Sunday, March 25, 2007

"And As We Wind on Down the Road....

our shadows taller than our souls"

Family road trip this past weekend. The first leg was a killer. 8 hours in the car for me and the boys, for a 4 to 4 1/2 hour trip (Yes, Demi was there too. She was far from sipping Mai-tai's on the beach, but she was not in the car the entire'll see). We knew we had 2 to 2 1/2 hours to kill for a stop. So after some research on the web I had located a park near our stop in CT, where I planned to play baseball with the kids. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies with a temperature of 58 degrees.

Sidebar: Yes, Lefty, I did some research on CT. While you had a valid point in your rebuttal about construction on Route 1 in Saugus, I had a South Shore kid and don't much venture over the Tobin Bridge. So what is with all the wholesome "VIP" bill boards in CT. Just you wait until your girls are old enough to read.

So back to the car, the kids had been great. We stopped to pick up breakfast, played some games, and then Demi and I let the boys watch a little video on the travel DVD. Madagascar. Another quality family film. 4 out of 5 Chins. You haven't lived until you have seen Coco "move it, move it!!!" shaking his money maker for all it is worth. We caught a break and my wife's appointment in CT was able to be moved up almost 2 hours (which was great because we both miscalculated, even allowing for traffic). After dropping off Demi, we wandered over to the park. About 20-25 minutes into the boys running around the playground, the drop started falling from the sky. Not much at first, but it sent all the soccer moms with their toddlers back to their SUV's and station wagons. The boys and I toughed it out for 10-15 more minutes but then it started to pour. We booked it back to the Pilot (Demi's football/baseball mom SUV) and had lunch. Lunch was breezed through and we still had a lot of time to kill. Another DVD was not an option unless I wanted to run the car. So I pulled out Eragon with I had been reading to the boys at night (mostly Caz, but Coco will put in stints here and there). I read for an hour and five minutes. The boys just curled up next to me, sat there, and listened the entire time. I was amazed. I thought they had definitely earned some Looney Toons for the second part of the ride.

As we slowly made our way to the border of CT and NY (the usual heavy traffic), Caz caught sight of the "Welcome to NY" sign with the Miss Liberty backed by Old Glory.

Caz exclaimed, "We're in NY, that is where the Statue of Liberty is!"

Followed up by Coco, "Yeah, but we're from where the American Flag is."

Demi and I gave each other a look that said, "Yes, only us. Only MA has the American Flag." Well, who was I to tell my son differently?

About 20 minutes later but not much further up 95, Caz had a follow up comment. "We are definitely in NY."

"How can you tell?", I asked.

"Because we are not moving."

Ah, they learn so much at such a young age.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Do Unto Others....

The most important thing I learned from my Dad was about sacrificing for your family, your wife and children. At least a dozen times in the last few weeks I have over heard or received direct comments about what an amazing man my father is. My sister in-law, Patricia, wanted to know if it was OK if we shared my Dad as our own hero. She is hardly alone in that respect. If you ask my Dad for help, he is always there. Even if you don't ask, he is still there.

That is probably why my brother and I try to spoil him rotten for his birthday or Christmas.
It's hard to do, the man has every tool and electronic gadget known to man. Of course it is usually my brother and I that have to read the directions for these gadgets but it's a more than fair trade off.

It's easy to look back now and see all the things my father did, than when we were actually growing up. It's like trying to explain what it's like having kids to those who don't have kids. They nod their heads but until they actually have kids, they cannot truly understand or appreciate it fully. Everything my Dad did, was to be able to better provide for his family. It was nice that he got to a point where he could get some toys for himself, but that was never the point. I think he got a bigger kick out watching my brother and me us those toys, whether it was a TV or his convertible I took to the prom.

My Dad came to this country as a young kid with nothing. I'm sure that put things into a perspective while he was growing up, that I can't even fathom. When he married my mother, he made sure he was going to be able to provide for her and the kids he wanted to have. He took all kinds of jobs ranging from bouncer, to school bus driver, to police officer, and finally to auto body mechanic. Some of those he worked at the same time. And on top of those there was night school for college and classes for his US Citizenship.

No matter what my Dad had going on it was geared towards providing for the family or set aside to spend time with the family. He coached my soccer team in first grade. He didn't know the first thing about soccer but he bought a book and fielded a team, so I could play. He bought on of the first Betamax video players so his family could watch movies at home ( I think he still has it and it's probably one of the thousand ever made. It's a collector's item at this point.) He videotaped every football my brother and I ever played, eventually becoming the official team videographer for the High School. He took us camping. Once. He hates camping. But his boys wanted to go camping. This is all off the top of my head. I could keep going. On the grade scale of self sacrifice, does it rate a 10? Did he donate a kidney? No. But did he have to? No. Would he have, if he had to? Heck yes.

It every subtle way I knew (and still know) the man was there for me if I needed it. Actually even if I didn't need it or didn't know I needed it, he was there. You should know this: The man keeps a journal for every car in the house (and every car we have ever had) to track the oil changes (that he changes. But finally he's let me solo on that.), tire air pressure checks, and other random routine maintenance checks. I've asked him why. He doesn't want us breaking down on the highway somewhere, stranded. Good enough. I would never attempt to change a tire on the highway. Not because I can't. But because he told me not to do it. He says there are too many crazies out there, who don't slow down. He's afraid I'd get hit on the side of the road.

It is clear that the things my Dad treasures in life is us, his family. So that is what I treasure in my life, my wife and sons. My family comes first. Always. My friends have been forgiving enough to allow for that. I don't get out to see them as much as I would like. I find that going out for a drink after work is not a good trade for the time I miss with my sons. In that scenario I wouldn't see them that day. I only have a few precious hours at night during the work week. I'm sure they roll their eyes when I do go out, when I say, "I will meet you out after I put the kids to bed."

I probably take it a bit to the extreme. I will actually feel guilty going to Starbucks, thinking "for the price of this coffee, I could buy a pack of Yu-Gi-Oh cards for one of the boys." I know I need to take care of myself, but I choose to prioritize in this manner. And I know it all comes from my Dad. I try to verbalize how much I love and appreciate him (I don't want Mom to think I am leaving her out. I think she gets that this is for Dads and about Dads). I hope he understands all that. Just as I hope my boys understand how much they mean to me.

So I pass along to my Dads-to-be this post, hoping they take stock of the responsibilities ahead. I know you can do it. It's a lot to take in but keep striving for that balance (see previous postings where I expound on the meaning of life.)

So I sign off thus: Thank you Dad! For Everything.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hodge Podge

"Beware the ides of March"

Some random thoughts and notes for you Dads-to-be:

*Have a say in the list for the baby shower. Ask for the following:
  • 2 Diaper Genies - What a great invention! Sure emptying the diaper sausage link might look funny and be a bit of challenge, but the diaper changing task can be daunting. There are times you are going to have to act quickly and you will love having the Genie around to quickly stuff in the used diaper and get back to business. Why 2? One for each main floor/changing area.
  • Get the car seat that comes with a stroller. Get an extra base for that car seat if you have more than one car. It's worth the extra spending to not have to switch it between cars. Learn to strap it in before you have the baby. It makes the coming home from the hospital, that much smoother.
  • Since you will be carrying the diaper bag most of the time, you might want to pick out a style suited for you. If you like the man-bag or European carry-all, knock yourself out. Keep it loaded with hand sanitizer.
  • Which leads to this: Keep a lot of hand sanitizer around. We had those pumps in the car, in the kitchen, nursery, in the diaper bag. You want to invest in a healthy supply.
  • Which then leads to: get a membership at BJ's or Costco( or put one on the registry list). You will be amazed at how quickly you go through diapers, wipes, and formula. Don't get cute and bulk up too much on the diapers though. Babies grow like weeds and are into the next diaper size up before you know it. You don't want 10 extra boxes of size 2 when they are into a size 3.
  • Wipes are great. They will take out a lot of stains better than club soda.
  • Go heavy on the onesies. Baby one piece underwear. Very utilitarian. Learn a real life lesson from an acquaintance, the onsie goes over the diaper but under the pants......In the summer, that is the outfit of choice.
  • Buy larger sizes but keep the seasons in mind (see the aforementioned, "babies grow like weeds" entry. Buying a large pair of shorts for the kid to grow into in December, is not a sound investment choice.
  • LL Bean winter jackets are the way to go.


  • Ductape is the solution to a lot of problems. After you rip that first sticky tab on a diaper, you will see what I mean.
  • Diaper rash makes everyone crazy and irritated. Balmex baby. Lather it on. Change diapers frequently.
  • I only have little boys as a frame of reference but: cold air + exposed nether regions = duck! Be ready for it. It's going to happen. Be faster. I found smothering the stream with the old diaper worked best. You might need to bath the little one though after the back splash.
  • Sleep when you can. Learn to love the power nap.

I am sure I forgot a lot of things. But it's a start anyway.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Night at the Movies

I like movies. All kinds of movies. They are a great, temporary escape. From everything. There was a time when I used to go see at least one a week. Usually it was half price night, every Tuesday, with my pal, Butch. That was before the advent of the $10 movie ticket. Even the matinee shows now cost more than a full price ticket in my movie prime. Butch and I covered the spectrum from Ferris Beuller's Day Off and Major League, to Batman, and to The Blair Witch Project. We saw a lot of movies. Of course it does seem like the movie experience was a lot better back then, and just movies in general. I mean, Nicholson, in Batman? How great was that?

Now, on the occasions I do get out to the cinema, my choice of fare is usually heavily loaded with animation. I am lucky enough that my boys are able to handle some more mature movies (meaning not necessarily young child movies) that allows me to get my Sci-fi/Fantasy fix like Eragon, Narnia, Revenge of the Sith, and Fantastic Four (Caz still walks around proclaiming that "it's clobbering time!"). Sometimes that works out really well for me because I will get to see a movie twice: once for a due diligence viewing and a second time, if the movie passes muster, with the boys. I was even able to take Caz to the Return of the King. A 3 hour plus movie, and only one bathroom trip. I did have a lot of concern that the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies would be too violent for my boys. We had some long talks before they got to see those about movies, stories, and reality. And even then I reserved the right to cover their eyes.

My kids are great in movies. My wife and I taught them early one, that the cinema was like a library except it is OK to laugh out loud. They don't talk during the movies. That stuff drives me nuts. You get people who think they are watching a movie in their living room. I think that is the negative impact of the DVD culture. Don't get me wrong, I love my DVD collection. But you get so used to watching without other people around that you tune them out (and common courtesy) at the movies. Just a theory. It could be that I am just naive and people just s*ck.....But I am not a pessimist my nature. The family movies setting seems to be the worst. You get people all the time that think it's a good idea to bring a screaming baby to the movies. Or think it is family chat time. But I will say that the worst offenders seem to be senior citizens. You get a senior couple at a movie and you know you are going to get commentary through out. I think it is either they are old and don't care, or are old and can't hear each other. Demi and I saw an early evening show while visiting her mother in Delray Beach, Florida (aka Del Boca Vista). There were 5 other couples, and we were the youngest couple by 30 -40 years. The entire movie there were 5 conversations going on. Aye carumba!

Well now that the venting is done, the point of this was a movie review. Flushed Away came out on DVD recently with voice overs by Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet. This is a great family movie. I give it a 4 out of 5 Chins. There is some good humor for everyone. I get a kick out of seeing my kids laugh. They have a totally different perspective on what is funny. And how can you, as an adult, not laugh at a 6 and 8 year old singing Tom Jones: "whoa, whoa she's a lady!" They have the dance moves down and everything. Flushed Away is definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Big Bang Theory

It seems the most popular question that I am getting from friends lately is, "why did you start this?" Mostly, I think this stems from not knowing just how much I do write. They know I write the family's yearly holiday letter/poem. That usually goes over fairly well. But I don't think a lot of people knew how much I tend to write on a semi-regular basis. It's funny how having children alters your schedule.

It's not that I have actively hidden it up until now. I just didn't actively advertise it either. I am reminded of my freshmen year in college. I had been on campus about two months and had made friends with a senior in my dorm that lived directly below me. We still didn't know a whole lot about each other but we liked to hang out. Paul had a friend that was a junior, Earl, who I was also getting to know. Well I came down to Paul's room one evening to see what was going on and if I had to guess, see about having a beer. Paul and Earl were dressed up in sport coats looking reading to head out. I asked them, "What's up? Where are you going?" They looked like the proverbial deer in the head lights. They looked at each other hoping the other was going to answer. Finally one of them confessed, "ah, we're going to a poetry reading." I think they figured me for the stereo-typical former high school jock and I might make fun of them. They both visibly sighed with relief when I answered, "Oh. That's cool." I think I surprised them. I like surprising people.

The "why?" part I think I have answered. "Why now?" Why not now. Blogs are an effective medium. My kids are older now and more self sufficient, which allows me a bit more time for some extracurricular activities. So yes Dad-to-be, you will get some time for yourselves. But before you go joining the golf league, you may want to see if they have a 5-7 year wait list.

I also figure that I have a few years of perspective under my belt. I am still learning as I go, but I would say that I have been called up from AAA for the Show. It's a pretty decent analogy because I could be sent back down at anytime. While I am up in the Show, I might as well impart what I have learned on to the guys I know (or don't know) that are about to break into A ball.

Monday, March 12, 2007

To Be or Not To Be

I have previously mentioned that I currently have a few friends and family expecting their first child. I don' think any of them are finding out the gender of their baby beforehand (or at least they are not fessing up about it. I can't blame them, Demi and I kept it secret the second time around.). So for them, I have this conundrum: To circumcise or not to circumcise? That is the question.

I know. The subject matter brings up a lot of anxiety for both Moms and Dads. Moms don't really understand it since they are not familiar with the equipment. Dads just get that sick feeling, way down past the pit of their stomachs. I will say that on this topic, Demi and I did a lot of research. A lot of research. I will spare you all the gory details and say you can sum it up with this: It is all out personal preference. You go with what you know. Sources can quote you all the health-related, scientific, and religious data. You can find an argument for either side. It is more of a quandry than Tastes Great/Less Filling. Or Dan versus Dan. But it really boils down to style. What looks good to you?

The best advice I can give you is to pay attention to the instructions for post care no matter what you choose. You will have a lot going on, a recovering wife, sleep deprivation, diaper changing, spitting up, and the list goes on. I give you this real life example. Our friends, the Lynns, had a baby boy a week before we had our son. Another baby boy was born the same day in this hospital and that family shared resources with them. Again, keep in mind you have some new experiences to deal with. So you have this blackened stump where the belly button should be and will be. You need to treat this a few times a day with rubbing alchohol to speed up the drying out process. It will eventually shrivel up and fall off.

Now you may also have a fresh circumisition to treat. Like any wound you need to care for it precisely. Every change of diaper requires fresh gauze and vaseline. You don't want it healing and drying onto the diaper. That would be worse than pulling off the bandaid. No our friends, the Lynns, are in the baby bathing area and changing their little bundle of joy, when the other baby boy lets our a blood curdling shriek. Not a newborn cry, but a "this is the end of the world as we know it" cry. The new parents next to them had both the vaseline and rubbing alchohol out. Remember when I said to pay attention to directions? Yes. They reversed the treatments for the different "ailments." Talk about your cruel and unusual. Learn from this. I implore you. Learn from history.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


My buddy, Lefty, was disappointed that I haven't given equal time to LOST yet. So Lefty, here we go.

At least LOST has taken a lesson from 24 with the second half of the season, by going with all new episodes the rest of the way. I think a lot of fans got frustrated during season 2, when the TV execs started with the Moonlighting format of one new episode every 3-4 weeks, if you were lucky. 24 got it right with the 4 hour, 2 night kick-off, followed by a new episodes every week.

But, I digress. Good show last week. A great combination of flashbacks and current action. We needed Sayid back in the fold. He's a great character. Poor Sayid. The tragic hero. Can he ever exercise the demons.

So Locke. Your two friends are searching the Flame, you are guarding a prisoner, so now is a good time to play the PC in Chess? AT least the Dharma video diverged from the numbers this time. I guess you can't use them all of the time.

Dharma knew about the hostiles. So now who are the hostiles? The Hanso Foundation? We figured Dharma recruited Juliet through a shell corporation, Mittleos (lost time).

Walt's teacher/tester is shot. Speaking of Walt and Michael, that's quite a 3 hour tour they are on.

The second half has been good so far. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Nature versus Nurture

Dogs may like trucks, but little boys absolutely love trucks. And dinosaurs. I think those are universal constants. There are some other things that are close to that level, like Legos and sword fighting, but I think Dinos and trucks top the list. My sons knew more types of construction vehicles by the age of two, than I ever recall existing. The one good thing to come out of the Big Dig, was that traveling through Boston kept my sons occupied for a good amount of time. They watched out the window and named every truck they saw. (Still not worth the billions we paid, but there is something to be said for child entertainment on road trips.)

Thus we have the age old debate, how much of this is based on instinct and how much of this is learned? (This actually ties in nicely to my post on Sports Loyalty. Until the age of 25, I had been to NY once. And at age 18, that trip still represents my only trip to NYC (thank you Butch). But yet I knew that NYC was a source of great amongst yourselves. Discuss......)

WARNING: I am now about to venture outside the bounds of normal, polite table conversation.


There is no quantifiable data to support this, so don't look for any. Any you will have to take it on faith, that what I am telling you is accurate and true.

My eldest son is fascinated with his gas passing. It has become an announced event (fortunately only in private, here at home. Lucky us. But he seems to have the good sense not to exhibit this behavior in public.) and a source of great humor. Now society always blames this particular trait or habit on the Dad. The fairness of that is an argument for another day. There is this whole myth (or farce, if you will) around women and that subject matter. Here is where the leap comes in. I am not to blame. At no time has my son witnessed this behavior in this house.

At age 5, all four of us were sprawled out on two couches watching a family movie. My oldest son and I sat on one couch, with Demi and Coco on the other. About halfway through the movie, Caz gets up and wanders over by the other couch. Never taking his eyes off the TV, slowly, slowly, he backed up, until he was about even with my wife's head. He stood as still as can be for about two minutes, and then sauntered back over to me. As he did so my wife turned a pale shade of green and started fanning at the air. "OMG, -insert my child's full name, complete with middle name, here - what did you just do?!" At that, he just burst out laughing.

Now I ask you, never having seen that behavior, where did that come from? Cartoons and kids shows? Maybe? Genetic disposition based on gender? Who knows? You could make an argument that boys are prone to that. As Demi says, "Boys are gross!"

For me, I though the funniest thing was the spontaneity. I mean who doesn't find the basic Dutch Oven funny? But he came up with that whole plan by himself. Bonus points for creativity.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Scrub Up

Guys. Listen. You are going to birthing class. You might as well accept it. Peel it off in one swipe, like a band-aid. If I could have done it all in one shot I would have. I ended up in two half day classes on successive Saturdays. So all in all, not too bad.

Do you get anything useful out of it? Eh. It's up for debate. It all about the comfort factor. The comfort that you and the Mommy to be, feel like you did something to prep for the big event. You did your due diligence.

It gets pretty graphic. I won't lie to you. But it pales in comparison to the live event. So Cowboy Up!

One take is that it is a big sell job. The breathing. The ice chips. The cool face clothe. The timing of the contractions with the stop watch.........It's all cr*p! It's the fairy tale of the delivery story.

Our birthing instructor was actually a bit of a naturalist. And by that, I mean a hippie. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but one suggestion was for the pregnant woman to take a walk and lean against a tree, to be at one with nature. Demi would have ripped my head off, if I had said, "hey, let's go find a tree."

But I digress. The old bait and switch. That's where I was going with this. The class makes it sound like this neat and organized process. Bubkis. It's mayhem. The doctors and nursed just learn to adapt. Dads, you are just along for the ride. If ever you were going to use the "yes dear" approach, now would be the time. Don't think. Just do.

Focal point? Demi didn't open her eyes for the hour and a half of active labor. And by the time that set in, she had already told me to "get that thing out of my face."

Rhythmic breathing? As long as both are breathing, you are in the game. Long, short, erratic, whatever. You try to get her to breathe in rhythm and you are taking your life into your own hands.

Ice Chips? Other than to get the dad out of the room, I think they serve no real purpose. They formed a nice puddle on the nightstand though.

Cool face clothe? Toss up. Early on I think Demi got some comfort out of it. But again, into active labor...."don't touch me".

"Get the nurse." Fellas. Haul a** and get the nurse. A) again you are risking your well being B) Do you really want to play Jason Varitek? I had a doctor by me and I still had to scrub up to back up first base in case of an overthrow.

This is the biggest job of your life. I can't provide you a to do list, checklist, or handbook. Be ready for anything. Don't think, just do. Revert back to your childhood and play army. You are the private. Snap to and obey the orders of the General. It is really best for everybody. Good luck.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Pre-Game Prep

As I stated in my first post, there wasn't a lot of information coming my way when I found out that Demi and I were expecting our first child. Women were offering advice to my wife all the time. Women would stop her in the grocery store, or out at dinner, and it didn't matter if we were in the middle of eating or not. It seemed that someone always had some words of advice for her. Especially the immediate family, they were always handing it out. It was a total renactment of the old fashioned knitting circle. Me? I would get the pity stare with the implied, "oh, I hope you are ready" or ,"wonder if he really knows what he is in for?"

Guys don't really want to talk to other guys about the process. Single guys or childless guys tend to get grossed out at the first mention. The same guys that used to pick their noses or eat paste, and then grew up to light farts or eat the pickled egg that was sitting in the neighborhood bar for 20 years. The tough guys that would go pump iron and eat protein shakes started to get flush at the first mention of child birth. I have since found that once you are a dad, all bets are off. It's not uncommon to finish up a business meeting at work with other dad's in the office and discuss the shades of green found in a recent diaper. Or whom got thrown up on at what hour in the morning. Something happens with that first diaper change that fools the brain into thinking that poo is an acceptable conversation topic for any audience.

However, there were one or two new dads that did choose to open up to me a bit and pass on some sage advice:

*"never was the phrase 'yes dear' more used or appropriate than when my wife was pregnant. If she wants ice cream at midnight, say 'yes dear', get your a** out of bed and go get some ice cream. In the long run, it is the lesser of the evils." Personally, I was fortunate. I made two Ben & Jerry's run, and it was only a stop on my way home from work. The first time however, I made a grievous mistake. I thought I was being a good guy and paying attention to my wife's laments of not wanting to gain too much weight and wanting to eat right. I came home the first trip with fat free frozen yogurt. The lasers that shot out of Demi's eyes bored a hole through my skull and out the other side. It was a pint of Chunky Monkey from then on. I just kind of left it at the doorway to the bedroom and backed away slowly.

*you will notice that it is not just cravings your wife has, but aversion to certain foods too. My wife could not stand the sight, smell, texture, or taste of chicken. You are talking about a couple that until then at chicken 3-4 times a week. Just let it go. I was fine with steak for a while.

*"take your wedding ring off in the delivery room or only give her your first two fingers to squeeze. Unless of course you want your fingers broken. Contractions will hit and she won't know what she's doing or how hard." I elected to take off my ring.

*No matter how much you pack beforehand, for the first trip, it is not enough. I came into the delivery room like Paris Hilton's bellhop. I had more luggage than the Howell's on Giligan's Island. I had two suitcases, a cooler with contents for a cocktail party, a boombox with CDs, Demi's focal point which was a stuffed Tigger doll, and a whole mish mash of miscellaneous items. You know how much of it we used? About 10% of it. Demi's PJ's and coming home clothes. I had a hand picked CD collection of tunes that Demi picked out. 10 mins into active labor and she yelled for me to shut if off, it was giving her a headache. Demi insisted on packing champagne and glasses. And while she was ready to host a cocktail party afterward, it never materialized. The focal point never made it out of the bag. The second time around we were lucky to have one bag and almost forgot the camera. The camera batteries ran out after 6 pictures.

*"The head will shape itself for the birth canal." What an understatement that was. Caz'z headed created such a cone I was expecting Rocky Road with it. I kept looking behind the curtains to make sure Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain were not lurking behind it.

*Newborns will turn every color in the spectrum in the first 5 minutes after delivery. And I mean every shade. I expected a leprechaun with a box of Lucky Charms to be hovering over my kids yelling at me for trying to steal his gold.

I think those are the big ticket items. I will add as need be. I need to check my journals again.