Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Metabolic metaphors and lighted lifelines

On the way to my folks for Christmas, we finished listening to a new short story by Stephen King titled The Stationary Bike. Say what you will about Stephen King and the scary stories he tells, but this story fascinated me. (No genre-slamming-finger-wagging, please. I think he's one of the greatest storytellers living; a lit professor I had in college told me that the closet Mr. King ever got to true "literature" was The Stand, which I loved back in the day, whatever the heck that means – literature and back in the day).

The "Stationary Bike" is about an illustrator who is told by his doctor that he needs to exercise, lose weight and bring his cholesterol down. The doctor gives the main character, Richard Sefkitz, a metaphor for his aging metabolism: an older road crew of blue collar guys in chinos and t-shirts, arms inked in vivid tattoos, hard hats and orange vests. They worked overtime for little pay, ate like crap and were tired all the time. They needed better care.


So he buys a stationary bike, sets it up in the basement of his building, and paints an outdoor mural on the wall in front of the bike to "pretend" he was biking though the woods. As you can imagine in a Stephen King story, the metabolic metaphor takes on a live of its own; blood-pumping obsessions with art imitating life and exercise and the fear of impending doom – one's inevitable mortality.


The moral: don't forget the presence of the moment and give and take everything within reason while giving and taking care of yourself.


What the hell does this have to do with parenting and being a daddy? Be responsible for your metabolic metaphors. You're family will thank you for it. I'm 43 and run at least 50+ miles every month – but I cannot eat like I'm 23 anymore (although I was certainly a fatty in my mid-twenties – neurotic stress and strain and 80 pounds heavier – oh the forgotten glory days of high school football). I'm also a writer who knows what it's like to lose oneself in a fictional crowd. You've always got to keep yourself tethered to the nearest lamppost.


According to ObesityInAmerica.org:

  1. Approximately 62 percent of female Americans are considered overweight.

  2. Approximately 67 percent of male Americans are considered overweight.

  3. An estimated 400,000 deaths per year may be attributable to poor diet and low physical activity.

Holy crap. Really? And 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight and 30.5 percent are obese. No way that's gonna happen with me and my little honey Bea.


But, that leads me to the holiday cheer I'm wearing like a soaked braided belt from the 70s and the sugar plum dream of getting my annual daddy jogging stroller run off the ground. It'll be all about healthy living and loving, that's for sure, wherever the moneys raised go.


And what better role models for daddies to be than through healthy living and loving.


Now, to get it off the ground with lighted lifelines…Pooh thinked harder than he had ever thunked before.


Happy New Year!



Friday, December 26, 2008

Baby B and the first family winter solstice sick

Nothing says family love like catching a simultaneous cold on the winter solstice and then sharing it throughout the Christmas holiday. We're finally feeling better today!

And it was baby's first cold. Should I have saved some of the snot? Is that what new parents do? Have it encased in a clear plastic cube? We sucked enough of it out of her nose with one of those bulbous suction squeeze scoobies, that's for sure.


Oh, but it was so hard to watch the baby wail because she's got aches and a snotty nose. We gave her a smidge of baby Tylenol, but otherwise had to ride it out this week. Not much you can give a newborn other than love and comfort.


I'll tell you, it's a much different cry than the hungry cry, or the tired cry, or the gassy cry – the Dunstan method was interesting, but we didn't really need to spend the $35. We figured them all out on our own. I have to believe that most mindful parents do.


As adults without children, we knew that good hygiene is key to preventing little bugger bugs. I never even imagined what was in store for us handing Bea around the room to show off like a fine piece of alien crystal – that soaks up everything it comes in contact with.


Including bugger bugs. And she's years away from starting school and sharing arm-nose wipes with other kids. According to a page I found on SchoolFamily.com:


"Kids bear the brunt of seasonal illnesses, typically picking up six to 10 colds a year compared with the two to four colds adults get, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The Centers for Disease Control chalks up 22 million school absences each year to colds alone. The good news is that kids can greatly reduce their risk of getting or spreading a cold with healthy habits and good hygiene."


Six to 10 colds per year? Crap. That's going to be a lot of shared family sick.


It's all about the love, so get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat right (forget it this week), drink lots of water, and wash those hands with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, or long enough to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.


Great tip. I barely get the first "Ha" out during my hand washings.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Baby B and burp rags – so out it rolls

One of staff at work bought us the sweetest burp rag that reads:

I coo.


I poo.


That's all I do.


Used to think that's all I did until I met my little Baby B. What an amazing creature she is. I've already worked through the whole sugar-and-spice myth, but now there is drool everywhere. I mean everywhere.


There's an old SNL skit with Michael Palin hosting that tells "the horrible, disgusting, tragic story of poor Miles Cowperthwaite who had the nerve-wracking job of emptying drool buckets from an epileptic."


One of those comedy bits that stays with you. Of course, baby drool doesn't really fill up drool buckets, just soaks a burp rag or three. According to Drool 101 at Parenting.com, "Some babies just don't know what to do with their spit, so out it rolls."


Wow. Words from an M.D. So out it rolls.


I kept asking Mama A if maybe Bea's teething early, but that usually doesn't happen until six months and beyond.


Christmas drool for everyone! I'll have mine with a little brandy, please.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Daddy K keeps the music alive – pa rum pum pum pum

"And the three men I admire most,

The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost,


They caught the last train for the coast,


The day the music died."


--Don McLean, American Pie


My brain is made up of jingles, ditties, drumming rudiments, witty aphorisms and simple nutty sayings; if I didn't keep the upbeat musicality of the bouncing red ball, I'd have a whole lot of nothing. Much of that comes from my lovably crazy dad, and I do hope to pass that along to Beatrice (much to her future chagrin).


There have been more than a handful of times when the music died, however, filling the silent void with cynicism, anger and resentment. I've seen too many good folk, me included, decide that life just isn't giving them a break, that God isn't listening, particularly during the holidays and during a rough year for many folks in the heartland and around the world.


God is listening – listening for us to make the choices that make us sparks of divinity and universal intervention; listening for us to make the differences in our world.


I was raised a Christian and no matter the iteration of my faith today, I embrace all that is Christmas – the hope, the love and the rebirth of choice. (And my favorite Jesus is the little baby Christmas Jesus.) One of my favorite childhood Christmas shows was The Little Drummer Boy, the story of a poor boy who had no gift to give baby Jesus except for his drum playing. The greatest gifts are those of passion and conviction that come from the healthy heart – inhale, a metaphor for the love and acceptance I never got from my biological father, and exhale, the strength of unconditional forgiveness I have yet to fully give.


I played my drum for him, pa rum pum pum pum

I played my best for him, pa rum pum pum pum,

rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum…


I've become more of a deist of late, one who believes that God gave us the instruments to keep the music alive, to beat the healing heartmeld drums of ourselves and others.


My cousin Dori wrote a wonderful post about being active and present in the world in order to make it a better place, to focus more on loving and less on spending. As new parents (and even before the little honey Bea) we are active and present and focus on loving to keep the music alive. If each family that has enough gives a little to families that don't, this world would be such an amazing place and we could truly celebrate the miracle of Christmas every day. I believe it already is and the bad news media doesn't convince me otherwise.


Christmas is a choice. Choices are miracles that fill cold winter skies with well-lit hope. Celebrate the miracle of yours and rock the house.


Then he smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum

Me and my drum.



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Baby B, the bottle and the bouncing red ball

I'm a bumbling buffoon when it comes to feeding Bea from the bottle. Either I startle her too much before I can even get the nipple to her lips and she screams as though I've just given her a vaccination (did that on the 2-month mark and man did she wail), or I just don't have enough of the mommy caress finesse to get her latched (which I don't).

Mama started pumping earlier than our midwife wanted her to, but it takes time to get baby on the bottle no matter when you start. My daddy pals at DadLabs gave me some good recommendations about finding the right bottle/nipple combo, and all of Amy's baby reading and friend and family advice.


I have had some success, however, and we'll keep working hard on it since we're close to Mama going back to work. And thankfully we think we found the right nanny with lots of baby raising experience, including bottle feeding, which will make the initial transition a little easier.


I hope. Keep your fingers crossed.


We're also coming up on the big 3-month milestone and Bea is an active little bugaboo. She's hitting all her milestones so far and that makes us very happy parents! As a busy new working daddy I try to be mindful and stay in the moment with my baby, but man I get freaked out sometimes that I'm missing something, anything – real big.


Keeping up with the red bouncing ball that hits our lifetime keywords like a xylophone on speed isn't easy.


And those keywords are crucial when baby is learning language. Mama and my Caveman's Guide to Baby's First Year continue to educate this buffoon:

  1. Talk to the little bugaboo about anything and everything (no cursing).

  2. Tell the baby stores; read to her (that's an easy one for us).

  3. Lots of music and singing (Daddy K, meet Baby Einstein).

  4. Exposing her to other people and places (that's also an easy one for Mr. and Mrs. Social Butterfly).

  5. Play with toys that help baby understand shapes and space (doing that more and more).

Check. Now when can I start her on drum lessons (so I can start too)?

Monday, December 8, 2008

What’s the difference between finding a gopher in your yard and finding childcare for your 3-month old?

You can't drown the nanny-manny-fee-fi-fo-fanny if you don't like her/him. (That's going to get some complaints.)


Argh – first of all after two years of living in our house and making the back yard our own with blood, sweat and tears, we have a gopher. And although I know there are many different options available when it comes to taking care of the little varmints, I really can't resort to shaping C-4 explosives into friendly little park animals. I did try to run the hose into the hole and let loose the water, but that didn't do anything except create a swimming pool.


At least the little bugger is keeping the trench right along the edge of the grass and the patio. Rodentia Symmetrica. Nice.


But that's the least of our worries right now. Right now we're looking for childcare before my wife goes back to work in January. We thought we had a franny lined up (friend-like nanny), but that's falling apart now faster than the global economy.


So, we're looking at in-house infant care, nannies, local infant daycare, robot care, virtual reality daycare and even a potential family option.


But what to do? There are political ramifications with the family option, but there are so many other unknowns with the other options using services like Care.com, SantaCruzKids.com or calling listings off of Craigslist, or checking with our friends local networks/churches. We've got so many calls to make and interviews to schedule and waiting lists to wait on and gopher mounds to sit on. (Schizoids and freaks, we do check references.)


What to do? We're scrambling now; the hose is on full blast.


Queue the music…


"I'm all right, don't nobody worry about me…"



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Daddy K’s thankful for the leftovers. Very thankful.

Sorry I've been away, but life just doesn't wait for anyone. We're busy raising Baby B and recovering from a wonderful Thanksgiving (although Bea has been a little more fussy the past few nights from reentering the atmosphere – all done with everyone except Mama ).

First my folks came to visit us before Thanksgiving. Then on the way to Mama A's family for Thanksgiving, we stopped by my Auntie M's house to visit with her and her family; we haven't seen them for years and it was a pleasure. Beatrice was pretty fussy from the first leg of our trip (because I couldn't wait to pee and Beatrice woke from her travel nap – got me in trouble both ways).


Then we had to go over the High Sierras during the last leg of the trip which was very difficult for Bea and Mama. There's really not a lot for a daddy to do when baby and mama are screaming and crying. Oy vey.


We survived thankfully. Amy's family cooked up a T-day storm and I must've gained 80 pounds in two days. Ugh. Bea held up okay until the night after Thanksgiving when there was a projectile vomiting incident; too many foods in Mama's milk. More screaming and crying.


We experienced a Yahtzee revival, though! My sister and I used to play it all the time with my grandparents and it was so much fun playing it again. So much fun in fact that I downloaded the app to my iPhone. Sweet.


The trip home was much easier and after we unpacked we dove into a final batch of Thanksgiving leftovers. Yum city.


I'm thankful for leftovers. I've always been thankful for leftovers. And unless it was something I really didn't like the first time, which wasn't much, I always ate most of the leftovers.


Since I was a child, leftovers meant abundance; we never went hungry and my sister and I never thought of ourselves as poor.


But we were.


Not destitute like many who suffered in the Great Depression, like those interviewed by Studs Terkel in his special collection of stories from his Hard Times radio series (I recently listened to some of them on This American Life). Not poverty-stricken like many from third world countries of yesteryear and today. Not completely broke like the thousands of families who have lost their jobs and homes this year.


But we were poor – and we always had leftovers. My mother knew how to stretch a dollar, even when my alcoholic deadbeat dad didn't and the relentless recession stagflation of the 70s made it even tougher. She knew how to create culinary delights whether it was holiday faire, or probably one of my favorite childhood meals of all time: ground beef gravy over mashed potatoes with whole kernel corn on the side and bread and butter. And a glass of cold milk to wash it all down.


We never went hungry and we never went without Christmas gifts. Every Christmas Mom busted her butt to get as many of the gifts on our list as possible.


So whether you donate a little food to Feeding America (Second Harvest Food Bank) like we do, or volunteer to help feed the homeless, or donate toys to Toys for Tots (which we pledge to do this year) or the Make-A-Wish Foundation, give a little bit this year to others.


Don't be a deadbeat dad, daddies, even when we're all belt tightening. Be good to your families and to those less fortunate. Every little bit helps.


God bless us all and Merry Christmas. Now, if I can get Mama A to fix me the ground beef gravy and mashed potato delight…