The misadventures of a first time father

Too Busy?

Toy CarThis summer I had come home from work, per usual, greeted by the hugging arms of the little man. I talked to my wife for a few minutes, set down my bags, was going to change my clothes and then do, I don’t know, it probably wasn’t important, when our son asked me if I could play with him.

“Well, sure I can,” I told him.

“You can?” he asked again. “You mean you’re not too busy to play with me?”

My heart sank.

How many times have I felt the frantic overwhelming grasp of too many things, too many deadlines, goals, responsibilities that I’ve just automatically used the excuse “I’m really busy,” be it with friends, family, co-workers, whomever.

But had it really gotten so bad that my three-year old son had to wonder with longing eyes if I was too busy to spend time and play with him?

I could see it in his eyes. If I had said “I’m busy” to him in the past, what I was essentially telling him as that what I was doing was more important than him.

Dear god, no. This was not how I want my life to play out. Absolutely not.

So it was at that moment I was reminded why I’m on this earth, what I leave behind. And that is our children.

“Of course I’m not too busy to play, buddy,” I told him, eliciting an exciting ‘yay!’ before he gave me some Duplos, or a Little People Batman or some toy. I can’t quite remember what it was. But I remember we had fun. We really did have fun, because I was in the moment. With him. I wasn’t trying to get on the computer, or look through papers for work, or try to write something for one of a myriad of projects that honestly don’t matter at all when compared to this little boy.

For the first time in a while, I was in that moment with him.

And it was then, in that moment of clarity, that I decided when I came home, the rest of the world goes away. Work, smartphone, writing, house projects (that’s what naptimes and post bedtimes are for :) ) – seriously, turn them off and put them away. It all can wait. What can’t is the time of our lives when our children will want/crave to be around us to interact with us, to spend time with us.

I want to be a part of that for as long as possible. Everything else be damned. That other stuff I’ll find time at some point. For him, that time is now.

Wordless Wednesday: X Marks the Spot

A piece of construction paper, some crayons, and in a few minutes, we were hunting for treasure.

A piece of construction paper, some crayons, and in a few minutes, we were hunting for treasure.

Rescue Rangers to the Rescue! (with real chipmunks)

Oh My Disney​ has followed up last year’s “Ducktales with Real Ducks” video with a real Chipmunk take on another Disney Afternoon favorite – Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers​.

The Ducktales video was followed by an announcement of a reboot for the show, something I had been pushing for quite some time. Well, not so much a reboot as taking advantage of the audience desire and much of the voice cast still, thankfully with us. Unfortunately, it since has been stated that Disney is not going to be using any of the original Ducktales voice cast, which is quite saddening.

Look, I can understand wanting to give Alan Young, 95 and June Foray, 98 (Scrooge McDuck and Magica DeSpell, respectively) a bit of a rest. And yes, we’ve lost some actors like the great Hamilton Camp (Fenton Crackshell/Gizmoduck) and Hal Smith (Gyro Gearloose and Flintheart Glomgold). But come on, Disney. Terence McGovern, the only voice of Launchpad McQuack, is only 73. Russi Taylor, who voices Huey, Dewey and Louie is only 71. Frank Welker, who voices some of the Beagle Boys is still actively working on Curious George, Scooby Doo and many other television shows at 69.

We’re big Disney Afternoon fans in our house. They made up after-school viewing when Meg and I were growing up and our little guy is just as much a fan, from Rescue Rangers, to Ducktales, to Darkwing Duck (also discussed recently for a possible reboot if the 2017 Ducktales relaunch goes well). There’s just something about those adventures and derring-do that’s still just as captivating today as it was a few decades ago.

I wager this recent video means we’ll be getting news about the previously announced Rescue Rangers CGI/Live Action Feature Film soon.

Big Boy Bed

toddler bed 01Just like the warm breeze of summer is destined to make way to chilly winds of fall, so too go the years of our lives, moving, what seems, ever-faster the older we get. And when it comes to watching our children grow, that train of time seems to forever be speeding faster and faster away down the tracks of life.

We don’t tend to notice the day-to-day changes as they occur. Small increments of change are hard to pick out when you’re there along with it day in and day out. It’s the milestones, the transitions – those are the moments that really make us stop and take notice of how swiftly the sands fall through the hourglass.

For me, one of those moments came today, as we finally transitioned our little man out of his crib and into a toddler bed. It was overdue, yes, but despite that, it didn’t make it any easier – at least not the emotions of mommy and daddy.

A friend was getting rid of a toddler bed that their own children had outgrown and graciously passed it along to us. Meg sanded it down, painted it (with the little guy helping pick the color) and boom! We were ready to go.

The excitement on his face was palpable, jumping up and down, grinning as Meg and I turned the Allen wrench, both assembling his new “big boy bed” and dismantling the crib that’s been his overnight home since the earliest weeks of his life and moving it out of the room and across the hall to our office – one more step of preparation for the arrival of baby number two in the months ahead.

When the end of the night came, you would have thought it was Christmas morning. Instead of fighting the need to go upstairs and get into bed, he led the way, excitedly heading into his room and pulling out a book to read per our storytime routine.

Only now, he didn’t want to go into “mommy and daddy’s bed” to read as has been the case every night these past three years. No, instead he insisted we read in his room, climbing into his bed and pulling over the covers as daddy reluctantly took a seat next to his bed, opened the book and began reading, while simultaneously hiding the feeling of melancholy at his claiming his own, independent life.

A few precautions were taken. Our house has two floors, so we pulled out ye olde baby gate and placed it at the top to prevent any mid-night walking, falling and potential injury now that there’s easy access out of the room. Funny thing is, he never tried to climb out of his crib, something we consider ourselves incredibly grateful for. While the cats were initially puzzled at the presence of the gate on their nightly rushes up and down the stairs, it turned out to not be needed right away (though we’ll still keep it up at night regardless). We talked about staying in bed until mommy and daddy give him the clearance to do so and wouldn’t you know it, he listened.

He listened well.

So well, in fact, that when his stuffed ladybug (from Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug) fell out of bed, he called out to have mommy come pick it up for him because he’s not supposed to get out of the bed.

I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. I love seeing him beam about the idea of going to bed or taking a nap because it means a “big boy bed.” But I can’t help but feel, as the cliché goes, that it’s all moving a bit too fast. I may never be okay with it. I’m sure these feelings will continue – the first bicycle ride, or a first day of school, first high school dance, or, perish the thought, move-in day at college.

It’s overwhelming to think about. So, the best that I can do is just try my best to not brush off the requests to play, to read, and to be around. There will be plenty of time as he gets older he’s going to have his own life. Moving to a big boy bed may just be a small sign of independence in the bigger scheme of things, but it’s enough for me to take notice, and to remind myself that we don’t get second chances at these things.

Work will come and go. Books to read will sit on the shelves. Projects to create can always be created. But this…this opportunity to be with my little boy while he’s a little boy will only last so long.

As painful as it can be during the transitions, it’s a reminder once again to cherish every single moment and not let the time slip by.

Photo Explosion and Memory Retention

You ever feel like you spend so much time taking pictures of videos of a moment that you never really lived it?

I have. Plenty of times.

Living behind a lens, watching wonderful moments unfold, hurrying to capture them for all eternity, only to realize afterward that you never truly took part in it, not that way you really want to, not all in.

Each year around the little guy’s birthday, I take all the photos and videos from the year before and compile a memory video of the previous year. Luckily for me, he loves them, and frequently asks if he can watch them.

I’ve read that researchers found talking to your kids about experiences and things you’ve done and letting them talk about things they’ve done is a way to help make sure the memories of childhood don’t fade away into oblivion.

“Conversational style matters, because when children remember and talk about the past, they effectively relive the event—they fire the same neurons and reinforce the same connections” Nicholas Day writes in this account on Slate. “They are buttressing their memory of the event. And when parents scaffold their children’s stories—when they essentially tell the stories for their children, as a highly elaborative parent of a very young child would—they are reinforcing those same connections.”

Part of me hopes these videos will serve a similar purpose, reigniting memories of these experiences, reinforcing the memories in his mind so they don’t become dust in the proverbial wind.

Not how you should experience a concert.

It’s usually a pretty big undertaking to go through everything of the first year, and it was only now, as I made a “Year Three” video that I organized as I went along, dating and labeling each photo and video and putting them into month specific folders so that I’d know where everything was when it came time to make the video.

The first year was about ten minutes long. Year two was about 15.

Year Three proved to be a problem. The rough cut was an hour and nine minutes.

I’m not kidding.

Even with additional weeks of editing and cutting, I still only got it down to 49 minutes long before I had to give up, export it and be done for this year.

But it made me realize that I had a really big problem. And that problem is that I have/took way too many videos and photos. The year before I felt like I hadn’t taken enough and now I had footage and photos coming out of my ears!

So it was time to reevaluate.

I’m still going to make the annual videos. They’ve now become a tradition in our household. But the experience has made me realize just how unnecessary so much of what I captured was. Sure they were fun little moments, but as the images flickered past me on the screen, I realized how many were moments that the little guy was relishing while I just stood back and observed, rather than taking part the way he wanted me to, the way I should.

Me circa 1981. There was only this one in the album of that day. If this was today's digital age, you'd probably find about 25 from that afternoon.

Me circa 1981. There was only this one in the album of that day. If this was today’s digital age, you’d probably find about 25 from that afternoon.

It’s not bad to take a photo of a good time to share the memory. But with photo and video cameras built in to every smartphone these days, it’s become increasingly easy to do nothing but. How many pictures of people’s meals do we see online? Would you really have taken photos of that dinner and pasted it into your photo album 20 years ago? I wouldn’t.

And that’s the point.

The ease at which we can capture moments has made it just as easy to lose focus on which moments are really worth capturing.

So I’ve made a resolution. A picture or small video to commemorate a really fun or memorable time/outing/event with the little guy or the whole family is one thing. But not a dozen. And not everything. Because let’s be real – I’d much rather be out there in the backyard or at the park running around with him and having fun than trying to get the perfect shot to remember it later.

Here’s hoping for more fun and a shorter video next year, but even more memories and experiences. :)

Bins and bins of baby clothes

The basement.

Like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is a sea of forgotten memories. Some that elicit the light of joy, while others are best left forgotten, begging the question of why we hung onto them in the first place.

We’ve been in our current house for six years and only now have we gotten to tackling what we thought would be a cinch so early on – cleaning, organizing and making the basement space useful. It’s required taking pretty much everything and placing it into the middle of the basement in one big clump so that the walls could be painted from gray to white and the floor I painted half off a few years ago could finally be joined by the other fifty percent.

I feel like this venture will eventually elicit several blog posts spurred on by the memories unearthed, but for now, I want to talk about baby clothes.

Yes. Baby clothes.

There we sat, my wife and I, with bins upon bins of baby clothes brought up from the basement and sitting in our living room like we were ready to open a store that rivaled Babies R Us. Between hand me downs as various family members have children that outgrow clothes, the clothes we had bought for the little guy, and the clothes purchased by family members as gifts that filled probably half of those bins, we had a lot to sort through.

We spent the night sorting through all those old clothes, both for organizational reasons as we try to make better use of space, but also in prep for the new baby to take stock of what we already have.

As I noticed how our piles and plastic bins were all sorted by the age ranges on the clothing tags, from 3 months to 9 months to 24 months, I thought, why not do this for adults?

Instead of going to the store and looking for a medium, we could tell them “I need a 30-35 years top. You know what. Make it a onesie. Cuz who needs pants?”

Sesame Street makes the move to a more expensive neighborhood

So today it was announced that the Children’s Television Workshop, which of course produces the legendary Sesame Street, has inked a deal with HBO to air the next five years worth of new episodes on the premium television channel.

Those new episodes, will then later be made available for airing on PBS Stations.

And I kind of feel like it’s serving a lot of kids and families the leftover scraps.

The program isn’t leaving PBS, its home for the past 45 years. But it is being cut down from an hour to a half-hour and will be reruns that have been re-edited.

Any new episodes of the show will air on HBO first, finding their way to PBS some nine months later. Will these new episodes be an hour on HBO and cut down to a half-hour on PBS as is being done with reruns? Or will they be a half hour on HBO and then presented as-is on PBS? I haven’t found that to be clear just yet.

However, the move to HBO will allow them to nearly double the number of episodes they produce each year, from 18 to 35.

So more episodes. Something that was getting harder to do financially for PBS. That’s good, right? But the only families and children who will get to watch them are those paying for HBO or HBO’s streaming service. Nine months later they’ll be able to catch them on television on PBS.

I can already see the critics of PBS using this in arguments against public funding, citing what seems to be the big thing lately, privatization, or that trendy new buzzword, ‘public-private partnerships’ in the fight against the use of funding for something they may not be a fan of.

Much of this deal is wrapped up in the concept of streaming, something I tend to, admittedly, forget about. HBO will get the exclusive digital/streaming rights to Sesame Street. Many news articles on this deal cite that two-thirds of children watch Sesame Street via a streaming device.

So, if that is the case, two-thirds of children watch Sesame Street via streaming. And that streaming option is now being removed from Netflix, Amazon, and most importantly, the free PBS Kids app. (Or at least, it’s implied it will disappear from the PBS Kids app. That doesn’t seem to be directly addressed in any article I’ve come across so far. I’ll gladly correct if I find one.)

This is nagging at me because I keep thinking about the purpose of Sesame Street being on public television to begin with – to have its educational lessons via entertainment accessible to all, regardless of the economic status of the household.

If you had a television set, whether it was antenna, premium cable, or just basic cable as we have (the cable company refers to it as ‘lifeline cable’ sometimes. It’s just channels 2-13), you could still learn along with Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and company.

I’ve gone back and forth but keep feeling like overall, there’s a loss here for anyone that’s not HBO or an HBO subscriber.

PBS keeps the reruns and down-the-line gets some new episodes and doesn’t have to pay for it. Great, but if all these articles are true, stating that two-thirds of children get Sesame Street via a streaming service or app, then that’s just been taken away from them if their families don’t subscribe to HBO.

I dunno.

If your childhood home gets saved from being torn down, but you don’t get to live in it anymore because it’s not in your financial reach, who is it a win for?


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