Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Uncool or Just Very Specific?

Dear Most Lovely People,

How do I miss thee...



So it's been a while. I'm am not angry or upset. The simple fact is that the addition of Bonus Baby to the house for about 9 hours a day has not presented me with much free time. So much so, that when it happens I tend to find things I really need to catch up on. Like showering.

I was fortunate enough to catch a little bit of a break last week when my mom came into town for a visit. I love when she comes to town. She's one of those type of guests that requires very little entertaining. She's there for the grandkids, and that's as much as she asks for really. That and vegetables to be in the house. Fair enough.

Along with her annual visit, Melissa and I get a date night or two. It's become such a rare thing that it's almost as if we've started dating all over again. While this might seem sort of romantic or maybe even a chance to renew the spark that tends to settle when you find yourself with only a handful of hours alone each night, for me it puts a lot of pressure into the evening.

Here's what I mean - We planned two nights out together, and while we were given no guidelines or time limits, we set up my mom as best we could. Meaning, we fed the kids and tried to get them in a state that they would have about an hour to wind down before bedtime. Nice, easy evening for my mom.

We approached both nights with the same conversation:

Anything you want to do?
Nope, you?

The topic went in circles over where to eat and what we might do afterwards. We both agreed that there didn't seem to be any movies playing that we had the slightest desire to go see, and I made the point that seeing something just for the sake of seeing something had a strong chance of ending with me falling asleep, not that I'd complain. So both evenings would find me driving aimlessly toward nothing, and Melissa would get irritated over the feeling that I was putting the pressure on her to come up with some fantastical idea for us to act out. She was partially right on that notion.

Then, like many parents, we hit the big question:

 Are we uncool now? Have our kids made us uncool?

Let me first answer that question with, no. It's easy to let that idea creep in, though. We found ourselves with an amazing opportunity to get out of the house and do anything at all. Anything. Yet we drew a blank until it became a valid idea to go pick up some last minute groceries. It's a frustrating thing to have some freedom and no clue what to do with it.

Then it dawned on me that cool-status was not the issue. It was expectations.

I spend a lot of time looking outside. I wonder what's going on out there. Most importantly, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I could be like those people out there. Walking around without even thinking about what a gift it is just to be out there walking around. Being a stay-at-home parent is a very important job. A job unlike any other. However, it often carries with it a sacrifice that few outside the circle can understand. So when that rare chance at freedom comes along, we want, no, it must be perfect. It must be magical. When it comes to dinner, a chance at something new sounds great! Unless the food is bad, because the food can't be bad on that most rare of occasions out of the house. A movie? Sure, but it can't be one of those movies that would work just as well on the TV a few months later. It has to be something that can't be missed on that big screen. As the sun begins to set, we can go for a walk. It just can't be through an area filled with spiderwebs or graffiti or a ton of dirt, because when we kiss I don't want to open my eyes and see I've been standing in the local dog's latest work. I want several months of magic in an evening, because it often needs to tide us over that long.

Perhaps this is a venting of sorts. Perhaps it is a reminder to get out more. Either way, I'd argue that we are not the least bit uncool. We or I, however, have very specific expectations for any evening we are out together. That's what can make date night so stressful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Only Two?

I was asked a really interesting question via facebook the other day. What if you had to put only two things on a baby registry? Two things you just couldn't see yourself living without after the baby was born.

As potential answers started to flood my head, I also became very bothered by the question. See, giving advice on these topics is something I find myself doing on a somewhat regular basis. So it was annoying that I found myself really struggling to provide only two answers. Not because I couldn't think of two viable answers, but because...seriously...two? Perhaps I'm alone, but when I started to look around the house at the editions of things we brought out or was brought over for the mere addition of Bonus Baby during the week, well, there's more than two things.

I guess it was obvious that the couple involved wasn't looking to try and live with only two additional items in their house after the baby was born. I think they were going through the same things many of us go through when trying to prepare the house for a baby. What are the things that are really important? What are the things people tend to buy that could really be done away with? What do you really want to spend those dollars on?

On a short list? I'd absolutely want the following on a registry:

Car Seat and Stroller - Can you live without these items? Of course! You can be like me and almost never leave the house. You can maybe carry your children everywhere instead of letting them ride in style. Do you want to though? I'll say this - I like the car seat/stroller combos, and I don't care about the bells and whistles. I don't care if it has seven cup holders for the adult. I never use the cup holders. Honestly. Melissa used to put her coffee in one of them and go shopping, and it would drive me crazy. Every week there was coffee dips all over the handles or dried up in the bottom. Don't be fooled by the kind of tires on it or the appearance of "shocks," strollers are not 4-wheel-drive, they are you-wheel-drive. Put these on a registry, but don't pay $100 extra on the one that has a "storage space" on the top. Ours has one and we can't fit two iPhones in it.

A Really Good Chair - I've talked a little about my "daddy chair" which is my now, almost 8 year old La-Z-Boy recliner. I mentioned that it turned into our breastfeeding/child rocking/child TV viewing station. Seriously, that chair has become the most important piece of furniture in the house, and it's still my favorite place. Yes, we bought one of those rocking chairs with the rocking ottoman that Babies R Us tells you is a "must have item" and put it right in the nursery, but it hasn't seen a quarter of the use of my chair. So if you don't have one, find a chair that you are comfortable with for the long haul. Of course with a newborn you will find yourself running around all day, but you will also find yourself sitting a lot. Make sure you've given yourself a chair where that isn't such a bad thing. Did you know that some of those chair recline AND swivel? God bless us all.

A Thing That Helps The Baby Sleep - Whatever that means - buy it. We have some very generous people in our lives, and when we were pregnant with William a flood of pricey items came rolling in by mail. So we had an electric rocker that played music and in theory would swing the baby to sleep. We had one of those smaller chairs that would vibrate, and play music, and in theory would soothe the baby to sleep. We had two mobiles, a sleeping wedge, and sleepy music CD's that all promote a nice environment to lull the baby off to sleep. None of those things worked as well as....the car seat. Alton Brown has a rule with kitchen items. No single use items, he likes multi-taskers. I can get behind that in this case. The car seat keeps baby in a comfortable and safe place. It's got that sort of confined space that babies view as soothing, as if they are being held. You can move them without waking them up. Heck it even has a handle! Regardless, find something that works so that you don't feel compelled to confine yourself in holding the baby while he or she is sleeping.

Somewhere to Put Diapers - Regardless of your choice in cloth or disposable diapers, you need a place to put the dirty ones. A diaper genie, diaper elite, diaper pail, crap caddy, turd tacklebox, dookie domicile, you take your pick, but have one. You never realize how much those things help till a bag rips open, or the lid isn't on right. Think poop smells bad? It even less fun smelling a week's worth.

A Thing That Buys Other Things - Yep. Gift cards. In my most humble opinion, gift cards are one of the greatest gifts ever, and on a registry they can really be magic. Again, not to pick on anyone, but two things? Gift cards are the best way to grab all those items that either fall through the cracks, or you'll never get enough of. Diapers, creams, shampoos, wipes, whatever it is - a gift card is there for you. Like that friend you don't talk to, yet you call up one day because your car won't start and you KNOW he'll give you a ride to work even though it's going to be awkward since you haven't really talked in a year. Hug that gift card and know it's a true friend.

Now, equally important in my opinion are the things you should not put on a registry:

Cloth Related Products (exception: diapers) - Clothes, blankets, burp cloths, things of that nature. Why? Because no matter what you do or what you tell people, these items will appear during your baby shower. People love to buy cute outfits, things they think will match your "nursery theme," or items their kids have outgrown. You'll hear things like, "You can never have too many burp cloths!" or, "Socks were only $1 for 5,000!" You'll have friends who have been waiting patiently with boxes of clothing, stalking their friends for the one who seemed ready to have children. Melissa and I didn't need to buy William any clothing until he was three, and even then we probably could have just asked around. You need these items, but putting a pack of washcloths on your registry invites everyone to buy them. It doesn't matter that you specifically asked for one pack.

Wipes Warmer - By the time William actually came home from the hospital, we had acquired two wipes warmers. Makes enough sense I think. I like to think the boys prefer a warm, moist wipe gliding gently across their crap covered crevasse. In truth though, I think wipes dry out a little bit in the warmer. I've also noticed that within three seconds of being exposed to the air, they lose all their warmth. Not to mention that it's another item you have to try and find a place to put the plug. A baby's room only has so many outlets. We still use ours, but really it's out of nothing more than habit. This really is one I'd be happy to be without.

Diaper Bag - I think people act differently toward their diaper bags. Some people, who tend to be women, use it as a purse or backpack. It's a joint bag used by both baby and parent. It has everything from diapers and extra outfits to wallet and cell phone. Some people keep it minimal and only have the things needed to change the baby, perhaps an extra onesie in case of massive diaper blowout. The thing is, you don't know how many hundred's of pockets you need until you decide what kind of relationship you want with your diaper bag. Not to mention that in most hospitals, you'll get two free ones from the two major formula companies. Rest assured those will certainly start you off right till you really figure out how many space you need...or don't need. Remember those gift cards?

So yeah, I don't know that I could pinpoint the two most important items needed on a registry. Lucky for me, I didn't need to either. The list of things you need for a newborn, particularly as new parents can seem endless. True, places like Babies R Us will give you a "list" that you can check off as you make your registry. Those "must have" items. True, some of that is a ploy to get parents to spend additional money on things they don't need. Seriously though, if you let a list tell you to spend your money on a crib, portable crib, bassinet, AND a Pack and Play...well you didn't deserve to call it your money.

So let's hear it, what's your "Must have on a registry" items and the things you feel shouldn't make the cut.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Did a Good Job - Proof Inside

This past week was really stressful for me. The addition of Bonus Baby has challenged everything I "know" about parenting. Really. I have come to a point where I question if I'm ever doing anything right. I feel as though I'm gaining a little more control each day. As if I'm understanding how a 4 month old fits into the already organized chaos of the house. I'm somewhat sure they have been using the Jurassic Park idea of testing the fence for weak spots, and some days I worry that they've figured out how to get Newman out of the park with the stolen DNA samples. I'll say that at the very least, I have a new found level of respect for single parents and parents with lots of kids. I don't know how they do it and keep their sanity. Three kids instead of two. It doesn't seem like there should be that much of a difference.

I was stressed, and I needed a good weekend to recharge. I got it.

First off, for those who kept up with my last post. The performance in Ontario went fantastic. The audience turnout was great and easily 90% of the people in attendance had been there the day of the accident. In particular, the 91 year old woman who was badly injured showed us all how resilient people can be. After two broken knees, another shattered bone in her leg, and several other internal injuries, she walked in to the bleacher area. WALKED. She had a cane, but that was it. After the car had hit her, she was in a great deal of shock. As the ambulance was making it's way in, she was sitting with a member of the band saying, "But...I'll miss the rest of the performance." She was overjoyed to have been given a chance to finish the performance, as was the band. For many people, emotions were running high.

For more, go here:

It was a long day, and I was intent to spend most of my Sunday catching my breath in anticipation for the week. My safety net, Melissa, would no longer be there for my extra pair of hands. They would be replaced by the small, less helpful hands of Bonus Baby. Yep. Good luck prying me off the couch. Well, plans have a way of changing. I find I tend to fall into the category of "a plan is just a list of shit that isn't gonna happen." I'm so glad it went that way.

For those of you who might wonder if I'm in the very stereotypical category of "cheap Scotsman" well, let's just say that six months ago I noted that it was time to get new shoes. So I went shopped on Sunday. I decided that it would be a nice change if I took Carter out and let Melissa and William stay at home. I think kids like a little one on one sometimes. Even though I know the boys and I need time apart, getting out alone really changes things. Carter and I had a good morning, but I didn't find any shoes that I was willing to buy, and by "willing to buy" I mean shoes that fell into my mythical criteria of being really great shoes that were under $40. See "cheap Scotsman." After coming home for lunch and getting a fairly insistent reminder from Melissa that it was okay for me to spend more than $40 because A) I really needed to get new shoes. B) I was going to wear the shoes for roughly 50 years so the money kind of spreads out. See "cheap Scotsman."

I decided to switch things up after lunch, and took William out with me. Mostly because it was Carter's nap time, but also mostly to switch things up. I wanted to take a slightly different approach than normal with William. Those of you who've been reading for a while will remember that William was late to really start talking, and perhaps that has led Melissa and I to be hesitant with helping him to progress in other areas. I see parents with kids who have to be William's age, who don't have to worry about letting go of their child's hand for a moment without risking the immediate sprinting of said child to the most dangerous object in the area. I see parents who can avert their gaze for more than half a second without the worry of their child seeing that as an opportunity to create havoc. I decided that William and I were going to join those ranks, and he went above and beyond my expectations.

First off, in keeping with the "here's the plan, let's mess it up" theme of the day, it went from quick run to check a different shoe store, to an almost three hour trip all over town. Home Depot (not-so-fun-time project post in the future?!!!), and three different shoes stores. Did I mention that I really hate shopping?

William decided to be my little slice of redemption. From the start, I made sure to give him a little freedom when I could. Walking down the isle at Home Depot? "Just stay close, buddy," I'd whisper to him. Sure enough, as we made our way through the store he followed along by my side. Occasionally he'd stop to look at an interesting tool or sheet of plywood. At one point he stopped at big metal beam that ran up to the ceiling, and began knocking on it. He figured out that it was hollow and turned to me saying, "Open, daddy, open!" My kid thinks I can rip open metal with my bare was your Sunday?

The little extra space and freedom continued through the shoe stores, and by the time we arrived at the final location I think we were both ready to just fall asleep. We had landed at DSW, a place I had never been to because it had not opened a store in my living room. A bit rude. William had started to get antsy to be home, but since he was tired, I was able to give him an alternative to running away from me and putting every shoe in the store into one large pile. Sitting! I would put him on one of the seats they provide for people to try on shoes in whatever area I was in, and bring him my latest choice. Which brings me to my over-the-top cute moment for this post.

In an effort to keep him engaged and still in each spot I went to, I included him in the process. I'd hand him the box, and I would take out one shoe, handing him the other to inspect. Then I'd simply try it on, without making a big fuss over him. Sometimes he'd take one of his shoes off to try the new one on like daddy, and other times he'd just pull out that wad of paper they always stuff into the shoes their shape? Anyhow, everything was working so well! I can't put it into words how nice it was to have him sit down, and put my attention on finding the right size, glancing over to always find him in the same place. He was behaving so well. Someone was getting a chocolate chip cookie on the way home.

The thing that floored me though, was whenever I'd try on a shoe, and it had to actually be on my foot, William would give me a once over and say, "Cool shoes, daddy. Cooool shoes. Good job!" I don't know where that came from, especially considering he only did it at DSW, after two other shoe stores. All I know is that it was awesome, I appreciated the feedback, and I wanted to try on lots of shoes to keep hearing him say it.

Lots of hugs and a cookies were had before we went home.

And for the record, my new shoes are cool. I did a good job.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Special Performance

If you haven't figured it out yet, music is a big part of my life. It's something I actually had to fight to keep involved with. Not in a "Fight Club" kind of way, but there was a period of time where it would have been very easy to cut my losses and say farewell to being involved in any form of music aside from iPods and youtube videos. Lucky for all of us, MTV has taken the steps to remove it from television.  Aww....poor VJ's....remember VJ's?

About a year after we moved to Idaho, I went to the local Highland Games. If you've never heard of a Highland Games, feel free to consider that normal. It's a Scottish festival consisting of music, food, dancing, and the actual games (yes, one of the events is where they throw the big stick). It's a great time, and a place where no one looks at you funny for wearing a kilt. A rare thing indeed. It was there that I happened upon the Boise Highlanders, a very established bagpipe band here in Idaho. Here's where things get, well, slightly insulting. In a way.

I'm a drummer. In the most loosely formed sense of that word. I don't consider myself amazing to watch. I've had almost no real training. What I know has been gleaned from years of being in contact with people who are better at this craft than I will ever be. I'm okay with it. Is that the insult? Nope!

When I saw the Highlanders for the first time I looked at Melissa and said, "I could play with those guys."

It's not that they are bad or anything, but particularly from a drumming standpoint they do things to be on the easier side. We play slightly basic bagpipes tunes, and we do it as well as we can. We even have fans! It's been an amazing experience so far, truly.

Along we our fans, certain organizations have become very attached to having us perform for them. Which brings me to a story that leads to a very special performance this weekend.

Every year we are invited to perform at a festival in Ontario, Oregon. It's called "America's Global Village Festival" and from an entertainment standpoint, the Highlanders are certainly a main attraction. This year I was unable to attend to due to some things we needed to do with the boys, and perhaps someone was looking out for me and my family.


Barely into the performance this year, a little punk kid and his cousin, who were high on god knows what, jumped the curb onto the grass in their car and drove directly into the grand stands.

Let me say that again. They drove into a crowd of people with their car. Smashing a section of stairs that sent metal shards flying, hitting a member of the band, and pinning a THREE YEAR OLD BOY, between the car and bleachers. A 91 year old woman was hit. No deaths, but once all the counts and recounts were finished, almost 30 people ended up in the hospital. Most with minor injuries, 3 severe, one enough to be air-lifted to a larger hospital.

The driver was laughing and smiling during, and after, this terrifying ordeal. Laughing. While a 3 year old boy cried for help.

His passenger attempted to get out and simply walk away. He was "placed" back into the car and kept there by a member of the band. Two other members of the band, who are police officers, ran and shut off the engine to the car, taking the keys, and began to move the car back so people could get free.

The park is located directly across the street from the local hospital and first responders were there in minutes. Lots of luck that day.

This weekend the Boise Highlanders are putting on a free concert, at the same park, in the same location. While it's open to anyone, we have made attempts to ensure that those involved with the crash have been invited. As well, the city will be honoring the first responders.

I don't put this information out there to brag about the group, though clearly while we may be small, we have some amazing people involved. I want to put out an invite to anyone reading who might be in the area, and perhaps one of those reminders that we all need from time to time.

A three year old boy...that's William. The bleachers...that's where Melissa and the boys would have been, no doubt about it. Think of it as circumstance, luck, divine intervention...whatever you want. The point is that you never know what might happen next. Hug your babies.

For the concert: It starts at 3pm at Lion's Park in Ontario, Oregon. If you find yourself close enough, and have the time, I hope you'll come out and support not only the police and medical units involved, but the people and families hurt by this.

I don't know what will become of the driver or his passenger, and I wish I didn't care. After hearing several people describe the face and the laughter from the driver, and the look on the face of the little boy before the car hit the stands...

...hug your babies.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What to expect, when you expect to be expecting.

Long before I started this blog, I found that many of my friends asked me pregnancy questions. It may have been my availability that allowed the questions to be directed at me instead of Melissa. Perhaps even that some people enjoy my long-winded tales that perhaps push the boundaries of what they wanted to know by diverting into unending tangents. Either way, I found myself the verbal pregnancy consultant for several of my friends. It's nice to feel like my opinion of the matter is trusted.

There seems to be a routine of sorts as couples approach that ultimate decision to both bump and also grind, without any form of protective baby-barriers. It can is a very nerve wracking time for both people. There's always a great deal of "what ifs" and I think that causes a lot of people to enter into this very special occasion with their minds on the wrong things.

So I thought it might be nice to compile a little list of things I've often been asked or told, and try to respond as best as I can. That gives me the ability to answer the questions of my friends by directing them here, giving me the page hit, and allowing them the chance to avoid yet another long-winded conversation with crazy tangent guy. Seems fair, right? Little bit of win-win for everyone?


"We're waiting for the right time." - The most common thing people say to me, and the most difficult to respond to, because it deals with many issues. This is a statement that means many different things to different people, but the short version in my opinion is - when it comes to making the decision to have your first kid, there is no "right time." Planets don't align very often, and a golden beam of light is probably not going to envelope you as you're crossing the street trying to decide if you should buy that next pack of condoms. Without specifics, it's hard to go further, but be aware that things will turn upside down regardless of how much you've decided it's the "right time." Trying to base your decision on something so broad leaves you with every opportunity to invent a reason of why it is not the right time. If you are so desperate to find a reason of "why not" then perhaps that's enough of a reason.

"We're saving just a little bit more money." - This is a great, specific idea that tends follows the above. You should absolutely be concerned about the cost of raising a child. I know a few people who have put no thought at all into the financial ramifications of children. I even know a couple whose plan involved government aid. Seriously. They knew they couldn't afford a child, but figured with assistance, they would get some degree. It is certainly something that people can underestimate, but if your mind is going to a place where you think those last few paychecks to close out the year are going to save's already time.

"We want to have the baby in ____, so we're not going to try until ____." - One of the biggest misconceptions among the people I've known who have tried to get pregnant, is that everything happens on a schedule. We hear stores about these kids in high school and college who have a drunken night together and wind up pregnant and there's this feeling that it must be so simple. The reality is that those two kids, now facing a world of decisions, had a series of chance where everything had to line up perfectly. So many things have to be taken into account in order to get pregnant, and I've had more than one conversation of panic over, "It's been a month! What's wrong!?" Even at the age where pregnancy is most easily conceived (mid-20's) the average length of time before pregnancy is five months. If you want something a little closer to home, ask people you know. You'll probably be surprised at what you hear. Melissa and I had a rough time getting pregnant, and perhaps I'll talk about it someday, but as we asked friends and family it was alarming the number of miscarriages we heard about, the years of unsuccessful attempts that sometimes required fertility treatments, and of course people who had medical issues that prevented pregnancy altogether. My point is, predicting a "due date" to line up with some form of schedule is not realistic, and I'm not just talking about the potential for things to happen in a longer time frame than expected. I know a family who believed the second pregnancy would take just as long to happen as the first, so they set their "schedule" of  when to start trying. They were pregnant within two months. Think of it as a pre-cursor to life with kids - you're on their terms now.

"Is there something...sexual...we should be doing?" - Believe it or not, I had this conversation. I don't mind talking about sex, but it can be a little awkward. Especially when being told that I could think of miscarriages as at least a partial success because clearly whatever we were doing to conceive was working on some level. So here's my secret technique: Silk Boxers. You're welcome. No, in all seriousness, I don't know of any position or time of day or day of the week that really increases your chances. At one point we had been using those ovulation sticks, but that didn't really work for us. I can say that even though I'm unsure if this was really the "key" to our success, something that doctors talk about is keeping everything as stress free as possible. After two years of trying, and some very emotionally painful moments, we took a week long vacation to Las Vegas. It was a great week, and we didn't think about pregnancy while we were there. Nine months later, William was born.

"I'm not sure I want to bring a child into this world." - It breaks my heart when good people say things like that. We need smart and caring people, who are willing to be involved with their kids, out in the world. Still, it's hard not to see the truth in that statement. I heard it said like this, "You'll never miss what you've never had. With kids? It's not until they are in your life that you realize just how much you want them." I know several couples who have no interest in having kids. The very idea of parenting is a scary subject for them. Well it is scary, and the world isn't always nice. I can't help but wonder, as I look at commercials for awful reality TV programming - did these "parents" go through any of those fears? Don't be afraid. If you have a good head on your shoulders and you want to have kids, do it, and then be the best parent you can be for your child. That certainly has to be a step ahead from the TV parents.


"I'm not ready to stop doing what I want." - Thank god for people who can admit that. There are plenty of bad reasons to not have a kid, but this...this is a real reason. I'll admit that some people certain have a lifestyle that has allowed them as parents to keep up a healthy social life. Many parents are better than Melissa and I about getting out of the house, including time without the kids. There's perhaps an element of not having access to family here, or the idea that many of our friends don't seem to understand (or have perhaps forgotten) our need to get together in a comfortable environment that allows us to be social without a need to look over our shoulder the whole time. Either way, you must realize that after you have children you give up a certain level of freedom while they are young. I don't like the idea that you can keep up the same level of selfishness and I don't like the idea that you can maintain the same level of party lifestyle AND be mom and dad. If you have that itch to travel, do it! If you have that itch to spend money without thinking, do it! I'd argue that while the party doesn't have to does have to slow down. Maybe more than you want it to. So if you feel the need to put yourself before the baby, definately wait to have a kid.


There's no doubt about it, trying to decide you are ready to take the leap is a tough decision. The first time around left me constantly feeling lost.

What were/are your questions approaching the decision to have kids? What were/are your answers?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What a Croc! Get it?

I've been trying very hard to cook more throughout the week. With the addition of Bonus Baby, time has become a major issue for trying to get meals ready after I'm cut loose from all the kids. As a professional fake chef, I never spent much time with crock pots during my cooking endeavours. Several years ago, a friend decided it would be funny to give Capn' Fakecookin the devil's cooking pot. After I made the leap to being at home with the kids, I realized that they are in fact quite useful. My apologies to people who I may have insulted over the years based on nothing more than their ownership of this appliance.

Melissa and I are picky eaters, so most recipes need a little adjustment and some just won't work. Plus, many of the foods we want to eat most often don't get the best results from hours in a crock pot. Things like...BBQ. I have looked up a great number of recipes over the past year, all promising amazing pulled pork, ribs, BBQ chicken, and basically every cut of everything from nothing more than the Ronco philosophy of set it and forget it. The principles of the recipes have all been the same. A little seasoning, perhaps an onion, and then dump a bottle of BBQ sauce over the meat and leave it on low for however many hours.

Review after review gave top marks to many of these recipes as a way to get all that BBQ flavor without the constant tending needed for smoking or grilling. Personally, I never saw these results from any of the recipes. Some of them were...okay, but I wasn't looking for just okay. I needed something awesome. One day, with great hope, I found a crock pot rib recipe that had one of those pictures designed to make you hungry. It worked. I added ribs to our meal plan the following week.

The recipe was ultimately the same as most crock pot BBQ recipes, but I had a plan! I was going to use my home-made dry rub on the ribs AND I was going to use a glazing sauce I had made up when I did some real smoked ribs earlier this year. I figured that the taste should be pretty amazing, even if the results were a little underwhelming.

Meticulously I followed the directions which promised that "fall off the bone" tenderness that some people really get excited about. Fake chef cooking tip: If you are unable to take a bite of the rib without all of meat falling off - you shouldn't be bragging. Likewise if you can't pick up the rib by the bone without the meat falling off - you am cook it wrongbad.

As usual, the great thing about this was being able to keep up with three kids and know that dinner was working the whole time. The house smelled amazing all day, and I'm happy to take the credit there. After almost ten hours (the recipe recommended twelve) it was close to our slightly sad, early-bird special, dinner time. So I checked the ribs to see how things were progressing. I used a big set of tongs and gently lifted a set of ribs out of the sweet and spicy sauce. It was already far gone - just way too tender. The meat just sort of dissolved as you picked it up, a great idea for pulled pork perhaps, but not ribs. Additionally, the sauce and spices had clearly seeped into the meat, which you would think is great, but there just wasn't the flavor. It was just color. We had to use extra sauce just to get any form of "BBQ" flavor.

I will not give up, though I will put out the call. If you have a great crock pot recipe - particularly one for BBQ - that you really love, please share it!

Also, when I have perfected my crock pot pizza - I will let everyone know.

Monday, September 3, 2012


So right off the bat I want to say that I'm not 100% okay with the title of this post. I wanted to make a funny play on word with the movie RoboCop involving some sort of dad to dad tie that will make much more sense after you read the actual story. The best thing I could come up with was "RoboPop" which feels more like a nod to the idea of a robot father. I have nothing against robots or robot fathers and just in case a robot overlord reads this in the future, I want to add that I LOVE ROBOTS, but this story involves dads and cops, so that title didn't really seem to work either. After some thought, the officer involved in the following story was being a bit of a bro, so the title stands. Enjoy.


It can't be overstated. When you are an at-home parent, getting out of the house is a must. You need to find adult connections, and have adult conversations. If that means meeting for coffee with a friend once a week, that's better than nothing. Most of the time though, I'd recommend something a bit more lengthy. The first full year of being home after William was born, I found I had done all the normal things to keep my mind occupied. I had made detailed lists of smudges on the wall from dirty kid hands. I had found all the places in the carpeting that was trampled down to make a recognizable shape. I began the process of diving far too deep into the world of the cartoons that William liked and created back stories which lent themselves to the interactions of the characters on screen.

What I wasn't doing was keeping up relationships with real people over the age of one year old. It's something I still struggle with doing. I even feel a little self-conscious talking to adults lately because I'm not sure I remember how exactly to interact. After that initial year, I was concerned that while I may not be losing my intelligence (for whatever that's worth), I was losing the ability to communicate adult thought with adult words.

Eventually, Melissa was very aware that I needed a break. So we came up with a plan for me to take an extended period of time to get out into the country and relax. The idea was for me to take a few days to get out and go camping. I was going to be joined by one other friend, and after two days of camping and exploring Idaho, we'd meet up with our wives and kids at another friend's cabin in the beautiful city of McCall. After another night away from real life, we were going to head back as a happy, relaxed group. A great plan. This would be where I say something like, "What could go wrong?"

After a whirlwind, two day tour of the mid-area of Idaho, we made our way to McCall, anxious to see our friends and family. I tried my best to shut out the world while we were out exploring, but after a year of nothing but William, I already missed him. Our reunion was bitter-sweet in a way. I was excited to be with my family, but I was instantly back in my role of dad. Don't get me wrong, I understand that, in a way, you give up the right to be truly selfish when you begin your life as a parent, but I had not quite cleared my head after two days. C'est la vie.

Bedtime for William came quickly that night. A sudden realization for me that before I knew it, we'd all be back in reality. I had no clue how true that was. William was situated in our room in the upstairs of a little cabin. We had brought along his "Pack N' Play" for him to sleep in, which he had done several times without any issues. We put him down, said our good nights, and listened as the cries and fussing turned to quiet. We spent a few more hours with everyone before making our own way up to the room. There, quite happy, was William. Wide awake and playing games that babies play when they're alone. As we entered the room as quiet as we could, he saw us instantly and began to make a lot of noise.

The next few hours were painful. He grew louder in protest to the fact that we had not engaged him and joined in his baby games. So, we tried to rock him back to sleep, nothing. We put him in bed with us, which made him all the more riled up. William, it seemed, was far to excited about his new surroundings to simply go to sleep. I'm sure if he had been able to talk at the time there would have been a great deal of, "Dad! Did you see this lamp?! This isn't our lamp! I like it! Knock it over Dad! Dad! Mom! Did you see how this room isn't one of our rooms in our house?! Where are we?! I like this room! Let's scream at the walls and see if they make different noises than our walls! YAY!"

As the hours passed, and people had definitely gone to their rooms to try and sleep through the noisy little boy upstairs, we began to feel very self-conscious. No one had said anything and no one came to check on us, but we couldn't help feeling like this situation was going to keep everyone up through the night. At 3am we decided to pull the plug. I packed everything up and loaded the car, while Melissa dressed William and put him in his car seat where he instantly proceeded to cry. We said very brief good-byes and began the two hour trip back home.

McCall is a very small town. Small enough that the speed limit on the main street is, I think, 25 miles per hour. At three in the morning, with a screaming child in the backseat, and exhaustion setting in from the past three days, I just wasn't paying attention. In the sea of darkness, very suddenly we were illuminated by color. Red and blue. I look behind me to see a police car in tow, and check my speed, only to realize I was doing almost 40. This was gonna hurt.

I'm sure he heard William before he was able to see much of anything in the car. He surveyed the car's interior with his flashlight before asking politely for my licence and registration. Without much of a glance he asked what was going on. I explained that we had made an attempt to stay with friends at their cabin in the area, but our little boy was just a little too overwhelmed with the exciting new surroundings of McCall to go to sleep, and that mom and dad were too tired to keep the party going.

Keeping in mind that all he had done with my licence and registration was hold them, he turned back at William and smiled a little. I wish I knew exactly what he said at that point, and I wish I had grabbed a photo with him because it was one of those moments you think should happen all the time. He looked at me and told me that he knew exactly what we were going through. He was a father of two kids and had to make the early am trip a few times over the years. He reminded us that we have especially precious cargo now, so to remember the need to be extra cautious since we would be heading along a dark road that runs by a nasty river. He made sure that I was with it enough to last for the two hour drive home and sent us on our way without so much as the typical, "Watch your speed, now."

I didn't get his name, and I'll never be able to let him know that he did a really great thing that night. It's not about skipping the ticket. If he had given me a ticket, I certainly couldn't have argued against it. Parents need to be there for other parents sometimes. Offer a reminder to slow down and collect yourself. Parents need to have each other's back a little more instead of judgemental comparing of what you think you do better. I hope, really, that someday I can pay it forward. Maybe this blog will allow me to do that for someone. Maybe it will be as simple as offering a hand to the frazzled parent on the playground.

We've all been there, and we will all be there again. Tired and stressed. Hopeful for a little slack from people. So when we're on the outside, we all have to decide if we're gonna be the people who roll our eyes and say, "Too bad, I got through it with no help" or be the BroboCop who knows that even a few thoughtful words might get that mom and dad back on the right track.

I fricken love robots.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Most Amazing Six Year Old I Know

Now 32 years old, I've become a little jaded to my birthday. I haven't really "celebrated" my birthday in a long time. I've had people come over or go out for dinner, but I avoid much of a fuss. As you'd expect, it was a different story when I was little. I demanded wanted a big show. I wanted lots of people because that meant lots of gifts. I wanted a celebration of me! It's an important thing to celebrate.

If you have never heard Patton Oswalt's musings on when you should recognize a person's birthday, go find clips. In short, he has joked that through your life, there is really a short list of birthdays you should be allowed to celebrate. I really like it, partly because it falls into my own mindset of, "I turned"

Very much on the list are the young birthdays. Ages 1-10 where you are a little kid growing up. These are ages where you expect to see a kid begging for a party with loads of friends. You expect trips to Chuck E. Cheese, bowling alleys, parks, or even backyards. You might cringe at the idea of what you need to put into the favor bags so that when the kids all see each other at school next, your child hasn't lost any favor in the eyes of the other kids based on the wrong flavor of lollipop. So certainly for a 6 year old girl, the pressure is on the parents to provide the pony for kids to ride or a slew of princess dresses for a group of little girls to wear for an evening and feel like they are in a Disney movie. For parents Cherie and Shawn Flowers, something very different was requested.

Shawn and Cherie have two kids. Daughter, Mackenzie and son, Brady. Cherie is an amazing photographer and, like any proud mom, loves to take pictures of her kids. These photos tend to make their way across my facebook feed. Which I hate. Let me preface this with, I love my boys and I think they are as adorable as six puppies hugging seven kittens. Additionally I think their little boy is a handsome little fellow, but pictures of Mackenzie are painfully cute. I do not like it, and I do not trust it. As if being cute is not enough for her, Mackenzie decided to also be an astoundingly good person. Not just for a 6 year old, but for anyone.

Imagine what would go through your head if you asked your child what they wanted for their 6th birthday, and they responded with pet food, pet toys, and gift cards to pet stores. I can't help but think I'd go searching for a mystery pet that our kids had been hiding from us. Incredibly, when Mackenzie asked for these things, she was just being a sweet and giving little girl.

Yes, she had her friends over for a party, and yes, she wore a tiara like any little girl might. What set her apart was that she asked that no one bring her a present. What she wanted was for people to bring items that she could donate to the Humane Society. My favorite part about this story is how people began praising Shawn and Cherie for coming up with a great idea. As if they made the decision to withhold presents from their daughter and put her face on some poster campaign to give donations to an organization. In truth, this was all Mackenzie. Why? She loves the heck out of animals.

I'm happy to praise good parenting all day long, and I know that Shawn and Cherie are great parents.  Still, I think this act of generosity surprised them as much as anyone else. Parents spend an amazing amount of time trying to guide the minds of their children in what they hope is the right direction. I think though, this is a great example of where exceptional parenting meets an exceptional heart. I can't imagine how proud they must be of their little girl.

Well done, Mackenzie.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are We Still Searching for a Better Father?

There's was an obvious level of terror when Melissa and I packed our entire lives into box to move to Idaho. I had been out for a short visit, and all she had to go on was a few pictures and my very detailed description of, "It's pretty!"

Recently I discovered that another gentleman (that seems way too pompous, but I'm gonna allow it), somewhere in Idaho, has been blogging about his experiences here in the "Gem State." While he doesn't seem to be a dad, he often talks about things that speak to me in different ways. Like me, he moved from a much larger city to the slow paced life somewhere in what I assume is the Boise area. Also like me, he seems to be struggling to adapt to certain aspects of being in an area that can feel out of touch with the rest of the world.

Truthfully, some of what he talks about on his website is just untrue. Sadly though, it's easy to convince people that life in Idaho is some form of black and white cartoon centered around a potato. People in Idaho know what the internet is, and I even saw our Governor take what I'm certain was an iPhone out of his straw hat, check the time, and put it in his overalls. Life here is not all that different from them big fancy cities.

One thing does tend to irritate me about many of the people here - sometimes I feel unwelcome. While I find the idea that Idaho needs to "catch up" with the rest of the world to be a little short-sighted, the very concept of a stay-at-home dad is still perplexing to some people in this state. I think much of it comes from religious points of view. The idea that the woman's role is in the household, but there has to be more to it than that.

It doesn't really bother me that people around here find it a little odd that I'm the one at home with the kids. What bothers me is their need to bring attention to it. As a man in an area that does not seem to understand that fathers are also parents, it's hard to find the balance between being offended by people who seem to look down on fatherhood, and not caring at all what they think. It's not okay that people ask Melissa why she is not the one at home. It's not okay that people ask me if I'm having a "day off with the kids" and then give me the most confused look when I explain that I'm a stay-at-home dad. I wish that confusion was limited to this state.

I don't feel a big connection to many of the dad bloggers I've come across, but that has a lot to do with me not trying that hard to make the connections. Still, I've come across some great sites and done a lot of reading and one thing I've seen discussed a lot is that  dads are too often forgotten in the parenting world. There are still people who want to perpetuate the idea that fathers can't be every bit as involved in the lives of their children as mothers. There are still people out there who feel like something must be wrong with Melissa and I because our "roles" are not reversed. There seems to be a nation-wide level of complacency to commercials, clothing, greeting cards, movies, TV shows, and more, all portraying dads as not only less important than mothers to kids, but fundamentally stupid when it comes to our children. We are supposed to be good with a hammer, not a hug. Good with a lawn mower, but not a frying pan. This has sadly become a common ideal in the minds of many people, and I really have to thank the amazing group of dad bloggers who have pushed issues of unbalanced views of fatherhood into the light. People are way too passive about underselling the role of a father.

See, there's not much poking fun at moms going around. That's a good thing, but I do think it's time for people to stop pretending that dads are some sort of mute sidekick when it comes to parenting. Great fathers are everywhere, and I think most people are aware of that. So I'm confused at the companies who make efforts to pretend otherwise. What more can fathers do to stop the negative image for the people come up with this crap? How is it that with many great figures of fatherhood around, people are still searching for a better father?

Fun little exercise, open up your eyes a little wider when shopping, watching TV, or even reading parenting materials. It becomes surprising how many commercials paint a picture of the lost dad who needs mom to save the day. You'll hear things like, "dad-proof" or "mother approved." You'll read that "even dad can get involved with this!" or "you'll be surprised to know that there are things we can learn from dad!" or "it's okay to let dad push the stroller even though he doesn't understand how to dress your child." Let's not forget the amazing "parenting" books that have a "special chapter just for dad." It's quite sad, as a father, to need to defend your commitment to your children to faceless corporations and strangers who have turned fatherhood into a joke. A big thank you to the dads and  parenting blogs out there, fighting for our real place in the lives of our children.

Not every dad is perfect, but that applies to moms as well. Sorry world, but there's a lot of great dads around. Our bad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Can I Say?

If you are reading this right now, it's important to know that I appreciate you. I'm thrilled that you have given some of your time to read my stories. My last post seemed very well received and was passed around by a few people, and I appreciate that too. The problem, for me, is after you post something that is a rather sweet, heart-felt moment between a father and son, it's hard to know how to follow that. When I started writing this blog, I went in with every intention of keeping things real and honest, so there's no way I'm going to make post after post about adorable little antics as if it's a day to day thing. Likewise, my post for Metro Music Therapy in Atlanta, completely destroyed what I consider to be my "normal" amount of page views on an average day. Still, the long term answer can't be selflessly giving out information (however much I believe in it) on the great things my friends have gone on to do with their lives. I only have so many friends, and sometimes I'm sure I have even less than that.

So the question remains - how do I follow up a post that found a great reception? How can I live up to the hype?

I probably can't, but what a great chance to let out a little crazy for the sake of not worrying about a "great follow up post." I was hesitant to talk about it, but Melissa insists that there are other people like me in the world. I don't mean stay-at-home dads, I mean parents who've seen far too many episodes of their kid's cartoon programs and have started to put too much thought into it. There is no rational way to ease into this topic, so I'm just gonna go for it.

Ev's Crazy - Episode 1 - Handy Manny:

  • Manny's name is Manuel Estevez Garcia III, named after his father and grandfather ("Abuelito"), but while we see Abuelito all the time, there is only a small mention of Manny's father. Equally his mother is only referenced once in the show and still we have no clue what happened to either of them. Better yet, there was an episode where Manny went to his family reunion and there was STILL no discussion of his parents. What the heck?
  • While we're talking about family there is a specific episode where Manny's sister Lola tells him ,"You're my favorite brother!" to which Manny responds, "Lola! I'm your only brother!" Much later the character of MANNY'S BROTHER, Ruben, is introduced. How does that work? What the heck?
  • Parents who watch the show have long speculated on the relationship between Manny and Kelly, the owner of the hardware store. Questioning if they were ever going to get together. The makers of the show have insisted that making such a leap would not work with the show dynamic. They said things needed to remain open-ended with all the characters to ensure that the story for the characters wouldn't really need to evolve. It's a common issue for cartoon shows. It's how "The Simpsons" has been on for over 1000 years and yet there is still a baby on the show. In a recent episode, Abuelito and Mrs. Portillo suddenly got married. These two characters have never really had any major interaction on the show, let alone something that would hint to the audience of any romantic connection. Even within the episode they hint at Kelly and Manny having feelings for each other. What the heck?
  • Kelly's hardware store is basically two doors down from Manny's workshop. In an episode, Manny and the tools need to get some glue, and bring it back to his shop. To do this, he puts on his work gloves, tool belt, trademark pencil in his ear (that he never seems to use), and loads the tools up in the tool box. To get a little bottle of glue. Two doors down. What the heck?
  • Why does Kelly carry absolutely everything on the planet? Why can Manny buy car parts at a hardware store? I'm willing to get on board that she somehow has everything they need to fix various home projects, but would you really look to the local hardware store to carry baskets to go on a scooter? A crank specifically for a BINGO wheel? All these odds and ends, and yet she had to order Manny safety goggles, which took a month to arrive. They have a store that sells ONLY gloves (Handy Hut) and yet the hardware store is where you go for a popcorn kettle? What the heck?
  • I worked for a construction company for a while. When you're in that line of work, you start to mass a collection of various things that you know you'll use later. Manny has jars of nuts and bolts around his workshop all the time, yet somehow he never has nails. He has the perfect amount of lumber for a job in his truck somehow, and yet needs to stop by to see Kelly if he needs goggles or a hardhat or glue. What the heck?
  • How was Manny able to restore a race car with a saw, two screwdrivers, a monkey wrench, a pair of pliers, a tape measure, a hammer, and a flashlight? What the heck?
  • The majority of characters appear single. There's a disturbingly small number of couples. There's something sort of creepy about Sheetrock Hills. There's a sort of sinister quality to children appearing who seem to have no parents and a level of acceptance regarding potentially fatal situations. What the heck?
  • What is the deal with Mr. Lopart? He is the source of many issues throughout town. He's in a constant state of failure and refuses to allow people to help him. Wouldn't there be a point where you would stop asking if he'd like some assistance getting his foot unstuck from a bike rack or getting down from a tree? What the heck?
  • The Sheetrock Hills economic system. No one pays for anything. Ever. There was one episode where Manny was supposed to be preoccupied and was leaving the hardware store when Kelly reminds him that he hadn't paid yet. I could hear every parent in the world screaming, "How is that different from every day ever!" Seriously, what the heck?
  • There's an episode where Manny is drooling over a pair of gloves in the hardware store. The tools decide to try and get enough money from random places in Manny's shop to pay for them as a surprise. Obsessed with getting enough money, Squeeze sees a coin in a sewer and while trying to get it, falls in forcing a very suspenseful rescue. At the end of the episode, the mayor ends up giving Manny a pair of the much coveted gloves. Manny quickly tries them on, much to the delight of everyone. Those gloves have never been seen again. One of his talking tools falls into a sewer for him trying to raise the money to get him these gloves, and when he gets them he doesn't even have the common courtesy to wear them once in a while? What the heck?

I have plenty more, but not the desire to make this point that long. PLEASE, leave comments below if you'd like to keep the good times rolling, but keep it to Handy Manny. There will be other days where I need to vent some crazy, and so we'll get to the other shows later. Seriously though, help remind me that while I may be going crazy, some others are going through the same kind of crazy. Furthermore, don't let this scare you off, I'll be back to more "normal" topics soon.

Thanks again for all the patience with posting lately! Adding Bonus Baby to the mix has given me some amazing perspective of parenting, but sucked the life out of me at the end of the day. I have a new level of respect for parents with lots of kids at lots of ages. If that means you, I think you're amazing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thanks Tigger!

The guys over at 8 Bit Dad said on twitter recently that, "If we don't post everyday, it means we've been putting family first." Man I love that. You wouldn't believe how far I had to scroll back on their twitter feed to find that quote. I am awful at twitter. There's too many hashtags floating around, and I'm never sure if I have to virtual hug the person who talks to me or just move right to the cuddling. So confusing. Sometimes I have to step back a little and remember that blogging is something I've been making an attempt to do for only three months. I've been a parent for more than three years now! Just how parenting came before the words in real life, parenting must continue to be the primary focus over the blog. I put a lot of pressure on myself as a "new guy" in the world of dad bloggers to get a little attention without being in anyone's face about it all. The biggest part of that is posting, and there are moments where I feel bad that I didn't get a chance to finish something on a particular day. I've asked a few people for advice and then quickly left those people alone so they don't feel I'm like the annoying kid brother who just wants to follow them everywhere. I know that guy, I've been that guy, and people want that guy to go away. I even know a few people who do quite well with their own personal blogs, and I refuse to ask for pointless plugs that are apropos of nothing they would ever talk about normally. I'd love a larger audience. I'd love to power through post after post, but in the end I am a dad first and I have a long way to go in this process. Feeling a need to apologize for my parenting getting in the way of a post is a bit stupid.

This week really let me take that idea to heart. I'm gearing up for my new babysitting adventures, which will start on Monday - wish me luck! I'm also making some changes to my diet and exercise program, namely, having a diet and exercise program. I'm tired, I'm busy, and in the middle of all this are my boys. William has finally, finally, found a way to get out of his shell more. He's talking more to us, instead of just near us. He's turning into a boy who wants to do things! It's so exciting, and when he wants to live out his imagination, I'm ready to join him. I really love it.

I made a comment on my facebook page the other day explaining why I might not be getting a new post up, and people seemed to love it. My assumption is that everyone thought it was sweet, and not that people were glad to have a break from me. So I thought I'd expand on our very important search the other day.

Several months ago, it was announced that Disney Junior was going to turn into a full-time channel. Melissa and I were overjoyed with that news. Why? CLEARING THE DVR! So many Mickey, Jake, Manny, and Little Einstein episodes clogging our system. So a full channel devoted to those shows and more, made us a happy pair. Of course, it took a while to be offered in Idaho, but we have it now! Along with all the normal shows that the boys were familiar with, came a few new titles as well as some Disney movies.

One of the movies, which I had never heard of, was "The Tigger Movie." It was released in 2000 and as best as I could find, is the only movies involving the "Winnie the Pooh" characters where Tigger is the main focus. I'm not going to go into the details of the movie, though I will say if your child likes that silly old bear, they will enjoy this story. All you need to know for this is that at a point in the movie, Tigger and Roo are bouncing through the woods looking for Tigger's family by yelling, "Hello? Tigger's family?! Come out, come out, where ever you are!"

For several days, William had been saying something that typed out probably looks like this, "Comeonah iya are!!" Having my minor in toddler linguistics, I really felt like I should be able to figure out what that meant. I had no idea. Till one day we were watching the movie, again, and William joined in at that scene with Tigger and Roo using his gibberish version. That is William's idea of, "Come out, come out where ever you are!" So now it was no longer confusing, just adorable.

With my role as William's playmate becoming more and more involving, it generally means he wants more time playing with puzzles or drawing in coloring books...or any books. This week though, thanks to the folks at Disney, he had something else in mind.

I had just put Carter down for his nap, and William was running around in a mild panic downstairs having finished watching The Tigger Movie...again. While to me it was downstairs, to William it had become the world of his friends from the hundred-acre woods. I'm almost surprised that I was not scolded for tramping on flowers or splashing in puddles as I took that final step off the stairs. Honestly, I was hoping for a moment of rest or a chance to check over the latest post so I could publish it before we dove into play time. Not that day. William reached up for my hand, and I was not going to tell him to wait. For a few moments I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to be doing, then William called out, "Hello? Tigger's Fam-wee? Comeonah iya are!" Ah! We're looking for Tigger's family, and since William was leading me, I assumed he was Tigger which made me Roo. Stick the short guy with the little character. Funny, son.

So we searched. And we searched. I mean, our house is not exactly big so there was a few laps made. We hopped a little and we checked in some of the drawers, but just like in the movie we never did find Tigger's family. All in all, our adventure probably lasted less than 10 minutes, but it was the first time William has ever pulled me into his world. In those moments, time really wasn't the important thing, and running spell check on some goofy write-up wasn't something I was going to worry about when we were working so hard to find a family of Tiggers. I made sure to reiterate a point made in the movie, that Tigger didn't need to go searching for his family, they were right beside him all along. It's true that I will always be here for my kids, but still, I'll go looking for that elusive family tree whenever William is ready to bring me along again. I hope he does.

So yes, if you've found your way to my exit on the internet turnpike, I do hope you'll stay a while. I hope you enjoy what you see, and I even hope you'll recommend me to a friend. Perhaps even lots of friends?


Know that there are days where I'm in search of a huge, striped tree filled with bouncing Tiggers of every color. There are days when I'm sharing a blanket with a special little man to watch Sheetrock Hills put on their brand new play, "Snow White and the Seven Tools." Some days I've just got too much dad life going on, and that has to happen before any of this.

To the next adventure!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are We Too Safe?

I feel like I don't understand many things that seem to have happened over the 14 (yikes) years since I graduated from high school. I know I've talked about this before, but times have changed. Every generation has probably said that at some point, but I feel there's something particularly relevant about that concept these days. The overexposure to people we have gained from social networking sites in addition to the continued wave of hypersensitive parenting styles, have made what I consider to be a larger than average stride between myself and younger crowds.

People have every right in the world to raise their kids in whatever manner they see fit, so long as they are not putting that child directly in harm's way. The downside of that idea is when a parent makes a decision for their child with every good intention in the world, and it catches on so rapidly that society takes a seemingly harmless idea and forces the world to change around it in a harmful way.

The other day, a friend posted a picture on his facebook page. He, his wife, and their roughly two year old boy had taken some professional family photos. In one of the pictures, he was holding his son upside-down while he and his wife were kissing. Their boy had that kind of kid-smile that is infectious. It was a very sweet picture, but it wasn't long before comments started flying about holding his child upside-down. How it was very dangerous and to consider what might have happened if he was dropped! Then came the attacks on the two of them as parents, of course from total strangers.

Look, if you as a parent decide that it's unsafe to toss your child into the air and let them fall into your arms, or lock hands with them and spin around in a circle, or dip your child upside-down, that's completely your business. Quite frankly, if you hear laughter coming from inside my house during the day I'd caution you to stay out since there's a pretty high chance something like that is happening right at that moment. A higher level of caution when it comes to your kids does not make you a better parent than someone with a little more flexibility in that area. It also does not guarantee your kids unlimited protection from harm. More so, having an opinion on something doesn't mean that every needs to bend to your view, and offering your opinion of what is "safe" is not the same as some blind rage comment on how people who differ from your view are wrong.

So what then? Do we need to put bubble wrap over every object in the house? Ban the sale of tables with pointed instead of rounded corners? How long are we going to hear about Steve Irwin's son feeding crocodiles before we're able to be okay that he's someone who is growing up in a zoo with this lifestyle? Interesting to me, as I grew up in Florida just miles away from an entire park where young kids can come face to face with giant alligators for a price. Safety is really a frame of mind. I, for example, feel much more safe in a car than an airplane though statistics tell me planes are the way to go. So how safe are we? Too safe?

Something bugged me during a recent online search for a trampoline. One of William's favorite movies is the newest "Winnie the Pooh" and while he certainly loves that willy, nilly, silly old bear, Tigger has inspired him to fill moments of his day with bouncing. I'm happy to join in, but that can only last for so long. So I thought, "Hey! He'd bounce for hours on a little trampoline!" A short time into my search I saw this little bundle of joy:

I love how hard they work to imply that this is not just some fun plaything. It's a fitness center! Complete with fitness slide! Better still is the level to which they have gone to convince people that it's safe. You're basically leaving your child to play with a cloud, while on a cloud. Everything is beautifully soft, rounded, contoured, and padded. There are nets to protect you from swinging too far off course. Best of all, the trampoline has a safety bar! Nothing says, "Have fun kiddo!" like a bar on a trampoline designed to restrict your movement and bounce height. Isn't that why trampolines like this were invented? No springs to pinch skin, seemingly impossible to hit any part of the frame, and better shock absorption than most off-road vehicles. Still fun? Of course, but look at the cost of all that peace-of-mind.

We spend so much time worrying about our kids. Parents try to teach these little life lessons, but learning to pick yourself up is something often overlooked. For a time, William realized that the threat that he might be hurt would get attention. This led to fake injuries with fake emotional responses, something we then had to learn to ignore. When a child is learning to walk, falling is part of that process. Eventually the training wheels need to come off the bike, and falling is part of that process, too. What is it Dory says in Finding Nemo? "Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo."

Odd that after writing this, I wake up to several announcements regarding this:

So perhaps there's a sound logic to a company providing over-the-top safety precautions when there are parents out there who will simply ignore the most basic rules. Even if they are printed out for them, three times. Clearly there needs to be some middle ground established on this matter, and you just can't account for people who will be brazenly careless with their children. We used a Bumbo for a while, it went on the floor and was surrounded by carpet and blankets to fall on. We have knives in the kitchen, we keep them out of their reach.

...and when I buy some little trampoline for William, I won't be telling him to keep the bounces under two inches. Aerosmith taught me to live on the edge.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't Concuss at Me

One of the most dangerous things you need to worry about as a parent, is your child. Kids have a seemingly natural tendency to "express their love" by unconventional means. Not all the time. You get the hugs and kisses, sometimes without even asking for them, but there are those times when you also get smacked a little too hard in the back or receive a swift kick to the nuggets. I'm not saying you should feel unsafe at the top of the stairs or at a subway platform when you are alone with a toddler, but I think you should be careful. As a rule. An accident happens by accident so you have to be aware that even your most trusted friend can cause you a great deal of pain without meaning to hurt you.


My junior year was my favorite year of high school. I had a very tight-knit group of friends who would get together frequently. From going out to eat to spending hours hanging out at someone's home, we had fun doing simple, harmless things. I can only hope our parents took note of that, because even our most wild night was tame. I developed friendships over that year that have stood the test of time. We would never to anything to hurt each other. Right?

Anyone who is familiar with band nerd protocol is probably aware that before school starts, you go hang out in the band room. Over the course of high school, your band mates are the people you see the most, so it makes sense that the people you form such a strong bond with are also the first people you want to talk to as the day begins. Likewise the band folks who drove to school would try and park as close as possible to the band room door, knowing that it would be the door they would use at the beginning and end of the day.

So it was not surprising that as I pulled into a parking spot very close to our special door one morning, I looked over to see two of my very best friends parked in the next spot. Their eyes were closed, listening to some music and patiently waiting for the doors to be unlocked so we could pile in the band room and regale each other with tales of things that had occurred in the 12 hours since we had last seen each other. Clearly I must have had something to talk about that couldn't wait, because that morning I exited my car and found my way to their driver's side window. I remember wanting to give my friend in the driver's seat a bit of a scare, and so as they both sat there with their eyes closed, I took position with my face close to the window, waiting for his eyes to open to my ugly mug inches from his place of rest.

I don't remember how long I was waiting, but I was willing to put the time in for my little joke. His eyes remained closed, as did his passenger, one of our close female friends. Eventually she opened her eyes and greeted me with a big smile. She began talking, but with their windows up I couldn't hear a thing from inside. I assume she was going on about how I was right outside the window, and how clever and funny that was of me, and how so many girls in school wanted to go out with me, you know, things like that. He remained sitting with his eyes closed and began to grin in an odd way. Evidently at some point she told him to open his door really quickly. My very good friend, who would go on to be the best man in my wedding party, did not question this idea because...well, because boobs. So in complete trust of her advice, he pushed the door open with as much strength as he could gather at that time in the morning.

And then I don't remember things that clearly.

I know I was in the band room getting a very concerning talk from my band director about something on my head. Whatever that means. I know I had a similar conversation during my first class because I couldn't "focus." Then there was some kind of drama involving my mom coming to school to get me and that I was not to be allowed to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. Either way, I got a few very nice phone calls that evening asking if I needed anything. Isn't that nice?

A similar incident happened over the weekend with Carter.

Carter has a new favorite toy. It's one of those toys that has an arrow pointing to one of a bunch of different animals, and if you pull the lever on the side you hear something along the lines of, "The cow says, 'moooooo" You all know the one. A speak and say. Carter decided that when he's ready to play with it, he would let me know by slamming it down on my lap with a massive smile on his face. The smile is to make sure I'm aware that it's done in a happy way, not an angry way. Since he has managed to avoid hitting me in the dangle thus far, I have been very tolerant of his method. So all was well and good till this weekend when I was taking a well deserved moment of rest on the couch. William was in a rare mood of actually sitting still to watch some cartoons and Carter was running around playing with whatever struck him in the moment. His sights must have set on his speak and say at some point because I remember seeing the quick flash of a cow and a goat, but it all goes fuzzy afterwards. I know that Melissa said something about a thing on my head, and then she was going on about a doctor's appointment and something my eyes were doing. I don't know, it was hard to focus.

It actually reminds me of this time in high school! A really good friend of mine was sitting in his car with this girl. They were listening to the radio in the morning.....

My point is - Be careful out there parents.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Art to Adorable

In a long list of things we needed to finalize in Florida before we moved to Idaho, I was told very sternly to get into my father's attic and clean out several boxes of random items that had been kept from my childhood. There was an endless pile of drawings from all throughout my life. Melissa insisted I keep a few from my high school art classes, but did not object to getting rid of my detailed blueprints for a spaceship. One unfortunate side effect of divorce, something the psychiatrists won't tell you, is that your childhood scribbles and memorabilia tends to split up as well. While that's all perfectly sensible, parents seem to go through a stage in life where hanging on to a picture of an unidentifiable blue mass is no longer important. So after feeling I'd seen the last odd box containing an MC Hammer concert ticket at my dad's house, I was a little frustrated to start the process over with a steady line of packages sent from my mom.

There was some element of fun in looking through all the drawings and school projects, most of which I had long forgotten. Still, I was not compelled at all to keep any of it and most ended up in the trash. I meant no offense to my parents by it, I'm sure at some point those things held meaning, but I couldn't help but think how long that stuff sat around waiting to be thrown away. I just barely want to show the boys the stuff Melissa made me keep, let alone proclaim, "Yes! Daddy was the one who drew...that."

We have one art project that William did adorning our refrigerator door. He wanted to decorate a cake like daddy does, isn't that sweet? So we found a cake picture from a coloring book and he went nuts with it. Outside of that, the boys are not at an age yet where they've attempted to actually draw anything.

I got to thinking a little bit, and I don't want this to come across as insensitive. I was wondering how long you need to keep something on the fridge before it's acceptable to take it down. Not that I'm saying parents ever get bored with seeing the artistic stages of their children displayed, but seriously, you have to run out of space eventually right? I'm sure not everyone is like us, but we keep a great deal of information on our refrigerator because it is a major focal point. Keeping things like important phone numbers, any number of reminders, or just a nice simple family photo takes up valuable real estate. Of course there's the technology to consider as well. Undoubtedly Apple will come out with the iFridge because we've all been there in the moment when you realize that you can't check facebook while opening the door and getting all the breakfast necessities out for the kiddos. I'm pretty excited. Likely we'll be able to store billions of their pictures in some kind of app, but there's nothing quite as personal as seeing the drawing in real life.

That's what I thought anyway...

Till I saw a feature on one of my favorite websites promoting a company called "Child's Own Studio" and if you're like me, you'll be blown away at what they do. Clearly companies like this have been around for some time, which is sad because I have plenty of friends with kids but I've never seen them mention this type of service. I think this is the type of thing parents love! I looked through a mountain of drawings I had done over my life and felt no spark of attachment, but I think having the one stuffed toy based on a drawing by me, that was special to my parents, would certainly be a bit of a treasured item. Needless to say it would be one of those items that the boys are not allowed to touch until they understand how to not destroy everything.

I became very excited by the prospect of turning artwork into something the boys could hold, sleep next to, and find comfort with. Sadly, with the amazing gallery must have come popularity as described on the studio's contact page saying they are working their way through a backlog of orders and are therefore not accepting new orders at this time. So perhaps even more awesome of Child's Own, they have provided a list of alternative places where you can find this type of service. That's if you're not willing to wait I assume.

I am so very fascinated with this so please, if you have used a place like this before or you, like me, are intrigued and go forth to have a toy made, leave a comment! Let myself and all the readers know how your experience was, and by all means send me a picture of the finished product!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Therapeutic Note

Every year I go through the phase of "What if I had continued on with my music education degree?" I have no regrets really, because in the end I wanted something that really wasn't being a band director. I wanted to work with bands without administrative red tape. There are jobs within most band programs that fill that idea, but not many, and not full time.

I love music in most forms, and I feel it's a bit of a "cause" for me because of how important it has been in my life, and how I believe it truly helps people. Which is why I was really excited to find that a good friend had taken a route with music that not enough people think about - music therapy. There's a feeling as you approach college as a music student that your options are either to teach music or play music, but that's just not the case. So I'd like to shed a little light on the work done by Metro Music Therapy and while they may not be in your area, perhaps you or someone you know could benefit from the services offered by groups like them to people of all ages.

Music therapy has been around about as long as instruments have. Through the centuries it's been said that music could rid a person of demons, delay madness in mental patients, purify the soul, or even aid with healing of diseases. Modern music therapy really began with veterans from World War I and II. Musicians, some quite famous, were sent to hospitals to play for soldiers suffering from mental and physical trauma as the result of battle. The results of these musical interactions were discussed for years. William Congreve wrote that now famous (often misquoted) line, "Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast..." but did you know it goes on to say, " soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." Congreve was on to something there, music takes hold of people in an almost indescribable way.

So what is modern music therapy? From the website, "Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. It is an established health service similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy and consists of using music therapeutically to address physical, psychological, cognitive and/or social functioning for clients of all ages." In short, music therapists work with people who have any number of disabilities and use music to help in the way they live. If you are a mother who had a special "labor mix" on your iPod, you have used music therapeutically. So this is an idea that many people have used in their life while perhaps not knowing it. I took this opportunity to ask my friend, Mallory Even - who owns and operates Metro Music Therapy, a few questions that go outside the realm of the information provided on the website.

My first question was the one I was most interested to hear the answer. As a former music education major, I'm well aware that music therapy is not an obvious choice to most people. It's something Mallory aims to change for other students.

With so many career choices involving music, what made you choose music therapy?
"I actually thought I wanted to be a band director throughout my time in high school, so I started out as a music education major my freshman year at Florida State. During one of our general music courses, Dr. Jayne Standley came to speak to our class about her work as a music therapist in the NICU. I had never heard of music therapy before,which I now think is sad and have made it a mission of mine to educate high school students about music therapy as a career choice. I was completely amazed that there was a field that combined my love for music and my passion for helping people. That same day, I walked into Dr. Standley’s office and told her I wanted to change my major."

Dr. Standley has done some amazing work with pre-mature babies. Her research and efforts with The Florida State University has found them third in the nation for music therapy programs. You can learn more about Dr. Standley and her work right here.

How would people find out about music therapy groups in their area? Would it be doctor referral, internet/word of mouth searching, little of both? 
"If searching for a music therapist in your area, I would start with either The American Music Therapy Association ( or the Certification Board for Music Therapists ( – both have databases to help people find music therapists throughout the United States. A doctor’s referral is always a plus (especially if you are hoping to have insurance coverage for music therapy services), and even speech, occupational or physical therapists in your area can be great resources since a lot of music therapists network with those other therapeutic disciplines. (Of course, the internet/word of mouth is always a good option, too!)"

An important thing to reinforce there is that many insurance companies cover some or all of the costs of these therapy sessions.

I'm sure there are tough days (right?), tell me a story about a good moment that keeps you going.
"Definitely tough days ... not only while working with challenging clients, but also as a small business owner in a field that can still be considered “new” or “different” by the general population. But, the work that we do is so rewarding that it makes it all worth it. One of my favorite moments as a music therapist could have been easily overlooked by an outsider – as a lot of our “it” moments can be – but, luckily my five-year-old client’s mother was in the room during our session that day. This little girl, we’ll call her “Bella”, was hearing impaired and had recently undergone surgery for bilateral cochlear implants – a surgery that is decided upon by a lot of families only after much thought and consideration for their child’s future. As usual, I started our session with the “hello” song (a simple song I had sung so many times before while Bella would look at me and smile, but usually never make a sound) ... “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” That morning Bella waved and smiled, but didn’t vocalize anything with me. I told Bella I wanted to sing the song again, and this time I wanted her to try really hard and sing her name with me. “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” After I was finished singing that phrase, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Bel-la.”

“Yea, Bella! That was wonderful!! Let’s do it again!!” And we did. We must have sung the “hello” song ten times that day. Bella’s mother remained very quiet and got very teary-eyed as we continued to sing, and finally looked at me and said, “That is the first time she has ever said her name.”

There are so many touching moments that make up a music therapist’s career. The elderly dementia patient that can’t remember their name, where they live, or who their family members are, but who can sing every word to the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” and who smile for the first time in days because you brought that musical memory to them; the child with Autism who remains isolated and withdrawn in their usual daily activities, but engages in eye contact, close proximity to peers, and appropriate social skills during the instrument-play activity in their weekly music therapy group. The changes evoked through music can sometimes appear to be subtle, but as a whole, music therapists are doing some big things."

Ya know, it's easy to dismiss a profession that traces back to ideas of tribes performing rituals of song and dance to cure illness. Yet, we live in a world that has blamed death and tragedy on music time and time again. It's clear that people know that music is a powerful thing, but I'm not sure people know how beautifully powerful it can become when channeled in the right way. We all have a song that brings a smile to our face, ones that makes us feel calm or remind us of a perfect moment, and using that idea to help people is pretty special. These amazing people design programs for each individual person which can even include instrument lessons. It's clearly rewarding and an industry that deserves a little spotlight.

If you know of someone who might benefit from music therapy. Look into it, please!

Again, check out and to find someone in your area and do me the added favor, if you will, of either commenting below or sending Mallory an email to: and let her and her staff know to keep up this great work.