Monthly Archives: February 2009

Fatherhood Friday: Before & After Kids

As I approach my 11th month of fatherhood I am once again reminded of just how much things have changed in my life recently. Less sleep, more poop, less space in the house, more love than we could ever imagine. I wouldn’t change anything, obviously, but I have to admit things are completely different now. That includes the meaning of words and phrases around the Daddy Files household. For instance:

“Let’s go for dinner and a movie.”

Before Kids: MJ and I would come home from work, throw on some decent clothes and head to a nice restaurant. We’d take our time, have a few glasses of wine, talk about our day and flirt a little. Maybe we missed the 7 o’clock movie but that’s OK, just more time to be together. We’ll catch the 9 o’clock showing instead.

After kids: Dinner consists of eating cereal on the couch in shifts. One eats, the other one tries to put the baby to bed. Then we grab whatever Netflix movie has been sitting around for the last month and try to watch it over the screams from the angry baby in the nursery. One of us is asleep by 8:30.

“Let’s go for a car ride.”

Before Kids: Pack some things in a bag, grab the bare essentials and hit the open road. Where are we going? Who knows?!?! We don’t need a destination, wherever we end up is good enough. No schedule, no timetable and no worries.

After Kids: A car ride? What time is it? Hmmm, well we’ll have to make it a quick car ride because Will should take a nap in about an hour and he’ll never sleep if we break his schedule. So let’s pack the diaper bag. Bring a change of clothes. Don’t forget the wipes and the extra diapers. Did you bring the can of formula? And the bottle. Oh oh oh wait, we need the umbrella stroller too. Don’t forget his hat in case we end up outside. Oh crap, what about the dogs? We need to take them too. Shit, that means we can’t fit the umbrella stroller so we can’t go anywhere that requires us to get out of the car. Damn…it’s time for his nap. Let’s just forget it.

“Honey, we were invited to a party!”

Before Kids: your friend calls you or sends you an E-vite to let you know there’s a bash happening at so-and-so’s house. Bring the 30-pack of beer and grab some chips and salsa. No need to bring a change of clothes because we’ll probably be naked at the height of the party. Bring on the Beer Pong and Asshole, I’m about to tie one on!

After Kids: The E-vite turns into a Winnie the Pooh card. No one calls anymore because we all have kids and we’re too busy. The 30-pack of beer has transformed into 16-oz of formula. The chips and salsa is now Gerber Graduate finger foods. The only change of clothes you need is for your son, who will surely pick this opportunity to shit or piss his way through his onsie. Bring on the crawling and the whining, I’m about to shoot myself in the head.

“I’m gonna take a quick shower.”

Before Kids: Well, this one’s pretty self-explanatory. If you wanted to perform the simple task of showering you just jumped in. End of story.

After Kids: The only time we can shower in peace is when we’re home together. If it’s just one of us, we shower in front of an audience. Like in prison. Will cannot stand it when we go around the corner and he knows we’re in the bathroom. Therefore he screams his head off. And since we live in a condo with paper-thin walls, we can’t let him wail away. That means we have to let him loose in the bathroom while we shower. Which also means we need to babyproof the bathroom first, and then shower halfheartedly as we try to wash and keep an eye on the drunk midget careening around the bathroom like a Weeble Wobble.

“Let’s watch some TV.”

Before Kids: I was adamant about my TV schedule. Married With Children is on right when I wake up in the morning on Spike TV. When I got home from work I’d watch Still Standing and King of Queens. That would be followed by Everybody Loves Raymond. If it’s baseball season, the Red Sox are on from 7:05 pm to 10 pm. In the offseason it depends on what night it is, but I religiously watch Lost, Rescue Me, The Office, Worst Week, My Name is Earl, Two and a Half Men, Law & Order, How I Met Your Mother and the Big Bang Theory to name a few. And if it’s football season, Sundays are all about the Patriots and football in general. I LOVE TV.

After Kids: The morning lineup is drastically different. Imagination Movers, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Instead of SportsCenter I’m now reduced to watching the cartoon version of Wilmer Valderrama as an illegal immigrant handyman. Instead of South Park I’m stuck watching those wackjob Imagination Movers sing about EVERYTHING! And instead of Family Guy and Peter Griffin’s amusing antics, I have those annoying little know it alls from the Little Einsteins trekking around with Rocket.

“Sleeping in.”

Before Kids: 11 a.m. on a weekend.

After Kids: Not applicable.

“Baby, are you faking it?”

Before Kids: “Faking it” used to be the courtesy my wife graciously extended to me during our lovemaking sessions to make me feel better.

After Kids: “Faking it” is what both of us now do in the middle of the night as we pretend to be fast asleep when Will starts to cry.

“Let’s have a guys night out!”

Before Kids: We’d hang out at someone’s house for awhile, then head out into the city and hit the bars. We’d drink cheap beer, hit on cheaper women and end up with expensive bar tabs. At 2 am the bars would close but we were still open for business. We’d bring everyone back to our apartment and keep the party going until the sun came up.

After Kids: We still start off at someone’s house but it’s a dramatically different look and feel. Instead of cases of beer, we’re lugging around diaper bags. Instead of talking about who we hope to hook up with that night, we’re all trying to remember when the last time it was any of us had sex. We drink one beer each. None of us go to the bar because 1) It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and 2) None of us have any money because we’re all broke with kids. Our “late night” ends at 7 p.m. because that’s when all the babies start getting cranky so we all go home. And what’s worse, this “night out” has been the latest we’ve stayed out in months.

“I’m gonna love you all night long!”

Before Kids: I’d flirt with her throughout the day in the form of phone calls, text messages and e-mails. She’d do the same. Then I’d cook dinner when we got home, throw in a little massage and even managed to incorporate some foreplay. And of course the hours and hours of marathon nookie. Don’t forget the cuddling afterwards.

After Kids: HE’S ASLEEP! HE’S ASLEEP!! QUICK, TO THE BEDROOM! HURRY…HURRY UP HE COULD WAKE UP AT ANY SECOND! I DON’T CARE IF THE DOG IS ON THE BED AND LICKING YOUR FEET, JUST HURRY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY!!!!! Dammit. Maybe next time…

 

Obviously these are all in good fun. Sure there’s truth at the heart of them, but I wouldn’t trade my old life for my current one. Will is fantastic and I love him more than anything. Have a good Friday!

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I Hate the Mars Hill Church

I saw my first video of Mark Driscoll. aka “Pastor Mark,” a few days ago courtesy of Joeprah over at Dad-Blogs and I nearly lost my lunch. Apparently he runs Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which is one of those cult-like Christian groups that passes out the Kool-aid for weak people to drink who can’t think for themselves. Except he’s really dangerous because he makes videos, podcasts and packages his multimedia nicely to attract a younger crowd.

One such video was Pastor Mark talking with his Stepford wife about whether or not it was appropriate for men to be stay at home dads. It’s a little long, but check it out. The idiocy is astounding.

In case you don’t want to watch the whole 6 minutes (and I can’t blame you because your ears will probably start bleeding), let me recap some of the “wisdom” put out there by Pastor Mark and his wife.

His wife starts off this shit show by saying it’s impossible for a woman to respect her husband if he’s not providing for his family. And by providing, she means financially. The only way for this woman to respect and love her husband is if he’s bringing home a decent paycheck, which is about the most superficial thing I’ve ever heard. What about someone who’s a hard worker but doesn’t have the education necessary for a high paying job. He’s working 70 hours a week but they’re still struggling because he earns $4 an hour. He is not worthy of respect apparently.

But that’s just one gem from her. She goes on to talk about how “different” her kids would look if her husband stayed home with them instead of her. So apparently Pastor Mark brings home a decent paycheck, but if had to stay at home with his kids for a few days he’d be a huge failure. Yeah, THAT’S the kind of guy who should be respected right? A guy who wouldn’t even know how to properly take care of his kids if left to his own devices. What a man…

But wait, it gets better.

She talks about how women are “built to stay home” to love their kids and support their husbands. By the way all you moms out there, she also said you should be “pure” and “self-controlled.” Because I know all my mommy readers are pure as the driven snow and totally self-controlled right? Hell, most of you openly talk about sex and some of you are so forthcoming I can describe which vibrators you use in astounding detail. I just want you to know, Mrs. Pastor Mark Driscoll thinks you’re going to hell.

My favorite part of her speech is when Pastor Mark agrees with her and admits that he’d be a terrible stay at home dad. To which she says “Well, you have to spend some time with them too…” Oh really? He should spend time with his kids. I love how she throws that in there as kind of an afterthought.

Then Pastor Mark is up and he tells us that if you’re an able-bodied man, your job is to work and provide for your family no matter what. Apparently, that means even if your wife is wildly successful and pulling in six figures a year she should scrap all of that and take care of the kids. You hear that ladies? Screw that law degree, give up that career in finance…your place is in the home with dirty diapers making sure dinner is hot and on the table when your husband arrives home from work. Oh wait, what’s that? You made triple what your husband makes and so you can’t afford food? Oh well, at least you’re following “God’s plan” right? Because THAT’S the important thing.

Honestly, I don’t know why I let these religious nuts get under my skin so much. I guess I should just ignore them. But when they’re this ignorant and their words are this dangerous and poisonous, it’s hard to sit idly by.

I can’t say it enough, there is more than one way for a man (or a woman) to provide for his family. How can idiots like Pastor Mark put down men who are willing to forsake a career in order to make sure their kids are raised right? He shouldn’t be insulting them, he should be celebrating the fact that society in general has come far enough that this practice is becoming admirable. Because while women may be equipped to birth babies and breastfeed them, both sexes have the same capability to care for their kids. And if mom has a kick ass job and it’s better for Dad to stay at home, great.

But by all means Pastor Mark, keep living your life by the letter of an old book which isn’t relevant today at all. And continue to label well-intentioned stay at home dads as lazy sinners when all they’re doing is taking care of their children.

I hope this guy stays on Mars, because that’s where he and his beliefs belong.

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Doggie Dilemma

We have two dogs. Fenway the dalmatian and Haley the golden retriever. Although MJ and I are grown human beings, we do not run our house. Will runs the house. But the damn dogs are not far behind.

It wasn’t always that way.

We had Fenway first and we rescued her from the Brockton MSPCA. Right from the start she was a lot of work, but she was manageable. We trained her pretty well in that she would sit, stay, do down and even shake her paw. Haley does the same. And before we had Will, we developed a nice little routine. Three walks a day, two meals a day at 6 am and 6 pm and the dogs either slept in the dog bed or we allowed them at the foot of our bed. We were responsible dog owners then.

Now? Not so much.

Fenway has turned into an absolute nightmare. I don’t know why, but she wakes up at 3:15 a.m. like clockwork every single morning wanting to eat. First she walks into our bedroom. Then, if we don’t wake up, she begins to growl. Then, if we still don’t wake up, she barks. Here are my problems:

I can’t just let her bark because she’ll wake the neighbors (remember, we live in a condo) and more important, she’ll wake Will up. Normally I’d just put her in the crate and teach her a lesson, but the barking is out of the question. First I just let her out thinking she had to go to the bathroom. Nope. She just wanted to eat and wouldn’t pee or poop until she had food. I can’t muzzle her because it’s not safe to muzzle a dog for that long. So we tried squirting her with a water bottle because she hates that. But all that makes her do is go out of range and growl from there. Then we bought a shock collar and we thought that would be the end of it. But damn if dalmatians aren’t stubborn as all hell and not even electric jolts keep her quiet.

So because I can’t let her bark her head off, I give in. So I end up feeding the dogs around 4 a.m. after I’ve lost almost an hour of sleep while battling Fenway.

But it doesn’t end there.

Fenway sleeps in her dog bed during the night, while Haley sleeps at the foot of our bed. But once they’ve been fed and gone to the bathroom early in the morning, it’s a totally different story. Fenway refuses to go back to sleep in the dog bed. Instead, she demands to sleep with us in the bed. And unlike Haley, she will not settle for the foot of the bed. Oh no, that’s just not good enough.

You know what, instead of me trying to describe it, here’s a picture:

Yep, that’s right. Fenway needs to sleep between us. She also needs to be under the covers with her head on a pillow. And she stretches her paws straight out. Which means MJ sleeps with paws in her back while I’m left with a sliver of bed. And keep in mind, Haley is laying by our feet. That’s two 55-lb dogs joining us on our bed every morning.

And a lot of it is our fault for being bad dog owners. We allow this to happen. But I swear Fenway knows she has me in a corner with the barking. I end up having to give in and so Fenway just keeps on doing what she’s doing. We don’t have a downstairs or a second floor either, so that’s out. And I’m so tired in the morning from fighting with the dog, something’s gotta give.

MJ and I think about rehoming or surrendering her but I don’t think either of us has the heart to actually follow through with it. She’s a rescue dog and she’s 8 years old. We saved her and we probably added 2-3 years to her life but making her lose 15 lbs. For better or worse she’s our dog, but lately it’s been worse. Much, much worse.

Haley, on the other hand, is what all dogs should aspire to be. She’s like the younger sibling who gets straight As and makes the oldest child look and feel like an idiot. We could even have her off-leash if it wasn’t for Fenway’s bad influence and tendency to bolt when she gets free.

They truly are our four-legged fur babies. Sure they make me want to jump off a bridge at times, and they limit where we can travel to and how long we can stay out, and they make a mess of the house, cost a fortune to feed, ring up some hefty vet bills, I’m constantly picking up their poop….

Hmmm…now that I list that all out why the hell do I have dogs again?? Oh yeah, for times like this:

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Kitchen Dancing

Let’s face it, times are tough all around right now. This is the worst economic recession since the 1930s and we’re all feeling it in some way. Lord knows we’re feeling it in the Daddy Files household and it’s tough to stay positive.

Like many families, we’re down to one income these days. And it’s a journalist’s income so it almost doesn’t count. Currently we’re living off MJ’s 401k and our tax return. We had to borrow some money from my parents just to stay afloat and still need to pay them back. Over the past year we’ve been chopping away at our credit card debt, but it’s still a pretty intimidating amount. Nevermind the mortgage, car payments, condo assessments and the general cost of taking care of a new baby.

Then there’s MJ’s health, which has improved but is still a concern. She has suffered from Crohn’s Disease for years, while struggling with anxiety and bouts of depression. I’m very proud of her for taking it upon herself to seek out help from a counselor, but postpartum depression and losing her job certainly didn’t help matters. And right now her Crohn’s is flaring up again, but she can’t go to the doctor because our health insurance still hasn’t been officially switched over to my company’s plan yet.

I know we’re not alone and there are many people worse off than we are, so I’m trying not to complain. But it’s very, very easy to get discouraged and despondent in this economy with talk of bailouts and stock market plunges heading up the news everyday.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay positive and reflect on all the good things in life.

I could tell MJ was headed down a bad road a few days ago. She’s worked full time since the age of 14, and not having a job is KILLING her. So when I came home and saw the house was spotless, the fridge was cleaned out, the dishes were rearranged, Will’s old clothes were all packaged up and in the attic and all the meats and frozen vegetables in the freezer had been reorganized…I knew she was reaching a breaking point. The pile of bills sat ominously on the table and she kept looking over there, as if they were taunting her. All she could talk about were the things we couldn’t afford, how we didn’t have the money to travel to her brother’s wedding next month, etc.

One thing that’s really pissed me off since becoming a Dad is running into the age old stereotype that a dad’s main job is to work as many hours as possible and provide as much income as he can, while mom stays home and cares for the kids. Sure dads should work and support his family financially, but there’s so much more to being a dad. There are so many other ways a dad needs to provide for his family that go far beyond a paycheck. And one of those responsibilities is to talk mom off the proverbial ledge and restore some hope and optimism.

And during those times, there’s nothing better than some kitchen dancing.

I turn on our wedding song (Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts) and force her away from the bills and her chores. I hold her close to me and wrap my arms around her and I smile as I stare into her gorgeous eyes. And we dance around the kitchen, her head buried in my shoulder, and even though I don’t utter a word I don’t have to. That’s my way of telling her everything will be OK and we’ll get through it.

And then I squeeze her ass because…well, it’s a nice ass and I can’t help myself.

The point is, it’s easy to get depressed right now and feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But at the same time, it’s easy to lose sight of the great things in your life as well. I have a beautiful, healthy son who I love more than anything. I have a gorgeous woman as my wife who, for some reason I’ll never understand, is happy about spending the rest of her life with me. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and friends and family who would do anything for us.

So take a few moments today and do something fun. Treat yourself to a movie, give your significant other an unexpected compliment and otherwise give the finger to this recession going on. Or, if you’re like me, grab your wife and take her for a spin around the kitchen and refresh your memory of how much you love her and how special everything felt on your wedding day.

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We’ve Been Overtaken

All the signs were there, but I guess I just didn’t see it. Or maybe I was in denial. But after jumping in the shower this morning, there was no more denying it.

I turned on the water like I do every morning and didn’t notice anything different. That’s not surprising since many people are on autopilot in the a.m. and they do everything mechanically because they’re only half awake. Once the water got hot I climbed in and started to wash up. All of a sudden I felt strange and the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up straight. I felt eyes on me, but that was impossible. MJ was in the kitchen and there aren’t even any windows in our bathroom. Frantically I looked around, even up at the ceiling to find out where this freaky sensation was coming from.

And then, when I looked down, that’s when I saw it.

It’s a duck. In a fireman’s outfit. And for some reason it was on my shower faucet. I questioned MJ as to how this psychotic looking animal came to grace us with its presence. She told me it goes on the faucet to keep Will from hitting his head during bathtime. And that’s when I realized that our house is not our house anymore. Will has taken over.

Don’t believe me? Follow me on a brief photographic tour of our humble abode.

This one is kind of a given because it’s Will’s nursery, but still…look at all that stuff! We haven’t used that swing in months, that rocking chair is too rickety to even hold my fat ass and the rest is clothes. For such a little man, his wardrobe is outrageous! He has more outfits than MJ and I combined. And those clear totes are all MJ. She has this OCD thing with clear totes. All the clothes that she packs away have to be organized accordingingly and put in clear totes she knows exactly what they are when she puts them in the attic. I made fun of her at first but I find it’s best not to poke the bear.

This is our living room. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in our front door. Toys, toys and more toys. Buckets of toys. And I’m not even sure we bought all of them. I’m fairly confident these toys hump like rabbits during the night and multiply in spades by  morning. It seems like each time we put the toys back in the baskets, by morning they end up in the farthest reaching regions of the house.

That’s our living room leading into the kitchen. Notice the odd configuration of the Pack n Play? Yeah, that’s because our Pack n Play serves a dual purpose. Sure it holds Will in the morning while we do errands, but it’s also a blockade. We have to stick that thing between the couch and the entertainment center to block our little explorer from getting to the kitchen and the dog bowls. That means I either need to move the Pack n Play every single time I need to get to the kitchen, or — more often than not — I have to hurdle the couch. And yes, I have fallen several times and pulled a hamstring in the process. But do I stop? Of course not.

And our tour ends in the dining room with Will’s high chair. As you can see, Will is not the only one who gets fed. When we put him in his high chair for meals, the dogs immediately bolt over and take up a post nearby. They wait for dropped food, or they wait for Will to just feed them himself.

As you can see, the kid is everywhere. And even if he’s not, his stuff is. I’ve learned that when you have children, your house is inevitably transformed into one continuous playground. At first you think that you’ll keep all his stuff in the nursery, only to discover that you actually don’t spend any time in the nursery. Which is a bitch because you’ve spent hours painting, putting up baseboard, putting in a chair rail and stenciling the entire top of the room with moons and stars. So the nursery becomes a storage center with one little path leading to the crib for bedtime.

Meanwhile, every other part of the house you thought was yours, is anything but. It’s his. Everything is his. Kids are like the aliens in the movie Independence Day. They take over your house and use it for their own purposes until there’s nothing of yours left. Except that movie lasted two hours and this invasion lasts at least 18 years.

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