Saturday, December 10, 2011

House of the Early-Rising Son

"DAAAAAA-DEEEEEE!  The sun is up!"

Groan.

"LOOK!  The sun is up!"

This is how my eldest son often wakes me these days.  He proclaims that the sun has risen, not-too-subtly suggesting that we should all rise with it, as if the sun were lonely and needed company in the earliest hours of the day.

"DAAAAAA-DEEEEEEEEEEE!" repeats my son, in case I didn't hear him through our booming child monitor.  Notice how he doesn't usually call for his mother.  He respects her desire to sleep.  And Adam's too.  I think nothing brings my son greater joy than tormenting his father.  "LOOK!  The sun is up!"

I groan again and use all my will to not shout something profane.  "Go back to bed," I respond, and he hears it because he's young and has super-sensitive hearing, which is piqued whenever he expects me to say something profane.

"But I'm not tired.  The sun is up!"

I want to throw a pillow at him to get him to stop, but there's no effective way to do that from my bed.  The pillow hits the wall. 

"Go back to sleep, Kyle!"

To be honest, this isn't a bad wake-up call.  It could be worse.  It could be a scream.  It could be vomit.  It could be Kyle tipping over Adam's crib.  A little proclamation that "the sun is up," is rather harmless and amusing at times.  I probably would welcome it daily if it weren't so often completely inaccurate.  The sun does not rise at 5:15 a.m.

"The sun is NOT up, Kyle!  Go back to bed!"

Okay, maybe the sun is up at 5:15 a.m. somewhere.  There are parts of Alaska where the sun rises early and then doesn't set for more than a month.  But in New York City, in December, the sun does not appear before seven o'clock.  That is, unless the Earth is about to crash into it.  Then, and only then, I'd be okay with getting up.

"DAAAAAAAAAAA-DEEEEEEEEE!!!  DAAAAAAAAAAA-DEEEEEEEEE!!!  The sun is up!"

Don't be fooled: Kyle does not believe that the sun is up, either.  Only once was he confused, and that was because of a full moon at 2 a.m.  When he's up at 5, 5:15 or 5:30, it's because he can't sleep and is excited about going to nursery school, which begins at 8:30.  Our clock alarm is set for 6 a.m., but many times that's too late for Kyle.  If he's up, then naturally the sun must be up, and if he repeats it enough times, he'll convince us all to get up and get going.  But I fight back, determined to stay in bed at least 'til six.  Especially during the weekend.

"Go back to bed Kyle!"

"I'm done sleeping, Daddy!"

And so we go back and forth with a shouting duel between two very stubborn people.  As you can imagine, my wife absolutely loves this.  She often talks about just giving in to the three-year-old, but doing so would require actually getting up, and she usually has no energy for that early in the morning because at night we tend to stay up much later than the parents of two kids should.  So she groans an objection as I keep up the battle.

"No, Kyle, we have to rest a little longer!"

"LOOK, Daddy!  The sun is UP!"

Of all the battles I pick with Kyle, this is one I win fairly regularly, but that's often because it just lasts until six o'clock.  Once the alarm goes off, I stop the fight.  Jennifer gets up, looks at me crossly, and then heads to the shower.  I shuffle my way to the boys' room, and Kyle jumps out with a burst of energy.  He does not admit defeat because he has no concept of time.  The little guy runs to the couch to watch TV, and, after changing Adam, I slowly follow him there.  As I stare blankly at the television, trying figure out why Jennifer and I didn't choose to raise plants instead of children, Kyle begins a new battle, asking repeatedly for breakfast.   Our morning is now officially underway, and, despite claims to the contrary, the sun is still not up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Painting the Town Brown

For Halloween, most kids dress up as vampires, witches, superheroes or princesses.  Some imitate characters of myth and fable, while others prefer to look like their favorite TV star.  Monday night, our son Kyle was dressed like the UPS guy.

It's not easy to pick out a costume for a three-year-old, especially when he refuses to give us any suggestions.  Kyle is just as picky with clothing as he is with food, and any attempt by parents to get him to try something else will be met with uncontrollable wrath.  Yes, that means the extremely fashionable bacon suit, the perfect combination of style and cuisine, would be Kyle's ultimate punishment.  Fortunately, we tend to deal with the food and clothing aversions separately, and as Jennifer and I searched for this year's costume, we went through the extensive list of no-no's.  No bulky clothes.  No super-tight clothes.  Nothing too flashy.  Nothing too frilly.  Nothing too slimy.  Nothing with spikes.  No masks.  No funny noses.  No enormous ears.  No slippers.  No hats. 

The last bit about hats is a big one.  Kyle has one hat he likes to wear - a Brooklyn baseball cap - and he even throws that one to the ground often.  Many of the costumes we liked required him to wear an identifiable hat.  Initially we wanted Kyle to be a zookeeper, since his brother Adam was going as a lion (a hand-me-down gift from our good friends Matt & Amanda, whose son Evan was a lion last year).  But every zookeeper costume we saw looked like a nondescript beige uniform without the hat.  Then we came across the UPS costume.  It was simple.  Everyone would know who he was from the badge on his brown shirt.  The hat was nice, but not required.  Plus, Kyle nearly wets his diaper with excitement every time our UPS guy rings the buzzer, and he always demands I take him downstairs to get the package.  We just couldn't resist giving him the costume.

"I want to be BATMAN," said the little guy several days ago.  Tough luck, kid.  That ain't gonna happen, especially with Halloween less than a week away.  It would have been nice if Kyle told us that in September, or even two weeks ago.  At first, I thought we'd have a crisis on our hands, but fortunately Kyle forgot about his suggestion a day or so later.  Next year we won't be as lucky, I'm sure.

So, on Halloween, Kyle wore the UPS costume with little resistance, and Adam was a fiercely drooling lion.  Kyle first went to a party at his nursery school, where he says many girls dressed up as butterflies.  Butterflies?  That seemed like an odd costume.  We asked him if he was sure, and he said, yes, they were butterflies.  It took us a while, but then we realized his likely mistake.  The wings must have thrown him off.   The girls probably were dressed like other winged characters, such as fairies, angels or Winged Nazgul.  Not butterflies.  That would have been silly.  We didn't bother to correct Kyle, since it's often futile to correct a three-year-old on matters such as these.  The girls were butterflies.

Then came the trick-or-treating.  That was a lot of fun.  I'm guessing a couple hundred kids (no kidding) roamed our block and the next, asking for treats and getting plenty.  Kyle's pumpkin bucket was full in practically no time.  Everyone recognized his costume, and many people asked him if he had a package for them.  Of course he didn't, but Kyle didn't want the candy-givers to get upset and deny him sweets.  So he said, "yeah," then grabbed the candy and ran off before the candy-givers could respond.  Adam lurked behind, ready to scare them with his fierce lion gums should they try to go after his brother.

This was the best Halloween we've had in a long time, perhaps the best one since we've gone trick-or-treating ourselves (and we've had a lot of good ones since Kyle was born).  I just love seeing it though Kyle's eyes.  I can't wait 'til Adam can trick-or-treat with him.  That will be a blast, and it will also bring in twice as much candy.  As it is, I've been on a sugar high since mid-October, but I'm guessing it'll wind down by Veteran's Day.  Someday I hope to keep it up 'til Thanksgiving.  Oh yes, I love Halloween.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Closing Time

There are certain places that are obviously unfit for an infant and three-year-old: a topless bar, a slaughterhouse, a place where Santa Claus decorations are melted for recycling.  But what about an attorney's office on the day of a closing?  It's hard to see any dangers there.  Sure, it's not as exciting as a playground or a grilled cheese sandwich, but the office has pens and paper and chairs to play on, as long as the kids sign waivers absolving the attorneys of any responsibility should there be an accident.  Plus, a closing should be exciting for kids, as it is the start of a new adventure into a brand new home with nice clean floors and walls for them to destroy.  Why not bring our children?  At least that's what we had to tell ourselves, after our many babysitting plans fell through.

(Above: Packed up and ready to move to a new home)
So, in late August, we smiled sheepishly as we walked into the attorney’s office, apologizing in advance for our kids, as Kyle ran off and almost whacked the bank representative with a swivel chair.  That required another apology, and more paperwork.  Jennifer and I took our spots at the long table, with our real estate attorney sitting between us.  The sellers sat across from us with their lawyer, and there were other representatives there from the bank and the state.  Nobody was upset that our children were with us, or at least they didn't show it.  Adam remained in his car seat, on the table next to Jennifer.  Kyle was supposed to be near me, but he couldn't stay in one spot when there were so many cabinet doors to open.  We had brought some books and crayons, but he was done with those and off to something else before we could sign the first document.

And, wow, there were a ton of papers to sign.  For some reason, you can form a country with a single document, but you can't buy a home in that country without getting carpal tunnel syndrome.  Page after page flew in front of us for a signature, as our lawyer briefly explained what each one meant.  Much of it was over my head.  This was our first time purchasing a home.  I was used to signing a one-page lease that basically told us to pay the rent on time, keep the place clean, and don't throw animals out the window.  Now I had to sign a mountain of paper, taking ownership to every little crack in the wall of our new condo, and giving the bank permission to remove our kidneys should we be delinquent with our payments.

At least, that's what I understand of what happened that day.  I couldn't quite focus with Kyle running around, taking off his shoes, skipping out of sight into the hallway, and climbing the office blinds.  As I carefully watched Kyle and tried to steer him from harm, I just nodded, signed and initialed each page before me, hoping that somehow I wasn't doing anything I'd regret later.  I also figured that my wife, who is an attorney, would be closely following and understanding everything that was going on.  If I had questions, I could just ask her later.  But Jennifer was having a rough time with Adam, who that afternoon realized that being a quiet little baby is boring and screaming incites a funny reaction from Mommy.  So she just signed away as she tried to quell our infant, hoping that I was listening to the proceedings.  Once we were done and on the way home, we realized that neither of us had a clue as to what just happened, or why we agreed to let the sellers' Uncle Murray stay with us on weekends.

Now it's nearly two months later, and I think we survived the home-buying process.  I still feel buying a home was the right thing to do.  Our savings account had been dragging us down, and we were tired of living someplace we could actually afford.  Besides, owning property is part of the American dream, and buying a home allowed us to take part in another joy of life: moving.  This time we packed and unpacked with two children around, which should be illegal.  Everything went much more slowly, but with far more stress.  Blankets and toys had to be found - immediately! - even if you forgot what box you put them in.  Fortunately, some meltdowns were averted (thank you, DVD player) and now a majority of things are where they should be.  I'm getting to a point where I can stop unpacking and do other things, such as showering and writing.  It feels good.  Life is finally returning to normal, whatever "normal" may be.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Big Brother is Watching

Note: July turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated.  I had hoped to write an original post for "Dave Weekly," but instead I am publishing a post I had written this month for my baby blog.  My apologies to all those who also subscribe to that blog and are now forced to re-read the same bad jokes.

So far, Kyle seems to be liking his baby brother.  Or rather, he seems to be obsessed with him.  "Kyle wants to see baby Adam!"  "Kyle wants to see baby Adam!"  That's all I hear from him all day.  When he sits down for a meal, he wants to be in a seat where he can view the little guy.  When Kyle rides next to Adam in his stroller, he practically stands in it so that he can see Adam rolling along beside him.  When Adam takes a nap, Kyle wants to watch.  When Adam wants a feeding, Kyle... well, fortunately for Jennifer, Kyle's okay with Adam doing that alone.

And there's more.  While most of us often wait years to relive our childhoods, Kyle's already wanting a return trip down memory lane.  When we tried "tummy time" to terrify Adam...


... Kyle also had to join in.


We clapped when Kyle showed us how well he could roll over.

This obsession is a bit unexpected.  We were hoping Kyle would like Adam, or just get used to having him around.  But instead, for the past month, Kyle's been completely focused on his younger brother.  If Kyle weren't three years old and Adam's sibling, I'd call him a creepy stalker.  Yet, it all seems mostly innocent (keep in mind I say "mostly").  Kyle's even nudging us to do more, often telling us to say "hi" to Adam, or ask "what's the matter, Adam?" when he's crying.  Kyle also makes his own guesses as to what's causing Adam's cries, and he likes to share those with us.  He'll tell us that Adam is hungry, has a dirty diaper, or is going tone-deaf by listening to his daddy's singing. 

Sure, this sounds nice and helpful and all, but the truth is Kyle likes the crying.  He smiles widely when he hears it.  He laughs.  So, naturally, he wants to hear it again.  And that's where the innocence ends.  Many times Kyle hovers around Adam just to get him worked up.  If Adam is sleeping, Kyle will walk up to him and start shouting loudly and incoherently until his little brother wakes up crying.  Kyle then will look up at me and say that Adam needs a diaper change.

A little sibling rivalry might be budding here.  Kyle better be careful.  I think Adam is quietly plotting revenge... 


I can see it in his eyes.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dave Monthly

While I get used to having two kids, I don't think it's wise for me to keep up with two blogs.  I'm not exactly the type of person who posts without editing or rewriting, so these things take a bit of time, and time is a little scarce these days.  Because of that, I plan to take a break from Dave Weekly to focus more on my blog for family and friends.

I will continue to write on this blog, but only once a month in July, August and September.  I'll go back to my weekly column in October, just in time for Kyle to begin nursery school.  We'll have lots of fun then, especially with all the diseases our kid will be bringing home.  Oh boy!

Have a great one, and be sure to come back here next month!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spoiling Our Dinner

There are certain things you don't do in the days leading up to a scheduled c-section.  Using a slow cooker is one of them.  In the evening of June 16th, I had to prematurely kill what would have been a delicious rump roast meal, with just two hours of cooking left to go.  The smell of marinated meat, accompanied by peppers, onions and other savory ingredients, had already permeated the apartment.  For much of the day, we welcomed the aroma, and became increasingly excited about our gourmet dinner.  But as I stood there, with my hand clicking the knob to "off," the smells became a tease for a meal that wasn't meant to be, mocking us for even attempting to cook anything that requires hours when we were living minute-to-minute, waiting for a sign that the baby was to arrive.  The meal had to end.  Jennifer was having contractions.

I will never forgive Adam for killing my rump roast.  His brother had the decency to arrive after the due date.  The least Adam could do was wait 'til the c-section appointment, which was scheduled five days before he was due.  Or maybe wait 'til taco night.  But no, our son had to go ahead and launch contractions before our meal was finished.  The nerve.

"Surprise!"
At first, we weren't even sure that Jennifer was going through actual labor, which made killing our meal all the more painful.  After dropping Kyle off at our emergency sitter, we rushed to the hospital, grabbed a couple chairs outside the delivery room... and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Then a nurse gave us a room, put Jennifer on a bed, hooked her up to monitors, and made us wait some more.  It was a very busy night at the maternity ward, exactly nine months after iTunes released Barry White's "Ultimate Love" Collection.  A doctor introduced herself, asked why we were there, checked Jennifer's pulse and the baby's heartbeat, and then disappeared for hours.  From time to time, nurses came in, again asking why we were there before checking Jennifer's pulse and the baby's heartbeat.  They downplayed the contractions, saying they probably weren't signs of actual labor, and were likely triggered by dehydration or the aroma of a very, very good meal.  Still, Jennifer was not to eat or drink anything, just in case we really were on the baby train.  For long stretches we were left alone in the small room with no TV, shielded from others by a thin curtain.  We had no music, just beeps from the monitors and Adam's heartbeat, which would fade in and out depending on where he positioned himself.  I sat in a chair by Jennifer's bed, next to what appeared to be the only working bathroom in the entire ward, so we had more visitors than medics checking up on us.  We waited some more as Jennifer's contractions intensified.  Then the doctor we had met earlier walked back into our room.  She introduced herself and asked us why we were there.  It was a long night.

At about 1 a.m., nearly seven hours after we had checked in and long after our rump roast began to decay on our kitchen counter, the doctor and nurses finally determined that labor was indeed happening.  Jennifer and I gave each other a high-five.  It's Baby Time!  The doctors said they'd be right back, and about an hour later they returned and prepped Jennifer for the operation.  I went downstairs to the admitting office and signed about 400 papers to appease the hospital's lawyers. I also ate the snack I had packed in my emergency bag.  Maternity doctors suggest that the husband should eat, since it's pointless to have two hungry parents, and they don't want the dads thinking about chicken wings when they receive their babies for the first time. 

A doctor then guided me to the operating room, and I sat there by Jennifer's side, waiting for our little one to arrive.  Adam joined our family at 2:58 a.m. on the 17th.  The surgeons cleaned him up and then handed our beautiful little boy to me.  I was overwhelmed with pride and joy, and I smiled widely as I talked to our son for the first time.  He cried and nearly passed out as he smelled my rancid breath.  That night I learned another thing about preparing for a child's birth: when putting together your hospital bag, don't pack a "barbecue and cheese" snack mix as your emergency food.  I don't think Adam received a good first impression of his dad.

A little more than a week has passed.  We're now at home, surviving life with two kids.  It's going well so far, and our family and friends have been there to lend support and offer their congratulations.  Life is great.  My mom is here as well to help us along during the first couple of weeks.  She's also doing much of the cooking.  I think I will make a special request.  Let's hope Adam doesn't ruin it again.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

And Then There Were Two


Little Adam has arrived.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Pop" Quiz

I've had this recurring dream: I'm back in high school or college, and I suddenly hear I have a major exam coming up within a few hours.  The exam is based on a large book that I have not read, and I realize there's simply not enough time to read it.  I am not ready at all for this exam, and flunking it could get me kicked out of school.  I panic.  Then I wake up.  I'm a bit rattled, and it takes me a few moments to remember that I've been done with school for more than a decade now.  The dream has been one of the more vivid and bothersome dreams I've had in a while.  It's almost as bad as that one where I go to a U2 concert and Justin Bieber takes the stage.

I don't analyze dreams for a living, but it's not difficult to figure out the meaning behind this one.  Sure, I could blame it on something I ate (which may explain why I'm usually in the classroom naked and carrying a ukulele), but I don't think it's a conicidence that I've had these dreams while I've been preparing for my second child.  The due date is approaching very quickly, and I can't help but think to myself: am I ready?

(Above: "Ready or not, here I come!")
You bet I am.  I'm not nervous because I've done this before.  Been there, done that, ready to do it again.  Yet, I'm slightly unnerved by the fact that I'm not nervous.  Maybe there's something I prepared for last time that I didn't this time, and it'll spring upon me last-minute (like that exam).  Each child is different, so how will this child surprise us?  Will he sleep well?  Will he have colic?  Will he be into country music?  I don't believe I'm ready for that.  I think this might be the kind of stuff that haunts me in my sleep. 

Or maybe I haven't fully prepared for all the familiar things.  Things I remember not liking the first time around and was so glad to be done with.  Middle-of-the night feedings.  Spit-up.  Changing-time explosions.  Enfamil.  Soon I will have to deal with all those things again.  And then there's the waiting.  I had forgotten about the waiting.  Our little guy is full-term now, so he could pop at any time.  He will be out within a week regardless.  But will he come early?  It happens often with the second child.  Jennifer was two weeks earlier than her due date, and we've already crossed that line.  So now we're in the stretch where we are on edge, awaiting any sign that the little guy might be ready to come out.  According to the pregnancy books, I'm supposed to be a calming force during this time, but I still find myself jumping up, grabbing the bags and preparing to call our backup babysitter whenever Jennifer signals any discomfort, even if it's from indigestion.  Yeah, I hate the waiting part.  But even that doesn't make me nervous; I just want to get out fast enough so we don't get stuck delivering on a crowded FDR Drive.

As for having two kids, I'm really not sure what life will be like once that happens.  I think more of our stuff will be broken.  We might also need a better diaper pail and some earplugs.  Again, for some odd reason I'm not worried about it.  I feel prepared for two kids.  We have Band-Aids, Neosporin and a fire extinguisher.  We'll be fine.

Of course, this is what I say when I'm awake.  I think my dreamland self is still terrified.  Fortunately, my dreamland self won't be making an appearance in the first week after the birth, and after that he'll be here in just short spurts.  By the time I get a full night's sleep again, I'll be too tired to even worry about anything.

So, it looks like the next time I post on this blog I will be a father of two.  Honestly, I am very much looking forward to it.  I think, in the long run, it will be lots of fun.  If anything, I won't be starving for new things to write about.  I just hope that, if we're surprised by anything in the coming week, I pass the test. 

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Buddy and Me

This week is bittersweet for me.  It's the last week before Jennifer begins her maternity leave.  While I am thrilled to soon have her here full-time, and to welcome into the world our second child, this is the last full week of just Kyle and me.  By the time maternity leave ends, Kyle will be going to nursery school.

It's that whole old vs. new thing again.  We've been dealing with it a lot this year, and we have even more to come (for example, our neighbor, Kyle's best friend right now, moves to Colorado next week, and Kyle's babysitter moves to Maine in August).  It can be difficult at times.  Yet, it's unavoidable.  Change will happen, change must happen, change can be fun and the greatest thing that could ever happen to us.  Though we are often excited about the future, there's still that little tug that says, "Yeah, but what you have now is coming to an end."  I like what I have now.  I like it a lot. 

In three short years, Kyle has transformed from a crying/eating/pooping machine into my buddy.  We joke together, we can talk about our day, we build train tracks, we wrestle from time to time, and we occasionally debate religion and politics.  Kyle has really matured.  Many times it's fun doing things with him, and whenever that happens, the time flies and I almost feel as if we're just a couple friends hanging out.  At those times, I just love being a dad.

Naturally, in this final week of just him and me, Kyle has chosen to throw me a curve ball.  He has not napped since last Wednesday.  If this is the start of something permanent, then June 1, 2011, will be a day of infamy in our household.  When Kyle refuses to nap, his behavior goes sour. He whines often, fights with me, and starts testing the limits of what he can do.  He throws things.  He rips things.  He roots for the Yankees.  He even starts hitting me, and, as he gets closer to age three (Monday's his birthday), that sort of thing actually hurts. I also lose my sanity break and my writing time, which makes me all the more irritable as the day winds down.  I have trouble getting things done, and sometimes it's hard to even think.  Even though Kyle and I have had our fun moments, it's been a rough last week.  Maybe that's a good thing, since it's making me less nostalgic and even more excited to have Jennifer here next week. It's much easier to have a second person to help with a kid refusing to nap.

But then it's on to a new routine, and, in two weeks, a larger family.  A new home is around the corner, too (more on that next month - stay tuned!).  Then there's nursery school this fall.  I wonder how Kyle will react to all this change.  His mommy is going to be home full-time for a while as new people and places will enter his life.  What we have right now, this time when it's just the two of us, is coming to an end.  Sure, we'll have many more moments together, but it won't be as regular as it is now.  So far, Kyle has done well with adapting.  There's a good chance this change will affect me more than it will affect him.  In many ways, I hope that's the case.

I am looking forward to change.  I can't wait to meet my new son.  I'm excited that Jennifer will be home for several months.  It's going to be a ton of adjustment, and those first weeks with a newborn will be very tiring, but I know I will experience some of the greatest moments of my life during the next few months.  For now, though, I think I'll savor the last couple days I have alone with just my buddy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wasn't Born Yesterday

I really had my doubts about this past weekend.  With Jennifer just weeks away from giving birth, I was starting to think that taking an eight-hour road trip was probably not the best idea, especially if I had no intention of delivering the baby myself.  But our close friends Chad and Nicole were getting married on Saturday in Wheeling, West Virginia (home of Gumby's Cigarette & Beer World), and we didn't want to miss it.  We decided it was worth taking the chance, even if it meant sitting in nearly two hours of traffic... just to get to the Holland Tunnel.

(Above: Kyle finds a good spot in the hotel
for the bassinet... just in case)
So began Operation Do Not Give Birth.  Our mission was to get to West Virginia and back with only one child in the back seat.  For a while, I considered preparing for the possibility that our baby could be born during our crazy trip, and I intended to put together a list of the hospitals along the way, just in case we needed to rush to one.  A friend of mine also suggested printing out information about delivery so that I'd be all set should I have to deliver the baby myself at a rest stop.  I didn't like the thought of delivering our child myself, or delivering him at a rest stop, or even worse: delivering him at a rest stop in New Jersey.  The thought of that was so appalling that we became determined to not have this baby this weekend.  We decided that we'd skip on all the prep and just avoid the three major things that, according to rumor, may induce labor: dancing, stress and potholes.

BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  Okay, so we couldn't avoid the potholes.  Apparently New Jersey and Pennsylvania get their roads paved by the same people who do New York's streets.  Great stretches of highway looked as if workers had dug trenches there and then filled them up when they realized that the fighting was happening overseas.  There were bumps every few feet, stretching across the entire lane, making them almost impossible to miss.  Our little guy shifted around, but still didn't feel the time was right.  Phew!

BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  We couldn't avoid the severe weather, either, and that caused a bit of stress.  It was just before 10 p.m. Friday night, as we were on the road near Harrisburg, when the beautiful lightning display we had been seeing turned into Armageddon.  A waterfall burst from the sky, pounding our car and everything surrounding us.  Within seconds we were practically floating on water.  I think I saw a submarine pass by us on the interstate, but it was very hard to see anything at all.  We took the next available exit, and as we contemplated staying at the local hotel/trucker hook-up spot, the rain suddenly turned into a pleasant mist.  We went back on the highway and continued for another hour or so, and the stress had no impact on the baby-to-be.  Phew!

BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  Then came the live wedding band.  That was perhaps the most dangerous part.  We made it to Wheeling without incident, only to play with fire after the nuptials.  While I spent most of the reception chasing after Kyle (who chose to turn the reception into a triathlon practice), Jennifer took a quick spin on the dance floor.  By taking a spin, I don't mean she did anything wild and crazy, like break dancing.  While that would have been fun to watch, it probably wouldn't have been good for the baby or our mission.  No, Jennifer just stood there, swaying her arms and moving slightly.  Her plan worked perfectly, and, by the time we returned to the hotel, there were no signs of labor.  Phew!

The drive home went smoothly, except for the aforementioned potholes.  We held our breath through New Jersey, partly because of our desire not to have a baby there, and partly because of the air pollution.  Once we hit New York City, we celebrated.  Mission accomplished!  Our kid's going to be a New Yorker after all.  We got home - just the three of us - and had an uneventful evening.  So, no baby yet.  He will arrive this month, but hopefully, when that time comes, we'll be in a hospital with Jennifer's doctor right there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fliers on the Storm

The weather here in the Northeast is so hard to predict.  From day to day, you can never be sure what it'll bring.  Just spin the roulette wheel, and carry an umbrella and sunblock.  What will it be?  Rain?  Snow?  Hail?  In-laws? 

We had an in-law shower Wednesday night.  Jennifer's dad (also named Dave) and his wife Ruth were taking a trip from North Carolina to the Czech paradise known as Prague, with a stop at New York's own paradise, JFK airport.  The plane to Prague left without a problem.  Unfortunately, it departed BEFORE my in-laws arrived at JFK.  A storm had caused them to make an additional stop in Baltimore.  By the time my in-laws landed in New York, their flight was gone, the nearby hotels were booked, and airport's public address system was playing a Barry Manilow marathon.  My in-laws needed to get out of there fast.  They gave us a call to see if they could stay here.  We told them we had a bed for them, but that would mean putting Kyle out in the rain.  Fortunately for the little guy, they were willing to use our sleeper sofa.  They arrived after midnight, and we started getting ready for bed by around 1:30 a.m.

The next morning our son was up at 6 a.m., about an hour earlier than normal.  He must of sensed that we had gone to bed late.  It's long been his goal to make us as tired as absolutely possible.  That way we break easily, and Kyle gets to see more "Thomas the Train" on TV.  This time around, Kyle received an even better treat: Grandpa and Ruthie.  Once he learned they were here, he started bouncing off the walls, which made it all the more difficult to keep him quiet so that our travel-weary guests could sleep.  Eventually our son was let loose, and he was soon spoiled with far more attention than Jennifer and I could give him, as it was way too early to do anything but walk slowly and drool.

Kyle showed Grandpa and Ruthie his new toy box.  He showed them his toys.  He buried Grandpa in books.  He sang songs.  He talked about the numbers on the buildings outside.  He had them read him stories.  He played catch.  He colored with crayons.  He ran around in circles.  He did everything he could to squeeze a week's worth of activities into the few hours he had with Grandpa and Ruthie.  They seemed to love every minute of it, and so did the little guy.  I drank lots of coffee.

It was a busy day, but being a sudden host wasn't bad at all, even though I was so tired I had trouble remembering a) where the best lunch spot is and b) to wear pants to this lunch spot.  In the end, I had a few extra coffee cups to wash, but Dave and Ruth were gracious guests.  Besides, Dave's been through this sort of thing before.  You may remember that he ended up spending a few extra days here because of a surprise blizzard at Christmastime.  I'm starting to think he may be cursed.  Sure, he and Ruth made it to Europe without incident on Thursday, but now there's a volcano in Iceland spewing ash all over the place and disrupting some air travel on the continent... just in time for their return trip.  Hopefully it won't be an issue for them.  No matter what, next time my in-laws fly, even if it's to Boise, I'll make sure we have clean sheets ready.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Down Under

We are now deep into May, and it has come to my attention that we have a second child arriving sometime next month.  Turns out Jennifer's expanding torso is not due to the mounds of candy we received at Easter.  There's someone moving in there - I've seen a leg or arm or knee try to poke through.  I suppose it's about time we prepare for his arrival, especially if he's like some of my relatives who always arrive early to an occasion.

This past weekend we took a few major steps to make our home ready for the little guy.  Jennifer sorted through some of Kyle's infant clothes that somehow survived his amazing ability to stain.  Meanwhile, I tinkered with the old crib, making it suitable for a baby once again by raising its mattress.  I didn't realize I would also be creating a fort.

Once the complex operation was finished, we let Kyle back into the room.  He looked at the crib with a huge smile.  "Under the crib" he said, and he immediately grabbed a book and slid under it.  He then spent much of the evening there.  When the crib was low enough for Kyle to sleep in it, he barely had enough space to have fun beneath it.  The best he could do was to lay flat and slide himself under without raising his head any more than an inch off the ground.  Though the space was limited, Kyle still had fun doing this.  We approved because it was easier to have him slide around than to dust under there.  Now, with the mattress moved higher, Kyle can actually sit beneath it, and suddenly he has a new favorite spot.

After checking out his new digs, the little guy "read" aloud some of the great works of literature, including Thomas the Train: Little Engines Can Do BIG Things by Charles Dickens. "Read" is in quotes because he's just flipping pages and saying, "bigga bigga bigga big-KA."  I guess that's what I sound like when I read him a story just before bedtime.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  Once he was done reading, Kyle played with some of his toys and then installed lighting and a refrigerator.  I hear he's already having mail forwarded to his new place, and he is contemplating buying a hot tub for it.  He's going to be very disappointed once his brother learns how to sit up and I have to move the mattress back down.

This unexpected development makes me wonder what will happen when we do other things to prepare for the baby.  When I install the infant car seat, will Kyle use it as a snack holder?  Will he use baby bottles as binoculars?  Will he use the bouncy seat to fling himself above the fridge to reach the cookie jar?  These are all things I suppose I should now consider.  With June arriving fast, I guess we'll get these answers soon enough.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All Work and No Playground

It has been absolutely beautiful outside.  The sun has been shining, there's a pleasant breeze, and the city isn't quite hot enough to start smelling like garbage.  It's rare to say this in New York, but few would disagree: the weather has been perfect.

Ever since becoming a parent, this has been "prison break" time.  No longer are we cornered in our apartment, waiting for the snow/sleet/hail/locusts to subside.  Once spring arrives, we can go outside and do some much-needed time-killing.  And whenever I start thinking, "what on earth am I going to do with this hyper-crazy child?" there's always a fail-safe option: the playground!

My son loves the playground.  He loves the swings.  He loves the bouncy bridge.  He loves the slide.  He loves the dead leaves and worms lying around.  He loves just running around and being carefree.  I love watching him have fun without draining my own energy.  It would be better, however, if the playground had a mini-bar.  Despite its imperfections, I had been a huge fan of my son's favorite playground, especially since it's just a couple blocks from my home.  It would be no problem to take Kyle there quickly whenever I needed to eat up a half-hour or so of time.

Not anymore.  Kyle is no longer welcome there:


Nor is any other kid, in fact.  As part of Mike Bloomberg's "Kids Have It Too Easy These Days" initiative, the local playground has been shut down and boxed in by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire.  Angry, hungry rottweilers patrol the grounds to prevent any toddlers from wandering in, and the city plans to build a moat once it raises enough money from laying off thousands of teachers.  With the children kept out, workers can demolish the playground and build a casino there.

(Above: Some of the city's renovations,
including the new "slide that goes nowhere")
Okay, that's not entirely the truth.  The city is actually renovating the playground, which would be great if I still thought we'd be living here when it's finally complete.  The way these public works things go, both my kids could be college graduates by time this is done, and that would mean they'd look funny going down the children's slide.  So, basically, we lost our playground.

Let me clarify that: we've lost our very close playground.  We live in a neighborhood that has more playgrounds than bagel shops, which is quite impressive considering this is New York.  Two other playgrounds are just ten-minute walks away, so they're not incredibly far.  But I can't just "pop" over there if Kyle wakes from his nap early and starts playing "fling the cookbooks."  Yes, I am grateful to still have several playgrounds around, as my suburbanite friends don't have such luxuries within walking distance.  Then again, my suburbanite friends have yards.

Oh well, I suppose I could deal with it.  We'll adjust.  This has been a big year of change anyway.  Some things, like the new car, have already happened.  Other things, such as the big baby arrival next month, loom ahead of us.  In the grand scheme of things, I suppose losing a playground isn't a big deal, even if I'll miss it.  So what if I lose my go-to time-killer spot?   There are others around, and I could always resort to putting him in front of the TV a little longer.  And so what if Kyle loses his first playground?  Things change.  Besides, he probably was spoiled having it close-by anyway.  Kyle really should work for his fun.  Kids have it too easy these days.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Never Forget

I have to be very careful.  Kyle might remember what happens today.  The little guy is about a month and a half away from his third birthday, which means the memory factory is gearing up.  Chances are there will be an experience from now that will remain in his head for the rest of his life, the earliest memory that he might one day write about in school.  I sure hope it's not one of me smelling my armpits or tootin' in the kitchen.  I thought about that on Saturday morning, when we watched the royal wedding I had recorded the day before.  As Kyle pointed out the silly hats worn by the silly Brits, I suddenly realized that I was about his age when Charles and Diana were married... and I vaguely remember when that happened. 

Now, Kyle might not remember William and Kate or even those hats.  He might not remember our recent trip to North Carolina, or the moment he first saw his new toy box.  Yet something is bound to stick, right?  Maybe his first memory will be like mine, seeing one of his grandparents holding his baby brother.  Maybe he will remember something from a holiday, like Christmas or his birthday.  Or maybe his first memory will be that time when Daddy had food poisoning and made all those outrageous noises in the bathroom.  I wouldn't be surprised.  Kyle thought my illness was hilarious.

For the first couple of years, during my crash-course in parenting, I had taken some solace in the fact that Kyle wouldn't remember a thing.  Sure, I have documented some of my foibles, but the little guy probably won't read about them until years from now, and that's only if he discovers my website, which by then will no longer be devoted to stories about him, and will instead focus on 19th century Scandinavian shoe horns.  So, if Kyle doesn't read or remember much about these years, he will continue to view me as the brilliant dad who has always known how to do everything right.  But, again, now I have to be careful... or else Kyle will realize that I am actually "winging it." 

So there are many things that could end up being Kyle's first memory.  It could even happen any day now. Chances are, though, it won't have anything to do with the incredible news that broke this past weekend.  I doubt Kyle will remember the death of Osama bin Laden, since he had gone to bed hours before the TV networks first announced it.  I almost missed it myself.  We were getting ready for bed when I flipped on ESPN's SportsCenter and learned of the news through its crawl.  I quickly turned it to ABC and sat there in disbelief.  I, like many Americans, had started to believe that this day would never come.  And, yet, it did.

Osama bin Laden changed our lives, our country, and our world through terror.  He was an evil man who nearly escaped justice.  But now he can do no more harm. Osama bin Laden will be just a name in the history book Kyle reads at school.  Kyle won't hear any new threats from him.  He won't see any new video of him.  Of course he will learn a lot about 9/11, but now he will also be told that a group of brave Navy SEALs found the man behind that horrific day and made sure he couldn't take any more lives.  9/11 is still vivid in my mind, and I know I will never forget Osama bin Laden and all that he did.  But Kyle won't remember him at all, and I am extremely grateful for that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Candy Land

I've been on a three-day-long sugar high, and it's fantastic.  Well, up until the point when I feel sick, but I tend to cure that with magic jelly beans.  Yes, this is a very sweet time for a stay-at-home dad like myself, with candy within arms' reach from any spot in our apartment (we might have overdone it this Easter).  I tend to eat a ton of it as a relief whenever Kyle goes bezerk, and he's been hyper a lot these past few days.  The funny thing is, he really hasn't eaten a whole lot of candy, especially when you compare it to all that I've had.  That's as far as I know.  Maybe he has a secret stash somewhere, or maybe he's just breathing it in through the air.  Is there such a thing as second-hand sweets?  The Surgeon General probably should look into that.

Wow, has it been great.  Jelly beans before lunch.  M&M's after lunch.  Peeps at snacktime.  Dinner with a salad and a Cadbury egg.  A chocolate bunny before bedtime.  Some people say having a child allows you to relive your youth.  Usually that means through your child, but I find it better at times to just do the same thing your child is doing, especially when it comes to candy.  If Kyle's going to have a basket of candy, I should have one, too.  If Kyle is going to be hyper, I should be hyper, too.  Kyle doesn't eat as much candy as I do because he doesn't have to: give him a few M&M's and he's running around in circles, burning holes in our rugs.  Too bad Easter came after last week's Boston Marathon.  I bet Kyle could have won it with just a couple of chocolate bunny ears.

Besides the obvious candy perk, this Easter Sunday was a lot of fun.  This year I felt like Kyle was starting to get the Easter tradition.  Not the whole resurrection from the dead/salvation bit, but the part about the crazy bunny that dumps goodies in our home.  The night before, we had him leave a carrot for the Easter Bunny (which was the ritual in my family), and he seemed to enjoy doing that.  The next morning, he slowly walked into the room, with his eyes at the spot where he had placed the carrot.  There was a basket!  With candy!  And cookies!  His eyes widened, and he gave a big, open-mouth smile.  This was almost as exciting as discovering that the chapters in one of my Kurt Vonnegut books are marked with big numbers.  My son appreciates the simple pleasures in life.

I love being a dad at times like these.  You can actually feel your child's joy.  It was so much fun watching Kyle's face light up as he dug through his goodies, discovering M&M's and Oreo cookies.  I loved watching him try a Starburst jelly bean and not like it because it's too tart (more jelly beans for Daddy, then - a main cause of my sugar high).  The Easter Bunny also left a couple of gifts - two Berenstain Bears books - and I enjoyed seeing him unwrap those.  Two years ago, Kyle didn't seem to understand what was going on.  Last year he was possessed by "terrible two" demons, so we didn't have much fun.  This year, he was completely into it, and he made me feel like a kid again.  So, yes, I did relive my youth through him on Sunday.  I know doing that sort of thing won't always be fun (especially when Kyle's in middle school), but I'll take a moment like this one a million times over.  Especially if that means there will be more candy.

Our new Berenstain Bears books are titled "New Baby" and "Too Much Junk Food."  The Easter Bunny thought they might help the little guy during the next eight weeks.  The latter book is a joke (the Easter Bunny doesn't believe there's such a thing as too much junk food), but it's probably a good thing that Kyle's been having me read it over and over.  The way the candy's been flowing into my mouth, I need something to remind myself to take it easy.  I'm just glad I don't have to see the dentist until August.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boxing Day

My parents visited this past weekend, bringing with them bags of Easter candy, Sunday morning breakfast, and enough clothes for a three-month stay (they tend to overpack a little).  They also brought a large, highly-anticipated gift: a toy box for Kyle.  It truly is a thing of beauty, and it is BIG.  It's large enough to hold most of Kyle's toys, his stuffed animals, my magazines, the TV remote, partially-eaten sandwiches, and whatever else the little guy decides to drop in there.  No more tripping on toys!  No more looking around for things!  Hahahaha... yes, I'm just kidding myself.  At least now we have a place were toys should belong.

The box was hand-crafted by my father himself.  He is highly skilled in making these kinds of things.  The cradle I first slept in was built by my dad, and when I was older, he created a backyard fort for my brother and me, using a window shade to create a retractable roof.  I understand this design has been used as a model for several major league ballparks.  Like most kids, I took my father's creations for granted, but now I realize how much skill they require, skill that I have yet to develop myself.  I once made Kyle a chair out of Duplo Lego blocks... it couldn't hold him. 

My son loves his new toy box.  As soon as it was set up in his room, Kyle started putting things in it, including some toys.  Right now, the little guy is obsessed with opening and closing doors, and the toy box gives him an opportunity to do just that whenever he wants.  He must have opened and closed that thing a hundred times in the first day alone.  There's a nice little opening right under the box top to help him open it.  The opening also allows air to flow freely into the box, which will be useful should the little guy decide that his baby brother needs to go into storage too.

So this is the major excitement around our household this week, and I am very grateful to my dad for providing it.  The beat-up basket that held some of Kyle's toys is now in the trash, and an old crate that held other toys will once again be used to store our own junk.  Thanks to my dad, we might regain a little more sanity in our apartment.  It's about time, too.  As I mentioned before, this was a highly-anticipated gift, in part because my dad had initially said he was going to give us the toy box on Kyle's first birthday.  Kyle turns three in June.  Better late than never, right?  I think so.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Escape from New York

Last week we put more than 1500 miles on the new car, traveling to North Carolina and back.  Driving gave us more flexibility than flying, and we didn't have to spend Kyle's college savings on airfare.  It was a risky trip, with Jennifer being less than three months away from giving birth.  Fortunately, she had no difficulty.  She said the drive was more comfortable than our trips in the Corolla, which is not surprising, since the Corolla was a low-budget, no-frills model, and its seats were made out of rocks.  When Jennifer was pregnant with Kyle, her back would start hurting almost immediately after I turned the ignition.  This time she felt fine most of the way down to the Tar Heel State.

Kyle did well, too.  He enjoys traveling, especially when he has a bag full of books at his disposal.  He no longer needs us to read them to him, as he prefers to just thumb through the stories, pretending to read aloud as he looks at the pictures.  I was happy with this development, since it's hard to read children's books and drive at the same time.  Kyle's new window seat also made the trip more enjoyable.  When he was not reading books or napping, he loved to look out the window and point at the many roadside attractions, including cows, water towers, and billboards featuring erotic dancers. 

This was a very good trip for Kyle.  He was able to escape the city for a little while and see what makes the South so special: the good ol' Southern hospitality, excellent food (which he didn't eat), homes with yards, and free parking lots.  Kyle also spent a great deal of time with other kids, including his 10-month-old cousin.  We were happy the two got along, since this might be a preview of what will happen when Kyle gets a younger brother.  Of course, Kyle's attitude towards babies might change once he has one waking him up throughout the night.  Mine certainly did, and I'm just now starting to forgive our son.

Last week the little guy wore a suit for the first time.  He was the ring-bearer in a wedding, which meant he had to look impressive as he walked down the aisle in front of family and friends.  The job also enabled him to spend a great deal of time with the flower girls.  As I said already, this was a very good trip for Kyle.  For much of the wedding and reception, I didn't even know where he was, as he followed the girls everywhere.  They played games together, ran around our dinner table, and even practiced some new dance moves:


Kyle was fine after his spill.  He wasn't hurt physically, though he did bring shame to himself and the entire family.  Apparently he struck out with the flower girls, too, as they have yet to return any of his phone calls.

As for me, I also had a great time being far away from the city, where there are wide open spaces between houses and highways without potholes.  I came very close to embracing the suburbs, but then, towards the end of the week, I tried venturing outside for my afternoon coffee fix and became stuck at an intersection when traffic prevented me from making a left turn.  At that point I realized that I don't want to move out of the city anytime soon.  I like being able to walk to my destination.  While I certainly enjoyed driving the new car around, I'm glad it will be parked for the next few days.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sounds of the Subway

Ever since I wrote that entry a few weeks ago about Kyle's obsession with numbers, I have received thousands upon thousands of letters, postcards, and credit card applications, most of them asking what Kyle's impersonation of a subway sounds like.  Well, my friends, you are in luck.  I recorded him doing that sound a couple months ago, after I inspected the windows he washed.  Here it is:


This week the family is taking the subway to North Carolina, making all local stops.  There's a good chance you'll read something about it in my next post.  Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Like a Rolling Rock

I turned 33 on Thursday.  I remember when Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird turned 33, in part because the media said his age finally caught up to his number.  They made a big deal of this because Larry Bird was OLD.  His feet needed surgery, his back was falling apart, and he'd get halfway to the basket and then forget why he was there.  Bird was in the "twilight" of his career and would retire three years later.  Nobody has heard from him since.

Of course, 33 is old for a basketball player.  I guess I could now say my dream of playing for the NBA is now officially over.  At least I still have time for Major League Baseball.  To be honest, turning 33 did not make me feel old.  Having a kid nearly three years ago did.  And now I'm bracing for another one.  I think I pulled a back muscle just thinking about that.

Fortunately, even an old guy like myself can still have some fun, and on Saturday I went out with friends to celebrate.  Jennifer and I hired a sitter for the night, one we've used a few times now (she's very skilled and terrific with Kyle).  Our close friends Matt & Amanda and Mickey & Bonni also found sitters for their kids.  That meant the three couples were able to have a kid-free night at Dinosaur, an excellent barbecue restaurant in Manhattan (and excellent barbecue is not easy to find around these parts).

While everyone had a great time, the night was different for each of the couples, depending on their varying stages of parenting.  The newest parents of the bunch, Mickey and Bonni, have a girl who's almost three months old.  Parting with a child that small is at times heartbreaking, even if you're leaving the child just to get a leftover sandwich out of the fridge.  Mickey said they missed her as soon as they left their apartment to head to the restaurant.  They weren't worried because she was getting plenty of love from Mickey's mother, but once the night was over they were eager to return home.  It was cute.

Matt and Amanda (seen to the left with my lovely wife Jennifer) have an eight-month-old boy.  It's a fun age for a kid to be.  Their little guy is not a tiny fragile baby anymore, and he's been moving around, exploring things and trying to become friends with their dog.  By now, Matt and Amanda have left their child with a sitter several times.  Like Mickey and Bonni, they miss their little guy, but they're now used to leaving him every now and then.  Yet there's always the concern that something might go wrong, and parents with an eight-month-old still want to make sure they can be reached at all times.  Matt's phone was on the table all night, and he occasionally glanced down to make sure he didn't somehow miss a call.

Meanwhile, Jennifer's phone was on vibrate and buried under a pile of coats.  We were practically halfway through the meal before we realized that.  My phone had been tucked deep in my pocket, where it's sometimes impossible to hear, especially in loud restaurants.  Good thing the sitter knew where we were having dinner, so she could have had us paged if Kyle suddenly became a pyromaniac. 

Don't get me wrong: we still miss our child when we go out, especially if it's for a while, and often we can't help but talk about him.  And, yes, we often do leave a phone out in case the sitter calls us.  Yet I think we've just become so used to leaving him with others that it's becoming easier for us to get caught up in the night out.  Sharing an evening with these great friends certainly helped, too. 

Does that mean I'm no longer a new parent?  Hmmmmm... that might be true.  Wow.  NOW I feel old.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gimmie Five

So, against the advice of our family and friends, we bought a minivan.  Kinda.  On Saturday we said "good-bye" to our old, reliable, and cramped Toyota Corolla, and "hello" to a new, but almost as cramped, Mazda5.  It's like a minivan, elf-sized.  To see what I mean, take a look at this picture, which I took as we were still researching vehicles:


The auto on the right is a regular, whale-sized minivan.  The one on the left is the Mazda5.  From bumper to bumper, it's practically the same length as my old Corolla (as least it looked that way when they were parked next to each other), and yet it still has third-row seating.  Some reviewers have called it a "microvan," and right now there are no other vehicles like it on the market (I hear Ford is coming out with one later this year, but we couldn't wait that long to check it out).  Mazda's website says the 5 "refuses to be categorized."  That refusal, though, apparently had no impact on the vehicle's own window sticker, which categorized it as a minivan. 

So, yes, technically, the Mazda5 is a minivan, but at least it feels like I'm driving a regular-sized car, and not a mobile home.  I can park it on the street without having to put two wheels up on the car behind it.  Its passengers will still eat their knees, just like they did in the Corolla, but now we can seat six knee-eaters, instead of four-and-a-half.  That was important to us, since two spots will be permanently occupied by car seats.  There was no way that the Corolla was going to be able to handle two car seats, especially a rear-facing one, which, according to the new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is now recommended for children up to the age of 25.  Kyle already likes his new seat by the window, and he's pleased with the color, which is not red (see my earlier auto-themed post).  Plus, the Mazda5 does come with standard features that I couldn't afford when I purchased the Corolla, back when I was still eating ramen noodles for lunch regularly.  Among those features: power locks, power windows, automatic climate control, and intermittent windshield wipers.  Yes, for ten-an-a-half-years, every time I drove my Corolla through a drizzle storm, I would have to hit the wipers on-and-off every now and then, as if my arm were having spasms.

A decade is a long time to own a car, and it was probably time for the Corolla to go, anyway.  I can't say it was an easy decision, as there are a lot of memories associated with that car.  I purchased it a day before my first date with Jennifer, in fact.  The car is the reason why I almost didn't get a second date.  I was so excited about my newly-discovered haggling skills that I wouldn't stop talking about the whole purchasing experience.  She wondered if she could put up with another night of that, never mind ten-plus years.  Fortunately for me, she didn't listen to her conscience, and I wowed her by the sixth date. 

Not too long after that, Jennifer and I took our first of many road trips in that car.  It eventually traveled the entire east coast, from the shores of Destin, Florida, to the wharfs of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  In 2003 we drove the Corolla from Atlanta to North Carolina, and then drove it back three weeks later, as newlyweds.  A few months after that we drove it from Atlanta to New York City, arriving at night and seeing the dazzling skyline through the windshield, realizing, with a bit of anxiety, that this would now be our home.  In August of 2008, Kyle would sit in the same car and take his first road trip to see his grandparents.

We drove the Corolla from New York to Boston late one October night in 2004 so that we could the Red Sox World Series victory parade the next morning.  In March of 2007, we spent six hours in it with our friends Matt and Amanda, when a snow/ice storm turned a two-hour drive to Mohegan Sun into a traffic nightmare.  The car provided an escape for Jennifer and I each year, as we would take it to the Catskills to celebrate our anniversary.  And on September 11th, 2001, I was in the Corolla, driving to my job at CNN, when I first heard that we were under attack.  I was so stunned, I don't know how I kept my foot on the gas to keep moving on the Atlanta freeway. 

The Corolla made it through countless storms, blizzards, and even a tornado.  It survived poorly-maintained roads in Atlanta and New York, and it muscled its way through three years of law school, getting Jennifer there and back safely.  It was infested with ants only once, and it had never been in a crash, although it came close when an entire bumper from another car flew into our lane during a trip to Massachusetts.  The Corolla had excellent steering and brakes, and I certainly was grateful for that.  I also appreciated its cassette player, which was still working as of last weekend (we had used it with an adapter for the iPod).  Most likely I will never again have a car with a cassette player.  There goes one more connection to the 80's and 90's, and my youth.  Dear God, did I just buy a minivan?

So, yes, we will miss the Corolla.  I'm not even sure what to call our new car: the Five?  the Mazda?  the Insane Asylum?  (after all, we will be traveling in it with two young boys)  We definitely won't say it's the "minivan," as I, too, refuse to categorize it as such, and am probably in denial.  We are awfully excited about the vehicle and the new chapter in our lives it represents.  There soon will be plenty of memories associated with the Mazda5.  Yet it's hard to part with something that's been a part of our lives for so long.  Saturday night, Jennifer remarked that it was rather sad to think of our Corolla sitting alone in some parking lot, either at the dealership or someplace else.  I also felt that way, almost sorry for the Corolla, especially in the week leading up to our big purchase.  But then I remembered an Ikea commercial I had seen several years ago.  I've found it online and attached it below (those of you who get e-mail updates might have to visit daveweekly.com to see it).  It certainly puts things in perspective.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

He's Got Your Number

It's been a lot of fun to go on walks with my son through our neighborhood.  I've been doing this sort of thing almost daily for more than two-and-a-half years, staying in only if we have heavy rain, snow, tornadoes, or a high number of pollsters.  Until recently, Kyle had observed block after block of brownstones and other buildings without saying much about them.  Occasionally he'd want to go up on a stoop or open a gate, but otherwise he left most homes alone.  That was until the middle of last month, when he noticed the NUMBERS.

It was my fault.  I am always looking for new ways to make Kyle enjoy these walks outside, in part so I don't feel guilty dragging him out there just so I could feed my afternoon coffee addiction (it's the only way I know how to survive the toddler years).  I'd point out trees, cars, fire hydrants, and the occasional mugging, but nothing seemed to get the little guy excited.  Then, without thinking, I pointed to the addresses of the buildings. 

"Can you read that?" I asked about one of them.  I knew that Kyle already knew numbers, as I taught them to him very early on, when I was doing anything to get him away from those annoyingly loud baby toys.  Kyle stared at the number.

"EIGHT!  SIX!  NINE!  THREE!"  He was close.  The number was 398.  It seemed at first that my kid has trouble with his 6's and 9's, and might be a bit dyslexic.  But after a few more tries, he started getting the numbers right.  And that's when it struck him: the numbers are everywhere

Since then, every time we have gone out for a walk, Kyle has paused by each stoop to read off the address number.  As you can imagine, it's a very slow process, but one he absolutely loves.  Instead of going out for coffee, he now says we're going out "to look at numbers."  There's nothing like a child's happiness, so I give in.  In the meantime, Kyle has found ways to make these trips last even longer.  He now wants to climb up onto the first step of each stoop, probably to get a better look at the address.  Then he rattles off some nonsense before he shouts out the number, like a drumroll before we find out what's behind door number two:

"Digga digga digga DOO-doo!  FOUR! SEVEN! FIVE!"

That "DOO-doo" sound is his impression of the noise the subway makes before closing its doors.  Somehow that has found its way into much of Kyle's conversations these days. After he finishes reading the number, Kyle then takes a minute or so to get off the step.  Then he runs to the next home and does it all again.  What was once a twenty-minute walk to a coffee shop now takes three days.  Before the numbers, I would pick up my coffee and then go the long way home so that I could finish drinking it during the walk with Kyle.  Now every way home is the long way home.  For this reason alone we're not having Kyle take us to the hospital on his brother's delivery day...

Jennifer: "The contractions are happening more rapidly!  We have to go!"
Kyle: "Digga digga digga DOO-doo!  TWO! EIGHT! FOUR!"
Jennifer: "I don't know if we're going to make it!  The baby's coming!"
Kyle: "Digga digga digga DOO-doo! TWO! EIGHT! NINE-ummm-SIX!"
Jennifer: "Kyle, move it!  We've been out here for an hour, and we're still just a block from our home!"
Kyle: "Digga digga digga DOO-doo! TWO! EIGHT! EIGHT!"

I have to admit: it's fun to watch my son get so excited about numbers.  He probably won't get this worked up over numbers until he's an astrophysicist or an all-star pitcher studying his opponent's statistics.  At that point, he probably won't be taking as many walks with dear old dad.  So until this ends, I think I'll enjoy the long trips to get coffee.  I'm just glad he's doing this now, at the end of winter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Good Night's Sleep

I did not expect to get much sleep last night.  For the first time, our son went to bed in an actual bed.  Kyle has been a big fan of this bed since it arrived two weeks ago... except at bedtime.  Each night, we read him a story, had him lie down for prayers, and gave him a good-night kiss.  Just as all that finished up, he would suddenly see the bed as a toddler-eating monster and, using his inherited survival skills, would slide off it immediately.

"No bed," he said as he scrambled to the floor each night. "Crib! Crib!"  Then he did the opposite of what I would expect of a kid his age: he climbed onto the rail of his crib to get in.  After several days of this, we were starting to wonder if Kyle was going to fight the bed for months, perhaps through the birth of our second child.  I envisioned us trying to put our new baby in the crib as Kyle conducts a sit-in protest, complete with picket signs, which basically would be sheets of paper scribbled with crayon.  There would be no way to read them, but the message would be clear: NO BED.  Kyle could possibly stage a hunger strike, too, but, considering how picky he is, I doubt we'd notice a difference.  I hope, after last night's breakthrough, we will avoid this scenario.

The evening didn't start off too promising.  Even though we tried to make the bed much like the crib by removing the pillow and comforter, the little guy wasn't fooled.  He wiggled himself off the bed immediately, calling for the crib.  We put him back in, and he tried to get out.  We put him back in again, and he tried to get out again.  Finally, we put him back in, said good-night, and left before he could climb out.  Jennifer had read advice from the SUPER NANNY (the superhero who can leap toy piles in a single bound; arch nemesis of Lex Pooper) stating that the best way to handle this sort of thing is to remain calm, put the child in bed, and not make eye contact.  So, as we were doing this, Jennifer wished the window sweet dreams, and I gave Kyle a good-night kiss while staring at the ceiling.  We almost smacked into each other as we tried to shut the door and avoid our son.

We could tell things were changing once he reopened his bedroom door.  Instead of demanding that we put him in the crib, Kyle just cackled and then tried to get back into the bed.  This happened again and again and again.  I started wondering if I'd have to eat dinner by his doorway.  But then Kyle grew tired of it, and started crying - not for the crib, but for us to tuck him in!  Jennifer did that, left his room, and then we stood there quietly, waiting for more noise.  We heard nothing.

It worked!  It worked!  Hooray!  We finally were able to get Kyle to try something new!  And it didn't take six months for him to do it!  Jennifer and I probably would have thrown a loud party, had our objective not been to get the little guy to sleep.  Once we settled down, we heard some thumping noises.  Kyle was probably hitting his foot against the wall, but it was enough to make us wonder if we'd sleep through the night, knowing that, even with the toddler rail, there was a chance our little guy could plop out of bed, perhaps head-first.  We put some stuffed animals on the floor by his bed in hopes they would cushion any fall.  Nothing like a little peace of mind.

We initially thought that Kyle's first night in a real bed would keep us awake, jumping at any noise we hear through the baby monitor.  Fortunately, since we are parents of a toddler, we carry unusually high sleep deficits.  Unless Kyle is sick, only serious noises can jolt us out of bed once our eyes close.  Jennifer and I slept until the alarm this morning, and Kyle kept snoozing until after seven o'clock.  He seemed to have a good night's sleep, too.

Now, I am by no means declaring victory here.  I did that once with a turkey sandwich, and Kyle has been fighting meats ever since.  We still might have a battle on our hands. Yet it was nice to see that it can be done, and perhaps our son will not request a room with a crib when he heads to college.  We'll see how things go tonight.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cruisin' for Cars

My wallet has decided to go on the Slim-Fast diet, and so far it's doing remarkably well.  Last week it shed some pounds as we bought Kyle a new bed.  This month it plans to lose much more, as we are now shopping for a new car. 

It's not like there's a problem with our current vehicle, a 2001 Toyota Corolla.  Here's a recent picture of it:


She's a beauty, ain't she?  Believe it or not, even after this snowstorm, my car started up right away.   It couldn't go anywhere for a month, but at least it was alive.  This car is still so reliable, I really have no reason to sell it, except for the fact that it's now turning into a black hole and may devour our entire family at any moment.  The inside of the car seems to be collapsing in on itself, becoming smaller as our family is getting bigger and needing more space.  We could barely fit one car seat into it, and there's no way we'd be able to squeeze in two.  It's not like it was back when Jennifer and I were kids, when you'd simply strap the new baby to the roof and just be careful on the highways.  These days there are laws discouraging that, so our only option is to get something larger.

On Saturday, the family drove out to Long Island to test-drive a few vehicles.  As I said, we were looking for big, but not too big.  I still park my car on the street, and most times I have to butter the bumpers so they could slide into a spot that's smaller than the car itself.  And that's with a compact car.  I can't imagine doing that with a full-sized SUV or - gasp - a minivan.  Still, we need more space, and we'd like a third row of seats, in case we want to take a couple friends along when we flee the city during the 2012 apocalypse.  The vehicle should be resonably priced, too.  We were rather surprised to find that our choices are limited.

(Above: Kyle chooses a new car for us)
It was much easier for Kyle to pick out a car.  He walked around the showrooms, saying he wanted this one or that one, without even comparing sticker prices or fuel efficiency.  Apparently color is what matters most to him.  That shiny sedan is perfect because it's black, though that blue SUV looks great, too - why not get both?  The one color he seemed to not like, at least not at first, was the color red: the exact color of the vehicle we decided to test-drive.

"NO RED!  NO REEEEEDDD!" shouted my son in the dealership lot as I struggled to fit his car seat into the vehicle.  He then cried and fought as we put him into the car.  The saleswoman with us stood there quietly, calculating in her head how she could use this incident to convince me to add on a feature that would distract our kid, like a sun roof or surround-sound golden-plated Blu-ray player.  I could tell she was looking forward to running me over during the negotiations.

That saleswoman ended up being the best one we had.  A salesman at another dealership seemed reluctant to even show us the vehicle we wanted to see, apparently sensing the destructive force of our child.  The last salesman we saw was more than happy to show us his cars, as he was one of those guys who acted like he was one of your best friends after having known you for all of 0.5 seconds.  After seeing us cram into a "crossover" vehicle, he said something that was probably true, but difficult to hear: "You guys are in minivan denial."

So, we test-drove a minivan.  There certainly was enough space in it to hold our family, and by "family" I mean Kyle, the new baby, their parents, grandparents, and about two dozen aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Plus there's enough cargo room to fit another car inside.  The salesman raved about all of the vehicle's gizmos, including a rear-window monitor on the dashboard, since the rear window itself is too far away to actually see out it.  The minivan cost about ten grand more than we were hoping to pay, but I suppose we'd be able to afford it if Kyle continues to shun expensive foods in favor of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches... at least until he's in his early twenties.  Yet I can't see me finding a spot for it in our parking-space-deprived neighborhood.  It was a nice ride and we were glad to have the experience, since now we know for sure that we won't be getting a full-size minivan, even if we are in "minivan denial."  We stopped at a gas station during the test drive, as the trip around the block drained the entire tank.  With gas prices being what they are these days, the salesman had to sell a car to the station owner just to pay for the fuel.

We now think we know what kind of vehicle we are going to get.  We won't be able to purchase it until mid-March, as we have visitors coming the next couple of weekends.  I'll let you know our choice then.  For Kyle's sake, let's hope we have more color choices than red.