Friday, June 30, 2006

Denver Dads Of The World Unite And Take Over

It turns out I am not the only Denver Dad. Fear us, for we are legion, the Denver Dads of the world, spreading our wraith and oddities like beads at a Mardi Gras parade. Yeah, that's right, show us your URLs baby!

I finally succumb to the ego-maniacal step of "googling your funky self." I did it twice, once looking for "denver dad" and another time looking for "denverdad," because I was curious if my blog would pop up. It didn't, but I learned a few things about the army of clones out there all using the code-name "Denver Dad."

1. There is a Denver Dad out there that knows a lot about scanners. And, when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. If I ever have any problems with my scanner, I'm going to that guy. Seriously. He's pretty dang smart.

2. There is a Denver Dad looking for love and has several profiles up on a number of dating sites. The love he seems to be looking for runs the gambit from "a little lovin' before lunch, please, I'm kind of bored" to "someone to spend my life with" and I wish that particular Denver Dad luck in finding happiness.

3. There is a Denver Dad who was apparently a guest on the Dr. Phil show and has a complicated relationship with his wife, who in turn has an even more complicated relationship with their children, and I wish that guy a lot of luck too. It sounds like he needs it.

4. There is also a Denver Dad that is a stay-at-home dad and has organized a playgroup, a mailing list, and an extensive "Dad's night out" calendar. Whew! I wish I had his energy. He might also be the Denver Dad who has triplets, in which case his energy seems more the result of chemicals or alien technology, than simple drive and ambition.

5. Oh, and there is a Denver Dad that apparently has a brother-in-law who has left "racist" behind a long time ago and has entered into that overtly creepy stage that is so ick that it doesn't even have a name yet. In Latin it would be something like Racistius Maximius. In English it's just ass, I believe, but my dictionary doesn't really back that up. That Denver Dad? I wish him the most luck.

6. Lastly, there is a Denver Dad that writes a lot of restaurant reviews. I'd kind of like to know that guy, because I like to eat. I would say I like to eat as much as the next guy, but that next guy is an amateur. I really like to eat. Even then, I think this particular Denver Dad could teach me a thing or two.

That really isn't "lastly," there are more, but those were the first ones that came up in my search. Oh, and I did show up, but it was mostly my comments on other people's blogs. You know... the cool ones. I'm looking at you, Melissa!

The part that I find weird is that any of these Denver Dads might be one or more of the other Denver Dads, but I'm just me. For example, the Denver Dad that knows his way around a scanner could be the same Denver Dad that eats out and also dates a lot. If that were true, he'd pretty much be a superhero. Me? I'm just the Denver Dad that posts here and offers the occasional dim-witted comment on a variety of other mommy and daddy blogs. What about the Denver Dad with the racist brother and frequent appearances on Dr. Phil? That's not me either. I just post here, and given the alternative, I suppose I'm pretty glad that's the case.

It's not the first time I've been surprised by the multi-identity issue. In the real world, where I work, vote, and try to recycle, I have a fairly distinctive name and I just assumed I would be taken for me. But, it turns out there is another me, a doctor who orders magazine subscriptions and never pays for them, running around our fair city, inviting patients to call him at (my) home if they have any questions about their upcoming procedures.

I wonder if the other me has a goatee, like the evil Spock in that Star Trek episode. Or, maybe I'm the one that's supposed to have the goatee and evil plans for the Enterprise. Like I said, it's pretty confusing.

Final Score: Real Life 4, Blogging 0

Contrary to how it may seem, Chunk and I, along with the ever wonderful Denver Mom, are still very much alive. I've just been swamped with work and a cranky child and haven't been able to find much time to get a post up. I did, however, write a guest post up over on And Then There Was Pickle. If you're desperate for a little Denver Dad, you can check out my post about the grooviness of the internet and the parent blogging community, and then you can get yourself looked at by a professional. Desperate for a little Denver Dad? There's something wrong with you.

I hope to be back soon!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Better Dadding: Buy a Crockpot

I'm starting a new weekly series that I'm going to call, "Better Dadding," in which I'm going to share some of my own wisdom about tricks and tactics for how you can be a better dad. I was originally going to call the series, "Hair-Better-Than-Mediocre Dadding," but it didn't seem to have quite the same punch. If I can, I'll make this a weekly Friday thing.

My first topic? The magical benefits of the humble crockpot, sometimes known as a "slow cooker."

Here's what makes a crockpot so great: you fill it with stuff and hours later that stuff has become something tasty. And, if it somehow isn't tasty (rarely the case), it's at least cooked enough that the food inside of it won't give you botulism. I know! We do live in an age of wonder!

But, how does that make you a better dad? I'm glad you asked.

No matter how involved you are as a father, your child's mother is always more involved. It was a hard lesson for me to learn. As much as I wanted to split parenting with Denver Mom, right down the middle, there were just some things I couldn't do.

For example, take breast feeding. Setting aside the obvious reasons why I couldn't take over that task, our plans for me getting up in the middle of the night to feed Chunk with a bottle didn't really work out. Sure, I was getting up at 2:00 a.m. to feed our son, but Denver Mom was still getting up at the same time to pump, since she was getting uncomfortable. So, why should we both get out of bed when she could just feed our son and be done with it? It didn't make sense, so she quickly became the "nighttime feeding" go-to person, while I became the "Man, I slept GREAT!" go-to person.

See what happened there? We talked about a problem and together we came up with a solution. And, at the same time, we created an imbalance. So, to take up some of the slack, I started being the one to get Chunk up in the mornings, letting Denver Mom sleep in. I started doing a lot of little things to make things easier for Denver Mom, because she was doing so much to care for our son. The best thing I could do as a dad was to make things easier for her as a mom.

So, how exactly does the crockpot fit into all of this? It's easy to use and there are very few things quite as convenient that don't involve tipping the delivery guy. You get supper ready in the morning and then in the afternoon, when you don't feel like cooking and the baby is crying, dinner is still ready to go. The only preparation needed at that point is getting down plates to serve it on.

You can modify this tip, of course. Right now we're using the grill in place of the crockpot, because summer isn't really the best season for stews, but the concepts are basically the same. Sometimes being a good dad isn't about being the star player on the team. Sometimes it’s about just making the assist, so mom can "take it downtown and score."

Umm, okay, that sounds a little weird. Now you know why I don't use many sports metaphors.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Clean Up In Aisle Five...

So, I'm wandering the aisles at Safeway with Chunk in tow, looking in vain for the soy sauce, when one of the Safeway guys waddles up to me, pushing a utility cart that's carrying soda bottles and rapidly melting ice cream.

"Want to buy a root beer float?" he asks. "The proceeds go towards Prostate Cancer."

So, suddenly Prostate Cancer is hard up and needs the cash? Okay, okay, I understood what he meant.

"No, thanks," I answer. "We're getting ready for dinner, but thanks!"

I aim my cart down the aisle and get ready to shove off, but he's persistent and steps in front of me. He shoves a flyer into my hand.

"We're having a free screening for men your age," he continues. "Next Friday. It's a great deal, because getting tested can be kind of expensive."

Cancer is unfortunately fairly common in my family, so I appreciate the gesture. I can think of plenty of places I'd rather have my prostate checked than my local grocery store. It makes for some terrifying PA system announcements, for one, and frankly I'm not sure the teenager that bags my groceries is qualified for that kind of work, but as I said, I really do appreciate any company stepping forward with cancer awareness programs. So, to be nice, I look over the glossy flyer he has given me and pretend that I'd actually consider getting an exam in the same place I buy cheese. You know what it says?

"Prostate exams are recommended for men over the age of 50...."

Yeah, fifty. A free screening for men my age, huh? Men who, like me, are over the age of fifty years old. Is that it?

Look, grocery store guy, I know I'm getting gray. As a matter of fact, I'm even aware of the fact that I'm getting rapidly gray, enough that my wife tells me, "Geez, you're REALLY getting gray" at least once per week. I know all of that and I'm not even denying that I have left my twenties behind quite a while ago, but fifty is still fifteen years away, pal. Fifteen years. So, next time you come at me with melted ice cream and offers for getting a finger stuck up my rear in the ethnic food aisle, at least call me "sir" and stand up straight. You whippersnappers don't know how good you have it, daggumit!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Reminder Of The Good Things

You know those friends who only seem to call when their cat has died? Or, their car has broken down? Or, they're getting divorced, moving to Idaho, and starting a militia group? I think I might be becoming that friend.

Every once in a while, I go back and read what I have written here. Taken one post at a time, my blog is okay, I guess. It's like a lot of other blogs, only less interesting or witty. This morning, I read five of my most recent posts in a row, and... great Cesear's ghost! I am I one depressing guy. I seem to do way too much complaining about being Denver Dad and don't do nearly enough talking about the job's many perks.

So, in an effort to even the scales a bit, here are some things that make being Chunk's dad truly great:

1. I love music. Whether by choice or brainwashing, so does my son. There is nothing better, and I mean NOTHING better, than watching him dance. I'm serious. It would put a smile on anyone's face. He didn't get his moves from me. I don't know where he got them from, but that kid can shake it, and he has been shaking it since he was a baby.

2. What could feel better than walking with your son, his tiny hand wrapped around your finger, as you stroll through wherever you happen to find yourself? That question was rhetorical. I have an answer and it is "Nothing."

3. There is a strange sense of calm that comes from driving around town and having a sleeping eighteen month old in the back seat. The easy punch line is, "Well, yeah, he's sleeping!" but there's something more to it than that. I wish I could explain it, but when he's taking a short nap while we're out, I feel like I'm doing something profoundly right, even if it does mess up his nap schedule.

4. My son wakes up ridiculously early. So do I. When I can convince him to let Denver Mom sleep and we play quietly as the sun slowly comes up and through the windows... it's great.

5. His excitement is contagious. His excitement about seeing a dog, getting a cup of juice, touching snow, or any number of other things instantly melts my inner cynic. It's a gift that I think only children can give.

6. Chunk cackles when he swings. He doesn't laugh, chuckle or even guffaw. He cackles. It's hilarious.

7. Chunk kisses what he loves. His parents. His teddy bear. On more than one occasion, he's run up to the television and laid a big smack on the screen when the Teletubbies have been on. There's a lesson to be learned in that. We should kiss what we love. Although, I don't know if making out with your iPod in public is such a good idea.

Is that it? No. There is plenty more, but this post is already giving me cavities. I'll stop here... for now.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Father's Day

I'm not sure if anyone out on the internet heard about it, but apparently there is a holiday this weekend called Father's Day. I know, I know, I thought it was just an internet hoax too, but it really exists. There are greeting cards and everything!

Now, being one of a million Daddy-bloggers, I suppose I have a duty to say something profound. I should speak about the traditions of fatherhood, the power of the bond between a dad and his child, or what is the appropriate age for a father to teach his child how to burp the alphabet or how to make farting noises with his armpit. You know, the important stuff. But, instead of touching on those sentimental things, those lists of items you can find on the greeting cards, I thought I'd propose a question, instead.

So, for the father's out there, preparing for their big day of indulgence... do you deserve it? Do you deserve a day celebrating your contributions to your child's life?

If you had asked me that question last year, I'm not sure what my answer would have been. I was probably still too shell-shocked about actually being a father to really come up with anything coherent. I can say that this year, unlike last year, I know I deserve my day. I know that when the going got tough, I didn't always just hand Chunk off to his mom. I know that even when I was tired and cranky and overwhelmed, I still hugged that kid, told him him I loved him, and meant it every time. And, yes, I know that I took the time to be a part of the fun moments too.

I spent a lot of time with my grandpa when I was a kid, especially during the summers. We did a lot of fishing. We took hikes through the local nature preserves. We went to countless hardware stores so my grandpa could tell the various managers we cornered how to run their business better. Years later, after my grandma died and I was staying with him, my grandpa told me that he felt like I gave him a second chance at being a dad. He confessed that he missed so much of my dad's childhood dealing with his own problems with alcohol addiction, he was glad to get another chance by being a father to me.

Although my dad didn't have those same issues with alcohol, in a lot of ways he was the same way. As a father, he was distant, uninvolved, detached. And now, as a grandfather, he's everything I thought I wanted in a dad. Chunk, just like his two older cousins, is my dad's second chance and he makes an outstanding grandpa.

Fatherhood, it seems, skips a generation in my family.

I'm not a perfect dad. Frankly, I don't think such a thing as a perfect dad even exists. I know that I have my days when I do detach, escape to the internet and just let Denver Mom handle Chunk's tantrums while I click through whatever pages give me a break. I'm trying to get better. I'm trying to break that cycle of absentee fatherhood that my family has "enjoyed" and be present for my son, let him drag me away from what I'm doing to play, to read, to wrestle and run and swing and giggle.

Is that enough to deserve a special day? Maybe it is. Maybe the best we can do as fathers is try. Maybe the most important lessons we can take from our own childhoods is to see the disappointments we had in the men we looked up to and try to do better. Not all father-son relationships are like the one I shared with my dad, of course, but every child has been disappointed, at one time or another, when they didn't get the hug they needed or the time that they expected. Like I said, there's no such thing as a perfect dad, except in 50s television.

I love my dad. I know that he loves me. It took a lot of years of frustration and strife for us to finally figure that out and I'm glad we got the chance to find a kind of peace and understanding between us. Maybe I'm naive, but I think that with some work, I can keep that from happening between me and my son.

So, do you think you deserve a special day? If not, why not make Father's Day the day where all of that changes?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Ah France, my arch-nemesis...

This isn't one of those oh-so-clever posts about French bravery or "freedom fries," oh-so-side-splittingly-funny in the red states and on talk radio. Given the situation in Iraq, it's really not very funny anymore anyway. No, this post is about what France is doing to me personally. Yeah, that's right, France... I hear you calling me out! What's that, France? What's that? You want me to bring it? Is that it? You think you can handle a little of the double deuce action of Denver Dad? Is that it? Huh? Huh? Is it?

Well... okay... the truth is, I got nothin'. Nothin' but bitterness and resentment for France.

Why all the hostility? Well, simply put, France is stealing my wife for two weeks. In just a month, Denver Mom will be flying off to France for a two week painting retreat. I should include some back-story here:

1. Denver Mom paints. She has for as long as I have known her, plus many more years. She's pretty good. I know you're thinking that's just me being biased, but she's won some awards and gotten into some fairly prestigious juried shows.

2. Denver Mom hasn't done a lot of painting since Chunk showed up, despite my pushing and prodding for her to escape off to the studio, while the little guy and I find things to do on our own.

3. One of her former professors called a few months ago and invited her to join some of her current students on this two week trip. They're going to spend one week in Paris, then another in Giverny (hanging out in Monet's gardens).

4. This trip is expensive. Very expensive. Like 72 boxes of diapers expensive, plus miscellaneous expenses.

5. Chunk and I are staying in Denver, because dangit, someone needs to water the plants!

Now, I want to be clear. I'm not looking forward to Denver Mom leaving Chunk and I all alone. But, I want to be equally clear that she both deserves and needs this trip. In the past few weeks, just getting ready, she's done more painting than she has in the past few years. Most of it has been watercolor sketches, which is what she'll be limited to while in France, but she's putting paint down on paper. This will be the trip of a lifetime for her and I'm glad she decided to go.

On the other hand, she'll be missed. She's Chunk's main attraction. The first person he wants to see in the morning is Momma. And the last person who gets to cuddle with him before he goes to sleep is, once again, Momma. I feel like I do my fair share around the house and I feel like I do my fair share when it comes to parenting, but at the same time I'd be lying if I said that Denver Mom wasn't doing the majority of the "heavy lifting" with our son.

Can I handle it? Of course I can. In some ways, I'm even looking forward to it, but it’s also a little intimidating. Chunk is a great kid, but we have our moments when we're both getting on each other’s nerves. Its always nice to have someone else that can step in and provide a much needed break. That opportunity for a break will be gone, so I expect a lot of frustrated tears.

What are Chunk and I going to do with our time? Well, probably a lot of what we do already. I'm going to take a little time off work and so Chunk and I will probably be spending some more time at the pool and nearby parks. I'm thinking we'll also take our first camping trip together. Any other suggestions? Leave me a comment and tell me what two strapping guys should do during their two weeks of bachelorhood.

(Picture inspired by the comic book image on Metro Dad's page.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Diplomatic Talks Have Broken Down

We have a new game. It seems simple enough, but by this time, it's starting to resemble international diplomacy talks with North Korea.

Chunk is in his highchair, a tray of food and drink before him, and I know we're in for it when grabs something without looking at it and keeps his eyes trained on me. Then, slowly, he stretches his arm over to the edge of the tray.

"Don't do it," I remind him.

He smiles. It's not a usual smile, full of cheer and happiness. No, this smile is a knowing, "Oh? You mean THIS piece of banana? Don't throw this piece of banana here? The one in my hand?" kind of look.

"Chunk, we do not throw food on the floor," I remind him again.

He withdraws the banana, then when I turn back to my own food, slowly inches it back toward the edge of the tray. He kind of dangles it over the edge, like he's just trying it out, testing the winds to make sure the banana will hit its intended target.

"Chunk! Do not throw food!" I scold.

His smile gets bigger and then the banana is airborne.

He claps, then makes his "ohhh!" face, and says, "Uh oh!"

"No, Chunk, you can't say "uh oh" when you do something on purpose," I tell him, bending over to pick up the banana. When I have retrieved the piece of fruit, I see that he has another in his hand.

Then, it all begins again, only this time he's already proven he has his nukes and isn't afraid to use them... and all of my troops are hung up in bathroom dealing with a post-shower mess and can't do anything about it.

He's eighteen months old today (and three hours) and like everything else in his eventful and exciting toddler life, such as teething, walking, swearing at neighbors, and so on, I think he's started the terrible twos early. The part that makes it difficult, aside from the temper tantrums, the throwing of toys, and the constant lectures of "no" from him is that I'm way to indulgent and he knows it. He knows that he can get away with anything if he just toddles over and gives me a hug.

So, yeah, it *is* just like diplomatic talks with North Korea. Who said kids can't teach us anything?

As If We Needed Proof That Chunk's Dad Was a Huge Nerd...

The Force is strong with this one!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

We're Being Haunted

I had a very strained relationship with my biological mother. We tried to reconcile many times during my 34 years of bitterness, with either her or me making an effort, but never both of us at the same time. It never really worked. She died last summer.

Last July, just a couple of months before she finally lost her battle with cancer, she came out to visit and to meet her grandson for the first (and last) time. Predictably, it wasn't a very enjoyable trip due to the imminent, looming threat of death, and the years of things that probably should be said, but neither of us were strong enough to actually say.

One of the conversations we had during her visit was when she told me, tears filling her eyes, that if Chunk ever tells us that he sees her, we shouldn't scold him for making things up.

"Children can see spirits," she said, "and I'm going to check in on you guys."

(or something like that... it's not a direct quote, but pretty close)

What could I do? It was an awkward week and one of our weirder conversations, so I just nodded and mentioned that Denver Mom and I saw a Dateline that was about how some children claim to see spirits, its eventually confirmed by psychics, sometimes the children are downed World War II airmen, etc. etc. I played along, despite rolling my eyes around inside my massive, empty head.

Fast-forward a year and damnit if she's not haunting us.

No, really. I mean it. I think she's haunting us.

Do I have proof? Does anyone ever have proof they're being haunted? It's like having proof you've gone on a date with the missing link. A credit card receipt isn't very compelling, but this is what I have:

Chunk has a vast and annoying collection of toys that sing and play music and make a variety of obnoxious noises, despite all of the solomn conversations Denver Mom and I had while she was pregnant about how we weren't going to do that. These's toys occasionally just turn on, for no reason, in his room. Usually, they are the toys that my bio mom got him.

Now, I'm not an electrical engineer or anything, but I do have a decent understanding of how devices work... you have to turn them on and activate them, before they'll work. I know, I know, my technological intelligence is a marvel, but I'm not kidding about this. Periodically, Chunk and I are playing in the living room and from his bedroom comes, "Pooh and Roo! Let's play! Follow the lights!"

Huh? Who did that?


"Heheheh... that was silly!"

It's starting to freak me out. Nothing else in our place does behaves like that, and believe me, I have tons of gadgets just waiting to go off for no discernable reason. Some of them even make noise, and yet, they don't.

So, is my biological mother making good on her threat? Is she haunting us? Frankly, I don't think that's fair. You can't just DECIDE to haunt someone and tell them about it. You know, like, "Hey, did you watch Will and Grace last night? That episode was HIGH-larious! Oh... and when I finally go, I'm coming to your house."


I guess, to a certain extent, it doesn't bother me that she's hanging out in Chunk's room. But, what if I'm sitting on the toilet? Or picking my nose? Or, worse, SINGING to my son? I don't want people, spirit or otherwise, to have to see that. How do you differientiate between "okay to haunt" and "you should go play bridge with Casper now" time?

(That's a picture of Chunk with Julie during her visit. She was pretty sick and I was worried that would frighten him, but he did just fine.)