The wacky world of Mr. Men

A medium-sized package awaited me on the front steps yesterday as I returned home from work, and in it, a visit to the past and anticipation to the future.

The package, with its familiar “half-smile” logo from contained the very first Christmas present that I have purchased for my little boy. At only a few weeks old, he’s too young to know what it is or for him, I’m sure, but regardless, I scurried it away to the top of my closet shelf, where I keep Christmas gifts I want out of sight.

Inside was the 40th Anniversary, hardcover set of Roger Hargreaves’ “Mr Men” children’s book series.

If you’re unfamiliar, Mr. Men was a series first published in the United Kingdom that would yield 49 books total over time. It began back in 1971 and featured characters with names like “Mr Tickle” or “Mr Bump” with colorful characters whose physical form looked like what a child might picture a tickle to look like, or messy to appear.

The books spawned a female version of the series called “little Miss” and continued beyond Roger’s death in 1988. After that, his son, Adam, who had inspired the series by asking his dad “what does a tickle look like?” took over with new stories and characters.

This is a series that i have loved ever since I was a kid, and remember time and again the amount of glee I would get taking one out of the library and looking at the incredibly colorful, very geometric characters in Hargreaves’ world.

They were simple stories, but each one with an important message, and drawn in a very simple style with bold colors that were striking to any child, as well as any adult with an imagination.

My wife and I came across one in our Barnes and Noble this past year that we decided to pick up well before our little guy was born, Mr. Cheerful. We used it one night when he was antsy in his cradle, showing him the bright, colorful drawings splashed across the pages to calm him down. I probably had more fun reading it than he did sitting there staring at me acting so goofy.

Unfortunately, though, we recently learned that Barnes and Noble was no long carrying the books, which made me Mr. Sad.

So, when I saw the 40th Anniversary set containing the original ten volumes (Mr. Tickle, Mr. Greedy, Mr. Happy, Mr. Nosey, Mr. Sneeze, Mr. Bump, Mr. Snow, Mr. Messy, Mr. Topsy-Turvy and Mr. Silly) and for the bargain price of just over $13, I could not resist snatching them up to add to the little guy’s book collection this Christmas.

What fun awaits us in the world of Mr Men when he will be able to pay attention to what’s being read to him, let alone when he starts to read on his own. Perhaps we’ll come up with a unique name for him too, like Mr. Yeller, or Mr. Poopy. 🙂

Separation Anxiety

The family unit has survived my (gasp) return to work, despite my insane fears of hardship and anxiety last week. Meg has been home with the wee one, who has slept for most of the days, except for when he’s hungry or dirty, of course.

I can’t wait for the times ahead when he’s awake and taking in the world around him, including his mom and dad. Seeing his eyes open are an enlightening experience each day, even if they are brief, before the wails bellow from his lungs asking to be fed or changed.

While we have adjusted to our new routine, and I look forward to seeing his face and Meg’s when I walk through the door each day, there is another cloud of anxiety that has slowly crept in and hangs above us like a dooming gray forecast in the sky.

Before we know it, Meg will have to return to work as well – something neither one of us are looking forward to. Here, we have just created a miracle – a living, breathing, human being, instilled with parts of each of us. Even as I write it, I am astounded at how amazing the concept truly is.

However, the thought at this time of handing this little person, so helpless, so reliant, who knows only his mom, his dad and his kitties, over to people to watch him for the bulk of his day, only to return to us for a few hours before the end of the day and a long night’s sleep, quite frankly, scares me.

I’m not just talking about the frightening costs of childcare, which, even at the decent prices we’re getting compared to others I’ve spoken to. Sure, those costs could equal out another mortgage and a half, making me realize that our dreams of a slightly larger home may be put on hold for quite a while.

It’s the thought of handing over our little boy to strangers, whom he will spend the bulk of his time with at such a tender age, that rocks me to the core.

Not that they are bad people, but that as he starts to awaken to the world around him, he’s going to be awakening to it where he spends more time with other people than he does his family. At his tender, newborn age, I just can’t bring myself to feel right about it, no matter how common it may be.

I would love to prevent it, to have him spend his time going from newborn to toddler, spending the bulk of his days in the presence of his parents, but right now it is depressingly not appearing to be in the cards. Some have suggested that I look into a part time job to supplement income so Meg has the ability to stay at home (if she wanted to, of course. I feel that I have inadvertently put undue pressure on her to take extra time off to be with the baby) with him without worry about money. Others have suggested having a relative watch him, which just doesn’t work geographically for us.

It’s a conundrum, and one that is creeping upon us as the summer ticks away. I wish I knew what the best solution was. I wish I knew automatically what way to make it all work for him, for her, and the family as a whole.

I don’t, though. When I think about that, I feel as helpless as the little boy whose crying for me to change his diapers.

Late night breastfeeding with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

My son, only a week or so old, has quite the well-developed set of lungs.

He likes to show them off to us usually ni the middle of the night, working himself into such a tizzy during breastfeeding that he’s too worried about screaming to get fed than actually feeding.

Hey, when you’re under 14 days old, you get a lot of slack.

So, last night in the wee hours of the morning, while my wife set up next to me in bed, struggling with the little one, I looked over to my my Alarm Clock/Radio/CD Player on the nightstand and remembered the CD inside – Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.

So, I flicked the switch to Track 8 “At the Zoo” – a song we used to listen to a lot when he was in utero.

It took a little bit, but before the song ended, he had begun to calm down, becoming much more manageable through “Fakin’ It,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Old Friends,” and my personal favorite, “The Boxer,” which all followed. Meg then joined in singing a few bars, which also helped “soothe the savage beast,” as they say. 🙂

A few diaper changes and tears followed, of course, but thank you, Paul Simon, and thank you, Art Garfunkel, for helping calm my little boy down, and making the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes a little more groovy.

Back to work

ImageToday has been tough.

It’s been my first day returning to work following the arrival of our little guy.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and I understand the necessity of it, as being without a job and an income is not exactly helpful to my wife, or my son. So, there is an inherent sense of responsibility that comes along with the little man.

While I wasn’t looking forward to it, I know it hit Meg very hard as I left this morning. With tears in her eyes, and our little boy in her arms, they said goodbye to me for the day and waved to me out the window.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to spend ten days with them since his birth, and they have been the best ten days of my life so far. I dreaded the countdown with each day that meant that I wouldn’t be around to help with his diapers, get laundry done while she nursed, or do the dishes when she tried to rest for a few minutes during his naps.

I’ve spent these ten days building an incredible bond with this little person, and strengthened the bond with my wife. So, leaving that behind this morning and heading back into the newsroom where I work has not been the easiest of transitions.

However, while it’s given me a great amount of sadness, it has also given me a great amount of motivation. It inspires me to work even harder, become even more dedicated, to creating a quality of life for my family that is better than what we have. It has made me realize that what stands between me and being a write-from-home dad and husband instead of a write-from-the-newsroom dad is my own dedication and motivation. I want my son to know that doing what you enjoy in life is more than just what people say, it’s something that can be yours. I want him to see from the example I will set that you can create your own career destiny.

Don’t get me wrong, as I know sometimes, it could be taken that I “hate my job,” which is not the case. I have a great boss, and I make a decent living (or at least enough to get by with the student loan debt I unfortunately have). However, it’s never been where my passion lies. I set out to be a writer. Yes, I write, but it’s a more technical form of writing or re-writing of other people’s work throughout the day. What I want, though, is that dream of writing from my home office, of being there for my family while still earning a living for them.

You can want something until the cows come home, and yes, you can work on it a little here and a little there. However, forming a plan, knowing the path, knowing what you need to get there, and most importantly, having those motivations, those people who you want to do it for, that’s an entirely different thing all together.

They’ve given me something to strive for, and I aim to reach it.


I jotted down this note to myself the day we brought our boy home from the hospital:

“We have only been home from the hospital for three hours and I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life.

I feel terrible even using the phrase ‘I’m tired’ as I feel that my wife had redefined the word after her past few days.

Since we’ve been home these three hours, our little guy has had two feedings, a diaper change, and is now napping.

Both Meg and myself are trying to heed the advice given to us by many and try to nap when he naps, even if it’s for just a fewer items.

Since we are still adjusting the baby and our cats to the wonderful world of co existence, our napping has been in shifts so that one can keep an eye on the baby and cats while the other one sleeps.

But with every little noise he makes, we wake and check.

As I write this, Meg is asleep on the couch, the cats all asleep in various spots, the baby asleep in the pack and play, and I on the chair.

She has tried to convince me to do something lazy and mindless while she and they sleep, such as watching cartoons. But despite the lure of a gilded invitation to do so, I just can’t find the energy to go more than blindly just ‘sit’.

I’ve run races and never felt so tired, but the emotional wallop of the past few days does not compare to any race.”

Now, several days later, we are doing a little bit better. By better, I mean my wife and I are adjusting (as are the cats).

The little guy has taken to feedings at a multitude of intervals throughout the night, starting around 11 or midnight, and wanting to go again every hour or so. That is not counting any of his diaper changes, of which there are several during the night.

During the day, he seems to eat a lot in the morning and then sleep through most of the day, waking in the evening for another feeding before sleeping and starting his nocturnal activities.

A lot of people have told us we need to sleep when he sleeps, but it becomes difficult, as when he is sleeping (and not screaming to be fed or changed) seems to be the only time to tackle things that need to be done around the house, be it laundry, dishes, etc, etc. So, a small cat nap here or there, but no large slumbers for us thus far.

Some people have told us “oh no, he’s got his days and nights mixed up,” but our pediatrician says that, being only a week old, he will, in time, start to develop a more normal routine. We’re hoping this is the case.

Our sleep has still been few and far between, which sometimes makes irritability an issue between my wife and I, but we’re managing. We know that this too, shall pass, and that this is all a part of the wild world of babies, children, and parenting.

I take a huge chunk of responsibility for part of our fatigue, as, with various requests “to meet the baby” I scheduled visits with friends/family each night of the week this week, meaning every night has been occupied. I admit, I think I may have overextended us.

It’s a Boy!

ImageThis week, we finally welcomed to the world our newest edition – little Hadley. He arrived healthy and continues to make us smile each day since our return from the hospital.

Mommy is doing well, and is also glad to be out of the hospital and sleeping in her own bed once again.

It all seems surreal, to wake up in the morning and realize “whoa, I’m somebody’s father,” but it’s surreal in a truly wonderful sense.

When I saw him arrive into this world for that first time, held by the doctors, the only thing I could think of is how every single moment, every single incident and interaction in my life was to bring me to that one moment, of my son’s birth. It is truly remarkable.

We’ve got a lifetime of adventures together, little one, and I can not wait to be there with you through it all. You have so much to teach me, and I am eager to learn.

Certainly more to come…

The Shadow knows….

Image“Who knows what evil, lurks in the hearts of men?”

If you’re familiar enough with this quote to know what follows, then either a) you’re a little dorky like myself, or b) you might be our obstetrician.

On a recent visit to the office to see if our little one was going to be making their entrance to the world anytime soon, the doctor was ‘feeling around’ for lack of a better term, to see if Meg had started effacing. We were asking questions, and at one point, jokingly, the doc responded “who knows? The Shadow knows…” followed quickly by a “nobody gets that reference today.”

But, I did!!! 🙂

After the who and the what and the when about the baby taking it’s sweet time to arrive, it led to a nice conversation with the doctor about not just The Shadow, but several other old-time radio shows from the 1930s and 1940s. It seems our doctor (who looks like he walked right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and I love it), used to listen to recordings that his father had of the old radio shows (back when our doctor’s father was a kid). We talked about Jack Benny, Dragnet, Little Orphan Annie, and, of course, The Shadow.

In case you don’t know, The Shadow is a character from ‘pulp magazines’ way back in the day. Usually filled with some type of bizarre crime story, kids and adults could pick up the dime novel and read a thrilling, noir-ish adventure.

ImageOn the radio, The Shadow was really Lamont Crantson (or Kent Allard if you read the novels), wealthy man about town, who, along with girlfrend Margo Lane, would often solve crimes in 1930s/1940s New York City. The Shadow possessed “the powers of mesmerism” which he learned in “The Orient,” and allowed him to ‘cloud men’s minds,’ making himself invisible to their sight and able to tap into the minds of evil doers everywhere. For my money, some of the best radio adventures of The Shadow were the ones from the late 1930s voiced by the great Orson Welles. Even now, if you can get your hands on one of the old recordings, it’s pretty exciting stuff to listen to.

Theatre of the mind – the stuff you see on television and movies will never compare.

Hopefully the doctor realizes it’s more of a (dorky) daddy interest and not a mommy interest. Wouldn’t want her to have to deal with questions about radio crime fighting while in the delivery room. 🙂

The Waiting Game

ImageWe’re in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment.

In the course of the pregnancy, we’ve been given a couple of different due dates, and today marks the third out of all three. As each one hit, we were at the ready, bags packed and set to go, only to find nothing happening.

I knew we had jinxed ourselves. When we went to a doctor’s appointment last week, we had our overnight bag in the car, extra food out for the cats, and everything set to go. We got in the car to head to the doctor’s and I realized ‘we’ve just jinxed ourselves. There’s no way this baby is coming when we’re this prepared.’

So, I was convinced that with a full slate of projects on the July 4th holiday, THAT was when the baby would decide to come. I mean, if it didn’t come when we were prepared for it, surely it would come on the day we decided to a) fix a ceiling fan b) assemble a dining room table and chair set that had been sitting around for months and c) did some gardening, yard work and weeding.

But alas, it did not. The work week then continued and the beat goes on. Two due dates given have passed.

As we start out the day on this third due date, we of course are hopeful, but yet, there seems to be no contractions, no increased movement, just…nothing.

So, for the time being, that just puts us in a waiting period. As the doctor says: “it’ll have to come out sometime,” and when it does, we’ll be waiting for it, anxious to meet whoever this new little person is.

I’m sure I can find some other things to write about in the meantime. 🙂

Extra, extra, read all about it

My wife recently had a dream.

In it, she says that we ended up having a little girl, and that as she got older, she decided she wanted to be a journalist. In the dream, she says this caused an incredible rift between the daughter and myself, as the many years in journalism professionally made me none too kind to the career prospect for my offspring.

According to my wife’s dream, this then created a falling out and my daughter and I were on non-speaking terms as she went forward with the career she wanted, and I did all I could to talk her out of it.

I’ve worked in different realms of journalism for a few years now. From newspapers to online content to television news, there’s always some sort of struggle and conflict.  Whether it’s the age-old struggle of journalism versus the business interests (let’s not forget that many media companies are privately owned), the ever-concerned bottom line (otherwise there will be no paychecks), or the massive egos and condescending personalities of others in the business.

At the end of the day, though, you make it through. You put food on the table for your family, you put gas in the car for another week, and maybe, just maybe, you’ve hopefully made a difference somewhere, even if there’s those around you who don’t feel a story was “worth doing” or questions its validity.

I wish there were more moments like that, but, hey, you take little victories where you can.

These thoughts and expressions are commonplace in our household with my career choice, and so I don’t find it all that surprising that it would weigh on my wife’s subconscious mind and start seeping into her dreams.

Fortunately, our child hasn’t even been born yet (any day now), we don’t know if it will be a girl or a boy, and their career paths are still a long ways off.

However, the dream definitely made me think about when that day comes that they set out on their career goals. I hope my real life self can be a bit more understanding and selfless than the version in my wife’s dream.

Go slowly sands of time…

No, there will be no pillows in here once the baby arrives.

Time is moving by at an alarming rate.

I am unable to fathom the speed with which the past nine months have flown by. It seems like only a week or so ago that it was Halloween night and we sat there, slightly late for our rehearsal of “Arsenic and Old Lace” at a local theatre house, realizing what a life changing moment that little “plus” sign on a stick was.

We recorded a video that night for our kid to one day see, letting them know that, yes, their parents were once young, and what an amazing day this was for us.

As the months moved along, I went through phases of checklists, worried more about what had to be done around the house before the baby than their actual arrival. Then it hit me a few months ago that this was the one shot we get at a first child, that our lives will forever be changed, and that this time together, before the child’s arrival, should be savored.

I took a step back and have been smelling the proverbial roses of each day as best I can.

I admit that this past weekend, as we put the semi-final touches on the baby’s nursery – a few sheets down in the crib – it suddenly just seemed so incredibly real.

It’s happening and happening very soon, and before we know it, we parents-to-be will just be parents.

Where did all the time go?

It’s fascinating that a few sheets on a baby’s mattress could make me feel this introspective, but well, there you have it.

If time is moving this fast now, I’m a little frightened about the years ahead.

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