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May 27, 2010

Never As Expected – Always Perfect

As we approach the Memorial Holiday weekend, we’re all starting to think about summer and vacations and all the wonderful things that go with that. Also, some of us are planning those family moments where everything will come together in one shining moment – or not. In watching the Modern Family finale (“Family Portrait“) last week, it was a perfect example of that specific moment planned down to the last detail that does not come off as expected, but is perfect none the less (and yes, I’ll admit, I may have more than a little Claire in me). So as summer and all its family moments close in, just remember that sometimes the unexpected and unplanned ARE the perfect moments.

October 26, 2009

Oh Crap, the Kidcatcher!

We’re always on the lookout for new movies to watch.  The Little Man doesn’t get a lot of leeway in the TV department given the dearth of decent choices out there.  What happened to Looney Tunes, Superfriends and Fraggle Rock?  Plus, TV turns your brain to mush.  Even Alec Baldwin knows that.  Anything beyond Discovery Channel, Animal Planet or sports (if yours truly is deciding) generally gets a swift veto.

 That said, we don’t want to raise a child devoid of all pop culture knowledge.  How would he ever play Trivial Pursuit?  A delicate system of checks and balances to say the least. 

 We discovered a while back that old movies could be a great supplement to the Disney and Pixar offering of the modern era.  Classics such as Mary Poppins, Herbie the Love Bug and even Pippy Longstockings (I never really realized how very strange that movie is until I watched it as an adult). 

 There have been some mistakes to say the least.  One day, when the Little Man was about 5 ¼ (as he likes to say) we popped in another classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  We thought we were in for a trip down memory lane with Dick Van Dyke.  Little did we know that it was more a trip down Elm Street and might as well as had Freddy Krueger driving old Mr. Bang Bang. Kidcatcher

 Everyone goes along swimmingly until they land in Vulgaria and the Kidcatcher starts running around scooping up kids and throwing them in a cage.  You know how this story ends.  Movie off, crying child and nightmares for six months that still linger to this day.  Nice work Dad.

 Anyway, we’re still fans of the old movies, we’ve just learned to screen them before the family showing.  Even if you think you remember the movie, you might have repressed your own fearful memories of the Kidcatcher.  Drop a comment with your family movie choice gone wrong.

October 19, 2009

You Didn’t Lick That Off The Grass

Every family has its little sayings and catchphrases.  I suppose they are a combination of cultural and geographical influences plus the personalities that make up your family.  Not as disgusting as it sounds and my all-time favorite saying.  That’s how I would describe “you didn’t lick that off the grass.” 

“What does that does that mean?” you’re probably asking with a horrified look on your face.  Loosely translated, “the apple didn’t fall from the tree.”  My grandparents lived in eastern Canada where my mom also spent her formative years before heading south to the warmer lands of California (explains a lot).  I have many childhood memories of visits to Canada.  I would be sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen in Renfrew (no you’ve never heard of it) doing some childish thing and immediately getting a dose of “you didn’t lick that off the grass” in her Canadian-Irish-Grandmotherly accent.  As a little kid you hear these things and either don’t understand them or just ignore them.  A quick, “Whatever, Grandma” runs through my brain, although certainly not out loud. 

As I got older, I’d then get it from my mom (of course referring to the fact that whatever ridiculous thing I was doing was a result of my father’s genes).  At this point, a little older (although no wiser) I would take some silent pride in doing something annoying or ridiculous (boys) and knowing I could pass it off on my genes.  My mom, looking through my eyes and directly into my brain as mothers do, would then say, “just wait.”  And the inevitable, “Whatever, Mom” thought passes through my teenage brain.

And then you become a parent.  As with many of the things our parents were right about, I’m now acutely aware of her meaning.  Circle of life and all that.  And now, on visits to California, sitting in my mother’s kitchen watching my son do his thing with me trying to keep some semblance of order, what do I hear?  “You didn’t lick that off the grass” echoing off the walls like a gunshot in a canyon, with a faint Canadian-Irish-Grandmotherly accent mixed in for effect.  And looking into my son’s eyes, what is that flicker I catch a glimpse of?  Could it be a “Whatever, Grandma?”

October 13, 2009

Love Your Socks

I love new socks.  The feeling of that pristine cotton that is shiny new, so soft and as yet unspoiled by dirty feet.  They haven’t been washed, stretched, ripped or stinkified.  They seem perfect.  There was a time I thought that I’d wear new socks every day if I could, but I’m not nearly that interesting or quirky. 

 If you think about it, our kids are a bit like new socks.  They are born as perfect little beings that haven’t taken in any of the stink of the world yet.  Starting with the moment of birth we spend our time trying to protect them from the world, themselves and even us.  There are “stinks” of all kinds that include artificial ingredients, pollution, riding a scooter without a helmet, Hannah Montana and the list goes on.  How do we keep them away from all these bad things?  Maybe we shouldn’t.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a long list of things that we absolutely need to protect them from – there is and I don’t need to list them here.  Protecting our kids from real danger is our number one job as parents as I so often remind my son, to his great dismay.  I’m just saying that I’ve recently started to realize (yes, it’s only taken me six plus years) that maybe I need to let go a bit.  I need to let my son experience the world, make some mistakes, scrape a knee or two.  Not every moment is a learning experience – some are just experiences.  

 If life was a series of the same new socks day after day it would get pretty boring.  Those new socks would start to lose their luster because they’d all be the same.  What makes us all unique individuals and interesting is our collection of unique experiences, habits and preferences (some good, some bad).  Parenting has taught me many things, but I never thought I’d learn to love my old socks along the way.

October 8, 2009

Which Remote Is It Again?

In our house, my role as the more home-bound parent and my Y chromosome make me the de facto “IT Department” for all our home technology.  Cell phone, TV, music, computer, home network or even kitchen appliances all fall under my responsibility and if something goes wrong or needs updating, my wife’s stock answer is “that’s your department.”  Of course, our IT Department must always get budgetary approval for any new expenditure which can sometimes crimp the coolness factor, but generally keeps things from getting too out of control.  My wife always jokes with friends that a benefit (one of many I’m sure) of having a stay at home dad in the house is that she is always on the cutting edge of technology.  Although one of the downsides is that she sometimes can’t turn on the TV if I’m not there.

I’m sure this division happens in many households out there, albeit not always along gender lines.  As with many aspects of day to day family life (finances, food, etc.) it just makes sense to have one person dealing with it.  I admit, I’m a minor technology junkie and keep up with most of the latest gadgets and gizmos.  In the electronics world, there’s always something new around the corner to want or that you really “need.”  I thought I’d take a minute to share a few of my technology “how did I live without” and of course a few of my “really wants.”

How Did I Live Without?

Digital Video Recorder (DVR) – In my humble opinion, this is one of man’s great inventions.  The ability to quickly and easily record any show or series and pause live TV have spoiled me to the point where I often find myself standing there with a shocked look on my face when I find someone who doesn’t embrace this technology.  I personally now use Verizon FIOS and love many of the features of this service, including my ability to program my DVR from any internet connected computer.  Brilliant.

Smartphone (Blackberry, iPhone and the rest) – I’ve said before, I spend a lot of time at the playground.  As my son has grown older, our playground and park time is much less focused on how I can entertain him, so that leaves me to entertain myself or even get some work done with all that time.  Enter, my Blackberry.  I am able to answer emails, phone calls, do web searches, research products, play games and the list goes on.  Without my Blackberry, I could conceivably be even crazier than I am now from all the time spent watching toddlers eat sand.

How Can I Get My Hands On That?

Sonos Music System (www.sonos.com) – We have an iPod in our house for all our music.  It is the perfect way for us add new music to our collection in our small NY apartment.  Sometimes, though, we’d like to be able to have some adult music in the living room, while the Superheros theme (or Michael Jackson) that my son wants plays in his room all from our one music collection.  Enter the Sonos Music System that I must figure out how to buy.  It can play different music in any or all rooms all from your one computer or iPod.  The system is expense, but people rave about it and I need to ask Santa for it.

iPod Touch (www.apple.com) – As I mentioned above, I’m a Blackberry man.  I need the physical keyboard for writing emails (and sometimes blog posts) in playgrounds, on planes and subways and even sometimes on the couch.  That doesn’t stop me from craving all the Apple toys out there with the iPod Touch at the top of the list.  The new 32GB iPod Touch can run all the iPhone apps, games and music plus surf the internet with WiFi.  Basically a specialized, very small computer.  It also may save me from having to buy my son a dedicated game machine like the Nintendo DS which would create a daily struggle of “put that thing away.”

That’s my short list of technology for now, but I could go on and on.  Hopefully Santa will see this blog and I’ll try to be good for a few months more.  None of the companies or products mentioned above have paid or given consideration of any kind for inclusion in this blog.  What can’t you live without?

September 29, 2009

Más?

After a week traveling in Europe, I am once again humbled by the linguistic abilities of the rest of the world. As Americans, we are spoiled that the global community has adopted English as its second language of choice. My wife and I have long wished our son would learn a second language while he still has the gift of a young and sponge-like mind.

 We came out of the gates strong. After a few months at home with our newborn son we both had to return to work and thus needed some help. We were lucky that we were close enough that my mom could take him two days a week but a nanny was still needed for the other three days. We found a wonderful Nicaraguan nanny that we insisted speak only Spanish to him.  He (and we) enjoyed this three day a week immersion for over a year. We added to this reading at least half his books to him in Spanish and we were well on our way to bilingual bliss.

 As they always do, circumstances changed upsetting the apple cart in a big way. Fast forward to years later with us in New York and a trip to Chevy’s being the closest we get to Spanish in our house. To be fair, my wife has high school Spanish in her back pocket and can speak the language better than she gives herself credit for. I have what remains of my Spanish learned from children’s books including foods, farm animals and clothes. Not super helpful.

 As we reveled in our return from Europe and the inevitable silliness with our little man, we came across a new version of an old game, the tickle game.  Everyone knows this game where we tickle our little one until they are hysterically gasping for mercy after which they want it to immediately restart.  As a newly traveled man of the world, this time I insisted that all begging for mercy or any other form of communication be done in Spanish. Amazing how fast your six year old (or probably anyone being tickle-tortured) can learn words while laughing like a hyena who can’t breathe and trying to remember to say “tio” (uncle) or “no mas” (no more). So while my wife and I dream of our house sounding like a United Nations General Meeting, maybe we can just laugh ourselves a few steps closer to a bilingual household.

September 15, 2009

Hopped Up On Grandma

September is a crazy month in our house.  People seem to be traveling every which way and this year is no exception.  Fortunately we are blessed with a Grandma that jumps on a plane from California at the drop of a hat and cherishes each moment she gets to spend with our son, aka The Golden Child.  As the only grandchild on my side of the family, The Golden Child is not only “the only child” in our household, but the only child (not counting me) in the Holmes Family. 

 My wife and I have come to realize that grandparents do, what grandparents do; there isn’t any point in fighting it.  When Grandma is running the show, the house rules tend to be more liberally interpreted.  For example, TV is not normally permitted on school nights, but inevitably a loophole will be found.  It was Discovery Channel and I was learning about animals, the US Open was on and Grandma had to watch it, all my homework as done and we were just watching a few minutes are all possibilities upon our return.  Little treats seem to find there way into snack time or desserts seem to take on a new prominence in our absence.  Spoiling is the order of the day.

 In the big picture though, these are minor concerns.  We have learned that we are lucky parents who have a ready, willing and able caretaker for just about anytime we are both away.  We travel missing our little man immensely, but knowing he is in good hands.  So if we come back to a six year old child hopped up on Grandma, we’ll take it.  We’re pretty good at detox from that condition.

August 12, 2009

Daddy’s Weekend Away

The much anticipated “Boy’s Weekend” is finally here and Dad is headed out to San Diego for a weekend of golf and revelry with my best three college buddies. As a stay at home parent, the weekend is filled with interesting and unanticipated subplots.

This weekend with the boys has been going on for some fifteen years now and so this yearly ritual is nothing new to my wife and now my son. But that wasn’t always the case. When our son was three and old enough to know that Daddy, his primary caretaker and the parent in charge of meals, laundry, groceries and other household duties, was leaving for a few days, my wife and I noticed a panic creeping in as the weekend drew near. In speaking to him about it one night, my wife was lucky enough to have an exchange with him that went something like:

“Honey, are you nervous that Daddy is going away for a few days? We’ll have fun just the two of us!” she said.

“Yes, Mommy, we’ll have fun” he answered.

“So what are you nervous about then Sweetie?” she asked.

“Mommy, when Daddy is gone, how will we eat?” he inquired.

“What do you mean?” she asked puzzled by the question.

“Well, Daddy cooks all our food and has the wallet!” he exclaimed.

Our son didn’t care who stayed home and who worked. He didn’t care about traditional roles or that his parents did it the “opposite” of traditional. Truth be told, I always worry when I’m away. I know my wife can cook and can obviously order take out or pay at a restaurant, do laundry and all the rest. She’s exactly as able as me to take care of our son. It’s just that we’ve allocated the roles so that it’s my job. I’m sure there are many moms and dads out there who’ve felt exactly the same on the eve of a trip leaving kids with their working spouse.

The point is, that it is good for us all to have balance – shake it up a bit. As we say in our house to keep it “spicy.” Daddy needs some Daddy time and Mommy needs some concentrated Mommy time. When things get back to normal, we’re all better for it and appreciate what we’ve got, just that much more. Don’t worry Sweetie, Mommy has a wallet too.