Monday, August 31, 2009

Baby's First Oatmeal

Not long ago I wrote here about Braden's impending food adventures. So far he has tried a lot of foods. He loves yogurt, bananas, green beans, and mashed potatoes. He eats oatmeal, carrots, and a little spaghetti. Last week he even had some chicken and rice that Arica made for the whole family. He had his own specially prepared serving with no salt or pepper and chicken that was processed into a fine dust. Braden loved that too. In fact the only thing that he has trouble with when it comes to eating is sitting still.

Braden's two favorite things seem to be eating and running wild. I guess this will serve him well later in life. He can eat whatever he wants because he will just work it off with his endless movement and exercise.

While I was away Arica and my Dad videoed the first attempt at feeding Braden oatmeal. He makes some really funny faces during the shoot. I thought I would share the experience with my adoring fans. Be sure to stick around until you see the Braden shake. He does this quite often when he first tries a new food. It cracks me up.

Here is Braden and his first oatmeal.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Engineering vs. Fatherhood

It's Fatherhood Friday again over at Dad Blogs. Stop by and check out all the great posts.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

While I was gone on my business trip I felt like a very important cog in our corparate wheel. I was an integral part of our teams success. Now that I have returned home I have the even more important job of being Braden's Dad. While both of these jobs are important they manifest themselves in very different ways. Let me cite a few examples.

Engineer:I managed the construction of a multimillion dollar waste to energy installation.
Dad: I was unable to successfully get my 9 month old son to eat a bowl of oatmeal.

Engineer: I answered on the spot questions about how to proceed in the absence of the proper materials
Dad: I was able to change a diaper without getting poop in anyone's hair.

Engineer: I explained the installation of all motors, drives, fans, conveyors, and related equipment.
Dad: I repeatedly ask for explanations on when and what to feed Braden.

Engineer: I approved construction plans for welding, cutting, and fitting, equipment.
Dad: I asked a non talking baby for approval to watch TV.

Engineer: I set schedules for the hiring of a 200 ton crane to install heavy components through the open roof of a building.
Dad: I was able to get Braden to sleep on the schedule he set for me.

Engineer: I got griped at for not meeting deadlines.
Dad: I got griped at via Braden's crying for too many things to list.

Engineer: I woke up every morning in time to eat free breakfast at the hotel.
Dad: I wake up in time to feed Braden a bottle.

Engineer: I struggled to find ways to entertain myself.
Dad: I struggle to find ways to entertain Braden.

I know both jobs sound glamorous, but which do you think is more rewarding. Fatherhood can obviously be a humbling experience, but what other job allows your failures and struggles to be so much fun.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jack of All Trades

I spent two of my weeks in Scotland with the bosses son. He will be graduating from college in the fall with an electrical engineering degree. He has no interest in working for his dad, but the boss man thought it would be good for him to get some real world experience. He enlisted me as the mentor for a two week whirl around a real life construction site.

I feel like I have come complete circle. My first job site with this company was as a 23 year old novice. I had a mentor as well. I knew nothing and didn't understand why this old man wouldn't stay out later and drink some beers with me. He was boring.

Now I am the old man travelling with a 22 year old college kid. I know he thought I was terribly boring. At least we had a bar in the hotel so he could hang out with the staff and other exciting guests when I left him. When I was a young man my only option was to watch Italian TV or read a book.

While I was visiting with my young apprentice something became abundantly clear. College aged kids and young single adults have the time to be a jack of all trades. You can keep up with all the modern music, spending hours downloading and filling up you iPod. The youngsters also have time to watch Sportscenter every day. They know the standings and leader boards for every major sport. They can also spend hours playing Wii, Xbox, or PS3. Young men and women alike have time to go out on the town, hang with friends, shop, watch all their shows, and generally follow any and every interest they have in life. In my book that makes them a jack of all trades.

As adults we have to put down some of our favorite weapons. I never thought I would quit caring about modern music. I could never turn into my parents and just stick with the music that got me through my youth for eternity. Of course I was wrong. It happened a long time ago, and it was certainly reinforced when I listened to my young helper's thoughts on the music scene. I knew absolutely zero of his favorites. I guess it's a good thing that one of my wife's passions that she will hold onto forever is clothing. Otherwise I might end up hanging on to the clothes that got me through my youth for an eternity too.

I still hang on to everything I can in my personal interest categories. That is not something I am proud of though. The main problems I have in being a father is giving up my time. I still want to watch the Cardinals every night. I still want to watch 25 different TV shows every fall. On top of these things I would love to play video games all night as well. With the magic of the DVR I have been able to stay afloat with sports and TV, but video games are dying.

Even without the DVR it shouldn't matter. TV and video games are not lasting, and certainly are not that important in the grand scheme of things. I know the main focus in my life should always be Braden and Arica, yet I struggle. As a father and husband I hope to find a way to stop being so selfish with my time. I want to do a better job of making them happy, and being there to enjoy every great moment of Braden's life. With such a wonderful family it shouldn't be that hard.

You see the end of that jack of all trades title is "master of none." I don't want that to be me. I want to be a master of two simple things, fatherhood and being a husband.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to Lose Followers

I have been dealt a couple crushing blows in the last few weeks. I have been too busy to post regularly. I can't come up with any good ideas lately. When I have a moment of time to think for myself all I can come up with is engineering thoughts convoluted by my desire for a cold beer. I have lost my ability to write interesting posts. In the meantime I have lost two followers. I am back under 70. It would then occur to me that I have found a way to kill my blog. Don't post regularly. That will do it.

I haven't found the cure for my blogger's block yet so I am sharing a video. The subject is none other than the inspiration for this blog, Braden. He told me that he has some words for those blog quitters out there. Presumably he is saying don't you ever give up on my daddy. He is the greatest blogger this side of Lake Hamilton. Since I can't be sure that is his stance, here he is to clarify.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Coming to America

If you didn't stop by the site yesterday please go see my guest post at Building Camelot. It is my first guest post ever. I am used to being the unwanted guest so this is a nice change. Now on to today's Fatherhood Friday post.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

There is no place like home – Dorothy
Mama I’m coming home – Ozzy Osbourne
E.T. phone home – E.T.
Home is where you make it – crazy guy in Joe Dirt
Honey I’m Home – Jack Nicholson in the Shining

There are so many ways to say it, but today I am going to use my very own vernacular rather than quote anyone else.

I have been gone now for three weeks. Braden has started eating solid foods since I left. He is getting bigger every day. He is walking around along the furniture more and more every day. He is learning to make new sounds as he creeps on towards talking. He has learned to clap. And no doubt he has forgotten a little about me.

Arica has been raising a kid all by herself. She has handled all the things that come along with a baby without my help. She is tired. She is worn down. She needs a break.

While you are reading this on Fatherhood Friday I will be on my way. I will either be in the sky above or waiting in some horrid line on the ground below. Three flights and 6000 miles is all that separates me from a happy homecoming. It will be the end of a tough journey for us all. So to wrap it up here is a quote from yours truly.

“No matter if I am in Scotland, Malaysia, or Wal Mart my heart always longs to be home. The love and warmth that is shared within our four walls between us three people is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, and tomorrow it is going to get me up early and keep me going all day. Arica and Braden, Daddy's coming home” – Robert

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Feel Like a Gray Donkey

Before we get to today's post I have exciting news. I have now just done my first guest post ever. You can see it today over at Building Camelot by clicking here. I feel like such a big shot.

I have a short post of my own today so here it is as well.

The people here in Scotland are among the nicest I have ever encountered on my travels. They are very friendly and easy to talk to. I have had strangers at the hotel chat me up just to be nice. One of them even bought me a beer. One of my favorite things is that they actually wave at each other when driving. Many of the streets are narrow two lane roads that have one lane blocked by parked cars. This is practically every side street I have seen. When you go down them you have to be alert and get out of the way of oncoming traffic. You must duck into openings until others pass. When you let a car go by the driver waves thanks every time. This is the only place out of small town Arkansas that I have ever seen the friendly wave. I love it.

Even with the friendly folks I am down in the dumps a bit lately. The whole situation is reminding me of a certain cartoon donkey. Do you remember Winnie the Pooh’s buddy Eeyore the donkey. He was a gloomy old chap. In his little world it was dark and rainy every day. He was tired. He was sad, and he ate thistles.

Well I feel like that gray donkey myself these days. It does physically rain every day in the West of Scotland. The only difference each day is whether it will rain hard or mist. Some days if you are lucky the sun comes out long enough to dry your clothes out before it starts raining again. In another Eeyore related note the thistle is big here in Scotland too. The flower is featured on every historic Scotland sign. It is the symbol or trademark for the national monuments or something. So here I am nearing the end of this trip thinking about a fictional donkey. If some people claim to see Nessie I don’t know why I can’t believe that Eeyore must be from this grand old place as well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts: Haggis

It is Tuesday. These thoughts are random.


  • I had haggis last week during my visit to Scotland. It came via the dish Chicken Balmoral, which is a chicken breast stuffed with haggis and covered with a pepper sauce. It was honestly the best dish I have eaten in Scotland. The haggis was very peppery and of course had the rich taste you might expect from sheep innards.
  • I had haggis again on Sunday night. This time it was a haggis croquette. This is a nice Scottish/French way of saying fried sheep guts. I am telling you haggis is awesome! I love it!
  • Good food in Scotland is either described as nice, quite nice, or lovely. Food is not good or tasty. So in the Scottish tradition the haggis was lovely.
  • I went to Stirling Castle during my visit. For those of you who don't know this castle overlooks the fields where the Scottish fought the English for centuries. From there you can see the location of the Battle of Stirling Bridge where William Wallace famously defeated the British. Also in sight of the castle is Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated the English and became Scotland's king. Amazingly historical place. I was honestly so in awe that I forgot to recite my Braveheart line again.
  • I have developed a new term. Instead of using the weather term partly cloudy we shall now use Scottish Sunny. It sounds better.
  • A guy at work the other day asked me if I had any pails. With his accent I thought he said pills. I said hey buddy what kind of guy do you think I am. I don't share my pills with anybody.
  • Every single bathroom I have seen in Scotland has the hand blower rather than paper towels. Apparently paper towels are the devil to the Scottish people. I do however like the blower that has the flip spout that can shift from hands to face with a simple push of the finger. With this model you never need to worry about packing a hair dryer.
  • The hotel I am staying at doubles as a country club. It is no doubt the only country club in Scotland without a golf course, but it still has amenities. The grounds have an indoor pool, hot tub, gym, squash courts, and other perks. I eat every night in the lounge/bar area. I have seen and actually met a certain guy that regularly works out then comes to the bar for a few beers. I saw him recently after his spin class drinking. I think I will start calling this a Scottish workout.
  • This last item really needs no description. I took this picture in the parking lot of Stirling Castle. The southern influence obviously carries a long way. Today I am a proud man.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dear Braden: Let's Eat

Braden went to the Doctor on Friday and had a great check up again. He is now 9 months old and the doctor has given him the go ahead to eat anything that is soft. That is to say he can now eat big people food. Everyone we know has wanted to feed him everything from popsicles to french fries already, but Arica and I have followed a strict program according to our pediatrician’s wishes all along. Now with his ok we are ready to start the feeding frenzy.

Braden, as your Dad I want to tell you a bit about the amazing culinary journey you are about to begin. The food on our planet is as diverse as the people who cook it in their kitchens around the globe. Since I began travelling I have developed a love for everything about food. I love trying out all the new things I see. Just now on this trip to Scotland I have discovered black pudding, haggis, pigeon, and even my first fat domestic duck. Up until now all my duck eating has come directly from me or someone I know shooting them out of the sky.

Your doctor has specified several foods that would be good for you to eat. Some of which I think warrant a mention in our little article today. Number one is pancakes. Before I met your mom I never really liked pancakes. They were too dry and boring for me. Of course I love maple syrup, but if I just wanted maple syrup I might as well put it on my hamburger or a boot. Your mom makes the most amazing pancakes and now we can share. Sharing good food with friends and family is one of life’s great joys. I learned that growing up, but really had it driven home in my time in Italy. They live for food, family, and friends. Now we can follow their example and share our pancakes. I am so excited. Of course you will have to wait a while for the maple syrup.

Another food is green beans. They are the vegetable of choice around our house many nights. Your mother particularly loves them. Granted as big people we put too much butter and pork fat in ours, but we are willing to give that up for a while in order to share. Once again eating from the same dish with my ever growing boy is a great step in our lives together.

Finally there is one of the all time favorite baby starters, mashed potatoes. I am your quintessential meat and taters guy. Growing up there were always potatoes on my table. More often than not they were of the mashed variety. They are simply one of my favorite foods, and of course Arica and I still eat them plenty today. Braden, you can now share in this southern family tradition. We will eat them over and over again. I sure hope that you like them.

In closing these are only three foods that we can now share. There are lots of others. I am glad to start my own little man down the road of enjoying good food. Your mother is quite adventurous as well. She enjoys trying new food with me. She never turns down an opportunity to try something new. I hope that you turn out that way too. I know in the early going you will be picky. I will probably eat more McDonald’s than I care to stomach, but this is at least the beginning. A great culinary world awaits. Now who wants some haggis?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hope is a Good Thing

I am continuing my effort today to write about something other than Scotland. My trip has inspired many different topics of thought like uses for haggis, proper kilt etiquette, and does the sun truly shine in Scotland. Another idea that is going through my head and keeping me moving is hope. I mark off a day on my calendar every night before bed. The declining number of days left gives me hope. Arica does not see the numbers as hopeful so I don’t share them with her, but there is something reassuring about a decreasing number of days remaining. It gives me hope.

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Shawshank Redemption.” In it Andy Dufresne says a line that I absolutely love that really sums up his feelings on his imprisonment. He states, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I may not be serving time in a Maine prison, but I am biding time in a less than favorable situation. The same type of hope empowers me every day. Granted I may not need to “crawl through a mile of s&#t smelling foulness the likes of which I can’t imagine,” but my escape will be no less celebrated.

As a parent I feel one of my biggest jobs is to provide hope for my son. I am often saddened when I see children that appear to be in a difficult situation. Their hope seems to be dashed before their life even starts. I want Braden to hope for everything as he is growing up. If he wants to go to the moon I want him to believe that he can do that. I want to help him grow up in a nurturing environment that will help his hopes and dreams grow.

I think I can keep his hopes high by showing him that anything is possible. If you work hard there is nothing to stop you from reaching any of your goals. I can reinforce that by showing him all the opportunities in the world. I can show him what many people from difficult beginnings have achieved. Most of all I can always encourage him in all his efforts. In that way he will always have hope for whatever it is he wants in life. He will never feel downtrodden. The sky will always be the limit.

I think this is a great gift to give your children, the gift of hope. Thank you Mr. Dufresne for your well crafted words. No matter if you are hoping for a return home, a new job, or even a nice big cheese burger, hope is indeed a good thing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Car do You Like?

Being in Scotland the last week or so I have had a lot of thoughts about cars and driving. Every day I get into a funny looking little hatch back. I drive on the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the road. When I look around I see hundreds of other tiny cars, many of them hatchbacks as well. I have seen two trucks that I remember and 10 or 15 SUV’s during my entire trip. To say that the driving experience is different here is a bit obvious.

Driving experiences can vary for people from state to state back in the USA as well. Ranchers need big duel wheel trucks to pull all sorts of livestock trailers. Southern Californians probably have a higher percentage of convertibles because of the great weather. In the northern states people are much more accustomed to driving on snow and may even have some special snow tires on some of their vehicles. Down in the southern states we have a lot of trucks.

In the town I grew up in every male over the age of 16 and still above ground drove a truck. I would bet that three-fourths of them were Chevy trucks. I was probably 20 years old before I realized that Chevy trucks didn’t come standard with 4-wheelers and Labrador retrievers in the back. Everyone I had ever seen was equipped with both. Just because of all that popularity I decided to get a car. I didn’t want to fit into a mold or do things just because I was supposed to do them. I wanted to be my own person. Sometimes we try so hard to avoid being what others expect us to be that we forget to be ourselves. That is not the topic for today though. I simply wanted to discuss cars and what relationship Braden might have with them.

I have since realized that I am a truck man. I can’t imagine ever again not having a pickup truck. I use my truck to pull my boat. I use the bed of my truck for carrying off brush or trash. I have used it to move furniture. A truck certainly helps with deer hunting as it is ideal for carrying dead animals and 4-wheelers. There are so many useful reasons for a good old country boy to have a truck. I even have a 4-wheel drive truck, and yes it has been in the mud a few times. I even got stuck last year. I still maintain I would not have got stuck if I saw the mud hole coming. It was hidden beneath high uncut grass and camouflaged by an otherwise dry dirt road. If I was ready I would have made it across. Anyway, I love my truck.

What will Braden want for his first vehicle? I would love for him to want a truck like his old man, but of course that is not important. If he truly follows my footsteps he will get a car like I did. I have never been a big car fanatic. Don’t get me wrong I like fast cars. I appreciate them very much, but they are not an interest of mine. Maybe Braden will love cars. Arica’s family is big into NASCAR racing. Maybe from a young age Braden will want to work on cars or drive fast cars or something like that. Fast cars are cool, but I probably wouldn’t want him to have one too early in his driving career.

So here we are at the end of another of my future pondering posts. What is the point? There is not really a point other than to note that there are so many ways to define an individual person. We teach our kids the best we can. We influence them by our actions whether we mean to or not. But in the end things as simple as car preference are individual and you never know which way they will go. I look forward to learning about all these individual preferences that will make Braden his own person. The early choices will certainly be more along the lines of toys and food, but choosing cars will be fun when the time comes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Point of Diminishing Returns

To the best of my knowledge the title phrase for today's post is an accounting term. I might first add that I am in no way qualified to talk about accounting. I am an engineer whose work is governed by the irrefutable laws of physics. Accounting is governed by man made tax codes that change all the time. I understand gravity. If I throw a rock into the air I better move before it comes down on my noggin. I don't understand much of anything about accounting, yet I am using accounting as the basis of this post. Hang on for this one.

My understanding is that this term refers to a point at which the more you spend or allocate to something the less you receive in return. In other words the harder you try once you reach this point the worse things get. You add what would seem like a positive of work or money and you get diminishing returns. I know this is not a suitable explanation for you accountants out there so please bear with me. This post is about fatherhood not fixing books.

I talk about this term today as it relates to my job. I have put in a good deal of work on my job over the past eight years. Our company owns a proprietary waste to energy technology. I have been putting in my time and giving all my efforts to make this company grow. With the current energy climate it seems like the time is now. For this reason I am currently in Scotland thousands of miles away from home.

I never thought of myself as a particularly career oriented person. I thought family was the most important thing to me. I always viewed my efforts at work as a way to provide for my family. Those were my thoughts before this trip. As I sit here typing tonight I have no way at all of helping Arica if she needs me. There is no way possible for me to change a diaper or feed Braden a bottle. My family is home without me. With a baby it is certainly not the ideal situation for any of us.

So I am asking myself have I reached the point of diminishing returns? Are all my efforts to provide for my family only pushing them farther and farther away? Is the hope for more money as empty as my side of the bed. It seems that the answer to those questions is yes. At some point I subconsciously chose my job over my family. I excused it by saying that I was working to provide for them. That is not necessarily true. I am qualified for any number of jobs that would keep my right here in the good ole US of A.

The factor is that I put in all this work and never really advance. I am still the low man on a family owned totem pole of which I share no blood or last names. I could possibly wait forever and be left out to dry. Meanwhile my family is taking all the abuse during my long travelling spells. Different things are important to different people. Some take travel in stride. I never thought I would be one of those people, but I came very close to making that a reality. Now I see what has happened. I see clearly what I am doing to those I care about.

Those of you who happily travel for a living have my blessing. It is a difficult thing to do, but we need some people to do it so I am glad we have you. I myself would like to find a way to excuse myself from your ranks. I know it is not the best climate for jobs, but in time I hope to become more firmly planted at home.

Finally with a lot of help from my family I have realized that I am at the point of diminishing returns. Things will only get worse from here. Don't bother trying to talk me out of it with any promises of fame or fortune. Talk about accounts receivable and tax brackets mean nothing to me. The only terminology that speaks to me now is the language of love.

Arica and Braden, I love you and miss you so much. I can't wait to see you again.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts: Scotland

This was once a new dad blog. I am away from home now so I can't say much about my job as a father. Rather than go on without blogging I thought I would post a few random thoughts about my first few days in Scotland.


  • I visited my first castle Sunday in Scotland. It was the Dumbarton Castle which is the place where William Wallace was lured and then captured before being killed. Needless to say I had to fight pretty hard not to rehearse my freedom line. I only said it to myself in my head.
  • I had steak pie for dinner. I was disappointed to find that it contained no steak and no pie. It was actually what I would call a roast. Even with the misleading name it was quite good.
  • Talking to Arica and Braden on Skype is more enjoyable than anything Scotland has to offer. It makes a huge difference being able to see them. On our first talk Braden laughed and smiled at me on the computer. Then he tried to attack the keys and he had to take a break so he didn't destroy Arica's laptop.
  • Every Scotsman first asks how you like their lovely weather when you meet them. Apparently they have a complex about this. I told one Monday that we had really nice weather the day before. He replied, "That was summer. I hope you enjoyed it."
  • Jetlag is not my friend.
  • Scotland is the home of golf. Having now been to Scotland and seen the weather I think that makes about as much sense as Minnesota being the home of pineapples. Yet it is true.
  • The bosses on sight wear very nice suits, then they tuck their suit pants into brown rubber boots. It kind of defeats the purpose. They may as well be wearing clown suits.