The misadventures of a first time father

Monthly Archives: July 2013

elephant piggie readingStorytime has pretty much become ritual in our house.

Aside from dinnertime and bath time, it’s the other consistent that’s needed for a complete wrap-up of our day. We started very early reading to the little guy (in utero) and have carried it over practically every night since. In fact, we’re now at a point where, even though he’s not walking just yet, he’s crawling over to his bookshelf in his room and pulling off a book or two when we bring him in for bed. He knows what time it is and what comes with it.

And one of the most frequent authors gracing our bookshelf and storytimes is Mo Willems.

I came across his work by pure accident early on in this adventure of parenthood, when I picked up “We Are in a Book” with Elephant and Piggie. Little did I know what an amazing world of doodles that was going to send us rocketing into for both baby and parents alike.

Sometimes I worry I’m always using the Mo Willems books as a go-to at night, but it’s because I just love reading them so much. And now that the little monkey is one year old, I can say that over that year, no other books have made him giggle and react aloud the way a Mo Willems book does.

That one Elephant and Piggie book has quickly grown this past year into a good portion of our bookshelf, along with several Pigeon books (my personal favorite), along with their stuffed doppelgangers.

I can’t quite put my finger on what makes his work just so darn appealing to all of us. There’s the obvious humor, as the books are all hilarious and relatable in their situations and emotions, whether you be one or one hundred. Is it any wonder he won Emmy Awards for his work on Sesame Street? Then there’s the art – simple in its doodle-like manner that you’re automatically put at ease and drawn in. With his word-bubble dialogue for some of his books, it becomes more like acting out a play than anything else.

bn reading 02We’re such fans of Mo Willems’ work that several months ago, I jumped at the chance when my job as a TV journalist gave me the opportunity to do storytimes at our local Barnes and Noble. It was usually a once a year event at Christmas reading The Polar Express alongside my good friend and Meteorologist, Bill. When they gave me the chance to do another stortyime, this time a night of Mo Willems, I thought I was going to practically beat down the doors of the store. I couldn’t wait! And when the time came, what a night we had!

I got to break out all of the character voices I’ve accumulated while reading to our little guy over the past year, and the kids who showed up at Barnes and Noble seemed to enjoy it, although I don’t think anyone enjoyed it as much as I did. I had to explain to the kids that we all have our own voices for characters when we read, so mine may not be what they’re used to for Pigeon, or Piggie, etc, but they got it and seemed to laugh along anyway. (For the record, MY Pigeon voice is based on the voice Meg and I give to our cat, Winston. Just the right blend of demanding child and mr. sassypants.) We were having so much fun, I think we ended up reading four books in total instead of the one or two advertised. I even read a new one called “This is Not a Good Idea!” which is set up like an old silent film. I couldn’t resist and we ended up buying it that night.

bn reading 03The whole evening was such a thrill!

Our own little guy even got involved. When I introduced him to the crowd as my son and the one I usually read to at night, he stood up and held out his arms as if to shout ‘my people! my people!’ (yup, that’s him to the left with my wife stifling her laughter at his ridiculousness) What a little ham. 🙂

But I digress. If you haven’t yet picked up a Mo Willems book, give it a try. Your little kids will thank you and you’re likely to love storytime even more. And if you ever make it to the northeast, maybe you can add to your parenthood bucket list a trip to see his work at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. We haven’t been able to make it yet, but I’ll tell you, we’ve had numerous conversations to figure out just when we can make it happen. It’s like a mecca of Mo. 🙂 We’ll get there…even if I have to find a Pigeon to drive us there in a bus.

pigeon on the bus

ImageExpect the unexpected sometimes.

I was recently contacted by the folks with “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” who had stumbled across this blog and asked me if I would be a guest contributor/blogger for their companion website.

I had a great time and certainly hope it’s the first of many.

The result is this piece reflecting on all of the cartoons from my own youth that I can’t wait to watch with my son when he’s old enough:

I hope you get the chance to check it out.

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporationAs years have passed and I’ve moved from high school student to college student, part-time worker to full-time worker, then full-time worker in the news business (which is a 24/7 business), becoming a parent (another 24/7 job), I have found my window of free time shrinking more and more. That has meant less time for family, fr friends, and for bring creative.

When you are drowned in your work from the moment you open your eyes, with emails, texts, calls, etc. until you go to bed at night, there is little time left for bonding, let alone to let your mind travel to that creative place it visited so much in the past.

I think that’s why I get so sad when I see old work or writings by my younger self.

I’ll be so proud at how imaginative it is. Then, I’ll realize how I haven’t been that creative in so long and I wonder if I’m doomed to a day-to-day hamster wheel that leaves my imagination outside of the cage.

WP_000088That’s why I leapt at the chance to take a workshop with writer J.M. DeMatteis back in May. With my wife’s encouragement, I headed out-of-town for a few days of creativity, writing and a re-awakening of something inside me thought to be long gone.

Called Imagination 101, I was among a small group of very talented individuals, spending our days, brainstorming, creating, encouraging and feeding off of each other’s energy. It was wonderful and it reminded me that if you don’t flex your imagination like a muscle, it will become just as flabby.

Even if it’s a little bit of time each day, it can make all the difference in the world. I admit it’s very hard to do, but I continue to try. I usually write after the little guy has gone to sleep or if I wake up on a weekend before he and my wife do.

What had happened over time was that, due to the lack of time, I would begin to look at a writing project that I once was so excited about as just one more thing on my to-do list. When that happens, it becomes drudgery, it became work.

If there is one thing for me to have walked away from the Imagination 101 workshop with, it’s that writing should be like play. If you can get back in touch with your nine-year old self and make whatever you’re writing the same kind of fun it was then, to make it like play, then your pilot light of creativity will never go out.


I thank J.M. so much for his inspiration and the encouragement of those in the workshop with me – Noah, Raymond, Nicole and David – you all helped me go back to the ‘real world’ with a recharged battery and a rejuvenated sense of confidence in my creativity.

Like Golden Age superhero Johnny Quick and his magical formula for super-speed, J.M. gave us a formula to keep that fire of imagination going:

Imagination + Creativity = Play

Keyboard snipIn the past week, I have gone through more electronics than I do in years.

I’m not one of those gadget guys who has to rush out and buy new gizmos, trust me. In fact, before buying my most recent computer this winter, I had been using the same one for roughly ten years or so.

It was a little shocking when I tried to log in to my computer last week to find that I couldn’t type. I tried again, and again, and again, to no avail, until I looked and saw that the keyboard was no longer connected to the CPU.

In fact, the cord was severed.

However, even though this computer was brand new, one of my feline sons decided to bite his way through the keyboard cord. So, out I went to visit Best Buy, where I thought I hit the jackpot by finding a keyboard on sale from $21.99 to $4.99. I brought it home, plugged it in, and i was off once again into cyber space.

Until Monday, that is.

I had some things to take care of before work and thought I’d hop on the computer quick before I headed out. How wrong I was as it appeared, once again, that one of my little guys had bitten and severed the cord yet again!

Cord mouseThis morning, the mouse was the victim of the latest attack. This last one is fitting, I know.

I’m obviously writing from a computer other than in our household as a result right now.

So, I’ve ordered a wireless keyboard and mouse set (along with batteries to power them) that I’ll be trying once it arrives in the mail. I hear mixed reviews about them, but with three feline sons and one very human son who likes to get into everything, I figure it might be the safest bet to curb these sudden electronics expenses.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationDo you ever have to just push out the chair and leave cyberspace behind?

Lately I’ve been frequently experiencing something that I can only describe as ‘screen fatigue.’ I lose chunks of time on the computer, sometimes feel as though I’ve got nothing done in that time, and I also start to feel almost physically ill.

I need to get away from it. I don’t know exactly how to do that, though in this modern world. Almost my entire day at work is spent in front of a computer. My writing projects (this blog, my comic, most promotion for these projects, etc) are done online.

Sometimes it feels as though you just can’t escape it. I wonder if, maybe more than just days off from work, I should be taking days off from technology as well, return for a few days to a simpler time without being plugged in.

I mean, when I think about it, how many times do I check my Facebook page? Check project pages? Check Twitter, email, this blog? All things I would never have done with such ferocity as I do now that I have a smartphone.

Thoreau would be spinning in his grave.

It makes me question what type of constantly-wired world my son will be growing up in. It’s no wonder no one has attention spans anymore.

Is there anyway to stop this feeling, save for picking up the family and living in a cabin in the woods?

ImageGoing out to eat can sometimes be a three-ring circus with a nearly one year old in tow.

We especially learned that this last weekend when we tried to do dinner at a restaurant we had gone to a few times in the past with the little one. While he has often been great while we go out to eat, complete with flirting it up with the waitress, lately he has wanted nothing to do with it.

He kicks, he groans, he wiggles like a worm to get out of your grasp, and will strain every muscle in his body trying to get out of a high chair.

This morning, Meg and I went to breakfast with the monkey while we waited for my car to get its annual inspection. No sooner had the little guy been given his bottle did he decide to throw it on the ground – a hard, tile floor – causing it to shatter and glass to go everywhere.

So there we were, Meg with paper towels, on the floor of the cafe, cleaning up apple juice while I asked for a broom and dust pan to clean up the shards of glass.

And this was all before we ordered.

We thought we were in for one heck of a ride, but then, one packet of food later, and a whole lot of ‘ooing’ and ‘awing’ from passersby in the cafe, and he went from fit-to-be-tied to hamming it up for the public, with a head tilt and a smile, as if nothing had ever been wrong in the first place.

So, yup, back to normal, although we think we’ve narrowed down his sudden change of attitude while out and about – all signs point to us teething again.

Look out world, more chompers are coming!

versatile blogger awardI received a great message a few weeks back from CJ Nigh of the blog Undead Dad letting me know that he had nominated me for the “Versatile Blogger Award.” I thank CJ very much for that and for finding enough things interesting here to warrant it.

One of the things I find myself constantly amazed by is the sense of community in this vast cyberspace of blogs. It’s such a new realm to me still that I have been overwhelmed and incredibly grateful for the kind comments, likes and responses to my blog posts here over the past twelve months. Honestly, when I decided to start this blog, I never in a million years would have thought anyone other than my family and friends would have paid attention or cared, but so many of you have been so kind, attentive and caring that I just can’t help but say ‘thank you’ for making me feel welcome.

You all have such wonderful stories to tell, and through many of you liking my posts here, it’s made me go out and start following and reading many of your own blogs, and I absolutely love it.

With that said, I’d like to pass along some blogs that I’ve been following and enjoying as well:

Say Noodle – Kids Stuff. Crafts. Fun.

Dad, it’s ok! – 29 year old, newly married, and on the way to fatherhood. Stories of preparation, arrival and thereafter to be expect.

mariqia – A Mommy’s Life. baby. photography. food. love. style.

Scene Stealer – Taking a Shot at Life…Aiming to Inspire

Let it come from your heart – a beautiful photo blog

dorkdaddy – one dad’s misadventures in raising well adjusted kids while passing on a love of all things geek

Hickersonia – contemplative thoughts

The Adventures of Miss Fanny P – …because life is just one big adventure…

megactsout – my wife’s blog on life, kids and dreams

Rikdad’s Comic Thoughts – just some great analysis and observations on comics

Last of the Famous International Fanboys – A blog about comics n’ stuff!

Lotus Flower – Spreading the wonders and joy of Nichiran Buddhism through articles, experiences, art, music, film, comedy and pop culture, plus the author’s own thoughts.

Holy Karpe! – Sketch blog of my artist friend, Tom Karpe, who was kind enough to provide me with the Dorky Daddy illustration on this blog.

Brandon Dawley’s Sketchblog – another artist friend and his phenomenal work.

The Victorianchronists – a place where history, culture, and silliness meet.

Now, comes the boring part. I’m told that with this award, I’m supposed to share seven factoids about myself with you, as though you don’t learn more than you’d ever want to know about me from this blog. So, here we go:

1) I like to write with a blue pen whenever possible, feeling more creative when I do.

2) My favorite comic book super-villain is The Riddler.

3) I think that the smell of coffee grinding in a cafe smells so much better than any coffee ever actually tastes.

4) Before I became a journalist, I wrote and directed some low budget films.

5) The first comic book I ever read was an old Uncle Scrooge left at my grandmother’s house.

6) I often get accused of liking animals more than people. I won’t disagree, but my reasoning is because when animals are mean it’s usually out of instinct or protection, whereas humans CHOOSE to be mean to one another.

7) I am fascinated with the work and viewpoints of Orson Welles

Ales of the RevolutionSome may choose to celebrate the Fourth of July with hot dogs and hamburgers, but as I write this, I have just sampled a taste of the American Revolution.

For quite a few years, I had been on the hunt for a beer called “Ales of the Revolution” from Yards Brewing Company in Pennsylvania. I can’t quite remember how I learned about them originally, but once I discovered their existence, it became a mission to try them.

Ales of the Revolution are recreations of the original recipes of Founding Fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

The concept intrigues me to no end! To have a (as close to it as possible) taste of the American Revolution era? Sign me up!

I’ve always had an affinity for history, but that has certainly grown since meeting my wife. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to break out HBO’s John Adams on Independence Day and I can’t tell you the number of times during any season that we’ve sat down to watch a movie only to end up popping in our DVDs of the History Channel’s “The Presidents” narrated by the always superb Edward Hermann. My appreciation for the past extends far beyond the 60s, 40s, 30s, etc and the chance to know what a beer tasted like as sipped by these men of legend is fascinating.

However, for a long time I thought it just wasn’t meant to be. I had tried online, I had tried beverage distributors in the hopes of a special order, but to no avail. I had all but given up hope.

Then, recently while out to dinner with my family, I was surprised with two large cases of this otherwise unattainable nectar. It seems that my brother, looking for a belated birthday gift for me, had contacted a friend living in Philly and asked them to pick up a few cases.

washingtonNow, after this long search, it was right here in my hands.

So, tonight, I cracked open one of George Washington’s Tavern Porter, described by the Brewing Company as “…smooth, rich, and warming with chocolate and coffee flavors. It’s inspired by Washington’s original recipe, and reflects his admiration of Philadelphia-style porters…”

And with an ABV of 7%, it’s no wonder these guys staged a revolution against the biggest super power at the time. They were probably buzzed to no end as they plotted and planned and philosophized over pints at some dimly lit tavern.

Also in the mix is Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale (a golden ale with dried fruits and toffee aromas inspired by Jefferson’s original recipe that called for wheat, honey, and rye from his Virginia estate) and Benjamin Franklin’s Tavern Spruce Ale (based on Franklin’s original recipe. It uses spruce tips and molasses as barley and hops were not readily available at the time).

Needless to say, it’s a win as a beverage and a definite win for the history buff in me.

Now if I could only figure out what John Adams would have drank…

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