Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good Bye

Little did I know that when the ultrasound lady revealed we were having twins, the changes were only beginning. The reality of having multiples changes every perception you ever had about your life. This revelation brings about uncertainty. And of course uncertainty breeds fear. The uncertainty over finances; properly sized cars, houses, and strollers; and of course the uncertainty of how to care for two babies at once are always present. And that means fear is never far away.

Thankfully, at about the same time we learned of Arica's double load, we began meeting weekly with a group of other young couples at our church. We didn't know any of these people at our first meeting. It was just that, a first meeting for all of us. But over these past several months our new friends have helped us grow in tremendous ways. Because of the love we all share for God and for each other Arica and I were able to achieve a certain peace in our lives that can only come from the Man Upstairs.

So as we journeyed hand in hand towards the great unknown we put our faith in God to deliver us. Of course we didn't just say, "OK God. Wave your magic wand and hook us up." We tried to remain faithful. We did what we could.

I sold my boat. Arica prepared to sell her car. We were making adjustments to our life in order to welcome our new little blessings. Then the big change that I didn't really expect came along. It is a huge blessing, and I have been thanking God every day since receiving the news.

I got a new job. This job comes with a nearly 30% pay increase and multitudes of benefits that never existed for me before. This new opportunity allows me to better provide for our growing family, while at the same time planning for our future. Needless to say it didn't take me long to accept the offer.

So after ten years I am changing jobs. The fact that this is happening just a few months before our twins arrive is not lost on me. Some might say the timing is bad because I won't be around as much to help with all the new responsibilities that come with having two babies at once. Arica and I don't feel that way. We know it will be hard, but this opportunity is certainly a blessing. And because of this blessing April 18 will be the first day of what is hopefully a wonderful new career for me.

But with great gain often comes great sacrifice. The first sacrifice for me is going to be this blog. I have written 99% of the material found here while at work. With my new, much heavier, workload that is no longer going to be possible.

What about writing at home? There is a problem with that too. My new employer is located an hour away. Until we can sell our house and move I will be spending two hours in a car every day. Our house has already been on the market for ten months so the daily commute could last a while.  Because of the commute and my increased responsibilities, I will be sacrificing time at home. Every bit of free time that I have will be given to Arica and our THREE KIDS.

I just can't manage all the changes and new opportunities in my life and this blog at the same time. So it is with a great deal of sadness that I announce this will be my last post.

I treasure every single friendship I've made through this venture. Those of you who stop by regularly have truly made a huge difference in my life. Your friendship and continued support means a lot to me. Those of you that read and only comment once in a while, or even never, are also much appreciated. I never knew so many people that I've never met could impact me in such a way. So from the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

There is always the chance that I will return. I will definitely feel guilty that there are two books on our bookshelf about Braden, and the twins might not have any. I'll surely have plenty of great tales to tell. The question is how will I tell them? How will I remember them?

If I choose to once again document things here at Life of a New Dad, you'll be the first to know. Until that happens, and in case it never does, you can keep up with me on Facebook. And maybe even Twitter. I hope to see you all there.

Thanks so much. And God bless you all.

Why Pre-school Toys Are Essential Learning Tools

It’s widely accepted that the education that children are exposed to during their formative years is a huge factor in their overall development. It’s not just the formal education that they receive at school that plays its part, though; time spent at nursery or indeed at home playing with educational toys can also offer a developmental advantage.

Kids’ natural enthusiasm and in-built sense of discovery goes a long way to ensuring that time spent playing with the right type of toys can help to expand their horizons at an early age. Just as reading books together with your child can help to speed up their ability to grasp the intricacies of reading and writing, certain pre-school toys can play an important role in stimulating a child’s natural tendency towards imagination and also help to spur on their creative abilities.

Of course, educational pre-school toys shouldn’t be used in an attempt to force your young child to learn something new every day. Instead, slowly introduce them into the playtime routine to allow your child’s natural curiosity drive the learning process. Research shows that the earlier and more often that children test themselves with suitable toys and games, the easier they find it to learn – and this early development is something that will stand them in great stead going forward as they enter the school system.

One such example would be Duplo bricks, a branch of Lego aimed firmly at pre-schoolers. The use of Duplo is a great way to introduce children to the idea of being conjured up unique structures in their mind’s eye and then following through and building them with their own hands.

Alternatively, baby or toddler friendly jigsaws encourage users to work through what can start out as a frustrating challenge by using their own logic. Repeated use encourages the development of memory skills, pattern spotting and matching ability.

Perhaps the most important factor is that as well as being educational, pre-school toys should be fun to play with. It’s all very well giving your child a learning tool, but if it’s a dry experience for the child then they’ll quickly find something else that they’d rather play with.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sharing with Fetuses

It's been a strange and busy week for me. Add to that my latest case of the blogging blues and you get nothing. That is what has been going on around here. Nothing.

I'm poking my head back in today just to share a short story. Arica shared it with me and now I'm sharing it with you.

Lately Braden has been talking to the babies. He goes up to Arica's tummy and says "Hi babies." He will tell anyone that asks he is having "baby sissers" or "two babies" depending on his mood. Yesterday as he was eating some gold fish (the crackers not the pets) he took his relationship with the babies to a whole new level.

Braden lifted up Arica's shirt. Then he stuck a gold fish in her belly button and said "here babies".

That's a good sign. Sharing with his little sisters already.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Cousin, My Friend

I wrote a post some time ago called Cousins by Blood, Friends by Choice. It was somewhat of a stretch at that time to call Braden and his cousin friends. I admit now that I only broached the topic in order to post a video of them that I liked. Jackson, Braden's cousin, for the longest time didn't care for Braden. It's not hard to understand why. He was the only grandchild on Arica's side of the family for two years. He got all his Grandma's attention, and like any kid, he was not too excited about the idea of sharing her.

Fast forward to today and the two boys are actually pretty good friends. Sometimes they fight, but that's normal. I have seen Braden drag Jackson across the floor by his neck so I know there is still some reason for caution, but the relationship has become much more amicable nonetheless.

This newly successful union brings about a new question. With our twins on the way, how will Braden respond? How will he like sharing his Mom and Dad with these new babies? And two at once no less.

Jackson's family is expecting another baby too. They are having a little boy, and the due date in only two weeks ahead of Arica's. So Jackson will have to learn to share his Mom and Dad as well.

And both of them will have to learn to share Grandma and Grandpa with THREE MORE KIDS!

That's another topic for another time. For now let's put all that aside and just appreciate the budding friendship that these two cousins are enjoying. Last month they spent a couple Saturday's together after Jackson's soccer games. Braden LOVES Jackson and would spend every day with him if he could. But Jackson initiated these gatherings, which is proof that he might just love Braden too.

So here's to the two little guys that have helped each other learn how to share loved ones, a skill they are both going to desperately need.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Being a Better Husband

I wrote my Twin Girls Top 10 about things I needed to do about two weeks ago. It was all in good fun until I got down to number ten. The last item was to be a better husband so my girls will have a good example of how they deserve to be treated. This line of thinking has been stuck in my head for quite a while now. The fact that their idea of what a man should be will come almost entirely from me is beyond scary.

I don't know why setting an example seems to be more critical now with girls than it did with Braden. He is also getting his example from me. I guess it comes from that innate fatherly instinct to protect your little girls. They're not even here yet and I'm already wrapped around their little fingers.

For much of my life I thought I would be the typical Dad as portrayed on TV. I thought I would be the 1950 version of Dad. I would work. I would come home. I would sit in my recliner, drink beer, and watch sports. I didn't need to cook, clean, or do anything else.

Thankfully reality eventually set in. Now I don't even have a recliner.

After work I try to help the best I can. I like to cook actually. I don't think anyone likes to clean, but I help a little. I share the duties with Braden as well. Sometimes I may need to be reminded of what those duties are, but once prodded I can help.

Being an example for the girls is much more than all that though. It is not necessarily about dutifully pulling my share of the load. I can't represent my part in the marriage as the ox that carries the heavy load because he has too. Dad can't be the guy that does all these things out of a sense of duty or worse yet just to stay out of trouble.

I have to be loving above all else. I  read a verse from the book of John today where Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." My attitude and help around the house must be taken in the same light. I am not being commanded. That is not the point. The point is that if I love Arica, I should want to help her as much as possible. I should show my love through my actions.

I should happily mop the floor.

I should joyfully fold the clothes.

I should rejoice in changing a dirty diaper.

Let me be the first to admit that this type attitude is not easy for me. I'm human. I would rather watch a ballgame than do any of that stuff. And that is why I wrote #10 the way I did. I have a lot of room to improve as a husband. There is always room to improve, and I want to strive towards a more perfect love that can be seen easily by my children.

These are just the things I think about when my mind wanders. I think it's a lot more productive than my pre-children day dreaming of fishing and cold beer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Scooby Doo Crazy

Braden has gone completely Scooby Doo crazy. He watches Scooby Doo cartoons all the time. He would watch them all day if you let him. I didn't see this one coming at all. He has been a Pixar Devotee for a long time. Cars and then Toy Story. He still loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But how do you jump from those things to Scooby Doo?

It must be the monsters. Braden is always talking about monsters. When he watches the show he points out every monster and tells us when they are trying to get Scooby Doo. Yesterday afternoon we were playing outside and Braden just started running around with his hands in attack position growling and saying, "I monster!" From that I think it's safe to say that he likes monsters.

I guess he takes after his Mom on this one. I don't like horror movies. I don't like haunted houses. I have never even liked Halloween, until we had Braden of course. It's fun with him. My point is that I don't like being scared. I don't get the point of that whole thing. Fear is not a enjoyable emotion as far as I'm concerned.

Arica on the other hand loves it. She loves scary movies. She loves Halloween, haunted houses, roller coasters, and any other adrenaline fueled scare tactic. She would never sky dive or anything like that but she enjoys a moderate does of scary.

Braden is the same way. He loves for us to scare him. When we do he runs to the other parent, hugs their neck tightly and says "I scared Momma!" or "I scared Daddy!" So as much as everyone keeps telling me he looks and acts just like me, I know that is not completely true.

Braden likes monsters just like his mother. For me that means I will have to become more comfortable with scary things. By scary things I mean Jason, Freddy, Dracula, werewolves and the like. That is where I draw the line though because there are a lot of scary thing that I refuse to include in my life.

For example, there is not enough liquor on earth to make me comfortable with Lifetime Movies or Oprah.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Kicks

I felt one of the girls kicking for the first time last night. That is always a very cool moment for the expecting Dad. Arica has been feeling the kicks for weeks. But it is always much later before Dad gets his first touch from the new life growing within.

Feeling that kick makes things seem a little bit more real, and it means that the arrival of the little kickers is getting closer. I thought it was awesome to get a small little foot five from one of our girls. I don't know which one it was, but I'm glad she said hello.

For that matter even if I did know which girl kicked me, I wouldn't be sure what to call her. We haven't quite figured out the proper naming convention for twins yet. I say the first one gets a certain name and the second one gets the other name, but what do I know. At this point you just can't be sure which is which.

That makes it harder to talk to them before birth. When you have one kid you can pat your wife's belly and call them  by name. I talked to Braden all the time. I wanted him to know my voice when he appeared on the scene.

With the girls I won't know which one I am talking to at any given time. I guess as things get further along they will stake out claim to certain parts of the uterus. When these claims are well established we can give them names like top baby and bottom baby.

Whatever their names, and whichever girl, one of them kicked my hand last night and it was awesome.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Waiting on Reality

The words "You are having twin girls" must be among the most frightening phrases in the English language. It's like my own personal "The British are coming! The British are coming!" Yet I sit here every day in a state of perpetual bliss. I don't have a care in the world.

So what's wrong with me? Why am I not more worried or frightened?

I assume that the day of fear will come. The day when my lack of knowledge no longer impedes the storm clouds of worry. To this point the perfect storm of time and ignorance has kept my fears at bay. Raising twins is still a few months off. Until they arrive I will just enjoy my life...said the dummy.

For now I wait and watch Arica's ever expanding belly. I watch the outward results of two growing babies. I watch as tiny boxes of shoes keep making their way through our doors. As pink and yellow dresses and other miniature outfits parade through our home, I stand idly by with a stupid grin on my face.

I'm having twin girls, I think to myself. Then I continue watching some mindless episode of The Office more concerned with the well being of Michael Scott than my own.

I know reality will come raining down on me one day like a thunderbolt from above. This reality could be sparked by a doctor's visit, a double stroller purchase, or simply by the reasoning center of my brain waking from its winter slumber.

However this thing is triggered, I hope it doesn't come while I'm driving. The last thing I need is to drive off in a ditch somewhere sobbing uncontrollably.

If that happens it will probably go down like this:

When the police arrive on the scene I mutter through trembling lips, "The twins are coming....THE TWINS ARE COMING" as I stare through the officer with wild unfocused eyes.

He asks me to calm down and repeat myself.

"I'm having twin girls," I say in an ominous tone.

At which point he kindly sends me on my way, understanding that I have suffered enough for one day. But he really doesn't understand what having twins means. No one can. Not even me.

And that, my friends, is why I'm cruising through life without a care in the world.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tools of Fatherhood

During all this talk about twins and girls and getting ready for that ship to land, I am still practicing the art of fatherhood for one supremely awesome little boy. Braden is never outshone by the preparation and nail biting that accompany a twin pregnancy. In fact he probably couldn't be outshone by the sun if it took up residence in our living room.

This morning at 3:30 am he reminded us of our duties when he woke up crying. When I went to ask him what he wanted Braden replied, "I want sleep Daddy's bed." On a side note Braden thinks the couch is my bed. Not because I am frequently in the doghouse, but because that is where he gets to sleep with me on those particularly difficult nights.

This time I told him no to Daddy's bed. Then I rubbed his back until he went back to sleep. Thankfully that only took a few minutes. Because any more difficulties would have required me to call in the big guns. At our house we call her Mom.

Arica can get Braden to do most anything. She has her bluff in on him. She threatens and he moves. She can threaten time outs, naps, taking away toys, turning off the TV, and other things. Even when those threats are met with the utmost dissension, she eventually wins out. Of course it is not always threatening that works. Many times it is a simple explanation that gets Braden's approval. Other times it is redirecting his attention to something else. Arica is a master of all these techniques.

On the other hand I am a master of none. My threats carry the weight of a feather. Even when I carry them through I can't get the desired result. Braden has actually started to respond to me a little better. Sometimes he knows I mean business. But most of the time he either carries on like I'm not there or he digs in and argues ferociously. If you've never seen a 2 year old argue with a 33 year old then consider yourself lucky. It is not a pretty sight.

During these most difficult of times I do have one weapon. When Braden is being difficult for some reason Arica can go to her bag of tricks for reason, punishment, or distraction. I am not so lucky. In my tool box there is but one tool for sticky situations. When the going gets tough, you know what I do?

I tickle.

This is certainly not award winning parenting, but you do what you have to do. I can't succeed at any of the typically prescribed disciplinary methods, but man can I tickle a frown away. It's fun for now, but I better get some chops before Braden reaches high school. I can't see tickling as a proper method for handling any of those teenage problems.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Twin Girls: To Do List

We found out one week ago that we are having twin girls. I am very excited about the opportunity to learn all about the father/daughter relationship. I am certain that I will be powerless against these little angels. Even though it is very exciting, it is never too early to start a to do list in order to prepare our family for those teenage years.

I tried to rise above the fray and not make all the normal girl jokes, but I just couldn't help it. The jokes are all teed up and just waiting for me to take a swing. So here they are in top ten to do list form. I did sneak a serious one in there as well. Well maybe I should say more serious because I have to give all these items consideration.
  1. Find the guy responsible for the Coors Light twins commercial and strike him down.
  2. Get the Double Mint guy next.
  3. Upgrade from single barrel shotgun to double barrel.
  4. Enroll Braden in MMA fighting class at earliest opportunity.
  5. Get meaner dogs.
  6. Call Bear Grylls and learn some of those dead fall trap techniques.
  7. Develop War Face.
  8. Pro/Con list on mote versus castle wall.
  9. Start long campaign to convince Arica we need a more public weapons display in our home.
  10. Be a better husband to set a good example for the girls on how they deserve to be treated.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sooner Dog


Spring has pretty much arrived in Arkansas regardless of what the calendar says. We have pear trees and daffodils blooming everywhere. My rose bush is making its yearly effort to grow into a rose tree before I can stop it. The weather is warmer, and we are outside every afternoon.

After I get home from work Braden and I go out and play in the back yard. Braden practices his driving skills in his Lightning McQueen car. He drives in a fairly continuous left turning oval so that he can jump of the roughly one foot drop on the backside of our concrete slab patio. That is his favorite thing to do. And yes I realize that the constant turning left could be a sign that Braden will like NASCAR, unlike his Daddy.

Braden also likes to take wagon rides and jump on his trampoline. He loves to run around and pretend his is blowing away or pretend that monsters are chasing him. He just simply loves being outside.

Braden being outside every day probably means just as much to our lab Otter. Since being banished to the back yard a couple years ago he has been patiently awaiting a new friend to play with. Well, patiently might be a stretch. He has never liked being a dog. Otter is what my dad calls a Sooner Dog. He would sooner be with people than eat.

And now that Braden and I are back there with him regularly, Otter has been reborn. He runs and jumps. He barks happily and wags his tail. He follows us everywhere just waiting for the next game or the next pat on the head. 

I am sure that he and Braden will be the best of friends. I am really happy for my old buddy Otter. He needs a new more lively friend. And lively is certainly right in Braden's wheel house.

As for our other dog Abbey, she doesn't really care for our intrusion into her world. She spends most of her time running away from Braden. I guess that just proves that some dogs are social and some dogs are not.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Man Space

I am excited that we are having girls. I know that they will teach me a lot, and show me a new type of loving relationship that I never thought possible. They will be great.

Having said that I am definitely going to need a good support group. I will need help handling the things that Dad's have to handle when girls are involved. You can call it observation, protection, or flat out scare tactics. I'm thankful that our first child was the little guy we call Braden. I know he will always watch out for his sisters.

I also know that I will need another guy to hang out with. Braden is going to be that guy too. I've mentioned before that I don't like the term man cave, but Braden and I are going to need something like that. We will need a place to occasionally escape from the main part of the house that henceforth will always be running on estrogen. Braden and I will have to carve out our own little manly niche somewhere in our home.

Unfortunately, finding a house big enough for three kids and a full size playroom for the boys might be a little difficult. So with that in mind I think Braden and I might just claim all of the outdoors for our man cave. We can call it our man space. After all, hunting, fishing, baseball, football, camping, and any number of other manly things that I enjoy take place outdoors.

So here's to spending as much of my life with Braden as possible outside the walls of our home. It will be our sanctuary. And as you can see from the photo above we are already pretty comfortable with the idea.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Raising Money for Twins

It was hard to watch him drive away. It felt like he was taking a part of my manhood with him. At the same time it was certain that he was taking away part of my past. Left in the driveway watching him go I was staring at my future. Even though I stood frozen, feet planted firmly on the cracked slope of our driveway, I was taking a big step towards a better life.

This was probably the first time that I have ever given something completely selflessly. So often I give only so I might get in return. My giving is part of some grand plan to get what I want. This time was different. I was getting nothing in return. The situation looked so dire that I actually tried to back out of the deal a few days earlier. I tried to get myself off the hook.

In so doing I nearly ruined the selfless act altogether. For it is not enough to give. In order for your giving to truly matter you have to give with the right attitude. Every man has been asked to do the dishes and had some smart remark in response. Even though we end up doing the dishes anyway, our wives are not standing in line to sing our praises. That is because we didn't do it with the right attitude. We have to give with a cheerful heart for the true impact to be felt.

So even as my fishing boat drove off into the midday sun I felt a tinge of joy in my heart. I knew this was the right thing to do for our growing family. I'm thankful that Arica was there for me when I had a little crisis of selfishness. If not for her I probably would have went fishing instead.

Twins don't wait until they arrive to start changing your lives. They start right in from the time you see that first ultrasound. Changes have to be made, and I'm glad we have the ability to make them.

After all, I can fish with my Father-in-law whenever the mood strikes. It's not like I sold all my fishing gear and moved to the dessert. Fishing opportunities will always be there. The opportunity to raise twins is not so common.

Since I sold the boat I found out we are having two girls. That means the financial need is going to be even greater. And the money we got for the boat will buy an awful lot of shoes.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Same Sex Fraternal Twins

Arica and I went in for her second official ultrasound today. It is a common misconception that this ultrasound is for determining the sex of the baby. Although I will reveal that momentarily, it is not the reason any physician prescribes this scan. The ultrasound's function is actually to find about a million different anatomical blurbs on the screen to help the doctor determine how the babies are doing. Among those things are the cerebellum, stomach, kidneys, chambers of the heart, and a bunch of ABCs whose meanings I am not privy too.

On that note I am very happy to say that the doctors exact words on how things looked was, "Perfect." The twins are measuring within three days of the expected due date. Their weights are 11 and 12 ounces which is within the desired range for weight difference. Everything is cooking well which is the most important thing.

Of course I have never had a single person text, Facebook, tweet, or dial up the phone and ask me how the babies kidneys looked. The only queries I have fielded for weeks now have involved the sex of the babies.

But before I get to that let's talk a brief bit about identical and fraternal twins. Our twins have separate placentas. Although there is no one hundred percent guarantee this most likely means that we will be having fraternal twins. The odds of them being identical at this point are extremely low.

Finally, we come to the private parts. Today there was only one type of private parts shown on that black and white screen. And those parts were girl parts.

We are expecting two little girls!!!

I am really excited, but altogether lost. I have a brother and a son. I don't know anything about girls. Ask my wife.

I will certainly be making gun jokes for years to come, but that is not the true sentiment of the day. Today I am in awe that God has chosen to bless Arica and me with two beautiful baby girls. I promise to do everything in my power to be the best Dad that I can for these two angels. I will learn to like pink. I will learn to play with dolls. I will learn to love ribbons, bows, dresses, and closets full of shoes.

As I understand the father/daughter relationship I probably won't have any power to resist anyway.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Perfect Kid with a Sleep Disorder

This is the only explanation. We've lived with this person for two years and a little over three months now. I know what he is like. Braden has been one of the easiest kids to raise that anyone could hope for during the daylight hours. But after dark he can be difficult.

Braden gave up his bottle cold turkey at 12 months. No trouble at all. Not one crying fit over his bottle. His pacifier went in the same exact way shortly after that. Braden has always been a good eater. That is part of the reason he got of the bottle so quick. He likes food. He loves fruits and veggies and will never turn them down. He loves milk and water, and drinks them almost exclusively.

But his greatness does not only revolve around food. At the ripe old age of two he has 80% mastered potty training in only a few short months. His terrible twos tantrums only lasted a short while. He always says please and thank you without prompting. If he so much as bumps into you he will offer a sorry.

This is daytime Braden. He is a sweet, loving, good mannered angel.

Night time Braden is a different story. He has been difficult from the very beginning. Arica and I spent months sleeping on the couch while he slept in his swing as an infant. We both took turns sleeping on an air mattress in his room when trying to transition him to his crib. We tried to get Braden to sleep in everything in the house short of our chest of drawers. You can go back and read The Quest for Sleep if you want to see what I'm talking about.

In fact just click Sleep to find all the posts that I have written about our troubles over the past two years .

Just last night Braden was up at 2 am crying for someone to get him out of bed. It took Arica and I two trips each to discuss the merits of sleeping at night before he finally went back to sleep. He woke up again later. Then he finally got up a 5:45 to watch TV. Then he went back to sleep on the couch and didn't want to wake up and face the day.

Arica claims he is part owl.

Braden has gone through long stretches where he wakes up around two am every night. I've spent more nights than I can count on the couch with him watching cartoons in the wee hours.

He is just now trying to get over a spell where he cries for two hours when you put him to bed. No matter how you go about it he struggles to sleep more than five hours at a time. He is just wide awake at the most inconvenient times.

Let me stop everyone from suggesting we cut out his nap. We tried that already. When we cut his nap time down to one hour a couple months back he morphed into a miniature flesh colored version of the Incredible Hulk. So naps are still necessary.

This all brings me back to my original point. Braden is the perfect child. He just has a sleeping disorder. I don't need any doctors or sleep disorder experts to tell me that. I know.

So as the twins approach, and Braden continues his all out war against sleep, I think there is only one way this all shakes out. It goes something like this. Coming this Summer to a blogging circle near you, ZOMBIE DAD! Starring me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Potty Training and Sharp Knives

I tried a few weeks back to blog more. The results of that effort were the same as any of my other attempts to be a super blogger. I get on a little roll and then the circumstances of life just push blogging aside. I've been busy and not blogging as you can plainly see. Today I'll spit out several topics that I haven't had time to flesh out into their own posts. I think I'll call it Random Tuesday Thoughts unless that is already taken. So Random Tuesday with no button. Enjoy.
  • I mentioned the review I was going to do recently. It turns out that I don't actually have to do the review on this blog so you are all saved from that excitement. I am going to tell you what I bought though. I got a nice German made knife sharpener because every parent knows the most important thing to have in a home with young children is sharp knives.
  • Braden has been a potty training wonder. He rarely has accidents of any kind. He tells Arica or me when he has to pee or poop. He wears a diaper at nap time but never pees in it. He still pees some at night but not nearly as much. I am ecstatic about how this has gone. Thank you Arica and Braden.
  • Braden does other things at night that are not so much a source of pride. For the past week he has been staying up for two hours or more past his bedtime. He never gets out of bed. He just lays in there and talks and screams and laughs. Sometimes he cries but not often. He just won't sleep. The kid is staying up past our bedtime. Yet he still needs a nap to make it through the day. We are stuck in some sort of in between stage of sleep development. It is very frustrating.
  • I put my boat up for sale Monday via the nut house they call Craigslist. That place is full of winners. Anyway I was contacted 8 times in the first 24 hours. I'm starting to think that I should have asked for more money.
  • Braden is nuts for the Scooby Doo movie. I'm not talking about any of the dozens of cartoon movies. He doesn't like the cartoons at all. He likes the live action movie with Freddie Prinze and Buffy. He laughs all the time at CGI Scooby. I have seen the movie numerous times now, and it's tolerable. I think Mathew Lillard should have got an Oscar Nomination for his portrayal of Shaggy. Either that or I've been sniffing too much glue.
  • Finally, I have to remind everyone who is interested that we will be finding out the sex of our twins on Monday. So stay tuned for that, especially if you bet money on any of the possible outcomes in Vegas.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dream Reviews

I am not reviewing dreams today, but dreaming of reviews. I have been granted the opportunity to review a product for CSN Stores. CSN has over 200 online stores selling nearly everything imaginable. You can get everything from an L Shaped Desk to 50,000 Btu Gas Forced Air Heaters to literally the kitchen sink. You can't even find variety like that at Wal Mart.

Part of the fun of this review was shopping through all the possible items for purchase. I hate shopping, but a little online shopping is tolerable, especially when the store has everything from power tools to kitchen gadgets. While shopping for all this stuff I couldn't help but think of some potential parenting dream items.  These items are not in stores, as far as I know, but they would be a welcome addition to any home with small children.

Here is my list of 10 dream items that would excite parents everywhere. Feel free to take these ideas and run with them product development people.
  1. Sleep Ray Gun - I could use this baby during those 3 am play sessions that Braden loves to have. One shot of the Sleep Ray Gun and it's back to dream land for Braden and his loving parents.
  2. Poop Vaporizer - I stole this from a movie. Bonus points for anyone who actually saw the movie. There can't be many of you.
  3. Handy Helper - I stole this one too. It comes from a certain cartoon mouse. The Handy Helper is a giant hand that comes out of the wall and helps out around the house. I could always use another hand even if it's just to slap me back into consciousness.
  4. How to be a Jedi Guide - This would work two ways. Jedi mind trick on a toddler that is prone to arguing. Picking up toys without leaving the couch.
  5. Instant Chicken Nuggets - Sometimes that 10 minute prep time is our enemy.
  6. No Preview DVDs - Much like the nugget prep time the previews on children's DVDs are a killer. And most of the time you can't skip them. Note to DVD people: This is one of my least favorite features of any product I have ever owned. Fix it!!!
  7. Monkey Renewer - Braden's best friend in the world is his Monkey. This thing has literally been loved to death. Instant Monkey Renewal Spray could zap Monkey back to his original state thus eliminating the authentic monkey odor.
  8. Infinite Toy Box - This would be a small toy box that opens up into a bottomless pit of storage. There is no limit to the amount of cars, trucks, balls, and Toy Story figures you can put in this thing.
  9. 10 year batteries - Actually this should probably be number one and in all caps. Lets make a better battery people!!!
  10. Parenting Pill - For those days when I'm just not feeling it. I could use a pill to get me back in Dad mode. They have pills for everything else so why not?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Great Outdoors

When I got home from work yesterday Braden and I took advantage of the warmer weather and went outside to play. He has always loved to be outside and yesterday was no different. It's a lot of fun to watch a two year old play. Their brains come up with all kinds of things to do. That's in stark contrast to my brain which usually says sit on the couch and watch TV.

So yesterday Braden provided me with his own special brand of therapy. It's base concept is go outside and have some fun. Run. Laugh. Play.

Look at all the fun things my little buddy did yesterday while we enjoyed our time outdoors.

  • Braden raced Otter for his fetching stick yelling, "I get it!" On the rare occasion that Braden got if first he would throw the stick and say to Otter, "You get it!"
  • He hopped from one stepping stone to another saying, "Ribbit" with every hop.
  • Of course he rolled around on the ground just for the sake of getting dirty.
  • We hit a few baseballs off the tee. You know spring training has already started. It's time to start working on his swing.
  • He jumped on his mini trampoline banging into the walls as much as possible and constantly telling me to open and close the door by saying, "Zip up!"
  • He climbed on top of the dog houses a half dozen times.
  • He threw rocks through the fence.
  • And my favorite one of all, when the wind blew he would run around with his hands in the air yelling, "I blow way! I blow way!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Men on Twins

Everything on my mind is twins, twins, twins lately. I guess that is the appropriate response for a man in my position. In 13 short days we will discover the sex of our twins. At that time we can start to make more formal plans for the things we need to purchase. If we have at least one boy then we are in good shape for toys and clothes. If we have zero boys then it's off to the second hand store to peddle our wares.

People always want to know how you felt when you found out you were having twins. Many a person has laughed at just the thought of my reaction. That reaction took place about four months ago, and now we are more entrenched in the reality portion of this endeavor.

Still people want to know your feelings. I think maybe they want you to burst into tears sobbing, "I can't do this! Why me!" Maybe it's more of an honest question. People just want to know what it is like to experience something that is not the norm.

Whatever the reason for the questions, I am here to provide the answers...from a male point of view.

Thinking about my feelings I have determined that there are three distinct feelings that come with expecting twins. A normal person experiences all these emotions. You may feel them all at once in the beginning, but it is more likely a progression. Some people may not experience them all, but it is best that the mated pair experience all these emotions as a group at the very least.

Also at any time during the nine month gestation period of the human female, the male of the species can switch from one emotion to another on an monthly, daily, or even hourly basis. There are a lot of things to process in this situation so the mind just processes at will. At least that's how it works for me.

The first emotion as you could probably all guess is shock. Holy #$!& if you will. This can last various lengths of time. I guess some people can be shocked for the entire nine months. For me it lasted just a couple days. It was very severe for the first 30 minutes during which time I did not utter a single word. After a few days the governing emotion changed.

The second feeling that I experienced was blessing. I still experience this emotion on a daily basis. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to experience the wonder of twins. I know it is a blessing to be able to have even one child, but to be blessed by two at once is indeed special. After the initial shock wore off, I was already the father of twins in my mind, and I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way.

The final mind set that comes with having twins is the one that governs my thoughts most days. This is the practical approach. Twins changes everything. The first thing you think of is how to deal with two screaming pooping bundles of joy at once. But that soon fades into the shadows of bigger more immediate concerns.

For example: Our house is too small. We need a bigger one. Our car is too small. We need a bigger one. We need to rearrange our room to make room for the babies. We need to buy Braden another bed so the babies can have the crib that is now converted into a toddler bed. We need to sell my boat to raise a little extra cash. We need to review our finances and make the proper adjustments.

So in a month or so we will probably be trying to sell a house, car, and boat all at the same time. We will be rearranging half of our home. We will be buying one of just about everything because even though we kept all of Braden's stuff he is only one baby. We are now expecting two.

Just like in a normal pregnancy the time before the baby allows the parents to get their lives in order. It is a good plan. Thank you God. Babies just arriving on the door step unannounced would be a huge problem. We all need time to prepare. So even though we have a kid already, everything is new this time. And we are going to spend the next four months weaving in and out of shock, blessing, and practicality while transforming our lives into Twin Mode.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Control of the House

I've been snowed in for the past two days. On top of that everyone in the house has been sick. Unfortunately no one had a vividly insane fever dream that warranted a post. Instead you are all left to what little coherent thought my meager brain could muster.

The mid term elections last year were much talked about because of the possible change in control of Congress. The results would determine who ruled the House and Senate and thus the government. Essentially it was a question of whether Obama would continue to get free rein or if he would face some opposition. Well I hate politics, so lets end this little analogy here.

Control of the Life of a New Dad house is up for grabs this year in much the same way. We aren't having elections. In fact the outcome has already been determined. We just don't yet have the results. If you want to keep the political analogy going you could say that the results have yet to be verified by the proper authorities. When we find out the sex of our twins in about two weeks it will reveal much more than the type of clothes we should buy or what names are appropriate. The verdict will set the power balance of our house for the next 18 years or so.

Normally a couple on their second pregnancy can still possibly come out with a divided house where the estrogen and testosterone are balanced. It is far from certain, but indeed a possibility.

When that pregnancy is discovered to be a twin pregnancy then you skip the possibility of nice even numbers. You go from three to five. The house balance of power can lean towards either girl or boy. The stakes are very high. For us the possible outcomes are as follows.
  1. Four boys, 1 Girl - SportsCenter House
  2. Three boys, 2 Girls - Even Steven House
  3. Three girls, 2 Boys - Reality TV House
I know I am making broad gender specific generalizations here. I am assuming the boys will tend to be like me and the girls will tend to be like their mother. I think this is the safest assumption to use, although I am fully aware that reality could possibly be 180 degrees from this. I still feel like there is a very small chance of that.

I made a judgement call on the three to two house. I call that even steven because let's face it, Arica rules the house and she is on that team. I need three other boys on my side to assert male dominance. Any guys out there who are laughing at me obviously aren't married, or they won't be for long.

So that's what is on my mind. How will this shake out? If you read the last post you know I'll be happy with any verdict, but the reality of what life will be like changes dramatically from one alignment to another.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stop Telling Me You Don't Want Girls

Time is flying by during this pregnancy for both me and Arica. She is now 17 weeks pregnant which is hard to believe. That puts us smack dab in the middle of the wondering about our babies sex period. We can't wait to know.

And with twins it is a much bigger deal. At least it feels that way to me. There are three possibilities sex wise rather than only two. There is also the fraternal/identical thing. This pregnancy could shake out any number of ways. We are really excited to find out, but rather than talk about that today I have some frustrations to vent.

I keep hearing pregnant friends say that they don't want to have girls. Even worse we have people saying that they don't want US to have girls, as if it is really any of their business. Some folks have even gone as far as joking if they are girls we should just send them back.

I will be honest and say that like most men I wanted a boy the first time. I was excited when we first saw Braden's boy parts. But I would never joke that I would send a baby back based on sex. To me that is just stupid, and frankly it's starting to get on my nerves big time.

Having kids is not like going to McDonald's and picking out a value meal. You don't get to make a choice. If you are able to have kids then you should just be thankful to be so blessed. People should just take what God gives them and be happy about it because there are plenty of people out there who would love to have kids but can't.

Sure I've made all the jokes about having girls and buying shotguns. I don't mind those. They are in good fun and somewhat realistic if you know me. Those jokes are good fun, but they don't in any way insinuate that I would rather give the girls back than protect them from teenage boys with raging hormones.

I also heard a story recently about another couple that found out they were having twins, and they just lost it. They didn't want twins. That would interfere with their lives. It was too hard. It wasn't fair.

Let me assure you that I understand how if feels to get that shocking news. It was overwhelming for me, but I would never suggest that I didn't want those babies. Having twins I feel doubly blessed even though I am aware that I will be doubly tired and doubly insane.

Maybe I need to lighten up a bit. I don't know.

Personally I just feel like having a baby is way too awesome of an experience to cheapen it by insinuating that if you don't get the kind of child you want you will be disappointed. What's next? People who will send their kids back if they aren't athletes or musicians? What about eye and hair color?

Everyone should rejoice in the miracle of life no matter what. I know I will.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Potty Training: Shower Poop

We are still trudging along the uphill slope that is potty training. There are wins. There are losses. The wins are a lot of fun. But the losses are messy and smell really bad.

Arica is doing all the heavy lifting on this one. She is the stay at home Mom tasked with sending Braden to the toilet time and time again. She is responsible for arguing, pleading, bribing, and ultimately making all the potty training rules.

Braden is still wearing underwear every day. He almost never pees in them. In fact he pretty much never pees during his nap either. Arica always puts a diaper on him just in case, but it has been weeks since that diaper has soaked up any of the little man's pee.

Pooping is another story, which brings us to the title of today's post. For a long while Braden's favorite plan for evading toilet pooping was to wait until his Mother took her morning shower. At that time Braden would hang out in the bathroom and do his business. He didn't poop in the shower, or the toiler for that matter, but he did his pooping while the shower was in use.

Arica, being the super mom that she is, started putting him on the toilet when she took a shower. She would make him stay there until he did his business. He would stay too. He learned much faster than I did that his Mom means business. Just another indication that he is already smarter than me.

We still have accidents like any other potty training family, but Braden is really doing a great job. Yesterday he used the toilet twice. I'm really proud of him for being such a fast  learner and doing this at such a young age. Underwear, persistence, patience, and a great wife seem to be the keys to this potty training stuff, as far as I can tell.

Operation avoid three kids in diapers at one time still has hope as long as the trend line keeps moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monster Jam

Are you familiar with the term "He's all boy" that people use to describe certain little boys?

My understanding of this term is it means a boy that has very manly traits. The phrase is used to describe little boys that are rough and loud. It is meant for boys that like to wrestle, play outdoors, and get dirty. Boys that are "all boy" love to play with cars, trucks, footballs, and baseballs. You get the idea.

We hear this phrase all the time referring to Braden. While it sometimes seems like a strange descriptive, it still makes me quite proud. I've mentioned here many times that I consider myself somewhat of a manly man. I like hunting, fishing, sports, and the like. I am capable of repairing some things. I don't wear pink. I don't use loofahs. I don't like lovable descriptive words. So needless to say I beam with pride each time I hear that Braden is all boy.

Our little man went above and beyond to live up to this description on Saturday.

Some friends of ours asked us late in the day if we wanted to go with them and their son to Little Rock. The destination was Monster Jam. For those of you non redneck types, Monster Jam is a monster truck rally. We were hesitant because we just weren't sure how Braden would handle the noise, even with ear plugs, and the assigned seat concept. Taking him to any type of 2 or 3 hour performance has disaster written all over it. But we really like this couple and wanted to spend some time with them so we took a chance.

It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights I have ever spent with Braden. There is no way that anyone in that building (and it was packed by the way. Remember this is Arkansas) had more fun than Braden.
He sat on my lap without moving for nearly three hours. He was so intently focused on the trucks that you couldn't even get his attention. He leaned from side to side to follow the action around the guys bald spot in front of us. Braden would point at the trucks and say thing when they were in action. I couldn't hear what he was saying but it looked really intense.

He clapped on his own at times when he really liked something.

The first time all night that a truck approached the tall van to jump it Braden was pointing in anticipation.

My favorite part of the night came during a donut session. You wouldn't believe how fast one monster truck, Predator, could do donuts. It actually made me cheer. During one donut Braden just started pumping his fists and bouncing up and down. He was fired up. It was awesome!

After the show while we were trying to get out Braden even enjoyed watching the fork lift remove the smashed cars from the arena. I told him they were cleaning up the cars. Braden said, "Clean up cars" all the way home.

He loved the show so much that Sunday morning he was turned around in his seat at church telling the lady behind us, "Big Trucks! Clean up cars!" over and over again right in the middle of the sermon.

He's all boy.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dear Mother Nature

Let's continue on this outdoor adventure train of thought for one more post. I've been locked up indoors since deer season ended in December, but not too long ago I was spending significant time in the great outdoors. And during that time, while I was perched atop my deer stand NOT killing deer, I thought of all sorts of questions.

These questions weren't actually formed by my own curiosity, but more out of a fear of Braden's coming curiosity. Right now he only asks "What's that!" He asks it all the time. Sometimes he'll ask it 50 straight times. But it is still a much much easier question to answer than a "Why?" question.

Sitting in the woods I thought of several questions that Braden could potentially put out there some day. Questions that I can't answer. So today I'm asking someone who might know.

Dear Mother Nature,

  • Do woodpeckers ever get a headache?
  • Do squirrels suffer from the small man syndrome or are they always making all that noise for another reason?
  • Deer taste good and they seem smart in order to help them survive. Conversely, do dumb animals taste bad?
  • Why did you  make mosquitoes? WHY!?!
  • Why did you make armadillos so dumb and ugly? It just doesn't seem fair.
  • Why did the chicken cross the road?...To prove to the armadillo it was possible. Sorry. I knew the answer to that one.
  • Do deer really hate me?
  • If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
  • Can you get me tickets to the Super Bowl?

Sorry I got off track there at the end. In closing thanks for making all the natural wonders, animals, plants, and trees that I enjoy so much. And if you can get me tickets just shoot me an email.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Man vs Child

I absolutely love survival shows. I have seen every episode of Man vs. Wild, Survivor Man, and even the new Dual Survival. Long ago I was a boy scout and learned many of the typical survival skills from that experience. I think maybe I love the survival thing so much because it seems like the basest manly instinct, the ability to survive in the wild. I know I could do it for a couple days around here in my home environment, and I would love to try a very watered down version for a weekend some time. Survival in the cold, however, is not for me.

Watching all these shows sometimes makes me think about my life as a dad in terms of a survival situation. Sometimes it feels like being lost in the dessert with no way out anyway.

So I have questions. In a parenting survival situation what would be the most essential survival tools? What would be the best plan of action? What are the survival basics?

Well instead of pondering my life away I decided to put some ideas together. So here is the first revision of my Man vs Child survival guide.
  1. The boy scout motto is "Be prepared." This is the best advice for any situation. The problem is that no one plans to be in a survival situation. It just happens. Bear Grylls always carries his trusty knife. Usually it includes a flint for starting fire as well, although sometimes he leaves that behind for the sake of TV. So what is the essential survival tool for a parent? What tool is equally as important at the mall and at the park? My answer is Diapers and Wipes. You don't want to be caught anywhere without a way to get rid of poop. Forget food and water. Go straight for the waste disposal tools.
  2. Often times you find yourself in places that are less than baby friendly like a restaurant. Just as Les Stroud would scavenge his broken down dirt bike for wire, gasoline, and insulation, we parents must use what is available to us. The restaurant menu can work as a book in a really tight spot. Straws can serve as swords. Sugar packets can work as building blocks or footballs. Use people in the neighboring booth for a peek a boo game. Pull out an ink pen and let the kid draw on something if you must. Remember THIS IS SURVIVAL! Use anything you can.
  3. Now that we have covered poop and entertainment, lets look at food and drink. In a typical survival situation the priorities are water, food, and shelter. But for children in an unfamiliar environment clean butts and entertainment often come first. Because if they aren't happy then all hell breaks loose. And once that happens all is lost. If you have a newborn then you always have food with you. We have a toddler. We don't carry around stuff for him anymore. Sometimes you have to tide the kid over until you find the next food source (read McDonald's). Crackers are complimentary and yummy. You can find free cookie samples at the bakery. In a survival situation you just have to know where to look. If you happen to be in a grocery store I strongly advise opening a box of food for the kid. Don't feed your child fresh fruit from the store though. That's just stealing.
  4. Finally we come to shelter. Always be prepared for the possibility of a nap. If the kid starts falling asleep be ready to drop all your gear and make camp for the night. You can sit down on any available furniture. The mall sofas are nice. They can work as a temporary shelter while your survival partner, if you have one, continues the search for food or clothing. There is also the possibility that in a napping situation you will have to get out the emergency flares and signal for help. I've been in spots where setting the store on fire seemed like my best option. When you find yourself in that kind of predicament you need to get back to base camp where it's more cozy. On those days just be thankful you knew how to survive so you could live to play another day.
These are just the basics. The key is adaptability. Every situation is different, and every child is different. Just remember to be prepared, use the things around you, and keep your cool. Never lose your head in a survival situation. That can only lead to disaster.

Whether you get out unscathed or not depends totally on your parenting survival skills. I suggest you have your own little survival guide tailored to your natural environment. Like I said before, being prepared is your best weapon. Because once you are at a school play with no toys, no food, and no escape plan, it's too late.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Little Golden Books

From the time Braden was born he has been the owner of quite a fine library. I wouldn't say proud owner because he has been way too busy for books most of his life. Arica and I were determined to read to our son so we bought books all the time. We encouraged the grandparents to buy books. We wanted books.

At first we could read them to Braden. He was small and immobile and thus unable to stop us. I believe it's important to talk with your baby when they are little. Hearing words and sounds helps them even if they won't be able to talk for a long time. Sometimes it's hard to say anything interesting. That is where reading comes in. If you run out of things to say just read a book. I read Dr. Seuss quite a bit during these days.

As time went on Braden wouldn't even let us read him a book. If we tried he would just take it away. Getting through one page was quite an accomplishment.

Eventually that led to him "reading" books himself. He would take them from us, but at least he would look at them for a few moments. After that you would sometimes find him sitting in the floor of his room surrounded by a pile of books.

We have one low bookshelf that is just above the floor. He can easily get those books and read them. He would look at one, throw it down, and get another. This would continue until they were all on the floor. He still does that.

A little while later Arica and I stored some of his toys and clothes in big plastic tubs. I was slow in getting them stored under the house so the tubs sat in Braden's room for a few months. During this time Braden started climbing up on one of the tubs so he could reach the books on top of his big book shelf.

This is when Braden really started to enjoy reading. Around that time this became his favorite book.
Braden called this his "Cars" book because he particularly liked the page that showed cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, and the like. He still likes to look at the book sometimes. He still likes the cars, but another one of his favorite pages has become the fish, especially the clown fish that he calls Nemo.

That leads me to our current stage of reading. Braden, as I have mentioned before, loves Cars and Toy Story. He has always loved the Pixar movies. And why would he be any different with books.

Braden has a nice collection of Little Golden Books. The same type books I had when I was a kid. He has some of the original stories, but they get little attention in our house. What Braden loves, of course, are the book adaptations of his favorite movies.

Arica and I have read each of these books 100 times.





Toy Story 2 seems to be Braden's favorite, though. At least it's the one I have read him the most. I read it to him almost every night before he goes to bed. The best part of this whole thing is that night time story. Before bed every night Braden wants me to read him a book. It's something you hear from parents the world over. Every kid goes through this stage. It seems so simple, but I love it.

Reading Braden his bedtime story is always one of the best parts of my day. Simple things like this are without question the best part of being a Dad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ultrasounds....And Twins!

We snuck into the doctor's office late Monday afternoon. Our mission was to get one of those "for fun" ultrasounds that our doctor had invited us to have. It was all very hush hush, secret spy sort of stuff. Don't tell Obama. We don't want to get the health care police into a huff.

Even if you've done it before it is always fun to visit the ultrasound machine. Those grainy black and white pictures offer the first glimpses of the babies that you can't wait to hold in a few months.

We had seen the babies at about seven weeks. That is how we got the news we were expecting twins. Of course they looked like grains of rice way back then. Now we were eager to see how they had grown, and what a tummy full of two babies looked like.

Well it was nothing short of amazing. It was hard for the ultrasound lady to hold both babies in one view. But for one brief moment she got them. It didn't last long enough for her to hit the print button so we didn't get a picture. They apparently don't offer DVDs of these secret sessions either. But that didn't matter. The image of both babies, one on top of the other, will live on in my memory forever. What an amazing thing.

We got some other great images as well. There was one where one of the babies had his hand held out in front of his/her head. You could clearly see all five fingers. It is so crazy that, even as small as they are, they look like babies now. The tiny arms, legs, hands, and feet are so cute.

We won't go in for the official determination of the sex for another five weeks. So I have no announcement to make on that front. At one point during the show both Arica and I thought we saw "boy parts" on one of the babies. I can't remember if it was Baby A or Baby B. As a side note, at our particular clinic they always call the baby located lowest in the belly Baby A. I don't know if this is common convention or just their preference. Either way now you know.

The stenographer (read ultrasound lady) said she couldn't find any "boy parts" but it was really too early to tell. The doctor also said it was too early. Despite the fact that these two people are medical professionals and one of them has been delivering babies for 30 years, everyone we know has said they are wrong. They can tell the sex now. Whatever. We will not know the sex for another five weeks. That's my story.

I have, however, begun to prepare myself for the possibility of twin girls. I keep hearing that stupid Coors light commercial ringing in my head.

"And Twins!"

That's a nightmare.

I've also started to develop building plans for Braden and I to have our own little escape from the girls. It will be a place we can go to escape reality TV and watch a football game instead. It will have multiple TVs. It will have cold drinks. There will be rock music. It will be our manly place. I don't like the term man cave so I'm not calling it that. That term rose to prominence too fast for me. I never really accepted it. We'll call it, as Frank Costanza once said, "The Place to Be."

Whether "The Place to Be" ever comes to life or not is really not important. Maybe Arica will need her own place to run from all the boys when the time comes. We don't know. What we do know is that so far the babies are perfectly healthy, and that is all that really matters.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rock and Roll Tricycle

I have made a goal to start posting more. Perhaps you noticed. This is my fifth post this week. For you math majors out there that is one post a day during the work week. I don't think I've accomplished that since back in 2009. The post I have marinating in the drafts section right now is not yet ready for prime time, so I'll have to do something quick and dirty today.

I don't want to start putting junk up here in order to post every day, so I probably won't keep this mad schedule up for liong., I did, however, want to try and accomplish it for at least one week. So this is the capper that completes my dream. For one week I was once again a prolific blogger.

I have two things to share. One is a video of Braden riding his Lightning McQueen tricycle again. Yes, it is the same instrument of terror that he is piloting here. No, this time animal terrorizing is not the subject. Just a little rocking out and riding his bike.

But before we get to that I have a request for my praying friends. Tomorrow Arica and I will be joining a group of our friends from church to feed the homeless in our home town. A group of 7 or 8 of us has put this event together because we want to "Be the Church" in our community. I'm cooking chili in the morning and we will hand it out tomorrow afternoon. My request is that all of you pray for our little outreach tomorrow. Pray that the people we help will feel God's love through our actions. Pray that the love we share might encourage these people and give them hope. Thanks so much and have a great weekend.

Now on to Braden.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

M&Ms: Is There Anything They Can't Do?

Back in 1941 when Forrest Mars, Sr. started producing M&M candy he probably didn't expect that 70 years later I would be writing this post about his magical treats.  In fact he probably didn't foresee the coming of the internet at all. He was a smart dude, but I think this whole thing would have probably blown his mind.

Anyway, Mr. Mars got the idea for M&Ms from soldiers in the Spanish Civil War. These soldiers carried chocolate candy with a hard shell that kept the candy from melting. You know the whole, "melts in your mouth, not in your hand" thing. After getting a patent for his own process of making chocolate with a thin candy shell Mr. Mars brought the world M&Ms.

The candy was introduced to American troops serving in WWII during 1941. And today they are still fighting the good fight inside our home.

These magical candies are serving a two fold purpose in the Life of a New Dad home. First they are Braden's reward for using the toilet rather than his pants for disposing of bodily waste.

Second they are teaching him the colors. We don't just hand over the chocolate for a properly placed pee. The kid has to tell us the color too. He has known most of his colors for some time, but for some reason he doesn't like to tell us. Braden just says any color in hopes of moving on. Now, with the M&Ms, Braden is finally starting to play the color game rather than trying to drive me crazy. That is the magic of these little chocolate candies.

They fed the US troops in WWII.

They are teaching my son to poop in the toilet.

They are teaching my son his colors.

I don't think there is anything that M&Ms can't do. They can probably teach basic math skills and help kids learn to read. They may even be qualified as driver's ed instructors. These candies are special.

It is because of all these things that I would like to take time today to say thank you to the Mars Candy Company. Keep up the good work and don't let those so called health experts get you down. America needs its candy and we're counting on you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Branded a Parent

I don't have anything particularly exciting to share today. Yes, every day with Braden is exciting, but sometimes the spirit of creativity just doesn't stir within. After all, how many times can I attempt to explain that Braden is a wild man by describing the way he uses his leapfrog train as a battering ram or by the way he says "I kick cars" and then goes around the house delivering Bruce Lee style punishment to his toys.

I guess I could do it every day, but I won't. Today instead I thought I would share something that I think absolutely, without question, brands us as parents. Being branded means there is no going back. There is no flip flopping from parent back to our prior life. Even when Braden is not around we are still 100% parents. That brand does not wash off. No amount of "Sons of Anarchy" watched while eating a meal that didn't come out of a box will change that.

Food is actually the driving theme for this post, so let's get to it. Let's start with Pampered Chef. Anyone heard of that?

Basically it's a fairly expensive brand of kitchen stuff  that is sold via parties. For a while before Braden was born Arica was invited to dozens of these parties. She even threw one once at our house to help out a friend. It may have been my cousin's wife now that I think of it. I don't know. When I hear the term party preceded by any word other than keg I instinctively get in my truck and drive away towards more manly pursuits.

Well through all these parties Arica acquired some things. One of which was a set of three very nice cake pans. They were a lot better than the Wal Mart type pans we usually used. Arica used them to make some awesome cakes. I liked to use them for corn bread because of the way the browned the bread. Anyway they are fine culinary instruments.

We still have those three pans, and we use them now more than ever. They are in a state of constant motion between cooking and washing. They never get a break.

Why?

Because Braden eats a lot of chicken nuggets and fish sticks. Having kids not only transforms you, but it transforms your cookware as well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Unforgiven

I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan. I think he is one of the coolest, toughest leading men of all time. So when I was flipping channels on Sunday as the rest of my family napped I had to watch a little of the Unforgiven. It is probably my favorite western of all time. I was flipping back and forth between that and football, and Braden eventually woke up so I didn't get to see much of the movie. Even though TV time was cut short I thought of my favorite line in the movie and was inspired to write today's post.

In the closing gunfight one of the bad guys played by Gene Hackman says, "...You just shot an unarmed man!"

My hero Mr. Eastwood replies, "Well he should have armed himself..."

That is one of my favorite movie lines, but Sunday it didn't remind me of manly tough guy things. It made me think of my tiny unborn twins. It made me think about their arrival this summer. They will arrive with guns blazing.

Dirty diaper! Pow!

Hungry! Bang!

Wet Diaper! Boom!

I SAID HUNGRY! Bang!

They will be packing a double barrel shotgun full of ammo for me. And they won't care if I'm armed or not. You see in this analogy the twins are Clint Eastwood, and it is up to me to arm myself.

I can either be the unarmed man that goes down in a blaze of pooping, crying, sleepless glory. Or I can do my best to be prepared. I can arm myself with knowledge, patience, understanding, self control, and of course love.

How in the world can I prepare for the birth of twins? I don't really know that exactly. I figure it is like the birth of your first child all over again. Everything is new. Everything must be learned by first hand experience. After all no one in my family has twins. They can't give me advice.

I think the best way to arm myself is through daily prayer and self reflection. I have about six more months to figure out what improvements I need to make. Although much of my life I just barrelled ahead like everything I did was right, I have developed a strong belief in self reflection. Being married to a smart and caring woman has helped me tremendously in this area.

Everyone should regularly take the time to look at their life, how they behave, and how they react to others. By doing this I can easily see that I need to work on my patience. I need to continue my effort to be more selfless. I need to keep working on the idea that I am now, above all things, a husband and father.

I think arming myself with the knowledge that my sole purpose in life will be to care for my wife and three kids is the best thing I can do. Taking the time to wean myself off other pursuits that are really a waste of time is part of that. I have to learn to be more mindful of my time. I'll pray about it, and I'll work on it every day.

In the end I'm just thankful that, unlike the bad guys on the Unforgiven, I've been given enough warning of the gunfight to come that I have time to properly arm myself.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Potty Training with Big Boy Underwear

This weekend we got hard core with the potty training. We enacted the big boy underwear plan. This plan is very simple. Braden wears tiny little underwear with Cars designs. Arica and I take him to the bathroom every thirty minutes in the hope of avoiding accidents while at the same time drilling him on the fun of using the toilet. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

I think the weekend went well. On Saturday we had three accidents. On Sunday we had none. And this morning before I left for work Arica got Braden to poop in the toilet. Braden demanded that his Mom leave the room to give him privacy. Apparently that was all he needed. While she waited in the wings Braden went to the bathroom on his own. Big win.

Saturday we nearly avoided all three accidents. Braden told me he had to pee pee the first time. Even though he released the flow before he told me, we did manage to get some in the toilet. The other two accidents involved the big number two. We almost made it to the toilet the first time. I just caught him to late. We ran as fast as we could, but, alas, the deed was already done.

Later in the day just before Braden's 30 minute appointment at the porcelain throne, I had to use the bathroom. When I was done I went to get Braden. I set him on the toilet unaware of what he had been doing while I was in the bathroom.

That's when my ever inquisitive son pointed to the floor and said, "Daddy, what's that?"

To which I answered, "That's your poop."

Such are the adventures in potty training. Even with the excitement of floor poop, I have to say that it went a lot better than I expected. So off we go to the first full week of Lightning McQueen underwear. Wish us luck.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beware of Toddler

So you're all tired of hearing the southerners talk about snow, right? Well there is one detail that has yet to be discussed at Life of a New Dad. This topic is the cold weather's effect on the Forgotten Furry Children. You might recall from past posts that we have two dogs who live outside. Once in a great while they get to drag their dirty hides into the house for a little R&R. You might say it's like the doggy spa treatment.

Last year when the temperatures dropped to single digits for a few nights we let the dogs in. It was a fairly quiet process. They got cleaned up. They warmed up. And they slept for nearly the entire time. Braden was nice to them. It was a fun family time.

Well with all the snow and temperatures getting into the teens the last two nights, the dogs have spent a few nights under our roof again. I know that makes all you animal lovers out there happy. It made us happy too. We love our dogs and it's nice to have them in the house sometimes.

It is not nice however when one of the dogs roams the house all night long. She woke us up eating her food at 2 am. Then at 3 all her wandering around woke up Braden. He stayed awake for 3 hours. I think the dogs have probably lost their spa privileges for a while.

But it wasn't all fun and games for our canine companions either. In the past year Braden has developed a bit of an ornery streak. See what I mean.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas

Christmas was nearly three weeks ago. We have all moved on and started to enjoy 2011. Still this is some sort of a journal for me to record what life is like for me, Arica, and Braden. So even if it is a new year I have to post something about Christmas. Otherwise when I look back on this year I might think that the Grinch really did steal Christmas back in 2010. With the way my mind is deteriorating it won't seem that strange in another 10 or 15 years so documentation is necessary.

I'm sure most of you don't care, but for those of you that like pictures, here is visual proof that we had Christmas this year. Furthermore it is proof that we once only had one kid. Because next year things will be much different.

Another good reason to share these pictures is to show you how prevalent the "CHEEEEESE!" face has become in our house. Every picture taken of Braden, unless you go all stealth mode on him, results in the cheese face. It's cute, but once in a while it would be nice to see his big brown eyes.

So enjoy the pictures on the basis of a love for Christmas, a love for cute kids, a curiosity about the cheese face, or simply because you are bored to death. I don't care. I'm just glad to know that I have successfully documented Christmas 2010 for all future generations. Tomorrow we'll get back to the current decade.




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bllizzard 2011

Anyone that has no life and actually reads my tweets already knows that Monday was a snow day for much of Arkansas. I have dubbed it the Great Blizzard of 2011. Roughly translated that means Arkansas got 6-8 inches of snow, sold out of bread and milk across the entire state, and everyone played in the snow rather than working. We're a bit snow crazy like that. Adults and kids alike enjoy the snow in Arkansas because it isn't often that it actually sticks around here.

As I write this post there is still a significant amount of snow on the ground, and schools are still closed. So this definitely is a big weather event for us.

I spent my day off Monday playing in the snow with Braden for the first time. Arica, Braden, and I built a snow man, threw some snowballs, made snow angels, and even did some sledding on an inflatable raft. We had to improvise because we just couldn't pass up the opportunity to have some fun. After all, it might be a couple years before we get another chance. This just in. Sledding is fun!

After calling it a day I realized that this was the first time I've ever been sledding before, even if there was no sled per se. I grew up not only in snow challenged Arkansas, but also in a part of the state where the ground doesn't rise more than a degree or two for 100 miles in every direction. So even when there was snow we could only sled if pulled by a 4-wheeler.

Enough of this Arkansas snow day history. Here are some pictures and one short video of our day in the snow. I hope you enjoy them.