Friday, May 28, 2010

War is Hell

Those of you who have been around long enough to remember THIS surely know my feelings on Memorial Day. I want to try and put them into words again today. There is no Dad Blog tilt to this one other than to say I hope this is the type of thing we will all teach our children when they are old enough.

Having just finished watching the HBO miniseries "The Pacific", I have plenty of thoughts about our veterans banging around in my head.  The show does the best it can to illustrate the horrors of war that our troops experienced in places like Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

The series finale, airing just two weeks ago, closed out with one of the main characters, Eugene Sledge, sitting under a shady tree with a blank stare on his face. His mother had been chiding him about his lack of movement towards getting a career and starting a life after the war. As she was storming off, Eugene's Dad pulled her aside and said, "You have no idea what men like him have been through."

That simple truth is the inspiration for this post today.

I can be the most ardent supporter of our troops to ever live. I can write a post supporting our fighting forces every single day. I can dedicate my life to their honor. But no matter what I do or how hard I try the simple truth is that I will never know what war is like. I will never know the horror that has been experienced by any soldier serving in any war.

I can never understand.

As we celebrate this Memorial Day American troops are still putting themselves in harms way. In Afghanistan battles are raging right now to retake Taliban controlled areas. In the coming months tens of thousands of US troops will participate in what is being called the biggest operation since the war began. They will all be fighting to gain control of the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

The stakes for our troops are as high today as they were over 60 years ago in the Pacific. They are still putting their lives on the line and fighting through horrors we civilians can't imagine.

Memorial Day is the day we celebrate those who gave their lives in military service. We remember and pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Like Lee Greenwood sings for every patriotic occasion, "I am proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men who died and gave that right to me."

This year I hope you will take time to remember all the troops that survived their respective wars as well. Remember their struggles with the psychological damage that war causes. Remember those troops who are still suffering that nightmare today. The battle doesn't end when their service time is up. It is a life long battle for many of them.

Let's all take the time to say a prayer today for everyone who has ever served in the armed forces. Whether they lived or died they all gave their lives in sacrifice for this country. Each and every one of them are heroes.

Happy Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lend a Helping Hand

Some things never change. We have all heard these words many times.

I wish they were true about my topic today. I wish what is happening at our house would never change. I wish it would live on to adulthood, but there is little chance of that.

Braden is the best helper you could ever imagine.

He puts his dirty clothes in the hamper.
He throws his trash in the trash can.
He puts his shoes away.
He helps pick up toys.
He puts his dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
He helps empty the dishwasher.
He throws away his wet diapers.
He even tries to sweep when we are sweeping.

Not only does Braden do all these things, he does them without being asked. He actually demands to do them. If you don't let him throw your napkin away after eating you are sure to be met with an angry word. If you dare take his clothes off the floor after changing he will chase you down and reclaim them. Braden won't even let you carry his plate back to the kitchen.

What possesses him to do such things. I am sure it is mostly his desire to imitate his Mommy and Daddy. More than that though I want to believe it is his caring heart. He wants to help. He wants to serve. I know for sure Braden is a very sweet boy.

Still it can't last. There is rebellion to come.

I am going to enjoy it for now because life with a filthy room keeping teenager will be here soon enough.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rosetta Stone

Now that I am out of my post Lost haze I can try and contribute something to this blog. I spent most of yesterday rehashing the events of the finale and coming to grips with the fact that my favorite castaway slash time travellers are gone for good. You would think that with all the space in my brain now free from thinking about smoke monsters and sideways universes I would deliver a deep and thoughtful post today. You would be wrong.

Today I thought I would give you a list of words that Braden says just in case you ever bump into him. You could call it the Rosetta Stone of Braden talk. Maybe the Bradetta Stone is more appropriate.

I used to think that parents just made up things when interpreting their children's words. It seemed ridiculous to me that all that gibberish could mean anything. But now I know that parents can certainly decipher what their kids are saying long before the rest of society. Here are a few of the things Braden says leaving out the obvious Mama and Dada.

I uh - I want
ba bar - Pop Tart
ba ba - Barney
ru ru ruh - dog sound
kack kack - duck sound
mmmmm - cow sound
ba - ball
gu - go
dow - down
boon - spoon
bie - bite
nana - banana
ha - hot
at - hat
Ja Ja - cousin Jackson
dis - this
no - no and also nose. They are slightly different.
esss - yes
da too - thank you
I - eye

This is by no means an all inclusive list. Braden tries to say all kinds of things, but my newly freed brain capacity is apparently a little rusty and this is all I can remember.

At least now if you run into Braden and he says, "I uh ba bar," you will know to give him a pop tart. He likes strawberry.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Worrying About the Future

I worry too much.

I don't really worry about my job or the economy or climate change or any other major issues. Instead I worry about idiotic things like how will I find time to do the yard work?  Do I have time to get my oil changed before I go to the grocery store? What are we going to do about the paint on Arica's car?

Because of this worrying I am simply unable to relax. I am a ball of nerves all the time. Arica can tell you with great detail about my fidgety annoying ways. Merely sitting on the couch with me can make a person sea sick.

I think it might be more anxiety than anything. Unfinished projects cause me the most problems. For this reason I could never build a house. I would be a nervous wreck the entire time. For the next 18 years the biggest unfinished project in my life is raising Braden.  With this project I am already worrying about how everything I do will affect the way Braden turns out.

I worry that if I give in to him too often he will become a brat.

I worry that he throws too many fits.

I worry that if I am not firm enough he won't learn to mind.

I worry that he won't be polite.

I worry he will be "that" kid in Wal Mart.

I think a healthy amount of worry is necessary in parenting. No one should parent in a willy nilly style without a care in the world. After all we are raising little people here.

The problem with my worrying is that it regularly keeps me from enjoying my time with Braden.  Rather than just living in the moment I am already 10 years down the road wondering how our current activity will affect his ability to behave in school.  Each task becomes a step in this long drawn out path to raising a good child. Nothing can be done without considering the consequences.

The result of this type of parenting is that I am about as much fun as a root canal. Braden would surely love it if sometimes I just said OK let's eat some chocolate and play in the cabinets without worrying if he is getting his way too easily.

I clearly need to be more flexible.  I need to make sure I enjoy every moment I have with Braden.  When he is throwing a fit I should react accordingly in that moment without worrying about how I might be screwing up his life.  Raising a kid is hard enough without trying to live up to all these preconceived notions I have about perfect parenting.

I hope that in the future I can deal with each situation as it arises. I hope I can stop worrying until there is something to really worry about.

One thing about all this is for sure. If I keep on worrying about every little thing in Braden's life there is no need to wonder how he will turn out. Braden will turn out high strung.

Starting today I am I hope I can make my decisions with Braden based on Love not Fear.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finding Joy

Wouldn't it be fun to be a kid again.

Kids have no bills. Kids have no job. Kids have no responsibilities at all.

Kids have parents to care for them and provide for all their needs. My kid, specifically, has more toys than Toys R Us and more clothes than Old Navy.

There is one thing even better than all this. This one thing is what I envy about kids the most. They can experience true joy from the simplest things. Kids have not yet been jaded by the difficulties of life. They have not yet given up hope on mankind. They haven't had their spirit broken.

Kids are simply good. From that 100% goodness they can create the most perfect laughter and the most joyous smiles.

They can be overjoyed by seeing a bird or a dog.  Kids can laugh for hours when playing with balloons or bubbles.  When is the last time you bought something at Wal Mart for a couple bucks and were truly excited? Kids do it every day.

I would love to go back to a place where life seemed perfect. It would be great to live again before any real hurt or pain entered our lives. Then we could find true happiness in a gentle breeze or watching a hummingbird flit around looking for nectar.

Sure we can find this type of joy occasionally, but it is never as full and enduring as the joy of a child.

After all some children even go crazy for rocks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First Things First

The word first is one of the most exciting adjectives in a parent's vocabulary. I don't mean first as in my kid won first place at the science fair. He is awesome. Although that can be quite thrilling, I have something else in mind.

When Braden was a newborn I couldn't wait for the first time he rolled over. Then I was ready for his first steps. Then his first words. The list of firsts goes on and on.

I got excited for his first bottle, then his first baby food, then his first real food. It was fun to watch his first bite of chocolate and ice cream.

I think I even wrote about the first time he wore "big boy pants." Clearly I have a sickness.

After 18 months of feverishly recording firsts we managed to find a few more this weekend.  Braden, Arica, and I visited Arica's Dad in Missouri and had a great weekend. Here are some of the firsts we experienced.

First time in an inflatable bouncy thing. I don't know what you call them, but the kids love them and Braden did too.

First ball game. We chose a AA game because we just aren't quite ready for the big leagues yet. We had a lot of fun watching some future Cardinals. I didn't go to my first ball game until I was 8 years old so Braden beat me by a long shot.

You can see that both Dad and Grandpa took time to explain the nuances of the game to Braden. I am not sure which of us was more excited. In the picture you can see Braden is holding a ball. That is another first. His first foul ball. I am still waiting for my first.

First time on a horse. I have never ridden a horse in my life. To me, borrowing from Jerry Seinfeld, they're like big riding dogs. That is the limit of my knowledge on horses, but I am excited that Braden will get a chance to be around them growing up.

Braden actually held out his arms to get up on the horse with Arica's step-sister. He caught us off guard and by the time Arica got a picture he had changed his mind and wanted off. That is why he looks upset in the picture. We didn't force him onto the horse. He wanted to go, but he didn't want to stay long.

First time on a tractor. I rode a lot of tractors at a very young age so he should have this one in his genes. When the tractor started up Braden started clapping and pointing. He wanted on, and this caught us even more off guard than the horse riding. So by the time we got a picture he wanted off again. I feel the need to explain that we are not forcing him to do his firsts. He just changes his mind quickly.

Finally we have Braden's first time to hang out with a Grizzly Bear. He showed no fear making his Daddy very proud.

After this weekend we can mark a few more things off our list of firsts. Next up first Nobel Prize.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ordinary Average Guy

It's no secret that having a kid changes the way you look at things. Everything from picture frames (potential glass shards) to flowers (deadly bee attractants) have a different look now.

Having a kid can change the way you watch TV and movies. Any show with a kidnapped child is extra difficult to watch when you have children of your own.  Of course you might need to change your R rated movie watching habits as well.

Once you are a parent you look at the teenagers at the mall differently. Your comments go from these kids drive me crazy to I would never let my daughter dress like that or where are their parents. Of course teenagers at the mall still drive me crazy.

Music is affected by having kids too. Obviously you might listen to more children's songs and less Metallica, and some of the songs you continue listening too will have different meanings altogether. For instance good ole country songs about father and son are more special to me now.

Yesterday Braden helped me see another song in a new light. We were playing outside in the backyard like we do most afternoons after work. Braden was picking up rocks and putting them through the chain link fence. I was petting the dogs and not paying much attention to his rock moving chores.

Then I heard Braden grunt something at me from my left. I turned to see his outstretched hand offering me a gift. It was dog poo.

At that moment when I should have been thinking of every disease on earth all I could hear was Joe Walsh singing in my head. With my apologies to Mr. Walsh the soundtrack of my life at that very moment went something like this:

Braden picked up the dog doo, I'm glad it was hard. ruff. ruff.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

18 Months, What Have We Learned?

Today marks 18 months since that incredible day when Braden was born.  For the past 18 months I have been at various stages of confused, overwhelmed, overjoyed, proud, tired, and frustrated. Despite the steep learning curve the Life of a New Dad has been a lot of fun. I can't believe so much time has passed already.

I won't be saying Happy 18 month birthday to Braden because that makes no sense. A birthday is just that, the day of birth. I will say thanks Braden for the greatest year and a half of my life.  You are an amazing little boy and are certainly a much more wonderful gift than I ever deserved.

Although this idea is not completely original, even in this space, I thought it would be fun to note some of the things I have learned over the past 18 months.
  1. Immobile babies should be enjoyed thoroughly for their immobility.
  2. You can do a surprising amount of things, including complex engineering, on little to no sleep.
  3. I need a lot more patience. Even after 18 months I still struggle with that most days.
  4. If we could harness toddler energy we could power the entire planet.
  5. Trying to follow a TV show while keeping up with Braden is about like reading a book while someone beats you over the head with a mallet.
  6. Declaring "Bath Time!" is the equivalent of a parenting time out that can save you from some tough spots.
  7. I am willing to sit through any amount of insanely annoying children's TV shows if they just make Braden stop crying.
  8. Clip! Clop! Riding on a Pony!....Sorry. Too much Barney yesterday. That just proves my point.
  9. You cannot fit all of your old hobbies and habits into 1/3 of the time. After having kids cuts will have to be made. I am still working on this one too.
  10. Becoming a first time parent is like taking your prior life and inserting it into a roller coaster ride. It is difficult at times to keep your balance and staying on track often challenges the very laws of physics, but it sure is a thrilling ride. There's a lot better chance that you'll get puked on too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crazy Laughing Pig

We have been struck by the stomach bug again.  Our ability to be stricken with every single puking ailment is reaching ridiculous levels.  Both Arica and I were home sick yesterday. We were both feeling better by bedtime.  I am still fine, but Arica has suffered a relapse and is home again today.  This is her third bout with a similar sickness in about a month.

I wish I had much better news today from our corner of the world. Instead of carrying on with today's vomit laced theme I will hearken back to lighter days. I fondly remember the days when Braden could frolic with a hysterically laughing pig without worries of another toilet hugging outbreak.  Those are the days that can lift one's spirit.

I hope to be back next time with something more interesting, but until then enjoy this video.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gary Busey on Moms

As a blogger that writes solely to record his life so some day in the future the aliens will know I was here, I find it necessary to write about all the important happening in my life. That includes posting about major anniversaries and holidays. Sunday is one of those days, Mother's Day. I wanted to write something about this day for Mom's, but I wasn't sure what angle to take. Then I was inspired by Gary Busey.

I have always enjoyed Busey-isms since I first heard him explain that GONE meant Getting Over Negative Energy. Granted Mr. Busey had a motorcycle accident that resulted in some brain damage so I shouldn't get enjoyment out of his predicament. His hilarious self proclaimed Busey-isms however, are just too good not to enjoy.

As a change in pace from my normal holiday praises I thought I would come up with an Otter-ism defining the word Mother or better yet Mom. Short words make me more comfortable. That should be easy enough, and it will be something completely new for this space.

I began by searching the online thesaurus for synonyms starting with M for every word my feeble mind could find relevant to my purpose. I was struggling to find the right fit. It seemed that there just weren't enough descriptive or powerful words that started with M.

Then it occurred to me why I was having trouble. The most powerful word I know starting with the letter M is the word Mother itself.  What other word conjures up so many powerful feelings? What other word is synonymous with nurturing, caring, patience, kindness, and love?  It can also bring about thoughts of discipline and protection.  Maybe the word Mother reminds you of apple pie or your favorite casserole.  Simply put the words Mother and Mom mean a great deal to everyone everywhere.

Who am I to try and give even greater meaning to such a powerful word by using a short descriptive phrase. I am certainly not a great wordsmith who can use the English language as a powerful tool to describe moms everywhere. In fact it was probably a little arrogant of me to even try. So I will move on confident in the belief that there is nothing I could come up with that will say more than the word Mom says on its own.  Mom's are just that special.

To the special Mom's in my life I wish a very Happy Mother's Day. I of course mean my mother and Braden's Mom. Arica might not be my mother, but I certainly still celebrate Mother's Day with her because being a great mother to Braden is one of the greatest gifts she can ever give me. And if you have read this blog even a few times you know that she is indeed a great mother.

To all the other Mother's that read my Life of a New Dad I hope you have a great Mother's Day too.

Minder Of Mankind

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Goodbye Corporate America, Hello Finger Painting

Today is a celebratory day at our house. Arica will start her new job this morning as a teacher at our church's preschool.  This new job is not only an opportunity to be near Braden when he starts there in June, but also an opportunity for Arica to finally enjoy her work.

She dutifully went back to the bank to try and help out our family. She tried to deal with all the things that had bothered her about the bank before. She was hopeful that these things would go away, or at least she could tolerate them in order to help our family financially. I am very grateful for her efforts, but her happiness is much more important than a few extra dollars. As many of you probably know, "if Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy."

Arica says, "I would rather deal with screaming kids than screaming adults any day."

So with that my wife is off to the world of coloring and diapers. She is leaving behind the world of deposit slips and overdrafts. For fun let's examine some of the other changes she might experience.

Banking: Getting yelled at because you ask for an ID
Teaching: Being asked if you want to see my picture

Banking: Getting asked by seemingly competent adults to fill out deposit slips for them
Teaching: Getting asked by adorable kids to help color a blue duck

Banking: Putting up with people's crap
Teaching: Putting up with kids crap filled diapers

Banking: Eating lunch hurriedly on a 30 minute lunch break
Teaching: Eating at tiny little tables and pretending to be a giant

Banking: Always worrying about rules and audits
Teaching: Always worrying about sharing and napping

Banking: Only worrying about money
Teaching: Only worrying about having fun

I think that last one sums it up pretty well. When money is involved there is never a relaxing moment. Everyone is on edge all the time. Half the customers think you are out to get them. Let's face it. The public is just a little bit less than courteous anyway. Now with the kids the most important thing is smiling and having a good time. Sure they can wear you out, but better them than Johnny overdraft or Susie hot check.

Good luck Arica. I hope you have a great day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Now Braden Likes...

I wrote a post called Braden Likes back in September. Someone suggested at the time that I revisit the subject as Braden got older. Well he will be 18 months old next week so now seems like a good time.  I have edited the previous entries and added a few more to create Now Braden Likes...

Daddy likes Pearl Jam
Mommy likes Lady Antebellum
Now Braden still likes any music but he loves the Barney song

Mommy likes baseball
Daddy likes baseball, basketball, and football
Now Braden still likes any ball but I think he likes basketball and baseball best

Daddy likes steak medium rare
Mommy likes steak medium rare
Now Braden likes chicken but still hasn't tried steak

Mommy likes to bake
Daddy likes to cook
Now Braden likes to carry spoons around the house

Daddy likes any kind of fish
Mommy likes fried fish
Now Braden likes fish sticks

Mommy likes Diet Pepsi
Daddy likes Mt. Dew
Now Braden likes whole milk and juice

Daddy likes flip flops
Mommy likes all shoes
Now Braden loves all shoes. He won't let you take them off.

Mommy likes shopping
Daddy likes fishing
Now Braden likes going outside. I think that is why he always keeps his shoes on.

Daddy likes to sit on the couch
Mommy likes to lay on the couch
Now Braden likes to climb on the couch

Mommy likes to carry her phone everywhere
Daddy likes to carry his wallet everywhere
Now Braden likes to carry his monkey everywhere

Daddy likes t-shirts
Mommy likes dresses
Now Braden is OK with putting on clothes because it might mean he can go outside.

Mommy likes Goodfellas
Daddy likes The Godfather
Now Braden prefers Barney to gangster movies and everything else for that matter

Daddy likes showers
Mommy likes showers and baths
Now Braden still likes baths

Mommy likes dogs
Daddy likes dogs
Now Braden tolerates dogs because he has to in order to go outside

Daddy loves Braden
Mommy loves Braden
Now Braden still loves us too

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hunting For Unicorns

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about Snook being a hippie. I intended to follow that post with another ever so interesting post about cartoons. Unfortunately even the best laid cartoon plans get derailed sometimes. The topic is late but not forgotten.

Many of today's cartoons do something that bothers me a little a bit.  They ask questions.  The little cartoon people stare at you out of the TV.  They ask their question.  Then there is silence as they stare at you and wait for your answer.  It freaks me out a bit. Who can focus on properly answering a question when a cartoon mouse is giving you the stink eye.

When I was a kid the closest thing we got to interaction with our cartoons was when the Road Runner would look toward you and say beep! beep!  Now Dora, Mickey Mouse, The Little Einsteins, and practically every other cartoon are constantly quizzing the kids.

I can see the obvious benefits of this concept.  The kids love to participate, and who can blame them. Trivia is a lot of fun, and until Alex Trebek figures out how to make millions off a kindergarten jeopardy tournament this is pretty much all the kids are going to get.  Don't count out Trebek though. He is a crafty one. The future kindergarten tourney might go something like this.

Trebek: This ruminant's milk can be used on Froot Loops and it often makes the sound moo.
Kid1: My uncle Johnny has a cow. It's name is Elsie.
Trebek: Judges?....sorry we can't accept that.
Kid2: Mr. Startrek, do you know Luke Skywalker?
Trebek: That is incorrect. We were looking for "What is a cow?"

Trivia aside I have one major problem with all these cartoon queries other than being weirded out. They don't always listen to your answer. Once the Little Einsteins asked me and Braden if we wanted to help them find the purple unicorn to save the woodland orchestra. I said NO! I do not now nor do I ever want to help anyone find a purple unicorn.

These little hooligans just ignored me and jumped right in their rocket ship and started carrying on about adagio and moderato.  I guess it doesn't really matter what the kids think to these arrogant TV stars. The cartoon bullies just do whatever they want. They are teaching our children that their opinions don't really matter.

No one is going to tell my son that his opinion doesn't matter. I don't care if they have their own TV show, their own rocket, or their very own magical kingdom in Florida.  If these cartoons are going to insist on asking hundreds of questions a day then the very least they can do is listen to the kids answers.  

And staring isn't polite either.