The misadventures of a first time father

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Birthday Comic 19If you’ve ever watched the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street, you’re likely familiar with the buzz created when the real-life Santa Claus (mistaken for an actor playing the role) is put into the throne at Macy’s with the intention to push overstocked toys and instead starts telling parents and children alike where to find the items they just can’t seem to find there at Macy’s.

Sending them to other stores?! Gasp! It sends the head of the toy department into a tizzy but strikes Mr. Macy himself as a brilliant marketing ploy of goodwill to make Macy’s the friendly store, the helpful store.

There’s really something to be said for customer service, isn’t there?

The Halloween he turned himself into a superhero that inspired it all.

You see, the past few years, an annual tradition has developed where on his birthday, I present our son (and last year at her birthday, our oldest daughter as well) with a custom-made comic book based on the super-hero persona he created for himself one Halloween back in preschool. I try to keep notes of the various characters his imagination develops as he played back then or creates in stories or drawings he makes currently, and incorporate them into these breezy little adventures that are all his own. And I try to have extras on hand as additional party favors for anyone at his birthday who may want one.

The tradition started three birthdays ago.

As in years past, I had ordered via an online printing service that does great work. Only this time, (through no fault of theirs) I made a mistake in the types of books I ordered, paper used. I admit being a bit obsessive about aesthetics at times and realized that these would stick out like a sore thumb amid the ones I’ve given him in the past. But re-ordering for such a small picky thing like that would’ve been too costly and wouldn’t arrive in time for his birthday.

So I started thinking local.

I stepped foot into a local printing and lithograph company that handles a lot of large scale orders in the area, including several magazines. I explained what I was looking to do, but that I only wanted 10, maybe 15 copies of this gift and party favor. They do large projects, but they told me the printer across the parking lot from them would have no problem handling the job well.

They didn’t tell me no and send me packing. They didn’t turn their nose up. They sent me and my business to someone more suited to it.

It was my Miracle on 34th Street moment.

So across the parking lot I hopped into Presto Print, where I was surprisingly greeted by a classmate from high school. An added bonus! I explained the project, what I needed, and she told me ‘no problem.’ To boot, they had it ready the very next day for me.

Thanks to these heroes, I had what I wanted when I needed it, all in time for my little hero.

There’s really something to be said for customer service.


Party - Birthday Boy 2We recently had a birthday party for our little guy. It was the first time we ever actually had it at our house. Usually we relied on the kindness of grandparents on both sides to get us through over the years, as our house had long been too small to have anyone over beyond a group of 2 or 4.

With our new digs, though, we figured it was finally time to give it a try, and try we did, not only with family, but this time inviting some of his friends from pre-k to come as well. And was it ever worth it to see the look on his face when he was surprised by the arrival of each of these friends.

Rain the day before and morning of forced us to change up plans a bit, moving from the backyard to the garage. Well, after it was emptied and cleaned out, of course. Then with two pop-up tents from parents placed outside the garage door, and tables and chairs inside, we were good to go as family and friends arrived for this gathering of little heroes.

The theme was his choice (Superheroes), brilliantly executed by Meg with foods that added a heroic flavor such as Captain America Shields (circle pretzels with white chocolate and a red, white or blue M&M in the middle), kryptonite bars (rice krispies treats with drizzled white chocolate and glowy green sprinkles), and some foods that gained their super powers through some signs I made using the PicMonkey app on my phone and a variety of superhero images.

Party signs total

We transformed regular sheet pizza into Plastic Man’s Power Pizza, a vegetable tray into Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter, and drinks stations became Joker Juice or for the adults, Chief O’Hara’s Adult Beverages (Begorrah!).

Meg also took giant cardboard boxes leftover from a swing set we assembled the week prior and created a backdrop of buildings for little superheroes to have their picture taken by.

Party - Kids and worm

Apparently all we needed for a party were crayons and a worm.

The kids crowded around a table to color super hero print outs, ran around wearing paper super hero masks from Party City and even enjoyed the arrival of a little sunshine just long enough to dry out parts (emphasis on parts…watch your step unless you like mud) to get some time in running through the backyard.

Oh, and never underestimate, much like the crayons and coloring pages, how something as simple as a worm coming out of the ground can create a fascination in a group of children that can be hard to pull them away from.

It felt just plain wonderful.

And when it came time to open gifts and he had oohed and awed over various toys, Legos, and books, I gave him a gift I had spent the past several months putting together for him.

You see, back at Halloween, he designed his own costume, which Meg made come to life – a superhero version of himself.

Hallowen heroes

Us at Halloween as a self-styled superhero version of himself.

But post-Halloween, something wonderful happened. He kept the character going, imagining new adventure after new adventure, as well as a rogues gallery of villains that he was going up against with each backyard or bedroom crime fighting spree. I did my best to covertly take notes of the superpowers, the villain, and turned it into a script for a short comic book story.

I then dusted off my drawing pencils and illustrated the story, handing it over to my good friend and collaborator on two indie comic book series, who graced it with his inks, colors and lettering skills. From there, I sent it out to a comic printer, and upon return, had a limited edition comic book of my son in his super hero persona, solving a mystery, overcoming the very villains he’s created as he plays, and making it to his birthday party to find family and friends waiting.

The shock on his face “Wait…what…how did…how did you get a comic book of…me?” when he opened it was everything. The fact that he asked me to read it for him four separate times that afternoon and again before bed was everything else.

With each passing day, he grows a little more, shows me more of the world and myself than I thought possible, and though not every day is perfect for us, every day he becomes more and more my real-life superhero.

Party - Montage of comic


firstbday01Where in the world does the time go?

Like a flash of light, our little boy’s birthday was upon us in the blink of an eye. It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming him back home to the cats, a slew of visitors, and introducing him to this thing called life for the very first time. Now, we’ve wrapped up celebrating his first year on earth.

It was a good, handmade event, due in most, if not all part, to Meg. And if you’d like to read HER take on all of this, you can do so over at her blog. She spent months building up to this day, planning out everything from his smash-cake (made from all kinds of tasty, yet healthy things he likes, such as apple sauce and yogurt, versus mostly sugar and corn syrup), to the paper decorations that lined the backyard. She made streamers, she made tissue paper ‘poofs’ that hung from above, and she made a crown out of felt, that the little guy wore letting everyone know he was king of the party.

firstbday02The menu was made up of many of the monkey’s favorite foods, or at least those he’s tasted in tiny, broken-off portions. There was pizza from our favorite pizza parlor, homemade sandwiches on a freshly baked bread, fruit salad, cheese, crackers, and more.

It can sometimes be a little bit of a risk when you bring both family and friends together as you never know how anyone is going to blend or interact with each other. In our case, it all went off great. He did need a little urging to stick his hands in the smash-cake, not wanting to make a mess (which is kind of surprising considering how messy he gets with, say, pasta for dinner). When it came to open his gifts, his attention was more focused on the wrapping paper or the people around him than on what he was actually receiving, but boy were our friends and family good to him.

firstbday04Whether it was some new Mo Willems books for our collection, or some of the Fisher Price Retro-toys (a milk truck?! a portable radio?! how neat is this line of toys?!), Little People on a Farm or a Little People version of the Justice League, he made out like a bandit. Although, that little red tricycle from an old friend will have to wait a few years until he’s old enough to ride. 😉

The weather held out as we gathered and had a great, if not tiring time by day’s end. He only needed one nap toward the end of his party, although mommy and daddy wanted about seven naps by the time things were over – no such luck on our end.

As I say, the kudos for the day being as creative and as much of a throwback to backyard parties of yore goes to Meg, who put her all into making this first birthday one to be remembered. And, of course, having our loved ones around us helped seal that memory in.

If I could only figure out how he so quickly went from that little, wrapped up baby in our arms a year ago, to the little man standing on his own, making noises, and playing with toys today. As much as I don’t want them to, I know the years ahead will go by just as fast, if not faster. I can’t stop that, as the past 365 days have proven.

What I can do, though, is make sure that I enjoy every single moment we do have – the good, the bad, and everything in between, because they won’t be here forever.

firstbday03



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