Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bad Days

I'm not having a bad day today.

But I want to do a post on bad days at this moment in time for precisely that reason. It's hard to reflect on a bad day when you're smack in the middle of one. It's better to think about them when you're removed from the situation. So here goes:

If you have a bad day at work, you can go get a cup of coffee or walk around a bit by yourself to collect your thoughts. Sometimes you have to wait the whole day until you can unwind at home but eventually you are afforded that respite at 5:00.

The problem with having a bad day as a stay-at-home dad is that you absolutely cannot get away from it. You can't simply leave your child somewhere and go get coffee. You have to take them with you. And what's more, you feed off each other. Your bad mood affects your child like a storm spins off tornadoes. You get stressed and screw something up and they start crying which stresses you out and creates more screw ups. More tears. More stress. It's a cycle of the vicious variety.

And when 5:00 finally rolls around, you can't really go home because you're already there!

Naptime can offer a break but usually that's when you try to accomplish all the stuff you've been putting off all day. That break is often the busiest, most condensed part of your day.

Plain and simple, bad days are a stay-at-home dad workplace hazard like shocks are to electrician and zebra bites are to a zoo keeper.

What I find helps is if I identify that first thing that started the whole downward slide and then trying to deal with that. Usually, a single small snag will set off a chain reaction of other snags resulting in a whopping bad mood. Sometimes, if I can fix that original snag, that prime mover, other things start to fall into place too.

I can't think of a good example at the moment which may be proof positive that this method of damage control doesn't actually work. But as soon as I can remember an instance where it worked, I'll blog about it.

And then you'll be sorry you ever doubted me. You might be so sorry you wind up in a bad mood.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

182nd Post - Half Way Through

This blog post is my 182nd post. That mean that I'm halfway done with my year as a stay at home dad. So what have I learned? What are my major reflections on the state of fatherhood?
  • Money is Good - You should try to get as much money as you can. Lots of it. Big bags of it. A Scrooge McDuck style vault where you can swim in it. This year off has put a lot of pressure on our finances. I really appreciate the value of a buck now.
  • Babies are Awesome - I used to think babies were a little unnerving. I guess you really just have to have one of your own before you get over it. They're not unnerving. There great! Baby J is a joy to have around.
  • Vagina Care - I won't get too graphic here but let's just say I know a lot about diapering baby girls now.
  • Parenting Style - Like artists, each parent has a unique style which isn't easy to sum up in a neat package. I've learned that prefer for Baby J to do things on her own, without my help. If she falls down, she picks herself up. I see it as fostering independence. Others might see it as detached and aloof. TAH-mato, ta-MAH-to.
There you have it. One hundred and eighty two days worth of wisdom. Check back soon. New revelations happen all the time. I should write them all down into a book or something. All I need is a title. Hmmm...I got it! The Book of Revelations.


Friday, February 26, 2010

The Lowdown

A few people have told me that they miss the comics I used to post here at Dawn of the Dad. They ask me why I haven't made any recently and I generally don't have an answer for them. But I think it might have something to do with all the other stuff going on at the moment. So here's a list of what I'm up against each and every day in part to account for the absence of comics and in part just so I can look back on this someday and say, "Wow! I was a busy dad."
  1. Baby J's changing Behavior - She's growing and does not like it when I do anything except play with her or follow her around. I get what I need to get done during naptime.
  2. Grad School - I am a full time graduate student and take classes at night. I have to do all kinds of projects and reports. I just completed a few midterm exams. I'm being taught how to be a better teacher. And just by reading this, you are being taught that I am being taught to be a better teacher. Go tell someone else and continue the chain ad infinitum
  3. YA Novel - A lightning bolt of inspiration struck me about a month back and I began work on a young adult novel. I work furiously on it when I can at the exclusion of all other creative projects I have going at the moment. Usually I try to bang out about 1,000 words a day. Things have been going well so I usually do better than my goal.
  4. Regular Blogging Duties - I'm not sure when or why I decided I would write each and every day about Baby J related happenings but that's what I do and I can't stop now. I've kept up with it really well so far and oddly enough my readership has been growing. I owe it to my devoted fan base which at its core is pretty much just my mom and dad.
  5. Dishes - I do a lot of dishes
So there you have it. No time for comics. In the words of the great Uli Kunkel, "no funny stuff."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

FIRSTS: Ponytail

Today was a big day for me. It was the first time I was successful in getting Baby J's hair up in a pony tail. She's had ponytailable hair for a good long while but I've never been able to secure her hair appropriately with those danged little hair ties. My fingers are too stubby to manipulate them and she's too squirmy. It's just a mess.

But today, I just went for it.

It came out a little lopsided and she whimpered in protest but we got it done. I figure we can only imporve from here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Car Seat

Since Baby J is older she outgrew her old car seat. My wife and I had new ones put in and it's taken a lot of getting used to. Primarily it's the straps that are the biggest problem. They twist and get all knotted and force you to stand hunched in the backseat of your car while your baby scowls at you impatiently.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to write a scathing review right here at Dawn of the Dad unless the makers of this particular car seat pay me one million dollars. I will ravage their reputation with my unique brand of rambling nonsensical wit and bring their empires to ruin!

Now you may be saying, "but you never told us who the manufacturer was?" Don't you see? That's all part of the plan. If I keep them all guessing, then they'll all pay me a million dollars!

Aw, screw it. It's from Evenflo. The model is called the Ambassador or something like that.

Listening To: Tago Mago by Can

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Put Baby J in any enclosed space (i.e. playpen, living room, library, etc.) and she will walk until she reaches the periphery. This boundary is then smacked, pushed, grabbed, yelled at, and then eventually treated to a chorus of snivels and moans.

I'm pretty sure this is just part of the age but, if this trend continues, Baby J is going to grow into some kind of jungle explorer or spelunker. Always pushing outward and away. She's going to be the kind of kid who lies awake in the middle of the night wondering what's beyond the edge of the universe.

Who knows. Maybe someday when she's old enough and technology catches up to her demands, Baby J will fly out to the edge of the universe, the periphery of everything and snivel at it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Everything Takes Care of Itself

At the moment of fertilization, a single cell is formed with two halves of the requisite genetic information needed to make a human being. That single cell begins to divide into more cells. The daughter cells continue to divide and differentiate into various types of tissue. Organs form. Complete systems take shape. The elaborate task of assembling a baby goes on quietly with out mom or dad really having to do anything.

The whole system is set up so that you don't really have to do much. Just eat and sleep right. Try not to stress out too much and everything is supposed to take care of itself.

Once the baby is out, it's a different story though, right? Well, actually, I'm not so sure. Childhood seems to be a process that takes care of itself too. You just kind of hang back with a sippy cup and a bunch of food and let the kid develop. You can't hasten a child's language acquisition any more than you can speed up the assembly of their nervous system in utero. You can't force them to walk anymore than you can force them to stop kicking mom from the inside prior to birth.

The whole system is designed so that you have to do a lot (change diapers, adjust temperatures, wipe noses, provide love) but once those basic biological needs are met, children walk, grow, learn, dance, and say funny things all on their own. Baby J is a determined, friendly, vivacious little person and I can't say that either my wife or I consciously helped her to develop these traits. I'm not downplaying the importance of parents in a child's life. I'm merely saying that formation of new life has been happening on planet earth for billions of year. It's a refined process and we would be wise to revere it rather than try to reshape it as we see fit.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Perfect Baby

The other day. I was at a play group with a couple moms. While their children played, they compared notes about them and their development. How many teeth they had, when they started walking, how many hours they slept, etc. I largely stayed out of the conversation because, as I've said before, I don't like comparing children to one another, especially at such a young age.

But it got me thinking. Are moms and dads really comparing their children to one another or are they comparing them to some ideal perfect baby, some mythical golden child?

To examine this further, I looked at what criteria parents normally cite when comparing babies:
  1. A baby should be a good sleeper. The longer the better.
  2. A baby should have several teeth. Again, the more, the merrier. Good strong teeth.
  3. A baby should have hair. Bald babies are cute but the most desirable babies have lots of hair.
  4. A baby should be able to walk upright on its own.
  5. A baby should eat anything you give it. Apples, carrots, steak, tree bark. It doesn't matter.
So there you have it, the qualities of the ideal child. As a visual aide, I've provided a picture of a specimen that matches the aforementioned criteria.

It sleeps all winter long, has lots of teeth and hair, can walk upright, and will eat pretty much whatever you'd care to stick into its mouth.

This may explain why children are often given teddy bears rather than stuffed pelicans or plush musk oxen. I will have to pursue this theory at a later date.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Baby J's new favorite game is to run and hide behind the curtains in our kitchen. She loves it when I pick up the curtains exposing her hiding spot and then let them slowly fall back over her. This sequence whips her up into an absolute frenzy. She squeals with delight, waves her arms like crazy, and loses her balance.

Genearlly speaking, our kitchen is the worst place in the house to lose your balance. The cold ceramic tiles are most unforgiving and we've had many occasions when frenetic play turns to tragedy when Baby J takes a spill and bumps her head on the floor. A trifecta of tears, snot, and drool scatter everywhere as she howls in pain.

But soon after, she's back at it, hiding behind the curtains, and giving me a huge muppet smile when I find her.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Baby J has picked up on how mom and dad use cell phones. To her it must look as though we simply hold small, plastic things to our head and talk to no one because that's what she's begun to do.

She has a little plastic play cell phone but she hardly uses it like we use our cell phones. Instead, Baby J takes pretty much everything else, holds it to her ear, and then babbles in an incoherrent and entirely one-sided conversation.

Or maybe it's not one-sided. Maybe she's actaully having a conversation with another babbling baby somewhere out there. I wonder what they would talk about.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Laptop - BLEH!

Baby J loves to mash on keyboards. If you're trying to work and she comes over to the computer, there's nothing you can do to dissuade her. If she doesn't get to pound on your keyboard, it's temper tantrum time.

So I gave her an old laptop to play with. She happily mashed the keys for a few minutes and then promptly threw up on it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Mall Playland Part 2

The walls around the mall playland are lined with seats for parents. There are a couple different types of parents I see there. Here's a quick list of the more memorable ones:
  1. The Disinterested iPhone Parent - This mom or dad spends the entire time their child plays in the playland silently texting or using some app on their iPhone designed to stave off boredom. They usually look like they'd rather be somewhere else.
  2. The Guardian - On the other end of the spectrum from the iPhone Parent, this kind of mom or dad is right behind their precious little one for every second they spend at the playland. They typically seem very anxious and try their best to ward off kid-on-kid collisions.
  3. The Shouter - This is usually a large mom who plants herself in one spot and then yells at her child from across the length of the playland. "Tyler, no!" or "Get down!" or "Slow down!" This is probably my least favorite type of parent at the mall.
  4. The Elitist - These snobs sit around thinking they're better than everyone and observe other parenting styles only so they can organize them neatly into little categories and write critiques on their blogs. This category pretty much only contains me as far as I can tell.
Listening To: A Data Learn the Language by The Mercury Program

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Mall Playland Part 1

I like to take Baby J to the playland inside our local mall - I'm really not sure why.

The mall is pretty depressing. A lot of the chain stores you'd expect to see in a mall have been shuttered, their storefront windows black and dusty. It's almost like you can see the U.S. economy withering right in front of your eyes. Springing up in some of these vacancies, obscure vendors take root and peddle odd knick knacks. There are places selling knives, two dozen pungent nail salons, and a few stores that buy gold where you can pawn your precious wares.

In the center of this decrepit and dying commercial complex is a small, walled-in area with padded floors and fiberglass structures for children to climb. I call it the mall playland for lack of a better name and I go there a couple times a week.

Usually, I like to go to the library but that's a quiet place where literary families go to look through books. The mall is an all-out run-and-shout fest for both parents and kids alike. Kids leap and lunge. Run and rage. It's loosely controlled mayhem.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I won't be returning to work for another 6 months but we've already started looking into daycare for Baby J. I think it's a good idea to stop by prospective daycare facilities unannounced and see what their normal day is like.

The first site I visited unannounced was a nightmare. Kids were crying everywhere. There was no one to greet us. I rang a bell for service and summoned a frazzled young lady who threw a pamphlet at me and told me to make an appointment. After that, I looked about the dingy waiting area and decided to cross this one off my list.

Another one I visited, had kids of all ages walking around and smiling. The staff was engaged and friendly. There was lots of sunlight and cool toys scattered about. I don't necessarily make judgements on first impressions alone but this place went to the top of my list.

I wonder how accurate daycare intuition is. I just read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell not too long ago and I think there's probably a lot to be said for that gut feeling. After all, you are going leave your precious little egg with these people. You should trust them on a gut level.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Boo Boo's Are a Fact of Life

This morning, Baby J wanted to stomp around the foyer where all the muddy, snowy boots and shoes were. Dribbles and puddles of water made the tiles slippery and my wife several times had to place the baby back on the carpet for her own safety.

Once Baby J finally got the idea that she wasn't allowed to play in the foyer, she promptly turned around and ran face first into the pointed end of a corner. Immediately she started crying and howling and she still has a mark where face met wall.

For me this little episode underscores how despite the great lengths we parents go through to keep our children safe, ultimately they find a way to injure themselves.

Boo boos are a fact of life, people. Deal with it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Baby J points now.

It's cute.

Perhaps tomorrow's post will be slightly more robust.

That is all.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Baby J has become pretty adept a waving.

Her favorite moment to wave is when I get out of the car and walk around back to get her out. She sees me through the back window and gives me the super-cute combo of a wave and a big Muppet smile.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yah Yah!

As I mentioned here, we try to use the word "no" sparingly and really mean it when we say it. An example of an approriate time to use "no" for us would be if Baby J...
  • eats things she's pulled out of the trash
  • licks an electric socket
  • starts a heroin habit
So generally, we don't say "no" very much. I'm happy to report that this positivity seems to be wearing off on our baby. Recently she's started saying "yah." When asked a question like, "Do you want some Cheerios?" she invariably answers, "yah!" If she really means it, she'll say "yah yah." It's like "no" is not even a part of her vocabulary yet. And when asked if I'm happy about that, I say, "hell yah!"

Yeah Yeah from The Sandlot

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some People

Some people generally indifferent towards babies. Some people absolutely love them.

Whenever I take Baby J out somewhere she usually waddles over to a stranger and tries to take their cell phone. Sometimes the strangers delight in the attempted theft, smile and talk to the little thief. Other times they just kind of walk away.

Kids are the same way. Sometimes, they are totally put off by the presence of a friendly baby. Other times they talk to Baby J and invite her to play with them, run around and make her giggle.

It makes me wonder if there is something innate that make some people like kids and makes others find them unnerving. Maybe it's genetic. Maybe it has to do with having had a baby in your life in some capacity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chewin' on a Diaper

When I went to get Baby J this morning, there was a diaper in her crib and she was chewing on it. Apparently, she's learned to reach through the bars of her crib and pulls things in so she can mouth them. Gross but just another sign that she's developing more and more each day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Scary Baby

On several occasions I've seen other children get very anxious around Baby J. Kids older than her mostly. I think it has something to do with how uninhibited she is. She has the disposition of a golden retriever, you see - in your face, playful, a bit overbearing. I'm not sure if this is a personality quirk or just something typical of the age but Baby J has no quams about walking up to a complete stranger and trying to shove both her hands into their mouth. Or trying to peel their lips apart to inspect their teeth.

I think other kids sense Baby J's lack of boundaries and find it unnerving. Sometimes a kid will get brave though, try to stand up to her. He'll look stern and say, "go away," or push her down. This only upsets his mother and makes Baby J laugh. It's a bad scene all around.

Maybe I should take Baby J to a dog obedience school.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


When I carry Baby J around in my arms, her head creates a massive blindspot on whichever side she happens to facing. It makes it awkward in the supermarket when folks are already struggling to get around one another amicably. In parking lots, it's downright dangerous.

No one ever mentioned this hazard in What to Expect When You're Expecting. I want my money back!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Baby J loves to reach up onto desktops and claw at computer keyboards. She wriggles her fingers until she get a good hold on a few of the keys and then wrenches the whole thing down to the floor or leaves it lifelessly dangling over the edge of the desktop as if it had been lynched.

At first I was excited that she was engaging technology on her diminutive level. After all, her future world will be populated by all sort of mechanized marvels. With this in mind, I sat her down on my lap to let her paw at the keyboard for a while. She deleted a bunch of files and created a directory called "xcervee" and that was the end of that.

I think maybe I'll raise her to be Amish and just avoid the whole technology piece altogether.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Advice - Version 1

I want to create a list of a few things I'd say to any prospective stay-at-home dads out there. Call it advice, if you'd like, but really it's more for me than it is anyone else. I want to get this all down because I think it might help me figure out what's been working and what has not.

So here you go. A rough draft.
  1. Keep a journal of some sort - For me, obviously, it's been a blog. You're going to spend a lot of time with a little person who's not much of a conversationalist. You're going to need some kind of outlet for your thoughts, reflections, etc. It also helps you keep track of the days and provides measure for what seems like an endless line of diaper changes and sloppy mealtimes.
  2. Get out of your house at least once each day - Regardless of the weather, I try to visit a library or go to the mall to stave off cabin fever. Otherwise, I get restless and the baby's disposition sours. A little fresh air. A miniature mission that you can accomplish. A change of scenery. Leaving home does wonders for your state of mind. However, I must add that my neighbor is a stay-at-home mom and she literally never leaves the house. I'm not sure where her head is at right now but if I was her I'd have lost my mind long ago.
  3. Expect ups and downs - Though things don't change too much from day to day, somehow somedays are great and some are awful. It might have something to do with blood sugar levels or some other aspect of body chemistry. I'm not really sure what it's all about. All I know is that there are pretty big emotional highs and lows. If you at least expect them to come and go, it helps you to make sense of what's going on.
  4. Don't watch television - The experts recommend no t.v. for tots until age 2 but that's not the real reason you should avoid daytime t.v. The real reason is because everything on during the day sucks. It's a programming wasteland. Unless you like watching Judge Judy or one of the four quintillion knock-off judges banging their gavels on the daytime television landscape you are out of luck.
Okay. That's all I've got so far. It is written. I have spoken. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


My first real job was at a neighborhood hardware store. My responsibilities consisted primarily of stocking shelves, mixing paint, cutting glass, screens, lengths of rope, chain, lamp cord, etc. and assisting customers with selecting the best pesticide for their garden. When I left at the end of the shift, my pockets were invariably filled with bric-a-brac I'd accumulated while working. Screws, bits of wood, and a box cutter or two.

I loved working at that hardware store but ultimately, I was destined for bigger, better things. I went away to college to earn a degree in education and started working in schools along the way. After I became a certified teacher, I left school each day with my pockets full of white board markers I'd forgotten to leave behind. Also, I carried with me notes I'd confiscated from kids, lesson plans scribbled out on index cards, paper clips, reams of sticky notes, and about four or five Bic pens.

Now that I'm a stay-at-home dad, I flop down at the end of the day on the couch and pull from my pockets hundreds of wadded tissues used to dab a runny nose or splattered sweet potatoes. Also, I have in my possession a small collection of things I've pulled out of Baby J's mouth over the course of the day, barrettes, hair ties, and the occasional Cheerio (they seem to wind up everywhere in the house these days).

When my grandfather died, I was given an old suit jacket of his. Suit jackets, in case you don't know, have a bajillion pockets sewn into them. Inside. Outside. Pockets within pockets. When I was given the jacket I immediately searched the multiplicity of pockets. My search yielded two ticket stubs to the opera and two passes to a Monet art exhibit from ten years back. Even though my grandfather had long been retired when he died, he too filled his pockets with the personal effects that speak to who he was.

Check your own pocket detritus some time. It might tell you a thing or two about who you are.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Baby J likes to grab pretty much everything around her and stick it in her mouth so she hears the word "no" a lot. However, so as not to overuse "no" my wife and I decided to say it only when it's a safety thing, to say like we mean it, and use some kind of redirection if she ignores us.

So now when she does something sort of bad but not dangerous to her I have to think of something else to say and I usually end up sounding like an idiot.

For example, if Baby J waddles over to a shelve of books in the library and proceeds to throw them all on the ground, I'll say something like, "Baby J! Books...uh...shelf...library..." or "librarians...unhappy...books on ground." By the time I formulate a proper verbal response she's wandered off to wreak havoc elsewhere and I'm left to reshelve and straighten the mess on the floor.

Hopefully, this strategy of using "no" only when it's really necessary will pay off when she's more independent. She'll listen to us if we say it and know we mean business. But in the meantime the folks in the library think I talk like Tarzan.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Maybe it's the dry wintry weather, or maybe it's a aberrational electro-static nexus localized over my child, but Baby J builds up charge like some kind of waddling Van De Graf generator.

You can see the it happening. Her hairs start lifting as the charge builds. Then, she'll toddle over and lay her hands on someone unleashing an arch of blue white electricity. It works best in the fiberglass playland at the mall and in the children's department of our library. I have to stifle a laugh when she zaps the other children and they run off to tell their mommy about the shocking electrobaby.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Baby J is not what I would call an affectionate child. It's not that she's cold or indifferent towards hugs and kisses. It's just that she much rather go gnaw on something or flap a book around than sit on your lap.

I'm not sure if this is a developmental thing or what but Baby J gives hugs now. In fact, if you get her at the right moment, she'll charge straight into you with a hug.