The misadventures of a first time father

Monthly Archives: January 2014

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Sesame Street, nor a little known fact that I love the BBC/PBS series “Sherlock,” so I definitely was all smiles when PBS put out this image and caption today for us to ‘stay tuned.’

Cumberbatch Count

Surprise! Benedict Cumberbatch sheds the serious Sherlock to share some laughs with these two friends from Sesame Street – stay tuned for more! #Counterbatch

With that said, I will say that I have been pestering Sesame Street via Twitter in the hopes that the popularity of Sherlock on the BBC and PBS will lead to them pulling Sherlock Hemlock out of Muppet retirement.

Sherlock Hemlock and Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes. Too good a team to come true?

Sherlock Hemlock and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. Too good a team to come true?

He was on quite a bit when I was a kid (or at least I remember him quite vividly as a kid, even is his skits weren’t that numerous) but has been phased out over the years in favor of more popular Muppets. It just seems like the time is right.

What do you think? Can we get #Hemlock trending?

potty trainingI’ll spare you the more graphic details, I promise.

Suffice it to say, Santa brought the little guy a Baby Bjorn potty for Christmas and we’ve already started putting it to use.

While at first, he just wanted to carry it around the house and use it as a convenient chair when he wanted to sit down, we explained to him each time that it’s actually used for. (Sometimes using the term ‘poopies,’ ‘potty,’ or ‘uh-ohs,’ the phrase he has started using sometimes when he realizes he’s going to go to the bathroom.)

At one and a half, we honestly were not sure what he would understand or if any of it would make sense, but I think some of it has started to sink in. While I don’t see us ditching the diapers anytime soon, we have had a handful of incidents since Christmas (including one at grandma and grandpa’s) where he made it known that he wanted to use the potty. It sometimes involves carrying the potty out to grown-ups, going to it and pointing, or just grabbing his diaper. If we can act quick enough, off the diaper goes and we give it a try.

I know it sounds cliché, but it seems like it was only a week ago that we were in the hospital and I was changing those black-as-tar diaper messes of a newborn. Now, he’s letting me know when he has to go. The changes are coming and their coming fast.

And so this latest phase, the potty training, has begun in its own small way. While we’ve had a few successes so far,  I don’t want to get overly optimistic. I’m certainly hopeful, though. It would be nice if we can keep it up and keep the momentum flowing. (Bad use of words?)

That is Not a Good Idea CoverMy son has a new favorite book, it seems.

How can I tell, you ask?

Because although we have had it for roughly six months or so and read it on occasion, the little guy now can not walk away from his book shelf or room without grabbing Mo Willems’ “That is Not a Good Idea” off the shelf and with boundless energy, thrusting it into my hands, pointing at it furiously and making noises that tell me without a doubt, “read this to me now, dad!”

The long and short of it is that what seems like a pretty naive Goose accepts a walk and dinner invitation by a chimney-hatted fox and, as you can guess, what happens along the way is not a good idea. It’s told in a style reminiscent of old silent films, which hits all the right chords with this old film buff. We picked up the book the night I did a Mo Willems storytime at our Barnes and Noble last Spring and it had only come out occasionally, amid some other Willems books like Pigeon or Elephant and Piggie, and a host of other books on the shelf.

Not a Good Idea

As of late, though we’ve read “That is Not a Good Idea” roughly 3-4 times on any given day. Whether it’s bedtime (which he sometimes wants a repeat reading), midday, pre-naptime or when he wakes up, we have gotten to know The Fox, The Goose, and that silent-film style world very well as of late.

Not that I mind. I love the book too. And at this point, I think I’ve got all our voices down, and have started doing a little bit at the beginning for the title page, where I tell him to ‘start the movie projector’ and we both crank our hands as if starting an old film, accompanied by some noises for the old piano-style intro music.

It’s fun, it’s a breeze to read, it’s incredibly entertaining both in writing and illustrations, so it’s a blast for both of us to read. It’s just fun to see where his tastes go and when, as this adventure continues.

All endings are new beginnings – just one quote among many that I’ve been finding very inspirational as of late.

My son recently pulled a book off of our bookshelf and handed it to me. Whether he thought it was one of his enjoyable adventures through Elephant and Piggie’s world or another attempt by cows to type in Click, Clack, Moo, I’m not sure. Or, perhaps the little wise one just wanted to drop some philosophy bombs on his old man.

The book he handed me was “The World According to Mister Rogers” and is filled with almost 200 pages of quotes and thoughts on life from the man himself, Fred Rogers. I can’t quite remember if it belongs to me, my wife, or if one of us bought it for the other some time back. Regardless, it was a pleasant surprise to have the wee one hand it over recently and plop down in my lap as I opened it up.

While after a few minutes of me reading through quotes, the little guy’s attention moved on to something else, I’ve had the book with me ever since, leafing through page after page of wisdom from Fred Rogers and can only say that as I read more, I am more and more impressed.

I keep asking myself how I can start embracing his view of the world as my own. I think if all of us did, boy, what a world we may live in. Maybe that’s a pipe dream. But if I can do my best to do so, then maybe it’s a pretty good example for my son to see and perhaps do himself before passing it along to another generation and so on and so on.

There’s too much goodness to mention, so instead, if you’ll indulge me, I just want to share some of the thoughts from Mr. Rogers that have stuck out the most so far as I read…

“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?”

“I remember after my grandfather’s death, seeing Dad in the hall with tears streaming down his face. I don’t think I had ever seen him cry before. I’m glad I did see him. It helped me know that it was okay for men to cry. Many years later, when my father himself died, I cried; and way down deep I knew he would have said it was all right.”

“Solitude is different from loneliness, and it doesn’t have to be a lonely kind of thing.”

“All life events are formative. All contribute to what we become, year by year, as we go on growing. As my friend the poet Kenneth Koch once said, ‘You aren’t just the age you are. You are all the ages you ever have been!'”

“The gifts we treasure most over the years are often small and simple. In easy times and in tough times, what seems to matter most is the way we show those nearest us that we’ve been listening to their needs, to their joys, and to their challenges.”


I’m not one for resolutions. Heck, I will fully admit how boring I am that I’m not that into New Year’s at all. Not to sound like a grumpy old man, as I have no ill-will towards people celebrating, it’s just that these days, for me, it’s merely the turn of a calendar page. Hey, I think it’s wonderful that people want to make changes in their lives, and doing so when the calendar resets is a perfect time to get us motivated to do so.

As has been the case the past few years, I’ve been asleep before the ball in Time Square even drops. The evening consisted of our recent tradition of ordering totally bad for us Chinese Food and watching a William Powell/Myrna Loy ‘Thin Man’ movie. I tried my best to stay up, even fighting my eyelids to catch the 11 o’clock news. In the end, though, sleep won out.

And I am totally cool with that.

But while I’m not big on resolutions normally (as I usually think we set ourselves up for a lot of disappointment and self-loathing if we don’t achieve them in the time we set for ourselves), the end of the year brought about something in me to want to just live simpler. So, if you want to call it a resolution, fantastic, if not, that’s fine too. Either way, that’s my goal as time moves forward – to live simpler.

I’ve been on a bit of a purging binge the past week. I’ve been going through our bookshelves, DVD collection, my comic books, my closet and just looking at things and asking myself ‘when was the last time this got use and how likely am I to use it in the future?’

I just looked around and realized I’ve accumulated so much…stuff over the years. It’s stuff that at one point in time was great, useful or fun to have but has since been collecting dust for no reason other than some weird mental block that has made me go ‘well, I can’t get rid of THAT…’

We have a pretty small house, so there’s not a lot of extra space. On top of that, I have a very big mental issue with clutter. I just can’t do clutter. When I’m amid clutter or trying to work or relax amid clutter, I just can’t do it. I feel like my mind is just as cluttered as the environment around me and it becomes a fight against anxiety and my mind to try and relax or focus on the task at hand.

It gets so easy to attach sentimental value to things that are otherwise useless because of our memories attached to them. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating going and living in a tent. What I mean is that it was time for me to take a look around at my life and realize how much was just unnecessary and adding to that clutter, physically and mentally.

In terms of how this process has gone, I’ll start with the DVD collection.

photo 3Our house came with two built-ins that have been a part of it since the 1920s. We’ve been using them for our DVDs since we moved in, and those shelves have been overflowing with discs, new and old. So, going one built-in at a time, my wife and I pulled them all out.

Certain items we declared exempt from the purge (Boxed sets like Back to the Future, Christopher Reeve Superman Movies, and Indiana Jones for me, Road to Avonlea, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn box sets for her).

Then, everything else became a one-by-one examination of how long it’s been there and when it last got viewed. After about an hour or so, we had purged a few dozen DVDs from our collection and the shelves have never looked better. In six months or a year, we decided we would re-examine what we kept to see if there is anything else that is just collecting dust and not worth keeping anymore. Honestly, I really didn’t need that copy of Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield on DVD that I bought in college and probably hadn’t watched it since then.

photo 2As for books, that one was a bit of a solo project for me, as I only tackled my books, particular my shelf of graphic novels and trade paperbacks. Once again, there were so many that have simply remained on the shelf because I felt some need to ‘have to’ have them in my collection or that one day I might want to read it. But, if after years, that day hasn’t come, it was time for them to go.

The same went for some of my comic books. I’ve kept favorites, but I did pull out many that were just there because I had them for so long. So, I decided if I couldn’t decide, I’d re-read them and if they weren’t something I’d want to read again, they’ll go to – either to eBay or perhaps some store for store credit, who knows?

photo 1It’s not a quick or easy process, this purging, but I’m giving it my best. Slowly I’m tackling my closet now. It’s not a lot, as I’m never one to really buy a lot of clothes. I realized some time back that I only wear a certain number of outfits in the course of a week and had way more than was needed. I still feel I have too much, but not being too keen on fashion, I tend to need my wife’s opinion on what should go, what should stay, what has more use, etc. In the days ahead, I’ll get it right, but as I say, it’s a work in progress.

All steps to purging out the unnecessary and living simpler.

I can already feel a mental burden off my shoulder as I pull things off the shelves, condense and free up space, and send these items I haven’t used in years off to someone who can use them. At one point in time, each item had some significance, some memory, I’m sure. There are some that it’s still nice to hold on to, some that I will always want to have, use, read, etc. There are others, though, that are just better off living inside my mind as a memory than as a physical object. It’s sort of like when you remember a movie you haven’t seen in years and can’t wait to watch it again. Sometimes when you do, you realize that movie was so much better in your memory than it actually was to watch, and you feel let down. I’d rather keep the memory.

So, with that, I’m going to do my best to just live simpler. Read the books on my shelf I’ve chosen are the keepers (and re-read many that were worth keeping in the first place), use the library for a book I want to read and return, take advantage of modern technology (the internet, Netflix, etc) to watch movies and be done when the credits roll as opposed to having to buy a DVD that gets watched rarely, if at all and just sits.

And best of all, when the clutter is cleared, that’s all time that translates back to me as opportunities to take in the world around me, to write, to explore, to listen to and talk with actual people (as opposed to merely being an online voyeur to their lives via social media), to live life, and to have more time and a clearer head as a husband and a father.

Honestly, I’m really looking forward to making it happen.

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