The misadventures of a first time father

Monthly Archives: April 2013

IMG_0490This is an open letter to a frequent friend.

It’s always hard to say goodbye, and often times the circumstances never allow us the way to say them that we truly wish.

You entered our lives very quietly, I’m sure like you came and went from so many others. It was in the grassy green of our backyard a few years ago that we first spotted you, lounging in the sun, shortly after we rescued our first feline son. We wondered where you had come from, and worried about where you were headed when you’d take off. At that time, though, you kept your distance, with good reason, I’m sure.

We lovingly nicknamed you Monster after noticing your extra toes. You were a polydactyl cat, much like those hanging around Ernest Hemingway.

As you appeared more frequently in our lives, and the temperatures turned colder, we did our best to make sure you had what you needed – whether it be a blanket, a box, or just some bits to eat, checking on you, or your quarters in our garage became part of my daily routine before work each day, especially in the cold winter, even when I knew you wanted us at bay.

There was a period when so much time had passed since we last saw you that my heart sank and we wondered ‘whatever happened to that Monster?’ In time, we realized you had moved on, perhaps finding a home somewhere to your liking.

Life went on, the seasons changed, and we welcomed two more feline buddies into our lives.

IMG_1686Then, one late summer day, there you were, after an almost year-long absence, sitting under my car. “Where had you been?” i wondered, and what brought you back.

It didn’t matter; we were just glad to know you were okay. In the months that followed, you showed us you were more than okay. You, this fiercely independent, domineering spirit, suddenly displayed affection, love, and need. I will never forget how overjoyed I became, calling Meg to the window when you walked right up and rubbed up against me, looking for some affection. After a few years of giving you your space, here you were, back, and saying you knew this place, and we, were okay. We could be your sanctuary.

And so it began. We bonded. Each morning, I’d head out to the car for work, and peek into the garage. If it was colder, or icy out, you’d often be inside, keeping warm, wrapped inside a blanket. In the warmer seasons, you’d often be behind the garage, but greet me at the door when I came outside to make sure you were fed or all right. By that time in our friendship, you were always more interested in getting pet, having some contact, than you actually were in any food.

IMG_1682Through the harsh winter, I fluffed blankets, and was glad to see you curled up in them out in our garage, and never knew if you ever got any effect from the hand warmers that I would leave buried in them for a little extra warmth.

As the weather this year began to warm and the snow thawed, you no doubt were spending your time out doing what you do best – living the life of a wandering cat. Your appearances became less, but when we did get a visit from you, you always greeted us with a rub, a meow, and a jump that so clearly said ‘please pet me, I need love,’ and we were more than happy to give it. My heart would always sink into my stomach, though, when you’d leave, and I’d worry about what would happen to such a kind soul beyond the boundaries of our yard.

This week, I returned home from work one night and stumbled in the driveway trying to find something in my phone, when, out of nowhere, you suddenly appeared. You meowed, as you often did, but you weren’t interested in food.

You were hurt.

I’d seen cuts and scrapes here and there over the course of your occasional visits, but nothing like this. Your ear down the side of your face, bloodied, you had a run-in you weren’t so easily able to shake off and you came back to a place you always felt safe.

For so long we knew that you were used to the life you had, and let you come and go, not wanting to disturb the balance of your life that seemed to make you so content.

This time, though, things were different. You needed help and we couldn’t let you just stumble off.

We scooped you up from the yard and brought you to our basement, with food and water to follow. You were so kind and accepting when Meg tried to clean your wounds with peroxide to try and help you, even for a little bit. I went to the store and got you a small disposable litter box to get you through this time until we could figure out what to do next.

IMG_0908With our three feline boys upstairs, curious of what was going on in the basement they couldn’t access, we knew, as much as we’d love to, we could not keep you ourselves. You needed help, though.

A quick phone call later and I got hold of the very kind Animal Control Officer, who said while he worked nights, he could come by in the morning. It was the only way you could get to the Humane Society, through him, and we knew you needed the help.

So you were our house guest for the night, which turned out to be a torrential downpour, with loud crackles of thunder sprinkled in for mood. We were glad you got to be away from it all and safe and dry below.

Going late into work, I waited for the animal control officer to arrive, and my heart shattered when we went into the basement together to find you. You were scared, and still wounded, blood still pouring down your head despite the previous night’s cleaning. You meowed that wonderful meow I’ve come to look forward to whenever I’d set foot in the backyard for our mutual meet and greets, but this time it had with it the sadness of a soul knowing they were in danger.

I couldn’t have asked for a more helpful response from the animal control officer, who was kind and patient both as we looked for you in the basement and getting you transported to the humane society.

As we parted ways, I held it together, but in the car, on the way to work, I could not help but break out into tears. My furry little friend, now on his way to get help, yes, but whom I would never again look out the back window and see lounging in our grass, or curled up in the garage. I knew it was selfish to think of what I would no longer experience, but it still hurt nonetheless. I felt as though we had given up one of our own boys.

Monster in GarageMeg, while just as sad, was, as always my rock, and pointed out that while I may not see you in the backyard, I no longer have to have my heart sink when you walk away to parts unknown.

The Humane Society says you’re doing well, and that some stitches will help heal your physical wounds. They also said how friendly you’ve been, calling you ‘very adoptable.’ I knew you would be and hope that, while it saddens me that our outside bonding in the yard and garage may be just a chapter in both our lives, that you will now be healthy enough to share all that love I know is in your little heart with a family that will give it back to you in return.

Farewell, my Monster. You’ve been a good friend. It may have taken us a little while to get to know each other, but in the end, we both showed the other our heart. Now, I hope that you will be able to receive all the love that you have to give to the rest of the world.

I’ll miss you, buddy.

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Between work duties, family duties, holidays, and projects around the house, time for actual fun has been pretty sparse lately. That’s why, a few weeks ago, we decided to take a day and go to a museum. It was a nice, relaxing family trip, and was much-needed.

While we were there, I grabbed a little footage using my phone and when I got home, quickly cobbled it together (thus the crudeness of it) into this, our family tribute to the museum scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

These are the dorky things my wife and son have to put up with on something as simple as a family trip when I suddenly get inspired by an idea. 🙂


It’s certainly been an interesting two weeks in the milestone department.

Just about two weeks ago, our little guy suddenly went from just rolling around on the floor (something we have to be careful of in our living room, as the previous owners just threw very thin carpeting over hardwood, with no padding between), to all of a sudden doing what could only be described as a combination of an army-crawl and the worm.

When he abruptly realized what he had done, it was only moments before he was doing it over and over again, to the point of making his way all the way around our large ottoman to find me hiding on the other side, and amusing himself thoroughly the entire time. Is there anything more heartwarming then the giggles of a baby?

I couldn’t believe it. He was mobile.

Little Guy IncrediblesHowever, reaching daddy was certainly only the beginning of this vast new world opening up in front of him, and that same night, he quickly found his way, all on his own, to one of our built-ins housing our DVDs, and pulled out Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” rolled himself on his back and just stared at it, ‘talking’ to Mr Incredibly and family in a myriad of noises for a good ten minutes or so.

It took only one week more for him to start finding the ability to move his knees and ditch the worm thrust that was getting him around. With that, we now have a fully-crawling baby on our hands. One that can sit up on his own, one that can make his way across the room, try to chase the kitties, and pull anything he can get his hands on out and all over the floor, be it cases, DVDs, papers, anything.

I think it’s time to start baby-proofing.


declarationWhile cleaning my desk in our home office, I came across an interesting little item.

When a baby enters the picture, so much of your focus goes into what it takes to be good parents, that it can be easy to forget about what it takes to be good spouses.

Upon our return from our honeymoon a few years ago, my wife and I  grabbed breakfast at a greasy little diner. There, we looked back on the road trip through Vermont in the fall we had just completed to celebrate our marriage and looked to the road that lie ahead.

It was at that moment that we decided to grab hold of those fresh-off-a-wedding-and-honeymoon emotions and make a little reminder for the rest of our lives.

With that, we grabbed a napkin and scrawled down the following, and much like our forefathers jotting down the framework of our soon to be country, we created in those moments our “Declaration of a Happy Marriage”…

10/13/2010

*When it’s time to have kids, take them into our lifestyle, not create a new lifestyle for them.

*Keep eating healthy

*Be happy for what we have, but no excuses not to dream.

*Get out of ruts

*Have friends over.

*Take the time for date nights.

*Appreciate one another.

*When we fight, remember our vows.

*Do/say something kind every day.

*Help with and/or support each other’s dreams and attempts at achieving them.


mr rogersAround the time I was pre-school aged, as well as before, my day was incomplete if it didn’t involve a visit from Fred Rogers.

I even had a sweater and pair of sneakers that I would pull out of the closet at the start of each show, climb onto (what seemed at the time to my little eyes) our massive couch, and get ready along with Mr Rogers as he welcomed me and countless other kids to the neighborhood.

I watched, I sang, and I learned, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

I walked away from those years of my life with some amazing lessons in morality, ethics and courtesy, all thanks to a man who was willing to treat his audience of children as actual people and not talk down to them.

I have a deep admiration for Fred Rogers, his vision and what he did for millions of children over various generations.

Where we live, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is no longer in syndication.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this latest creation from The Fred Rogers Company:

If, like me, you watched as a child, you probably remember the Neighborhood of Make Believe – the magical world accessed via the trolley, which would leave Mr. Rogers’ den, go through the wall and introduce us to the likes of King Friday, X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, Daniel Striped Tiger and more. For this latest generation, Daniel Tiger is the son of Daniel Striped Tiger from the original program.

rogers and puppetsWe don’t let my son watch a lot of television. He’s a baby, after all. However, Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger are rare exceptions, and are in small doses.

I actually got a little emotional recently when I was home with him and we were watching it together.

He was cooing and laughing, and as I watched and heard those familiar chimes of the trolley welcoming us to the neighborhood, I was overwhelmed by how touched I was.

I once sat watching Mr. Rogers with my mom and dad, and here I was, with my son, watching the next generation’s equivalent. It made me so happy, so touched, and so thankful that the vision of Fred Rogers lives on in any form.

Children need people like Fred Rogers in their childhood and now that I’m a parent I need him there for them too.


© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationEven before we had the baby, Meg and I have been doing our best to see where we can cut back when it comes to expenses. We may not be disciplined enough to chuck all the expenses and go live in a tent somewhere, but here and there we’ve found some things that may seem a little quirky, but have helped cut down a little here and a little there in our overall expenses.

And believe me, now that we do have the baby, yet still have my massive student loan debt, every little bit helps.

Here’s a few of the things we’ve taken a crack at.

Basic Cable

Like many other folks we know, we used to have the standard Digital Cable plan. The box, the DVR, hundreds of channels, the whole kit and kaboodle. However, one day, long before we were even expecting, we just looked at each other and realized how often we were finding things amid the plethora of channels, even if it wasn’t great, just for the sake of watching something. It was like paying for all those channels made you feel like you needed to be watching one of them. What we started realizing as we’d flip through the channels, was that there were numerous times where we’d find nothing to watch, even with that large a selection.

Sherlock_and_Downton_AbbeySo, we decided to try the experiment of going down to basic cable and see how it went. It took a little getting used to and there’s still some shows Meg misses seeing (she loves those DIY and Cooking programs), but we’ve now been going a few years strong with just basic cable and it’s been great. We’ve discovered which shows we enjoy enough to look for when they’re on (versus DVR) and have really embraced the variety of programming on our local PBS station. (Sunday nights have never been the same for us since Sherlock and Downton Abbey)

Netflix

When we decided to do away with the cable, we thought we would rely more on Netflix for entertainment. At that time, we had the one disc at a time plan, that also included streaming if you so chose. However, in time, Netflix made that two separate plans and began charging people for each. So, we made the conscious decision after seeing a number of discs sit around for weeks and weeks without viewing, to cut our losses in half, do away with the disc option and go solely streaming. Sure, your choices are different and you may not always find what you want, but we’ve discovered some very entertaining films, documentaries and television shows, both old and new, that we would never have had we had the ability to have ‘whatever we wanted.’

Television

This one doesn’t really equate to a monthly bill, but while we’re on the subject of entertainment, I wanted to throw it in. We’ve had quite a few offers for a new television, whether it’s a friend or relative getting rid of some widescreen behemoth or relatives offering one as a Christmas present. While grateful, we’ve respectfully declined each time. We like our little 4×3 television set. It’s the same one I’ve had since college, and not only has it lasted like new over the more than a decade since I got it, we still have Meg’s (almost the same model) in the basement if this one ever goes.

Go Reusable

© Copyright 2011 CorbisCorporationOkay, so they’re not saving you a fortune, but every little bit helps, right? Some time ago, my wife and I realized how we were always (or fairly frequently) spending money on napkins at the grocery store. So, while at Target one day we decided to purchase a package of cloth napkins. We also used to use brown paper bags for our lunches. However, the purchase of a reusable cloth lunch bag has meant we haven’t had to buy any brown paper bags in years. It’s amazing how reusable these items have been, all with a simple run through the wash with the rest of our laundry when they start to get a little dirty.

DIY 

There are few things satisfying as knowing that you did something with your own two hands. Since moving into our little starter home, I’ve had to learn to do a lot, mostly out of necessity. Whether it’s installing a new front door, renovating a bathroom, putting in floors, it all has been infinitely cheaper to purchase materials and devote the time and elbow grease needed to get the job done instead of hiring someone else to do it for us.

The Library

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporationYour library card can be one of the most valuable pieces of plastic in the arsenal that is your wallet, and I highly suggest taking full advantage of it. It breaks my heart every time I hear about another library not doing well, and not just because I worked in one in college. I love libraries. The idea that a place filled with the knowledge of a civilization or civilizations stands, ready and accessible for anyone to come and partake, is just breathtaking to me. And as long as you follow the rules, it’s absolutely free. What an amazing thing. Whenever I come across a title that I’m interested in reading, I always check the library first. If I like it enough to read it multiple times, I’ll purchase a copy, but if it’s only getting one read, why spend the money? Libraries are a great place to gain some knowledge, test some literary waters, and save a pretty penny.

On the same topic of books, I find myself often looking at our bookshelves and realizing how many books we have that I either haven’t read yet or haven’t read in so long that it’s like new! It’s like going to a book store where a) it’s free and b) they carry your favorites.

eBay

I love eBay. Not so much the buying, although I do now and then, but I love having an auction at my fingertips to unload items that I realize have been sitting around our house since we got together and heck, in our individual apartments well before that, doing nothing but collecting dust. I’ve learned that we, as humans, have a weird ability to create sentiment toward EVERYTHING, even when it’s not warranted. There’s nothing wrong with having a connection to something, it’s just having a connection to everything where you stir up trouble. Assess what you have, what you need, what you really want, and what you’ve held on to ‘just because’ and you’ll find there’s a lot of ‘just because’ you will be just as happy without, and someone else will be quite happy to take off your hands for a price. And if you have books you can’t seem to unload, try something like paperbackswap.com, an online book club where you list books you’re willing to send out to those who want them in exchange for credits that you can then use for books you’re looking for.

This isn’t an end-all, be-all list, of course – just a few small ways that we’ve taken on in an ongoing effort to “trim the fat,” as they say. They may not be huge, but they help, and I feel like at the same time, I’m learning a little something through each one of these efforts.


Easter MorningThis past weekend, we celebrated our first Easter as a family, and the Easter Bunny was very good to our little guy.

At 9 months old, there was no candy to be found in his basket, but he was in love with the large, colorful plastic eggs that were inside. In fact, whenever he spots one sitting somewhere (usually moved by our playful kitties), he has loved picking them up and showing us what he’s found, with a big smile on his face. It’s truly adorable.

He also got a bucket and shovel to play with once the weather gets nicer. What I like about it is that the shovel is rounded, as opposed to pointed edges, meaning he can bite on it, and use it to his heart’s content without poking himself. He especially likes using the shovel when taking a bath to shovel water. It’s hysterical.

The other highlights include a tiger puppet that makes some lifelike roars when you push its paw, a shirt with a robot on it, and some books about bunnies. Richard Scarry’s “I am a Bunny” (about a young bunny experiencing the seasons in the forest) and “The Bunny Book” (about a young bunny and what occupation he may take on when he grows up) are absolutely beautifully illustrated. I love the fact that they are about bunnies, but they’re not about Easter. That means we can get away with reading them throughout the year.

It was a wonderful day all around.

The little guy and I went for a walk (well, I walked, he sat in the stroller) while my wife made a delicious brunch that we had with my parents, followed by a great dinner at her family’s house, complete with an Easter Egg hunt with our niece and nephew (now teens). Since I’ve entered the picture, I’ve gotten to hide the eggs on them each year, which becomes a bit more challenging as they get older, but still fun nonetheless.

While we were all pretty beat by the end of the day, it certainly was all worth it.



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