Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Toddler and Monkey Stew

When Arica and I first met I enjoyed cooking a little bit, but I had no real idea what I was doing. I certainly had no formal training or even informal training for that matter.  While we were dating she somehow, against my will, got me to watch Emeril on the Food Network.

After that a strange thing happened. I became addicted. I wanted to watch Emeril all the time. I wanted to watch other cooking shows as well.  It seemed that my love of TV and my love of eating had come together to form a perfect marriage.  I learned to cook a little bit. Some of the rules and techniques began to stick in my head. I had never liked using recipes so these rules and techniques helped my repertoire in the kitchen grow exponentially.

At home I share the cooking duties with my very capable wife. Outside of the home I have been slower to showcase my skills. After a few trial runs I have slowly become the dressing maker at Christmas and Thanksgiving with Arica's family. I have also been allowed to bring some other things to the table occasionally.

With all of this I still haven't launched my cooking know how and skills onto the Internet even though it seems to be the perfect place to share. Cooking websites and blogs are everywhere.  My friend PJ Mullen often shares cooking tips, recipes, and even video on his regular blog. He has a separate cooking blog as well.

Today he has inspired me to post this, my first cooking video.

In case you prefer a written recipe I offer the following steps.
  1. Put kid in pot.
  2. Remove the kid and add monkey. Place kid on top of monkey.
  3. Remove kid and monkey and hope they don't run away.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dad's In the Limelight Series

In one of life's strange coincidences I am featured on another site today as well. I signed up for both opportunities around the same time, and as it turned out both posts appeared within a couple days. If you haven't been by yet click here to see my post at New Parent.

Today I am being featured in a series at Dad of Divas called Dad's in the Limelight. I really don't think I am in the limelight, but Chris was nice enough to include me in his series anyway. Go see the post featuring me HERE, and be sure to check out the rest of Chris' site while you are there.

I promise that I will still be posting here in the future.  I am not becoming a blogging nomad. Nor am I starting a career as a writing mercenary.

Thanks for checking out my guest posting opportunities. See you back here real soon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Featured Post at New Parent

In an effort to spread my own special  brand of cheer across the Internet I wrote an article for New Parent online magazine. My article is currently being featured on the site. Click HERE and follow Braden over to read my post. Don't worry. He knows the way.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guaranteed System for Parenting Success

Everyone is familiar with get rich quick schemes. Some screaming overly excited  salesman on TV desperately tries to get you to buy into his idea. You can make millions right from your own home in only a few minutes a day. You never even have to leave the couch.

There are email versions as well. You may be contacted by Royalty from an African country. They have just inherited a large sum of money and they need to move it to the US. If you give them your bank account information then you will receive a percentage for your troubles.

I am sure all of you have seen or heard many types of tricks and schemes. Surely you all filed them under the "too good to be true" category and went on about your business.

There are many other too good to be true schemes out there as well.  Here are a few.
  • You can eliminate up to $100,000 of debt in one month with my proven system.
  • Stop smoking in one week guaranteed with my free system.
  • Lose 100 pounds in a week without drugs or expensive surgery.
  • Subscribe to my proven system and I will send you guaranteed winning picks for every NFL game.
  • Buy my book to learn a system guaranteed to beat any casino in black jack or your money back.
There are so many guaranteed easy ways to succeed in life I can't figure out why I am not a millionaire. Something doesn't add up.

Today I want to share a proven method of my own. It is a one step method. You only have to do one thing for guaranteed success.

My method will teach you how to be the best parent you can possibly be. If you follow my proven method you will be an all-star mom or dad immediately. I can hear you out there asking right now, "How can I do it? What will make me a great parent?"


Of course because of our sinful nature we will all fall short some times, but this is the ultimate goal. Strive for this goal and your parenting is certain to be top notch.

Loving your children more than alcohol or the need to "feel good" can help the parent who goes to the bar and misses a Little League game. Loving your children more than your desire for lust can help the dad who is endangering his marriage by chasing women every night. Loving your kids more than your need for control can help a parent with anger and yelling issues. Loving your kids more than your job might save you a few extra moments a day to share with them.

If you simply love your children more than yourself and all your selfish desires you will be a super mom or dad. An added bonus is the fact that once you start living for your children you won't miss all those other things that made you "feel good". Seeing your child smile will be the best high you can reach.

It seems so simple, yet we all know parents that just can't seem to figure this out. I will never understand how so many moms and dads miss the boat entirely when it comes to caring for their kids.

For my loyal readers there is no charge for this system. Feel free to share the secret with any parents that might be struggling. I promise it is not too good to be true. It just feels that way when you do it right.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leader of a Toddler Gang

It's time for an update on Operation Child Care. Starting her new job is still tough for Arica. There are certain difficulties at work that have made her first week challenging. Who would have ever thought that a huge corporation was mismanaged? It's a real shocker!

Of course being away from Braden is still an arduous task for her as well. I am sure it will continue to be hard for the foreseeable future. It will eventually get easier with time.

Braden seems to be adjusting well. The only real hiccup came Monday night when for some unknown reason he decided to throw one of his all night parties. I ended up watching The Simpsons with him at 3 am. At that moment in my sleep deprived mind The Simpsons counted as a cartoon for children.

The next morning Braden was very upset when Arica dropped him off at school. We were worried that he would be getting his daily report marked as "fussy" for that day.

We were wrong.

According to the teachers he was a perfect child all day. They said that he is super good. The teachers also said most kids that have never been to child care cry all day for about a week. Braden, however, does not cry at all. He just plays all day. It would appear that our son is quite the social animal.

I am proud of him for being a good boy. It makes me happy to know that he can adjust quickly, and that he likes playing with other kids.

I am not surprised though. I always expected him to excel. I imagine him as leader of a little toddler gang. He is the like the godfather of his class. I am certain he is a benevolent ruler rather than a war time chief. After all he is willing to share food, drink, and pacifiers with me and Arica at any time.

So as we reach hump day on week one I say hail to the new King of Toddler Care.

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Day of Pre-School

Today is a huge day in our home. It is a life changing day. Things will be different now.

For 16 months I have been the first person up in the morning. Each day I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to quietly get ready for work. I snuck out of the house leaving Aria and Braden behind.

This morning I was the last one up. When I roused from my slumber Arica was fully dressed. She was finishing up Braden's breakfast, and she had some muffins in the oven. We had been trying to mentally prepare for this day for weeks. Now it was here. It felt strange.

Today we took Braden to his first day of school, and Arica went back to work.

Unfortunately I had to get used to spending time away from Braden a long time ago. Sometimes I even spent weeks away. During these times it was always comforting to know my little boy was with his Mommy. So this change is a little difficult for me.

It is much more difficult for Arica, and understandably so. She has been with Braden every day for 16 months. I have tried all morning to imagine what it must be like for her, and I can't.  I have no idea how hard this must be for such a wonderful mother. I do know she is hurting and will need support. It broke my heart this morning to see her so sad. I will spend a lot of time praying for her comfort today and in the coming days. I know the best comfort for her will be picking up the little man after work today. That will be a great way to end a difficult day.

I know we are doing the right thing.  More income will allow us to a lot of things we need to do for Braden. It will give him a better future.  He is at a highly recommended Child Development Center. He will learn things and interact with kids. Braden will benefit from this change in many ways.

Still it's tough, especially for Arica. I hope all of you good people will remember us for the next few days as we adjust to a new lifestyle. We will certainly come out stronger in the end, but making a big change requires a little time for adjustment.

As for now I know both Arica and I can't wait until time to see Braden again this afternoon.  And as Tom Petty says, "Waiting is the hardest part."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Positive Response to Baseball

Just before his bedtime Braden usually snuggles up with Mommy and Daddy on the couch and watches TV. He watches some TV, and the rest of the time he uses us as his own personal jungle gym. For the most part though it is a good way for Braden to wind down a bit before he goes to bed.

Last night Braden was on the couch with me. I couldn't find anything that I thought he would watch so I put it on my old standby, ESPN. They were playing an NBA game at the time. Braden likes watching basketball most of the time. Last night he kept saying ball, ball, ball.

While I was still searching the menu for something to watch I noticed a spring training game was on Fox Sports. It was the Texas Rangers who I care nothing about. I wouldn't normally bother to watch such an uninteresting game, but I wanted to see what Braden's reaction would be. This summer will be Braden's first baseball season since he began understanding what is on TV when he watches.

I changed the channel to the baseball game.  I nearly lost Braden right off the bat because the game hadn't started yet. He was fidgeting around a lot. I could tell he was thinking about making his escape. Finally the game started and I said, "Look Braden. They're playing baseball. See him throw the ball."

It definitely caught his eye. Braden kept watching as the pitcher threw a few more pitches. Finally the batter hit the ball to the outfield for a single.

After the hit Braden got up and left the couch. He left the room. I figured that the great baseball experiment had failed. I would have to chase him down now and play something else until bedtime.

Then Braden came back around the corner. He had his "bat". It was actually a golf club, but he doesn't use it in a golfing way. He swings it like a baseball bat at everything in his path.  He brought it over to the couch. Then he hit the couch. Then he hit the chair. Then he hit me.

After a few moments of wild swings Braden turned his attention back to the game. He carried his "bat" right up to the TV and stood staring at the next hitter as he took his cuts.

It seems like such a little thing, but as a parent this is really the good stuff. It is great to see your child recognize something and take part. Watching their mind work is always amazing.

It is even better for me personally to see my son respond positively to a baseball game. It was great to see Braden retrieve his bat and march back onto the playing field. It makes me dream of that day in the future when Braden will emerge from his room with a glove and ask his Dad to play catch.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Doctor's Office Blues

We took Braden to the doctor for the fourth time in two weeks today. According to them Braden is well. His problem is now allergies. That's great. The tree pollen season only lasts THREE MORE MONTHS! I feel so sorry for him.

Combine the facts that we have been so often, Braden now has a good memory, and they do unpleasant things to him and you get a little boy that hates the doctor. Braden starts crying when we leave the waiting room and head for the back. He doesn't like the nurse because she gives the shots. He cries until she leaves. At least he still likes the doctor.

I am not a big fan of going to the doctor either. The waiting room is the worst. I hate waiting. The dirty hill people in the waiting room scare me. The dirty hill children running around like wild hyenas trying to touch  me and my family make my crazy. The whole experience is nauseating.

To further explain our distaste for doctors visits Braden and I got together and made a list of things we would rather do than go to the doctor.
  1. Daddy: Be staked out naked on an ant hill.
  2. Braden: Give up whole milk for a year.
  3. Daddy:  Give myself an enema.
  4. Braden: Watch someone beat Barney to purple pulp
  5. Daddy:  Throw my TV in the lake.
  6. Braden:  Stay out of all the cabinets for a month.
  7. Daddy:  Watch a 24 hour marathon of Nicholas Sparks books on film.
  8. Braden:  Wear a dirty diaper for an entire day.
  9. Daddy:  Jump in a shark tank with killer great whites.
  10. Braden:  Sleep without a pacifier.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March Madness With a Toddler

Today starts one of the least productive work weeks of the year in America. Thursday and Friday will be stalled due to massive live streaming of NCAA tournament games in offices nationwide.  Some die hard fans may even choose to take vacation days so they can substitute cold beer and wings for TPS reports.

The lack of production starts today, however, not Thursday. All around the country right now people are filling out their brackets. Workers are meeting at the coffee pot to argue who is the better upset choice, Sienna or Murray State. Which 12 seed will beat a 5 seed this year? Can Kentucky's freshmen carry their team to a title like Carmelo did back in 2003? The discussion rages on.

Since I am a lowly worker bee I don't care about lost production. I love March Madness. The first weekend is quite possibly the greatest sporting event of the year. It has always provided me with a lot of enjoyment, and I expect more of the same starting Thursday.

This year, however, I find myself with different priorities as the tournament approaches. Last year in my March Madness post I shared a video of my Arkansas Razorbacks winning the National Championship in 1994. At that time this was the most important and relevant basketball video in my life.

This year there is a much more relevant basketball video that I would like to share. I hope you enjoy this video of my all time favorite slam dunk artist.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Patience Is a Virtue

When I was growing up my Dad always told me "Patience is a virtue." Not surprisingly that little saying never added any patience to my repertoire. I think I could have written it on the blackboard ala Bart Simpson and never grasped its meaning. While it was good info I never really gained anything from that knowledge.

Patience is not my strong suit even to this day. I am one of those people that can't stand to wait in line at Wal Mart. No one ever goes fast enough for me. When I get ready to go somewhere ahead of time I end up leaving early because I can't sit still and wait. Of course then I have to wait when I get to my destination early, but that never registers with me beforehand.

I want everything right now. I don't have time to wait. Since becoming a father I have been studying at the real world school of patience.  A parent without patience is in for a long hard ride. So us impatient people have to learn fast.

Maybe when my Dad was telling me "Patience is a virtue" he should have given me some examples. Doing patience building exercises would have helped more than reciting the patience motto.  He could have told me about the benefits of patience and then handed me a screaming baby. In that case I would have to learn to be patient because screaming babies do no listen to reason and they will not stop crying just because you ask nicely.

Maybe waking me at 3 am to hand me a wide awake baby that wants to play would have been a good lesson on patience. Just like with the crying a baby cannot be convinced to go to sleep by sound reason. These are the type of lessons I learn every day as a father.

There are the times when Braden points at something he wants. He will get very upset if you give him the wrong thing. He will continue to get upset until he gets what he wants. I have emptied entire drawers trying to find the elusive item his heart desires. Patience.

Back to sleep deprivation. Sometimes Braden likes to throw all night parties. He will laugh and scream all through the night making sure no one else can sleep either. Patience.

There are times when I do something to entertain Braden, and he decides he would like me to do it again one thousand more times. Patience.

He likes me to pick him up so he can dunk the basketball in his goal over the closet door. He likes to do it a lot. Patience.

Braden, like all kids, gets a little temperamental sometimes when it is time to eat. He may not want to eat. He may avoid you. He may even spit out his food. Patience.

Sitting in the doctor's office is another patience trying exercise. Like Jerry Seinfeld says about the waiting room, "They have the room. They are going to use it." 

Waiting in a room full of sick strangers with a toddler is tough. I guess I could let him act like a wild animal like seemingly every other parent. Instead I try to keep him away from all the other people by trying anything and everything. Patience.

I think you get the point. Anyone that has ever had children knows about all these things. Raising a child is a daily lesson on patience. For those of us that have never learned that skill before in life, kids are our professors. They are the Dean of Patience. They are also the judge and the jury on our understanding of the topic.

No matter how many times I was reminded to be patient by my parents it never stuck. It would seem that patience is one of those virtues that is better taught to adults by children than the other way around.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cousins By Blood, Friends By Choice (I hope)

Nearly every child has friends built right into their family tree. These hopefully close friends are called cousins. At the very least you get to play with them a lot growing up. When you gather for family functions the cousins go off to play while the adults sit around and talk about the weather, politics, or whatever adults talk about.

Growing up I had two cousins, a boy and a girl, on my mom's side of the family.  We got together with Mom's family about once a month. In other words I saw these cousins all the time  The boy cousin was quite a bit older than me so we weren't that close. He used to pick on me too. That might be another reason we weren't that close.

The girl cousin was close to my age so we were friends early in life. As we grew older I took to sports and hunting. She took to shopping and other girlie pursuits. We grew apart fairly quickly.

I did have one cousin that was my good friend. My Dad's Brother had a son named Eric. I posted about him here a while back.  Eric and I grew up together on the farm. While our Dad's worked or more often discussed the best way to do the work, we played. There is no limit to how much fun little boys can have on the farm.

We promised to be best friends forever. Of course we grew apart too. I have seen him twice that I can remember in the last 10 years. Once was at our Grandpa's funeral. The other time was after Braden was born when his family came to my parents house to meet Braden and Arica.

During that visit we reminisced about the time we dissected a turtle. I had totally forgot about that and was quite impressed with my younger self upon remembering. We also remembered all the little things we built from junk we found, like the boats that we floated on the pond. It was fun to talk with my old friend.

I started thinking about cousins recently when I transferred a video of Braden and his cousin, Jackson, to my computer.  Jackson is about 2 years older than Braden, and belongs to Arica's brother.  At first Jackson didn't want to share his Grandma with Braden. That is to be expected. He eventually did warm up to Braden. They had plenty of opportunity to play together so I guess it was just a matter of time.

Here is the aforementioned video. Braden is pushing Jackson on a train. Yes, they are both wearing Batman pajamas. No, that was not planned. Yes, it is pretty cool anyway.

As you can see they are working on a friendship already. This has the potential of a special cousin bond that could last forever and provide a lot of great memories. I hope they get along and can be friends for a lifetime.

I think a lot of that might hinge on what Braden has to say once he starts talking.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Professional Blogger

Why do people start blogging? There are many reasons out there. Some of them are good reasons. Others are a little bit silly.

When I first started blogging we had gone from a 2 person 2 income family to a 3 person 1 income family.  I thought maybe I could make a little money blogging. I can be entertaining. I am a decent writer. Braden was a great subject. Surely he would provide me all kinds of material. So I decided to give it a whirl and see if I could develop some kind of following.

It didn't take very long for me to realize that my reason for blogging was a silly one. It is very difficult to make any money at this. It takes much more work and time than I can put into it.

Of course I found the same benefits from blogging that everyone else finds.  It's a great way to meet new people, share ideas, and have a good time. There is something to this social networking craze.

Now it has all changed.

In the past month I have actually made some money blogging.  I now consider myself a professional blogger, but please don't tell the IRS.

I don't want any of my blog friends and readers to be intimidated by my new professional status. I am still the same bewildered dad that I was over 15 months ago when I started this thing.  I promise to still be approachable and down to earth because it is still all about my fans.  Thank you all for your support in helping make this possible. I hope to continue seeing you all here every day.

Please check with my personal assistant or my agent to make an appointment.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Toddler Gibberish, What Does It All Mean?

Arica and I are coming to the realization that Braden is going to be a talker.  Right now he says about 15 different words on a daily basis. His favorites are "bite", "no", and of course "mama".  Arica just called me this afternoon to tell me he had started saying "stop".  That is a new one, but it seems to fit with his personality of wanting to do things his way all the time.

These words are not the ones that give us the feeling we are raising a conversationalist.  That comes from his non stop gibberish. No matter what Braden is doing he talks while doing it.  He doesn't just make noises though. He is telling a story complete with smiles, laughter, and hand gestures.  If you don't listen to his stories he will march right up to you and get your attention. He just likes to talk.

When I was a kid I was a talker too. In grade school I was constantly disrupting class and getting in trouble. I would rather talk to my neighbors than listen to the teacher. At that time we got citizenship grades. The grades were either S for satisfactory or U for unsatisfactory.  I got an S minus every single time.

My mother is convinced to this day that the only reason I didn't get a U is because I was a straight A student and they didn't want to scar my record with an unsightly U.  I appreciate their discretion because no one wants a government background check to turn up a U.  That is right up there with criminal mischief and substance abuse.

So I am starting to wonder if I am going to "pay for my raising" with Braden.  Am I going to learn how my mom felt all those times I brought home notes for misbehavior.  Am I going to relive the fun of talking to teachers about my sons incessant talking.  It's way to early to tell. Braden is a great kid, and for now I am going to assume that he will be the perfect angel.

I do, however, like the fact that Braden seems to be so outgoing. That can serve him well in life.  Being shy is very difficult so maybe he won't be burdened with that. 

You never know.  He might use his gift of gab to become a great orator like Winston Churchill without the British accent.  He might even be a talk show host or a sportscaster. At this moment anything that requires a lot of talking seems like a good possibility.

No matter what comes of Braden's chattering, he is certain to be highly entertaining along the way.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Father and Son Time

This past weekend Arica went on a MUCH DESERVED girls weekend.  She and a friend left town for some shopping and relaxation.  This left Braden and Dad alone together for the longest time to date.

I had a church board meeting on Sunday so we pretty much were limited to Saturday afternoon for a guys day.  Of course Braden took an extra long nap on Saturday. Maybe he knew his Mom was gone and wasn't too interested in getting out of bed.  I finally woke him up because the daylight hours were waning.

We went to get a chocolate milkshake and headed to the park.  The milkshake was an iffy choice because it was getting cool late that afternoon. My hand nearly froze off and Braden wasn't interested at first because he had too much exploring to do.

The park was packed on this particular day. I am sure everyone has cabin fever.  If the sun even threatens to come out people are flying kites and wearing shorts like it is the middle of summer.  I saw plenty of blue-lipped geniuses out in short sleeves that day. I guess Winter can make us all a little crazy.

Braden was happy to see all the other park goers.  His first move was to run off towards the basketball courts.  Like I have said before this kid loves basketball. I figured that the teenagers wouldn't care for him interrupting their game so I headed Braden off and turned him towards the rest of the park.

Braden didn't want to slide or swing.  He only wanted to go hang out with the largest group of people he could find.  He wandered around every piece of playground equipment looking at all the kids. Once he had seen them all he headed for the pond.  We threw several sweet gum balls into the water.  Braden wanted to either get really close to the water or actually get in the water.  We had to leave the pond.

It was getting cold by now so we started our walk to the truck.  As we went Braden found a renewed interest in the chocolate shake.  I fed him bite after bite.  If I was too slow he grunted or said "bite" with frantic hand motions included.  I guess he likes milkshakes like the rest of the planet.

It was a fun time even if it was cut a little short by napping and mother nature.  I really look forward to the spring and summer when the days will be warm and long. Hopefully then we can play outside every day. We can go to deer camp, to the ball park, to the regular park, and everywhere else.

I know this was just the first of many Father and Son outdoor excursions for us. I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Toddler Imitations

Braden continues to mimic what he sees his Mother and I do on a daily basis. I have reported those things for quite a while now. In the last several weeks he has added some sound effects to his mimicry.

He has his Mom's routine down pat. I have seen him get her hairspray, hold it by his head, and say "shhhh".  Then he moves it to the other side of his head and does it again.

I've seen him do the same with perfume bottles as well.  He makes the "shhhh" sound on both sides of his head.

Sometimes to entertain Braden I run across our hardwood floor in my socks and slide. He thinks it's funny.  After seeing me, Braden will walk across the floor dragging his feet and saying...you guessed it...."shhhhh".

It would seem that he loves that sound.  He makes other sounds too.

He gets the dust buster and pushes is around making his best vacuuming noise.

He makes truck sounds for every car or truck that he pushes around the house.

Maybe we have the next Michael Winslow on our hands.  Braden should be old enough for Police Academy 47 if they can revive that terrible movie series. Hollywood has revived everything else so don't count it out.

Braden mimics silently at times too.  Once he watched me using the phone book. Yes I still use one of those sometimes when I am at home. I don't always have the computer cranked up after work. Anyway, after seeing me Braden leafed through the pages, got my cell phone, punched some buttons, and proceeded to talk to someone on the phone.

Whenever we are eating Braden goes to the drawer where his utensils are kept. He opens the drawer and gets our attention because he can't quite reach into the drawer yet.  Once someone gives him a spoon he shuts the drawer and goes to get a plastic bowl so he can eat too.

When we are cooking the little man goes to the drawer with the wooden spoons. After he gets a wooden spoon, he goes for a pot or pan.

Braden pretty much likes to do whatever we are doing. Not only does he like to do it, he likes to do it well. I think he might be a little perfectionist always practicing his skills.  It's so fun to watch him learn about how us humans behave.

We just have to be careful when we take him to Wal Mart. There are a few human-like creatures there that I could stand for him not to immitate.