Friday, October 29, 2010

The Great Pumpkin

This past weekend we made it back for year two at the pumpkin patch. Last year I learned Linus was not the only person who visited a pumpkin patch. Take note that Braden brought Linus with him this year via a super awesome shirt. I also learned that the pumpkin patch was a lot of fun. Arica and I agreed visiting the land of pumpkins would certainly become a family tradition. So this year we carried on the tradition.

There were animals to pet as usual. Here is Braden with the camels. I decided to name one camel Clyde. That is of course from the Ray Stephens classic Ahab the Arab. The other camel I called Joe. Just because the US Government killed Joe Camel doesn't mean I forgot him.

Here we are with Eeyore. I know that is a cliched donkey name but this dude was so sad looking he almost made me cry. He had to be Eeyore.

If you were around last year you might recall that Braden liked riding the John Deere train. Well things have changed a little this year. Braden doesn't like the train anymore. He now loves it more than his own father. He would happily trade me away for 3 minutes on that thing. He would ride it until the driver shut down the lawn mower locomotive. Then he would play somewhere else while keeping his ears tuned for that lawnmower sound. As soon as it started up Braden would go running as he yelled "Choo Choo Train!!!"

He loved the train so much that he even made one of the poor engineers drive him all by himself.

Braden also crashed the red shirt birthday party and rode with them in the caboose.

Even though Braden didn't care they had pumpkins there too. We even took a few home. If it were up to Braden we would have driven them all the way home in the John Deere choo choo train. He would have seen the 8 hour duration as a positive thing.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bribery for Children

If you haven't raised a two year old in a while then you don't know what you are missing. It is all at once filled with fun and challenges. Life with Braden requires love, patience, wisdom, and many other traits. In fact caring for him requires an entire toolbox full of tools and techniques.

When raising a toddler there is no magic grouping of tools to solve all your problems. You can't fix everything with WD-40, duct tape, and vice grips like Walt Kowalski claims in Gran Torino. For Braden you need the entire Craftsman section of Sears.

One of my favorite tools is motivation. The proper motivation can turn any wild child into a perfect little angel. To many of us proper motivation as a child might have included the phrase "don't make me take off my belt!" Maybe your family had their own special version like "Don't make me hang you from the ceiling fan by your toes!"

Fear is always a good motivator, but what we initially found is that a more positive approach works better for Braden. You know the old you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar theory.

Arica is the absolute master of this technique. For some time we couldn't get Braden to eat anything. He would fight you to the death over a meal. He would even fight to get out of eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The only way to get him to eat was to offer him something of value. If you offered him a gummy for eating his meal then he would start chowing down. Proper Motivation.

We used gummies, cookies, stickers and other things to motivate the little man to eat. It was a breakthrough parenting moment for me. In my mind the official permission, even encouragement, to bribe my kid made so many goals seem a lot more achievable. All of a sudden parenting made a lot more sense.

Well as with anything in parenting as soon as you figure something out things change. Now Braden eats most of the time without any promise of reward, but there are still other areas where proper motivation is required. He might need motivation to quit running around the house so we can change his diaper. He might need motivation to pick up his toys or take his medicine. Motivation is necessary for kids of all ages and Braden is no different.

Unfortunately as his little rebellious streak grows and grows the sweet promise of candy is not always as enticing. It works sometimes, but it has to be balanced with the proper amount of discipline as well. Otherwise you just end up with a fit throwing kid with a mouth full of cavities.

So as times change so do our methods. The threat of a time out really does wonders for a kids behavior. I'll say it again. Proper Motivation.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Toddler Scorned

Braden's adenoid and tubes procedure was Monday, and for some reason I haven't found the time to write about it yet. I am slacking big time. Part of it is because I have been busy at work thus leaving me less time to goof off.

The procedure went great. The doctor's exact words were, "He did great, and everyone loved his monkey." My exact thoughts were, "Thanks for all the info doc. You were a great help. No wonder you made thousands of dollars for this 30 minute procedure. I love you."

My words were something more socially acceptable.

We were warned by practically everyone who had experienced a small child being on anesthesia, but I still wasn't fully prepared for the recovery room scene. What I witnessed made me think of throwing out the age old adage "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Even though this statement has its merit I am still considering replacing it with "Hell hath no fury like a toddler coming off anesthesia."

Braden hit two nurses, two parents, a few stuffed animals, and maybe even a few fellow patients. He refused to drink anything or eat a popsicle so they could remove his IV. Instead he struggled to remove it on his own to the point that the nurse finally gave in and just took it out.

Within 10 seconds of having it removed Braden already had taken off the bandage. Then he took off the bandage on his arm. Then he continued his angry tirade.

When we finally got him home he took a nap and woke up feeling better. Since then he has often had a fever so he is on a steady dosage of Tylenol.

Basically Braden is his normal self for the majority of the day. He just gets tired more often due to the fever and Tylenol. Hopefully that will all go away soon.

So there you have it. Everyone survived the procedure. We all hated it, but hopefully it will mean a healthier winter for the little man.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Anesthesia Is Not a Pop Singer



Those two words terrify me. I just can't help it. Call it negative connotation. Call it my own irrational fear. Call it what you like. I just don't like them.

Monday morning my fears will be magnified a million times.

Braden is being put under for surgery. I will be a bundle of nerves pacing the floor with sweaty palms. I will be trying my best to help comfort Arica while another part of my brain is engaging in a little self-help therapy.

Braden is getting tubes in his ears and his adenoids removed. It is a simple thing that only takes about 15 minutes, but I promise you they will be the longest 15 minutes of my life.

I can't help but be nervous. My little man will be undergoing his first real medical procedure since his first few days of life, and I won't be able to help out. I won't even be able to hold his hand.

So while you drink your coffee Monday morning or alternately partake in a caffeine free morning ritual of your choice, think about us. We will either be waiting in the surgery clinic or tending to a recovering toddler. Either way we could use a little extra support.

After clearing this hurdle we should be ready for a much more enjoyable winter season. Without this procedure the doctor assured us Braden would not get well for the rest of the winter.

We have had enough ear infections. We have spent enough time watching our son go through pain and discomfort. The pain all these colds and infections cause is enough to completely change our normally happy little man into an angry tyrant.

So we will take our nervous selves to the surgery clinic Monday morning and deal with the anxiety in order to help our son get better. That is all part of the parenting gig. You make decisions that you think are best for your child and then you have the courage to ride them out.

Monday morning Arica and I will be riding this one out from uncomfortable chairs situated along the wall in our own personal white tile prison. If we are lucky we can at least read some year old magazines while we wait.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eating Like a Kid

Today I would like to write a small thank you note to my son. Please don't click away just yet. It won't be any deep emotional stuff this time. While I have millions of great things to thank him for this one is just a little thing that takes me back to yester year.

I have mentioned eating all kinds of things since Braden arrived. I may be licking some sort of sauce off my hand or eating crumbs off the floor.

Sometimes I can be found polishing off a left over fish stick. We can't afford to waste food, even frozen sticks made of various types of fish.

Another of my favorite eating hobbies is flat out eating right from Braden's bowl whether it be chips, pretzels, crackers, or the subject of today's post, Honeycombs.

Thank you Braden for reintroducing me to the yummy goodness that is Honeycombs. Oh how I have missed you little crunchy combs of sweetness.

Now 3 or 4 times a week the first thing I do when Braden goes to bed is pour a bowl of cereal. Honeycombs make the perfect late night snack. All those years I was being all grown up and having a night cap were just wasted.

I should have been eating cereal and drinking sugar milk.  (compliments to Mr. Ron Mattocks)

Friday, October 8, 2010

You Haven't Lived

...until you have thrown your son so high in the air that you lost him in the sun.

...until you have watched your kid fill his bath tub buckets with cold water and then dump them on his head.

...until you have rolled 50 cars across the room on the hardwood floor one after another just for fun.

...until you have been vomited on by a newborn enough times that you don't even flinch anymore.

...until you can decipher your child's mood by the color of his poop.

...until you have eaten cereal you found on the floor because you didn't feel like walking to the trash can.

...until your body has been used as a toilet, a tissue, a napkin, and a jungle gym.

...until your kid commandeers your dinner plate and then scolds you for eating "his" food.

...until you develop a strong desire to hear a small human recite animal sounds.

...until you have eaten leftover dishes made by Gerber.

...until you have watched cartoons at 4 am.

...until you realize that all the stuff listed above is really the "good stuff" in life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Truth Shall Set You Free

The Bible says in John Chapter 8, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

This comment made by Jesus refers to the monumental truths of his teachings that are the basis of all Christianity, but doesn't any truth no matter how great or small allow you to be free.

In being truthful you are free from worrying about being caught, free from covering up lie after lie, free from telling the wrong lie or forgetting the lie you already told. Yet so many people prefer to lie or cover up things rather than tell the truth.

The virtue of honesty has been on my mind a lot lately because of some things that have happened at Arica's work. Rules were broken. Serious rules. The powers that be tried to cover up the mistakes, keeping them from parents. When the truth got out, and it always does, workers quit, parents pulled their children, and all manner of hell broke loose.

In the end people were more upset about the cover up than the actual wrong doing. Being dishonest about the situation made the proverbial mountain out of a little mole hill. It seems some people will never understand that being honest and up front with others is the only way to live.

Not too long ago a Pastor remarked during a conversation we were having that, "When you live in the truth there is nowhere else to go."

After dissecting the comment for a moment I realized it was truly genius. If you live in the truth you don't have to hide. You don't have to change courses or stories to keep the peace. You don't have to think about what you said or will say next. In the light of the truth their are no dark shadows where things can hide. You don't have to worry about anything like that. You only have to live in the truth. It's a simple fool proof plan.

It's been a long time since I went off on one of my philosophical rants about how a certain trait or virtue is important for me to instill in Braden. It's way over due. Every day as I evaluate the failures in my life I think about how to keep Braden from following in my foot steps. Certainly that begins by changing my habits so that he has a good role model to follow.

In this instance it was actually the misdeeds of others that made me think. Even if it's another person's nightmare there is no reason I can't use it as a reminder for how to raise my son. I know Arica values honesty above almost anything as well. So between the two of us I am certain that we'll bring Braden up to know that when he walks in the truth everything else will take care of itself.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good-bye Baseball

Today at Life of a New Dad we enter the confessional booth. It's time to get something off my chest, and with the MLB regular season ending yesterday it seems like the perfect time.

I haven't watched an entire baseball game in at least 6 weeks.

There I said it, and the truth of the matter is I didn't miss it one bit. I still love baseball. I still love the Cardinals. It just so happens that a mixture of circumstances came together this year to create the perfect storm of apathy in my baseball life.

This is definitely the least amount of baseball I have watched since I was in high school. Back then there wasn't a Fox Sports Net. Every baseball game was not televised around the country. The only time I could watch my favorite team is when they were on ESPN or another national network. I followed the Cardinals daily through the newspaper. I looked at box scores and followed the standings.

When I went to college I was able to watch every Cardinals game if I wanted to, and I tried my best to achieve that many seasons. That type of habitual baseball viewing has carried on to the present day.

Now I am going backwards in my Cardinal following. I may not use the prehistoric newspaper anymore, but I have been reduced to following the team through box scores on the internet. Why has this happened?

Part of it is the fact that the Cardinals stunk this year. Stunk is a relative term. They finished in second so they didn't stink like, say, the Pirates. But this team bored me to death for weeks on end despite having two of the best hitters and two of the best pitchers int he league. The worst part is that many nights the players seemed to care less than I did.
So that leads me to the main reason I just quit watching. With a toddler ruling your house TIME IS PRECIOUS! If the team didn't care enough to play hard I certainly didn't care enough to spend my scant free time watching them.

As a husband and father of a nearly 2 year old free time is worth more than gold. I can either spend that gold on my wife, doing something useful, or watching a losing baseball team. For once in my life I started choosing someone else instead of falling back into my old habits. Sure I would enjoy watching the Cardinals lose if only so I could yell at the TV, but that wasn't what I really wanted.

I wanted to spend time with Braden. I wanted to spend time with Arica. I wanted to do what I could to help around the house. Parenting has a funny way of helping you learn what is important in life. Hopefully this same type of realization will happen in other areas of my life. I need to be rid of things that take too much time from my family. I especially need to get rid of those things that are harmful to my family.

Anyone who knows me will attest that putting baseball on the back burner was a big step for me. Hopefully it is only the first step in my realization that the real people in my life matter far more than images of people on the TV or any other inanimate object that calls my name.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Singing with Hank...Check

We all have monumental moments in our life that we will never forget like the birth of a child and our wedding day. These are universally accepted as the biggest moments in one's life. That is certainly true for me too, but there are many other special moments in life as well. Things that you strive for because of some strange part of your being. You are driven to do these things so you can write them down in your memory as mission accomplished.

Maybe there is even a checklist of strange things that you would like to do. I refuse to use the term Bucket List to refer to these things. I don't like terms that just explode like that. I will not jump on bandwagons of any kind.

Whatever you call the list it might involve going to the Seinfeld diner in NYC. It could include meeting the Dalai lama, 12th son of the lama, flowing robes, grace, bald, striking. I don't have a list, but if I did then I would certainly be marking one thing off Saturday night.

Thanks to my always awesome wife, who got me tickets for my birthday, I will be going to see Hank Williams Jr. in concert Saturday night. He will be with Jamey Johnson who is also one of my favorites. The  checklist item is the opportunity to sing "A Country Boy Can Survive" with Hank. That is something that any good country boy should aspire to do. I will drink a beer and belt out the entire thing with Bocephus. Good times.

While we are on the subject of random things that I find overly important lets talk about some others. Here are a few of the less than Hallmark moments that I am proud to have marked off a list of things I decided were cool for some reason or another.

When I visited the Coloseum in Rome I recited my favorite line from the movie Gladiator while standing smack dab in the middle of the former showplace of ancient Rome. I said "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

My secret is out. I am a tremendous dork. I'm sorry to let you all down. I just couldn't conceal it any longer, but if you're honest with yourselves I am sure there is at least one person out there feeling the pangs of jealousy right now.

I drank a beer or two in a real live Scottish Pub in Glasgow Scotland. The local beer is Tennants and my friend's brother who met us at the pub calls it Vitamin T. He ascribes many of his special powers and physical attributes to his faithful adherence to a Vitamin T regimen.

I got the kiss on both cheeks greeting from a real Italian in Rossano Italy. It was actually a goodbye after frequenting a certain restaurant every night for weeks on end. After seeing it done again and again over the months I spent there I made it my goal to be accepted into southern Italian society enough to gain that greeting. And I did it.

Next week hopefully I will have a funny yarn to spin about my time with 20,000 rednecks and how it will now be indelibly imprinted upon my memories just like these other unforgettable moments.