Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Screw Athletes--I'm Glad to be a Role Model

Someone wants to be like Mike--not Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, or Michael J. Fox--Mike Simpson. Me. The four year old boy that lives in a townhouse next to ours wants to be like me. I'm honored. I take this boy to pre-school with the Tomboy, and we all play outside together with the other neighbor kids. Here is the conversation as relayed to me by his mother:

Mother: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
Boy: "Nothing."
Mother: "Honey, you can do anything you want or be whatever you want, but you have to do something."
Boy: "No I don't."
Mother: "You have to have somewhere to live, so you are going to have to work."
Boy: "I'll just live with you Mommy."
Mother: "Everyone does something."
Boy: "Not Mike. Mike doesn't do anything. I want to be like him."

When I started this journey, this might have bothered me, but now I just think it's funny, and kind of true. I know I know, I do things. Stay at home parents do a lot. We do a lot of cooking. We wash a lot of dishes--everyday, all the time, sometimes more than we need to because somebody doesn't want the pink plate or the orange cup. We do laundry. We drive kids to school. We clean up after creatures that are smart enough to imagine that a piece of cardboard is a spaceship, but evidently not clever enough to know how to put it away. We read books that make our kids smarter, but us stupider. Yes, I know that isn't a word. We answer questions that make no sense. We clean bodily excretions that make mere mortals gag. We settle brawls over who had the Buzz doll first. We sit through lessons of various kinds, and though I haven't had to do this yet, I know that many stay at home parents drive their kids to endless practices and other endeavors.

But sometimes I feel a little bit like Homer Simpson in an episode of The Simpsons where he was a truck driver. He discovered an on board computer that put the truck on auto pilot. It did everything so Homer didn't have to do anything. He flaunted this discovery, only to be attacked by the other truck drivers who didn't want their secret revealed. My wife thinks I need breaks when she gets home--I know, wonderful right, but I get breaks during the day. Having a second child was way harder than one at the beginning, but now it makes things infinitely easier. There have been days when I could leave the house for more than an hour and the girls probably wouldn't notice. They entertain each other better than I ever could.

I have been doing this as my full time occupation for more than five months now, still pretty new, but so far so good. I have never been so universally content with a career choice. If I were the little neighbor boy, I would want to be me too. He is wrong about me not doing anything, but in a way he is right, because I don't do anything that I don't want to do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Advice for Potential Dog Owners

If you are considering adding a dog to your family, please read this and be warned. Dogs are great. I love our dog, but there are a few things that might have changed my mind about getting him in the first place. Here is a list of pros and cons that might help you make a better decision.

Pro #1. Love. Once you have truly made a connection with your dog, you truly experience unconditional love. I can be mean, dismissive, and downright nasty to my dog and he still prefers me to anyone else.

Con #1. Love. There is absolutely no way to get your dog to get the hint when you don't want him around. My dog will stand in front of me, wagging his tail, breathing stinky breath all over me, waiting for the slightest acknowledgment of his existence.

Pro #2. Protection. He would never hurt anyone, but he is a big black lab with a big black lab bark that has scared more than a few people. I let him out to pee once and a big burly utility employee happened to be checking the meters. My dog barked and charged the poor guy, sending him falling backwards into the bushes before nuzzling him in the crotch and wagging his tail. I felt bad for the guy because I could hear his buddy laughing at him from their truck.

Con #2. Protection. 8:30 pm. The bulldozer has just stopped crying from her crib--We were just about to give in, because it sounded like she was going to possibly make herself sick with crying. We can still hear the Tomboy flipping pages in her books at the top of the steps, but it is only a matter of time until she gives up and goes to bed. We are unwinding, almost giddy with the freedom of sleeping children. A ridiculous commercial plays on the TV where some giant termite with a pizza box rings a doorbell at someone's house. The dog, in his hyper vigilence, barks his big dog bark for about ten seconds. Just enough to wake the Bulldozer into a screaming fit and guaranteeing a night of little elbows and toes keeping us awake in our bed.

Pro # 3. Activity. There are many days that I begrudgingly walk my dog, and feel grateful for the reason to get outside and enjoy the air.

Con #3. Activity. There are many days that I begrudgingly walk my dog, and feel bitter towards him for needing to poop.

Pro #4. Kids that don't fear animals--especially the excitable eighty pounds of pure muscle that is our dog. My girls can do anything short of trying to stick something in my dog's rear end, and he will simply ignore them and walk away.

Con #4. Small children and dogs both want and need attention. This is the big one. If you have small children or plan on having them, stay clear of dogs. We had our dog for five years before we had the Tomboy, and he was a great dog. When he received the necessary attention and activity, we were all okay, but kids take that attention and activity away--at least for us it did. This all starts a downward spiral that slowly destroys all memory of why you got a dog in the first place.

You start to wonder if the dog just started to smell bad, or if you just started to notice. The occasional licking of paws, butts, and crotches gets worse with inactivity and compounds manyfold in its irritating quality. If you don't vacuum at least once a day, your kids' clothes start to collect dog hair and it makes you feel like a bad parent. If having two small children is enough to make you ignore your dog most of the time like we do, the dog searches for ways to get your attention. In our case, this includes pooping and peeing in the house, especially when he gets in trouble for something else. Here is a scene that has happened and will probably happen again.

It's seven pm. The girls and I have had a long day of ups and downs, and my wife has had a long day of work and we just went through a dinner that consisted of spilled drinks, uneaten food, and whiny girls. We sit down and guiltily hope for bedtime to arrive. It is hot and the girls insist on crawling all over us and fighting over who gets to sit where. The dog is standing, facing me with his hot stinky breath washing over my knees and a solitary drip of slobber drops from his tongue and lands on my foot.

"Get away from me!" He jumps back and happens to dig his claws into my wife's bare foot.
"Ouch. Get out of here!" The bulldozer has gotten up in the turmoil and in his haste to get out of the room, the dog knocks her to the floor. She screams and we yell at the dog and he proceeds to start peeing. He starts at the top of the stairs and wiggles a trail of urine down the stairs and onto the landing before I can shove him outside.

So, before you choose to bring that special puppy home to meet your family, think long and hard. Dogs are great--I love my dog, but I don't think we will be getting another one anytime soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shiny Happy (pretentious judgmental) People

Okay, maybe not so shiny, but happy for the most part and definitely pretentious and partly judgmental. If you have ever been to one, you have probably guessed that I am talking about a wine festival. And yes we went, so I guess I have to be lumped in with the group. This particular wine festival was my first and, since I don't drink wine, wasn't my idea. My wife likes wine and she has been working very hard so I agreed to go and tote two little kids around a grassy field from stand to stand while my wife and her friends from work waited in line for one ounce sips of various wines in the misty rain. I consoled myself with little squares of cheese and sausage from various vendors.

I wasn't really that bad and it wasn't our first choice to bring our kids, but we aren't really that babysitter savvy, so we brought them and they had fun. They ran around in circles and chased each other around various people that were standing in line waiting for their one ounce samples. They ate crackers and pushed sticks around in the mud and got dirty. I did my best to corral them, but every once in a while the bulldozer would run into someone's legs and fall down. Sometimes she would walk in a zig zag fashion front of someone who was trying to pass her. "Watch where you're walking." I would say and pull her out of the way. Most people were nice, but a few weren't so shiny and happy.

"Why would you take kids to a wine festival? Are they interested in wine?" One very nice woman asked.
"So rude! So rude!" Another woman spewed as the bulldozer had the audacity to slow her from getting to her next ounce. I sympathized with her. I mean, it was fierce competition to get into line to get your ounce of blackberry zinfandel or apple merlot. In the time that the bulldozer was slowing her down, one or two people probably got into line before her. Worst of all, the festival only ran from 3:00 pm to 8:30 pm, so if she missed a moment, she might miss a few ounces.

We weren't the only ones with kids there, but perhaps they are right. We shouldn't expose our young impressionable girls to that kind of atmosphere. The might grow up to think that it is acceptable for their future husbands to wear short dress shorts and sport coats and drive little sports cars to wine festivals while their kids are home with the nanny.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Day of Pre-School

I guess this couldn't be a dad blog without the obligatory first day of school posting. Just like her mother, and nothing like me, the Tomboy was excited for school. The kind of excited that prompts her to ask about it everyday for the past two weeks.

"Daddy, do I have school next day?"
"No honey, not until next week."

"Daddy, do I have school today?"
"No, not until Monday."

The other problem is that the Bulldozer is quite attached to her sister and, as all siblings do, believes in the right of all little sisters to do everything their big sisters do.

Tomboy: "I'm going to school tomorrow!"
Bulldozer: "I go to schoo morrow! I go to schoo morrow!"

She has to carry her backpack too, and she seems fine until we get back to the van and she realizes that her sister is not there. It is then that she cries and asks where her sister is.

The big problem is me. I detested school and would do anything to get out of going, so I have a little anxiety over my kids going to school. We put the Tomboy in daycare for the first time when she was eight weeks old. Anyone who has done that knows how wrong it feels to leave your defenseless newborn child in the arms of strangers. Pre-school is not nearly as hard, but it still feels wrong to me. But I would do anything to get out of school.

I guess in my anxiety I didn't think about what moms do on their kid's first day of school. I was the only one who didn't have a camera. I felt like the guy who goes to a wedding in white socks because he forgot dress socks. I felt like they were all looking at me. "Where's his camera?" All the kids were posing with the teacher one by one while we all crowded around the door, waiting to get in. The Tomboy saved me, "Daddy, I don't want a picture."

"Okay, sweetie, no picture." And with that she hugged her teacher and walked into the room, no tears, not even a goodbye hug, she was just gone. The Bulldozer wasn't the only one who noticed her empty car seat.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Queen of Tattle Talia

My four year old, AKA the Precious Tomboy, has claimed a new title. She is officially the Queen of Tattle Talia. Her innate need and ability to tell on her little sister makes me wonder if her calling in life is to be hall monitor/police officer. As a parent, this presents a unique connundrum.

Con #1: It is annoying. It is incredibly annoying, and I find myself scolding her for telling on her sister.

"Daddy, the Bulldozer is looking at me and I don't like it."
"I'm sorry honey."
"She's still doing it."

Pro #1: It is helpful. Sometimes it is a lifesaver when the bulldozer is doing something potentially hazardous, harmful, or potentially life threatening.

"Daddy, the bulldozer is writing on the wall."
"Daddy, the bulldozer has scissors."
"Daddy, the bulldozer is standing on the table"

Con #2: It is really annoying. Super annoying. Match the need to tell on someone with a flare for being overdramatic and you have a problem. The precious part of the Tomboy refers partly to her extreme flare for the dramatic. If she doesn't think that I see the bulldozer push her or hit her, she acts as if she has been mortally wounded, but if I react quickly to reprimand the bulldozer for her transgressions, it is as if it never happened.

Con #3: The bulldozer is an instigator. At two years old, she already likes to get a reaction out of her sister. Mix that with the Tomboy's over dramatic reactions to things that happen without my knowledge and you have a problem. I am positive that she attacks her sister (yes, attack is the right word) when I am not looking to get a bigger reaction. I know that you are thinking, "Of course, she doesn't want to get caught", but my theory is that she does it to get a bigger reaction. She knows that the Tomboy screams louder when I am not looking.

Con #4: Guilt.

"Daddy, the Bulldozer scratched me boo hoo hoo."
"Is it really that bad?"
"It hurts Daddy."
"Should we go to the hospital?" Yes, I know, I shouldn't be sarcastic with my four year old daughter.
"Noooooo. But it hurts Daddy. Look." She points to three deep red lines on her arm that I know will scab later.
"I'm sorry honey." It is at this point that the bulldozer swaggers in and smiles at me and refuses to say sorry.

Con #5: It is incredibly aggravating.

"Daddy, the Bulldozer is going to tell on me!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Okay, I am officially not the Master of Naps

I spoke too soon. If you have read my previous posts would might have come across a blog posting that boasted of my absolute mastery of getting kids to take naps. I still follow all of my steps, but I might get one nap a week if I am lucky. Now I get an hour of listening to them play together and then I go into their room to find every toy, blanket, and pair of shoes that can possibly fit on the floor and two kids who are triumphant in their ability to wait me out.

A few days ago, the day we had been afraid of arrived. I put them in their room for a nap and returned an hour later to find chalk handprints all over the hallway walls and an empty crib. The Tomboy was surprised to see me.

"Where is the bulldozer?"
"She got out."
"I can see that. Where is she?" It was then that the two year old Bulldozer with chalked hands jumps out from the closet door and yells.
"I get out! I get out!"
"How did you get out." It was then that the Tomboy tries to climb over the railing of her sister's crib to show me.
"Like this Daddy."

In short, this posting is to officially relinquish my title of Master of Naps. Maybe I can be the Master of Putting Toy Story in the DVD player now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Anyone for Leftovers?

There is a lot about being a stay at home parent that most people don't think about. Sure, when I tell people that I am a stay at home dad, most people say things like "I couldn't do it", or "Good for you", but I get the feeling that some of those people think that it wouldn't be that hard or that they wish that they had the means to stay home with their kids. I get that. I feel pretty lucky that I get to be with my girls for all of these important memories. But there are a few things that get old and stay old and never go away. Yes, laundry is harder because their clothes are miniature and hard to fold, but the biggest surprise to me as a stay at home dad was how much time I devote to feeding two kids that together weigh less than seventy pounds.

Breakfast can be easy if they aren't sick of Honeynut Cheerios or cinnamon waffles, but sometimes I make pancakes or eggs and that introduces the second problem with the feeding schedule--dishes. I want to go back to my college self and slap him silly for thinking that washing dishes was hard. I wash more dishes in one day than I did in a week when I was single. The sad thing is that my sink was always full of dirty dishes that I would clean when I needed them. If I let dishes pile up in the sink now, the whole house is paralyzed. When my wife and I were newly married, her grandparents came to see us and the dishes were my job then too. My wife was traumatized to find out that her grandmother did our dishes before she got home from work. I still think about that day when the dishes are piling up.

Lunch and dinner are infinitely harder on the feeding front. This introduces the third problem with feeding two small children--the waste. I feel terribly guilty about the sheer mass of food that I throw away on a regular basis. For a while I went the "Momnivore" route and tried to survive on the food that they didn't eat, but I felt like a vulture waiting for them to confirm that they were done eating, and we would very often have a meltdown from a child who was suddenly hungry for what I had just eaten. I also thought it would help me lose weight, but it had the opposite effect.

If we lived in the country I would get pigs and feed them solely on the food that my girls don't eat. Those would be some award winning pigs. I have also considered opening up a stand at a farmers market to sell the leftovers for compost or to some starving college student.

The only sure-fire thing that they will eat without complaint is macaroni and cheese, and lucky for me, they don't like the microwave variety--it has to be Kraft Three Cheese shells--Thanks to my wife, who likes it too. The pigs would have a great time with the green beans, apples, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc..., but they would have to do without macaroni and cheese.

This leads me to the really big problem with feeding two small children. It is demoralizing and painful (yes I am being overly dramatic) to spend a lot of time preparing a meal that you think is going to be a hit and be healthy, only to have your kids push it around on their plate and say that it smells funny or that they don't like it. With that in mind, Mom, I have to apologize. I am sorry for complaining about the Shake and Bake chicken, or the Old El Paso taco night. I am sorry for complaining that we had pork chops or orange roughy too often. I am sorry for every time that I ever turned my nose up to anything you cooked for me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ode to a Special Dad

This is mainly a blog about funny things or stupid mistakes, but it is also about being a dad. Today I want to dedicate this blog to a special dad who passed away after a battle with cancer.

Guy Vitale was a wonderful dad and great guy and his life is an inspiration to me. I have known him for a long time, because he was a friend of my parents and a neighbor to my cousins, but I didn’t really get to know him until a fishing trip to Canada about 18 years ago. On that trip I got to know a kind and funny man who liked to goof around and be silly—far from the serious businessman that I thought he was. Don’t get me wrong, he was a successful businessman, but that was only a small part of his personality.

Shortly after our trip to Canada, my parents unfortunately divorced. Don’t worry this blog isn’t about divorce. One of the many drawbacks of divorce is that friends don’t seem to know how to handle it. There are three ways that people handle a divorce in their social circle. The first and most common way that people handle a divorce is that they choose sides. For some reason they felt that if my parents couldn’t share a home anymore that they couldn’t share friends either. Other people abandoned my parents altogether. The last option available to friends is to stay friends with both people.

I have been and will always be grateful to Guy for being one of the few people who remained a good friend to both my parents.

He helped me with a job when I needed it, and I am one a many that he did that for. There are too many moments of kindness from Guy that I can mention in one blog, but to Guy I say thank you. Thank you for being an example of a good and kind man. Thank you for being a kind and gracious friend to my family and me. Thank you for showing me how to be silly and fun and still work hard and succeed. To the Vitale family I can only say how sorry I am for your loss. He was the real deal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Precious Tomboy and the Girly Bulldozer

I'm getting tired of labeling my daughters the Four-year-old and the Two-year-old, but I am not going to publish their names online until they are old enough to give me permission, so I have decided to give them online names that are indicative of their personalities.

My oldest daughter will from now on be referred to as the Precious Tomboy. She prefers to play with boys and generally plays with toys that society sees as boy toys. She likes to play with cars, trains, and action figures and while she does play with dolls, usually it seems to be her way of acting like an adult or big sister because all she does is put them to sleep or in time out. She also hates dresses and loves her t-shirts and running shoes. The precious part refers to the elements of her personality that society sees as feminine. She is a wonderful and gentle big sister. She is a perfectionist and likes everything to be a certain way. She also has a flare for the dramatic. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the world is going to end in seconds or the tag on her shirt is itching her neck. She loves to run and play in the dirt but heaven forbid she gets too dirty or an ant happens to scamper within three feet of her.

My two-year-old is just the opposite and will be referred to as the Girly Bulldozer or just the Bulldozer. She loves dolls, babies, pretty shoes, and dresses, but she is very likely to get those pretty clothes covered in dirt while she jumps and rolls around in any dirt she can find. She is an instigator too. She likes to cause trouble and she likes to play rough, especially with her sister. Both girls are pretty athletic, but the Precious Tomboy has the classic advanced language skills of a girl, while the Bulldozer's physical development seems to be outpacing her language skills.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I am not a purple dinosaur!

My mom likes to tell the story of how I didn't talk until I was two years old. She says that my older brother and sister spoke for me, so I had no need to speak for myself. Now that my four-year-old tries to speak for my two-year-old, I understand why I have spent my life trying to find my own voice.

Sometimes the older one is indispensable as a translator. There are times when my two year old is desperately crying for something I can't understand.

"Daayy awnt joo peas."
"She said she wants juice please."
"Thank you sweetie"

That is an easy one, but it is hard to remember some of the gobbledygook she says sometimes. The real problem is when the older one is obviously completely wrong in her translations. Sometimes it is a little self serving like, "She told me she wanted me to play with her doll." or "But Daddy, she wants to share her candy with me." But there are also days when the imagination mixes with her flare for the dramatic.

"I am not a purple dinosaur!"
"She called me a purple dinosaur! I am not a purple dinosaur!"
"Honey, she didn't call you a purple dinosaur"
"Yes she did. I am not a purple dinosaur!"

This usually happens on the same day that the tag on her shirt is itching her neck and needs to be cut off, and the macaroni and cheese is too hot and burns her mouth so badly that she needs ice. My absolute least favorite unneeded dramatic moment happens like this:

Little Sister says, "No" to absolutely nothing I can understand.
Big sister says, "Yes" just to oppose her sister.
"Yes", now they are both crying.
"Yes, Daddy I was saying yes and now she is saying yes too."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Go Go Gadget Stroller!

I have to tread lightly here. The last thing I want is to offend my fellow stay at home parents, whom I respect, admire, and pity all at the same time, but I can’t let this go. I am talking about the stroller industry. I know we live in a consumer driven economy that needs us to buy stuff, but the stroller stuff is getting a little ridiculous.

I take my girls to the local arboretum on occasion and since it is usually a weekday, we are there with either mothers and their kids or older people. This problem isn’t confined to mothers though. I will call the condition Swiss Army Stroller Mania or SASM. Picture this: I step out of our van, put on my backpack (my version of a manly diaper bag—possible later entry), pick up my two-year-old, grab my four-year-old’s hand and start walking. We walk past a woman who heaves a large contraption out of her trunk and proceeds to flip it open to reveal a three-wheeled stroller that looks like a Mars exploration vehicle with a mobile of farm animals hanging over the five-point seat belt system that was designed with infant race car drivers in mind. It doesn’t end there. She proceeds to lug two bags out of the trunk and shove them in the cargo compartment under the stroller, and finally pulls one child out of her car. One three-year-old boy. I must have missed the warning signs on the way into the arboretum that stated:

Warning, people have been known to get lost in the arboretum for days.
Please pack enough food and supplies for at least three days.
If you do get lost, and your stroller is newer than three years old, Don’t Panic—the manufacturers of your stroller have installed emergency locator beacons.

The stroller issue occupies a large part of being a parent, so I will address it in sections. In other words, to be continued…

Monday, August 9, 2010

Grocery Store Etiquette

As a stay at home dad, I spend more time than I care to admit at the grocery store. Some trips are long and expensive and I usually have my girls, but I also have quick trips by myself. In all these trips to the store, I have noticed that people need some help in the do's and don'ts of grocery store etiquette.

1. This is a big one. When you are checking out and the nice cashier is scanning your items and the wonderful bagger is sorting them, you need to be doing your job. Don't just stand there--pull out your checkbook and start writing the check or pull out your credit card and swipe it. Seriously, the next person in front of me at checkout who pulls out his or her debit card after all the items are bagged is going to suffer #2 on my do and don't list.

2. Back it up lady. Pushing your cart up against my butt in the checkout line is not going to get you out of the store any faster. In fact, I might just move a little slower just to piss you off.

3. Move it or lose it. Don't leave your cart and then stand three feet away and try to decide what item to pick out. Keep moving.

4. Watch out for little kids. Two year olds have a tendency to wander and they have been known to populate grocery stores. The other problem with two year olds is that their height makes them easy targets for being launched. A physics professor may describe it better, but when you bend your knee to take a step it seems to have just the right leverage to launch a two year old into a sprawling face plant onto the hard floor of the grocery store, so keep an eye out.

5. Keep your hands to yourself. There was a time in our country when it was okay to touch other people's kids. That time has passed. You better be darn sure that a kid is about to hurt herself very badly before you elect to be a good samaritan and reach out to grab her. My youngest was standing in the cart waiting for me to put her coat on, when a nice old man decided to reach out and hold her steady. In retrospect, I appreciate the gesture, but at the time, it took every ounce of will I had not to tackle him.

I have more to say about grocery stores, but I will save them for later posts. Until then, keep these tips in mind.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Your four year old still takes a nap? You are so lucky."

There is nothing lucky about it. I may not be able to match their clothes, but I have to pat myself on the back on this one. I am really good at making my girls take a nap. You might even call me a nap expert. So if you would like to be as good as me at making your kids take naps here are a few tips from the nap master.

1. If you are driving somewhere in the morning and your kids are nodding off, yell "WAKE UP" and "DON'T GO TO SLEEP" until they are so mad at you that they are yelling "NOT NICE" and crying and completely awake. If they even think about sleeping in the car, I find that they won't take a nap.

2. I don't know what all the books say about this, but you have to let them stay in their room for a while. If you don't have the willpower, get it because it can take a while. I decline to be specific about how long I let them stay in their room before I give in just in case anybody out there is secretly reporting my bad parenting to the bad parenting police.

3. If you like to believe that you are selfless when it comes to your kids, get selfish because you need the nap as much as they do. I am not saying you have to sleep, but you need the time to decompress. Put them in their room for the nap even if you know that all they will do is play for an hour--you both need the separation. There is nothing better than having a break and then being greeted like the great emancipator when you go get them--It is almost as good as coming home after a day away from them.

From my extensive research on the subject I can only assume that I am the best in the world at getting kids to take naps, so just follow my impeccably written instructions and you might be half as good as me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You mean I can't just vacuum?

Keeping house, Housekeeping whatever you want to call it. I think this might be a problem. How often are you supposed to clean the bathrooms? Do you dust once a week or more often? I vacuum when the dog hair piles up in the corners, but is that enough. I know that this post is going to embarrass my wife, because I am not a very good housekeeper.

I have a theory. Everyone hates cleaning, especially parents of small children. So my theory is that people either hire a cleaning person or service, or they only really clean when they know people are coming over. Of course, that could just be me. Okay I do clean the house in sections. One day I will do the upstairs--two bedrooms and bathrooms, but I usually only get to one bathroom, because I can't stand the idea of cleaning another shower. And then I feel pretty good about myself and wait a few days before cleaning the downstairs--kitchen and living room, but the mopping of the kitchen floor puts me over the top so I skip vacuuming the stairs (we have a lot of stairs, its a townhouse--small and vertical). Then a few days later I do the stairs and by then my wife comes home from work and complains about how dirty the bathrooms are.

"Are you kidding me? I just cleaned them."
"When did you clean them last?"
"Well, I did the stairs today, the kitchen two days ago... Its been about a week I guess." About a week translates into more like a week and a half, sorry Honey.
"That is gross. Bathrooms need to be cleaned at least every four days."
"Thats impossible. Nobody cleans their bathrooms every four days."
"My family does."
"Of course they do."

Every four days? I am happy about the choice we made for me to stay home with the girls, but of all the crappy things a stay at home parent has to do, I think the absolute worst must be to clean the bathrooms every four days. Okay, it might be a tie with doing dishes twice a day, but they both suck. I find it hard to believe that with all the technological advancements that we haven't invented a way of automatically cleaning a bathroom. I think we should just make everything in the bathroom waterproof and seal the door and have a system that cleans the whole room like a dishwasher or something. Just close the door and push a button and everything gets shiny clean and sanitary. Until then, my wife may have to settle for once a week or when people come over.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Everybody Poops

Okay, I stole the title from a "Dinosaur Train" episode, but there is more important business to take care of before we move on. For anyone who might be offended by a frank discussion of bodily functions, or anyone who might think me a terrible father for discussing bodily functions with my daughters, this is fair warning that you might not want to keep reading.

If you do keep reading you are also agreeing to a long and hard to read contract that I have thought up all on my own that states that you will not speak to either of my daughters about the contents of this particular entry in this blog until they are at least twenty-five years old. If you do happen to mention this blog to my girls at the age of thirteen, I reserve the right to tip off the FBI that there are terrorists living in your home that are planning to hide explosives in various internal bodily cavities. (For any government agency that might be reading this blog or covertly monitoring the keystrokes on my computer, that was a joke.)

"Daddy, why do you pee standing up?"
"Because I can."
"I wish I had a front butt like you." Front butt is her own creation.
"Why sweetie?"
"So I could pee standing up."

"Who tooted?"
"I think it was the dog."
"It smells like your toots daddy."
"How do you know?"
"Did you toot daddy?"
"Yes, honey." And yes there was a little bit of pride.

Is there a parenting manual that says that girls can't burp or talk about farts? I know that part of parenting is teaching your children about limits and appropriate language and behavior, and that there is a right and a wrong place to talk about things, but I refuse to teach my girls to be ashamed of the things that everyone does. When there is air in your stomach, you need to burp. When there is air lower than your stomach, you need to fart, gas, toot etc... When you eat, the parts of the food that your body can't digest have to leave your body somehow--and what comes out as a result can tell you a lot about your health. Everybody burps. Everybody farts. Everybody poops, and find someone who claims to have never tried to fart and had a little bit more than air come out, and you have found a liar.

"Daddy, I pooped."
"Can you please wipe me?"
"Of course."
"I pooped three big poops. Are you proud of me daddy?"
"Of course sweetie." Absolutely.
"Why are they green?"

Friday, July 30, 2010

Questions, Questions, Why, Why, seriously, Why?

I wish my daughter would ask me why the sky is blue, because I feel like I could answer that. I know I know, questions are a sign of learning, but when the toast is burning, my two year old is crying, and the dog just dropped a turd in every room in the house to punish me for forgetting to walk him, I can't handle the inevitable and impossible "Why is it Tuesday?" from my four year old. "Because it is." I reply in a tone that I should never use with anybody, let alone my precious and sensitive daughter. To which she replies,(in a twist of bitter irony, because I say this to her)"Because isn't an answer Daddy." This situation is a hard one to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it before. I can't think of a more humbling experience, because I do all the wrong things and know they are all the wrong things as I do them. As I am yelling "What do you want?" to my crying two year old, I can almost see myself as the horrible person she sees, and then I tell my four year old "I can't handle all the questions, who cares why it is Tuesday?". Both are now crying while I mumble things like, "Why in the heck can't the stupid dog just poop in one pile like other dogs" And I know in that moment that if the dog were dumb enough to come out of hiding, that I would show my impressionable daughters the absolute wrong way to discipline a dog who makes you clean six different turds all over the house.

Lets not forget the black toast smoking in the toaster oven. "Why is the toast black daddy?"
Here is what I should have said: "Remember what we learned about how heat changes things? Some things get softer when we heat them and others get harder. Bread gets harder and if you leave it on the heat too long, it burns and turns black."

Here is what I actually said:"I burned it."

"Why did you burn the toast daddy?", "Why do we eat toast?", "Does grandma eat toast?", "Why doesn't grandma like toast?", "Why is your face red daddy?", "Why do dogs go potty outside?", "Why do dogs poop?", "Why are you spraying that on the carpet?", "Why does it smell funny?, "Why can't we touch it?", "What does toxic mean?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Packing Heavy

Why is it so hard to pack? And I don't mean packing for a trip, I mean packing for a trip out with the girls. I always forget something. I have forgotten diapers, wipes, butt medicine(as my daughters call it), extra outfits, shoes, swimming suits(backyard plastic pool at grandma's house), and everything else that is not as important. How is it that my wife never forgets? When my wife packs for a day with the girls I am reminded of a special forces soldier in a war movie who is shoving extra magazines into his vest with authority and loading his weapons with a satisfying cock of his pistol. But when I pack it is more like a thief searching someone's house for something valuable.

Where do you learn this stuff? I don't think my wife has extensive training with this. I first met her our freshman year in high school, so I am pretty sure that she didn't have some secret family before we got married where she learned how to pack for a day with the kids. There are only two logical explanations for this phenomenon. The first is all about stereotypes and excuses. I would like to believe that women just know this stuff instinctively, and that I am excused from my inability to pack. The second makes more sense. I believe that girls are held to a higher standard by their mothers. In many homes, as in mine and my wife's growing up, mothers train their daughters to do these things and let their "boys be boys". I guess its time for us boys to grow up and be responsible for the diapers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fashion Daddy

One of the hardest things about being a dad to two little girls is dressing them. I didn't grow up paying attention to whether patterns go with prints or what colors clash with each other. It is a little bit like fishing for me. When I am fishing, there are many times when I think I have a bite but it turns out to be a twig or something else, and afterwards I feel stupid because I should have known. Because when it really is a bite, there is no question that its a fish. The same thing goes for little girl's clothes--sometimes my logical mind tells me that it must match because the shirt and the pants both have pink in them and they are both from the same store, but I feel unsure. It is only when my wife comes home and sees the outfit that I am sure that I made the wrong choice. She comes in to the usual chorus of yelling "mommys home, mommys home" and she gets mauled and squeezed and there are yelps of pleasure and it is one of moments that all parents live for, but there is the inevitable calming and they give her enough space to breathe and I get the look of kind condescension. Sometimes her nice way of telling me that I screwed up is to ask the girls if they picked out their own clothes, but the message rings clear enough. I failed. Not only do they not go together, but they really don't go together--like she is pained by the idea that her beautiful little girls were out in public looking like a colorblind monkey dressed them. I know I had it right when there is no conversation about their clothes, and I usually know I was right anyway.

When my girls were still attending daycare, I had confirmation that my wife was not the only critic of my dressing skills. She had gone to the extreme measure of picking out their clothes the night before--I thought the move was unnecessary and hid behind the idea that they were little and it didn't matter what they wore. We feed them, shelter them, love them and nurture them--what does it matter what they wear at one and three years old. The first day with mommy picking clothes was a Monday and I happened to bump into the daycare director on the way in. She said, "The girls look really cute today." I cringed at the "today" qualifier. Don't they look really cute everyday? I also felt the twinge of a certain realization. So I said, "Their mom decided to pick out their outfits, because she doesn't think I can". To which she replied, "Smart choice. We can tell when you dress them." Thanks a lot.

Now my wife buys clothes with a clever little trick. They have a swatch of the pattern from the shorts in a cute little picture on the shirt--fool proof. Don't worry, I still put the occasional pattern with a print.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Choice

Long before we had kids, my wife and I talked about our collective responsibilities when we did have kids. She was in the beginning stages of an accounting career, and I was doing the same in the hopes of a teaching/writing career. Her ambitions were in a field that we knew were going to require very long hours, and mine allowed me the freedom to be home more with the kids that we didn't have yet, so we agreed that if it was at all possible, I would stay home. Well, we did have kids, two beautiful little girls and when my first was born I was an adjunct english instructor at a local university so my limited hours allowed for part-time daycare and I had my first taste of being a stay at home dad. But then I became a full time instructor, and we had our second child and daycare expense grew. It got to the point where it felt like I was working to pay daycare, and you add in all the other little stresses like getting the up in the morning so I could drive forty-five minutes to an eight a.m. class. The straw came in the form of news that my wife's job was relocating to the city and neither of us liked the idea of me being forty-five minutes away and her being an hour away by train in case anything happened to the girls in daycare. So, four years after my first daughter was born, I became a full-time stay at home dad.

This blog will chronicle the mistakes I have made and will make along with the experiences I have had and will have with my girls, my wife, and all the people who have opinions on our choice and my parenting ability. Here is one example of the latter that was one of the reasons I have been wanting to write this blog for a long time.

My oldest was only six months old and I was still able to keep her in the car seat through a whole trip to Target. We walked around the store and I have to admit I enjoyed all the attention of the various women who would smile and coo at her, because of course she is as cute and wonderful as they all said she was. I felt like I was doing it right. I felt like a dad who had it together and all these moms were telling me "good job" and "way to go". So we get in line to check out and lady walks by and grabs my daughter's foot and says "Is daddy watching you today sweetie, is daddy a good babysitter".

Okay, I was slightly offended. When a woman walks her baby through a Target at 11 a.m. on a Friday, does anyone ask the baby if her mommy is "watching her", or call her mom a babysitter? No. But that is not all. I put my things on the belt and swipe my card and the cashier who happens to be a woman in her fifties grabs my daughter's foot again. The second uninvited touch to the most precious person in the world to me threw me a little so I almost didn't notice the offense in her question, which was directed at me. "What a cute baby, do you have a blanket in the car?"

Now I was more than slightly offended. Keep your opinions about how I dress my daughter and keep her warm on a seventy degree day to yourself. Okay it was closer to fifty-five that day and she was a little cold and, yes it was a rookie dad mistake, but still, keep your opinions to yourself and don't assume that I am a second rate parent because of my sex.

I realize that I may sound a little bit like some of the nimrods in the world who cry reverse racism or reverse sexism and believe me--I know that I will always have a lot to learn when it comes to parenting. But the reality is that stay at home parenting is the proud domain of women (rightfully so, I admit that there are many things that my wife still does better than me despite her full time job) I just would like to not feel so alien in all the places that stay at home parents take their kids when everyone else is working.