Daddying

Well, what has been going on?

For one thing, I find myself answering the following question a lot, lately:

“What’s that, Daddy?”

“Daddy, what’s that?”

But a lot of other stuff has been going on, too. Like potty training. And getting used to Danielle being on sea duty, again.

And putting Sean back in bed—over and over and over again.

It’s this last part that I’m finding most difficult to deal with. By the end of the day, my Patience Meter is about at empty, so following the experts’ advice (don’t talk to him, don’t make eye contact, just take him back to bed) is hard to follow.

How can this be fun for Sean? He’s gotten out of bed nine times since I started writing this blog post. Ten. Seriously: what kind of satisfaction does he get from this little game? And when I eventually lose my temper? How is that incentive for him to continue?

Eleven.

It must be some perverse quirk (twelve) of the toddler psyche. Somehow, it’s a game (thirteen). A game he’s very good at, and I’m very bad at (fourteen).

(Fifteen.)

It must have some kind of point system (sixteen).

Make it out of my room: 1 pt.
Make it down the hall: 2 pts.
Make it (seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, 21, 22, 23) into Mum and Dad’s room: 5 pts.
Jump up on Mum and Dad’s bed: 10 pts.
Make it downstairs: 50 pts. (24)
Make Dad shout: a million pts. (25)
(26, 27, 28)
Cry and make Dad come back and tell me he’s sorry: win.
(29, 30, 31, 32)

I earn points on (33) a different scale: (34) Every time I successfully put (35) him back in bed without speaking or shouting or making eye contact, I score (36). The number of points I score increases as the game goes on because the difficulty of the one maneuver I have at my disposal also increases with time, according to some algorithm I don’t have the (37) mathematical wherewithal to (38) work out.

I win when he goes to sleep. That’s worth (39) infinite points.

Sean just scored 50 points by making it downstairs (40). I figure my (41) successful retrieval was worth (42) about (43) a hundred thousand points, based on my level of irritation, right now.

He’s now bringing different things out of his room (44) every time: his blanket, his giant stuffed duck, his water bottle, his blanket and his stuffed duck (45). In his mind, that must be worth something. Perhaps I should assign point values to the various (46) things he could bring with him with each successive escape….but, really, who’s keeping score? (47)

The incredible part is, after almost 50 returns to his bed, he has the balls to ask me if he can watch TV. Astonishing.

48, 49, 50, and…

I win.

UPDATE: 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57… (I’m still winning, though).

Filling in the Blank Spaces on the Map

oldnewport

Succubus

Last night I woke up at about 12:30, and I wasn’t wearing any pants. This is curious because I was wearing pants when I went to bed. After that, I did not sleep well. I just kept waking up.

And so this morning when the alarm spun up at ten past six, I actually got up. I heard the compact disc spindle motor whir to life well before any music played, giving me ample time to sit up and hit snooze before the opening notes of U2’s “Beautiful Day” or Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” or Tracy Chapman’s “Change” vibrated forth, which makes me wonder why we have an alarm clock that can play compact discs in the first place. I knew the coffee would be finished soon in the auto-drip, and I’d only been about a quarter asleep for the past hour anyway.

Father and Son

I have a lot on my mind. We’re winding down our time here in Newport, and I’ve been thinking about my career and what potential opportunities I’ll find after the move. So yesterday I took Sean to the bookstore to have a look at some magazines on parenting to see if I might find a new venue for my work there.

Alas, no.

The idea I’d had was for a sort of “Father and Son” monthly column about my adventures with Sean. Sure, it would be another parenting column, but it would also be a traveling column and maybe a cooking column. It could be a lot of things. It could be really interesting and fun.

But America’s big child-rearing magazines—Parents and Parenting—don’t seem to have the space for something like that. They are almost indistinguishable from each other at a quick glance, and like many magazines, they are full of numbered lists and bullet points and subheads. It’s the website-ification of printed matter (he writes on his website), the “we’ll think for you” school of writing.

I’m being glib. Those magazines are in the business of service journalism, and that’s what a lot of parents are looking for. (Help me raise my kid! Please!) It’s just that they’ve gone so far into the realm of service journalism that they’ve left no room for anything else.

The January Thaw

In an attempt to cheer myself up, I left the bookstore with Sean to do some exploring. There is a road—Reservoir Rd.—that I’ve been itching to hike for months. It all started when Danielle noticed it on the map while we were out for a drive. But we couldn’t find the actual road sign. What we presumed to be Reservoir Rd. proved to be nothing but a two-track that was unsuitable for the Raptor, all-wheel drive or not.

What made this road even more mysterious to me was a conversation I overheard while waiting in line for coffee. One man was telling another that he’d been managing a “gentleman’s farm behind St. George’s (School).” That had to be off Reservoir Rd.! I had to see it.

So finally I was going to take Sean on an exploratory hike. The January temp had soared above the freezing point, and the sun was shining. We drove as far as we could along the paved portion of Reservoir and parked. Then I put Sean on my shoulders and set off.

The two-track was muddy and gashed by truck tires. Lumps of unmelted snow and patches of grass were the only safe places to step. Sean held onto me by the hair as I walked past empty fields. I saw the campus of St. George’s to the East.

And that was all there was to see. The house was not magnificent, and there was no livestock. I don’t know what I’d expected to see on a “gentleman’s farm,” but it was more than empty fields and rusted tractor parts. Is it just an excuse to own a lot of land? Maybe the recession’s been hard on them, too.

Nevertheless, I felt good as I walked back up the track with Sean on my shoulders, my hair in his fists. Clouds were moving in and snowflakes were floating down and it was a good morning.

Filling in the Blank Spaces

When Danielle got home from work, I finally got around to telling her that I had woken up in the night pantsless. She swore she had nothing to do with it. Some mysteries are doomed to never be solved.

Starbucks Has a Qualified Success With VIA

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Starbucks inviting me to be part of a group of “Beta Tasters” for their VIA Ready Brew Instant Coffee. They sent us a bunch of VIA and asked if I’d blog about it online. (They also sent a very cool Flip Mino camera to shoot and post video; unfortunately, I have to send it back.)

So, now that I’ve tried Starbuck’s attempt at instant coffee a few times, I’m ready to offer some opinions. They sent me two vaieties: Italian roast and Colombian. Bad news first: The Italian roast tastes bitter and burnt. It is not good coffee.

Now the good news: the Colombian brew is actually quite good. Obviously, it’s a lighter roast, and I think that’s what helps preserve the coffee flavor and aroma. The Colombian has a nice richness to it, a fullness that’s almost milk-chocolate-y. I actually like it better than most varieties of drip-brewed Colombian coffee I’ve experienced.

Now, in general, I prefer a darker roast, which is maybe why I’m such a huge fan of Starbucks in my personal life. So I was dismayed by the Italian roast. But the Colombian is dark enough, I would think, for the average Starbucks customer’s palate.

Starbucks says this product is for the times when you can’t get to a coffee pot or a coffee shop: when you’re rushing to a meeting, or you’re on a plane, or you’re camping, perhaps. For me, someone who takes his coffee very seriously, this is a product I wouldn’t mind seeing in my hotel room, but, in most other cases, I think I’d be more likely to just use the GPS on my phone to hunt down the nearest Starbucks location.

Do I Have a Taste for the Mediocre?

Ever since I bought Silversun Pickups’ latest album, Swoon back in May, I have not been able to stop listening to it, along with their previous album, Carnavas. Swoon rekindled my interest in the latter, which I’d downloaded on a whim from iTunes. Together, the two albums have dominated my listening for two months.

But I’ve been a little unsettled by the reviews the band has received. They’re the sort of “this band is competent and easy on the ears…but…” reviews that music critics love to write about popular bands.

Every review compares them to the Smashing Pumpkins in a dismissive way I find really annoying. The Pumpkins are an obvious influence, but all bands have influences. All bands—all musicians—build on the music has come before.

I find both albums really easy to listen to. Over and over. There’s depth and dynamism here. There are layers. And maybe it’s because they’re bringing back a sound I’ve missed in alt rock (namely, a grungy, buzzy, guitar-driven sound), but I can’t stop loving this music. It has none of the too-precious, ironic and inaccessible pretentiousness of the favorites over at Pitchfork.

So maybe I have mediocre taste in music, or maybe I’m just drawn to stuff that strikes a chord (sorry) in my fond memories of growing up grunge.

Or maybe this is just fucking good music, and maybe the critics need to get over themselves.

Sarcastic Dad

Sean and I have been traveling this week and visiting Danielle, and the confines of a hotel room (actually a room in the bachelor officers’ quarters where Danielle is staying for her training this summer) have acted like a pressure cooker. I’m so much more aware of the bad habits he and I are developing.

Now that he can walk, Sean is becoming a lot more assertive and demanding. He doesn’t want to be held (except when he does); he doesn’t want to just sit in the stroller (unless he’s tired of walking); basically, he wants what he wants when he wants it. As he’s gotten stronger, this has gotten a lot more annoying. When I’m trying to make breakfast or wash the dishes or work on the computer, Seanzilla frequently walks up and pushes his way in front of me and grabs at me until I pick him up. To add to the urgency, he usually screams at me while he does this.

Danielle has helped me realize that if I constantly give in to his demands, we’re going to have a tyrant on our hands. So the travel crib has become a playpen. I can deal with the crying. I can’t deal with Pushy Mr. Grabby Hands.

I’ve also developed a couple bad habits of my own. I’ve categorized these into types of parents.

Smartphone Dad
Since I purchased a Palm Pre, I’ve become that guy: the guy who stops the grocery cart in the middle of the store to read an e-mail or takes a breather during a walk to look up the name of that one actor in that one movie. I used to be so judgmental of people who talked on their phones while pushing the stroller, and now I’ve become that kind of parent. I need to make rules for myself about when to use this thing, or it’ll take over my life.

Let’s see… No phone while driving, no phone at the dinner table, no ignoring my child in favor of shiny new phone, no playing with phone as means of ignoring world around me.

That’s a good start.

Sarcastic Dad
When Sean does something that would only make sense for a toddler to do—say, for example, when he dumps his bowl of Cheerios all over the back seat—I find myself responding with irony. “Oh,” I say. “That’s great!” What is it that drives us to employ sarcasm with our children? They don’t understand it, so it’s purely for our benefit. It’s a way of blowing off steam without directly confronting the problem.

“Oh, that’s just super, Anakin. I was hoping you would use the force to pull the arms off all the droids. Now I get to put them all back on!”

But at what age do kids start understanding that you’re not being literal, and that there’s something a little darker in your tone? And at what age does it become necessary to really confront these little misbehavings directly?

I’m guessing the age to start addressing them directly is about eighteen months, because that’s about how old Sean is, and if I don’t deal with his Seananigans now, I’ll be in big trouble.

“Twilight,” a Guest Review

My sister sent me the following e-mail review of Twilight, the phenomenally popular first novel in the series by Stephenie Meyer:

Twilight is a book about what to say to your girlfriend when you want to feel powerful. Presuming she’s already weak, you’ll have the upper hand even more than you already did in just a few simple steps.

That’s right, I read it, and it’s a book about how girls are clumsy, stupid, irrational, emotional, witless, and cannot be explained. Even silly by vampire standards. I had a hard time reading the beginning, but I plugged along for the sake of pop culture – and then came the L word. That’s right – he’s about 100 years-old technically, trapped inside the most beautiful teenage body ever, and she truly IS a teenager. And they fall in LOVE. Sweet, pathetic, dry-humping love. Oh God forgive me for wasting the time I wasted on this book. Forgive all the teenage girls who are swooning over their boyfriends who push them around “for love” and “safety.”

Best Buy – Updated

Sean and I went to Best Buy today to take a look at voice recorders, and I was shocked to find that (a) their prices are competitive with Amazon.com and (b) that their music selection is laughably skimpy and has been relegated to the back of the store.

I guess the fact that I’m just now noticing this says something about how my music purchasing habits have changed. I used to pop into a Best Buy almost weekly to grab a new CD. Now I don’t even bother shopping there because my taste has become too eclectic. So I either order discs from Amazon or I download music from iTunes.

So I’m by no means a typical music consumer, i.e. the sort that retail chains make money off of. I used to be, but I grew out of it. So what has changed about the core consumer, the impulse buyer? Is he disappearing? Is he on peer-to-peer sites? Or is it all iTunes?

I seriously doubt Best Buy, Borders, WalMart, and etc. would decrease their inventories and move them to the back of the store if they were making much money on CD sales.

How long will it be before the same thing happens with movies?

Update – So, Best Buy’s prices weren’t as competitive with Amazon’s as I thought: Best Buy is about 50% higher. I wrote down the price for the wrong model. Of course, by the time I went back to buy my Olympus D40 voice recorder, having it shipped from Amazon was no longer an option.

My Driveway Is a Litter Box

The other day, Danielle noticed I had stepped in animal feces because it was smeared on my left shoe’s upper. Thankfully, my shoes were outside and not on my feet when she noticed this.

We naturally assumed that this was canine fecal matter. I wondered where I could possibly have stepped in it, as I had just come home from picking up the pizza, in the car.

The car! So, I retrieved the all-weather floor mat—which was in fact contaminated—from the Raptor to wash it off, and, in doing so, noticed a peculiar thing in the gravel just where I would step down from the driver’s seat:

Shit.

And not only shit, but shit and a hairball, which means the shit was feline, not canine. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that some neighborhood cat (or cats) had been paying regular visits to our little driveway, because I collected quite a few, um, samples.

Today, arriving home in the rain, it happened again. Same shoe. Same spot. Right beside the car. It almost feels intentional, at this point.