Seasonal Blogging

It’s quite obvious that my last post back in June, which indicated that Dadbloggit might be making some kind of legendary comeback after a considerable dry spell, was off the mark. Here we are many months later, and the blog drought has only now ended. I definitely don’t entertain any grand delusions that (to extend this mediocre metaphor a bit further) a vast field of my loyal followers is out there withering away, silently praying for the day when my words will once again rain down and nourish them back to health. Nonetheless, I do feel like I need to decide: Am I doing this, or am I not doing this?

As November picks up its blustery pace, carrying us closer and closer to imminent winter, I feel like my answer is, I am doing this. Looking back at the beginning of Dadbloggit, I see that this whole thing started a year ago, in November. This is the time of year when nap time, which thankfully is still honored by Bean and sometimes even Bear, is less likely to be spent outside in the garden or the lawn, and more likely to be spent indoors, reflecting on my time with the girls. And I have to admit, I really do miss blogging. I’ve been doing part-time work since April, which is partially to blame for the drought. But I feel like blogging time needs to come back. Being able to find the humor in my life as a stay-at-home dad can often be like trying to find, well, just about anything in our messy, messy house. Not easy. But if I happen to lose my keys, do I just shrug it off and say “oh well”? No. I get down on my hands and knees and slog through the brightly-colored ankle-deep debris on the living room floor until I find them. In that spirit, I now aim to resume my search for humor, and resume my dad blogging. Go ahead and start holding your breath now as you await my next post.

Posted in General Observations | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

I’m back?

So I’m finding that once you’ve blogged for a while, and then you suddenly stop for a while, it is really hard to get back into it. There were definitely some time-sucking activities that prompted the halting in the first place, but even after the time-sucks stopped sucking so much time, logging back into WordPress has proven difficult. I feel pressure to explain myself. Where have I been, exactly? I feel pressure to return with a great comeback post that will blow both of my readers completely out of the water. I actually have a pretty long string of draft posts that I periodically started and then never quite finished, perhaps deeming them not quite comeback worthy.

At any rate, here I am, back at the keyboard. It’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. If I can’t find time to blog today, it ain’t never gonna happen.

Bear and Bean won’t sleep. Blah, blah, blah, same old story from parents with young children, right? It really breaks my heart though, because they have a long, solid recent history of sleeping just fine. All of a sudden though, bedtime is taking two hours, wake-up time is synching with the insanely early summer sunrises, and naps have been crap. And the question that persists, the question that torments me every shortened night and every groggy day is this: Why?

Theory #1: Extended daylight makes it hard to sleep. Theory #1, I reject you wholeheartedly. There is one window in my girls’ room. Over the window is a mini-blind. Over the mini-blind is a pretty dark curtain. Over the pretty dark curtain is a pretty dark blanket. Over the pretty dark blanket is a super heavy, super dark blanket. Seriously, it is perpetual midnight in there. I’ll walk in there during the middle of a bright sunny day, and it is utter and complete darkness. Once again, Theory #1, I reject you.

Theory #2: Summer heat makes it hard to sleep. I really don’t think that’s it. Consider the evidence to the contrary:

  1. Their room is newly insulated (accomplishing this was time-suck #1).
  2. They have an AC unit powerful enough to cool a room twice the size of theirs(installing this was time-suck #2).
  3. It has not really been very hot this summer.

Theory #3: They are secretly plotting together to drive me crazy. Yes, now we’re getting somewhere!

It really is the kind of situation that drives a person crazy. Waking shortly after 5:00 am to a cranky little Bean. Spending all day with two toddlers who fight incessantly. And then finally putting them to bed at night only to listen helplessly as the baby monitor broadcasts sounds of unspeakable sleepless horrors right up until the moment I fall asleep. I’m at my wit’s end with the whole thing.

I am, however, quite pleased to report that as I sit here typing now, all is quiet, all is still. The stubborn summer solstice sun refuses to dip below the horizon, and yet the children have apparently taken the plunge into slumber. Only the steady drone of an over-sized AC unit filters through the baby monitor and into my tired ears. A low rumble of thunder is heard off in the distance, possibly foreshadowing a stormy and tumultuous night outdoors. But inside, the forecast apparently calls for sweet serenity. And yes, I am absolutely knocking on wood as I type that!

Posted in General Observations, Indoors | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bedroom or Padded Cell?

It occurred to me recently that we’re treating our children like self-injurious mental patients.

Now now, hear me out on this one. The girls sleep in the same upstairs bedroom. Let me describe to you the physical characteristics of this room:

  1. Carpeted floor
  2. Door permanently held open with door stopper
  3. Baby gate placed across door opening
  4. Two closet doors tied together and unopenable
  5. Decorations limited to the upper portions of the walls (out of reach)
  6. Light switch fixed so as to be inoperable
  7. Two pieces of furniture: Bear’s bed and Bean’s bed
  8. Absolutely nothing else in the room

Is this or is this not essentially a padded cell? I have to admit, this is not the room I had envisioned for our kids. I always imagined a warm cozy place with shelves and toys and stuff on the walls. But the reality of the situation is that, after we put the kids to bed at night, they would use these otherwise harmless objects to kill each other. Or at least to just keep themselves up at night. Which is almost as bad.

Opening and closing doors, or ‘finger-crushers’ as I like to call them, seems to be the latest fascination among our young duo. So the first order of business in securing their bedroom is prohibiting movement of the finger-crusher. Of course now that the finger-crusher is wide open, willful exiting of the bedroom is possible and will occur 3,000 times before the kids decide to stay in the room and fall asleep. Hence the baby gate. The closet finger-crushers are also fixed shut. I have not discovered babyproofing for bi-fold doors that can be easily installed and removed, so what we have is a permanent fix which of course prevents any access to the closet.

One of Bear’s latest developmental milestones is the ability to reach and operate light switches. This is annoying as all hell. I’ll be trying to load the dishwasher in the evening when all of a sudden *flick* off go the lights as Bear cackles and scampers off. I’ll be shaving in the bathroom. Flick, cackle, scamper. Or sitting and reading a book. Flick, cackle, scamper. You get the idea. It took us a while to realize that this problem was affecting bedtime. We’d be downstairs with the monitor on and I’d think to myself, That sure sounds like a lot of cackling and scampering up there. Sure enough I finally went upstairs and discovered that the bedroom lights were on. I hastily applied duct tape to the light switch, a solution that took Bear only a couple of nights to outsmart. Short of removing the bulb, I’ve got nothing for this one.

I imagine there will come a day when light switches are flipped at appropriate times. A day when bookshelves aren’t ladders, picture frames aren’t weapons, and doors aren’t finger-crushers. A day when the children will actually try falling asleep at bedtime, not as a last resort but as an actual intended activity. Personally, I feel like I get these concepts, so I suppose the kids will eventually get them too. But until that day arrives, I’ll be kissing the girls goodnight as they snuggle up in their padded cell.

Posted in General Observations, Indoors | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Public Potty Problems

Warning: if you are not at all interested in potty talk, click somewhere else right now.

Hah, I knew you’d stay. Potty talk is undeniably fascinating.

So the girls and I have been venturing out into the public realm, just the three of us, since the very beginning of my stay-at-home stint. And as we all know, using public restrooms is an inevitable part of the going out experience. As an adult with no young children, one’s primary concern about the public restroom is cleanliness. Can I use this facility without gagging? On the other hand, as a father bringing his two young daughters into the men’s room, well, let’s just say that facility cleanliness drops lower on the list of concerns.

I make every possible attempt to ensure that I won’t have to use the restroom when we’re out and about. If it means waiting around an extra hour after my daily coffee binge to leave the house, we do it. If it means depriving my body of necessary fluids while we’re out, I do it. If it means pushing my bladder as close to the point of explosion as is humanly possible, I do that too.

Let’s take a look at how this works. We’re out in public and Dad realizes that he simply cannot wait until he’s home to use the toilet. At this point, I have three choices. See if you can guess which one I opt for:

Option 1: Leave the girls, ages 3 and 1, outside the men’s room door and hope for the best. (What, they’d be fine, right?)

Option 2: Bring the girls into the men’s room, allowing them to roam free while I find a place to conduct business. (I imagine that as long as I’m OK with angry looks, kids being bruised by opening and closing doors, the creation of an ideal kidnapping situation, and all types of foreign substances showing up on the kids’ hands, this would work just fine.)

Option 3: Squeeze the three of us into a stall (preferably handicapped-accessible) and very carefully conduct business while holding 24 pounds of angry wriggling Bean in one arm and strongly cautioning a very curious Bear against getting too close, all the while consoling both of them as they freak out every time a toilet flushes and every time one of those wall-mounted jet engines otherwise known as Xlerator hand dryers seemingly blasts off into space.

If you chose the long-winded overly specific scenario presented in Option 3, you are correct.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not fun at all. But as I sit here thinking this through, I don’t really see this issue getting any easier as the girls grow up. They will reach an age at which it is just completely unacceptable to bring them into a men’s room. Actually, Bear is probably there already. But what do I do? In my mind, this age definitely does not correspond with the age at which I will feel comfortable leaving them alone outside the men’s room for a few minutes.

HELP! When is a girl too old (let’s call it age y) to enter the men’s room? When is a girl old enough (age z) to safely wait outside the men’s room on her own? And exactly how is Dad supposed to relieve himself when the girls are between ages y and z?! In my mind y=3 and z=30 so this is a problem. (Note: giving up coffee is not an acceptable suggestion)

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Toddler Vigilante Justice

We’ve just become members of the local YMCA.

Again.

I think this is the third time in a year and a half’s time. Once again smitten by the siren song of the beautifully remodelled Blaisdell facility (if I, one of its designers, may say so myself) and its promise of up to two hours of free on-site childcare everyday, we took the plunge. It is our historical inability to cash in on this promise, though, that has been the demise of our previous membership stints. But this time, it’ll be better. This time we’ll make it work.

Let me explain. I hate to blame you, Bean, but really it is completely and 100% your fault. As I’ve indicated before, Bean is a particularly… strong-willed child. She wants Mom and/or Dad around at all times. When this condition is not met, all hell breaks loose.

We discovered this the first time we became members at the Y. The child care center has a policy that, if a child is crying and cannot calm herself down within 15 minutes of being dropped off, the parents are located and the child is released into their custody. Time after time after time, we would drop the girls off and, like clockwork, a staff member would find us after exactly 15 minutes and bring us back down to retrieve Bean, our little blubbering mess. It got to the point where I could literally stop pedalling my stationary bike after 15 minutes, turn to face the door, and invariably I would see someone in a red shirt giving me the sympathetic nod.

We soon realized that Bean was not going to eventually ‘get used to it’ and that 15-minute workouts just weren’t substantial enough to justify the membership. So we cancelled, with high hopes that we might rejoin in the future when Bean was older and could maybe handle this ritual a little better.

The future has come and we have rejoined. Whether or not Bean can now handle it remains to be seen. But that issue is not really my reason for posting today. On our first day of being members (again) I took the girls to the play area and hung out with them as they refamiliarized themselves with the environment. There I witnessed an act involving both girls and some other kid that made me so darn proud I just have to share it.

Everyone was playing and having a grand ol’ time. Bear was laughing and kicking a ball around with a little boy. Bean was pushing a little pink stroller with great gusto. Then out of nowhere, a girl slightly older and bigger than Bean stepped onto the scene and muscled the stroller right out of Bean’s hands. Bean stopped and shot the girl a quick nasty look and then moved on, apparently willing to forget the incident. Bear, on the other hand, must have watched the whole thing transpire, and she would be slightly less forgiving of the perpetrator. She walked right up to the thief, pulled the stroller out of her hands, and sternly but calmly said “No, you don’t take that from Bean!”. Bear wheeled the stroller over to her little sister with the shocked little girl trailing behind and said “Here you go, Bean. This is yours.”

After watching this whole thing go down, I was absolutely beaming on the inside. Is that wrong? I mean, I know that ‘an eye for an eye’ is not exactly the best system of punishment, but something about the whole situation made me so proud. I think this is because it was the first time I had seen sister protecting sister out there in the real world. Bear witnessed an injustice being committed against Bean by someone who Bean could not defend herself against, and so she intervened to make it right. Let’s not try to hide the fact that Bear has committed many such injustices against Bean at home. But here in this public setting with different kids involved, Bear sensed the new dynamics of power. She knew I was in no position to put the little bully in time-out. She knew Bean was particularly vulnerable. So she took her own initiative and stood up for her sister. In some small way, it seemed to signify a victory for family. It even brought me a sense of parental relief. It’s really true – they’re going to be OK out there in the world someday, without us around. Especially if sister is looking out for sister. A word to the wise: Don’t mess with Bear and Bean!

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Dadbloggit, Another Birthday Already?!

The evolution over time of one’s attitude toward one’s own birthday is an interesting thing to look at.

As a young child, you absolutely cannot wait for this day to come. You count down the months, weeks, days. A week away feels like an eternity. You are of course imagining that, on that golden day, a dump truck will back up into your driveway and deposit piles and piles of presents just for you. You honestly would not be surprised to see this happen, because this day was created just for you, and everybody in the world is thinking of nothing but you today.

As you move into the teen and young adult years, there is still great anticipation for the annual you-fest. Now, though, it’s all about making it to the day when that stingy villain known as Society will finally let you do something risky. I’m 16 and now I can drive. I’m 18 and now I can vote, gamble and buy cigarettes. I’m 21 and now I can booze it up. Then of course you hit 22 and you realize that none of your birthdays from now on really mean anything, unless you’re the kind of person to get all stoked about renting a car at 25 or running for President at 35. That last one actually is somewhat useful; whenever I gaze out across the accomplishments of my life and find the totality of it all a bit wanting, I say to myself “Haven’t hit 35 yet, pal. Haven’t even been given the chance to run for President. Hang in there, big fella. You’ll show ’em all.”

Yes, in the throes of mid-adulthood it is really tough to get all worked up about birthdays. Unless your new age ends in a nine (“it’s coming”) or a zero (“it’s here”), most of these birthdays are likely to be fairly unremarkable.

However, thanks to those closest to me, it appears that hitting 33 (which I did yesterday) will be quite a bit more memorable than I was expecting. I was given an amazing gift of the variety that doesn’t originate in any retail establishment. I was given the gift of time. The gift of distance. The gift of warmth.

It looks like Dad gets to shed the label of ‘Dad’ for a few days (and shed that winter coat in the process). My wife, parents and parents-in-law all conspired to secure a spot for me on a plane headed south to a place where snow exists only thousands of feet above in the mountains, a place where winter temperatures in the 70s are readily found outdoors, a place that will simultaneously be inhabited by me and not inhabited by my kids (no offense, kiddos, but this is huge). I get to spend three or four days in desert country, the American Southwest, with my parents who live there seasonally. I’ll trade diapers, tantrums and cabin fever for novels, hiking and, dare I say, alone time. Glorious!

A big thank you goes to my wife for orchestrating the whole thing and for taking time off of work to cover my dad duties. By the end of my trip (or possibly by the first night) you will be kicking yourself for setting this up. They are going to drive you absolutely insane. You will survive though. Thanks also to my parents-in-law for your generous role in this, and to my parents for contributing their resources and living quarters. I am certain that by the end, I will be missing my family terribly, but distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Posted in General Observations | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Obituary: The Death of Naptime

Running this right now might be a bit premature, but all signs are pointing this direction. Two or three days without naps last week. No nap again today. We’re losing it. We’re losing naptime. Look at that – I’ve just moved beyond Stage 1 of the grieving process.

Nap, Bear’s Afternoon, Age 3, passed away noisily and far too soon this week. Dad’s Free Time and Dad’s Chance to Actually Get Something Done Around Here were also casualties in this senseless tragedy. Preceded in death by Bear’s Morning Nap. Survived by sister Bean’s Afternoon Nap. Also known as One of the Best Times of the Entire Frickin’ Day, Bear’s Afternoon Nap will be remembered fondly as a time when all toddler insanity ceased completely for up to two hours, a time when Dad could attempt to regain a sense of mental well-being. Sources such as BabyCenter and Parents.com confirmed the tragic nature of this passing, indicating that many children’s naps don’t make the final journey to that Great Toddler Bed in the Sky until age four or even later. Those closest to Bear were overheard asking her in desperation “Why, Bear? Why?” to which she matter-of-factly replied “I’m just not that tired.” Memorial services will be held inside Dad’s brain from 1 pm to 3 pm, everyday from now until Bear starts kindergarden. Dad has been advised by many that he will probably cry like a baby when Bear heads off to school someday, but for now, the loss of Nap will be heavily mourned.

Posted in General Observations | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Dadblockit Blockbuster: Hollywood Squares

I love playing with my kids’ set of wooden blocks. There I said it. Perhaps you’ve already concluded as much from reading previous posts, like this one. Is it a crime for an adult to enjoy playing with kids’ toys? No, it is not.

Therefore, I plan to start featuring some of my, I mean our, best constructions on a regular basis.

I present to you now the very first Dadblockit Blockbuster. I call it “Hollywood Squares: The Multicultural Kids Episode”. My inspiration was, of course, the Hollywood Squares television gameshow. I never really watched the show, but I was always intrigued by the spatial aspect of it. The Multicultural Kids Episode would be, if actually filmed and produced, a logistical nightmare, requiring lots of Multicultural Parents and very patient translators and contestants. Perhaps it’s best to just keep this one in the idea phase.

Special shout-outs go to Hollywood Squares for the overall idea, to Lakeshore Learning for their Kids Around the World figures, and as always to Plan Toys for that sweet set of hand-me-down blocks.

Posted in Dadblockit Blockbuster | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bear, Version 3.0

Google is reminding me that it is Thomas Edison’s 164th birthday today. However, I am choosing to observe the birthday of someone else today, someone a bit younger and better-looking. That’s right, my little Bear turns three today!

Why focus on Bear and not Mr. Edison, you might ask? Why not prioritize the birthday celebration of he whose phonograph brought music to the homes of millions, he whose motion picture camera revolutionized entertainment, he whose light bulb magically transformed night into day and illuminates the very room I type in right now?

I’ll tell you why.

Reason One: Sure Edison invented a music player, but what good is a music player without some sweet dancing? Bear can cut a rug like nobody’s business (this link is referencing definition one, not definition three, a definition I was not aware of and am a bit disturbed by). I’ll bet Edison had no rhythm and no dance moves whatsoever. Bear 1, Edison zero.

Reason Two: So, Edison invented the video camera. But could he perform in front of one? No way. Not like Bear. We’ve made movies of her singing, dancing, showing off cool tricks, reciting entire memorized books, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She’s a natural on camera. Bear 2, Edison zero.

Reason Three: Sure Ol’ Tommy Boy invented the light bulb, but was he at all impressed when someone could change one? Just yesterday, I changed a light bulb over the tub that had been out for a few weeks. The scene went something like this:

Dad (knowing that it doesn’t take much to impress Bear, and wanting to feel good about his “accomplishment”): Hey Bear, come see what Daddy did.

Bear (noticing new light bulb, face lighting up like new light bulb): Whoa! How’d you do that Daddy?

Dad:  Well, you know, it wasn’t easy, but I figured it out.

Bear: Hey Mom! Come see what Daddy did!

Mom: What is it?

Bear: Look at the light!

Mom (trying really, really hard to match Bear’s excitement level and give the impression that she’s really glad she walked all the way across the house to see this): Oh wow. Good job, Daddy.

Dad: Yeah, I know.

There’s no way Edison could have come close to making me feel this good about myself for completing such a mundane household task. Bear 3, Edison zero

Reason Four: Edison is a historical figure. Bear is my daughter. Bear 4 trillion, Edison 1 (history is somewhat important).

Happiest of Happy Birthdays to you, Bear, my lovely 3-year-old girl!

Posted in General Observations | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Worst… Kids’ Book… Ever

I hate The Easter Egg Express. It is a really, really terrible children’s book for so many reasons.

First off, it is a holiday book. This means that, as adults, we only really feel like reading the book to our kids for a limited time at a certain point in the year. The kids, on the other hand, want to read it whenever they feel like it. They don’t care when the holiday in question occurs. It will be a hot day in July, and they will miraculously find that awful Christmas book you thought you had permanently laid to rest in that dark corner under the couch. They will want to read about Santa Clause right now. They will want to hear it 74 consecutive times. You will want nothing more than to be put out of your unseasonal misery.

Second, the book was originally published in German, and the copy we possess is a translated version. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but this particular book was very poorly translated. Three of its eleven total sentences are run-on sentences. Not OK. Also, the text refers to delivering eggs to the “boy and girls”. I’m willing to overlook the fact that the characters are actually animals, not people, and should not be referred to as boys and girls, but you should definitely pluralize both ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ if they’re going to appear together like that, especially since there are multiple male characters receiving eggs.

Third, the content is completely vapid. The little egg train goes around to the homes of five different animals in the forest. At each stop there is a sentence describing something about that particular house. For two out of the five stops, the comment is essentially “it was not hard to find his house”. Really? That’s all you could come up with? Here we have a bear living in this elaborate earthen dome with a cuckoo clock and family photos on the wall, and all you can discuss is how well your GPS worked? Pathetic.

In the end, the five animals all go back to find the rabbit driver of the Easter Egg Express to thank him for their eggs. All five animals are pictured, but only four are named in the text. They forgot to list the bear. This kind of crap drives me crazy. Please, have a native English speaker who knows something about sentence structure proofread your 11 sentences before thousands of copies are printed and distributed. That’s not asking too much, is it? The very last sentence reads “Have fun with the Easter celebration!”. This just sounds weird, and I honestly don’t know if they’re saying that the animals are having fun, or if I’m the one who’s supposed to be having fun. If it’s the latter, believe me, I’m not.

I have found two online reviews of this book, and both are 5-star ratings. Seriously, what is wrong with you people? One reviewer only praises the book’s colorfulness. Yes, it’s very colorful, but no, that alone does not make it a 5-star book. The other reviewer claims “my granddaughter loves it!”. The reviewer is dazzled by the raised 3-D eggs that disappear with each turning page. Oh please. That’s what’s wrong with kid’s books these days. All the moving parts and holes and textures are seen as substitutes for actual content. Stick to the basics, people.

So parents, this Easter season I suggest that you not hop on board The Easter Egg Express. Its lessons of poor grammar, unimaginative commentary, careless exclusion, and pointless colorfulness are ones that your kids can do without, and will make for a pretty rough ride.

Posted in General Observations | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments