. What do we do?
  2. Calmly trying to sleep
  3. Desperately trying to sleep
  4. Finding a rhythm
  5. Your on your own

What do we do?

This is the stage you are in when you return from the hospital. Your friends have warned you that you won't get any sleep but that is all you know. What will happen? How will we share the responsibility? At our house we started with the boy sleeping in a cradle in our room. I suggest having the baby sleep in your room for some time at first. It is easier since you will be up fifty times a night to feed him. Also the new mom will undoubtedly wake up to check on the baby every time he makes a sound if she sleeps at all. New moms are crazy like that. We pretty much did everything as a team for a couple of weeks. My wife would change his diaper and I would go to the kitchen to make a bottle. This is a good strategy because it gives everyone confidence in handling the baby because there is always support. This is a terrible strategy because neither of you ever get a full nights sleep.

Calmly trying to sleep

After a few weeks of this you will be miserable. Once you have been in a mindless state for a fortnight you are ready to adjust your plan. We started by sharing the nights. One of us would stay up until the boy went to sleep which was usually around 2 o'clock. Then the other teammate would get up at the next feeding time. During all of this the baby is still eating ever 2-3 hours so you get no sleep during your shift. We would alternate shifts every night. When the boy would go to sleep we would ease back into our bedroom and put him in the cradle. This started one of the worst chapters of the entire quest for sleep saga. You would work forever to get him to sleep then as soon as he hit the mattress those big dark eyes would open and stare back at you. I know that your child's beautiful eyes can bring you a smile on the darkest of days. But at 3 am when he suddenly awakens and stares at you as if to say what's up you just want to jump screaming out of the window and run for the hills. During this sleepless chapter of our lives my wife and I continued to try and try every night until he would finally sleep in his cradle. We didn't want him forming bad habits about where he slept so most of our nights read like the back of a shampoo bottle. Rock to sleep, rinse, repeat. We would let him sleep in the swing or bouncy chair during the day but not at night. We were determined.

Desperately trying to sleep

This went on for a while and neither of us was getting any sleep. We finally decided to break up the shift work and just alternate nights. This way we could get a full nights sleep every other night. Still this hurt our family life. Whomever had the night off would go to bed early or fall asleep on the couch. Neither of us was ever in a good mood. You start to wonder if you will even survive this sleepless hell. One particularly difficult night I woke up to my boy screaming. I found my wife completely exhausted and frustrated. She was at her wits end. I took over the shift so she could go to bed. I stayed in the living room with the boy the rest of the night. I moved the pack and play into the living room and put him in. Then a miracle occurred. He slept. So for the next few nights we put the pack and play in the bedroom with us. Life was wonderful. The boy slept and we stayed in the bed together. Of course we got up a couple of times a night to feed him but that was OK. He was no longer waking up every time we laid him down. This only lasted a few days. All of a sudden he hated the pack and play so the quest for sleep shifted gears. My wife tried using the crib in his room. Apparently he liked this now. We put an air up mattress on the floor in his room and one of us slept there every night. This lasted about a week. Then he quit sleeping in his crib. At this point we had been through the cradle, the pack and play, and the crib. We were running out of places for the boy to sleep outside of a few cardboard boxes I had in the attic. We were desperate. This is where all the good intentions of following advice you read or you get from health care professionals goes out the window. We no longer gave a crap about forming bad habits or anything else. If we couldn't find a way to get some sleep there was going to be a homicide at our address. We gave in and started letting him sleep in the swing.

Finding a rhythm

We are currently finding a rhythm that has restored order and peace to our home. The boy is sleeping in his swing every night. We are not even trying anything else. We will worry about that later. I haven't mentioned but through this ordeal he has started eating more and less often. Now the boy goes 4 hours between meals during the day and 5 or 6 hours at night. We take turns sleeping on the couch beside his swing. This has been going on for about 2-3 weeks. Lately the boy has been asleep by midnight. He will wake up and eat a little around 4 or 5. Then he sleeps until 8 or 9 before eating again. From where we have been this seems like heaven. Both of us are getting a pretty good nights sleep every night. All that remains is for us to one day again sleep in the same bed. I can't wait for that day but I will be satisfied with our new rhythm for now.

Your on your own

I assume this is the next step. We have not made it there so I might learn that there are a few detours still yet to take. This is the step where you put your baby in his crib in his room and go sleep in your bed in your room. My wife will have a really hard time with this. I am sure one day I will have to insist that she comes back to bed with me. We will worry about that when the boy starts rolling out of his swing. I figure that is a good time to put him back in the crib. I hope that goes relatively smoothly because I don't want to revisit any of Dante's 9 circles of hell.

The quest for sleep is a long and arduous road if you have a non sleeper. Some people will have babies that sleep all night right from the start. To these people I say get out of my face before I strike you. If you are currently on your own quest for sleep good luck and god speed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Arkansas Beats Texas

I know this is a new dad blog but I had to write about my beloved Hogs beating arch rival #7 ranked Texas last night. Arkansas basketball had been largely irrelevant for some time but this year's team is trying to change that. Arkansas has now beat 2 top 10 teams in a week (Oklahoma and Texas). This team under Coach Pelphrey plays with an intensity and toughness that hog fans have not seen since the days of Nolan Richardson. Most of that is due to Coach Pelphrey's own personality. He recruits players that will play with the same fire that he played with and currently coaches with. After sleepy Stan Heath and his band of care free knuckleheads it is a treat to watch a team that plays as hard as this one. The Hogs have 2 stars in freshman point guard Courtney Fortson and Junior post player Michael Washington. Fortson makes this team go. Without him they would not win anything. His toughness and leadership sets the tone. He has amazing ball handling and passing skills. Whether he scores or not he is making this team better by setting up his teammates and handling the ball about 90% of the time. He is a true leader and will be a star. Washington sat behind a big group of upperclassmen post players for his first 2 years. He never found a roll with that team. Now he is the entire inside game all to himself. He has good size and great quickness for his size. He has proven to be a difficult match up for everyone we have faced including player of the year front runner Blake Griffin. Washington is currently putting up 20 points and 10 rebounds a game which is enough to put him on the short list of best players in the SEC. This team has proven it can beat anyone at home but the true measure of their success will be determined by how they perform on the road. With the effort and toughness they have displayed so far I would not bet against them. GO HOGS!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Love the DVR

I have to admit that I spend way too much time watching TV. Most of that is due to the wonderful device that we all know and love....The DVR. Years ago I only watched sports or sitcoms. I don't even know how television drama's survived. In order to follow one you had to schedule TV nights in which you could not be interrupted for anything. I was never at home enough to follow a weekly show. There is nothing worse than watching a few episodes and then missing an important one because you are out with friends or even worse you are fulfilling some work obligation. After that you are lost for the rest of the season. That all changed for me when I purchased a TIVO about 5 years ago. The TIVO was the single most life changing invention in my life, next to the Internet of course. I have said many times I would give up air conditioning before I would my DVR.

Now it is January and the new seasons of a lot of winter shows are starting up. My favorite show on TV, Lost, is set to return later this month. Also returning are are favorites 24, Friday Night Lights and the continuation of House. It is hard enough to find time to fit that many TV shows into normal life but with a new baby I am sure it will be next to impossible. So today I want to thank the wonderful people at TIVO for getting this digital video recording age started. Even though I have switched to a regular DVR that my cable company provides I will always love TIVO.

As new parents my wife and I can't watch a 30 minute episode of TV without having to get up and change a diaper, make a bottle, or deal with other baby emergencies. There is no way we could deal with the crazy 2 and 3 hour season premieres of 24 and Lost. In a world with DVR's we can pause the TV for every little interruption and turn the episode into a marathon event or we can wait until the little one takes a nap and dive in head first. I am against it but the episodes can be saved for another day in an emergency. Of course the alternative to this would be racing around during commercials trying to satisfy a screaming baby. And let me tell you the baby has no regard for what you are doing. He will interrupt dinner, shower, reading, TV, chores or even adult activities. As a new parent be sure to say thanks for the DVR and enjoy the new television season.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Diaper Fear

Men are a tough and fearless bunch. We take great pride in being unmovable rocks. Men will climb the highest mountain braving the elements, dodging bears and snakes just to get a shot at a big buck. Some even climb the highest mountain just to say they did. We refuse to ever cry or even care about the sob stories we see on TV or hear from our wives. We are unmovable. When I was a kid my dad raised ducks. He used to reach into the wood duck boxes without a care in the world. I saw him pullout a snake and a screech owl with his bare hand and he just went on to the next box. This is the kind of thing that we do. All men grow up wanting to be tough like their Dad or John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. We are taught that showing fear is not an option and will get you evicted from the man club. However, there is one thing that strikes fear into the heart of every man across the globe......The Dirty Diaper!

When our son was born I obviously had no experience with the dirty diaper. I am sure that some men get experience from younger family members but not me. Actually if you see a man that has experience with a dirty diaper before he has his own child be wary. I am sure there are circumstances that could lead to such a situation but it just seems abnormal. I completely avoided the dirty diaper for about a week. I tried not to change any diapers to make sure that I didn't get a surprise. If you have never had a child I am here to tell you that the first few weeks are a highly stressful situation. There are people around all the time. The baby needs something every minute and you have to deal with this all on no sleep. Needless to say avoiding diaper changes led to a slight altercation with my wife so I promised to join in.

I changed some wet diapers and thought that was easy enough. It will help you get used to putting a diaper on a wiggling, crying, uncooperative person. It also allows you to get comfortable with your involvement in the genital region. I have a boy so I am OK. I would imagine that with a little girl this can be even more unnerving at first. Now I am feeling more comfortable and one early morning when I am alone with the boy he drops one on me. The first one was pretty small. There was no major smearing of poo up the legs or all over the bottom. This is a good thing. From there I just went on changing diapers dealing with the dirty ones as they came.

Eventually you will get one that is full and smeared everywhere. While you are trying to clean all the poo off of his entire body you will invariably get some on your hand. It will not be a pleasant experience. This yellow substance smells awful. It is like some foreign matter that only exists in a babies diaper and you certainly don't want it on your hand. As terrible as it seems I think when it happens you turn a corner. I thought to myself that the worst has happened. My son has pooped on me and I am going to live. After that dirty diapers become a part of your world just like baseball or a cold beer.

I am aware that the older generation of tough guys does not do dirty diapers. I am also aware that some of you have wives that will let you avoid the dirty diaper as well. To you I say congratulations. For those of you that are approaching this for the first time I suggest you help with the dirty diapers unless you want to wake up one night to see your wife leaning over you with a meat cleaver and a psychotic smile. It is not too bad and it goes along way towards peace in the home. Personally I find it hilarious that I was ever scared at all because now I am exponentially more afraid of snakes, bears, and Whoopi Goldberg than I am a dirty diaper..

A New Year for a New Dad

The New Year always brings forth a tremendous amount of celebration around the world. People seem to find some comfort in putting behind troubles of the past year and looking forward to a new beginning. One of the "working girls" celebrating with Lt. Dan and Forrest in the movie Forrest Gump says, "Everyone gets to start over." I have never really bought in to all of this excitement. Don't get me wrong I have attended many a New Year celebration but I am typically there just to have fun the same as I would be if someone invited me to a party on any Friday night.

This year I have a reason to look forward to 2009 as sort of a new beginning. My son was born in November so 2009 is the first full year for me as a Father. I will go through many firsts and live what is a completely different life. Looking at it this way is exciting. Now my son gurgles and laughs a bit but by the end of the 2009 he will be talking. Now he is completely immobile. He can't even roll over yet. During the year he will start crawling and by the end of 2009 he will be walking. Now he relies totally on me to play with the toys but by the end of 2009 he will be able to play with his little basketball goal he got for Christmas. These are just some of the major changes that will happen in 2009. I am sure that I cannot even imagine all the things that will happen and that will change.

It is with the enthusiasm of William and Clark as they headed out on their journey that I begin this new year. I will face obstacles like the famous explorers. I may not be in danger of starvation or death but I certainly will face things just as strange to me as all the new sights that journey unveiled for Mr. Lewis and Mr. Clark. With that I say welcome to 2009 and the adventure to come.