Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fruit and Flower Anniversary

I have used this blog to tell the story of How We Met. I have also been sentimental on this occasion in the past. I always feel that my words are hopelessly weak and fruitless in any attempt to describe how I feel about Arica. I am not skilled enough to put such deep and passionate emotions on paper.

How can anyone with a little corner of the internet adequately proclaim their love by posting a couple hundred words that will be read mostly by people they have never met. Furthermore, why would I do that?

In the past I have felt that it was a good tribute to my wife. I felt it must feel good for her to receive such words in much the same way it feels good for a woman to receive flowers in front of her co-workers. I am sure Arica enjoyed the kind words, but wouldn't they be better suited to go straight from my mouth into her ears.

On that note I think I will take the romantic post I have waiting in my drafts section and put it on a real piece of paper. Then I will either give Arica that piece of paper or read it to her by candlelight or maybe even tattoo it on my arm.

Either way this year there will be no posturing on a blog. I will share only with my beloved wife how I truly feel. After four years of dealing with me she certainly could stand a romantic gesture.

Before ending this post I want to share a couple stories about our wedding day. That day before the ceremony my little cousin, serving as the flower girl, asked her mom several times where the princess was. She would also say she wanted to see the princess.This innocent little girl was talking about my bride to be. She was spot on with her description. Arica looked absolutely beautiful that day, just like a princess. And she has been an absolute princess every day since that. Not just in her looks either. She is just as beautiful in her heart.

Later on our wedding day, at the reception, one of my friends Dad's made another insightful comment about my new wife. As the wedding video went around this man had his David Spade in Tommy Boy moment. He was several beers into the night when he proclaimed to the camera, "Arica, you must need glasses because you are way too pretty for Robert."

So here she is the princess that is way too good looking for me. I can't say that I disagree. Happy Anniversary Arica!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wordy Wednesday

Much of the Dad blogging community participates in Wordless Wednesday. This requires posting a picture on your site and that is all. I am not one of those Dads. I figure if I wanted to have wordless posts I would have started a picture album rather than a blog. To each their own I guess.

Still this is the third straight Wednesday that I have posted pictures from our vacation. This vacation ended a month ago, but I am still reporting like it is breaking news. When you have a cute kid and a talented photographer for a wife you have a lot to share.

So here is the final installment of our vacation pictures. They include Silver Dollar City Theme Park and the water park.

This isn't the water park, but Braden insisted that he wear his swimming suit that day. Turns out he knew what he was talking about.

Braden having yet another Coke on the trip. Vacation is meant for fun. He hasn't had one since.

Me and Braden shooting some ball gun thing. I had to beat up three kids to get a gun.

Arica and Braden riding the water gun boat. I stood along side and shot water at the boat.

All three of us after several water gun battles.

Braden at the water park.

Braden in the water tunnel with a shirtless man lurking behind.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Over One Billion Served

Last week we had another major milestone development in our family. We were driving down the road to pick up Arica's car from the body shop where it had some paint repaired. We passed a building that everyone in America would recognize, and on this day Braden recognized it too.

From the back seat Arica and I heard "nunnet, nunnet" as Braden pointed out the window. He had just recognized McDonald's for the first time, and he wanted some chicken nuggets.

Before all you health nuts go crazy you you should know that we only feed Braden McDonald's 5 times a week. I think it is good for him to have a well rounded diet so we save the other two days for pizza and burritos.

Seriously though he gets a Happy Meal from time to time like most other kids. In my opinion the bigger threat to our kids health is technology. Sitting inside with video games and computers day after day in lieu of exercise is much worse than having a cheeseburger or chicken nugget.

Either way it's fun to see your kids recognize the world around them whether it be a McDonald's or the organic tofu market.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Am Never Wrong

My mother once gave me a shirt that said "You can either agree with me or be wrong." I thought it was funny because I was rather proud of that aspect of my personality. Arica didn't think it was funny because living with someone like that is a pain.

It turns out Arica was right. That type of attitude isn't funny.

Since I became a father I have spent a good amount of time evaluating myself. I have taken time to look more closely at my strengths and weaknesses.  I have never been one to admit my weakness or vulnerability before, but now it is not just about me. If I am not careful all my bad habits will become Braden's. I need to change my bad habits and set a good example. This is important because I want Braden to be a better man than me.

Upon reflection it's very clear that I have always thought I was right in every situation. I would argue and correct people. I wouldn't accept that someone else might be right. It never entered my mind. I am often still like this, but I am trying to change. The problem with figuring this out (with loving help from Arica) after having Braden is that change has to come quickly. If I am unable to change my actions Braden will surely mimic them regardless of what I tell him. Actions speak louder than words.

I am trying to change because I don't want Braden to always think he is right. I do want him to have confidence in his decisions and in his knowledge. I don't want him to second guess himself. I just want him to listen to others and be open minded without arguing every single point with everyone. This behavior is not only annoying, but it causes other problems as well.

The first problem with feeling you always have to be right is that it limits creativity. I have a black and white view of the world. This leads me to thought patterns of right or wrong with no in between. If someone is doing something different than me then it must be wrong.

That is a terribly limiting way to see the world. There is obviously more than one way to skin a cat. The truly successful people in the world are always looking for new ways to do things. They listen to every idea and determine if it is good or bad based solely on its merit not on its relationship to previous ideas. I want Braden to be confident of himself and his work, but not to the point of arrogance. Arrogance leads to close mindedness, and we all know that is a bad thing.

The other major problem that results from an obsession with being right is the development of a fear of being wrong. This often manifests as a fear of failure.  I often found this problem with myself. At times in my life I was afraid to speak out or to try something new because I couldn't stand to look stupid. I couldn't bear it if I was wrong or worse terribly wrong and inadequate. A fear of failure not only limits success, but it also limits how much fun you can have in your life.

So I am working on my way of thinking. I hope I am able to show Braden how to consider all people's viewpoints and ways of doing things. I hope I can help him become open minded. It is my dream that he becomes a man with no fear of failure, like that man Teddy Roosevelt once spoke about in this famous quote:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's Your Favorite Animal?

George Costanza was once interviewing candidates for a scholarship from the Susan Ross foundation. This was something he didn't really want to do, and his methods were interesting to say the least. Here is an excerpt from one of those interviews.

George: Quick, what's your favorite animal?
Candidate: I don't know...Frog?
George: Frog?
Candidate: Well...I...I..
George: Frog is wrong.

We went to the St. Louis Zoo on our vacation a couple weeks ago and I got to see my favorite animal, the tiger. Below are pics of that and much more, including Braden's favorite animal the "mummy".

Braden looking at a live version of a mummy.

Braden checking out a mummy picture.

I have seen Madagascar 2 way too many times on HBO. I kept imagining this zebra talking like Chris Rock.

Braden did the Build-a-Bear thing.

Except he built a Penguin. His choice.


Later he picked up this girl. She just climbed right in his ride. I was beaming with pride. You can see my right arm and leg beaming in the picture.

Don't worry. It's not the peyote. Braden really is sitting on a giant blue frog.

No comment. I just liked this picture.

Here we all are at the zoo for photographic evidence.

The little man finally just gave out from animal overload.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Pee Pee

There is a storm on the horizon. We know it's coming, and we can actually jump start the storm ourselves when it's time. The only reason we would ever start this storm is because of the relative calm that will follow.

Typically these types of storms are followed with clear blue skies. The high pressure will cover our little world and bring beautiful weather every day.

The looming dark cloud is potty training. It's not time yet, but things are happening that bring the thought to mind. Braden now understands what is going on in the way of using the bathroom. He no longer carries on like nothing ever happened when his diaper is filled to capacity.

The first signs that he might not be thrilled with pooping his pants came in the form of pulling at his diaper. As anyone knows a toddler adjusting his diaper is not a good thing. You don't want your kid messing with his Pampers when they are full of toxic waste. When he starts adjusting his drawers either Arica or I will ask him "Did you poop?"

Braden responds, "I poop."  He is accurate too, unlike those bozos on the Weather Channel.

Braden also knows a little about peeing his pants. You can ask him if he pee peed and he will say yes or no. The accuracy of this one is not as easy to check, but I assume he has a fair idea about his diapers moisture content.

The best thing is that Braden likes to sit on the toilet already. Sometimes for no reason at all he just comes up to me or Arica and says, "I pee pee." As usual there is no ignoring his request. Either you take him to the bathroom or he repeats, "I PEE PEE!" until you do.

I think more than anything he likes to play with the toilet paper. He will sit on the porcelain throne and wipe a few times before he is done. Then he flushes and goes on about his day.

I have never been excited about the prospect of potty training, but it will be coming soon. And now that it approaches the whole thing leaves me a bit hopeful. After all diapers aren't cheap.

After conquering all the accidents and toilet training we can say good-bye to $20 boxes of diapers and hello to $20 boxes of beer.

At least that's the plan from my point of view.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Toddler Talk

Interpreting the wants and desires of a toddler can be next to impossible, especially in the early stages of talking. They may scream about something that is totally clear in their mind but sounds like gobbledygook to you. Maybe you have spent 15 minutes trying to figure out what dog shoe means or bowl shoot. Who knows?

Braden is really developing a large vocabulary. He can say tons of words. Most of the time they are easily discernible to Arica and me. But even if we know exactly what Braden is saying it doesn't mean that we know what he wants.

Parenting is a learning experience, and Braden is the teacher. Clear understanding may be unachievable, but we do our best to learn as we go. Here is an example of how similar comments can mean totally different things.

Braden: Uh Oh! Shoe off!
Translation: Oh Crap! My shoe fell off! Put it back on now lest I pitch a fit!

Braden: Shoe off!
Translation: Take my shoe off now old man before I punch you in the face!

Now that we can easily decipher Braden's shoe commands and sweaty "dock" desires, I am sure the little dictator will find new ways to torture us with his words.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First Cardinals Game

Who says dreams don't come true?

One of mine became a reality on July 2, 2010. I took my very own son to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. He won't remember it, but I always will. It will be great to share games in the future when he can actually talk baseball with his old man. Until then I am more than happy to just share the game I love with Braden whether it means chasing him around the stadium or actually sitting in the seats.

Here is a picture story of our family trip to the ballgame.

Braden is dressed and ready.

On the way to the park we saw the parachuters.

At the stadium we got a souvenir giveaway.

Then we found our seats and took a family photo.

After that we had to get a hot dog. It's un-American to not eat a hot dog at the ballgame.

With full bellies it was time to catch a little bit of the game.

We saw Daddy's Favorite Albert Pujols...

...and Mommy's favorite Yadier Molina seen here catching in this great action shot taken by Arica. I think I should send this in to Sports Illustrated or something.

Then Braden had a Coke.

He likes Coke.

Then Braden watched some more of the game with his beloved Coke.

As the night was winding down we took a lot of pictures to commemorate the occasion. Here is one.

Unfortunately the game ended and we had to go home. But We'll be back.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good in this story does not come from a character named Blondie, nor does it come from Clint Eastwood himself.  There is a character involved, however. Before Saturday I had never seen or spoke to this character. She was just another unfortunate person stuck in medical purgatory with us. Then out of the blue this stranger approached our little family circle and offered us her turn. She was next in line to be freed from Emergency Room Waiting Area #1, but she was ceding her spot to us. The lady said she couldn't bring herself to go ahead of a crying baby. It's a sad commentary on society that whenever someone does something nice I am completely floored. I only expect rude comments and totally self involved behavior from everyone I encounter. But on this day God sent a kind, compassionate person to help us out. Arica hugged her. I thanked her time and again, and we hurried off through the swinging doors.

The bad should seem obvious by now. We were in the emergency room with a crying baby. Yes, that baby was Braden. He had hurt his arm earlier that afternoon. When this woman interceded and got us some help we had been in the waiting room for over three hours. In all that time Braden had not moved his right arm. Even the slightest movement or jostling would elicit a painful cry from the little trooper. As long as we could keep his arm still things were manageable. Still Braden had been crying for the better part of four hours and that is heart wrenching for a parent. Equally as terrible was watching him try to do things while his right arm hung limp. It was awful.

Sharing the bad moniker in this story is the hospital. What kind of place doesn't cater to children. We watched several people that looked OK come in after us and get medical attention before us. The powers that be were letting people jump a crying baby in line. There were a few emergencies, and that is certainly understandable. Short of people that need immediate attention, crying babies with limp arms should go first. Children are the helpless, defenseless future of mankind. Surely that warrants special care. Thank goodness that one of the patients had more decency and good sense than the hospital. In this case the inmates running the asylum was a blessing.

The ugliness in this story lies in the genesis of the whole situation. The man that caused my son this pain will bear the title of The Ugly. That man is me. I sent my own son to the emergency room.  I was swinging him around by his arms and legs. Nothing snapped or popped. There was no violent jerking or collision. Yet, when I sat Braden down he began to cry. He was holding his arm. He wasn't moving it. I kissed it over and over because this normally cures all his ailments. Still the crying continued. Finally I called Arica who was on her way home. She called the doctor's office only to find that the clinics were closed for the day. Our only option was the emergency room. So here I was holding my crying child, cradling his lifeless little arm, and staring straight into the ugly truth that all this was my fault. That is a tough burden to shoulder.

Of course this story can't end there, and thankfully it won't end on a grim note either.This story will have to become The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Blessed. We were truly blessed there was no serious injury. The doctor came in, looked Braden over, and proclaimed he thought it was something called Nursemaids Elbow. If you twist and pull a little ones arm just right the ligament in their elbow will pop out of place. Apparently that had happened to Braden. The doc bent Braden's arm, Braden screamed, and in a few minutes all was well. Braden went on like nothing ever happened.

Other than all that it was just a normal Saturday including a good woman, a bad injury, an ugly feeling, and a blessed and healthy child.

Note to self: Stop swinging Braden by his arms.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Living With a Parrot

Braden is learning new words as fast as Arica and I can say them. Among other things that means we have to watch our mouths unless we want Braden to sound like Chris Rock. Now I can't go on a profanity laced tirade about the Cardinals bullpen blowing two straight games. If I did that Braden would certainly share some of those 4-letter words the next day at school. Our house is not a big cursing place anyway, but from now on we will probably employ a few more shucks and darns.

Of course all Braden's talking is exciting and brings a lot of fun to the house as well. One fun thing I like to do each day, now that Braden is in full Polly wants a cracker mode, is to ask him about his day at school. That conversation usually sounds something like this.

Me: How was your day at school? Were you a good boy?
Braden: I dood buoy
Me: Did you play?
Braden: I pay
Me: Did you play with a ball?
Braden: I pay ball
Me: Did you play with a car?
Braden: I pay car
Me: Did you eat?
Braden: I eat
Me: Did you eat a cookie?
Braden: I tookie
Me: Did you watch tv?
Braden: I teetee
Me: Did you take your monkey?
Braden: I mummy
Me: Do you want to go to school again tomorrow?
Braden: NO!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Catching Up

I was gone on vacation last week. I haven't quit blogging just yet. Yesterday, I did write a farewell post, but I just couldn't bring myself to post it. Quitting is not in my blood. Even when I want to quit sometimes it's still impossible.

So for now I am still here pounding the keyboard. Feel free to start a Save the Otter internet campaign. Get me enough love and I may continue doing this for a long time. Who knows?

Today I will touch on a few subjects using the Life of a New Dad favorite bullet style.
  • First I have some business to take care of. The nice folks at Dove sent me some free soap. I get offered free crap from time to time, but this was different. I need soap. I use it every day. How could I turn down a free bottle of something I needed. So I am trying a new soap. Arica said it smells good and that is pretty much enough for me. I feel clean when I use it, but I didn't get out the microscope to check. I am confident enough in my clean sensing skills. I don't like the "Active Clean Shower Tool" though. It is just a loofah wrapped in a rubber housing with an exterior pad. It doesn't fool me. I don't wear pink. I don't wear visors. And I don't use loofahs. So I recommend Dove Men +Care if you like to be clean. I don't know what it costs though. If you go to buy some and it costs $7 a bottle then complain to Dove not me. Mine was free.
  • We took Braden to an amusement park, a water park, the zoo, Grant's Farm, and his very first Cardinals game on our vacation. It was a great trip. We have plenty of pictures that I might get around to sharing some day. At the end of the week it was nice to be home though. Braden agreed. He went around the house digging out all his toys to make sure they were still there.
  • Grant's farm must be one of the only places in America that has a petting zoo, a carousel, and free beer. I say America because I imagine they have places like that on every corner in Germany that also include sausage trees and BMW bumper cars.
  • We had a mouse. I stress HAD. He is now gone from the ranks of the living. Our furry friend had been wreaking havoc for quite a while. I kept forgetting to buy traps. I am an out of sight out of mind kind of guy. Finally I got traps two days ago. I opted for the glue traps like an idiot. I guess I felt like they were now the industry standard for mouse killing. They were also the cheapest traps. Yahoo! I saved a dime! They must be for city mice because our country strong mouse woke me up at 4:30 am banging around under the stove while escaping from his sticky demise. Last night I placed an old school snap and kill trap right back in the same spot. This morning we had a dead mouse. People have been using dead fall traps for thousands of years. Why in the world didn't I try them first. Let this be a lesson to all of you. If you want to kill animals go for the most vicious forceful type of trap you can find.
  • I had a job offer this past week. I went in to quit my job yesterday and ended up getting a promotion of sorts instead. See above about my trouble quitting. Now I get to keep my same relaxing position with a promise of zero travelling unless it is an absolute emergency. I also got a raise and some profit sharing guarantees. Now I might need to stop blogging so much and try to make some sales.
  • The week before we went on vacation, right before I had two job interviews, we put our house on the market. It is not a great time to sell a house, but we are trying anyway. We don't want to live in a two bedroom palace anymore. We need a larger palace in which to store our wares.
As you can see we have been quite busy lately. Wish us luck selling our house and in returning to our normal workaday routines.