Scarred not Scared

How To Be A Midlife Dad Without Going Postal: A Manual

Monday, January 30, 2006

Family Guy's Peanutbutter Jelly Time

So, Megan and I love watching Adult Swim, and a few weeks ago, we saw a new episode in which Brian the Dog does The Dance. We thought it was hysterical and forgot about it. Now, please understand that I'm one of the those geeks who jumps to the keyboard when a reference or conversation or idea surfaces on my brow--dunh, duh duh duhn duh duuuuuuh--Super Googler. I love the culture of answers at my fingertips when ever I like. Well, I sure missed this one, cuz I just discovered that the Peanutbutter Jelly Time dance is OLD, in internet years. Like, ANCIENT! Here's the link: to what appears to be the original. For Seth McFarlane to have worked it into a Family Guy episode means it has to be at least 18 months old. Not because they are that behind the curve, but rather because it most likely had already come and gone from the pass-it-around-to-everyone-you-know moment in internet time. Can't believe I missed it, but then I also (thankfully!) missed the Hamster Dance.

Flickr Ticklr, Lifehacker & Junk Drawers

See that THING to your right? That's a link to my Flickr page, with photos I've taken. Not many so far, but Flickr rocks. You know, for someone who most people think is a complete geek, I know very little about a lot. Like how to update my Flickr page with pics from my Razr. So, I am going to tackle that little challenge in the next couple of days. On other fronts, I just got invited to post on a newish blogish site called Lifehacker. It has multiple daily updates with posts and links of things that can help us all find more happy, peace or harmony, while saving the world from E-vil. Actually, I've considered myself a hacker since I was about 8, but I didn't discover that the label fit until about 5 years ago. See, in my family there has always been a junk drawer, ususally in the kitchen. Overcrowded with unidentifiable goodies, it has always been my Rosetta Stone when faced with something that won't work the way I want it to. I'm not talking about soldering iron-grade fixes, but more along the lines of "Crap, if I only had a little L-shaped piece of plastic with a round eye at the end…Ah!! I'll check the junk drawer." It's a mentality of goosing the world to get the results you want or need. Doesn't always work, but for me, this approach sustains a sense of wonder and inquiry that has kept me younger in appearance and attitude than my 44.5 years might otherwise support. Well, that and having a life partner who is nearly half my age, two terrific boys who inspire me to stay young and a professional life that freaks out my parents and is the envy of cubicle dwellers here in the midwest. Yeah, I'm getting ready to make my second pot of coffee this morning, big whoop--wanna fight about it?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Creesto's Parenting Secret #1-Calming-A-Kid

One of things that surprises me again and again is twofold: how so many of us parents are on our own figuring out how to raise our kids, and how little trading goes on of helpful information. So this is my first posting of something I discovered and have since shared with many other parents. This has successfully been used by us, and also by every parent I have ever let in on it for the past 5 years.

How to calm a hysterical kid:
Every parent, sooner or later, finds their child screaming so hard that they turn purple and start huffing <>, screaming and crying so hard that they cannot calm down. I think most of us experience this while the kids are infants or very young, say under 5 but it should work with even older kids.

If your child gets into a major upset and seems unconsolable, PICK THEM UP AND TAKE THEM OUTSIDE. It seems to me that most of the fits occur later in the day or towards bedtime, so it is usually darker and cooler outside at that time. Somehow the cool night, the change in ambient sound, the fresh air all seem to help distract the child into returning to calm. My theory is that it helps cool their little heads down (ever notice how all the blood rushes into their faces when they scream?). The only time this seems to NOT work is when they are in severe pain (teething anyone?) or starving. I have had half a dozen different parents thank me long after sharing this tip with them.

It's also a good trick to tell your babysitter if your little ones suffer from separation anxiety. Good luck.

Dueling Households-PARTY TIME!

My youngest son just celebrated his 6th birthday, and in the same fashion we have done during major holidays & birthdays for the past 3+ years, he had two parties: one at our house and one at his mom's house. For the first time since moving into our current school district (this is the middle of our second school year here), he had the same friends over at each party. His mom did the typical 'Disneyland' parent thing by taking them all to a Galaxy Cheese Mountain place to play arcade games. Beats the heck out of sitting down with excited 6 year olds and actually partying with them, huh? Hell, I'm surprised that these chains haven't figured out the concept of building a bar/adult restaurant that overlooks the games and Ball Play area so that the parents can be themselves instead of pretending that they LIKE to sit on crappy benches while their young ones scream from across the room" Mommy, Daddy LOOK AT ME!!" These D-land parents could also avoid the always embarrassing scene of their young ones determinedly tugging on their hands "COME PLAY WITH ME!!" while trying to drag them into the Human Habitrail. Ever notice all the parents staring intently into their cell phones these days when they are out with their kids, trying to look as if their have VERY IMPORANT THINGS TO DO, when they are actually playing tetris, making shopping lists or reviewing some upskirt shots they took at the mall last week.

Actually, I adore the parties we have for the boys at our house. My fiance and I always get invovled, making good food, baking cakes, decorating and trying to figure out some games to play. I think we've used the same Star Wars plastic printed table cloth for 3 birthdays now [time to retire it? Ehn, we'll see… 8¬\ ] This year's 6th Year Olds party was great: we made invitations that I hand delivered to the homes of our would-be guests. The theme this year was "Sponge Wars"--Megan made a terrific image that had Yoda next to a six-armed Sponge Bob who held a light saber in each hand (hence the suitability of the tablecloth--um, er…sorry: 'tableplastic.') We made goody bags with fruit gummies and gum in them (no toys this time) and Megan made a punch of Sprite and rainbow sherbet (tastes better than it sounds or looks). The little individual cakes were Sponge Bobs!! The little faces she made with that gel icing were very well done, hysterical and the kids all loved them.

The kids had such fun, happily screaming and laughing, jumping up and down; it was a blast. And cost us very little money. And we got to know these kids pretty well. Many of the other families in our district have more than 2 kids, so none of the parents took us up on our invitation to stay and hang out--most of them used the opportunity to chill, take another of their kids to another function or who knows [maybe get a lil' PM some, some? LOL Doubt it!] The only small blight on the weekend's events was an unanticipated one: several kids brought my son presents to BOTH parties. Crap, I didn't mean for that to happen. In our house we don't place a major emphasis on the cost or number of gifts, usually setting a preferred gift givign limit of $10. Our kids have always seemed happy with what they get no matter the simplicity or cheapness. As a matter of fact, Megan and I often joke that when our boys express interest in something prohibitively expensive [READ: ipod Nano, Xbox 360, etc.], we can always depend on my Ex's side of the 'family' to go over the top on spending. So next time I will let the guest kids' parents know that double gifts are NOT necessary. It almost seemed as if the ones that did that were a little sheepish about the whole "Two Households/Kids of Divorced Parents" phenomenon.

Our situation is kinda unique I guess: the true shared parenting arrangement of Dad's house Sun-Wed and Mom's house Wed-Sun every week seems to really work for the kids, with almost no apparent disruption or relocation stress. We never experience them wanting to stay with her when it's time to come to our house, except for a couple of times when my youngest son would get a bit clingy with his mom, usually a result of being overly tired [she does not enforce early bedtimes] or not wanting to leave a video game (she lets them play unattended for hours and hours). Once in a while they will, however, express regret about having to leave our house to return to hers, but we do NOT encourage that. Secretly, we delight in it!!However, we realize it is a funtion of our house having routines, early bedtimes, lots of adult involvement and home cooked meals, versus the free-from nature of days at Mom's House. Jesus! I think we're becoming a 1950s household! Well, as Fifties as we can be considering I gave my 9 year old son a cheap MP3 player and loaded with Greenday, The Killers, Cake, The Ramones, Jet and assorted other goodies. Ward Cleaver indeed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Welcome to the story of a midlife divorced dad, his fiancée and their two boys Ick and Cee (their names have been changed to protect them from monstrous embarrassment). I decided I just had to do this publicly because I have so few resources to pull from as I struggle to be a good dad, partner and human, and I figure there HAVE to be many others. Background: been split from my first wife since 2002, legally divorced about 15 months. We share weekly parenting with our two boys, Ick (9) and Cee (6). This means that I have them at my/our house from Sunday AM through Wednesday AM, and they're with her the rest of the week. Until two weeks ago, I worked in theatre so this schedule left me free to be onstage Wed. through Sat. night without paying for a sitter. Peanut (not her real name), my fiancée of two weeks, and I have lived together since the first year of my separation, so the boys have only known me to be with P since their mom sent me packing. And thank Shiva for that! With P, I finally know what a real 'partnership' is about. So this humble blog is about trying to be a great dad and partner to my P (P to the P, yo). I don't personally know any other dads in my position but there must be thousands out there. When I first began talking to a lawyer about the divorce, my first priority was my boys: house, money and torpedoes be damned. Naturally, the judge agreed so I go the weekly shared parenting that was my first priority, and out of my 7 year marriage I only got my own stuff, a $9k legal bill and exactly ZERO of the shared assets. But that's OK; her bill was almost $50k. So Here I Am, engaged to be remarried to an incredible woman 20 years my junior, both of us parenting the boys half of every week. This is our story so far and its going really well. P and I are deeply connected and vitally in love, and we have created a loving home to raise the healthiest boys we can manage. Our biggest challenge is spending a good bit of every Sunday afternoon overcoming the 'unique' parenting style of the other half of the week. Stay tuned.