Saturday, July 31, 2010

Flower Girl

My wife's brother is getting married today and he's asked for Baby J to be the flower girl in the service. We have a fancy dress for her and some nice shoes but no flowers. My wife assures me that we don't need flowers for her. But, to me, a flower girl without flowers is just a regular girl.

The three of us will walk down the aisle together holding hands. This doesn't sit right with me either. I think a flower girl should have at least one hand free to hold flowers. Again my wife assures me that this is not really an issue and she's probably right. I'm being too literal. A flower girl is just there for "cuteness relief" in the same way funny scenes are stitched into films for comic relief. Really, having a toddler around is like having cuteness on tap. All we have to do is give her a poofy dress and let the cuteness flow from that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

American Teen

American Teen is a documentary which chronicles the senior year of five high school students in small town Indiana. And it is intense!

There is so much tension and confusion and drama and solipsism ad betrayal, I can't believe kids regularly make it through high school without sever emotional scarring. I can't believe that I did it. And, more than anything else, I can't believe Baby J will one day have to run this gauntlet of teenage tempestuousness. As a father, it's a scary thought.

A major theme in the film that I picked up on was how the cruel and misdirected anger of teens is often the direct result of the kids' parents, their attitudes and behaviors. When Baby J is a teenager, she'll have to negotiate the troubled waters of high school but I like to think that my wife and I, our attitudes and behaviors set the stage for effective problem solving. But who knows. As Kahlil Gibran puts it in The Prophet:
You may house [you children's] bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams
Listening To: Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Venn Diagram

The other day, my little family was out at a coffee shop when we ran into two former students of mine. We all sat together talking for a while and one of them remarked that Baby J is a perfect mix of both her mother and father. Baby J at the moment was seated directly between us and it was even said that the three of us looked like a perfect Venn diagram.

I thought that was very clever. Also, I was glad that some of my former students are still using the proper graphic organizers for comparing and contrasting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Big Tub

There are many milestones in a person's life, some full of importance and some utterly insignificant. I'm not sure where Baby J's graduation to the big tub fits in on this spectrum.

For as long as humanly possible, we washed our baby in a small plastic tub intended for newborns. But Baby J has outgrown it and we had to move her into the real tub. She has been more or less fine with the transition but we're still trying to come to grips with it. It's usually a mess with crying, spilled water, and soap in the eyes.

I guess this is a pretty unremarkable change in our daughter's life and will get easier the more we give her a bath. But it's a milestone nonetheless. A wet, soapy, slippery, tear-filled milestone.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pickin' Fights with a Baby

At the library, a little boy about 5 years old walked over to Baby J and started shaking a cool, red, plastic toy car back and forth to get her attention. Once she took notice of the car, he lifted it high over his head so she couldn't reach and then smiled as she stretched her hands upward and moaned.

It was a cruel gesture but not all that uncommon in young kids. I interceded to cut off any sort of meltdown that might ensue. The little boy looked at me and told me my baby was sad. I said she was and moved her away. A few moments later, the boy with the red car came back and did his little routine again. Baby J once again was left reaching and moaning.

This kid was clearly out to pick a fight with my baby and eventually she did hit him. To this he said, "she can't knock me down because I'm too big." I agreed and took Baby J up into my arms. We found another part of the library where there were no bullies to tease my baby but I was left to ponder why this little boy was trying to piss off Baby J. I guess it's some sort of developmental thing where he was just trying to exercise power over someone else. I'm sure Baby J will do it when she's older. I'm pretty sure I did it when I was a wee tot as well. Perhaps it's just human nature to pick fights.

I got into a lot of fights when I was a kid. Unlike the boy with the red car, however, I didn't have enough sense to pick these fights with babies. I would have won a lot more fights that way.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Love Moo

Baby J is picking up new words like crazy. It seems she parrots back everything and anything you might say throughout the course of the day. But not always appropriately.

Today on a visit to a local farm she learned "chicken" and "cow" and "moo." On the ride home, my wife twisted in her seat to look back at the baby and said, "I love you." Baby J gave it some thought, ran through the list of new words in her head and replied: "Cow?"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Play Hut

A long time ago, we took some stuff to a Goodwill donation station. While we were there a kindly man offered us a folded up contraption that he assured us was a plaything for children. It sat in our basement for I don't even know how long. But my wife finally brought it up and opened it and unfolded it and put it all together and, as it turns out, it is a Play Hut.

We filled our new/old Play Hut with two bags of plastic balls like you find at the McDonald's playland so it's even cooler than before. The whole package is almost too much for Baby J to bear. When she plays in it she is unhinged, delirious with delight, crazed with glee.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


When we first decided that I should take this year off to stay home with Baby J, we sat down to look at our finances to see if we could make it happen. We found a way to do it but only if we used several cost-cutting measures along the way. Well, we are nearing the end of this year long adventure in austere living and I'm happy to say that we're coming out on the other end okay. In just about one month, I'll start work again and start getting steady paychecks again. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch but I feel a real sense of accomplishment now that we've nearly finished this year.

Of course, pretty soon Baby J will be in daycare and that will eat up a lot of money. Also, I'll have to start paying my student loans in the near future and that's going to be a sizable sum each month. And then I'll need new clothes for work. And my car needs work. And my cat is a diabetic so he gets expensive food and medicine. And there's college savings, retirement, and future babies to consider.

Dang! I guess I'll have to wait a little while more before I buy myself a hovercraft.

Friday, July 23, 2010

FIRSTS: School

Baby J spent the morning at her new daycare facility on Wednesday morning. I'm calling this her first day in school though she didn't really spend the whole day there and it might be a stretch to call it school.

We're going to start transitioning her into the daycare environment throughout the month of August with half days and half weeks leading into full days and full weeks. I'm sure she'll be fine with it since she's a pretty easy-going baby. The new arrangement will probably be harder on us, her parents. I bet I'll suffer longer than she will.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mr. Mom v. Little Children

Occasionally, when people find out that I am a stay-at-home dad, they ask if my life is anything like the 1983 film Mr. Mom starring Michael Keaton. I had never seen the film before so I couldn't really say one way or the other. But so many people have been asking me about it and for so long that I figured maybe it was time to watch Mr. Mom.

I finally got around to watching it this weekend and now I can say for certain that my experience as a stay at home dad is nothing like the way it is portrayed on film. There are some scenes in Mr. Mom I could identify with but really the film had very little to do with being a stay-at-home dad.

The film that most closely resembles my experiences as a stay-at-home dad is Little Children from 2006. There are some difference between me and the stay-at-home character in the film (i.e. no adultery, no child molesters, no crazed ex-cops, etc.) but, all in all, I would say Little Children is a more accurate and honest portrayal than Mr. Mom.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FIRSTS: Shoplifting

At the mall today, Baby J ran into a CVS and grabbed a pair of sunglasses off a rack near the entrance. She quickly slid them on and then left the store so casually it looked as if the whole operation had been premeditated. Of course, I snatched her up before she could get too far and returned the stolen sunglasses to the rack. But still I consider this act to be Baby J's first criminal offense.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Wisdom of Chris Rock

Chris Rock has long been one of my favorite entertainers. But I'm learning to appreciate him even more now that I'm a dad. I'm realizing that he has a lot of funny and insightful things to say about fatherhood and raising daughters. Take this for example:
"Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I'm talking to my daughter, I'm looking at her, I'm pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the [stripper] pole...I mean they don't grade fathers but if your daughter is a stripper you f*&$#@ up."
If this is the only measure of a father you use, I guess I'm doing okay so far.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Return to Man World

I spent this last weekend in Montreal at an extended 2 day bachelor party extravaganza. Naturally, I didn't have time to post while I was in the thick of things but even amongst the thrum of club music and the money-sucking debauchery of the bars, I was able to reflect my role as a stay-at-home dad.

Since I took this year off to stay at home with the baby, I've spent a lot of time with mothers. At playgroups, playgrounds, etc. They are there when I let Baby J wander the mall. They have been my only conversation at the libraries. Basically, my year off has been a year bereft of men. The bachelor party was a sudden plunge back into man world. I haven't been there for a long time but not much has changed since I've been gone. It's still the same. There was a lot of talk about baseball. Moms don't usually care about that stuff. I found it refreshing to talk with other adults who care more about RBI's and ERA's than about how many teeth my kid has or how much she poops during any given day.

Soon I will return to work and soon I will have a few more guys to talk with on a regular basis. Someday soon I will return to man world once more. For right now though, I'm just happy to be home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I've gone away for a little trip this weekend and won't really be able to post much. I will just double up when I return home. I hope you aren't too disappointed. Here's a joke to make you feel better.

Q. What can hummingbirds do that no other animal in the world can do?
A. Make baby hummingbirds.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Baby J knows lots of words and asks for things by name. Apple, glasses, bear, etc. However, when she doesn't know the word for something, she will point with her finger and say "this."
This? This? This? This? This?
Everything is "this." I think it comes from the way we offer things to her. Generally speaking, we'll holding something up and ask if she wants "this." I think she's taken "this" to be the word used for just about everything.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Perpetual Motion

Baby J never stops moving. Unless she is asleep, she is always doing something, running somewhere, wriggling, dancing, swaying, or stumbling. I've really never seen anything like it. It's like she is physically incapable of staying still for even a moment. Maybe she has baby ADHD.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

And Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose...

Thanks to the delightful little tune Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes, Baby J can now name several of her body parts. What's more, she can name your body parts too. Every now and then, she'll walk up to you, point to your feet, and announces that you have toes. Or something along those lines. It's all very cute. However, it's not so cute when she points your eyes out to you. Or your ears or your mouth. When this happens, she invariably jams her little fingers into whatever orifice she wants to name for you. The worst is the eye gouge.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Last week, during a big family get together, I sat down with my parents to record a sort of family history for Baby J. My wife and I did the same thing with her parents a while ago and it came out being really nice. With my family, however, it wasn't so nice.

I didn't find out too much about my family history but I learned a lot about my family's dynamics. Mainly, I found that there is tension, disappointment, and resentment all over the place. I probably won't show any of the video recording to Baby J but it was kind of interesting to me. After giving this new family video some thought, I think I stumbled onto a big idea or a universal theme, a common thread, an epiphany of sorts.

When you're a kid, your parents are infallible, omnipotent, and altogether perfect. They are the biggest, smartest, fastest, strongest people in the world. But, as you get older, you start to realize that they're just ordinary people like everybody else. They have virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses, prejudices and biases. And I think when children realize this, they can't help but feel disappointed.

And, this disappointment isn't necessarily limited to the child/parent relationship. I think brothers get disappointed with uncles. Mothers get disappointed with cousins. Fathers get disappointed with grandmothers. It goes every which way on the family tree. Everyone wants to have a perfect family but, at the end of the day, families are made up of people, flawed, imperfect, average, everyday, ordinary people.

Now, this all may sound rather dark but I don't see it that way. It's only dark if you focus on that disappointment forever. If you can move beyond it, find a way to accept the flaws of your family members, perhaps even learn to see their shortcomings as endearing quirks, it leads to positive relationships, it leads to empathy, and, above all, it leads to understanding. Learning acceptance is not an easy endeavor by any stretch of the imagination but I think it's worth the effort.

I know someday Baby J will realize that I'm not the strongest, tallest, smartest, or fastest dad out there. When she's older perhaps she'll even pick up on my many neuroses and pathologies. But, hopefully, we'll be able to teach her to be empathic, not judgmental, to focus on the good things in life. I love my family, warts and all, and, hopefully, Baby J will too someday. You get lots of acquaintances in your lifetime, lots of well-wishers, and a handful of really good, close friends. But you only get one family and they have to last you your whole life. You can't spend that time wishing they were different people. Time has a habit of getting away from you. People get older and you only get a short while to enjoy the people close to you. Life's too short and time spent with family too valuable to be spent disappointed or angry.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Once upon a time, Baby J was unable to utter the word "mama." Everything and everyone was "dada" and it drove my wife crazy. "I wish you'd say 'mama,'" she bemoaned to our baby.

I think we chalked it up to the fact that I spend so much time with Baby J as a stay-at-home dad. But that was then. Now that Baby J has learned to say "mama," she hardly says anything else. When she's hurt, she calls for mama. When she's unhappy, only mama will do. It's like she forgot all about dada.

So to all you mamas out there, be careful what you wish for.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flight Home

The two flights back from Florida were much better than the two flights there. All told, my family flew on four different airplanes and by flight number four, the last leg of our airborne sojourn, we finally figured out how to keep baby happy.
  1. Avoid using car seats on the plane - Baby J was much happier when she could flop around between mom and dad.
  2. Get a big package of bite-sized crackers - Baby J took comfort in sticking her arm into our bag of snacks and eating them one by one.
  3. Sing songs - I sang "Skin-A-Merinky-Dinky-Dink" hundred times on the flight and, every time, Baby J smiled and tried to sing along. The other folks on the flight probably wanted to kill me but they can Skin-A-Merinky-Kiss-My-Butt for all I care.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Baby J has had a lot of time to splash around in the pool recently.

Usually, if you're holding her and she wants to move around on her own, she'll say "walk" and do this crazy nose-dive thing to get out of your arms.

Well, in the pool, she does the same thing totally missing the fact that if I let her walk in the pool she would be underwater.

Good thing we had a special, floating, inflatable duck to buoy her.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Teeth

Just for the record, Baby J has a whole bunch of new teeth coming in. Pretty soon, she'll be ready for steak.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


A word of advice to all of you out there who are thinking about flying with your toddler to visit grandma and grandpa: Don't do it. Stay home.

Our recent flight down to Florida was terrible. The baby cried constantly. When she had a dirty diaper, there was no decent changing area for her. It was cramped and uncomfortable for her. And she was not shy about letting us know it.

I guess, at the end of the day, things weren't too too bad. We got to where we were going with all our luggage intact and now we're living it up in the Sunshine State. But it the back of my mind, something is nagging at me, gnawing at my peace of mind:

We have to fly home this weekend!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Music Appreciation

My wife likes to ask what my favorite part of Baby J's developmental has been so far. I'm very pleased that she enjoys books. I also like how she runs around squealing and snorting with delight sometimes. But I think more than anything else, I like the way Baby J is developing an appreciation for music.

She dances to music. She sings songs. She does hand motions. She'll scamper over to our piano, pull herself up, and start pressing the keys as if she really has a tune to play. She'll pluck at my guitar. She'll bang on a drum.

When you're a kid, everything is magical and new and full of fun. As you get older, things become less magical and the novelty of life kind of wears off. The only thing that has really retained its magicalness(?) for me as I've gotten older has been music. Playing it. Listening to it. Thinking about it. Talking about it. It's been a constant source of awe and inspiration for me throughout my life and I hope that it's the same with Baby J.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No! Part Two

I think we've been overusing the word "no" with Baby J.

Occasionally, while she's running around the house, she'll stop by one of the things she knows she's not allowed to touch:
  • The smelly diaper champ
  • An electric socket
  • The shelves holding my artwork
She'll point to the forbidden object and shout an emphatic "no" at us. I'm not sure if she's letting us know that she knows what's off-limits or if she's trying to tell us that we're not allowed to touch certain things in the house either. Maybe she's just mimicking us. Either way, despite the fact that it's cute as all get out, I think I want to stop using the word "no" so much around her. I don't want her to grow up and think adults just shout "no" at each other all day.

Come to think of it, we do shout "no" at each other a lot.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Moral Life of Babies

Today's post is an article from The New York Times Magazine entitled The Moral Life of Babies. Click the link below to see the original article.
It's all about how human beings are preprogrammed with rudimentary morality. Pretty cool, eh?

Listening To: Time Capsule by Matthew Sweet

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

I'm not sure why but I've been getting a lot of books out of the library on American history recently. I always thought history was dull when I had to learn it in school. But now that I'm learning about it on my own, it's amazing!

Specifically, I'm interested in the Revolutionary War and the subsequent birth of America. What my studies have impressed upon me more than anything else is how important our leaders were in those early days of independence. If it weren't for them and their devotion to democratic principles, our nation would be totally different. We might have had a military dictator like France's Napoleon or a merciless autocrat like Russia's Stalin. But, thanks to the progressive, forward-thinking creators of the US Constitution, we have enjoyed a robust representative democracy since the very start.

Of course, this all goes back to parenting for me. How much independence do we grant our children? Are we despots or representatives for our families? Napoleons and Stalins or Adams and Jeffersons? Are we looking forward to the future where they will live or the future we'd like to create for them?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Table Tot

Baby J has figured out how to climb things. She's known how to do stairs and chairs for a while now. But the other day, my wife went to the bathroom came back to find our intrepid daughter standing triumphantly on the kitchen table.

Baby J, Baby J
Climbed onto of a table today

Friday, July 2, 2010


We can tell Baby J is up for the morning when we hear small hooting and peeping noises coming from her room. One of us rolls out of bed and goes into her room to get her. When you open the door she looks up at you, smiles, rubs her eyes, and says, "book?"

Baby J loves books and it cracks me up that the first thing she thinks about each morning is reading. Not, "good morning," or "change my diaper." Just, "book?" The only thing I think about when I wake up in the morning is going back to sleep.

If you don't give Baby J a book right away she gets a little feisty on the changing table. But, if you give her one, it makes changing her a real challenge. Oh well. Just another quandary of child rearing.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Flying with Baby

In just a few days, we're flying to Florida to visit my family. Aunts, uncles, cousin, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, etc. It will be the first time we've taken the baby on a plane and we're all a flutter over how to do it.

One of my friends told me she brought a portable DVD player with her, put headphones on her little girl, and just kept her going with a steady stream of videos. I'm pretty sure this would not work for Baby J though. She has a habit of removing anything that is not tightly affixed to her body (i.e. headphones) and she does not handle personal electronics with the tender care they require.

I'm thinking we'll just mix a little bourbon into her juice and see what happens. I just hope she's not an angry drunk.

Listening To: How I Got Over by The Roots

p.s. I'm not really going to give my baby hard liquor. That was just a joke. Geez! You're so uptight!