Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn Afternoon

Thanks to newlyweds Tom and Wendy Watson for inviting us to Mt. Pleasant Winery this past weekend (and for fulfilling Clara's lifelong dream of riding in a Mini Cooper.) We had a great time. Clara and Kate enjoyed throwing the leaves, rolling down the big hill, and dancing with lots grown-ups who were beaming at them the whole time.

Is it just me, or do those seats look like roller coaster seats?

Tom and Kate relaxing on the blanket

Happy girl

Throwing leaves

Two sisters enjoying the view

Two sisters enjoying each other

Monday, October 12, 2009

Long Weekend with Daddy

Megan was out of town for several days last week, so the girls and I got to have a long weekend together. I stocked up with new art supplies for them and Netflix'd some nerdy movies for me. It could have been a tough weekend, but they decided to be little angels. On Saturday morning, Clara and Kate got up, dressed themselves in their princess costumes, and perched themselves with some books and good light. I snuck up on them and took this picture with my cell phone:

It has become one of my favorite pictures of the two. There's so much to love about it. Hard to believe it's from a cell phone.

Later in the afternoon, after I put Cecilia, who is teaching herself to walk, down for a nap, I gave Clara and Kate a new art project so I could go in the office and see if last year's Star Wars: Clone Wars animated movie was any good. Not far into it, Kate came around the corner to see what I was doing. I didn't expect her to like it. It had too much talking, too much military for Kate's taste - or so I thought. Her eyes widened the more she watched, and she looked up at me and said, "I love this movie!" Soon Clara joined us and echoed her sentiment. Since the movie was made for kids and featured a strong female character I decided to let them watch it. They especially liked Yoda and Stinky, the baby of Jabba the Hut. Of course I was more than a little proud that my daughters like Star Wars.

Some Kate quotes:

Kate: I like everyone in this movie, but not the mean guys

Kate: Look, there are two moons. But one of them is a lower case moon.

Kate: What's a Skywalker?
Me: It's that boy's name.
Kate: I like Skywalker.

Kate: That girl is the only girl in this movie.
Clara: No, there's a queen.
Kate: But that girl is the only girl saving the day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In Praise of Fat Babies

Clara calls Cecilia, "The fattest baby in Missouri." While she'd give other chubby babies a run for their money, I'm not sure Clara and Kate weren't just as fat. A retrospective:




Monday, August 24, 2009

You're Mine, Marshmallow

While "Uncle" Marty was over for dinner the other night, I went into the kitchen to get the girls some dessert. Kate followed me in and peeked her eyes over the counter to watch me scoop rocky road ice cream into their bowls.

Kate: What kind of ice cream is it?

I tipped the carton up so she could see inside.

Kate: Mmmmmm, chocolate. What's the white stuff?

Me: That's marshmallow.

Kate. Mmmmmm, marshmallow.

With the bowls full, I placed a spoon in each one and handed Kate's to her. She licked her lips (she actually does this - you'll see in a picture below) and started to walk out of the kitchen. She spoke to her bowl as she was leaving.

Kate: You're mine, Marshmallow.

It's my new favorite phrase.

On another note, Clara celebrated her fifth birthday this weekend with a special date for tea with Jen on Saturday and a pool party with her friends on Sunday. Picture party:

Clara and Jen dressed for their tea

Lucy looks on as Clara savors the moment

Miles' lips are blue because it was a cool day and our pool is not heated

"I'll take that"

Clara claims she's going to marry Miles. She chose well.

Clara's been talking about this day since her 4th birthday

Cecilia would like some cake, please

"You're mine, birthday cake"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Once a baby starts to show any inclination towards speech, we parents hover over them and repeat "dada" or "mama" in a completely non-embarrassing attempt to influence the baby's first word. I honestly can't remember...

Kate (spinning): Daddy, look at me!
Me: Wow, Kate, that's great. Now, can you play quietly by yourself? Daddy's trying to write something.

Anyway, I honestly can't remember what Clara or Kate's first words were, but I'm willing to bet they were either "dada" or "mama."

Kate: Daddy...

A few weeks ago, Cecilia started to play with sounds. After several days of having "dada" and "mama" repeated at her, Megan won out when Cecilia clearly said, "Mamamamama."

Kate: Daddy!

Since then, Cecilia has been playing with her voice, alternating between "mamama," "dadadada," "lalalala," "babababa," and other similar combinations.

Kate: Daddy!!!
Me: What?!? I'm trying to do something.
Kate: I have my shoe on my ear!
Me: Lovely.

So anyway, Cecilia had yet to assign regular words to anything, and certainly wouldn't repeat words on command. This morning Cecilia was quiet in the back of the car as I drove to an ATM. I didn't want her to fall asleep and mess up her nap, so I started calling her name. Quietly from the back seat came a sweet, "dada."

Kate: Daddy, you know what I want to be for Halloween?
Me: A Butterfly?
Kate: No, a spider!
Me: Kate, can you go play with your toys on the third floor?
Kate: I don't want to.

Needless to say, I was very proud that Cecilia heard my voice, recognized me as her daddy, and verbalized it in such a sweet way. It made me look forward to all the things she's going to say one day.

Kate (evidently thinking about The Incredibles): The mean guy is really, really angry. But not the little guy. He's fast. His name is Dash. I don't like the mean guy. Can we watch The Incredibles? Please? My baby wants to watch it, too.
Me: Kate, can you just stop talking? Just for a few minutes.
Clara: No.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Suburban Journal Article

A big thank you to the St. Louis Suburban Journal, which highlighted stay-at-home dads this week. Not only did Suburban Journal writer Shawn Clubb come over for an interview, he included sections of this blog in the piece. The girls were on their best behavior during the interview - I acted like it is always that way.

You can read the article here: Daddy's home -- all the time

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"I'll save these for my wedding"

Newsflash: Little girls obsess. It's part of the spice of my day that I don't know what they're going to obsess over. Sometimes they obsess over a movie they've seen, as when after watching one of the Shrek movies Kate walked around yelling, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden extensions!" Lately both girls are obsessing over who they are going to marry. It seems a bit early for this obsession, but what can a father do?

A recent conversation in the car:

Clara: Daddy, I'm going to marry Nathan.

Me: You think so?

Clara: Can I marry him?

Me: Nathan is a nice boy but you have many many years until you get married. Best to keep your options open.

Clara: Maybe I'll marry Miles.

Me: Maybe.

Kate: Daddy, can I marry a girl?

Uh oh. How to handle this? I want her to be open and accepting, but I don't want her to obsess over it, telling all her friends and teachers that she's going to marry a girl.

Me: Usually a girl marries a boy, but every once in a while a girl decides to marry a girl, and that's OK.

Kate: Then I'm going to marry Lucy.

Me: She'd be lucky to have you.

On a related note, the other evening Kate was picking out what big girl underwear she was going to wear to sleep in and held up her ruffled fancy pants.

Kate: Can I wear these?

Megan: Those are too fancy to wear for night time.

Kate (putting them back in her dresser): OK, I'll save these for my wedding.

Lucky Lucy.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The SAHD Truth: The Man Date

If you're going to be a stay-at-home dad, one thing I have to prepare you for is the man date. Not long into your tenure as a SAHD, your wife, sister, mother, and female friends will start to set you up with other stay-at-home dads. Needless to say, you will not be comfortable with this. But the women in your life will imagine you sitting at home in your pajamas all day without anyone to talk to, and will seek to set you up with other stay-at-home dads for play-dates. The men in your life will do no such thing because one, they will agree with you that it sounds a little weird, and two, they think that sitting at home all day in your pajamas sounds great.

There are a few ways to delay the man date set-ups, but make no mistake, they are an inevitability. If the girls think you are starting to lose your mind, be prepared for the set-up. And no, they won't set you up with stay-at-home moms - they will think that's as weird as what your guy friends think about setting you up with men. Here are some ways to delay them:

  • Change out of your pajamas and wear big boy clothes. Every day. You never know when someone is going to stop by.
  • Don't sing, hum, or whistle the theme song to Olivia around other people.
  • If you get suspended from XBox Live for smack talking and berating a nine-year-old, don't tell anyone.
  • Don't take pictures of your child and add silly captions before uploading them onto the internet, like this:
  • Don't dress your child as a punk rocker, a pirate, a super hero, a ninja, bat-mite, or any character from cartoons you loved growing up. No one will think it's as cool as you do. Except for the ninja. That's pretty cool.
  • Don't start paying attention to the decor in your house. If you start having a real opinion on color schemes and whatnot, your wife will freak out.
  • Actually fix things that are broken in your house. This might make your wife more comfortable with your staying at home, though I've yet to try this technique.
  • Don't bring your angry dad voice into the real world, like when you ask for paper bags and the guy pulls out plastic: "I SAID PAPER! Look at me! Paper bags. 1... 2... Good job."

As you can imagine, there are plenty of ways to convince others that you're not losing your mind from staying at home with your children. Unfortunately, the time will come when the requests for man-dates start pouring in. You can probably stall your way out of most of them with promises to call or email them, but eventually you will be at a picnic or school function where someone who has "just been dying to introduce you to Steve" thanks her lucky stars that you and Steve are finally in the same place at the same time. Your wife will, for the first time you can remember, volunteer to watch all the kids so that you and Steve can get to know one another. Steve, you notice, is going through the same kind of discomfort you are.

Start by making sure you both have a beer, and then get to the important stuff, like how the local sports team is doing and whether that trade was a good idea. Let that conversation move into where you two grew up and went to school, how you know your mutual friend, and how things have been staying at home. Pretty smooth so far, but don't be too quick to start talking about video games, even though all you'd really need a friend for these days is for someone to play hockey against on your vintage Sega Genesis. It'll come, my friend. It'll come.

In developing our small group of close friends, we men have had a lifetime of meeting guys that we just don't like very much, or not enough to count them as close friends. And we assume that all the guys we haven't met yet fall into the don't like category, simply because we have pretty high standards of what a close friend is. It's a long way from "I think you'll like Steve, he's a really nice guy" to knowing you'd put your life on the line for Steve if it came to that, and that he'd do the same for you. The women in your life won't understand this. They think they're just finding you someone you can chat with at the playground.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The SAHD Truth: Parenting Guides

(Welcome to the first installment of the stay-at-home-dad book I'm writing, titled The SAHD Truth.)

Parenting guides are quite useful. If displayed conspicuously they put off the vibe to visitors that you're interested in the well being of your child. I've found people tend to have a higher opinion of you if they believe this to be true. Plus, you can use the books every year to balance your wobbly Christmas tree stand. Other than that, I've not found parenting books particularly useful, but that's not to say they don't serve a purpose. Allow me to illustrate:

Invariably, new SAHDs will encounter a situation with their now 2 or 3 year old child when the dad will so thoroughly lose it, will reach the end of his rope, will behave in a way he never thought possible, will surprise even himself with his temper, the volume of his yelling, and the ease at which his head spins a full 360 degrees, will open his eyes wider than humanly possible, will spout fire out of his mouth and smoke out of his ears, will behave in such a way that even as this adult temper tantrum is going on he will have an out of body experience where he thinks to himself, "Holy crap, I have completely gone off the rails," and when it's over he'll look around to see if anyone else witnessed his fine display and his now blubbering puddles of what were once his children - but not out of embarrassment, but rather looking for some other parent who no doubt has done the exact same thing at some point to be co-witness to his personal car crash: "Did you see that? I completely lost it."

This is probably how such a scene began: SAHD is packing his kids up for a visit to the grandparents. He has put the girls in pretty dresses and fancy shoes with lacy socks. While the older two walk, he carries the baby and sees that last night's rain has left muddy puddles in the driveway. He sees the girls head for the puddles and thinks about how perfectly white the grandparents keep their carpet.

SAHD: Girls, who can get in their car-seats first?

See what he did there? He tried to get the girls away from the puddles without drawing attention to the puddles. Classic misdirection.

Of course it didn't work.

SAHD (louder): Girls! Don't touch the water. Nana will not like it if you get her house muddy. (True.) She won't give you any treats. (So false SAHD almost laughs saying it.)

Poor SAHD. The kids don't even hear him. They're almost to the puddle.

SAHD (yelling): GIRLS!! STOP!! If you touch that puddle I will take away (insert favorite stuffed animal) and throw it in the garbage!

They stop. They look at SAHD. They consider his words. Then one of them - let's call her Kate - jumps in the puddle.

SAHD (breathing fire and rotating his head 360 degrees): (Embarrasing display of adult temper tantrum)

What does this have to do with parenting guides? If you noticed, SAHD tried three techniques before his personal meltdown. Those techniques came from parenting books. OK, not the one about throwing away a kid's favorite toy, though I'd probably buy such a book if it existed. Such parenting guide techniques give SAHD a little bit of an excuse for his behavior: "I tried what the books said! I tried to be a good parent! And then I clearly gave up trying and just resorted to screaming my head off."

Have you ever watched competitive drag racing? SAHDs are loud, souped up, volatile drag racers at the starting line. The trick is to keep them at the starting line, safe and idling. Drag racing has a giant Christmas tree of lights whose order makes sense only to them (yellow, green, then red?) Think of the first light as the calm warning to the children, like the first technique SAHD used. The next light, 2nd technique. Then a whole bunch of lights come on - 3rd technique. Then a bunch of lights at the bottom come on, the engine roars, flames come out of the tailpipes, tires squeal, the car moves at impossible speeds, gets about halfway down the line, its front raises up into the air, then the whole car does a backflip through the air and falls into an explosion of epic proportions.

That's what parenting is like.

Did I mention I've only seen drag racing on the end of the year specials of the George Michael Sports Machine? I'm sure some drag racers have made it to the finish line without blowing up, but I've never seen evidence of it. Anyway, I guess the moral of the metaphor is if you're getting to the bottom of that long bank of lights, if parenting techniques 1 through 3 haven't worked, go find a nice quiet place to cool down before you explode.

(Where have you gone, George Michael's Sports Machine?)

Working Wife: Why is the baby sucking on your baseball glove?

SAHD: That's what that parenting book told me to do.

Working Wife: It did not. That thing is filthy.

SAHD: Swear to god.

Working Wife: Show me where it says that.

SAHD: Can't. It's holding up the Christmas tree.

Working Wife: Uh-huh. Speaking of the Christmas tree, don't you think it's time to take that down? It's June.

SAHD: I'm taking care of 3 children! I barely have time to go the bathroom!

Working Wife: OK. And how'd you do in your online poker today?

SAHD: Really good!

(Forget the SAHD guide. I need to write the SAHH guide for stay-at-home-husbands. If you haven't already today, go cast a vote for me in the Nickelodeon awards.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vote early, vote often

Thank you to whoever nominated STL Homeboy for Nickelodeon's Parents Connect Best Local Blog for St. Louis. I'm quite honored. I just found out I was nominated, but it seems the voting began last month. If you're a fan of the blog, click on either the logo below or to the left and cast a vote for me. You can vote once a day, so come back often. Thanks for the support.

For Local Blog
in St. Louis

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thank you

I want to thank everyone with whom I have been able to share my experiences as a stay-at-home dad on this blog, but I've found that in the past few months I've focused my free time on other creative projects. It's sad to say, but I won't be writing about my experiences here any more. Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me. I will still use this blog to post pictures, so check back often.

Speaking of pictures...

Megan's birthday was last weekend

Don't ask why Kate is naked

Some pictures from this past Easter taken by my talented cousin Shauna:

Kate's jelly bean shots

Kate sharing some of her spoils with Uncle Chris

Clara was most excited about the bunny ears

Clara with some of her new toys

Clara organizing stuffed animals

Cecilia tuckered out after going to church

Kate stopping and smelling the tulips

Faces of joy

Clara in good light

Kate in good light

A cool kid and her juice

Cecilia with her daddy

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Two weeks on the beach

They said it couldn't be done. They said I was crazy. When I told people I was going to drive three little ones, one of them a six-month-old, from St. Louis to St. Pete Beach, Florida, some looked at me like I had grown a second head. Some just pitied me. My favorite reaction: "It can't be done. It cannot be done."

They were wrong.

Not only did we do it, but we had a pretty good time along the way. Many many thanks to Jen, the girls' babysitter, for helping me these two weeks. I definitely couldn't have done it without her. The girls were great travelers. They looked for things to complete their car bingo. They watched movies in the back. Clara fed Cecilia when she got hungry and played with her when she got cranky. We stopped at rest stops and ice cream parlors. When they got tired, they slept. Late the first night, after I pulled into a gas station, Clara woke up bright eyed, looked around and grinned: "We're back where we started!" I guess the gas stations all look alike to her. We would have driven all the way through on the first night, but Cecilia woke up crying with some painful constipation, so we got motel rooms and completed the journey the next morning. Megan flew in and spent the second week with us, just as the rain was ending and the perfect weather was beginning.

Our time in Florida was a daily combination of eating, sleeping, playing on the beach, and playing at the pool. That was about it. Kate got a nasty black eye after falling from a chair on one of the first days. Cecilia liked to stick her toes in the sand or slap the water in the pool. And Clara seemed to grow up before our eyes, as some of these pictures will show (especially the one above, which will soon be framed in our house.) Nobody wanted to head home after our time was up.

Lots of pics to follow:

Cecilia is ready for the pool!

Kate is either ready for the beach or for her Vogue photo shoot

Clara is in her happy place

Even while playing with sand, Kate looks stylish

Some think, "Oh, sweet baby!" Uncle Jim thinks, "Ham hocks."


The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Jen and Kate at The Hurricane

Cecilia telling a joke

The girls

The Bittles

Silly Cilly

They were this happy the entire time

One of many sunset pictures we took

Another. I hope you enjoyed the pictures.