Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 10 List For Dads

I have been struggling a bit with the blog lately, which is probably obvious already due to my lack of posts the last two weeks. I have struggled to find ideas. I have struggled to find time. I have even struggled to find the desire to write lately. I have given up on random thoughts because they weren't working for me anymore. Plus the fifth ranked keyword for my site according to my Google masters is "random". That is a little much so I must turn to other gimmicks when ideas are scarce. Today's gimmick is the top 10 list. I hope you enjoy the top 10 things I have learned from being a Dad.
  1. Curious George is a trouble maker.
  2. The top 4 needs for raising a child are food, clothing, shelter, and batteries.
  3. Sleep is a luxury much like all beef hot dogs and imported beer.
  4. If children ever try to take over the world, Elmo will be their leader.
  5. A screaming child can put more pressure on you than the U.N. Maybe we should send some screaming kids to Iran to discuss their nuclear enrichment programs.
  6. Children instinctively know how to throw fits much the same way deer instinctively know that 2-legged creatures with orange hats are up to no good.
  7. Changing dirty diapers is one of the easiest things about parenting.
  8. Every piece of advice you have ever read or been told is just a suggestion. There are no hard and fast rules.
  9. It's easier to reason with wild hog in a gorilla suit than an angry toddler.
  10. Parenting is a contact sport.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Exponential Growth

Being the Dad of a nearly 15 month old child is a thrill a minute lifestyle.  Braden learns at the same pace he moves around the house, which is at supersonic speed.  He grows, both mentally and physically, by leaps and bounds every single day.

Two weekends ago a friend of ours visited for opening weekend at the horse races.  He has a nephew that was born within a few days of Braden.  My friend was completely amazed by Braden.  He said that it seemed like he was an entire year older than his nephew despite the fact that they are the same age.

Hearing this really makes me proud.  More than that it makes me thankful for having such a wonderful, healthy child. He does simple things that amaze me every day.

I wrote about Braden copying us by putting lotion on himself not too long ago. He also uses the shampoo bottle to copy us putting bubble bath in the tub at bath time.  He puts his cup in the dishwasher every time we are loading dishes.  He throws trash away, and sometimes other things as well.

A few days ago Braden found some candles that he had thrown into his inflatable ball pit several days earlier.  He took the two candles and went across the room and placed them in the exact spot on the silver tray where they came from on the proper shelf of the correct table. He knows where everything goes and what everything does.

He goes immediately to the bath tub for a bath or to the garage door when it is time to go. Every day when I say let's feed the dogs he follows me right to the back door. If you offer chocolate he runs to the candy jar. Sunday I asked him where his shake your booty truck was. He went into the other room, got it, and brought it to me. (The truck sings shake your booty as the bed of the truck shakes.) If you ask him what Otter and Abbey are doing he goes to the window and looks for them.

I can find absolutely no limit to the amount of things he knows.  It seems he understands every word in my vocabulary. He explores everything. He climbs on everything too, and he has the bruises to prove it.  He is a non stop force that has to be dealt with 24-7. 

Braden's Great Grandpa asked recently if he ever sat still. The answer was, of course, not even for a second.

Sometimes it is absolutely exhausting trying to keep up with him.  On the flip side though it is incredibly rewarding. What a blessing it is to have a child that started walking at 10 months. What a blessing it is to have a child that is so curious and inquisitive about the world around him.  What a blessing it is to have a child that runs fast and learns faster.

What a blessing it is to be Braden's Dad.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Moment in Braden's Head

I like this toy. It makes lots of noise.

Speaking of noise I think I'll go to the kitchen to get the pots and pans. Bang! Bang! This is fun!

Where is Mommy going? I better find out.

The Bathroom! Yahoo! I need to check the lotion stash again. Maybe this time I can figure these bottles out.

Never mind. I want to go to my room. I need the blocks.

No I need the other blocks. NO! THE OTHER ONES!

Forget it. I am going back to the living room.

Where is my phone? There it is. Hello. HELLO! This stupid thing doesn't work.

Where is Mommy! I need to tell her something.

She's in the bedroom. Yes! Maybe this time I can get the remote before she sees me.

Hey! Don't throw me out!

Is it lunch time yet. I want some food.

Can I have a bite of that? Give me a bite!

No. I don't want to sit still and eat.

Follow me. I have things to do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

To Be An Engineer or Not to Be...That Is the Question

I have been studying a bit in preparation for the PE exam that I have mentioned taking here previously. The test is schedule for April. Although I haven't been officially accepted yet, I figured I better start studying anyway. In 10 years working in a very specialized field I have forgotten much more engineering than I still know.

I have purchased an enormous book filled with every bit of engineering knowledge known to man as a reference for the test. The book is actually written for the sole purpose of being a reference for this test.  As I sit here reading through all the insane equations that govern the motions and reactions of practically everything on earth I am forced to consider the insanity of my profession.

Engineers are a weird bunch. On one hand our tools are the same mathematics and sciences that define the nerds. So we are somewhat nerdy. On the other hand our rules describe the operation of many of the manliest of things such as cars and power tools.  Sometimes we have trouble thinking outside the box because of all the aforementioned rules.  Unlike accounting our rules don't change from year to year. They are fixed forever. Engineers draw comfort from these absolutes.  Certain things in life should not be in question even in our homes, just like my friend Homer explains at the end of the clip below.

All this studying has caused me to wonder if Braden will be drawn to engineering some day because that is what his Dad does? More importantly, if he is drawn to engineering will I encourage that or try and point him in another direction?

I have no idea how I will respond to Braden's potential interest. You certainly won't get rich from engineering. That is a common misconception. You can, however, make a nice living without going to your own specialized schools like those big shot doctors and lawyers. Learning how things work is another potential plus of being an engineer if that is your thing. On the other hand I don't want to encourage my son to discuss the Von-Mises failure theory or the longitudinal stress in thin wall pressure vessels with the other children. That type of behavior would probably get him banned from normal childhood shenanigans.

Certainly all of this is far in the future, but this is what I do. I wonder. Of course, I want Braden to do whatever he wants when he grows up, as long as it is legal.  Engineering just seems so strange sometimes. At those times I wonder if I maybe I should tell my son I am an astronaut or a turnip farmer.

I think I can probably just stick to the engineering without to much trouble as long as I don't become one of those dads who strictly enforces the laws of thermodynamics.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Talking to Myself...In the Dark...At 4 AM

We are back to one of the more common topics at Life of a New Dad.  In this post my thoughts are all about sleep, or better yet the lack thereof.

Braden has lately continued his insistence that night time is not always for sleeping. Every other night or so he chooses to wake up in the wee hours and stay up forever. That is fine if he would just use his indoor staying up all night voice.  Instead he uses his I need to scream over the music concert voice.

The decibel level of his night time playfulness might not matter either if our house had a different floor plan. We have an average size house, but it only has two bedrooms.  We will have to upgrade before to long, but for now it is big enough for the three of us and Braden's toy army.  Braden's little chamber of fun is just across the hall from our bedroom. That means when Braden is up Mommy and Daddy are up too.

Last night while both Arica and I were lying awake in bed serenaded by the sounds of gibberish from across the hall, I thought about when we first got our youngest dog Abbey.  She had to sleep in the kennel at night because she wasn't potty trained yet, and we didn't want her wandering the house all night relieving herself on the furniture.  When we put her in the kennel she would howl like a coyote. We solved that problem rather quickly. We moved the kennel to the laundry room at the far end of the house.

Last night I wondered if we could put Braden in the kennel and move him to the laundry room. I decided that would be a bad idea. Braden would probably tear up the kennel.

Instead we changed Braden's diaper, fed him some oatmeal, and gave him some milk. After eating the oatmeal and chugging the milk Braden turned to his Mommy and said "nigh nigh". We assumed he was ready for bed. I was very impressed, and thought this is great. We are on our way to real communication.

That joy was short lived. Braden must have wanted to go to bed because he likes yelling in the dark, because that's what he did. Arica went in the room a few more times to discuss the merits of sleeping at night with him. Each time he would be quiet for a minute or two. Then he would start his latest soliloquy again.  I imagined all his stuffed animals lined up at the foot of his crib as he leans over the rail with a "Friends, rodents, quadrupeds, lend me your ear."

What did we do to solve this problem? We did what any great parents would do. We turned on the TV to drown out the noise, and fell fast asleep.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Need Horse Racing Tips

Every day someone reaches my blog by searching for some version of "Seinfeld you gotta see the baby." I rank in the top few pages in every possible rendition of that search. In a shameless effort to get more accidental traffic I have chosen to use another Seinfeld clip to illustrate my thoughts today.

Friday afternoon the 2010 live thoroughbred racing season begins at Oaklawn Park here in my hometown.  Before I moved here I had only seen live horse racing once. Now I absolutely love it. I enjoy the strategy of trying to read the forms and pick winners. I enjoy watching the horses run. I enjoy the sport enough that I watch the triple crown races on TV. Of course I love the social gathering that it brings as well. Just this weekend I will be seeing at least 4 and probably closer to 10 of my old friends and their wives at the track. It's a lot of fun.

If you are not sure why the track can be so much fun just imagine 20,000 people acting like Kramer. Throw in some adult beverages, corned beef sandwiches, and the chance to win a little cash and you have a great time.

I wrote at this time last year about Horse Racing as a New Dad. The racing last year was limited. We only went 2 or 3 times. Hopefully this year Arica and I can make a few more trips. A lot of that will depend on how things go this weekend. I am now under a lot of pressure to make good picks. One bad day can derail a race season pretty quick when you have an expensive diaper habit like me.

Everyone out there wish us luck this weekend, and feel free to pass along any "tips" you might have.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Family vs. Fraternity: Awake at 3 AM

I wrote a post titled Family vs. Fraternity some months ago. It was an attempt to tell stories about two vastly different parts of my life. It is really a weak attempt to compare life before and after children like millions of others have done before me. In other words, it is not an entirely unique concept.

Nonetheless, I am going to do it again.

We have had some rough nights with Braden lately. He is typically a great sleeper. He has been falling asleep on his own and sleeping through the night for months. For some reason during the last month to six weeks he has started waking up some nights and refusing to go back to sleep. He plays and talks and screams and keeps everyone awake.

So this led me to thinking about the different reasons a person might be up at 3 am. I have compiled two top 10 lists below in this version of Family vs. Fraternity.

  1. Changing a dirty diaper
  2. Cleaning yourself up after stupidly trying to change a dirty diaper in the dark
  3. Crawling on your hands and knees in the dark looking for a lost pacifier
  4. Retrieving lost monkeys
  5. Applying medication for teething pain
  6. Discussing the virtues of sleeping at night with a 14 month old child
  7. Discussing the virtues of sleeping at night with yourself
  8. Feeding the kid something in the hope that this will cure his sleeplessness
  9. Yelling at the dogs to shut up because they woke the baby
  10. Rearranging or swapping out lighted singing toys to try to soothe the little man back to sleep
  1. Bar hopping
  2. A friend called you to get them out of jail
  3. Waiting on a friend to get you out of jail
  4. Poker night
  5. Watching Braveheart on stolen HBO for the 57th time
  6. No class tomorrow and sleeping is just boring
  7. Impromptu road trip to Memphis and/or Tunica Casinos
  8. Cramming for a test. Seriously. Stop laughing.
  9. Debating the pros and cons of Jim Beam vs. Jack Daniels
  10. Party at the fraternity house

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'll Be Watching You

Braden has been doing something lately that has really driven home the concept that he is always watching me and Arica. It also shows that he is not only watching, but he is memorizing our moves in his mind. He is going over them again and again until he can mimic us himself.

It reminds me of the old Sting song. I would like to clarify that I don't really like the song. It's just one of those songs that everyone who lives above ground has heard a few times. One part says "Every step you take I'll be watching you. Every single day and every word you say...I'll be watching you." Of course Mr. Sting was not talking about kids, but he might as well have been. This describes exactly what kids are doing every minute of the day.

Every night after his bath either Arica or I put lotion on Braden. Lately you have to give him a lotion bottle to pacify him while he gets greased up. At first I thought nothing of this because we have given Braden something to hold during his diaper changing since he was a newborn. If we didn't he would constantly try and grab anything and everything in site, making changing his diaper quite an adventure.

About a week ago I took notice of what Braden was doing with the lotion bottle after I gave it to him.  He held it upside down and shook it up and down several times. Then he put one hand to the outlet. After that he put the lotion back down, and rubbed his hands together. In short he was imitating what he had seen Arica and I do hundreds of times. It is very cute and entertaining for sure.

From another point of view it is very scary.  If he is copying the most ordinary things like applying lotion, what else could he be copying? My guess is that he copies everything he sees, and all indications are that he sees everything.  He copies things Arica and I do with his toys. He puts things on his head that he has seen us put on our head. This includes the ordinary like hats and the not so ordinary like pots and pans. The list of things Braden copies grows all the time and will keep growing for years to come.

Being the flawed person that I know I am, this is a scary thought. Something as little as playing with a lotion bottle is a serious reminder to me that I need to be the best example I can be for my son. Either that or I need to start praying that he watches his mother.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Want Global Warming

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
We are at the beginning of a three day stretch of bitter cold here in Arkansas. Everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line go ahead and laugh now, and get it out of the way.

Last night the forecast low temperature was 11 degrees. I don't know what the actual low was, but it was 12 when I went to work this morning.  The forecast lows for the next two nights are 7 and 8.

Before we move on I would like to list a few things that you are more likely to see in Arkansas than a temperature of 7 degrees.
  • Haley's comet
  • Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny playing Marco Polo in the YMCA pool
  • A Razorback fan wearing an I love Texas t-shirt
  • A hillbilly with a full set of teeth, wearing shoes, and buying soap
  • Bigfoot driving a John Deere lawnmower through the Wal Mart parking lot
  • A redneck that thinks Hank Williams Jr. is the antichrist
  • A ban on guns
Now on with the story. These temperatures were cold enough for us to do the unthinkable last night. The forgotten furry children slept inside for the first time in Braden's life.  They were actually banished before Braden's arrival although I can't remember exactly when. Now they have returned.

Much like Cousin Eddie the dogs are not normally fit for indoor living. In other words they needed a bath.  Since Braden now uses the tub, we decided not to introduce a years worth of dog filth into his little bastion of cleanliness.

Of course I wasn't going to bathe them outside only to watch the water freeze to their coats and worse yet my hands. So I took a shower with my dogs yesterday.  Don't worry, I wore my swimming suit. I am not about to leave certain things exposed while in a 3 ft by 3 ft tile and glass cage with either of those turkey killers.

The night went really well. At first Braden kept his distance. When the dogs got in his personal space he would push them away or throw the occasional jab. By his bed time we were all in the floor together playing happily.

The dogs were well behaved. Obviously they were basking in the warmth of indoor living. After Braden went to bed and things slowed down they slept. I guess it has been a long time since they had a nice warm night of sleep.

Now if we could only get Braden to follow their lead.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Braden Insists That You Share

My last post was about Braden eating chocolate. This post is about dining as well, because eating is important. If you don't believe me just ask my son.

I've written here many times that the little man loves to eat.  I can't think of anything that he doesn't like. Once at a sandwich shop Arica and I let him try one of our dill pickles. Admittedly we did it to satisfy our own curiosity. We didn't expect him to like it, and we thought it would be funny to see the face he made.  Well, the joke was on us. He loved it.  Just yesterday Arica bought him his own jar of dill pickle spears for the house.

The kid loves chocolate. He loves dill pickles. He will eat anything that is remotely chewable. So what is his favorite food? His favorite is anything that Mommy and Daddy are eating.  If you don't offer to share he will seek you out and ask for a sampling of your cuisine.  It doesn't really matter what you are eating. It can be anything from a ham sandwich to beef wellington. Braden insists that you share.

For example, Last night I was sauteing some shrimp and veggies. Braden toddled over to the foot of the stove, extended his little paw, and said "bite".  I couldn't give him any of the spicy shrimp so I needed to feed him something else.  I didn't have any kid friendly fare ready at the moment so it was either distract him or get beat up by a 14 month old kid. I quickly gave him a spoon so he could pretend to cook with me. Disaster averted.

These types of things make dinner time at our house a carefully planned affair. If we don't want an angry kid on our hands he better have something to munch on while we are eating. Many times he eats the same thing as we do, but not always.  On those nights it is absolutely necessary to cook him something too. If not he will make us pay.

It doesn't matter if he just polished off an entire meal 30 minutes earlier, he will want a bite of whatever your are eating. Consider this a warning. If you ever plan on visiting the Life of a New Dad household, do not bring along your lunch unless you plan to share.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Is Chocolate Healthy?

Much like the rest of the human race Braden loves chocolate. We discovered this a while back, but his love hit a fever pitch during the holiday season.

I know this discovery is along the lines of De Soto discovering the Mississippi River. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, "Like they wouldn't have found that anyway." The discovery itself is certainly not blogworthy, but my little man's passion for the cocoa bean is something to share.

We put out a Christmas candy jar for the holiday season. It contained my favorite candy, Reese's, and Hershey's Kisses.  We rarely give Braden candy, but on that special occasion when he eats all his food and been a good boy he can have a treat.

The first time we gave him a Kiss he was a happy man. Then he returned to the foot of the bar where the candy jar rested and began to point. Then he began to cry. Then he began to scream. This went on until we finally hid the candy jar. After that he could only get candy from a secretive place.  We had to guard the secret location of the candy jar like Colonel Sanders guards his 11 original herbs and spices.

At our Christmas Eve celebration at Arica's mom's house all the kids got candy canes filled with kisses and some Reese's as well. Right from the beginning Braden picked up the candy canes and carried them around beating things.  Then we gave him a kiss and he carried them around for a different reason.

Braden would carry the candy to his mom and scream.  If he didn't get any he would then turn to me, then to the next person and so on. He just kept crying for chocolate. Of course my brother in law thought this was hilarious.

Somehow amidst the chaos of the evening we made it home with everyone's Kiss filled candy canes. I think we have 4 or 5 canes.  The day after, when the house was still a bit in disorder from all the presents and paper, Braden found some kisses and brought them to me. I declined to give him one and he seemed OK and headed for his room.

A few moments later he emerged from his room with another Kiss loaded container. I guess he has a secret stash.

Unless some government funded academic out there can prove that chocolate is indeed healthy when eaten in mass quantities we are going to have to start storing chocolate in a strong box at our house.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I Want to Spend 2010 With My Family

I have just returned to work today from my second consecutive 4 day weekend.  In other words I have only worked 3 days out of the past 11.  I am not too excited about going back to work this morning.

In the past several days I have had a wonderful time staying at home with Arica and Braden.  It is a nice way to end what was at times a very difficult 2009.  I worked so much this year in the US and abroad that time with my family was sometimes neglected.  A four day weekend cannot take away the disappointment of missing Braden's first Halloween while marooned on a rainy island teeming with bagpipes. Nor can it erase a summer filled with dread about travel plans.  The days off do, however, provide a great springboard into what I hope is a better life this year.

As I look forward to 2010 I want to spend as much of it as possible with my family. I want to be there when they have bad days. I want to be there for every single holiday no matter how small. I want to take a real vacation this year with my wife, if not several.

To many people travelling to the capital of kilts for business seems like a great job.  Maybe a life full of movement and travel is what you crave. Not me. Of course I would like it if I could take my family along, but with a 13 month old kid that is not really feasible. The best thing for us is just being together right in our own hometown.

Many days at home in this parenting journey seem so mundane and difficult. Another load of dishes. Another dirty diaper. Supper time. Bath time. Bed time. Somewhere in between there is grocery shopping or household chores. I used to just get irritated with all of this. Sometimes I wasn't too pleasant.

For this I apologize to my family. The reality is that these little tasks are what makes up life with a small child. If you take them away there is not much left.  If I can't enjoy diapers and dishes then I can't enjoy life. So with this realization and a hopefully reformed attitude I venture into what has become a snowy (at least for Arkansas) 2010. I will undertake this adventure with hopes of wonderfully normal days ahead filled with toys and tater tots with my family.

Happy New Year.