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?"