The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Parenting

You know, just chillin' with my buddy, Sir Topham Hatt.

You know, just chillin’ with Sir Topham Hatt.

What? No blog entry on Father’s Day? You’re a dad blogger for crying out loud!

There’s a very simple reason I am blogging about Father’s Day today and not yesterday. I was too busy enjoying it.

Father’s Day was an absolute delight for me. I got up and Meg had made a wonderful breakfast for us of toast, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns with blue potatoes! After the delicious meal, we got ourselves dressed and headed out to the historic train station in my hometown for “A Day Out with Thomas” (as in, the tank engine).

The courtyard of the station was filled with activities for the family, ranging from a safety house by the fire department, to a table stationed by two police officers talking about safety tips for kids and families.

We rode a little train car around an enclosure with other families, got our picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt, where the little guy became instantly shy. Later he would tell me he was worried Sir Topham Hatt would be ‘cross’ with him, something that is a frequent habit when the trains do something wrong on the show.

Then, with a large whistle and puff of steam, along the tracks came Thomas, bright blue and red, pulling passenger cars behind him. Together, the three of us made our way inside, up stairs, down an overpass and back down to the other side of the tracks. As passengers from a previous ride got off, we walked up to the front of the train, where Thomas greeted us. Eyes and mouth moving, he literally came to life in front of us, and our little guy ‘beamed, from buffer to buffer,’ as they say.

Soon after, we boarded, the familiar sounds of songs from the show playing in the train and before we knew it, we were off, Thomas us pushing us about 15 minutes out of town, through a marsh, and our little guy glued to the window the whole time.

train 01He sang, surprising us with how many of the songs he knew and sang right along with, and pointed out all the characters that decorated the train windows as decals. He even got a certificate declaring him a Junior Conductor.

When the train returned to the station about a half hour later, we decided to hit up some of the other activities. I was relieved we had gotten pictures with Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt out of the way early on, as the lines at this point had grown crazy. Not good for an antsy child.

He gravitated toward a sand table, digging his hands into the gritty brown stuff, made a little wet by the myriad of constant bubbles coming from a machine nearby and saturating all the sand. He pushed trucks through it, let it sift through his hands…and then suddenly decided to tell other kids coming and playing in it that they couldn’t use the toys. We raised our voices and he begrudgingly conceded. When it happened again, we decided it was time to move on. We gave him one minute to wrap up. It wasn’t long before that minute arrived and we told him it was time to head to the gift shop before heading out.

And then came the meltdown.

Face red,eyes squinted. Mouth gaping open, wailing and screaming as if I was hurting him. All because it was time to move on.

I felt like the eyes of every parents and child at the train station in that moment were on us, wondering what the heck we were doing. Telling him we were going, asking him to take a breath and count to four, talking to him, being stern – nothing worked. It was a mess.

By the time we got to the car and loaded back up, he stopped screaming but was whiny, and we talked about our displeasure, discussing wiith him why he was being bad and had to go. I know. I know. Terrible Twos. Threenager. I’ve heard ‘em all. But in those moments, it doesn’t make it any easier.

We drove around in the car, making a stop to grab some cat food and then grabbing some lunch. By this time, he was calm, but tired. We even had trouble getting him to stand up in line. He kept doing the ‘jelly knees’ where he’d go limp and we’d be forced to continually try to pick him up just to make it to a table.

By the time lunch was over, and he held his head in that little hand, he finally admitted that he was tired. It was somewhat after noon and we were approaching what would normally be nap time.

And, whether sleep-deprived or just plain loopy, he turned to me and said “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!”

As much as the meltdowns drive me nuts, causing me to question absolutely everything I do as a parent, looking at the day as a whole, they were a pretty small fraction. When I look past that (knowing we’re working to deal with it as best we can), and think of that boy who was bounding with a smile so big it was as if his face developed extra muscles at the site of Thomas, the laughter and awe as he looked out the window of the moving train, I realize, it was a pretty damn good day.


Whether they know it or not, everyone has a story to tell.

However, some folks never tell their stories because they think they have nothing to say – that their life is too boring.

It’s with that in mind, that I set out to create a photo essay that took something routine and mundane – just a random day in my life – and captured it in photos in an attempt to create a visually appealing story told in images from throughout that terribly ordinary day.

I found that what might be routine or boring to some on the surface turned out to be a day filled with beauty and engaging sights and images, had I just taken the steps back to look at them more often.

Here’s my story:

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Old School Shaving

Old School Shaving

One of the finest Christmas presents I’ve ever received in my adult life was a few years ago when my wife gave me my very own shaving kit that she assembled.

There were no cheap, disposable razors in here. No, no. In the set was a nice, chrome stand that held a badger-hair shaving brush (as hog hair, which are used in most of the shave brushes you find in general stores these days, is a bit too harsh), some shaving soaps to create a lather with the brush, and the piece de resistance – a safety razor.

Never has shaving felt like a finer ritual than with these tools at the ready on our bathroom sink.

I once read someone say something akin to “you haven’t shaved if you haven’t done so like your grandpa did back in the day” and boy, were they right.

I don’t shave every day as my current job doesn’t require me to like the last one did (and even then, I admit occasionally cheating at the office with an electric one at the last minute). I now shave when I feel that the stubble is getting a bit uncomfortable (usually twice a week or so) and when I do, it’s a great experience all thanks to this nice little, thoughtful and very timeless gift.

Mixing Shaving Cream

Creating a lather

Some hot water to the face gets the bristles ready and it’s really something to see the lather appear as you spin the brush around the bowl over the shaving soap. There’s all sorts of soaps out there, but my wife went the extra mile and found homemade shave soaps online made from natural materials as opposed to chemicals, which I truly appreciate. Lather it on with the brush generously, then keep that hot water flowing to run the razor under.

I really can’t say enough of just how zen a feeling it can be to stand in front of the mirror, gliding the hot blade of the safety razor across my cheek, wiping away that shave soap lather and the hair along with it.

Put some music on while you do so and you really have a ritual.

I will add, merely as a side note, that when I began shaving this way, it was with a blade made in Germany, versus the blade I’m currently using which was made in Japan. It could just happen to be this particular blade I’m using now, but I find myself getting a few nicks with this one. With the original blade made in Germany, I never got a single nick.

One day I’ll have to teach my little guy how to shave and when we do, I hope we’ll be doing so with these very same tools. There’s something timeless about them, as is knowing that you’re carrying on a method and tradition that has been around for generations prior.


uno-deep-dishI took my son out to dinner recently, just he and I.

My wife had the opening night of her recent play and he and I were having a guys’ night out. Partly, I did this as a bit of a test, to see how both he and I did on our own without mommy around. With all the trouble he’s been having falling asleep without my wife being home, I thought it might be a good exercise to try ourselves out and about and see how we do.

I’m glad to say things went relatively well. Well, he did well, anyway.

I took him to Uno because of all the places my wife and I have taken him to, that one seems to be where he does the best. I don’t know if it’s the decor, the coloring, or just the blonde waitress we always seem to run into there who he smiles and giggles at incessantly, like a 14 year old waiting to ask her out on a date. I have no clue. Regardless, it has done us good in the past.

We got a high chair, some crayons, and he and I were set. I ordered myself a mini/single size deep dish pizza and him some mac and cheese. (I know. For a family that tries hard to eat healthy, I really blew it on this venture.) Our waiter was great, very friendly, and when he realized the people around us who arrived after us had gotten their food before we did, he was like lightning into the kitchen to figure it out. Good guy.

Of course, during that wait, the little guy did need a little something to tide him over while we sat. Luckily, we had a box of organic raisins in his bag, so he had a few of those while we alternated between coloring on the place mat, reading his little board books, and me drawing him pictures on the napkin of Santa, The Count, Batman and Robin (now THAT’S a Justice League book I’d read).

I really can’t tell you too much about what was going on around us because, truth be told, I was completely and utterly engrossed in my boy. We talked, we read, we played, we drew, although we did talk to a nice middle-aged couple who were seated next to us and he kept smiling at. They told us seeing him made them want grandchildren, which I thought was very sweet.

So the food came and I moved back and forth between bites of my pizza and serving up small pieces (he probably could handle bigger, but I’m paranoid, so I cut them smaller anyway) of his mac and cheese to him. Suddenly, in the middle of our dinner he starts going, in that tiny little voice “uh-oh…uh-oh…uh-oh…” and grabbing his bum and front. I ask him if he needs a diaper change to which he replies, almost desperately, “uh-huh.”

I scooped him up, grabbed some wipes and a diaper and off to the bathroom we headed. The kind couple next to us was nice enough to watch our things while we were gone.

Here’s where the first snag of our night came about, though. We walked into the men’s room and I could find no changing station. So, there we were amid sinks, urinal, toilet and a floor. The restaurant was packed, so there were no options in there, and my car is tiny and has a car seat taking up a ton of space, so that’s out.

So, I did the only thing I could think of – I grabbed paper towels out of the dispenser, him in my arms, and laid them out on that bathroom floor to create some kind of ‘germ barrier,’ even if such a thing exists only in my mind. I laid him down, very careful with his head against the hard tiles and just began the diaper change, hoping that no one was going to walk in on us there, in the middle of the floor of this tiny bathroom at Uno changing a diaper.

I couldn’t believe how good the little guy was for me while I did this. Maybe he sensed how awful I felt about having to do this there, and what a terrible father I felt like for not having a better solution.

I emailed Uno about it via their website. I made sure to tell them that at our particular Uno, the service and food is always great. We’ve never had any service or product issues there, and I didn’t want it to seem otherwise. I was just concerned about other dads who may have been in a similar situation.

Well, within a day, they emailed me back, and boy did I feel like an idiot.

There WAS a changing table in there, it was just in the handicapped stall, where I never even thought to look. I replied, apologizing for my lack of investigating during the actual incident. They wrote back and told me there was no need to, and said maybe better signage might be needed.

I feel like such an idiot. It was there all the time and here I was, frantically changing my son on a bathroom floor.

Oy.

All cleaned and changed, I wiped his hands, arms and anything else that might have also touched the bathroom floor, and back to dinner we went. Before we knew it, we were all done, him handing me back his plate and putting his arms up in the air – his own little sign language he came up with himself for ‘i’m done’ ever since he was a little tiny guy.

We paid the bill (well, I did. I don’t think they’d take cuteness as currency. maybe. who knows?) and we were on our way, with him waving to every waitress and hostess at the front desk that he could manage before we made our way out the doors and into the car.

Still, the night was young and I knew the curtain wasn’t even going up on my wife’s play for another half an hour or so, meaning it would be hours before she came home. I needed a little more to tire the little guy out.

“Whattaya say, buddy?” I asked. “You wanta go look at books at Barnes and Noble?”

“Uh-huh” that tiny voice said back to me from the back seat.

And we were off to our next great guys night adventure and the misadventures that came with it.

But that’s another post.


© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporationThe other day I was in the car and flipping through radio stations when I came across a program where a Brit and an American were talking about the term ‘success.’

At one point, the Brit talked about how the perception of what success is, is vastly different in America than in some other countries. I found it fascinating. He talked about how here, in America, we say that ‘everyone has the chance to win the race,’ but then said that by the very definition and nature of a race, not everyone CAN win.

There is the adage of wanting to have your cake and eat it too, an adage which our American culture seems to proliferate. ‘You can be a great parent and be a great CEO,’ ‘you can be a great author and be a great family man,’ but the radio hosts were saying that in most cases, that’s just not possible. By putting all of yourself into one thing, you automatically are not putting your all into something else, therefore, neglecting it, even if slightly.

Before the program ended, the question was raised as to just who was determining what success was, asking whose goals it is that we are working toward – ours or the ones that others have created for us? Are we working toward something because we truly want to, or because someone (whether it be individually or culturally) has told us that’s what we need to do.

It’s a bit like I said when I signed off of broadcasting – it’s not about how much money you make, what you do for a living, what religion you are, how many Facebook friends or fans you have. Those are determinations of success that have been created by others, yet pushed onto so many people via a ludicrous culture with misguided priorities.

All this got me thinking about how my own life’s priorities have changed over the years.

When I was 9 years old, I made no bones about telling everyone that I would one day be working as an animator, putting a love of drawing to work every day.

Years later, in college and for some time after, I would have said nothing was going to stop me from becoming a successful screenwriter and filmmaker. However, I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to pack up my life and take that leap away from my loved ones.

Time went on. I turned my writing background to journalism. I wasn’t going to be Spielberg or Coppola, but Clark Kent? Sure, I could do that. I’d be the best damn journalist I could.

In time, I got married and we had our son. Eventually, I would leave the journalism world, but it didn’t make me any less of a writer.

I still write. I write this blog. I write the comic book Holidaze. I’m working on some possible small film projects. I’ve always got some other writing project going as well. Heck, I now get paid to be a writer for the institution I work for. Yes, I get to say I’m a paid writer now and that is one of the coolest things in the world to me.

I’m sure the 21 year old, overconfident me would have balked, saying it was a film career or bust. The me in my late 20s would have wondered where a plethora of novels were. The 9 year old me would have wondered why I wasn’t animating ducks for Disney.

However, that 9 year old me, 21 year old me, heck, even the 27 year old me, didn’t have a family, didn’t have a wife and a son, and family members he wanted them by as he grows up.

The younger me didn’t realize how having this little man in my life would change my goals in life as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t reach for your goals. Please, for the love of all on this earth, go for it! Have dreams! Live them!

Just make sure they are YOUR dreams and YOUR goals that you’re working towards. And understand that, yes, those goals and those dreams may change. Sure, for some of you, they may be the same goals from when you were 4 to 24 to 34 to the rest of your life.

Or they may not.

They may change as you change. That doesn’t make you any less of a person, that doesn’t mean you ‘gave up,’ and that doesn’t make you a ‘loser.’ Believe me, I’ve gone through many of those feelings before coming to the realizations I have.

What I’m saying is, I can still write, I can still pursue projects, but they no longer are the end goal or the success that I look for. I do them because I enjoy them. Years ago, success may have been to make a living off of being a screenwriter, a comic book writer, an author or a filmmaker.

But today?

Today, success for me is about being around for that little guy when he needs me, when he wants a storyteller, a helping hand, or just someone to play around with or hug. Being a good father, being a present father, giving my all to that, and to him – that’s what a successful life for me will be.


IMG_3156

We all want to know what’s going on inside the minds of our little ones, I’m sure.

Lately, though, I have been especially curious when it comes to the look on our little guy’s face as he flips through books. I know I write a lot about (perhaps ad nauseam) how important our nightly routine of story time is, but I think it must have had some kind of effect, because now the little one year old monkey will spend time during the day, just pulling books off the shelf in his room, or out of his play basket in the living room.

Sometimes he sits and flips through the pages himself (much better than the ripping of pages we found early on), or other times he will launch his arm out, as straight as can be, literature in hand, insisting that I or Meg read it to him (character voices and all).

When he is sitting there on his own, though, I can’t help but be fascinated by what is going on throughout his face.  As he turns each page, his eyes moving about the imagery, from left to write, sometimes with a high-pitched ‘ooo!‘ it just makes me so full of joy to see him engaged and entertained. I cold stare at him all day doing that – if he were willing to sit there and do that all day, which just is not in his energetic nature at this stage.

What an experience, though, to see the thought process unfold in his eyes, as you see his mind working upon every page, every picture. It’s a sight to behold and is one of those things that many of us do every day and have long since taken for granted. In this little developing mind, though, each page, each book is just another new intake, a new adventure in his early journey of life.

Man, what a ball I’m having being along for the ride.


The breakfast my wife made for me on Father's Day.

The breakfast my wife made for me on Father’s Day.

It’s been a pretty cool first Father’s Day weekend.

Yesterday, Meg and I took the little guy to a public market (sort of like a farmer’s market, but with additional things like crafts and other vendors alongside the farm stands). and since it’s held outside in the courtyard of a train station, we got to enjoy the beautiful sunny day to the utmost.

Then, we ran some errands that included me finally getting a new pair of sneakers and jeans. You see, I hate spending money on clothes. I really do. I often end up getting updates to my wardrobe at Christmas because I just don’t buy any during the year. I like to see just how long I can make something last, including articles of clothing. It’s just the kind of thing I don’t put much thought to throughout the year, to be quite honest.

With that said, I’ve had the same pair of sneakers for several years, wearing them down to pretty much nothing. I tend to do the same with my jeans, which is why, for the longest time, I had one good pair of jeans and the rest had holes in the knees and became relegated to housework or lounging at home. So, it was pretty momentous to walk out of the store with a pair of sneakers AND a pair of jeans, not to mention a polo shirt, which my wife insisted on paying for as part of Father’s Day, which was incredibly nice of her.

Pretty crazy, for me at least. Though I think Meg just thinks I’m plain crazy.

We ran a few more errands throughout the afternoon before meeting up with my parents for an early Father’s Day dinner for my dad. We gave him a framed picture of the little guy for his desk at work along with some fun smoking accessories for his grill.

I had to duck out late in the evening to fill-in on a partial shift at work, but came home, hit the sheets and actually slept in for a change.

When I awoke, it was to some both funny and touching Father’s Day cards from my wife, my little guy, and yes, our kitties. A big breakfast of French Toast, eggs and hash browns and I have been completely and utterly spoiled.

It’s been wonderful, it’s been more than generous, but honestly, the fact that I get to celebrate Father’s Day is certainly enough for me. Having them all in my life is worth more than any card, gift or breakfast. Not that I’m not thankful for the creativity and generosity, I’m just so incredibly thankful for all of them.

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, fathers-to-be and someday fathers. 🙂



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