Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

We are very fortunate.  On Monday our city was hit by what may be the worst natural disaster it's ever seen, and our home was barely touched.  A skylight above the building's stairwell was damaged, but I believe that was it. Our trees stayed up through the pounding wind, and, despite the many flickers, our power stayed on.  Our neighborhood, for the most part, was spared. The tree to the right is the worst damage I've seen on the streets, though nearby Prospect Park was hit hard (some 300 trees gone).  No subway service for several days and the lack of gasoline have made our lives a little inconvenient, but it's nothing compared to the grief many in our city are experiencing right now.  So many have lost their homes or loved ones, and hundreds of thousands are braving the cold November nights without power. 

As many in our neighborhood have been saying, we're living in a bubble right now.  Outside of the minor hardships, life here is basically back to normal.  We even had trick-or-treating on Wednesday as if nothing happened.  Yet, in Breezy Point, Queens, a mere twenty-minute drive from here, there are people digging through the charred remains of 100+ homes that were incinerated.  Some have lost everything and are trying to figure out just how to make it through the week.  When those homes burned Monday night, we could smell the smoke.  That's how close we are to the devastation, and yet, everything here is fine.

We have some friends who own a home in Breezy Point, but they say it wasn't involved in the fire.  Some of our other friends have lost power, but, for the most part, they are all okay.  Thank God.  New York City is coming back, too.  Subway lines are now starting to work again (in fact, today we took our first train since the storm), and lower Manhattan, which had been in the dark last week, is glowing again.  Best of all, this community is coming together to help those in need.  On Facebook, Twitter, and online discussion groups, people are asking how they can help.  Some volunteer stations have been overwhelmed by donations.  Those who have gas in their cars are driving to the troubled areas to deliver food, clothing, and other needed items, such as batteries and flashlights.  Go to a supermarket, as I did yesterday, and you'll see people walking down the aisles, figuring out what to buy for those in need.  I saw a mother instruct her sons to look for economical supplies so they can get the most out of the money they raised to help.  There's no doubt that New York will recover from this, and that's because the people here care for each other.  We love our neighbors.

The city has also been blessed with help from those outside our community.  I figure some of my readers have been wanting to help, but might not know how.  So here are a few links to websites with information on disaster relief:

You can also text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  Some of the most sought-after items cost less than $10, so even a small donation will help tremendously.  Together, we will recover.  Thanks so much for your help.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Candy Addict

Towards the end of our busy summer, my four-year-old son Kyle met up with one of his friends at the playground.  Already too cool for Dad, Kyle immediately ran off once we arrived, leaving me alone with his one-year-old brother Adam and his friend's parents.  After a brief exchange of pleasantries ("Nice weather, huh?" "What do you do for a living?" "How are your child's bowel movements?") the friend's mother said, "I'm so glad the summer's over.  I can't imagine watching our kid all the time.  My mind is turning to mush."  I told her I agreed, as I wiped away some of the brain that has been oozing out of my ears for the past four years.

Yes, it's not easy watching over the little monsters, and with both of them home almost all summer, my mind was very much pureed by September.  I often felt out-numbered, with each kid shooting me with a barrage of demands.  Adam would want me to walk him around the apartment, while Kyle would want me to sit and play Legos with him.  Kyle would ask questions over and over again, while a tired, hungry, or needy Adam would just scream over and over again.  Adam would grab my legs and pull me in one direction, while a hyper Kyle would grab my arms and pull me in another direction.  As soon as I'd figure out how to calm things down, something would happen - usually Kyle taking a toy from Adam, or tackling him - and it would all erupt again.  So all day long I'd deal with two opposing forces, demanding my attention but taking me for granted, contradicting themselves and neither making much sense.  Many times I'd find myself just begging them, for the love God, please stop and be quiet.  It was like watching the presidential campaign. 

Fortunately, there were some quiet moments, too, mostly while Adam napped.  But that's when Kyle asked to play his new favorite game: the mental mush-maker known as Candy Land.  For those of you unfamiliar with this beloved children's game, here's how you play it: You pick a card.  You move. You pick a card. You move.  You pick a card. You move.  Over and over again. That's it.  No skill needed whatsoever.  I must have played Candy Land about a hundred million times over the summer, and yet today I am no better than I was when I first played as a young child decades ago.  The cards reveal colored squares or candy images that direct you along a multi-colored road to the game-winning Candy Castle, leading you past the Ice Cream Slopes, the Gummy Hills, the Licorice Lagoon, the Chocolate Mountain, and Tooth Decay Volcano.  The game pieces are shaped like gingerbread men, and come in four different colors.  Kyle likes to switch up the colors each game, providing the only mental stimulation: trying to remember that you're the green piece this time, and not the red one you had in the last game.  Often that's how I lose.

I've been trying to figure out the ultimate Candy Land strategy, but there seems to be none.  Even counting cards doesn't work.  That action lets you know when you're going to get zinged by a "bad" card, but doesn't help you prevent it. Yes, there are "bad" cards to choose - say, if you're close to the end of the game and you draw a card with a picture of a cupcake, you have to move your piece all the way back to the cupcake square which is near the beginning of the game.  Cupcakes are, as everybody knows, pure evil.  Tragically, you can't trade the card away, and you can't hold it to spring on your opponent later.  If you identify the card early, you could try letting your four-year-old take two turns in a row (out of "kindness") and stick it to him that way.  Sadly, though, these four-year-olds catch on quickly.  So I give up and just sit there with Kyle, putting my brain on auto-pilot, flipping cards, moving pieces, and listening to the constant nudge of "It's your turn, Daddy." 

There's gotta be some way to make it more exciting.  Jennifer thought of having a candy prize at the end, but then I feared that Kyle would find a way to win every one of the dozens of games we played daily, and then I'd be in trouble.  So the prize idea is out.  Maybe I'd have a greater appreciation for the game if I saw it played on a grander scale, with higher stakes and, if possible, bigger risks...

    "Yellow card, Mr. Bond," said the dealer.  Without taking his eyes off the villain across the table, Dr. Necco, Bond slid his blue gingerbread man to the yellow square, just four spots from the game-ending Candy Castle.  Bond did not need to look at the board.  He's James Bond, after all, and he knows his Candy Land. 
    The crowd surrounding the players watched intently.  There was not a sound in the room, except for the crush of licorice between Dr. Necco's teeth.  He nodded at the dealer, who drew a cupcake card.  The audience gasped.  Dr. Necco slid his red piece all the way back to the cupcake square near the start of the game.
    "Time to give up candy, Dr. Necco," said Bond.  "I'd say your sugar high is about to crash."
     But just then one of Dr. Necco's thugs jumped up from behind and put a dagger under Bond's chin. Dr. Necco laughed. 
     "You thought you had me beat, didn't you Mr. Bond?," he said.  "Looks like you're about to get a cavity - in your neck. Sorry you won't be able to win. You see I am the true king of the Candy Castle!"
     Bond smirked, and then jerked his head back, knocking out the goon.  He grabbed the dagger just as Dr. Necco rose from the table and reached for his gun.  Bond flung the knife at Dr. Necco's hand, slicing it and causing him to drop the weapon.  Some blood landed on the board and deck of cards.
    "Looks like you drew a red card," said Bond to Necco.
    "And you, Mr. Bond, have a purple card!" said the dealer.  "You win!"
    "Sweet," said Bond.

Nope... the game still seems boring to me. 

With Kyle back at school, we don't play Candy Land as often as we did during the summer.  Strangely, I do miss the game a little bit.  Maybe I just enjoy seeing Kyle get excited over it.  I know I will miss these moments someday, even if I have trouble staying awake through them.  Now that I do play the game less, I won't go as far as to say that my mind has recovered; I believe some of the damage might be permanent. Yet, after a month or so of a quieter apartment, with silence during Adam's naps, I can do simple things again, like think in complete sentences.  It's a good start, and maybe I'll be able to keep it going... at least until Adam hits the terrible twos.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Yearning to Fly

Sunday was Adam's first time flying on an actual airplane (he's done the "Super Adam" flight with Daddy many times - and has crashed only a few).  That meant it was our first time flying as a family of four.  We were heading to Tampa, Florida, to see Jennifer's grandmother and introduce her to her great-grandson.  Naturally we were a bit anxious.  There were bags to pack!  We needed flight, hotel and car reservations!  We needed books, toys, and a portable DVD player for the noisy flight!  We also needed directions to the nearest liquor store for after the flight.

Yes, traveling with two young kids, ages four and one, is not an easy task by any means.  Most times we drive, but driving to Florida didn't seem to make sense, considering Jennifer didn't have enough vacation time for the hours on the road and the necessary lobotomy to cure our headaches after the trip.  So this Sunday morning, we put our diaper bag, 50-pound suitcase, carry-on suitcase, carry-on duffel bag, toy bag, snack bag and stroller into the car and took off for the airport.  A few minutes later we returned home to pick up the kids.  We arrived at the airport before 9:00, and were in the ticketing line a short time later for our 10:45 a.m. flight.  We thought we had given ourselves enough time, but we were flying United Airlines out of Newark Liberty International Airport, whose motto is "Where do you think YOU'RE goin'?  Ha!  Not today, pal."

The crowds at ticketing and baggage drop-off were larger than those for a rock concert.  United's employees, to their credit, moved us towards a shorter line because we have two young children, but even so we waited about 45 minutes before we could touch a computer screen and drop off our bags.  The computers weren't working properly, either, and a fast-moving employee kept racing back and forth from one computer to another, helping customers through the problems.  After that, we walked to security and waited another half-hour in line as security guards let people in wheelchairs in ahead of us.  Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with that.  But every person in a wheelchair seemed to have ten family members with him or her, and all of them were let through, too.  So we waited and waited, and nobody helped rush us through the line, even though the boarding of our plane had begun.  Then, during the security check, some of our stuff was pulled aside to be scanned, including Adam's bottle.  Turns out our baby closely resembles one of the FBI's most wanted and the security guards wanted to be sure he wasn't a threat.

Then came the sprint.  Because our gate was the farthest one away from security, we had to race around the winding hallways, trampling over those who were enjoying the moving sidewalks as if they're an amusement park ride.  Kyle was amazing, reaching near-Olympic speeds.  We darted past other gates, which I'm certain are not real but are just placeholders so that people like us don't get to sit and enjoy the airport (out of fear that we might be able to smell Newark).  When we arrived at the end of the hall, technically in Pennsylvania, we realized that our gate was DOWNSTAIRS.  Using my newfound adrenaline, I flung the suitcases down, then Jennifer, then the children, and then slid down the banister to our gate.  It was 10:40, five minutes before departure.  We had made it!

"Sorry - the gate's closed," said the woman at the podium.  That's when I lost it. 

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE GATE'S CLOSED?!?" I shouted.  Everyone looked at me.  "IT CAN'T BE CLOSED!  WE HAVE TO GET ON THAT FLIGHT!!  WE HAVE TWO CHILDREN!!!!"  The children were doing their best to not be seen... they were a little surprised by their dad's reaction.

"Sorry, we gave away your seats.  You can talk with customer service," said the woman, who then gave a sinister laugh.  I hollered again about the children, as if that would suddenly make them realize we had two kids and, out of sympathy or fear that they'd be stuck with all the screaming and crying, would let us on the plane.  No such luck.  The woman again directed me to United Airlines' customer service and, giving up, I darted there.  It's a good thing I ran, too, because a line of about 200 people formed after I arrived.  Apparently this sort of thing happens often with United Airlines.  The two people at the customer service desk were outnumbered five-to-one by empty chairs.  After waiting about 20 minutes, one United representative very kindly told me that the rest of the flights to Tampa that day were completely booked.  I was devastated.  But then, by some miracle, the rep discovered there was an early afternoon flight to Orlando with three empty seats.  I took those, and an hour and a half later were were finally on a plane to Florida.

Adam cried and screamed through much of his first flight.  Fortunately for us, this was a flight to Orlando, so many of the passengers were sympathetic parents.  Nobody tried to kick us off the plane, which is a good thing, since they would have had to use the jaws of life to get me out of that seat.  Relief settled in once we landed and began the hour-and-a-half trek to Tampa.  As we started our journey, I was also relieved that our kids are ages four and one, and unaware that Orlando is the home of He Who Must Not Be Named.  It is also home to Harry Potter and Voldemort, and I'm glad the kids don't know them, either.  We arrived at Tampa at 8:30 p.m., about 12 hours after leaving our home.  It might have been faster to drive down.

The trip was certainly worth the hassle, and we had a wonderful time with Jennifer's grandmother and at our hotel in Tampa.  Kyle would have been happy just staying in the pool all day, and we came close to doing that.  The return home was less eventful, too.  We flew United back from friendly Tampa International Airport, whose motto is, "Did you miss your flight?  Don't worry honey - I'll call the pilot and he'll come back to pick you up."  Adam also slept through the flight.  That was exactly what we needed.  We certainly have more plans to travel this year, but none involve flying, especially not from Newark.  I'm very grateful for that.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Zoobie Zoobie Zoobie

I recently read a news article saying that Sesame Street songs were being used on detainees at Guantamo Bay, Cuba.  I'm not kidding.  Apparently blasting Ernie's ode to his rubber duckie is more effective at wearing down suspected terrorists than other established forms of torture, such as waterboarding or the waiting room at the DMV.  Of course, news of musical torture is making some people furious.  The music industry has demanded that the government stop weaponizing their jingles.  Human rights groups are protesting, while parents of young children are saying, "Is that the best you've got?  You should spend a week at our place."

Kyle loves Sesame Street.  He watches it every day.  More specifically, he watches the SAME EPISODE every day, thanks to the power of Netflix instant (and the dim-witted dad who introduced him to it).  He does this for weeks at a time, then moves on to another episode and watches that one over and over again.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen Elmo, Zoe, and Telly nearly fight to the death over who has the best pet.  I've also watched, time and time again, the episode in which Natalie Portman convinces Big Bird that she can run Hooper's Store by singing a song about change and teaching a hyperactive neurotic elephant how to make an omelet.  Then there's the episode Kyle's watching now, a retelling of "The Sword in the Stone" featuring Baby Bear, who has a voice that only a deaf mother can love.   It's enough to drive a parent crazy sometimes.  I suppose I could get out of this cycle and just force Kyle to watch the next episode, but I don't because I believe it's about Elmo going to the DMV.

(Above: Kyle doesn't just listen to music;
he's an accomplish musician himself)
Fortunately, I have not suffered through repetitive children's music like many parents have... not yet, at least.  We just don't have it playing in our home.  I don't know if I deliberately meant for this to happen.  I do know I was traumatized years ago, when we visited my young niece and watched Barney and Friends.  The episode featured one of her favorite songs at the time, "Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy."  If you need to know what I'm talking about, go ahead and look it up on YouTube - there's no way I will subject you to that myself.  I swore then that I would never have that song in my home.  Yet I don't think I intended to keep all children's music away.  I just never attempted to listen to it.  As a stay-at-home dad, my own music has been a source of sanity, and the kids usually enjoy it.  In fact, Kyle has adopted some of our songs as his favorites, and now he likes hearing those songs over and over again.

These days his two favorites are, in his words, "To-nah-nah-nah, We are Yun" and "Zoobie Zoobie Zoobie."  The recording industry prefers to call the first song "We are Young," and it's by a group called Fun.  It's a great song that came out this year, and I enjoy hearing it each day with Kyle, even if it makes a passing comment about the singer's friends "getting higher than the Empire State."  Big deal - they could be on swings, right?  The other song is "Zou Bisou Bisou," a French tune sung by Don Draper's new wife Megan on the season premiere of AMC's Mad Men.  From what I understand, the song's lyrics are harmless; loosely translated, they're a cooking recipe for frog legs.  The song doesn't exactly fit in my classic rock collection, but Jennifer and I are fans of the show and thought it would be funny to hear the song from time to time in shuffle mode.  But then our almost-four-year-old started bouncing to it, and now he wants to hear it nearly every day.  Even our almost-one-year-old, Adam, shakes his arms to the beat.  Jennifer and I do get a kick out of watching them, though it's still a little strange when you consider how we first heard this song (click here).  Kyle has not seen this clip, and I have no plans to show it to him. To him, Mad Men is about a bunch of guys in suits and fedoras who look at pictures of bears and honey, determining what emotions they bring about (and, yes, one picture makes them "mad").  This impression, of course, is from Sesame Street.

I doubt I will introduce children's music in our home.  It's too much of a risk.  Don't get me wrong - there's a lot of good children's music out there. I often enjoy hearing it now and then. But "now and then" never happens in a young child's home.   If the kids ever fell in love with "Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy," we'd have to play it every day, sometimes several times a day.  Now that would be torture.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mayday! Mayday!

To those of you who have been wondering why I haven't posted anything in a while, I offer this video, which was recorded tonight:

I hope to be back soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Potty Time! Excellent!

I am not exactly a potty person.  Some parents out there love to go into detail about their children's ability to use a toilet, as if it's as cute as their first smile, first word, or first spit-up.  I like to spare my readers details, since they might be reading this during a time when it would be inappropriate for them to suddenly throw up.  So today I will write about potty training without going into many of the details.  Besides, if you need details to find out what's really going on, then this might be a good time to take a step back, look at your life, and ask yourself, "Am I a robot?"

(Above: Meet the enemy)
I hate potty training.  It's disgusting, it's exhausting, and it can make a person miss having a desk job to go to during the weekend.  In many ways, potty training is much like military training, except that the trainee is the one barking orders and the trainers are like the guy who signed up for the military but can't take it, and is begging and pleading with the trainee, telling him he'd do anything he wants just to end this misery.  For months, my three-and-a-half-year-old son refused any attempt to get him to sit on a toilet.  It's not something that's easily forceable, especially if you want to keep your clothes clean.  Trust me, I know.  But we had to do it, especially with Pre-K happening this fall, and diapers are frowned upon there.  We were told by the experts that potty training is something that will happen once the kid's ready, and apparently our son was not yet ready.  Or he was, but he was incredibly stubborn about it (I tend to think this was the case).  So, over and over again, I try to get Kyle to go.  "Do you want to use the bathroom?" "No." "Do you want to use the bathroom now?" "No." "How about now?" "No." "Do you not want to not use no bathroom right now?"  "Err... Yes."  The kid was on to me.

We weaned him off diapers by buying him Pull-Ups, but those are really just expensive diapers, and he used them as such.  We then bought him special Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, which apparently is made with pure sandpaper fibers.  He wore them for half a minute before wanting them off.  We then bought him something more comfortable, which he liked wearing, but not enough to give up diapers.

We tried incentives.  Use the bathroom and you get M&M's.  Use the bathroom and you get a lollipop.  Use the bathroom and you get a sticker.  Use the bathroom and you can drive the car around the block.  Sadly, nothing worked.  We also had a bag of wrapped children's books, gifts for Adam (don't tell him) that we didn't open because Adam would rather eat the gifts than open them.  We told Kyle he could have one every time he used the bathroom, but he still didn't budge. Then, during a free weekend earlier this month, we decided to throw a potty party.  One of Jennifer's coworkers did that for his child, and it worked, so we figured we'd give it a shot.  We filled the bathroom with balloons, put a cup of lollipops by the sink, kept books nearby for reading, hired acrobats, and had an iPod set up to play Kyle's favorite music.  Kyle loved the idea, up until he realized that it involved actually using the toilet.  Then the screaming and shoving began.  It soon became the WORST PARTY EVER, and, by the end of the night, we had to give up because of a digestion problem (again, I won't go into details here).  Kyle wins, and parents lose again.

Our kid is stubborn, and once he makes up his mind that he doesn't want to do something, he will kick, scream, fight, fall to the ground and go limp.  He wasn't going to face the toilet or sit on it, no matter how hard we tried to get him there.  That's pretty much how that party went.  I dunno... maybe we were doing it all wrong.  We had no clue as to what would actually work.  We just knew that our child is the ultimate flip-flopper: he will be completely against something one moment, and then, all of a sudden, he'll be for it and act as if he was for it all along.  It's like he's a 3-year-old John Kerry or Mitt Romney.  One night he hates sleeping with a pillow, the next night he loves it.  One day he's not walking, the next day he's doing laps around our friend's apartment.  One day he can't stand cucumber, the next day he's muching away on it.  We just needed that moment to happen with the bathroom, and we were hoping it would happen before puberty. 

(Above: Kyle gets lollipop fever)
Kyle was on vacation last week, and on Wednesday we decided to give the potty party another try.  Kyle resisted at first, but then that evening, he surprised us by going a couple times.  We don't know what changed his mind, but we weren't going to risk anything by asking him.  He then said he'd like to try it again the next day.  And that's what he did.  He's been going every day since.  Just like that, he was potty trained.  We still rewarded him each time (just to make sure it kept going), which meant he had plenty of lollipops and M&M's, and a slew of new books for us to read to him.  That didn't matter, since he had me read the same Curious George book to him each time he had to go.  It's the one where the monkey gets into trouble but somehow manages to find a way out of it.  Yeah, you know the one.  After reading it each bathroom time for several days straight, I was starting to miss the diapers.

Fortunately, Kyle stopped asking me to read to him earlier this week.  The lollipops quickly disappeared and we're now weaning him off the M&M's.  Kyle's been a pro at using the bathroom, and he's already using it to his advantage: he's discovered it's a great delay tactic for brushing his teeth, getting ready for school, cleaning up, eating dinner, and taking a bath.  The hour it used to take to get ready for bed now seems quick compared to the four hours it takes now.  Ah, three-year-olds.  But I'm not complaining.  Not me.  I'm a happy guy.  Potty training is now over until the next kid tries it years from now, and I'm in no rush to start that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Art School

Sometimes I wonder how my kids view me.  Now I know, thanks to Kyle's nursery school.  This is what I look like to my three-year-old:

Those who know me well can see the resemblance.  I think Kyle got my nose perfectly, though my hair seems a little off.  But I suppose that's artistic license.  This picture hung on the wall of my son's nursery school classroom, with a note underneath: "Kyle says, 'This is my Dad.'"  As if anyone would have thought otherwise.

(Above: the artist and his contemporaries
pose for a class photo)
This masterpiece is one of many works of art that Kyle has created at that magical place called nursery school.  Since his first class in mid-September, Kyle has brought home, among other things, a big Valentine's Day heart, a construction-paper Christmas stocking, a jack-o-lantern made from a paper plate, and a picture of dots that looks like his mother.  They're very sweet, and I might be able to auction them off for a few bucks.

My favorite work of art is the one on his classroom door right now.  It's a construction-paper cutout of a little child wearing winter clothes, including a hat, gloves and scarf.  At least, I think it's a scarf; Kyle's guy is wearing his up the side of his face, over his right ear. 

The artwork itself is nothing extraordinary when compared to previous drawings and paintings by Kyle and his classmates.  No, what makes these images of bundled-up children stand out are the quotes next to them, given by the artists themselves.  From what I understand, each kid was pulled aside and asked to tell the teacher what he or she plans to do this winter.  Most of the artists shared many of the heart-warming images of childhood: building a snowman with mommy and daddy, going sledding with a brother or sister, or just running through the snow.  This is what my boy said:

"I will build a snowman, and then eat the snowman."  Hmph.  Maybe my kid's hungry.  Maybe he doesn't quite understand snowmen.  Or maybe he's slightly cannibalistic.  We'll probably get a better idea when he has to make an Easter bunny.  Until then, I'll assume the quote is just him exploring his own imagination.  He is an artist, after all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Big Blues

The sports gods are screwing with my attempt to brainwash my kids.  I used to think that getting my kids to root for my teams would be easy, even though I am from Boston and we're living in Enemy Territory.  I figured, as the kids grew up, I'd somehow convince them to ignore their own hometown teams, either by telling them they are instruments of the devil (the Yankees) or they don't really exist (the Mets).  By age two, Kyle was already saying "Go Red Sox," adding that Big Papi was his favorite player.  The kid also regularly wore a Red Sox hat and jacket, making him my own human shield against the barrage of New York insults.  For the most part, it was working perfectly.

(Above: Adam and Kyle experience the agony of defeat
with their friend Julia)
But then there's football. Football was supposed to be easy. The animosity between New York and New England isn't quite as strong on the gridiron as it is on the baseball diamond.  The Jets are obnoxious, for sure, but they don't stir up the kind of hatred reserved for the Yankees.  I don't see myself banishing my kid from our home for being a Jets fan, though I might deny him dessert after dinner.  As a Pats fan, I was more concerned about Peyton Manning and his Colts, anyway.  Kyle has become a fan of the Patriots, too, and whenever I asked for his favorite player, he says, "Tom Brady!"

Then the sports gods smacked us with Super Bowl XLVI.  New England versus New York. Rematch of Super Bowl XLII.

"Who's going to win on Sunday?" asked Kyle's nursery school teacher when I arrived to pick up my son last week.

"The Giants," said Kyle with a devilish grin.  I gasped.  Kyle's nursery school teacher laughed and laughed.  She said they had been practicing it.  It took her just an afternoon to undo three years of hard work.

I never really disliked the Giants.  After all, the greatest coaches of the Patriots, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, were with the Giants first.  The current head coach, Tom Coughlin, has Boston ties and quarterback Eli Manning just seems too goofy to be loathed.  I like the fact that he's having more success than his attention-grabbing brother; I just wish it wasn't at the expense of my Patriots.  Twice. 

So now everyone outside our home has been celebrating, while our family is just carrying on.  This year's loss didn't hurt as much as the 2008 loss, when a perfect season was on the line.  Back then, though, I didn't think about my kids.  Now - I can't believe this - I'm actually starting to feel a little guilt for carrying on with my plan.  Is that right?  This year I could avoid anything to do with the parades and celebration.  But what if the Giants win again when Kyle is six?  or eight?  He'd be too aware of it then.  If it's not against the Pats, I think I might go along with it.  Maybe the Giants can still be #2 in our home to the #1 Pats.  If the kids have to root for a New York baseball team, maybe they can root for the Mets.  But is that the start down a slippery slope, with my kids building even more love for the New York teams?  I'm hoping it's not.  I will continue to brainwash as best I can, knowing now that the loyalty fight might be tougher in the days ahead.  Hopefully the Pats will find a way back to the biggest game in sports, but against a team other than New York.  I'm sick of rematches.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good Enough for Me

I am addicted to cookies.  I used to enjoy them a lot as a kid, but now, as a stay-at-home dad, it's almost impossible for me to get through a day without them, especially since the second child was born.  Coffee keeps me awake, but cookies keep me sane.  Yes, I know it's not healthy.  I've tried to wean myself off them from time to time, and I think I'm down to one pack a week.  Sometimes I even opt for the gum, but spearmint is no match for peanut butter chocolate chip.  No, cookies are my vice.  It's a little after noon as I write this paragraph, and I've already had three.  Kyle isn't even home from nursery school yet.

Jennifer has laughed at my addiction, and has mockingly called me a Cookie Monster from time to time.  I admit that I am, but she's not innocent in all this.  No, she's an enabler.  Just look at the thing sitting on top of my refrigerator.  Do you see that?  That's a gift she gave me a couple Christmases ago.  Yes, it is emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo.  Yes, it says, "Big King Size: Ice Cold."   But don't be fooled: there's nothing cold in there.  There's no Coca-Cola in that jar.  That jar was given to me for one thing: cookies.  Sweet, beautiful cookies.  Mmmmmmm.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, the cookie jar.  I suppose it was a necessity.  I was already deep within Nabiscoland by that Christmas, and Jennifer was probably tired of seeing an open package of Chips Ahoy! in the kitchen.  At least the jar is neater.  I like it because it's quieter than the crinkly packaging, especially now that I have to hide my addiction from my three-year-old, who enjoys the treat as much as I do.  Often while he's sitting on the couch, watching TV, I sneak into the kitchen and slowly and carefully open the jar.  I grab a couple and then close the jar, hoping he doesn't notice.  Sometimes I accidentally clang the lid against one of the edges, and then my boy's finely-tuned cookie monitor dings, and I hear, "Can I have a cookie, Daddy?"  It's very difficult to say "no" to that, especially since I can't really say anything at all with a cookie already in my mouth.  Mmmmmmm.

Okay, so maybe that's a little pathetic.  How did it get this bad?  I look at the picture below and I say, how did it NOT get this bad?

Mmmmmmmm.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Blaming the child.  Kyle drove me to this.  Back when I was a brand-new parent, with a brand-new baby, I suddenly found myself alone with brand-new dirty diapers, brand-new tantrums, and brand-new anxiety.  Did you know that when a baby wants a bottle, and when you tell that baby you're getting that bottle ready, the baby doesn't sit and wait patiently?  Did you know that sometimes a pacifier doesn't pacify?  Did you know that a baby can cry when he's tired and cry when he doesn't want to nap - at the same time?  Did you know that diapers sometimes don't do the one and only job they are supposed to do?  Did you know that it often takes at least 45 minutes to get out the door with a baby if you are planning on going outside for about 45 minutes?  I think at some point, as I was rushing around, trying to figure out what this constantly demanding child needed, I realized I needed some relief.  Something for myself.  Amazingly, the taste of a cookie did the trick.  Well, not just one... more like five.  Ah, who cared if there was still half a day 'til bedtime?  I was happy, at least for a moment.  Now there's no going back.

Sometimes I look at the Nutrition Facts and laugh at the serving size.  Really?  Do they actually believe a person would eat just one or two of these things?  Maybe some people do, as a special treat in the middle of the day, on a little plate next to one of those miniature cups of espresso.  But these people probably don't buy several packages of Chocolate Chunk at a time, or even go for the supermarket duplex cookies.  They prefer the quality cookies.  I usually don't have time for quality cookies.  Even when I do, I wouldn't eat just one.  Sometimes Jennifer has to stop me from eating a whole package of Pepperidge Farm in one sitting.  Really, what are these "Nutrition Facts" people thinking? 

Time does play a factor in my cookie-eating abilities, and so does my cookie-loving son's highly-sensitive ears.  I must eat my cookies fast, quietly, and with nobody noticing.  So I have learned how to eat them like a frog eats a fly.  I grab a cookie and, using my tongue, zip the entire thing into my mouth.  Now you see it; now you don't.  It's one talent I have perfected as a stay-at-home dad, and I'm awfully proud of it.  I have eaten hundreds of cookies without Kyle noticing, and now I'm sneaking them in as Adam screams for a bottle.  Mixing formula is a whole lot better while slowly munching on some Oreos.

That's what being a stay-at-home dad has done to me.  Cookies and coffee have kept me from turning prematurely gray during the toughest parts of the past three and a half years.  Could be worse, I suppose.  And while I often cower in a corner with my addiction, there are many other times when my kids make the job easy, and during those times it's fun to live it up... sharing a cookie together.  Mmmmmmmm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Real World

Believe it or not, there are some who say a person must have more than one child to be considered a REAL parent.  Jennifer ran into one such person at work, months before Adam was born.  Naturally she was offended, and a bar fight ensued.  Once Jennifer came home (and recycled the broken beer bottles), she told me about the comment, and I was disgusted too.  How arrogant or mentally unstable would you have to be to say such a thing?

Then Adam was born, and now we're seven months into our two-kid adventure.  Sometime last week Jennifer brought up that comment again, after the two screaming kids went to bed and we began the hours-long process of cleaning up and imbibing.  Once again, we both agreed that the person who made the comment was wrong, and I'm not just saying that because I don't want hate mail or death threats from my closest friends and some family members.  You simply cannot be sprayed by a child at 3 a.m. and not be called a real parent.  But these days it is easier to see why someone would make such a comment.

Here's a little snapshot of what happens most days:  let's begin with my three-year-old son Kyle, who is suddenly STARVING, even though he had a snack not too long ago.  He won't stop telling me about it.  "I need a snack, Daddy!  I need a snack, Daddy!  I need a snack, Daddy!  I need a snack, Daddy!"  This usually happens right after nursery school, while I still have a jacket on and am trying to get a wailing (and also hungry) Adam out of his baby carrier.  Since it is, indeed, snack time, I tell Kyle to hold on and I'll get him one soon.  There's a pause for about a second... then, "I need a snack, Daddy!" 

After I pull Adam out of his carrier, I put him down in his bouncy seat, and I go get Kyle a snack.  Adam starts whining for a teether while Kyle complains that the bowl containing his Goldfish is not up to his high standards.  While this is going on, I measure out some water for Adam's formula and start warming it up in a bowl of hot water.  I get Adam a teether and then take my jacket off.  Adam flings the teether to the floor, and Kyle realizes that Goldfish make him thirsty.  "I need water, Daddy!  I need waaatteerr!" he cries as if we just came back from a retreat in the desert instead of nursery school.  Adam is tired and hungry and sick of being stuck in one place, so he whines some more as he tries to flip himself around in his bouncy seat, and each day he seems closer to succeeding.  I grab him another toy. 

"Daddy, let's play Christmas!"  Kyle has developed a new game in which he and I sit down for a half-hour, pretending to give each other presents by opening two of his plastic boxes over and over again while feigning excitement and gratitude (he's practicing for the future, when gifts become less fun and more underwear-like).  Christmas will last all year in our house.  But tears are streaming down Adam's face, so I tell Kyle not right now.  "But why, Daddy?" he whines, "I want to play Christmas."  I start to mix Adam's formula, and Kyle forgets how to walk.  He trips over his would-be Christmas toy (rejected by that cruel Scrooge Daddy), and falls to the ground.  He starts to give that open-mouthed, wrinkled-faced, red-cheeked cry.  So I stop what I'm doing to give him a hug and I check to make sure there's no blood and all joints are working properly.  Adam stops whining for a second, but once he realizes that his brother is okay, he goes back to his demands.  In very kind words I tell Kyle to suck it up and get over it and then I walk back to Adam's bottle and open container of formula.  I stand there, confused.  Before the cry, did I put one scoop or two scoops in?

As I shake the formula, I pause to tell Kyle to stop licking the dishwasher.  I then put the nipple on the bottle and I stop Kyle again, this time before he makes a pretzel out of Adam's arms.  "Gentle," I say, "he's still a baby."  Kyle doesn't believe me.  By now I probably should have put on the TV, but I plan to save that card for later, when I want to have my coffee without a kid jumping on me and scalding my hands.  I pick Adam up and he's all smiles.  Hooray!  Daddy to the rescue with formula!  I walk towards the chair to feed Adam, when Kyle blurts out, "I have a dirty diaper!"

I suppose I could just let Kyle sit in it, and sometimes I have told him to wait.  But in the end it's easier to just get it over with than to smell it while I'm feeding the baby.  So I put Adam back down, and he screams like he hates my guts and will move out once he can walk.  But then, after I change Kyle diaper and deny a few more of his "Christmas" requests, I grab Adam and he's my best friend again.  Feeding time is here!

So that's about twenty minutes with two kids.  Fortunately, the entire day is not like that; thank God for nursery school.  And once the TV is on, Kyle becomes too riveted by the plot (Will Oscar find true love?  Will Cookie Monster ever recover from that cookie ponzi scheme?  Who murdered Snuffy?) to take his eyes off the screen.  Adam naps, too, and that gives me a little break.  Yes, life with two kids is more intense than it was with one kid, but the jump from one kid to two is nowhere near the perilous leap from zero kids to one.  And at least I don't have three kids.  Maybe that's when a person becomes a "real" parent.

Of course, adjusting to this new life is taking quite a bit of time, and that's why you haven't heard from me much.  I think I'm finally getting into some sort of rhythm, at least until Adam changes his sleeping habits.  So maybe, just maybe, I'll be back next week.  But I'm not making any promises, at least until the kids go to college.